Today, as it’s the 11th November, I was going to do a ‘Thankful Thursday’ post about Armistice Day/Veterans Day/Remembrance Day (depending on where in the world you are). But… honestly? Today, I’m not feeling so thankful. I am feeling pretty depressed and disheartened about something that happened on my train ride into London, and I couldn’t not talk about it.
I don’t normally blog about things that affect me quite so deeply – and I rarely delve into really personal stuff, simply because I’m a generally upbeat and hopeful person, and I try to talk more about books and writing here. Don’t get me wrong: what you see online is very definitely me, but it’s just one aspect of ‘Kaz’ and if you met me in person you’d see a completely different side to me. (Which I think is as it should be: who wants to be subjected to every emo rant I come up with? *g*) Seriously though, today I can’t hold back that part – if I offend anyone or get something wrong here… let me know and I promise to listen. Also, feel free to just skip this post if it’s not something you can relate to or makes you feel uncomfortable.
We each choose the battles that we are willing or able to fight, but today made me more certain than ever that this is one I must help fight – even in my own tiny way.
So. The train ride. Two guys walk into the train carriage* and sit across the aisle from me. There is no way I won’t be able to hear every single bit of their conversation, and I’m torn between feeling a bit irritated that they chose right there to sit – when the carriage is mostly empty and I want to write (I have my trusty notebook and pen with me) – but also kind of amused because they remind me of Jay and Silent Bob. These young guys are maybe 18, possibly a bit younger – maybe a little older – but let’s say they are around that age. They are Young Adults of Today. They are dressed in emo/grungy clothes and are discussing a gig they are going to in London. Or an event. Whatever, I was still trying to tune them out at this stage. Honestly? At this point, I was thinking: these kids are just like me when I was in my mid- to late teens. They would’ve been my tribe.
It didn’t take me long to realise how very far from the truth this was, and I’ve been battling a really weird combination of despondency and anger ever since. I’m not even sure quite why I feel as strongly as I do, but the urge to move across the aisle and sit down with them and ask them: WTF is wrong with you? was so crazily visceral. Seriousy, my body went into fight/flight mode or something…
Okay, enough with the drama. Here are some snippets of the conversation which, yes, I admit, I wrote down in my notebook. Don’t look at me like that – I’m a writer, aren’t I? 😉
Jay**: Dude, forget that. Let me tell you about last night.
Silent Bob***: Okay!
Jay: Did you know that Todd**** is gay?
Silent Bob: No!! Really?
Jay: Well, at least I wasn’t the only one. Everyone else knew.
Silent Bob: Huh?
Jay: Apparently, Todd came out to a whole load of other people a year ago. A year ago!
And here are the highlights of Jay’s rant about his so-called “best friend,” Todd:
I know it sounds harsh, but…
Well, if he WANTS to be gay that’s up to him – but don’t shove it down my throat, you know what I mean? Ugh. I just realised what I said.
I feel betrayed.
I’ve shared a bed with mates before… just crashing and shit like that. What if I’d been in a situation like that with HIM? I might’ve ended up having to smack him!
He didn’t tell me because he knew I’d hate it.
I’ve known him for 10 years, and he’s been lying to me all this time.
If he wants me to respect his opinion about being gay, he should respect mine about it being wrong.
All I can think about is: how many times has he been to my house? What about if he put his arm around me or TOUCHED me?
We were going to get a place together next year – we were already talking about it, that’s why he finally felt he should tell me. There’s no way I can do that now, is there? I can’t live with… that.
Todd said to me: “I’m still the same person, man.”
And I was like: You’re not the same person, you’re a gay person.
After listening to this for the best part of an hour, I felt exhausted, angry, confused… I really and truly thought that young guys like that in the UK – especially in London – were cooler than that, and way more tolerant. Less ignorant. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a completely insensitive person. I actually did try to put myself in Jay’s shoes and can even understand how he might feel let down because he was “the last to know”. But, as his friend Todd said to him: I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d hate it. (Which actually makes me wonder about their friendship in the first place: if Jay was so intolerant, why was Todd still his friend? Maybe he hoped that their friendship would help to open his best friend’s eyes and heart… I just don’t know.)
But, really… there’s not much I can say in Jay’s defence. I feel so upset that young people like this are still spouting nonsense about how their friends are choosing to be gay. Really? It’s almost 2011!! WAKE UP! And for some naive reason, I thought it was ‘better’ in London. I’ve heard all kinds of homophobic crap over the years – don’t think I haven’t, that’s not why I’m so surprised – but I’ve mostly heard it from older people. Not that it makes the terrible things they say any less terrible… I just feel more tolerant towards them, I think, because they come from ‘a different time’ and maybe just can’t get their heads around how things have changed in society. But seeing and hearing those young adults today… kids I would’ve hung out with, back when I was their age, shocked me out of my apathy.
I’ve talked the talk – mostly in private – but rarely in such a public way as this. Lately, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the recent spate of teen suicides in the US, and I wonder if that’s why today hit me so hard. I sort of imagined ‘Todd’ as one of those kids who ended their own lives because of bullying. I just feel SO passionately that young people today should be able to be who they are, without fear of retribution or violence of any kind. It breaks my heart.
I’m not gay, but I have gay friends and just in case there is any doubt: Being LGBTQ isn’t a choice. It isn’t wrong or evil. And gay is certainly not an insult.
Anyway. I’ve gone on for long enough, and if you’ve stuck with me this far: THANK YOU! 🙂 I’d like to recommend an excellent book – it’s one I feel like buying multiple copies of and giving away as often as possible. It’s called HOW BEAUTIFUL THE ORDINARY, and is a YA collection of, “12 stories of identity” edited by Michael Cart:
Each of the stories in this anthology talks about: “what it might mean to be gay, lesbian, or transgender … twelve stories–alike only in the wonderful variety of their subjects, styles, and structures–that dramatically demonstrate that lesbian, gay, and transgender lives are extraordinary, yes, but also ordinary. How beautiful!” And also from Michael Cart’s introduction:
Which suggests another compelling reason for reading: It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet those who may–in whatever way–be different from us. By taking us into characters’ minds, hearts, and lives, literature has an uncanny ability to help us understand that those we previously regarded as “the other” are–in terms of out common humanity–actually “us.”
If you leave me a comment, I’ll start now by giving away a copy of How Beautiful the Ordinary to ONE PERSON picked at random next week. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, 17th November, and I’ll mail the book anywhere in the world.
*This sounds like the beginning of a joke, but if it is… believe me, it’s a really bad one.
**Just to make things entirely clear: I am not passing any homophobic judgement on the characters Jay and Silent Bob, nor their actors or creators. I just need names other than Dude #1 and Dude #2, and they really did look a bit like Jay and Silent Bob. (Apologies to Kevin Smith!)
***Silent Bob, in this scenario, was neither completely silent nor did he suddenly spout forth some Profound Wisdom. But he didn’t say much. He mostly just nodded and agreed and made appropriately ‘sympathetic’ noises.