April 2000


"Always Ready...Always Vigilant." That's what I feel sometimes. Always ready to hide, to run, to mask, to defend. I'm always ready to lie about who I am.

Ever since I've been outed to a number of people at my school, I feel like my defenses are on overdrive. Some people continue to spread rumors, but most people dismiss them because "Oh, I know him really well, and he could never be...."

Anytime anyone whispers around me, my ears pick up on things that I'm pretty sure aren't there. Instantaneously, I think they are talking about me. And lately, any "gay humor" at the lunchtable makes me so much more uncomfortable than before. To say I'm paranoid would be an understatement. I feel like the prey who knows the hunter is about to pounce.

It doesn't help that the two openly gay guys in my school broke up with each other, and to enact revenge are dishing out whatever dirt they have on the other. This includes knowledge of each others crushes on straight guys in the school. Suffice to say, much unnecessary drama has turned my school day into a bad episode of some cheesy soap opera. The spreading homophobia pushes me farther into my closet.

As I sit here and write this, I'm very frustrated with myself for not being strong enough to stand up for who I am. I'm at fault for not being brave enough to be honest. But to be truthful, I think, I do sometimes put too much on my own shoulders. It's not entirely my fault that people are discriminated against. It's not my responsibility to fix it all. But I do have a part in the solution.

Take a look at this poem. I think it justly explains what role you and I need to play:


Don't be fooled by me.

Don't be fooled by the face I wear.

For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks that I'm afraid to take off and none of them are me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled, for God's sake don't be fooled.

I give you the impression that I'm secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game, that the water is calm and I'm in command and that I need no one.

but don't believe me, please.

My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask, my ever-varying and ever-concealing mask. Beneath lies no smugness, no complacency.

Beneath lies the real me in confusion, in fear, in aloneness.

But I hid this; I don't want anybody to know it.

I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed.

That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind; a nonchalant, sophisticated facade to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only salvation.

And I know it. That is if it's followed by acceptance, if it's followed by love. It's the only things that will assure me of what I can't assure myself-that I'm really worth something.

But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to. I'm afraid to.

I'm afraid that you will think less of me, that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.

I'm afraid that deep down I'm nothing, that I'm just no good, and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my pretending game, with a facade of assurance without, and a trembling child within.

And so begins the parade of masks, the glittering but empty parade of masks.

And my life becomes a front.

I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.

I tell you everything that is really nothing and nothing of that is everything of what is crying within me.

So when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I'm saying.

Please listen carefully and TRY TO HEAR WHAT I'M NOT SAYING, what I'd like to be able to say but what I can't say.

I dislike hiding, honestly.

I dislike the superficial game I'm playing, the superficial phony game.

I'd like to be genuine, but you've got to help me.

You've got to hold out your hand even when that's the last thing I seem to want or need.

Only you can call me into aliveness.

Each time you're kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand, my heart begins to grow wings, very small, feeble wings, but wings.

With your sensitivity and your sympathy and your power of understanding, you can breathe life into me. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator of the person that is me if you choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble.

So do not pass me by.

I am told that love is stronger than strong walls and in this lies my hope.

Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands-

Who am I, you wonder?

I am someone you know very well,

For I am every man you meet, and I am every woman you meet.

My job in this world is to care. I need to stop turning a blind eye and start looking through the masks. People who are angry probably are hurt, too. I need to be on the lookout for people like that. My compassion could soften the anger and reveal a great person. I need to open my arms to all. Those who are hurting and to those who feel alone. So do you. If we all move out of our comfort zones and look out for each other, then we're all going to be well cared for. So be "Always Vigilant" and ready to show compassion to those around you.


MrPostman lives in Michigan. He is an 18 year old high school senior. He enjoys theater, music, and public speaking. Go ahead and drop him a line at MrPostman@notme.com

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