October 1997

Death of two women. . ..

I know this has been a popular topic for the last while, but I feel it requires addressing. In the first part of September, two women died. Okay, well a lot more than two women died, but two received attention. One was a beautiful princess and mother who had a couple of causes for which she used her celebrity status to aid, and the other was a small, old, dried-up looking woman who dedicated her entire life to helping the poorest of the poor. The first received a royal funeral with billions of people watching; was on the cover of Time Magazine twice in a row (a feat I can't remember anybody else pulling off). She also had extensive media attention for more than a week, where the only thing anybody heard about was her life and death, and even had people in every country holding candlelight vigils for her. The second also got a state funeral (although it was not as widely televised), three pages in Time magazine, and a blurb in between coverage of the first's funeral.

Like DUH, I wonder who I'm talking about. Princess Diana died a truly gruesome death, and I really and truly feel bad for the Princes (especially Harold) and their father. But, whatever Princess Diana was, however much a role model for little girls, and philanthropist. . .she was NO MOTHER TERESA. I really can't express adequately how angry I have been during the last week, especially when Time (for whom I had some respect for until this week) all but ignored Mother Teresa. For the first time in my life, I have actually sobbed at the death of somebody outside of my family. She was everything that people ought to strive for, and perhaps one of the best examples of a person totally living the message of Christianity. To be honest with you, I'm actually crying as I write this. The President of the United States is another person who I'm annoyed at. He basically equated the two when he said "Two great women have passed this week." Well, there are great women, and then there is Mother Teresa. I hope that at least the Council of Bishops will canonize her, so at least she will get the recognition that she deserves (if any woman in Christianity, short of Mary herself, has ever deserved sainthood, Mother Teresa does).

Leaving Home. . ..

As you can probably tell, I've been a really melancholy mood. It really sucks when one of your heroes dies, and then too almost completely without recognition. But life goes on, and when I'm in Calcutta (perhaps within the next five or six years) I will leave a rose on her grave. The second reason I'm in a poor mood is because I have left home. College for me is going to be an adjustment, but one that I will enjoy making.

I love my school, the University of Chicago. The people are brilliant, many are friendly and nice as well. I'm a fairly outgoing/friendly person, and although the people who go here are not like my friends back home who get wasted every weekend at loud parties, they are still a lot fun to be around. I managed to be the only first year male on my floor. . .the interesting part about this particular dormitory is the fact that the bathrooms are communal by floor. I think this might be interesting in the near future, especially considering that the females on this floor are quite attractive, and from pictures, the upperclassmen coming in a few weeks are also relatively pleasing to behold. I don't know if this will just cause more problems, but guess I'll just have to wait and see. (The down side about being around brilliant people all day is that you tend to use bigger words than you ought to when writing your column.) I'm currently at orientation, which is a marathon session here (13 days).

My only possible point to complain would be about the city itself, but then I've only been in the south side, which from all accounts is not a reflection of the rest of the city. . .so judgment is being held until the trip downtown.

Stereotypes. . .

This is something that another columnist addressed last month, which I really feel strongly about. I don't think that the stereotypes applied to gay, lesbian, and bisexuals are either healthy or accurate. I think they are images that were created by the heterosexist world to create a nice neat separate category for us. It is their way of making themselves feel more secure. . . "I mean, after all, my son doesn't lisp and act like a girl, so he's surely straight. . .right?" Wrong.

The fact of the matter is that there are homosexual people everywhere. We are doctors, dentists, teachers, and parents. More than everything else, we are normal, everyday people. Why is it that the image the rest of society has is so different from reality? I guess part of it is the media, I mean the outrageous sells while the normal sits on the stand collecting dust. The other part is that many gay communities perpetuate the stereotype. I really don't buy that upon coming out, the next door boy type of person, all of the sudden becomes a lisping, effeminate person with a high screechy voice. (I am specifically applying this to males, because it seems that girls seem to shift less dramatically, at least among the lesbians I know) I fully believe that you are born with your sexual orientation, but we are taught gender roles.

A gay man does not become a woman when he comes out (I know this does not apply to transexuals). . .he doesn't change, so why should his gender role change? I think it a more conceivable situation, whereby that same person simply stops pretending to date girls, and openly dates guys. Sure his behavior is going to change, but not a 180 degree shift. To those who are genuinely being who and what they are, more power to you, regardless of whether it is or isn't consistent with the stereotype. My problem is with those who think that because they are gay and out, they have to act like the most outrageous example of the stereotype! Be true to yourself. . .and in many cases that is not what people are doing.

There are two major problems associated with the stereotype. First off, the image of GLBT people is highly negative. Generally, people don't enjoy associating themselves with something negative (after all, you don't want to think of yourself as a cow patty on a field, do you?). So, when a person is first realizing, "Hey, I find the dressing room at school to be the place where I'm most turned on. . .", and that they are attracted to people of the same gender. . ..what is the first image that pops into their head? There is no balanced image of the gay and lesbian community, so the only idea that pops into the child's head is the stereotype, especially if they have only been exposed to heterosexual people. This makes it hard for someone to accept that they themselves are gay or lesbian. If gay kids could see that gay adults are normal human beings, maybe more of them would be able to accept themselves. And, maybe, fewer would feel the need to commit suicide rather than become the stereotype.

The second problem the stereotype presents, is that it makes it hard for other people to accept homosexuality. Specifically, it makes it difficult for kids to come out. Think back to the last time somebody startled you out of your skin. . .it wasn't particularly pleasant was it? Nobody likes something completely unexpected to happen in their lives, because it requires that we change our lives in some way. Parents are no different. It is harder to come out to your parents if they have no reason to suspect (which allows them to prepare themselves) that you might be homosexual or bisexual. If the image of homosexuality were more realistic and balanced then hopefully every parent would at some point sit down and wonder. . .hey maybe he is gay. . .mull it over for a bit, and hopefully, think that maybe it wouldn't be too terrible. (Okay, maybe that is unreasonably optimistic, but thinking about it, and wondering wouldn't hurt their chances of being able to accept their child). I think a lot of the negative reaction that people trying to be honest with their parents is a direct result of fear. Parents don't want to lose their children, and because of that stereotype, that is what they think will happen.

Here's an example to clarify. Josh comes home and tells his parents he's gay. Option one: His parents immediately think of the stereotypical gay male or a cross-dresser, both of which are completely different from their little boy. I'd say utter and total shock and confusion would be the most likely response. Or, Option Two: His parents think of the guy living two houses over. He's nice enough, mows his lawn, and is active in the community. He happens to be gay, but he doesn't molest children. He acts like anybody else, except he isn't running around with a different girl each night. The likely reaction, while still surely surprised, will probably not be as traumatic to the relationship.

That isn't to say that calming the stereotype would fix all the problems for gays and lesbians, but it would help us (teens) and our parents come to terms with it. I know that if I had a more real image of the gay and lesbian community, and some idea that I don't have to run around acting effeminate and everything else the stereotype entails, I might not have come so close to committing suicide. I don't think I'm alone in that, I think a lot of the teen suicides could be stopped if they themselves had a truer image of the gay and lesbian community.

Music and Poetry. . ..

I was re-reading my last article recently, and I realized that I completely neglected to mention music and poetry. These two are the two loves of my life. I have listened to every genre of music at one point or another. I even had a brief period of time when I was listening to Cantonese pop (it lasted for about forty-five minutes). But I generally listen to whatever is on the Modern Rock radio station. They play everything from Jewel to Smash Mouth and Blur. I also have a collection of classical music, of which I truly love J.S. Bach.

I also greatly enjoy writing poetry. Writing is something that is difficult to match in terms of calming power. What I mean is that when you write, you can really start yelling and screaming about the entire world, and after you are done you feel pretty good. It's not as satisfying as taking a baseball bat and destroying everything in sight, but it is a lot easier to clean up after. I have written a poem for each of the ladies who died. But, I have decided to put one that I think most of you will be able to relate directly to. (Your feedback on the poem would really be appreciated, I find this poem to really be a good example of my work, and I am proud of it. . .but I also would like criticism):

* * *

I guess the question is, why am I writing this down. It isn't that baffling...I'm tired of carrying it on my conscience. I choose to write in the form of poetry...mainly because I don't think I can express what I feel in terms of classic prose...not in the same way, not with the same meaning.

So, does God hate me?
For all my sins, against man?
Or even my sins against HIM?
I'd like to think that I've been shriven.
That my responsibilities are filled.
But I know better.

I'm a sinner.
But more than that I'm a fake.
I'm gonna live my life as a saint.
Never, by deed or spoken word, let it seem otherwise.
Which will make my soul seem all the blacker.
Especially in HIS eyes.

I've done things.
I've said things.
I've felt things.
I've wanted things.
I've lied.
I've cheated.

But what it all comes down to...
What it turns out to in the end...
Is that I am crap.
I was brought onto this world for a reason.
And I have not fulfilled it.
I was given a gift, and it lies dormant.

I acted, that is what I regret most.
That I acted, based on something I knew was wrong.
So motivated by the basest of emotions.
Reason tossed to the wind.
My high ideals too...as a leaf in a hurricane.
I lost myself there.

I lost what made me pure.
I lost what had given me strength.
I forgot myself...in those brief moments....and I never remembered.
Unfortunately, tragically, unreparably.
I too was lost...doomed to wake in the middle of the night.
In a state between ecstasy...and agonizing self-hatred.

I damn myself each night for it having happened.
And I damn myself thrice for wishing it would happen again.
I detest the fact that if I had the situation again....I'd do it again.
Purity damned to Hell.
Morals too.
With my soul.

Peace to all of you, and I thank you for listening to my melancholy discourse. As you can probably have told from the way my mood shifts radically in some of the sections, I wrote this article piecemeal. This last section is being typed at 1:10am on the 18th at the University, I have two math tests in the morning. Oh yeah, don't forget to check out my story in the arts and entertainment section. WRITE ME PLEASE at soulseer@hotmail.com. And sorry if I managed to offend anybody with this article, feel free to write me with your complaints, but I reserve the right to ignore the letters.

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