Sunday, February 10, 2008

The media you first identified with

I have been asked by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, specifically the handsome and charismatic manager Robert Windrum, to share, in about 250 words, the media that I first identified with as a homosexual.
Robert based his submission on Dave Kopay, a football player who came out in 1975 and wrote his life story. Mr. Kopay also recently donated $1 million to the University of Washington's Q Center, whose mission is to create an inclusive and celebratory environment for people of all sexual orientations.
I wracked my brain for a book. I think in 20 years teens will be able to say they read a life changing gay story they identified with, but the fact is I did not. The first gay book I read that changed my life was Against the Law by Peter Wildeblood.

This book details a British man who was arrested and jailed for 18 months for being gay in England in 1954. It moved me because it was so recent, I could picture this happening to me. It gave me a sense of community and of the struggle gays have gone though, I read each page in rapture. But, I read this only last year.
I didn't grow up with the internet. In the small town of 500 people I grew up in the only gay books I ever read were books like "Growing up gay", given to me by counselors who had driven over an hour to come help me come to terms with my sexuality. These books seemed so clinical, I don't think I ever read any of them. I was born gay, I was okay with that, I just needed help finding my place.
Even when I turned 17 and moved to Toronto, I did go to Glad Day Bookshop but I think I only bought pornography. There was no sense of community in my mind and I think for the first time, no public struggles for gay rights. There was nothing to rebel against.
So I chose the TV movie Doing Time on Maple Drive.

This movie was broadcast March 16, 1992, when I had just turned 13 and been inadvertently thrown out of the closet. My mother had found a journal I was writing about a boy in my class, Jeff Wahler, and had not handled the situation well.
I knew this movie was coming on and I needed to watch it. It was the first time I had heard of a movie with a gay theme and on that night I was sitting, glued to the tv. I remember watching it in awe, as the story played out, here was the first time I saw positive images of gay men. These guys were masculine and well-spoken and it was a whole new concept of gay for me. Before this I never really thought I was gay. I was attracted to one person my whole life thus far and he was a man. I thought I was single sexual.
My mom spoke with my father, who called me 15 minutes before the movie was over. We had just received our first VCR the week before so I taped the last 15 minutes and took the call. It was what could be expected of the time, what was wrong with me, I was a disgrace, a piece of shit and he was going to get me counseling. But when I came back to that movie I had a sense again that things might be ok.
We had no cable so the signal wasn't very good but I must have watched the grainy footage from the last 15 minutes of the film about 50 times. I remember the father in the story saying to the gay son "Whatever you are, we love you."

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