September 1998

Canyons And Bridges

". . . all I really want is to be an honest-to-goodness teenager!"

-- Anne Frank

Anne Frank and I have much in common, and without realizing it I have become in some ways her modern day counterpart. We both have written down our most intimate thoughts in diaries, we have had our writing read by people around the world, and maybe most important of all, we both have strived to be normal teens in spite of our lots in life. It seems to me that the simplest requests in life are often the most difficult to obtain.

What made Anne and her family flee their everyday lives and go into hiding was the simple fact that they were different, nothing more. Like Anne, I am just as different, a member of a persecuted minority that is often forced into hiding due to the fear, hatred, and ignorance of the people around us. We are restricted by the laws of our nations, prevented from enjoying many of the same rights that heterosexuals take for granted, and sometimes we have been killed for what we happen to be.

What bothers me the most about the gay culture is that we do as much as possible to create deeper canyons from the mainstream society instead of trying to bridge these gaps. The media does as much as possible to paint gays as a bunch of lisping perverts out to destroy mainstream America. . . just as the Nazis likened Jews to disease-bearing rodents. Our media shapes many of our opinions, and for those without interaction with minorities, we are more likely than not to believe what we see.

Members of the next generation of gays are often left out in the cold when it comes to media representation, and when we are portrayed it is often with the same shallow stereotypes that seem to haunt gays wherever they may roam. The fact that many gays -- myself included -- blend in so well that they are for all practical purposes invisible must scare the Hell out of people, because there sure is enough pressure placed on us to do everything and anything possible to stick out in the crowd, rather than just be another face within it. Even in the Rolling Stone magazine article "To Be Young And Gay" (issue #792-August 6, 1998) just profiled gay teens that "fit the image". . . as if this is the only way we can be seen? I can't help wondering if there are many gays that don't dye their hair, pierce their ears (and other body parts), smoke, and dress as wildly as possible?

I have to wonder what this image of what being young and gay is supposed to be like has on those who are just starting to realize that yes, they are young and gay ? Do they have to struggle with wondering how they should look along with the fact that they are not heterosexual? While this hasn't been much of an issue for me personally, as I'm not the most fashion conscious person around, I know it affects others.

Homophobia runs rampant in the worlds of my two of my favorite things: Heavy metal music and aggressive skating. Yes, your beloved Ty is both a metalhead and a skater. . . please don't pass out! I've been a Metallica fan since I was seven and have seen them twice, and if there's ever a group of homophobes. . . I wonder how they felt when former Judas Priest lead vocalist Rob Halford recently came out? My Dad's been a Judas Priest fan for over twenty years and he didn't give a damn about it, but maybe that's because he has two gay sons? Or maybe he sees that the music matters more than the sexuality of the performers?

Aggressive skating is another area in which being gay seems to be a huge no-no. I had my first encounter with aggressive skating when I finally persuaded my parents to buy me a pair of inline skates as a way of getting around other than biking all the time, and after trying on a bunch of skates that didn't feel right to me the salesman suggested that I try a pair of aggressive ones. . . needless to say I was hooked! My entire family has ice skated for years so the transition was easy, but once I tried to do tricks I discovered that being vertically challenged has it's advantages since I have a low center of gravity. . . it's about time being my size has a good point!!!

As I became a better skater -- well I'm not great or anything -- I started spending time with other skaters and that's when it hit me how much homophobia exists in that group. Come to think of it I don't know of any pro skaters that are openly gay? If you're unable to do certain things you're called a "faggot", and being afraid to try advanced tricks results in being labeled a "pussy". The same goes for wearing safety gear, especially the helmet that's always on my head. , which has been the only thing between concrete and my skull on more than a few occasions. Let's see here, which is worse: Risking head injury or being called names? Does that even need an answer?

Bridges can be built to cross the deep canyon between the gay and hetero worlds, but are we willing to pay the toll?


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