06 April 2010

Why the ultra-conservatives will lose the culture war, if I have to single-handedly defeat each of them myself

So I'm sitting here, going about my life, totally thinking about blogging on other things, when I stumbled across this.  For the sake of emphasis, let's repost the full headline:
That's right, the "well-meaning" and "loving" and "concerned" parents of Fulton, Mississippi rented a country club to hold a prom for their duly selected outcasts, while their presumably totally upstanding young Christian virginal children who are totes free from sin had their own prom elsewhere.  

To them I say this:  I hope your merciful God gets Old Testament on your ass. 

Now I've quietly followed the Southern Prom Saga of 2010 for awhile, and I can relate to these kids.  I didn't go to my own high school's prom for fear of being pumped full of redneck lead.  (That's right, I said it, I was scared those whole 4 years.  Savor the belated victory.)  Fortunately, my then-boyfriend went to a much more welcoming school, and I went to the senior prom with him.  We danced with the principal.  Talk about being on another planet a mere 15 miles from your home.  But I digress.

On the one hand, this is a pretty small issue.  One kid (well, two) in one dinky little town was denied access to her prom, on a pretty silly basis.  She rejected that decision, and the school just canceled the whole prom.  Lucky for her, a Reagan-appointed activist judge ruled that her rights were denied, but didn't force the school go forward, on account of the parent-created prom that was to serve as a stand-in for the school sponsored event.  

On the other hand, this whole incident (and the related incident taking place near Macon, Georgia) is indicative of a far greater problem:  Many, many, many, many, many, many, many American schools (particulary middle schools and high schools) are unsafe for LGBTQ youth.  Here's another tidbit from my past you didn't know:  right after my rather forced outing in 10th grade, I was at one of many meetings with the guidance counselor for my grade (nice lady), who assessed the situation I was facing.  Lots of teachers -- including several I'd never known -- were reporting an obscenely large number of hateful language being directed my way, even without me in the room.  That counselor said to me, in blunt terms, "I don't think you're safe here, and I don't think my bosses [the principal and assistant principals] will protect you.  Here's a transfer form.  Pick your school if you want."

Fortunately for me, I come from a long line of exceedingly stubborn mountain people.  To her, I said "I refuse to let them win," and walked out.  The next 3 years sucked monkey balls.  Sure, I avoided physical harm (though I also avoided being alone anywhere), and I walked around just as cocky and arrogant as all the other teenage boys, but inside I was scared out of my brain.  So much so that when I got a viewbook in the mail for a little dinky college that had a picture of kids drawing a pink triangle on sidewalk chalk, I was on them like like a gay man on an antique store (oh... wait...).  I needed an escape.  

Why?  Because at 18, I felt worn down.  I felt old.  I was declared cynical before my time by coworkers twice my age.  And that, friends, is the experience of a gay kid in a small town high school with a penchant towards conservatism.  

I don't want to suggest that all small towns are as teeming with vile, nasty, brutish people as the folks of Fulton who perpetuated this immature affront.  Nor to I have any interest in breathing any life into the myth that only Southern rural locales are unsafe for LGBTQ folks --  the cities and suburbs can be hateful too. 

But as I've told queer kids when I've done trainings and presentations about advocating for their rights:  "Take all that negative energy and use it to make a better world."  You see, over 10 years later, I for one still refuse to be defeated.  And you know what? 

I've got this on my side:  
Blessed are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 5, Verses 11-12

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