Right now, I am feeling angry, sad, and disappointed. I need people to understand why I am worried and upset.
This is only one story. My story.
As a young child, I was called a faggot and pushed around by kids at school. Sometimes I had to run home or take the long way so a couple of my classmates didn’t beat me up. Kids at school and family members called me a sissy. I remember hearing one of my sisters tell my mom that she needs to stop babying me so much because “I was turning into a big sissy.” I know she felt this way because I wasn’t into sports like her sons. I enjoyed hanging around with my sister, Diane, and we were very close. Because of my dad’s strict rules, we were not permitted to have friends come to our house or to visit their homes. This made it impossible to have friends. But, I had Diane and if she wasn’t around, I had a great imagination and created imaginary friends. I knew I was different, but didn’t know why—so I was labeled a sissy or a fag.
At thirteen, I tried to hang myself because I didn’t understand what I was feeling. All I knew was that according to my family and society, I was a bad person. There was no one I could talk to about it and I went through this until after high school. During high school, I got in with a bad crowd and started doing drugs because I enjoyed the feeling they gave me. I was no longer different. I was one of the guys. If I stayed fucked up, I didn’t have to think about anything. Eventually, my new friends figured me out and turned against me. One night while high on acid, I ran out in front of a car because I thought it would be over quick if I did it that way. Luckily, the driver swerved around me and missed.
I joined the Air Force to get away from everyone that knew me and try to change my life. In the Air Force, I had friends and felt like I belonged. I actually started to love life. After a few years, people began to talk because I wasn’t dating girls seriously but had numerous girls that were friends. I did date a few girls and almost married one, but I realized that it wouldn’t change who I am. Although I did love that girl, I knew I didn’t want to be with her and I was attracted to men. During my last year of service, I was going to re-enlist and was excited to make the Air Force my career. One night, my tech sergeant was drinking with his buddies. As I walked by, he said “Yeah he’s a fucking faggot and we don’t have room for his kind in the Air Force.” Again, I had no one I could talk to about being gay in the Air Force and I fell into a deep depression. I tried to over-dose but some friends found me. I would have been kicked out if they took me the hospital, so they took care of me and helped me through it. I don’t think they really knew why I attempted suicide or that I was gay, and we never talked about it afterwards.
When my time was up in the Air Force, instead of re-enlisting, I left with an honorable discharge. If I had tried to stay in and they continued to come after me, I would have been kicked out with a dishonorable discharge for being the gay man I am. When I went home after the Air Force, I finally wanted to be me. I knew who I was and I didn’t want to hide it anymore. That didn’t go very well. However, let me say that my mother was wonderful. She cried, I cried, and she looked at me and said, “Are you happy?” I said, “Yes, mom, I really am. I finally accept who I am. For the first time in my life, I am happy.” She looked at me, tears in her eyes, and said, “I love you. You are my son. As long as you are happy, that is all that matters.”
The rest of my family didn’t take it well, except for my sister, Diane. I was once again a sissy, or in some of their words a ‘tweedy bird.’ If I was visiting my mom and any one of my siblings came over, they would not speak. They acted as if I was not there. If their kids sat down near me, they would pull them away from me. If I was sitting on the couch, they would grab a kitchen chair instead of sitting near me. I was kicked out of the family for almost 20 years.
I decided it would be better if I left Delaware for a while, so I moved to DC and got a job as a bartender at a gay bar. I loved the job and all my new friends, and finally felt like I belonged. I was there about a year when one night, I was walking out of a different gay bar than the one I worked at. As I walked down the street, five guys came up behind me. In DC, there were houses that were split into apartments. The first-floor apartments were like the one in the TV show, Laverne and Shirley. You had to walk down steps to get to that basement apartment. These guys beat the crap out of me and threw me down a set of stairs like this. I remember hearing them laughing and suddenly feeling a warm liquid burning my cuts and a terrible stench. As I was laying there in pain and bleeding, they were pissing on me. One yelled down “There you go, faggot. That is what you deserve!” When I was finally able to crawl up the steps, someone saw me and called the police. The police officers were laughing at me and making remarks behind my back, but I could obviously hear everything. As one of them was taking my information, he was snickering and pretending to keep a straight face, as the others kept joking. I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I just couldn’t take any more humiliation. A friend of mine took me in, and he and his partner doctored up my wounds.
About six months later, I was bartending when suddenly the front door of the bar flew open. People started throwing in tear-gas bombs. As patrons and workers ran out the front or back door, they were waiting for us. Every time someone came running out, they were punched and knocked down by these heathens. With our eyes stinging and watering, we couldn’t see faces or features of the culprits. Investigators eventually tracked down the tear gas canisters and found out they were marines stationed nearby. Once caught, they got a slap on the wrist and were told to stay away from our area from now on. I was angry and tired of the abuse, so I began marching in the gay parades. I marched right up front, helping to carry the banner. I was so proud and confident, and I was not going to take it anymore.
Eventually I came home again and my mom couldn’t have been happier. I started dating a guy, we moved in together, and stayed serious for about five years. I ended it because it wasn’t a very good relationship. However, a few years later, I met the man of my life. Through my family life and everything else that happened along the way, I had become cold and bitter. But, Norm was everything good that I needed and he introduced me to love and compassion. His family took me in and treated me like I was one of them, giving me the love that I needed so desperately. Norm also taught me what love was and how to feel and express it.
I was doing great and had a job I loved, including awards for employee of the month, employee of the year, perfect attendance—you name it. I was well liked, I loved everyone I worked with, and I was feeling comfortable and good about people in general. I never said anything about being gay to anyone except a few co-workers I was very close with. After thirteen years at the company, the new CEO asked if I was gay and I said yes. Two days later, I was fired. When I went to the labor board and told them what happened, the guy laughed at me. He said, “You’re a white male. What do you know about discrimination? You have no case. You have no rights. It is legal for them to fire you for being gay.” I was shocked that this could happen. After about a year, I found another job and I have been there for almost fifteen years. I made sure that during the interview, I mentioned Norm and let them know he is my partner. They didn’t care and wanted me for me.
Norm and I have been together for 28 years now. Our love just keeps growing and we were married five years ago. It was the happiest and proudest day of my life. I just wish my mother would have made it long enough to have been there with me because she loved Norm very much. As gay men, we were not only married, but we also had equal rights. No one could be fired for simply being gay. If anyone was attacked and beat up, it was a hate crime and punishable as so. I could sign up on Norm’s company health insurance because his policy is better than what I had. With me being a veteran, we no longer had to worry where Norm would be buried should something happen to him.
In the past, if you were gay and your partner died, his family members could come in and take everything you built together because the marriage wasn’t legal. We were just second class citizens that didn’t matter. If I had to go to the hospital for some type of emergency, it was legal for the doctor or nurse to deny Norm the right to come see me. I could be dying and if a doctor or nurse didn’t like that we were gay, I would lay there and die alone. It was something that happened far too often. I never thought marriage and equality would happen in my lifetime. I am surprised and delighted to have the ability to legally marry the man I love with all my heart and life could not be better. I’m proud to have been a part of the revocation of these unequal rights. I am legally married; I now have the same rights as everyone else. I feel safe and happier than I have ever been.
Our president-elect and his vice president do not believe we should have the same rights as everyone else. I’m angry, hurt, betrayed, and in mourning for my country. I’m worried sick of what can happen.
I don’t love Hillary but at least she cares and is a defender of LGBT rights and women’s rights. Why does any man have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body?
I have come to a point where I am starting to get past the anger, the disappointment, and the sadness. We fought before and we will fight again, even harder. I will not give up. I will do what it takes to make sure everyone in this country has equal rights and the dignity they deserve. I will not give up on our right to love and be with the person we love.
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