Friday, September 12, 2014

Thoughts on Being the Class Queer

Brian, Mia, Tiffany and I watching the Crowley County Days Mud Races.

In case you are unawares, I've been feeling older than dirt lately (assuming, of course, that dirt is only 27 years old).  This fact was highlighted for me when I attended my ten-year high school reunion.  Class reunions are decidedly for old people only.  How on earth did I graduate a decade ago?  And what have I done since then?  Yikes.

I can't remember who it was, but somebody asked me, upon returning, if any of my classmates had problems with me being gay.  I wasn't "out" in high school so, to be perfectly honest, I was a little afraid of that as well.  Of course many of them are friends with me on Facebook so it wasn't a new thing.  But still, seeing that an old acquaintance is gay via social media is not the same as hanging out with him and his gay husband for a weekend.  People might be stand-offish, right?

Wrong.  Nobody gave a shit.  Obviously my more liberal, Denver-living, pot-smoking, Obama-voting classmates didn't care.  Not surprising there.  But neither did my "I listen to Christian rock stations every morning as I drive to work" classmates.  Or my "I'm still living down here, working the farm" classmates.  Not even my "I stabbed a guy once, served some time, and now I work at a gas station" classmates.  Seriously, nobody cared.

This made me happy.  And I truly had a fantastic time at my reunion.  We gathered together on a Friday night out at Mia's family home near the lake where we grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, reminisced over old yearbooks, met people's significant others and children, got reacquainted, drank beers, built a float and danced a little out in the barn.  That's how small towns do reunions.

The next day was Crowley County Days, a big celebration in my little hometown of Ordway with a parade and everything.  Our class won "Best Class Reunion float."  Suck it, Class of '64!  And later on, watching the good ol' boys race each other in beefed up trucks through pits of mud, me and my gay husband sat in the back of a pickup truck amongst Confederate flags and the most hillbilly of hillbillies, feeling absolutely content with the world.  At least I did.  Brian was probably wishing he were back in Utah and far away from Confederate flags ("We're not even in the South!" he exclaimed in astonishment).  But yeah.  It felt pretty good to be home.

Would I ever move back?  Hell no!  But still... it felt nice.

Not long after that, back in Provo, some friends and I took a night drive in a yellow convertible.  Cruising down 500 West, laughing and feeling free, singing along to the radio we heard the unmistakable shout of "Faggots!" from the vehicle in the lane beside us.  It looked like a man was driving with his wife beside him.  In the backseat, a high-school-aged boy had the window rolled down and yelled at us again.  His parents laughed.

My friend shouted "I love you!" as we sped ahead.  We blasted Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" for the rest of the drive back to my house.  Of course we just laughed about it.  The whole thing was pretty ridiculous.

But I'm still a little shocked and a little saddened that hatred like this still exists.  That parents would encourage that kind of behavior.  That bullying is seen as okay.  I'm reminded of how much work needs to be done to make Provo a safe place for the LGBTQ community.  I'm reminded why I ever got involved with the Provo Pride Council to begin with.

Next weekend is our Second Annual Provo Pride Festival and this year I'm festival director.  That means I've met with the mayor and various city officials to get permits, shot off emails to the police department in terms of security and barricades, drawn up the festival map, met with a guy who can get us food trucks, contracted port-o-potties, and met with the rest of the amazingly dedicated council week after week to insure that this year is even better than last.  All this I try to do between college classes and full-time hours at work.

Why?  Because Provo needs it.

Last Sunday I watched a high school kid win a youth drag show that we put on.  He's a kid who regularly gets bullied for his fashion choices or his actions.  Who gets bullied for being gay.  And in that moment of coronation--of recognition and respect instead of judgment and ridicule--I saw his happiness.  I felt his tears.  I wore his smile.

It felt nice.

1 comment:

Bea Elwood said...

So, today during lunch I heard a lot of noise from one of the tables of six graders during lunch. I went over and made jokes with them, what's going on? They rather sheepishly told me they were "just joking". In my mind I thought, they are telling gay jokes, but I encouraged them to tell me anyway. Sure enough, the joke is "Have you seen that new movie Gay guys say No?" "No I haven't" Laughter, "But you see I am gay so..." total silence. And then the kid told me another gay joke... hmmmm. I realize, that since I was talking to a table of boys, that my being gay (as a woman) had never occurred to them but they did quiet down a little after that.......

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