Paul Pellerito

October 1997

Life, The Universe, and Everything II

"I don't own emotion, I rent" (obligatory RENT quote of the month)

Monday, 6:30am. "Living in America" from RENT is playing on my stereo. Every now and then, my brother bangs on the wall to remind me of the fact that he's still in bed, regardless of the fact that he has to be at school in less than half an hour. My brother, unfortunately, is one of those people who doesn't think Jonathan Larson was a creative genius, let alone that his music is suitable for such an early hour. RENT didn't really do for me what it did for some people (see the RENT special issue) but I do find it enjoyable to listen to. I just don't identify with starving East Village artists who are living with AIDS.

Not that I'm unconcerned with AIDS, or that I think I'm not at risk, it's just that I try to get over the fact that there's a life-threatening disease out there and get on with my life. Who knows, I could get hit crossing the road by cute guy in a Honda, or gunned down by some maniac postal worker while I check out the guy using the stamp machine. To tell the truth, I'm very concerned with AIDS, and the fact that a lot of people are brushing it off now as a "manageable disease" really frightens me. Sure, protease inhibitors and the drug cocktails are a great new hope, but it's still not a cure. The only thing we have right now to stop AIDS from spreading any further is prevention, and you have to be protected every time. Sure, we've all heard this over and over, and I'm sure many of you are just as tired as I am of hearing this, but the only way to get the point across it to say it over and over. Those guys having bareback sex and spreading "the gift" as Michaelangelo Signorile referred to it in The Advocate, are doing even more harm. AIDS is definitely the epidemic of the 90's, and it may turn out to be the plague of the 21st century if everyone stops worrying about it. The movie "Love, Valour, Compassion" stated this quite well. The moral of the story: It's up to us queer youth, the future of the world, to start doing what we can whenever we can.

* * *

On another note, I'm happy to report that my mom went with me for the first time to a PFLAG meeting. I kind of surprised her when she found out that a few other teens and I were the speakers for that meeting, but I think she understands me just a bit more. Thankfully she enjoyed herself, and ended up asking me if I'd let her come to the next meeting. Of course, I told her that the group was really for her more than me, that why it's called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She seems to like a lot of the people there, and of course so do I.

Also on the PFLAG front, I've neglected to mention in my previous column something that really riled my up. Don, a teacher in his 50's who has a gay son, lost his job last school year because of his views on homosexuality. Before you all gasp and say "they can't do that" remember that they CAN because there's nothing in Michigan law that says they can't. He worked for a Christian Reformed school in southwest Michigan and evidently they didn't like his stand. The CRC has been debating homosexuality for quite some time, and back in 74 (I think) they had a big report made that declared the following: homosexuals aren't sick, and it's nothing they chose; homosexuals have a place in the church; this place should be established. The CRC is currently reviewing this report to see what has been done, and Don and his wife both agree that nothing has been done, although they know that the report will inevitably say that something has been done. Which reminds me of a quote by Frank Zappa.

"One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people's minds."

Finally, I had a very interesting discussion with an older man at our local gay coffeehouse. He was talking with a friend of his about how far the gay rights movement has gone since Stonewall 26 years ago. Sure, we can fly our rainbow flags and Ellen can come out and they sell Out magazine at Barnes & Noble, but I took the opportunity to remind him that nothing really has been done for the youth of the world. I told him that most queer youth probably don't really care right now if they can get married or be out in the military, they just want to know that they won't be beaten up after school and that they'll have a safe place to hang out and meet people. In this respect people like him haven't really done anything at all. Kids are still afraid to be themselves, and unless they find someplace or some way they can be themselves they'll grow up to be adults who are afraid to be themselves.

Luckily, if you're reading this, you've made a step in the right direction. And it's a good thing that stuff like Oasis and XY are here for us, so we feel less alone, so we feel a little more safe, so we can be ourselves.

"We are what we pretend to be" - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The future is on our hands. See you next month.

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