My mother frequently told me that not everything is funny. I think the reason she had to remind me of this was twofold. First, I was learning to laugh at myself and once you can do that, you take the power away from anyone else laughing at you in a bad way and things do become much more humorous. You’ve accepted your faults, so the hell with what everyone else thinks. The other reason was to keep me grounded. Yes, I write comedy and I enjoy the heck out of it, but my friends and family keep me grounded. The Face of Gay posts are keeping me grounded, too. Something happened with them. Instead of each submission being all about the writer, the writers incorporated others into their stories. They did something I didn’t anticipate and made these blog posts their own by expanding on the idea. That’s magic. That’s what it means to be a writer. You cannot tie one down, draw a line and ask they not follow their instincts to go further.
And now you get to meet Danny. Before you do, though, please allow me to do my usual request of asking that you leave a little love in the form of comments at the bottom if you’re moved to do so and also consider submitting, too.
The Face of Gay 7 (Danny)
Hello. My name is Daniel Christian Juris (DC or Danny for short) and I’m a writer of GLBTQ romance.
I grew up in Florida, in the middle of a Southern Baptist family. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t have been a big deal, I don’t think, had they not been all bigots. My parents would drag me to grandma’s house for lunch every Sunday, and I’d listen as the “adults” sat around the table and told jokes about African Americans, Jewish people, and gay people. I never understood why anyone found the jokes funny, or why they felt the need to tell them in the first place.
The house I lived in was on a dirt road about thirty minutes outside of town. The only other kids in the neighborhood were ones I wasn’t really allowed to hang out with. I have vague memories of going to one kid’s house, but that didn’t last long. So, I was never really around other kids. Cue Kindergarten, and my discovery that I was different. Very, very different. You see, I realized I liked both boys and girls. I didn’t know what it meant back then. I’d never heard the words “gay” or “bisexual.” I didn’t know I was “transgender.” I just knew I was different. And different kids got in trouble.
Fast forward to junior high school. There was this one kid named Frankie. Everyone said Frankie was gay. Even Frankie said he was gay. He was flamboyant – brightly colored clothing, boisterous personality, even the stereotypical “wrist flap.” He was the poster boy for everything everyone in my family hated about gay people. And he got beat up. Every. Single. Day. I’m not even kidding about that. A couple times, he ended up in the hospital. He had more broken bones than the entire football team put together.
The school “officials” never did anything about it. They always “arrived too late to be able to determine what caused the fight” (duh?!) or they claimed to have seen Frankie swing first. (Frankie never swung first. Ever.) His parents argued and argued, and finally his father put him in martial arts training so he’d at least know how to defend himself better. I don’t know that it ever worked, because Frankie was far too gentle of a soul to really fight back.
I watched one of the fights once — if you can call it a fight. It was more like a beat down. I didn’t watch by choice. I was a small kid, and I got stuck in the crowd and couldn’t get away. I remember watching a group of bigger kids just hitting Frankie over and over, I remember watching his face get all bloody. Another kid tried to stand up for him, and they turned on that kid as well. He got his nose broken for his efforts.
When I finally managed to get away, I took one lesson with me: Gay is bad. If that’s what I am, then I’m bad, too, and I better never, ever, EVER let anyone know I’m like Frankie. For a long time, I lived in absolute terror of anyone finding out. I’d been hit before, by my dad, but these kids were vicious and brutal, and what they dolled out was way worse than anything I’d been through. I remember walking through school halls with my head down, trying desperately not to be noticed.
No matter what they did to him, though, no matter how many beatings he endured, Frankie never changed. He came to school every day in the same outfits, with the same personality, and the same mannerisms. I thought he was insane. I really did. What the hell? All he had to do was act normal and they’d leave him alone. So, what if he was secretly gay? What difference did it make? He could still be who he was; he just didn’t need to show it to the world. Besides, wasn’t being gay a private thing? A bedroom decision?
One afternoon, I happened to bump into Frankie. He was surprisingly unbloody (didn’t last long), and I asked him finally – “What the hell, dude? Why don’t you just be normal??”
I’ll never forget what he told me, though I don’t remember the exact words. He said, “Because I’m NOT normal.” He went on to say that if he pandered to what a group of bullies thought, he’d be betraying himself. That it didn’t matter what anyone said – he knew he was just as good as anyone else. That why should he hide, because one day, high school and the beatings would be over, and then what? If he hid now, he’d hide forever. And why? For what? Because some assholes didn’t like him? So what? He said that if he gave in now, he’d be giving in forever – even if he came back out of the closet later, he’d always know he was that person who hid – who was embarrassed to be themselves, and he couldn’t live like that.
At that time, I remained largely unmoved. I told him I still thought he was an idiot. That all he had to do was act a little different on the outside, and they’d stop. He argued that, sure, maybe they’d stop for now, but it was only a matter of time before they found something else about him they didn’t like. I remember this part crystal clear: he said, “You can only change so much before you don’t exist anymore.”
A part of me wanted to be like him. A part of me wanted to be strong enough to throw who I was in their faces and laugh at the consequences. A part of me wanted to be free and fun and flamboyant and loud and just, well…me. But the larger part of me just saw it as one more avenue to be hurt by, and I didn’t need any more pain – physical or mental. I had enough already.
In my junior year of high school, I met Ricky. Sweet. Friendly. Adorable. Just such a nice, nice kid. By that time, I was dressing in Goth clothing (there was a large Goth “population” at my school, so I didn’t really stand out all that much). And while some of the other kids called me a freak, Ricky didn’t seem to mind. We had a great friendship and were very close, until one day after school, he introduced me to his mother, who took one look at me and judged me.
I didn’t see Ricky much anymore. I ping-ponged between being angry at him for not standing up to her and being my friend anyhow, and understanding. After all, wasn’t that how I spent the last few years? By hiding and refusing to stand up? Hell, I was *still* hiding. I knew I was gay, I had almost accepted it, but I still wasn’t out. I still hadn’t told anyone. I still lived in fear of anyone figuring it out.
It wasn’t until probably my last year of high school that I really stopped caring if anyone knew or not, and it didn’t have anything to do with anything other than I hated living. My home life was literal torture, and I didn’t care what happened to me anymore. So what if I got beat up? Maybe I’d get lucky and they’d kill me on the first blow.
I never saw Frankie after graduation, but I heard he’d moved away to another state with his boyfriend. I couldn’t blame him. All I wanted to do was move away, too. At that point, I was living as a woman in the “public eye” and living as a man at home. Still hiding. Still afraid.
Ricky was another story. I didn’t see him either. One night I got a call from a friend, letting me know that Ricky had hung himself in his parents’ basement. He’d left behind a note, saying that he couldn’t deal with living in the closet, and that he was sorry he’d let me and a couple other people down.
Frankie and Ricky are my faces of gay. Frankie – the terrifyingly brave, in-your-face boy who just wants to live, and will claw and scrabble until he gets there, and who will not be held down. And Ricky, the tragic boy who lived in silence and darkness and never could pull himself free, never could swim fast enough to find the surface.
Me? I’m somewhere in between. I’m out and proud, absolutely. When I’m with a small group of friends whom I trust, I’m flamboyant, loud, and a ton of fun. But on my own? I’m still that kid who walks through life with his head down, praying not to be noticed. I’m wary of where I am when I hold my husband’s hand. I’m cautious of which places I go to, which businesses I use. I try to feel out people with dropped hints and see what they really think before I tell them I’m queer. I’m quiet and reserved in public – the last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself, especially when I’m alone.
I’m not a Frankie. I may never be a Frankie. But I’m not a Ricky anymore, either.
Previous entries in the Face of Gay Series:
The Debut of The Face of Gay 1 (Anonymous)
The Face of Gay 2 (By Bobbie B)
The Face of Gay 3 (James Taylor Jr.)
The Face of Gay 4 (Tom)
The Face of Gay 5 (Patricia Logan)
The Face of Gay 6 (Sue Brown)
Kage Alan is the Hereafter watching, Roxette listening author of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation,” “Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins” and the first book in a separate series, “Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell.”