If you've read my first entry you'll know I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of living a stable life, a life of love and support. It wasn't my fate. I was 14 when I came out. It was a Saturday morning in 1977 (you do the math) and on the following Monday morning my father told me to get in the car. I had no idea where we were going until we turned off the main road and onto the massive grounds of The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. My dad dropped me off, he didn't even come in with me, he just dropped me off and drove away. No one in my "family" would speak to me again. I've often wondered if it was easier for my father to disown me because I was adopted. I've also tried to justify the reasons he refused to come inside with me, maybe he really did know what he was doing was such a travesty of betrayal and that if he saw the hospital from the inside, the image would have been so cold, so shocking and real that it might haunt him for the rest of his life. In the end it didn't really matter because there would never be a reconciliation and he would end up convincing himself that he, like the rest of the "family" hated me too, Well I always knew that wasn't true. I knew he loved me, and I knew I loved him. In fact I worshipped my father, and I forgave him because I understood the series of events that led to his decision to have me put me away. Almost no one who has heard my story can understand why I forgave him, so I've started writing a book. I've called it Pretend It's Not Me, and the reason I've chosen that title is because I had an aunt who told me it was okay to call her from the hospital, but that if anyone else answered I was to hang up or pretend it wasn't me. I'm sure she thought the risk she took by "allowing" me to phone her was a demonstration of love, or at the very least tolerance, but I never saw it that way. Because it hurt. I was such an embarassment that just talking to me on the phone was a risk?
The hospital was a horrible place that defies description. It consisted of about 8 of these huge buildings called "units" or "wards". It was built in the early 1900's when the emphasis was on keeping mental patients medicated and isolated, making sure they didn't escape as opposed to any real treatment. Not a whole lot had changed by the time I got there in 1977. I was young, scared and alone.
Eventually I would escape. I ran to New York City and have been on my own ever since. New York was a hell of a town back then, especially for a wide eyed 14 year old boy from Canada! This was before crack and AIDS, when people really had fun.
But it wasn't easy. I was homeless, I didn't know a soul. I had no one to depend on. So it was frightening, yes, but there were a lot of good times and I remember every second of them.
I loved the Village. It felt like home. The Silver Dollar on Christopher Street was open 24/7 so that's where most of us ended up in the early hours of the morning after dancing all night. I would eventually meet Steve Rubell and spend my nights dancing at Studio 54. Or Magique. Or Crisco's. Or The Anvil. There were so many great places, long gone. Just memories now. I want to give those who weren't there a clear picture of New York in the late 70's, just before AIDS hit. It was a magical town, it opened it's arms to me and I fell right in.
As big and as exciting as it was, New York was just one town. I found myself in places I'd only dreamed of. And even though the pain of rejection was never far away, and even though there were times I thought I'd never make it, I knew in a lot of ways that I was lucky. Yes, I felt lucky and I still do. Because I knew a lot of kids who didn't make it, kids who found themselves living live of crime and drugs. It's lonely looking out for yourself in a world where everyone takes. You let your guard down and all of a sudden your not clean anymore, something is missing, somebody did something that made you feel dirty. It doesn't matter how hard you scrub or how much dope you do, you can't get rid of them, the memories of what they did. These people who seemed so nice but really weren't. And there's no one there to tell you you'll be okay. You have to depend on yourself, you need to learn how to protect yourself because no one else will protect you. I think that's the message in my story, at least one of them, because Pretend It's Not Me is a work in progress. Who knows what it will become? I sure don't.
But today I figured since I probably have at least 5 or 600 pages of material, all unedited, that I would start sorting through it, putting it in order and that if I posted some of it in my own online journal it would help me reach my goal of being a real live published author of an actual book with a front and back cover and an index and a place where I can thank those that have lifted me up when I was hurting. God knows stranger things have happened! Even if no one reads a single word it doesn't matter because my goal is organizing this mess of loose paper.
In a lot of ways I'm still the same boy I was in 1977. I still love life, I have never stopped laughing or caring about people or hoping for a better life. I'm still scared, I'm still homeless and hungry. But I also have the most important thing of all, the one truth no one can live without. You can't survive without it. And that's hope, because without hope your nothing.