The mind of a child is a funny thing. Equations are formed without the nuances that only come with age. My equation was terrifying. Horrifying. I spent much of my youth frozen. Being very still and holding my breath in the hope that would stop time.
I was born in March of 1978. In 1985 Rock Hudson died of Aids. Two years later the same happened to my mother’s hairdresser. Three years later it was Cazuza, the singer. Another three years after that came the film Philadelphia.
It wasn’t the ideal time to for any child to realize they were different. The early playground taunts clued me in. There had to be something different about me, even if I had no idea of what any of it meant. I chose to block the concept of sexuality from my mind all together. To be different meant to be one of them. To be one of them meant my lips would one day turn purple, my cheeks would sink in. I’d shrivel up and die. I didn’t want to die.
I also didn’t want to be the object of ridicule. At dinner parties people whispered. They whispered at funerals too. Murmurs of justification. “He was gay“, or “It was probably AIDS.” There was always an oddity to the tone when those words were uttered. The implication, insinuation, of deservedness.
These different people weren’t the victims of a monstrous disease. They were settling their bill with the universe. How could I possibly have accumulated such a bill with the universe before even reaching adolescence? How could anyone?
It didn’t matter. Twenty-five years ago, unless one was confined to the four corners of a LGBT citadel- one had to deal with a public perception of our identities that was grotesque. We had been vilified for centuries. The mythology surrounding gay existence was of biblical proportions. Apparently in some places it still is. That weight on the shoulders of a young lgbt person is as close to unbearable as unbearable can be.
It’s infuriating to see it happening again. I can’t imagine being a young gay person in Uganda today. It’s probably not great for those in Arizona or Russia either. I wonder if they get that same sinking feeling I used to have. An evisceration of sorts. Like being punched in the stomach, but a punch from which one can’t entirely recover.