I don't know about you, kids, but this Target nonsense has me out of sorts. I’m positively depressed. It's not Back to School season without being able to pick up a New Kids on the Block TrapperKeeper and a couple of chintz picture frames. I don't even know where to buy socks anymore! Alas, no one ever said that being gay was easy. We must stay the course.
All of this political sacrifice, coupled with the sudden availability of pumpkin ale in my Whole Foods, has me harkening back to the days of being a schoolboy. Clutching my textbooks to my chest, tempra paint on my flat-front khaki pants from last night's all-nighter, cramming for that omnipresent Final Exam (1981).
Maybe we should all take a page out of the student handbook of those kids at Lanier College. Their student body was renowned for their elaborate political performance art projects in times of conflict. Take for instance the time that they staged a terrorist shooting on campus to get more funding for the arts (mind you, this was well before Columbine and 9/11 so it was still okay to laugh) – these kids were living! Of course, the students were living until they start dying off one by one at the hands of a psychotic killer dressed up like Javier Bardem, but you can't make an omelette...
You see, Final Exam isn't really about a campus plagued by a serial killer. The real story here, what separates this from the other ultra-low budget slasher dreck, isRadish. Radish is the school's resident old-school sissy gay. Perpetually lemon-faced, Radish walks with a proud sashay as words slither from his mouth like a gay snake with sibilant s’s to spare. Whenever he speaks, eyes roll and midwesterners pray for a mercy-killing.
This kind of gay isn’t at all exclusive to Final Exam. Let me tell you a story.
The year was 1986. I was in second grade at Saint Agatha’s Parochial School and there was a little boy in my class named Paul. While my own budding homosexuality was subtle enough to pass as aloof intellectualism (unless, God forbid, someone brought up Ellen Greene), Paul wasn’t so lucky. Paul wore his gay with a badge of honor that, at 7 years old, left me mortified. I made the obvious second grade assumption that if I were to even look at Paul, it would draw attention to my own secret and they'd come for me in the night with torches. I avoided him like the gay cancer.
One day Paul was having a birthday party and he handed out the most beautiful invitations. They were handmade with construction paper and glitter and dyed feathers. In a flash, it came to me - I figured out the perfect way to show that I was nothing like that sissy, Paul. In front of all my classmates, I tore up his invitation and sprinkled it on the floor to a chorus of laughter. This was the worst moment of my life. I was Judas Iscariot. I was Nancy Allen!
"I should have had a salad instead of this spaghetti."
"Well, why didn't you?"
We all know about Mean Girls, but nothing trumps a mean gay. Gay on gay hatred is tricky business and it’s everywhere. No different than the Phelps clan or Target, this hatred is spun out of fear – fear of being taken down, fear of being questioned, fear of change. As long as it’s socially acceptable for everyone else to hate the gays, how about we take it easy on each other?
Whether in school or at work or at the grocery store, there's always a Radish – a gay who can’t be anything other than the precious little butterfly that God made him. And he shouldn't have to be.
If your first instinct is to cringe and distance yourself, I get it. I was that way too, but I got over it. Take a moment to acknowledge that feeling and then try to amend that behavior. Why not? Let's evolve together. Straight people hate us enough; we don’t have to hate each other.
The next time you see a Radish, think about what it’s like to be in his shoes (even though they may be sandals with socks and even though they may make you throw up in your mouth a little). You don’t have to invite him over for a movie marathon sleepover or to your next vodka infusion brunch, but a little kindness can go a long way. We’re all in this together.