The viral video of the MAGA boys and all of the subsequent reporting — including many media outlets’ self-flagellation over their initial stories — started a slow burning rage inside of me. At first I thought it was typical Trump-era anger breaking through, after so many months of me becoming increasingly numb to the destruction the current administration is doing to people, the country, the world. But this felt bigger than that. So then I thought maybe it was because of how horrifying it is that despite all of the hot takes, re-takes, and re-re-takes on this story, I haven’t seen one about how insane it is that it’s now perfectly acceptable for people — children! — to walk around wearing hats with a blatantly racist slogan. As much as MAGA and related apparel enrage me, I knew my feelings were too intense and too much from my core to be about slogans (as awfully racist as they are).
Last night, as I read about the boys’ self-redemptive PR campaign, it clicked for me. I saw a still shot of the boy in the video sitting with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, in a Tweet that advertised her Today Show interview with him. I knew since the story broke last week that his face is that of many young white men who get the benefit of the doubt, who are able to shrug off their bad behavior with a wink and a nod, whose parents and teachers protect them when they do all sorts of wrong (or at worst the adults in their lives simply look away). Last night I realized that his face is one I saw a lot in sixth grade, toward the end of the school year when I became the boy most of the other boys decided was a fag. I mean, to their credit they were correct that I’m gay, but even I didn’t know it at the time (more accurately: I didn’t know why I had always felt different; they figured it out first). This realization made my rage make sense; it was very personal.
It also prompted me to spontaneously write this (after I texted the first sentence to a friend):
After many years of mostly ignoring this part of my past, I’m starting to write and think about it (I’m not really talking about it, yet; I may never because I’m an adult and I can choose that option — sorry Mom!). People who know me well know that I am pretty open with processing the good and bad of my life, but this is one area I’ve never really dug into, in part because I know that doing so will not be pretty. But I’m ready to start, at least.