Shaun Hutchinson

July 1997

Sunrise, Sunset and everything in between

Since I began writing for "Oasis," I have been wondering in what direction I wanted to take my monthly columns. I read the others to see what kind of path they take, and found that there is no formula to follow. I usually try to stay clear of the norm, but I was curious as to what others seemed to write about. Some of my fellow columnists write about the happenings in their life, sort of to catalogue of what being a gay kid is like. Others simply write about what is on their mind. I don't know though, I guess I'll have to think about it. Maybe I'll just pick a topic and write on it. There's so many topics that affect gay youth, how could I go wrong?

I actually just got back from a trip to Key West, which for those who don't know, is a very open place for gays. Well, I live just about four hours from Key West (right around West Palm Beach, in Florida) so it was a relatively short trip for me to make. I didn't go alone, however, I went with my best friend Darcy (that's not her real name, etc. etc.).

Where I live, you just don't see many (Read: any) openly gay people. I think there's a gay club about a half an hour away from me, but I can't stand clubs. So I was looking forward to a place that was queer friendly. I never expected what I saw though.

When I arrived, there were buildings flying the gay flag, and gay couples were walking about, without a care in the world. For those that don't know the geography of Key West, the "touristy" part is centered about a street that runs the width of the island, called Duval Street. It starts at the west end of the island at a place called Sunset Pier, where you sit at night and watch the sunset, and continues to the east end of the island.

Neither my friend nor I are really much into sports, so we were content to wander up and down Duval Street during the day, shopping like mad, and then going back to our luxurious hotel room (which, to our surprise, was upgraded to a magnificent suite, free of charge) to relax in the in-room jacuzzi. At night, we would go to the different restaurants and bars, and listen to the music, party a little and then go home in the morning.

The best part was that I felt welcome. At home I feel merely tolerated. I wear a little gay pride necklace because no one in my area seems to have any (pride, I mean). At my work, customers have taunted me. Outside of work, I have heard people whispering behind my back. It isn't the greatest feeling. In Key West though, businesses displayed their rainbow merchandise, and businesses with no pride items had rainbow stickers on their windows letting all know that they were queer-friendly.

Not all the places were like this, but even one store displaying such would have amazed me. To see that about 45% of the stores had something queer in or on them blew my mind. Now I'm sure that I sound like a deprived idiot, to those that live in places like San Francisco, South Beach, or other queer accepting cities, but there are way more places that merely tolerate gays, than accept them, so this was new to me, as I'm sure it would be to many.

I don't know if I have a point to this article. It's just that I came home with a feeling of elation. I now know that there is a place out there where I don't have to be afraid that some drunk, ignorant, intolerant asshole is going to try to beat the crap out of me for being who I am.

I guess that I'm just hoping that I can pass on that feeling to people who can't get to queer-friendly places. It's a feeling that you're not alone. It's a feeling that pervades your sleep with euphoric thoughts. It's a good feeling.

The day after I came back, I had to go to work. A customer started yelling at me, and I guess he saw my pride necklace, because in his rage, he called me a "fucking faggot." Last time someone did that to me at work, I sprained my pinkie finger on the wall I hit, I was so upset. I cried. This time, I called mall security.

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