I never wanted to be held back, who would and yet I have always felt I was. “The man” keeping me down. Trapped in my small-town, 80 square foot, spaceship inspired bedroom I would flip through the Consumers Catalogue. Carefully selecting the brass and glass 3 piece table set, Egyptian cotton bath towels, stoneware place settings and curtain rod finials that would most stylishly and affordably furnish my new 1 bedroom apartment in the city. I was 10 years old. By the time high school came I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be getting that apartment anytime soon and I battened myself down for the 5 years of inevitable stifling that high school provides that needs no explanation.
Now, 13 years after I graduated, with a half dozen stints at University, Colleges and private schools all of which I paid for. Coupled with 4 long term relationships, 7 apartments and more then 2 dozen jobs later, here I am. I have done it all, and now I am left to wonder. Should I just lock it down? Marry my partner? Focus on this career? Stay in this apartment and save money for my retirement? I am 32 after all, I have to start thinking about it now because time is running out, isn’t it?
Is it time to start again? Am I too old to go back to school? Am I too old to get out of this life? I’ve learned the answer already. No, because there is no starting again, it’s all a continuation.
I will never commit if I’m not completely satisfied and I will never be completely satisfied unless I commit to making my life what I want.
In my life I have always been surrounded by other people feeling the heat of the everyday and complaining about the choices they’ve committed to and I’ve always just felt sorry for them. Stuck in a rut, I have never been. For the first time something scary has emerged, the possibility that I will never find a rut at all. There comes a time in our lives when we are no longer the 10 year old helpless children without options living vicariously through catalogues and windowpanes. When your actions propel you, wildly into uncharted territory, hopefully heading in the right direction. The hardest thing is figuring out where you’re actually going, without a true destinations it’s all just really running in circles. Born free, I felt like I would never want to stop. All those years captive in that little room, waiting for the time when i could break out into the world had provided me enough inertia to weather even the hardest storms. But here I find myself, the inertia long gone and the largest storm clouds yet on the horizon just beginning to build.
Where does the voice come from? Our experiences lead us to a place in life that offer us a unique perspective. On the world and how it seems to shape itself around us. While some of us go with the flow and let ourselves become enveloped in everything there is, others prefer to take a stand against that flow and try to change the current. The platform my be different and the message is most certainly different but what makes people speak out rather than just mesh with the ever changing environment?
It’s the critical mass for all of us, when we decide, now I will speak, it is time for me to share what I have learned.
I could be generalized a very quiet person, the people around me who don’t know me very well but interact with me every day would probably describe me as shy, I tend to fall in line with the typical “blonde” archetype. The people who know me a little better would probably describe me as a bitch, once they realize I’m not being distractedly dumb they interpret me as rudely indifferent. I’m actually not quiet at all but was raised to speak when spoken to. I take it all in and only am outspoken when I know I am “right”.
Today over lunch, I debated with friends the cover article printed in one of Toronto’s weekly newspapers. As a general skeptic, I don’t consider anything “real news” in the media so I find it hard to debate the content of printed articles with out first determining their motive. It was clear though in this case that the young misguided author had somehow found a platform and through self-righteous optimism had written an opinion piece that’s motive was entirely self serving.
Maybe that is why I don’t speak out more? Maybe by waiting until I know that I am “right” I am missing out on the opportunity to make a change in the current. If only it didn’t matter I could find my voice. Unfortunately for me it does.
Just like the scary image of Queen Street during Pride, Toronto’s theatre community would seem odd to say the least if us gays closed up the curtains and then paraded out past the box office for ever… of course you already know that.
I can picture it now, boxes of costumes and the defiant walks accompanied by yells of “fire” and “break this, bitch” no doubt, as one last hurrah.
I feel like I’m already getting carried away in the energy and flamboyance of the gay and lesbian community. When we pool together or stretch our gaze across a busy street and draw the strength we need from a comrade in arms. Whether they’re walking with us or in an opposite direction never even turning back, the result is the same. Can a friendly straight do the same?
Hence, the miracle of cruising, it’s like the sixth sense and an almost untranslatable word. The ability to let go of in a glance a single feeling that we’ve skillfully learned over a lifetime to hold inside. Two shared paths, however different they may have been, connect. Empathy at it’s finest.
Comrade, you ask? What are we fighting for? Sometimes it’s hard to remember. Lost in our own melodramas and the safety net of “Toronto the gay” are we still even fighting? When the war is over how do we go on?
My sister had an American boyfriend and in August of 2001 he left Toronto to join the army. He wanted to be a paramedic and couldn’t stay in Canada. The allure of a free education, some serious bank and experience to work in almost any major American city right out of the gate in exchange for a few years in the army was hard to resist. On September 11th I’m sure no one I knew was more surprised then him. Six years and two unexpected and extended terms in Iraq later he was able to leave the war and now he works in Michigan completely unable to work as a paramedic. Still an amazing guy but in no imaginable way the person he would have been without those horrible years behind him. That person could now, never be.
I wonder if he can see that look in another man or woman’s eye when he’s walking through the mall. Is it always unspoken? Would he ever ask or does he not have to? Maybe one day I’ll ask him.
How would I be without my scarred, fucked up life? Is that what I’m subconsciously thinking whenever I recognize another gay far from the confines of my gay subterfuge. In addition to all the fucked up things that shape everyone, this person shares my biggest most fundamental flaw. Not that I am gay, but that I accept it and without doubt carry the damage as proof of a new life in Michigan for everyone. That raised in this straight world where I could choose to live a lie, I choose to let it be known, I was born this way, gay.
Then, in just a glance of an eye I can get a feeling that I am not alone and that somehow my path has found a crossroad.
Now in Toronto sometimes it’s hard to remember a time when months would go by without that look. When you would feel so alone knowing you were different and not truly understanding why.
I get what cruising is, don’t get me wrong, I witnessed the changing of the guard first hand. Old enough to have seen the pre internet, organized, political hard line gays to the post 2000, homogenized, branded gays rolled into the world of the masses. What cruising once was in now obsolete, except for a generation aging just above the bell curve in technological advancements but just below the poverty line.
As far as the two groups have grown apart and as simply as sex can bridge the gap, it’s not fucking that connects them. Rather, being born a caterpillar.
We are lucky in Toronto that we have the opportunity to venture out into the masses and be ourselves. We shouldn’t forget that we are an example to the world. At a time when gays and lesbians are spreading out through the city from Leslieville to Parkdale, it is more important than ever that we stand together. That we support each other when we’re braving the straight new world even though it seems we’re getting all the support we need elsewhere. It’s are unity that needs to shine so that the strength of our community can be that example. Church street needs to be supported, gay performers need to be supported, gay and lesbian owned businesses need to be supported by gay and lesbian people.
There will always be amazing straight people that stand up for our rights and support us financially and otherwise. However, we do not have equality and in our lifetimes never will. We are the world over, struggling and oppressed. Individually we can thrive in a city like Toronto but individually the majority of us are dying. Keep our community alive.