[Ed. note: Due to hard drive problems, the February issue was posted incomplete at the beginning of the month, and then updated several days later, which enabled Ron Belgau to be able to comment on the current issue within the current issue.]
By Ron Belgau
My goodness! After Aztec's column last month questioning Ty's identity, now this month we have Lincoln Ho and Patrick D. leaping up to agree that Ty is probably a fake. I don't think we even bash on Pat Robertson this much, and Pat's hurt all of us a lot more than Ty has!
I am appalled that so many people are attacking Ty without having any way to be sure that he's lying. Most of us who have come out to others have experienced those who expect us to be a certain way because we're gay. Because of their own preconceived notions, they are unable to accept that we do not fit those notions, and they believe we're trying to fool them even when we're being honest. Whenever this happens to me, it hurts a lot. So I try not to do it to others. What if Ty is telling the truth? What if our preconceived notions are wrong?
Now I admit to having questioned Ty's identity myself. I didn't even know that guys could have sex with other guys when I was 13. I only knew that men could have sex with women, and I really couldn't understand why anyone would. I didn't come out to my family until I was 21, so Ty also seems kind of ahead of the game there.
The charges against Ty are, more or less: 1) he has too much sex for a fourteen-year-old; 2) his family life is unrealistic; 3) his boyfriend situation is unrealistic; 4) his life doesn't suck badly enough; and 5) he's too good a writer to be fourteen.
Over the years, I have talked to a lot of people about experimentation while growing up and about coming out. As I compare Ty's experience with those of my friends, I have to say it is not inconceivable. I have a friend who, at the age of seven, was regularly having sex with his best friend, who was also seven. Ty is positively a late-bloomer compared with this. I also have a friend who has a gay brother and a gay father. Statistically, homosexuality tends to run in families, and a gay man is significantly more likely to have a gay brother than a straight man. I don't have a gay brother, and I remember feeling completely alone, so it would have seemed pretty unlikely to me that someone would not only have a gay brother but also a gay father. It seems too good to be true. But it is common enough that I have a friend who is in that situation. It makes sense that if there is a genetic component to homosexuality, gay men who try to marry and go straight will be likely to pass on homosexuality to their sons.
I also have a friend who came out to his parents at 14; they never batted an eye. He claims to have been out in High School since he was 15, and not to have been harassed. I find it hard to believe, but he is a basically trustworthy person, so I believe that his experience could be radically different from mine. If Ty's father is gay, it would make sense that his mother has already dealt with her feelings about gays. His family would already have dealt with the issue, and so would not go through the confusion that most families go through.
Ty's boyfriend situation may seem unrealistic. But that depends on what we expect as "normal." I know a gay person who grew up in a fundamentalist family, and was actively involved in his church. His best friend also grew up in a fundamentalist family and was actively involved in church. The first young man was the captain of the debate team; his friend, the quarterback of the football team. And in the evenings, when they watched movies alone together, they lay together arm in arm. Nobody, neither their parents nor their friends nor the people at church, suspected anything. Isn't that story unrealistic? I mean, the quarterback? Doesn't he always do the cheerleaders? Maybe it seems unlikely. But the story is true.
I have been in many situations over the years which seem pretty improbable. This January 19, I met and talked face-to-face with Tony Campolo, one of my heroes, about Christianity and gays. How likely is that? Tony is probably one of the ten best-known evangelical leaders in America. Can I prove it? No, I can't. But it did happen. I could cite other examples, but I don't want to take a lot of time. I guess I just recognize that life is often pretty screwy and unpredictable. Ty's columns are certainly screwy and unpredictable at times. But that doesn't prove he's a fake; he might just be living an ordinary human life, by which I mean an extraordinary, unpredictable, unlikely plot that begins at birth, ends with death, and takes many unexpected twists along the way.
The next charge against Ty is that his life doesn't suck enough. Actually this is one of my beefs about the gay community and Oasis. We think being gay needs to suck. And sometimes, it does suck. But I would say that 90% of the time, I have a happy, hopeful life. I have lots of supportive friends, a supportive family, and a pastor who cares for me and supports me. I just have a very optimistic outlook on life, and I really don't have that much fear for the future. But I don't usually say how happy and optimistic I am in gay circles, for the same reason I don't use the F--- word in Church: it is socially inappropriate. It seems we always want to sit around and talk about the parts of our lives that suck. I'm sure Ty's life sucks a lot. But maybe, just maybe, he's trying to focus on the positive, to get through the hard times by remembering the good times. Maybe by counting his blessings, he'll help someone else stop thinking they have to be unhappy to be gay. Remember what the word gay means? It means exuberantly happy, excited, one who frolics and dances in the streets.
I was smart when I wrote my columns: I focused more on how being gay and Christian sucked instead of how most of the time, I am really happy about it. Nobody has said my life is unrealistic yet, because I talk about all the crap in it. But really, that's not what I normally think about all the time. I am up much more than I am down. If I start saying that it's possible to be happy and gay, will I be believed?
And finally, is Ty too good a writer to be fourteen? Well, he's a lot better than most fourteen-year-olds. But that doesn't prove he's not fourteen. Maybe he's just a good writer. Go figure: an artistically talented gay person. Why don't we try being happy we've got such a talented young writer among us? Maybe even send him a note congratulating him on writing very well for one so young.
I can't prove that Ty is who he says he is. He can't prove it without coming completely out of the closet. Are we willing to believe that maybe a gay fourteen-year-old would not want to reveal his full identity to the whole world?
If this were a group of Christians, I could quote, "Judge not, for as you judge others, so will you be judged."But a lot of you aren't Christians, and a lot of Christians don't pay any attention to that Scripture anyway, so I'll just stick to saying that in America, you're innocent until proven guilty. It doesn't say anything about being guilty because somebody thinks your story is unlikely.
It is unfortunate, but sometimes, gays can be as quick to judge as fundamentalists. Jesus taught us to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is much more sensible advice than some of His followers give. Next time you question something on Oasis, stop and think, "how would I feel if it were my column under attack?" Aztec, Lincoln, and Patrick have all written things in past columns that were surprising to me. But my reaction was not to suppose that I knew everything about the universe and that they were lying. It was "Oh! I'd never realized that other people had done that, or felt that way. That changes how I see things!"
Until someone comes up with actual evidence that one of our writers is lying, let's just leave it alone and try to trust each other. This is a place to support each other, not attack each other. And I realize that this column is in some sense an attack on those who accused Ty. And yet I can't see any way to support Ty without disagreeing with those who have questioned him. I am not trying to be adversarial; I am trying to encourage everyone to be supportive, and that sometimes means criticizing unsupportiveness.
Oasis is a great resource and it has helped a lot of people. Part of the reason for that is that we have a very diverse group of writers. If you compare my columns with Ty's columns, you will see that we have almost nothing in common. It is obvious that we disagree on a number of points, and we live our lives very differently. But in spite of this, Ty and I and all the other Oasis columnists and readers are human beings with real value. Let's keep that in mind always.