I wanted to sit down and write a full review of a film but this one brought up a lot of history for me and a lot of pieces I had forgotten, some I have tried to forget. This post is all about sharing my life experience, in the hope that someone out there who needs to know they are not alone will find it and hear it. I hope that the people I will mention will forgive me this post, and not feel bad for my perspective on their actions, or mine, at that time. I love you. I always will and nothing will change that.
Tonight I watched the Lifetime movie Prayers For Bobby.
The acting was outstanding. The emotional impact is ... beyond words. This is a film that EVERYONE should watch with an open heart and mind. And the
ability of this movie to illustrate not just the situation in the story but to demonstrate the many different kinds of struggles that each person deals with in coming out and for the families involved as well - it is nothing short of amazing. True there are many who have no issue at all coming out to their family... on the surface, but that fear is there. I have no doubts that fear is there. This is a film that EVERYONE should watch with an open heart and mind.
The entire process and the cinematography of this film excels beyond anything I have seen to illustrate the emotional uproar that is experienced.
I have never shared this full story. And even here I will only be able to do a "sprint" through it. I have rarely wanted to think it through fully. But for a few reasons that were stirred up from this movie I feel like I need to. The first being that all during my life to one degree or another I have felt so alone in so many ways. There are moments in time where this is not true but not as many as I would like. And because of this I know that there are countless others out in the world who feel the same way, who wonder how anyone could possibly understand or relate. I think for me this telling is to help me look at the aspects of life that have affected me and how I need to re-learn how to react to those things, and also that so many people suffer privately in silence. They would never seek out or ask for help because they are hurting so and feel so alone or can't fathom that anyone could relate. Or worse yet of pure shame. Unfounded shame. I will break this down into stages to make it easier for me to focus and hopefully for people to understand. This is the story of my growing up, my coming out, and trying to learn to be an adult and a person who does not hate themselves... I have truly been blessed and lucky in so many ways. Much of this will be related to portions of the film so for those of you reading this I URGE you to watch it, tivo it, look it up on Lifetime on Demand, rent it, whatever...
Early Childhood: (ages 5-12)
Growing up life was good. From my eyes I saw a family of love and laughter. We weren't rich, or poor. We were like so much of this country and fell somewhere in the middle. My mother and father were and are exceptional parents and I love them more than words can EVER express.
I can remember times when spending the days with my mother watching soap operas between her activities keeping up our house and taking care of me. I loved those times so much, and even the times that were spent where I would get to play hair dresser or makeup artist and she was my canvas lol... Thanks for enduring those events Mom.
During this time my father worked a lot of different shifts in my memory, night shift and then moving to days, and all of them long. I don't know how he has worked those shifts all that time and continues to even today. He truly is a protector and a wonderful father. And I am grateful for every sacrifice he made in time and energy for me.
My childhood was "normal" I played and grew up and went to school. Though even at that age I never was really one to have a group of friends that I hung around with. A trend that while not as true today, still largely holds truth.
All through this I was active in church, walked into faith with an open soul and mind. I miss that feeling.
One of the things about my childhood however is that I honestly don't remember a great deal of it. There are just... blanks... for years at a time. And the things I do remember so many times, I wonder if they happened because often I seem to be the only one that does.
Sometime around the time that I turned 11 I think, we moved out of the country and into the city limits of my home town in Northeast TN. And for a few years the "bliss" continued. But I didn't realize the truth of the situation growing around me....
TEENAGE YEARS: (ages 13-19)
Sometime around the ages of 12 and 13 my parents got divorced.
I spent a lot of time trying to help my mother. I would see her so shaken, so emotionally obliterated that all I wanted to do was to hug the pain out of her. To make my love for my mother overtake any pain felt. Something in this changed how I viewed my father, my family. We were no longer perfect, no longer indestructible. And for a lot of years I have held that, unfairly at times, against my father. I still struggle with it sometimes despite my better logic.
Somewhere along the way after a while my mother and I seemed to somehow swap roles of parent and child for a while. During this time my mother rebuilt and had to rediscover her personality and self that had so long been locked away. Some might see this as a truly horrible situation but I think that honestly somehow there was a reason here. Because, my mother and I grew very very close. And even today she is one of my very best friends.
Sometime in this span I can remember that my interests were changing, I know that my sense of humor was changing. And there was a semi-joke that would be stated by some family members, and family friends. The response would be, "could be worse, at least he's not gay." Even I would join in on this referring to myself as an effort to "blend". But it hurt. Then and now. That trivial things were considered ok because "at least he's not gay."
Add to this growing up in a community that is filled with "good" people who are friendly and hospitable. As long as you fit the criteria. I spent so much of my life around self proclaimed "good Christian people". That were anything but that.... People that to your face would usually smile and be friendly unless they knew going in that you were "different". But behind your back the true feelings would come out. So many people say that bigotry is declining and going away. And I think over all it is, but nowhere near the degree that people believe. It has simply just become a more private thing. Something shared among friends at the expense of the respect of those being lambasted.
Comments like, "all the fags and queers need to be lined up and shot" "they should all be put on their own island somewhere" "and then sink the island". I heard these things constantly around me from people who didn't know, or those who did, but either didn't know I was in ear shot, or didn't care.
Around the same time that a lot boys start developing a liking for girls, I was having another realization. One that scared the hell out of me. From around the age of 13 or 14 I knew I was different. That something wasn't right with me. In private I could entertain these thoughts. But to the outside world I didn't dare. At that age I had no idea how my family would react to such news. I had heard the stories of kids put out of their homes, had met these kids. And was terrified that my loving family and parents would have a complete melt down and that I would be so lost and gone.
It was around this time that I began to truly have the thoughts of "I can't do this. I have to end it before it goes to far." And later this turned into thoughts that the reality of my suicide would be less painful and humiliating for my family than coming out. This was not true.
At some point in my life in the south I developed this feeling that no matter how open I was, how honest, how accepted it seemed, I was always going to be wrong and always damned. My self esteem evaporated. What was left and that I have operated largely on ever since has been a shell. An image of what it should look like. It was around this same time that I lost nearly all trust in organized religion. These feelings have stuck with me through even now.
As with in the film; I heard and dealt with people in the church who match the "Christians" in this film. The closed mindedness, the hate veiled in piety. After dealing with this so much I lost my faith in more than organized religion it has totally destroyed my ability to believe in Christianity. With that said I still struggle to believe, the things I was taught growing up I want to I cling to. But in doing so I feel like I am clinging to the beast that beats me with a spiked stick every time I breathe. Even now I am terrified to step into a church - to step back into that atmosphere of thinly veiled hatred. I would not survive that again. I know that as sure as anything.
I WANTED to die. For a very long time. More than anything.
The pain of just the thoughts of hurting my parents. The absolute terror of being beaten or killed for being gay, not by my parents but by the community around me. I felt so alone. So isolated that there was no way anyone could be feeling this same kind of agony. All those kids that had been kicked out all those kids who had lost their homes - they had suffered I knew but it couldn't have been that same feeling. Looking back I know that the reality was that I had it really easy for coming out as far as reactions and welcoming went. But when it was happening. I didn't know.
For a long time, even through my freshman year of High School I tried to still hide this. I dated a young lady who at the time was very sweet. But also very troubled on her own, and in ways I regret that I never got to know or could help with. We dated for 6 months. Finally after things got to a point where it was either "I'm straight or I'm not" I couldn't do it anymore. The lies were too much. I was living my life as one person and killing the person I truly was. I finally broke off this relationship. Which did not end well AT ALL. And the rumors began...
At some point prior to this in an effort to purge myself of all my gay feelings I even had a small bonfire. Where I burned any magazines I had collected over time, computer disks with journal entries, and porn on it. Everything went into this fire. And I stood and watched it go up. I watched it burn in the white soup pot out in my back yard. I stood there and cried and felt like I was in flames on the inside. Every fiber of the person I was supposed to be was being burned alive. From the outside only the tears in my eyes reflected this.
I spent a lot of weeks after that trying to "be what I was supposed to be".
After the end of the relationship in high school I finally realized that I had to tell someone else. I had to just say it out loud to another human otherwise I might burst.
I chose a very dear friend of mine, Natalie, at the time but I couldn't tell her that I was gay. I just couldn't say that. Instead one day after school while we were waiting for the bus I told her I was Bi. Her reaction was... Well it was not great. I don't really remember a whole lot of details from this. And it may have gone down differently. But the best that I can recall of it was there was an exchange of brief words and then she walked away from me. And the friendship was basically over. We pretended it wasn't for a brief period but essentially any communication stopped. I had lost the only person I called friend at that time.
I decided that there was no way I could tell my family. I couldn't stand to have them walk away from me too. So for the next two years I suffered in silence. I went to school. I delved into a world not ours. I escaped into the many novels of Star Wars. It was a world where I could lose all of who I was, all of MY, problems and just escape into a galaxy far far away... I still lose myself in them today - and often for the very same reasons.
By the time of my senior year I finally couldn't take lying to my mother and father anymore. I just couldn't do it. So one night without a plan or even the intention of doing it I sat down on the side of my mother’s bed and told her that I was Bi. In my head that would ease the punch. I have absolutely no memory of what followed. None.
It's like someone deleted that file from my brain. I've never been able to ask how that actually went after that point. I have been to afraid of what I might find out.
For a long time it was pretty much don't talk about it and it doesn't exist. So I went along with that. For a few months. Then out of some teenage rebellion I burst out of the closet to nearly everyone at school and work. But still not to family. I was shocked at the reaction. Which to my face was largely indifference. A "yeah and...?" sort of attitude.
Behind me though I knew the reaction was otherwise. I had enough acquaintances from the different "groups" in school to hear from one or the other about other people and what they said. Some things hurt horribly. Some scared me to death. And some just plain pissed me off. But I continued with my rebellion. I became mouthy to my mother I started with pride stickers and bracelets. (oh if only all that confidence had been real)
At some point in this I told my father. Again this is another encounter that beyond telling him I was Bi, I have absolutely NO memory of. I don't understand why.
And again it was, we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist, only it was with both parents at this point.
For about two months in my Senior year I actually dated a young man (the only guy I have ever dated, and haven't been on a date since. This was 2000.), someone I thought was going to be so good for me. He was 22 I was 18. He saw me as a taxi and a bank. I saw him as a companion. At the end of this I was sitting in the bar and with the friends I had at that time and just started crying for seemingly no reason. I couldn't stop it. We were supposed to be there together but he was off doing anything but being around me, and when he did see the shape I was in, he walked away. I cried harder and harder. I can remember clearly only one person’s name who was there and that was Daphne. She was a saint and just held me. I still talk to her on occasion but not nearly often enough. She was so sweet. I sat and cried on her shoulder for at least an hour. I knew that the relationship was gone, it had never been there and that I was alone. And it hurt. And more, even though I knew better, I was upset that I might hurt him when we broke up. I still can't believe that.
Sometime around here I realized that "hey I still have a home, and they still love me." But teen bullheadedness wouldn't acknowledge that with the gratitude it deserved.
So I pushed them away from me. I pushed until I graduated from High School and then I LAUNCHED away.
Adulthood: (ages 19-present)
I moved 45 minutes away from home and kept up nearly ZERO contact. I was a 5 night a week regular at the only gay bar in 100 mile radius. And still under 21. I worked and stayed out till 4 or 5 in the morning and slept for a few hours before repeating it.
Somewhere in this I had to totally turn my back on religion, my family, my hometown. If only for survival of my mind.
In this time I experimented with drag and all that went with it in the bar scene. I found a place where I could hide behind makeup and be the me that was so badly burned so long ago. Confident, Fun, Outgoing, Carefree (other than how my hair and makeup looked). But I realized very shortly that this was not a solution, and so I put Alexia Hope away into her own closet and steped back into my own shadow.
After about six months away I moved back home and then lost my job. I was unemployed for 6 months. In this time no job opportunities came to fruition. I slept odd hours and a lot of them. I ran up credit card bills with online retail therapy. (which doesn't work by the way).
Finally I went back to school and got my degree. My mother and I reconnected and re-bonded. And if anything I hope to think it made us stronger.
Throughout the years that followed 01' and 02' I have continued to struggle, continued to question myself. That person deep down inside that was burn up by the flames of that bonfire is still there somewhere. I just can't find him. Even having moved 900 miles from my hometown to a city I can call my home and making it on my own as a person. I still ...ache...
Only recently did I finally come out to the rest of my family. To my grandparents on my fathers side. I was absolutely terrified. I ended up doing it in an e-mail. I clicked send, and then went and sat and cried for a while. Then I talked to them on the phone for a few minutes - they said they already were pretty sure. I was shocked. And then I cried some more. But we still have a great relationship. I will always be grateful for that. And I am so glad that I did not let life go by without them knowing the real me. I don't think I could have lived with that.
The memories of the events of my growing up remind me of the pain and the fears that are now so deeply ingrained in my behavior, that it affects me even today. I have not had a date since those few weeks in high school, and the thoughts of meeting someone now always leads to an instant fear of assault or worse the shattering of the remainders of my soul. I want desperately to belong and to understand, but the very things that are needed to get there scare me to death. This fear has become a total part of me like a built in hard wired survival instinct that I can't seem to shake...
To bring it back to the film in discussion - the scenes of his diary writings the feelings of sinking of drowning and being lost, of not being worth enough. Those I can relate with. The feelings of being cut off from the things you once held dear; religion - faith, hope for love in the future. I feel all to real. I am glad to say that the desire for death that was so strong for so many years and that came closer to fruition than I care to remember are comparatively a faded distant memory. But the loathing and self hatred rages on and those feelings haven't gone away.
What I wish that anyone going through such a life changing realization and process would understand is that there is hope there are supportive people out there. And there are jerks and hate. But that you can be - strike that - you ARE strong enough to carry on as yourself. Don't loose yourself in the process, don't let your true self be consumed. Fight for it, and LIVE. Without that self.. life becomes a struggle few can understand truly.
I shudder to think what would be of me now if I didn't have the family and friends that I do. I do know that I would not be sitting here typing this now. I struggle with the after affects of these scars every day, every moment. But for my families love; there would be no saving grace here.
And to those who know someone or suspect someone is going through this - be supportive, let them know you love them still. That they are worth something that life still has meaning and hope. Welcome them. Question the things that bring up hate filled thoughts in your head - truly review them look at them in context and use the God given ability to reason. REACH OUT and hug that person who you can see the agony in their eyes even when they have a smile on their face. I think if that we can all remember that what is on the outside is rarely true of the inside. False joy often hides pain.
This post has gone on for a long time now - and I think I need to wind it up. I fear I have strayed from the original goal some. Only time will tell...
My life has not been a bad one. I have actually had it pretty good in many aspects. But the ones that matter for long term development are the ones that I feel even today are lacking because I was so isolated in a society that believes "God Hates Fags". I hope that one day I can overcome this. And I hope that no one else ever has to. My solemn wish is that you will go and watch this film, realize that my trite words here don't come close to conveying the emotions I felt with the scenes in this movie.
And watch the end scene where the mother hugs the young man off the parade route. He has a smile of sorts but she sees that pain. And without words told him he is loved.
What a world this would be if more people did such things...