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Can We Ever Go Home?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon
 

Yesterday, a friend sent me something that was being forwarded online about how it can be dangerous to program your cell phone or your GPS with the word “home”.  If lost or stolen, they can lead thieves to your house. Pretty good advice --- so if you’ve done that on either, you might want to think about changing it.   

Not a problem for me. “Home” is not listed on any electronic device of mine. Not because I’m smarter than the average crook --- I just don’t have a good feel on exactly where home is these days. For years, it didn’t matter what my address was. Perhaps expressed best by Emily Dickinson: 

 

“Where thou art - that - is Home.”  

 

Unfortunately, several years ago, I found myself “homeless”. Yes, I still had a nice little house that kept me safe and dry but there was no longer anything there that said “home”. Now, I’ve moved myself and the cats to Charleston and I have a good feeling about being here. But, what I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone is that I considered not relocating to Charleston. For the first time since I left, almost exactly 40 years ago, I seriously thought about moving back home.  

 

There’s another quote that I’ve always liked, although this Kentucky author is not nearly as well-known as Emily Dickinson: 

 

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old  

wanting to get back to.”    John Ed Pearce 

 

That place that I grew up wanting to leave is a small town in the Midwest. A nice little town filled with good-hearted people and a church on every corner. No gay people, though. None.  Actually, there were no African-Americans, zero ethnic diversity and the Catholics were barely allowed a toehold. We grew up loudly critical of our parents for being so closed-minded and prejudiced --- but that still didn’t include sexual preference. It was so unaccepted that it was unmentionable. I would’ve been less fearful if I’d ended up pregnant or caught honing my skills as a serial killer than if someone discovered I was....gay!  

 

So, okay, you’re getting the picture about growing up wanting to leave. But this doesn’t sound like someplace I would grow old wanting to get back to, does it?  

 

I know. But, despite it all, that’s home. I may not walk around waving a rainbow flag but I am far past hiding who I am, so I’ve always believed that I could never go back there to live. And I wouldn’t have even considered it if my partner was still here. I wouldn’t do that to her. Besides, she was there on several occasions and was not impressed! When I tell you there is nothing to do there I mean there is nothing to do. Dinner and a show is the baked potato bar at Wendy’s and watching them demonstrate the latest snow blower at “the Wal-Mart”. 

 

When I was weighing the possibility of maybe moving back, and, yes, questioning my sanity, I kept asking myself “why?” I thought it was because of the way I’ve felt for the last few years. Going back home sounds pretty comforting when you’ve been feeling lost. But I’ve come to realize that it’s more than that. I didn’t really get to grow up in my hometown. Like a lot of you, I bet, I grew up in the shadows. And I think what I’ve been feeling is that I want it back. I want all the experiences that I didn’t get to have. I want those years back! 

 

This started to make sense to me a couple weeks ago when I went to the South Carolina Pride Parade in Columbia. I was fortunate enough to be riding directly in front of a group of college students marching with a campus organization for gay students.  

 

There it was --- right there for everyone to see. These kids weren’t there asking for their rights. They were there to simply march and acknowledge who they are. You could see it in the bounce in their step and in the cocky little smiles on their faces. You could hear it in their voices…. 

 

“We’re gay, okay? God made us that way!” 

 

“We’re here! We’re queer! We’re fabulous! Don’t mess with us!” 

 

I wondered if their parents were on the sidelines somewhere along the parade route. It was a pride parade, after all. No better place for parents to be. I hoped so but I didn’t expect it to be the case for most of them. And someone in our group asked if these kids had any idea what the generations before them had done so that they could dance down the street. Probably not. But it was such a joy to watch them that, for the moment, I was okay with that.  

 

It made me think about the larger concept of home. In The Death of the Hired Man, Robert Frost wrote: 

 

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.”
 

 

That’s not been the case for our community. Up until fairly recently, more often than not, when we showed up at home without camouflage, costumes or switched pronouns, we were not welcome. That’s changing, but there’s still a long, long way to go --- and there are no guarantees.   

 

I have great hope for the kids I saw marching in the Pride Parade. I worry, though, that they think the war is over just because we’ve won some battles. Organizations like The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, HRC, Lambda Legal and Equality Maine are begging for help on the “No on 1 - Protect Maine Equality Campaign”.  The Task Force has been in Maine for the past five years working to get to where they are now. The marriage equality law was passed in May, but all the usual suspects jumped on it, immediately, and got enough signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot. 

 

Current polls show that we are two points behind. Maine has a traditionally low voter turn out, and with religious-right groups flocking there from all over the country, we could be looking at another Prop 8 type disaster.  It’s going to be very close, but you can help. They are asking for volunteers from across the country to call Maine voters this Sunday. All you need is a phone and a computer with an internet connection. No long distance fees, no dialing – the web-based software does it all. 

  

Sign Up Here 

 

Sometimes all of this pisses me off to the point that I feel like I wouldn’t choose to be a part of this hypocritical, moralistic, pitiful excuse for a society even if it did decide I was welcome. Then I think about all the kids that weren’t in that parade. The ones that, right now, this very moment, may be at the end of their rope --- this may be the day that they can’t take one more slur, rejection or abuse. Or the gay men and women who are still forced to play the game and hide so that they can access the support and benefits that are denied to them, solely because of who they are.  

 

Some of us may have managed to carve a fairly comfortable niche in the world but none of us did it on our own. There’s still a lot of work to be done and if we don’t do it, who do you suppose will? 

 

As for me, I guess like most things that I agonize over, I end up coming full circle. There’s no going back. There’s always only now. I honestly can’t give you my definition for “home’. But I know what family is, and I’ve already started finding it here. Maybe that is what I’ve been looking for all along.

  

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Voices of Reason

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon
 

Obama takes shit for talking to school children.  That's interesting.  No one blinked when Reagan did it.  Nor when Daddy Bush did it.  And W was actually reading books to children when the first plane hit the World Trade.  What the hell was that firestorm about anyway?

Jimmy Carter gets shit for calling racism by it's name.  Really.  You can't help asking the question, if Obama were all white....? 

A gay bar in Atlanta is raided because someone said patrons were having sex there. And it was no ordinary pat-down. All 60 people were forced to the floor, hand-cuffed, and made to wait while the cops ran their ID's--just looking for something, since they had nothing.  Does that sound very 60s to you or is it just me?  I mean, bars get raided, don't get me wrong. But usually it's a drug raid or prostitution.  This happened ONLY because the patrons may or may not have been touching each other. Oh--and they were the same gender.

Maybe it's a flashback to the Bush era.  Certainly smells like it.  Shit everywhere.  No civil rights.  State in your face.  Hmmm....

Here's what I think:  I think the voices of reason went back to work.  Election over, candidate in charge, let's push up our sleeves and get back to paying the bills.  Is that what happened?

But what about the kids?  I see teenagers coming out in middle school now--that's a huge difference from when I grew up.  But not all of them can afford coming out.  Some are still living with Stone Age parents, peers, or school administrators who won't tolerate their self-expression or turn a blind eye to the bullying.  Being called gay is still a major insult.

Balance is an illusion.  We never really reach homeostasis--we'd have to be homogenized to do that.  But working toward balance cannot cease.   When Sarah Palin can ignite a firestorm by loudly saying something completely wrong and therefore loudly stupid (her usual pattern), pay attention.  She is the gateopener for the rest of them.  Whether or not she's aware of her role isn't important.  What's important is the flood of crap that follows.  And the way the balance seems to tip.

Voices of reason:  come back!  Get loud!  These kids who can't speak need you.  They need you now more than ever.  Obama was not the prize.  The world he's aiming to create is the prize.  Keep your eye on it and your ear to the ground.  It ain't over til all the kids can sing it loud, sing it proud

  

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  If you would like to learn more about what it's like for today's gay teens, the New York Times has an excellent article about "Coming Out in Middle School". You will find references to lots of organizations that could use volunteers.  And there are opportunities to make a difference unique to every area. One of my friends back in Houston is the director of HATCH (Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals), which provides a safe, affirming, social environment for gay teens. Nationally, there are organizations like The Trevor Project, the leading around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth, who are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids.

Nothing can ever change the way it was for us, but there are lots of ways to make a difference today. And, now is what counts, right?

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  Ann-Marie is revisting an especially helpful theme.

  Noisy Thoughts in Troubled Times?

Fit in a Year - Week 26

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon
 

Are you having trouble quieting your mind?

Regarding meditation, an old Chinese Zen Master once said, “Some of you are taking me literally when I say, ‘Don’t think,’ and you are making your minds like a rock. This is a cause of insentiency and an obstruction to the Way. When I say not to think, I mean that if you have a thought, think nothing of it.”

Or as John Lennon said, "Let it be."

A nd then simultaneously turn your attention to what you are doing. If you’re running or walking, pay attention. If you are meditating quietly, tune in to your breathing and posture–even if you’re at your desk.

Keep your core centered, your intentions aligned, and let it be.

 

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