The first funeral I ever attended was the funeral of the first boy I ever loved, the boy who died by his own hand, the boy whose suicide note, in a paragraph near its end, mentioned — me.
Whose suicide note, as it happened, outed me.
Losing a boyfriend, even a secret boyfriend, is a lot to bear for a sixteen-year-old kid.
Being outed is a lot to bear, at any age.
But when I attended my secret boyfriend’s funeral, as I stood before his coffin in my scratchy shirt and tie, I didn’t yet know about the suicide note.
In the South, where we lived, funerals often featured an odd practice: the open casket. …
Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me.
Living in my memory
All of the family here with me. — “Somewhere in My Memory”
As soon as he picked up the phone, all landlines in those days, I rushed to inform him of my plans. “It’s a beautiful day! Have you been outside? A perfect, warm winter’s day!”
“Is it?” he said, yawning, his enthusiasm not nearly matching mine. “What time is it, anyway?”
I looked at my watch. “Almost ten! I’ve been up for over an hour! And I have an idea. A great idea! Since it’s such a picture-perfect day, I think we should go to our spot and exchange our Christmas gifts! …
A dusty diner on a long and featureless road in west Texas may seem like a strange place to serve as a kind of crossroads of the world, but so it was — at least to my wide and impressionable ten-year-old eyes.
Though the old diner’s food was more venerable than tasty, a crowd was always gathered there. Situated in a little town of few restaurants and among cattle ranches and oil fields, the diner could always count on hungry cowboys and rig crews to fill its booths and perch on its stools.
Whenever I set foot in that diner, I realized the images of the strong, silent Western man and the stoic Western woman were pure Hollywood invention. There in the company of west Texans, you couldn’t shut people up if you tried — and nobody even tried. Stories were swapped freely and loudly and met with raucous guffaws of appreciation. If a cowboy dropped a heavy mug of coffee on the floor, the din of “visiting,” as everybody called it, would invariably muffle the shatter. …
“Come on, aren’t you curious?” I taunted. “Don’t you want to know?”
My friend Milo squinted his eyes and pursed his lips — his thinking face.
“I’m not sure, Bri,” he said at last. Then, decided, he added, “Nah, I don’t think so. Just forget about it, will ya?”
I groaned out loud and rolled my eyes, but only because I knew Milo expected me to. There was something else I knew. Milo’s hesitation, rather than instant refusal, was actually a good sign.
I’d planted a seed of interest in my friend’s curious brain. …
Once upon a long time ago:
(isn’t that how fairytales start?)
the little boy buttoned up his coat
to armor his just-broken heart.
The kids had called him that name again,
but because of his burgeoning pride,
he’d said not a word to parents or friends,
but when his grandfather phoned him — he cried.
The old man knew well the little boy’s tears
(for, of his grandkids, this lad cried the most!).
He knew, too, how to heal with a gift, and said:
“Look for something from me in the post!”
The little boy pushed warm tears away
(his cheer always on call in the wings).
“The mailman’s bringing me a surprise?
Oh, I can’t wait to see what he brings!” …
The boy was blond and blue-eyed and his brightest feature was his smile — usually. In this moment, though, tears spilling hot on his cheeks as he looked over the edge of the man-made ravine that was the great noisy highway, he didn’t smile — he screamed.
Screamed as loud and long as he could, still no match for the mechanical roar from the pavement thirty feet below.
What would it be like to plunge over the edge, he sometimes wondered, he who was not scared of heights but was scared of falling?
When I was a boy, kids still played in streets and in neighborhood parks on their own, unsupervised. A world ruled by kids and their sense of wonder — and their cruelty, too. …
(Note: Many LBGTQ kids miss much of the magic of being a teen in love. So many queer kids never experience the teenage rite-of-passage of dating and flirting — simple and delightful pleasures their straight peers take for granted. Sometimes, though, the lightning bolt of teen love strikes even a couple of dazed, ridiculously lucky gay guys. This is a true story of one such magical night.)
Starting high school is tough, no doubt about it, for most kids. For me, though? I’d never been happier as I entered freshman year — and for one big reason. Against all odds, I’d snared a boyfriend that summer. …
I didn’t completely understand the story. How could I have understood it, at the age of twelve?
But it pulled at me, even so, that tale of a boy who wanted just one beautiful journey, one perfect experience — and he achieved it, that boy did, though the journey was his last and the train that took his life, hot and determined and unmoved, even as it, in fact, did move, ever onward.
Mom sat in the dining room, at the table, chatting on the phone with her dad, an endless conversation. I wandered in and out of the room, making my presence decidedly known. …
Just last week, for the first time in US history, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of workplace protections for LGBTQ people.
The decision was based on Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite that Act’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination, LGBTQ people in 1964, and for decades thereafter, would continue to be fired for their sexual identity.
The Lavender Scare, less well known than the Red, lasted far longer and reached deeper. Eventually, hundreds of queer people were fired from their jobs in the federal government on the grounds that they were susceptible to blackmail and generally immoral. …
In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away. — Stevie Smith
When I was a child, so long ago, I remember wandering the aisles of that vanished institution, the home video store. Blockbuster Video opened its first store in my hometown of Dallas when I was eight or nine, and I regularly begged relatives to take me there or to one of its many mom-and-pop predecessors.
I have such a clear memory of being in one of the little independent stores with my grandmother. It was a hot Texas summer’s day, and I was wearing flip-flops on my little feet. We were in the tiny, dusty town near the ranch where my grandparents lived. …