I’m From Clear Lake, TX.

by chris allen mason

I grew into a young man in the upper/middle class suburb of Houston, Texas known as Clear Lake City. Home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. My dad scored an amazing job with a NASA sub-contractor at the beginning of the Space Shuttle program so we re-located from Hershey, PA. I never really encountered much true hate living in PA. It was the 70’s, people were less afraid of each other, and my life as I remember it was pretty normal and stress free. Yeah there were bullies in the neighborhood that effed with me but nothing out of the elementary school norm for the time really. But even then I knew I wasn’t like the other guys in the hood.

Upon arriving in Texas, I was quickly introduced to racism. New concept for me. Apparently it was not cool to hang with guys like my friend Scott. Huh? Since I could remember two of my mother’s and father’s closest friends were an interracial couple as I recall, the Johnsons. It was a confusing concept. White folks can’t hang with “black” folks? Um, HUH? Well FML. So, I found myself agreeing to stay in with the kids. Any kids really. Today, I’d be like WAIT A MINUTE NOW. But back then I was like 10. WTF did I know?

So, the Masons settled in, got a house, and got on with our new lives in the South. By 6th grade I had already had my first sexual experience with another guy. It wasn’t until 8th grade that I lost my virginity with a girl. Even then I was totally cool liking both boys and girls. But it was not until high school that EVERYTHING changed. The signs were there long before 9th grade but I was not yet awake as a human being. Not awake enough to know who or what I thought I might actually be. High school in Clear Lake was a thing. A total thing. Parts are blurry, parts are crystal clear. There is tons I remember, tons I do not. Part of that may be because of previous drug use or just selective recall.

I actually started getting crap for being different in 7th grade. By 7th I had already pierced both ears, was bleaching my hair, and being 100% belligerent to anyone who questioned me. No big surprise that when 9th grade came around I fell into the “new romantic” and “punker” crowd. The PIBs. Where I met my first true gays. Well one true gay at first — the late and magnificent Greg Cherry.  He was fearless and flawless. I first met him at Boy Scout Camp the summer before I started high school. We immediately became friends and I was totally stoked to learn we would be in high school together. I really was in love with him from the get go. What a soul. No, that never happened between us. Not that kind of love. Not that I remember. But what Greg did fill me up with was inspiration. He inspired me to be true to myself no matter what. To explore. To discover. And to give anyone who disagreed with or disapproved of us the finger.

At our high school the bullies were widespread. Greg, myself, and all of our buds endured a crap ton of abuse and hate because we had decided to be ourselves. We were a pretty tight bunch for a while there. Even today I still speak to many of my old mates — Carol, Pat, Kim, Ingrid, Kris, Andrea, Michelle and others. Thank the gods for Facebook. Ya know, even the girls got sh*t. It came from both sides. Some just for being friends with “the fags” and others for just being themselves. My dear departed friend Greg had his face smashed in at one point. It was a HATE CRIME. He was beaten down because he was was out, and had no shame. He was so brave. I miss Greg. He was a soldier.

My suffering was never as severe as Greg’s, but it sucked regardless. The running, the hiding, the holding my breath because if they hear me they’ll beat the sh*t out of me (again). That crap got old. My crowd offered an easy escape from the feelings that this torture brought to my head. The cigarettes, drugs and alcohol were all way cool and fun but it was the music and nightclubs I was brought to that really made an impact on me. It was all about the dance floor. I felt completely safe there. For that one moment — high as a kite and dancing my ass off — I completely forgot about Clear Lake City and all of the bullsh*t our peers insisted we go through. About how when I walked through a crowd at school I was pushed, shoved, and called a faggot. Didn’t matter if we went to Numbers or one of the city’s many alternative lifestyle teen clubs  I loved to dance. I remember sneaking out of the house when my folks would head off to the symphony at sunset and returning at sun-up. But once Monday came around and I was back at Clear Lake High, it became all too real once again.

I remember running for my life. Being chased by guys in cars who wanted blood. I remember learning that when thrown at a 7-11 window by the quarterback, I bounce. Walking home from school was always a challenge too. I had to find creative ways to not be seen. I would walk down the bayou behind the school, cut through apartment complexes and people’s yards, and skirt along the edges of the golf course to get to my home. Yeah, it sucked. But I rapidly became awesome at sneaking off campus so cutting class became way easy and habit forming. Because even the staff at the school gave me sh*t. Some of the teachers and principles really had it out for me. Eventually, and in an honestly short amount of time in the bigger picture of things, I got fed up with being pushed around. I had been in rehab twice and the only thing it offered was an escape from my troubles on the streets. I had run away from home a few times too. Today I know what I was running from, back then nobody got it. Not even my shrinks. So, I dropped out of high school. And when I left Clear Lake City I pretty much never looked back. Time and distance became one. Eventually I lost contact with my crew. Made new friends. Found new troubles. I’ll never forget my last day of school. Ingrid was there. We got in trouble for PDA — because we hugged. Those fuckers just had to get the last word.

My point of this long-winded story is that I, like so many other GLBT youth, was bullied. Sometimes for just being different and other times for being who I was, a young bisexual man. Pushed into a corner, I made some rash choices and consider myself WAY LUCKY to be alive to tell the tale. I thought about suicide several times as well. To escape the pain I hid inside. Even tried it unsuccessfully later on in life. Good thing I f*cked that up. For a guy who never thought he’d ever see 30, he is loving his 40’s.

I feel for today’s GLBT youth. I think the pressure they are under in this time and age is much greater than what was going on the 80’s. As adults we think that gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth are more accepted by society today but by their peers it appears nothing has changed. Just because we are represented on TV and in marketing out in the open doesn’t mean folks still like us. More do, but still too many do not. My heart goes out to these kids. These kids brave enough to be who they are. It ain’t easy. I know. I also know that ending it all forever is not an option. These kids have to choose life — or the bullies win. They need to know they are not alone.

10 Comments:

  1. Great perspective, Chris. Glad you shared!

  2. Well, as a 40 year old Canadian living in London England, all I can say is that I have tremendous sympathy for anyone who has been harassed. I’ve been bashed once in 20 years and haven’t experienced any real verbal abuse despite being a Gay Activist in Alberta in the 90’s. Alberta by the way is the bible belt of Canada and not too distant from Texas. I believe that hatred can be found anywhere, but it is more localized in places with a history of intolerance. Unless you really love Texas, get out and find a place, preferably a blue state, where at the very least, you will find like minded people gay or straight. Check out my new blog entry. I was just published in the Metro (a travel paper) with well over a million commuters a day flipping from one page to another. Even in London’s east end where there seems to be one gay or lesbian couple on every street corner, acceptance of the truth nationally is without a doubt questionable because out of a million I only received 250 hits within a week.

    http://acountryboyinthecity.com/?p=1026

  3. I am sorry that you had to deal with bullies and hateful people throughout your life. you are right though, LGBT youth are still struggling. Myself being an 18 year old who’s out to everyone knows that it is still hard growing up gay. I’m just happy that you acknowledged the fact that it still is very difficult to grow up gay, just like it was 20 years ago.

  4. Stay Strong,

    When you get Older, and you will be someday… It happens to all of us Lucky Guys! I Hope that you will still say Hello to me!! Stay Strong!!! :) Steve!!! …….

  5. Well, what should you expect from a place like Clear Lake City? It is not clear, it is not a lake, and last I heard (left in 1987) it was not a city.

    On a foundation of lies like that, what should you expect?

    Stories like yours always make me ask “Where were the adults?” Not doing anything useful, that is for sure.

    At around the same time, however, there was an important and politically powerful gay movement in Houston. I lived in Montrose, and commuted to the Space Center. Ah Montrose! Where, according to the Houston Post, “Any sexual activity, no matter how strange, can be found.” My kind of place.

    And don’t buy that stuff on “Men of a Certain Age”. Those were great days. Now I am 74 and still going strong.

  6. So I went to junior high and CLHS with Greg Cherry and I gotta say he was “magnificent.” I’m sorry to learn he’s gone. I don’t think I ever bullied him, at least I hope not. I certainly outgrew such things by HS. But I still feel guilty about standing idly by when it happened and I remember being deeply impressed by his bravery and dignity in the face of the daily onsloughts.
    And I am raising my kids to have more courage than I did in those circumstances. Things will get better.
    –Cheers

  7. I grew up in Clear Lake, same class as Greg Cherry, 1986. I never spoke with him, unless I have forgotten about it, but probably didn’t. I knew who he was, and I remember being bothered by the way he was talked about…it was a different time, but nothing excuses horrible and violent behavior. I didn’t know he was beaten up, but I’m not surprised. There was something pathological about that school, even though i still have great friends from there. Its hard to explain, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there. In retrospect, Greg was the only guy I can remember who was unashamedly gay in public. It’s a shame the way he, and apparently you, were treated. I’m glad you made it, but I’m sorry to hear he is gone.

  8. Wow. I was just listening to Echo & the Bunnymen and found myself telling a story about Greg “Silky” Cherry. Wondered what became if him, his amazing bob, Ray Bans, indomitable spirit, and infinite love of Belinda Carlisle. And, found this post. So sorry to hear he passed. If your so inclined , I’d appreciate knowing how things ended up for him. He was a very sweet friend.

  9. It sounds like you are gathering lots of different ideas in your Word doc. I do that on different sheets of paper in my notebook.

  10. I am so glad you posted this story. I have been looking for Greg for years. He was my best friend in 8th grade at Seabrook, I ended up going to Clear Creek and he went to Clear Lake and I moved to Arkansas soon after and we lost touch. This horrible news is breaking my heart, what year did this happen? I loved him so much! He was my date at the ROTC military ball, I can’t believe he is gone. I guess in my mind he was doing great things with his life, he was so talented. Thank you again for your story.

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