On My Mind

March 1991

This was a submission to a Denver newspaper feature that encouraged people to write in about topics of interest. They held it for a while, but it ultimately came back with stamps of "maybe" followed by "rejected". I don't know if it was the subject matter, writing, or other priorities that caused it not to be accepted, though I suspected the subject matter.

A friend made a comment to me the other day that made me think much more, probably, than she had intended. I had expressed my frustration that some people here at school, though they seem to like me well enough, still seem uncomfortable with my homosexuality. My friend reminded me that these people come from parts of the country where the subject is not even thought about, much less accepted. She said that I had grown too used to the acceptance I find here in Denver.

With the shock of self-revelation, I realized that she was right. When I "came out" into the gay community, I was welcomed with open arms. I discovered organizations that help people to learn that their sexuality is not wrong, organizations that do this without asking any payment. I discovered a community of people who love themselves enough to deny the persecutions thrust on them, and friendly people who were anxious to help me to forget the pain that nearly killed me as recently as four years ago.

I was, to be honest, ashamed of my forgetfulness. I work with one of those organizations on a speaker's bureau, going to speak to whoever will invite me, and share my past. I tell these people how I was taught to believe that my sexuality is wrong, and that it should and could be changed. I tell these people about the conflict in my mind when I realized that it could not be changed, and more when I realized that, deep in my heart, in spite of all the wrong that people thrust on me, I knew that, for me, it is right. I describe this conflict, trying to bring those feelings into their lives, even the ultimately painful ones of the years that I spent wondering if I should be allowed to live, and trying to kill myself. Most people, when they see the human suffering that prejudice causes, learn how important it is for them to relinquish the prejudice that may be within them.

How, if I spend so much energy giving these feelings to others, could I have forgotten what they were like? This question bothered me, and began to obsess me.

But not for long. As I looked back on my past, and compared it to the present, I realized that I had not forgotten the feelings. My friend had fooled me, or I had fooled myself, into thinking that Denver is a place where I find so much acceptance that I could begin to take it for granted.

It was actually me who had changed. I had learned not to let the daily prejudice that I experience soak into my interior. I had, in essence, learned to take, not acceptance, but prejudice for granted.

For it still exists. Dare I say, it is still rampant. And, although I have learned to turn off the pain that it creates, the pain is still there. And, if it is still so strong for me, who have learned how to build walls that prevent it from battering me to bits, how strong is it for the people who are where I was so recently? Thousands of people are active members of the gay community here, but many times that number are hidden members of the community. Some of them have learned that their sexuality is not bad, and hide because they are afraid of economic pressures from employers, or from their families. But the majority of the hidden community, I think, still believe that, because of their sexuality, that they are bad people. These people are afraid to face the hatred that would be poured onto them if their sexuality were known. The hatred inside themselves is enough to kill them, and if they were to have to face that of others, it certainly would. And when I think of that, then the pain returns to me, and the anger, an anger against a city who would rather let people kill themselves than open up their own minds.