Nice way to kick start the morning.
Yes, I have noticed a distinct difference in response to posts about my life as a gay man and posts regarding my life as a disabled man or as a disability professional. So what? I’m not sure it means what is being stated here. Both my blog Of Battered Aspect and my Facebook page have specifically courted readers from the disability community and of course posts about other issues would get less of a response. So, no biggie and, more importantly, no message.
I get this question a lot about gay pride and disability pride. Why? What does it achieve? Well, I’m going to write about Gay Pride here and I think you’ll easily be able to extrapolate to disability pride as well.
Pride isn’t about my sex life. Don’t you get that?? My desire to love and have sex with another of my gender is the source of my oppression, surviving that oppression is the source of my pride.
Let me tell you, surviving is exactly the right word because many don’t. Many kids are thrown out of their homes by parents whose promise of unconditional love vanishes upon learning their child loves in ways not approved by faith or by tradition or by deeply held prejudice. Many teens commit suicide because they can’t endure another day of bullying, another day of hiding, another day of lying. There are no words to describe what happens, inside when, as a teen I heard the words you used, about me, in my presence. The fact that you didn’t know I was gay mattered not, what mattered was it showed me who you were and how you felt. I internalized those words, ‘fag,’ ‘pansy,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘gearbox’ ‘queer’ ‘fairy’ and when you weren’t there to call me names, I was. I learned from you how to throw these rocks at myself. Whenever I saw a man that I was attracted to I hurt myself. Inside I was bloodied by the words you taught me to call myself. The postmaster of my town was gay. They tortured him. His house was routinely vandalized. He was spoken to with contempt while he simply was carrying out the functions of his job. The fact that he went on, quietly living his life, was one of the few things that gave me hope. His pride never wavered, but mine did. I attempted suicide when I was 15 and fell in love a year later with the man I still love now.
I survived the messages of disapproval of my nature.
I survived the messages of condemnation for how my heart worked. (Rather than celebration for the fact it worked at all.)
I survived you, and those like the woman who wrote me the letter.
I survived and I want to dance in the street to flaunt the fact that, though you tried, your hate didn’t kill me.
I am not proud of the fact that I love a man named Joe. Why would I be proud of that? He’s probably the easiest person I know to love. He’s just naturally a good guy. I also am not proud that Joe loves me. This would mean that I believed that Joe’s love of me is extraordinary because I’m disabled and I’m not traditionally considered attractive. But you know what, that doesn’t matter, what matters is that I think there are things about me that are lovable. So, my pride isn’t about that. My pride is that our love and our relationship survived.
Let me tell you surviving is exactly the right word because many relationships and many loves didn’t. Yep, your oppression killed love. your oppression took away from a world that desperately needs more hearts to be filled to the brim with adoration for another. When a heart is full of love, there is no room left for hate. Joe and I got together in Grade 12 and back then no one could know. The secret was so deep that we couldn’t even effectively talk about who were were and how we felt to each other let alone anyone else. We pretended friendship. We pretended not to care. We pretended that our hearts beat to straight time. And it nearly tore us apart. Over and over and over again we endured losses. Friends, discovering and friends leaving. Family discovering and family leaving. Landlords guessing and apartments denied. So much betrayal. So many lies. But, we endured. We’re celebrating our 48th anniversary on the 29th of this month.
We survived a life lived in the shadows of your discomfort and your disapproval.
We survived the constant insistence that gay men couldn’t form relationships, that we were too promiscuous to form a home with another.
We survived, those of you who still see our relationship as worth less than your own.
And if we want to hold hands as we parade down the street, and if we want to have a little kiss in full view of you and those like you, who could blame us?
But I am proud of my sexuality. I am proud of the community that formed around sexuality and gender and the multiple and intersection ways that these interact with each other and with the other identities we carry in our lives. I understand that my disability sometimes feels unwelcome in parts of the LGBT+ community. I understand that though we are all different and that we have the experience of difference we haven’t conquered the baggage that comes with that. Understanding our own difference does not mean that we are more likely to understand the difference of another.
Racism, and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia exist in my community. But even with deep divisions and even with distrust and even with hurt, we move forward to change the world. We move forward towards a day when kids who are different don’t die early deaths, stabbed in the heart with the ice pick of prejudice. We move forward towards a day when people can walk safely down the street and that we can predict with some surety that when we leave our homes, we will come back to them. We move forward to a time when being able to go for a pee doesn’t require meetings and policies and, for heaven’s sake, training. We move forward.
I am proud of what my sexuality has brought me. I am proud of the gifts that lay hidden under layers of hatred, and I’m proud of those who struggled in the years before I was born and the years before I came to the realization of difference for hiding amongst the rubble the message that I am part of the history of a people who have a tradition of surviving and a history of loving anyway.
We are community and we have survived repression.
We are a community always under attack.
We are a community where young gay men are thrown off rooftops and young transexual people of colour are murdered in the street.
We are a community that survives and continues on and loves anyway.
This is cause to dance down the street. This is cause to flaunt our bodies, our loves, our selves in any way we want. When you could no longer put is in actual cages, you attempted to put us in emotional cages and we broke out.
We are free.
And we love anyway.
So we dance, prance and roll down the street and make our visibility our statement.
And for the record, I don’t care how many people ‘like’ this post. I don’t care how often it’s shared. Why? Because that’s what you think matters. What I think matters is that this post exists because I survived and I am loved and I am freaking proud of who I am.