Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Future Homemakers of America isn't just for girls

As I eluded in the previous post, I grew up with a lot of gay bullying during my school years and it wasn't always easy.  However, I do still have some very fond memories of high school.  One of my fondest memories was being the only guy in the home economics class.  There also was a class called I believe "family" which was a co-ed version of home ec...I guess you could call it, home ec light.  The first week of my senior year, I was the only guy enrolled in the family class and a bunch of the guys starting razzing me about being gay and being in that class.  I quickly pointed out that I was the only dude in a room full of girls!!!  Great pickins as we say in the south!  Suddenly, five or six guys changed their class schedules and joined me in the class.  Having both the family class as well as home economics on my class schedule, they were exactly the same class.

I was voted Mr. FHA (Future Homemakers of America) my senior year and enrolled in the class immediately.  I mean honestly, I had been cooking / baking since I was 8 years old and had spent countless hours making and designing clothes for my sister's barbie doll.  How hard could this class be?

My teacher, Mrs. Heatley, often giggled at me as she watched me assist the other girls in the class on how to properly lay out a dress pattern or when I argued that not all meal plans revolved around chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.  Now being from the south, I will never debate the importance of chicken fried anything.  They are staples at any southern dinner table and I have eaten my fair share.  If you pair that with mashed potatoes, creamed gravy and biscuits...well any husband, gay or straight, will be a very happy man, but i digress.  (I promise to do a post soon regarding a southern dinner table)   I believe I had to explain to the class exactly what a baked alaskan actually was.  Come Christmas time, our class cooked a traditional holiday lunch for the school faculty.  I was there very early in the morning to get the turkey in the oven baking I got permission from the teachers of my morning classes to skip so that I could work in the kitchen to make sure that everything was prepared on time.  When the school bell rang noon, the spread was prepared, one that rivaled any southern housewife's. These are but a few of the wonderful home economics memories that I have.  Perhaps someday i will also post about the day that Darla and I taught Mrs. Heatley how to do the dance, the bird, from Morris Day and the Time, which was in the movie "Purple Rain".  Oh my, I do believe that I just aged myself.
Publish Post

Thinking back, I often wonder if those giggles from my teacher were simply an unspoken "look at the gay boy go".

It Gets Better - I Promise

This was originally posted on my facebook on page on October 1, 2010.

When a gay teenager commits suicide, it's because he can't picture a life for himself that's filled with joy and family and pleasure and is worth sticking around for.

A quote from Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better campaign to MTV news.  The response to the recent rash of teenage suicides due to gay bullying in the past couple of weeks has been huge, but more can be done.

I am not a celebrity and do not have the power as they do to get my story and opinion out to the masses, but this morning I feel compelled to tell whoever I can and to those willing to take a moment to read these words that yes...it does get better...i will get better because I know!  I'm a survivor!

Unfortunately, we live in a world where bullying is a daily occurrence and in some circumstances encouraged. It's sad but true.  School years for a teenager are hard enough.  Struggling to find yourself, create an identity and begin to build a foundation for what will be yourself.  Compound onto these fretful times, the opinions, malicious words and actions of others, it can shake an already unstable foundation to its core.  One's teenage years are definitely years of tunnel vision, especially in high school.  Looking and planning for a future, college looming only years away and trying to envision what will become of your life.  Often there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.  But as the saying goes..it is always darkest before the dawn.  I am not going to recount for you each and every instance of gay bullying that i endured during my school years; suffice it to say that there were many.  What I hope to convey is that I overcame those terrible times:  I survived and I was finally able to realize that it gets better.

I grew up in a very small town, where people knew your business even before you did.  A town where the local beauty and coffee shops provided more news that the local paper.  A town where the if people didn't have anything to say about you, they made something up.  I will never EVER! forget the first day that I was called "gay (another word was actually used, but I refuse to use that word) by a fellow student.  I remember the look of confusion I had on my face because in all honesty...I didn't even know what that word meant at the time.  I got home from school and pulled out the dictionary to look the word up.  I definitely lived in simpler times because today the word gay and all of it's slang versions are used and said everywhere.  For me, the gay bullying started in 7th grade and continued all way through high school.  There were many days that the bullying was relentless.  In those 5 years, I cried enough tears to fill a large lake.  Screaming the words "NO IT WON"T" just grew louder with my mother's every plea of "It will be okay".  I completely understand and know the feelings that these victims of bullying into suicide felt, because I have been in that very dark place myself on many occasions.  Where the thoughts of tomorrow seem impossible.  How I made it through, I honestly do not know.  Support of family and friends definitely, The intervention of a higher power, possibly.  But I made it through and you can too.  It does get better.

I was 20 years old when I finally realized that the opinions of others do not make you who you are.  They are merely words said by an insignificant  and insipid person.  I decided that I live my life by my standards and no one else's.  I surrounded myself with a strong support group.  You choose your friends, they do not choose you.  If someone did not accept me for who and what I was, then they had no place in my life and they have no place in yours.

There is light at the ened of the tunnel - and that is all that it is, a tunnel which always has a bright end.  One that opens into a new place to be explored.  Be strong and always be your!!  I believe that I was a junior in high school, when my mother bought me a poster to hang on my bedroom wall.  The post depicted a chorus line of penguins all in a row, dressed in tuxedo, top hat and canes.  In the center of the line, was another penguin with the spotlight squarely on him.  He was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip flops and straw hat.  The words above read; "You Got To Be You".  That poster became my inspiration.  To never conform became my mantra.  Do not live your life for anyone else.  Life it for you and just LIVE!  Is it difficult...YES!!!  Is it impossible...NOOOO!!!  And as evidenced by my currently tear stained cheeks, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS! remember... YOU ARE LOVED!
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