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Image description: Guest illustrators drew two pictures of a young man wearing a pink triangle. The pictures are signed by Ruby and by Sadie.

I had moved to Toronto for several reasons. Chief amongst those was that I wanted the anonymity of a large city. Being the fat kid in a small town for all of my growing years, I felt so incredibly visible. I envied the casual invisibility of my peers. Then, at University, being gay, being in a very, very, very, closeted relationship, made me fear that anyone see, actually see the me that lay hidden behind the me that I presented to the world. A city, like Toronto, I thought, might hold a place or two of sanctuary, where I could be safe, where I could be hidden somewhere in the middle of a crowd. Joe and I had lived with fear for years by the time we arrived, so we craved respite.

The idea of coming out of the closet was terrifying to me. I remember writing a letter to the editor of a gay paper, using a pseudonym of course, decrying the push for gay people to come out, to be public, to confront stereotype with reality. I felt that the gay movement was begining to classify good ‘out’ gays and bad ‘closeted’ gays. I stated that this was an unfair way to measure because everyone’s circumstances were different. That letter was published, and the reaction swift, the discussion caused by that letter lasted through several of the following issues.

So.

In essense.

I was afraid.

Let’s be clear, my fears were real. I feared violence, and violence was to be feared. I feared losing my job, and losing my job was to be feared. I feared an intensification of the bullying that I’d experienced all my life, and like my other fears, this too was real. I thought I’d found safety, and to a certain extent I had. The bars that we went to  were safe, inside, though going in and coming out were, simply stated, dangerous.

Then, one day, I got on the streetcar. I saw a young man wearing a button with a pink triangle on it. I knew, of course, that this symbol, taken from what LGBT people wore in the Nazi camps, had become a symbol of gay liberation. I’d never seen it on a button. I’d never seen it on a shirt. I’d never seen it out in public. Ever. I approached the young man, spoke to him, indicated the button, and thanked him for wearing it. It gave me, if not courage, hope.

A stranger on a streetcar and I remember him to this very day. A stranger with the courage to actually do something to make the world a different place, lit something inside me. He will never know. But I do.

We make decisions all the time. When we are out in the world, when we are in with our families and friends, we make decisions and those decisions have ramifications, consequences and outcomes.

I have decided that over the next two weeks I’m going to write 5 stories, this being one, about people, total strangers, and the impact that they had on my life, even if only after the briefest of contacts. I may have mentioned them before here on this blog, but I’m going to string them together.

I don’t believe that, even in the face of social adversity, or prejudice, or violence, we are unable to respond in a meaningful way. One person can make a difference.

He did.

In me.