By Scott King
Photos: Scott’s own
What a long, strange trip it’s been
For three decades now, I have known that I am queer. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have always known that there is nothing wrong with me. I’m queer, I’m here, and I’m used to it.
Last year, while dragging my hungover ass to a Pride brunch in midtown, something many of us take for granted, I crossed the parade lines a good two hours before the parade was to begin. There were a couple of young teenagers already on the line, waiting, nervous. That’s when I remembered how much it sucks (and rules) to be a teenager in love.
The story below is for them …
I knew I was gay when I was 7 years old. I had a crush on my best friend. Let’s call him David Letterman. Dave had a crush on this gurl, let’s call her Drew Barrymore. Classic love triangle. To add insult to injury, Drew was a fellow ginger. I pretended to have a crush on her too, both to blend in and to bring us all closer. Such a sneaky little tyke.
But nevermind the drama. I understood what I was facing. I knew that what I was feeling for Dave was no different than what he was feeling for Drew. I mean, come on, that’s some pretty stiff competition.
I knew that what I was feeling was queer, and out of place, but I also knew that there was nothing wrong with me. I knew that burning up for his love was the greatest feeling a person could ever feel. I was not naive, however, and I knew that this electrifying feeling, although exciting, was going to be, for a very long time, a dark cloud over my young life.
Puberty was harsh – a challenge, if you will – but exciting. I was an early bloomer, a foot taller than most of the kids in my class. I tried my best to be a good kid, to blend in, lie low, and bide my time.
My genius plan to blend in was to play basketball, mostly because I was hot for teacher. To protect the innocent, let’s call him David Letterman as well. Coach Letterman was an honorable man, a Gulf War veteran, a Democrat, and a total stud with a disarmingly sardonic sense of humor.
He liked me, and he asked me if I “played ball.” How could I resist? He liked me for me, and when we interacted I could tell he wanted me to be the funny weird tall guy that I was, but I was so self-conscious of my crush and my burning queerness, I could barely make eye contact.
So I sat on the bench all season long, dreaming of a life that didn’t so closely resemble hell.
In 8th grade, I focused on my guitar playing instead of sports, and I started hanging out with the slackers. It was the 90s. It’s a long story.
I felt better.
Freshman year of high school, I found my tribe. Band geeks and theater freaks. I came out to all of them. But we were neither freaks nor geeks. It was the 90’s, and being alternative, and wearing weird makeup and clothing was relatively cool.
My initial coming out story wasn’t dramatic at all. It just felt natural. Most of us were queer or something close, and we could not stop talking about it for months. Apres moi coming out, le deluge.
And speaking of natural disasters, there was coming out to my parents. Involuntarily. While I was away at something called the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention (yes, that’s a real thing) my mom had found my poetry journal. If you’ve read this column before, you know I don’t hold anything back. Imagine my poetry journal and diary at age 16.
My poor mother. Having a gay son was probably not in her vision for her life as a single parent, especially one who was as free-spirited and prosaic as I was. She was not one of those moms who was like Oh yay my son is gay let’s go shopping. I was also not that type of gay. I was dark and rebellious and antisocial and misanthropic.
The next couple years were difficult. The hardest thing for me was having to pretend to explain my life to someone who didn’t understand it. I never intended to be accepted by mainstream society or by people who were conservative and normal. I just wanted to do my thing and be left alone. I knew that my path was different.
So I went off to college, rebel heart burning bright. I voted for Ralph Nader. I did lots of theater despite a deficit of acting talent. I made lots of good friends, who smiled at my quirks and only laughed AT me when they saw me trying to be someone other than myself. I became more me. I became an adult.
After graduating, I went to my first pride parade in Atlanta in 2004. It was an election year. There was that hot guy running for city council who stripped his shirt off after some queen threw a purple drink at him. That was the highlight of the day, until I saw the PFFLAG float.
I was still young, but seeing young teenagers and their parents with signs like, “I am proud of my gay son,” melted me from the inside.
I saw that it all will find its way in time, that love flows only in all directions.
I saw other people in the crowd with tears streaming down their faces. Tears of joy, tears of poignant remembrance, and tears of hope. Everyone wants to live in that world. And if you celebrate pride, and if you live it every day, you can.
Ever since that hot summer day in Atlanta, I have been one cocky homosexual. I have lived with that kind of love and pride inside of me. Sometimes it burns bright. Sometimes it seduces with its coolness. But it always originates from the deepest, most authentic part of me.
To honor that energy, I do not hide. I do not equivocate. I carry my queerness with me everywhere I go. Whether it be grad school, a deep south road trip, or the county fair, it is always with me.
It is in my sense of humor. It is in my sense of style. It is in my sense of justice. It is in my skinny jeans and my form-fitting t-shirts. It is in my sneakers that I wear down to the soles walking around this beautiful world and this beautiful city, wondering what magical adventures await me.
As the years have rolled on, it has become just one small but fabulous part of me. My parents have come to love having a gay son. We even go shopping sometimes.
Love your community, even when you don’t get laid. Love your friends, even when they get distracted by a hot piece of ass. Love the people who are different from you, even if they don’t vote the way you want them to (or vote at all). Love the queens who are loud and transparent in their need for love and attention.
Love your life. Love your queerness. Love your body. Love your soul. Love will save the day.