Recently I sat and wrote and chatted with some of the coolest people alive. No jive. Most of them happen to be gay or lesbian but among us there were straight allies like me. Man, I’ll be glad when our gay brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts and cousins and friends are free. Then we wouldn’t have to have a Gay Straight Alliance, a GSA – because the schools would love their gay children enough to provide them the safety and respect they need without them having to organize their own comfort zone. But that’s my idealism talking there.
The sad truth is schools often are not safe places for gay students and I would like to share more of such thinking through a note I once wrote to a boy named Mitchell.
Hi, Mitchell. I’ve been thinking about you ever since I heard your mother say: “But, he’s not a stereotypical boy.”
I knew, through the tone of her voice, that she wasn’t about to share one of those “Everybody lived happily ever after” stories. This day was not about fantasies. The day was dedicated to life’s realities, a day when Senator Sheila Kuehl’s Select Committee on Violence and Discrimination in Schools listened to our testimonies. Your mother’s and mine among others.
Your mother’s story about you weakened my knees, bringing tears to my eyes as she described how tough school has been for you socially, how hard it has been for you to be who you were meant to be. Such should never be.
Mitchell, saying this surely might not ease your pain, or alter your reality, but I just have to tell you that I have been a principal at many a school and in every one of them your safety would have been my personal guarantee. Believe me. Cuz, see, I don’t put up with bigotry. At anyone of my schools you could have felt absolutely free to be who you are as long as you weren’t the kind of person who would do the things that people have done to you.
And anyone who would have bullied you would have had me in their face in a second or two. And the first thing I would want them to know is that how they are treating you bothers me too. And I’d say something like: “Mitchell is a friend of mine and I just won’t tolerate you harassing him at anytime.” And I’d just have to let them know that, as far as your best friends always being girls, well, so, too, have mine.
The truth is, Mitchell, we’re all alike in some ways, and we’re different in some ways, and I’d have the bullies consider and count the ways. Like, for instance, you’ve never played with trucks or liked sports. Well, neither have I had an affinity for trucks at any stage of my lifetime but I’ve spent most of my lifetime playing sports of nearly every kind. Everybody has a life. You have yours and I have mine. You like to wear dresses and I do not, knowing that a 64 year (then) old gray bearded African American man in a Christine Dior would make the traffic stop. And makeup, I always hope that the directors of plays that I’m in forget to ask me to put that stuff on my skin. But I can still be your friend. And, as far as your detractors go, all of this is what I would explain to them. And I would surely hip them to the fact that like your mother described you, I am very artsy too.
Very artsy is exactly who you would be allowed to be at any school that was influenced by me. When I would share my prose and poetry at some assembly, you could come up and do your thing. We could dance. And sing. Or perform a comedy routine. Or a serious scene. Make them laugh and make them cry. That’s what very artsy people do. That’s how we very artsy people get by.
Very artsy me and very artsy you, on the go, bringing down the house at the annual talent show. Ginger Spice and Scary Spice in the spotlight’s glow, on top of the world, everybody shouting, “You go, Spice Girls!” You in your platform tennis shoes and me in my bare feet because there are no platform tennis shoes that can fit my big old size 14 AA feet and if I cramped them in any less sized shoes I would be singing the lowdown achy breaky foot blues but we would be a hit on the 11 O’clock News.
Well, Mitchell, that’s how I would do it if I were your principal. But I’m not and I can only say to someone who is: “Dear Mr Mrs Miss or Ms, this is how it is: if the children see that you truly love this very artsy boy and appreciate him for who he is and are willing to let him shine and show off his stuff, the children will too.”
Mitchell, they just might be of help to you if they approach it personally. It sure has worked for me. The main thing is: you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Keep the faith, sweet boy. You are a joy.