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.