Thursday, July 9, 2009

How I Came Out, Part 2: Independent Study

I just realized it’s taken longer than I planned to get this second part done. It also occurred to me that the use of the word “hate” in the title of my first post might have been a little strong. Nobody has a kid with the intent to make that kid’s life a living hell. Sometimes it just turns out that way.

Even the Christians believe they are acting out of love when they spew their venom at us, work to suppress our rights and ship their gay kids off for “reparative therapy”. They call it love, we call it hate. But if the end result is a generation of tortured souls and damaged psyches, what’s the difference?

This little memoir is turning out to be a bigger project than I first thought. The first rule of blogging is “Keep it Short”. To that end, I’ve decided to break it up into smaller pieces. Not sure how long it will take, but I ‘ll keep writing as long as you’re interested in reading.

The spring of 1978 was my awakening. I could use the “butterfly and cocoon” metaphor, but that would be way too gay, even for me.

I had satisfied most of my scholastic requirements and the class load of my second semester senior year in high school consisted of Psychology 101, Spanish and four art classes, one of which was an independent study Ceramic Sculpture class with my boyfriend Charles.

Charles showed up during the second half of a scheduled art class and worked on his own projects. When that class was over, the teacher, Mr. Kuhn, took his lunch break as I showed up to work on my projects. For half an hour, Charles and I had the room to ourselves. When the next class began, Charles left and I finished my session a half hour later.

Those half hours were spent collaborating on art projects, dishing about which ten percent of the guys in school were gay and slipping into the supply closet for private sessions of our own.

Sometimes we’d go on a shopping trip to a huge art supply store in Rockville, Md., over an hour away. Mr. Kuhn didn’t mind, as long as we filled the shopping list he gave us and brought him back a sandwich. He was a sixties counter-culture type who loved getting over on the system by writing the permission slips for our impromptu field trips. If a student had been absent, they had to have each of their teachers sign an absentee slip upon their return. Mr. Kuhn’s signature was usually a muddy thumb print.

He’d figured out our relationship and had confessed to me that having worked in an adult book store in his younger days, he’d seen it all and nothing could shock or surprise him any more. He also noted the change in me as I came out of my shell that year. In the three years I’d been taking his class, he said, he’d never seen me happier, more confident or more creative.

The image posted here is one of the projects I did during this time. I called it "Mad at the World", because that's how my mother described me back then. It was on display for four weeks as part of a student art show at the county Board of Education building . Although she drove past the building twice a day on her daily commute to and from work, my mother never stopped to see it or the other two pieces I had there. When the exhibit was over and I brought it home, she said it was too radical and didn't want it in the house, so I gave it to Charles.

Next Time: Senior Prom

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