I’m From Claysburg, PA.

by Jonathan O'Harrow

Satellite overhead image of Pennsylvania from Google Earth 2022

As I was leaving the house to be on the “anti-” panel in a Prop. 8 debate, my straight roommate asked where I was going.

“To the campus. For the debate.”

“The Prop. 8 thing?” he asked. I nodded.

“You’re wearing that?” He said “that” in that special way that text can’t really convey. A capital “that” or an italicized “that.” Definitely a sarcastic “that.”

I looked down at my red, button-down shirt with a small plaid pattern and nice gray slacks.

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

“Nothing,” he says, turning his head back to the television. “Just didn’t think you’d go to a gay debate dressed like a lumberjack.”

I smirked, told him what he could go do to himself, and closed the door behind me.

I shared that story later on during the debate. A wonderful debate, by the way. Respectful in that “I respect your lifestyle, though I think you should be deprived of most rights because of it” kind of way. I shared the lumberjack story because someone made a comment or asked a question about what gay people look like. I answered, “Me. They look like me. And they look like you. And they look like everybody else you know.”

Truth be told, I wore that shirt because it didn’t look gay. I didn’t want to walk in that room wearing something that would send off sirens, “The queers are coming! The queers are coming!” I wanted to look as average as possible. Blend, Jonathan, blend.

I wanted every student, staff, and faculty member in that room to have a face to think of the next time they said or heard something derogatory about gay people. And I wanted that face to be my average, fat, glasses-wearing, stubbled, usually-smiling face because I know that the only way to be accepted is to make yourself available for acceptance. Also because when someone resists or refuses to accept homosexuality as natural and normal, I don’t want them to be dismissing some obscure notion. I want them to be dismissing me. I want them to think of me when they disregard gay people with a blanket statement of intolerance and anger and stupidity.

Maybe I didn’t look gay enough that night. But I felt more connected to the gay community than I have in a long time. I felt like a part of something big and special.

I felt that elusive feeling: Pride.

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