03 March 2008

The Necessary Pain Of Growing Up (Part Three)

Photo by Jill Greenberg

It hurts to be Gay! Hell, yes, it does! It hurts to be a Lesbian. It hurts to be Pansexual. And it hurts most of all to be a Transperson! What do we do with all that pain? We try to run away from it. We spend a tremendous amount of time running away from the pain of living as an LGBT person in a Straight world!

We become addicted to shopping and cigarettes and alcohol and drugs and sex. Those are the normal things people in pain do, but we go farther than that. We fool ourselves into believing the sources of our pain are pleasurable! The nasty epithets. The crude stereotypes. The banning from institutions Straight folk take for granted. We adopt the epithets, embrace the stereotypes, and claim we never wanted access to segregated institutions. We wrap ourselves up in the ignorance society heaps on us in order to make ourselves numb.

That’s what’s really going on when we try to “reclaim” sexual slurs. I’ll never forget what a Lesbian once told me. She said: “I call myself a ‘d*ke’ so that word can never hurt me again.” Poor, deluded woman!  Does a poisonous snake stop being poisonous if you press it up to your bosom?  You’re still going to get a lethal bite! We’re self-injecting our psyches with poison every day!

I think most of us are intelligent enough to know as much, but we’re so intent on numbing our pain, we just don’t care! We hang a radical tag on the oppressive labels we adopt and go along on our not-so-merry way. We desperately want to feel tough and appear tough; to ourselves, and to others. We weigh ourselves down with psychological armor. We put on a brash façade, with lots of braggadocio and radical rhetoric. However, deep down, many of us feel utterly defeated by the government, the Church, the various cultures we grow up in, and the bigotry that plagues our existence. So we make a big show out of proclaiming a militant Gay Pride we don’t truly feel!

You wouldn’t know that from the way we posture, but you sure can tell it from the way we lack true political power! You can also tell it from the strength of our tempers and the acidity of our tongues when we turn on one another (and I include my own tongue in that criticism)! Seething right under the surface is a rage at LesBiGay and Trans identity that’s easily projected onto others like ourselves.

The argument Jerry and I advanced reminded some of Pam Spaulding's Blenders of the pain they’ve worked so hard to forget. In my opinion, the outraged responses we got hurled at us amount to avoidance. It makes sense to avoid pain, but it’s not always healthy to do so. We need to allow ourselves to feel our own pain! We need to stop running away from it and suppressing it and medicating it and denying what it is!

That's a dangerous thing to do, I know. Some people can't handle much pain. They can lose their minds from it! They can even be driven to commit suicide. For the sake of future generations, though, I think we must take that chance! We can't afford to ignore our pain. More than anything else, it lets us know that we’re sick. It motivates us to seek treatment! If we can't feel our pain, we can easily forget the sickness exists. Or we can decide being sick isn't so bad.

But the sickness we suffer from is ignorance: Ignorance imposed from without and internalized within. Ignorance is always a bad diagnosis! It's worse than breast cancer, heart disease, and AIDS combined! Its symptoms are cruelty and bigotry and injustice and shame. Just like any other deadly affliction, if untreated, it can cause death. It does cause death! If you doubt me, think about the current "barebacking" craze among some Gay and Pansexual men, and the resultant rise in HIV sero-conversions.

I believe that if we dare to feel the undiluted pain of living LGBT lives, and learn to channel that pain into the right kind of activism . . . the kind that gives absolutely no quarter to ignorance, no matter where it’s found . . . then against all odds, we can conquer our sickness! We can transform this sorry-ass world of ours into a safer and more welcoming place for those who come after us!

Why do I believe this? Look what happened in the past when our pain was properly channeled. The Stonewall rebellion. The founding of the Metropolitan Community Church. The revision of the American Psychiatric Association's definition of homosexuality. The founding of the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBT youth. The marketing of new drugs to treat AIDS. The overturning of the nation's sodomy laws. The winning of marriage equality in Massachusetts. All these victories resulted from people constructively treating pain brought on by ignorance. They didn't result from people embracing stereotypes, they didn't result from people playing the victim, and they didn't result from people posturing and parading and partying themselves into numbness!

That famous slogan from the 1980s, Silence = Death, is still true! That's why Jerry Maneker and I refuse to be silent!  Got some more "radiqueer" hostility to take out on us?  Bring it!  False accusations and ego-driven outrage won’t shut us up!

The Gay Rights movement is being sabotaged from within! If it self-destructs, and God forbid that it does, it won't be because nobody had the courage to sound an alarm before it was too late. We will sound that alarm! We will speak truths nobody wants to hear. We don't apologize for telling LGBT folk to grow up. We're not saying it just to push people's buttons! Evidence of LGBT immaturity is plentiful: How we adopt the language of the oppressor; how we adopt the politics of marginalization; how we seek liberation through reckless sexual behavior; how we party our fool asses off while our brothers and sisters are being lynched both here and abroad! Those are not examples of people acting like responsible adults! Those are examples of people fiddling while Rome burns!

I just got finished reading a 2005 pamphlet by Larry Kramer titled The Tragedy Of Today’s Gays (sic). In it, he wondered why today’s generation of LGBT folk lack the will to stand up for themselves and fight the forces aligned against them. If Kramer could read the comments thread from Pam's House Blend that I excerpted in this essay, I believe he would find his answer!

Find a link to Rev. Jerry Maneker's essay 
"On The Need To Grow Up" at:

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