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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Swallowing It

If you've somehow missed the news, the jewelry store I work at was the recent scene of a crime. A coworker was showing a diamond ring to a man who said he was waiting for his girlfriend to arrive in any minute. He kept looking towards the main mall entrance, until suddenly, ring in hand, he booked it outside.

"Help!" my coworker screamed as she ran around the jewelry counter, chasing after him. "He stole a diamond from us! Call 911!"

And do you know what? Several bystanders did just that. Someone else saw the guy get into a car--a white Pontiac G6 with pink sticky notes covering the license plate--driven by a woman. Within a half-hour they were found by police but the ring was not. At least not until after some questioning and an x-ray proved that the woman had indeed swallowed the ring. You heard me right. SWALLOWED.

I, for one, struggle swallowing any pill that's bigger than an ibuprofen. It often takes me multiple attempts with plenty of water gulps before I achieve success. Sometimes the pill has already partially dissolved in my mouth and I can taste the awful medicine within. Sometimes I have to give up entirely and just stay sick. I honestly cannot imagine swallowing something of that size and shape. It boggles my mind.

Yet she did it. She swallowed it. For whatever desperate reason, she swallowed it good. Police say they are now waiting for the ring to pass.

This was not my only run-in with law enforcement this weekend, although I wish it was. One of our roommates broke a rule that for others in the house was a definite deal-breaker. When it was discovered, all hell broke loose. Through miscommunications and quick judgments, the situation snowballed  into one of shouting and screaming and fear. Compromise seemed unreachable. A lifestyle change, impossible. Forgiveness, out of the question. My friend was left standing there broken and vulnerable and painfully aware of all the many times he had felt wronged, or cheated, or robbed of that thing called happiness he so desperately sought after.

Depression is real, my friends. As is addiction. And sometimes life isn't anything more than a series of grab-and-runs.

When he stormed out into the night, with the threat of suicide still hanging in the air, we were forced to call 911. In less than a half-hour, our friend was found by police. He was alive. He was safe. We held each other in the stairwell and cried. I couldn't hold onto him tight enough.

"I thought this was my safe haven," he said through tears.

"I wanted it to be."

But now he's staying somewhere else, once again feeling betrayed. Once again reevaluating his future. Once again starting over.

He's just swallowing it.


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