Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back To School

In Spring 2008, I had a chance hallway meeting with a former instructor, who began a dialogue about me about my educational and career aspirations. After some heartfelt words of encouragement, she convinced me that I belonged at CCA - a competitive and very reputable school here in San Francisco/Oakland. This discussion was extremely motivational to me, and caused me to rethink my whole "just get it over with" approach to school, and inspired me to strive for what I really wanted in life. While it took some academic backtracking, and adjustments, the dedication was ultimately worth it.

I arrived at my orientation this morning a little before 8:00. I parked my bike inside the school corridors at their secure indoor bike racks, and waited for the program to get underway. While queued up near the registration table, I was flagged down by a former SF City College classmate, and we spent the time catching up. It's always nice to be that one obnoxious jerk who finds the comfort of being reunited with old friends, even in the midst of a nerve wracking, stressful new experience. Usually I'm the awkward one that keeps to himself and hopes that nobody will notice them.

As soon as the day began, the momentum never let up. My group was led by two very helpful and friendly student advisors who led us through the various presentations and meetings. The orientation was packed to the gills with information, and tasks to attend to. Despite the excitement, I did encounter some frustrations along the way – namely administrative screw-up that made my academic advising/planning session very difficult. However, no cloud is without its silver lining. Due to this complication, I was forced to adamantly seek out answers to my concerns. Of the three departmental advisors, I sought out the only one that I hadn't yet spoken to that day.

My inquiries were met with genuine interest, and thoughtful answers that didn't simply rely on dispensing a confusing assortment of facts, loosely assembled to pass as an "answer". For 15 minutes, I had the complete attention of a concerned teacher and administrator, who was happy to discuss not only the most pressing issues, but also my plans for my years ahead at CCA. As our impromptu meeting drew to a close, I was suddenly hit with the realization that I knew this instructor! As we parted, I threw out a final question -

"Hey... shot in the dark... did you ever work for ICPlanet.com?"
"Yesssss...? I did...?"
"Me too! That was my first job out of high school."

From there we both reconnected in a shocked, rambling recollection of our days as co-workers nine years ago. Maybe he was just being polite, but he claimed to remember me. I'm inclined to believe him - we did share a giant wrap-around desk after all. The conversation ended, and we both headed our separate ways to our next obligations. About an hour later, we met up again, and he helped me with some last minute registration issues, which ultimately yielded me a rather good schedule.

After registration, we had a campus tour and campus technology orientation. Before the day drew to a final close, we had to sit for ID pictures. The security staff running the operation was hilarious, and kept us pretty entertained as we waited our turn. My ID photo turned out great... I look like even more of a serial killer than I do in my passport photo. I'm on a winning streak!

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Open Letter To Straights

A few years ago, I came across this letter, which was published to the Seattle area Craigslist site. I recently read it again, and it still rings so true. In fact, it resonates even more strongly now, in a post Proposition 8 era. It's appalling to think that legislation like that could not only avoid being shot down in ridicule, yet also manage to be endorsed by a strong enough segment of the population to make it law.

Good people voted in favor of Proposition 8 (confused? Remember, that a "yes" vote signified one's opposition to gay marriage). Sure, a lot of bigots supported it, but I think that a lot of people who were mostly ignorant, ill-informed and fearful (rather than hateful), are the ones responsible for passing Prop 8. If those people could see this letter, I think they might understand the human side of homosexuality, and more importantly, understand how backwards the notion of gay people attempting to subvert "straight culture" is.

Love between two consenting adults isn't a crime, and should not be legislated against, nor should it require special legislation to legitimize it in the first place.

Here's the letter -

An open letter to Straights

Apparently all this time I've been shoving my sexuality in your face and forcing it on you. I misunderstood. I didn't know. I am so sorry.

I mistakenly thought it was you who were shoving your lifestyle in my face when you called me faggot before I even knew what that word meant.

I thought you were forcing your sexuality on me when you and your friends cornered me in the locker room after gym class in junior high school, called me a goddamn homo and beat the shit out of me.

I thought the coach was forcing his lifestyle on me when he shouted down at my broken and bleeding body in the locker room that I asked for it because I was looking at the other guys 'funny'.

I thought you were shoving your sexuality in my face when you spray painted my name and "is a fag" on the side of the High school building.

When you and your friends trashed my car and then afterwards ran me off the road as I was walking home from school, laughing and calling me a "Queer" I thought I was just walking home from school and not forcing my sexuality down your throat.

I was mistaken and apparently trying to force my deviant lifestyle on you in college that day when thought I might be just trying to find someone like me to talk to when you and your cop friends entrapped me, arrested me and beat me up and threw me in jail because I looked at you the wrong way and smiled at you.

Apparently I asked for it when you and your friends chased me down the street, pulled me into an alley and broke my nose with a booze bottle after I had the gall to come out a known gay bar one night in college.

When I was in the military, I thought one of my friends might be just trying to live a decent, honorable life with his partner of 10 years when you and your military police friends pulled him into an interrogation room and accused him of sodomy because he was living with a guy and not dating women. When you kicked him out of the service and dumped him 3500 miles from his home with no money and no job, I didn't realize that he was forcing his lifestyle on you. I'm sure he's sorry too.

I didn't realize that you were offended by us when my best friend asked to be admitted to his partner's hospital room while he was dying. You see, he'd lived with him for 20 years and they had shared their life together but had the misfortune of living in a state where people like him had no "legal status" and so his sweet love of 20 years died alone surrounded by people who thought that God had given him AIDS as punishment for the sin of homosexuality. He didn't understand that your religious sensibilities were more important than his misguided need to be with his partner when he died.

All this time I thought you were forcing your sexuality on me, but now I know that I was forcing mine on you. I am so sorry that all my life, I've mistakenly thought that being left alone to live my life, to work and to have a home and family and to be allowed to love who I choose was just living my life - like you live yours.

Little did I know that all that time I was cramming my disgusting sexuality and lifestyle down your throat, forcing you to accept me and demanding "Special Rights".

Now that I'm older and wiser, you'll excuse the silly idealism of a dotty middle aged guy who had a vain hope that maybe I could marry the guy I've been living with for fifteen years and not have to worry if my religiously devout family will decide to ransack my home after my death because my family - the family who have largely cared less if I lived or died - have more legal rights than my partner, no matter what I say in my will.

You'll excuse my mistaken notion that I should be allowed to have a good job and not be fired at will because my boss might find out that I live with a guy and am still "single". You'll pardon my liberal sensibilities when I think I should be able to rent an apartment from someone who might decide that two guys living together is "an abomination", or be able to open a joint checking account with my partner, because now I know that it isn't "normal" for two guys to set up a home together.

Hopefully, you'll excuse my mistaken notion that my life and my love and my family are at least as important and significant as yours - yes, even when you beat the shit out of your wife the day after she caught you fucking the underaged babysitter, even when you tossed your 15 year old gay son out on the streets, even when I gladly pay very high taxes to send your kids to good schools and you cheat on yours.

I hope you will understand when I was momentarily struck speechless when you raised up your bible and told me that God thinks that I am an abomination and will go to hell. You'll excuse me for my silly notion that God maybe has other more pressing matters than to care that much if I decide that I want to live with someone I love instead of being alone and celibate. You'll pardon my weakness when I want a family and have to do it by shoving my homosexual lifestyle in your face.

Finally, please excuse the silly sentimentality of an old man who after nearly six decades of life sees a movie with two "normal" guys who are cowboys who fall in love together. It's been a long time since I've seen any people like me in the movies who aren't silly and shallow or tragic and dying of something or another. It's been years since I've seen someone like me love someone like my partner and not die because of it or end up some tragic stupid queen. So the movie made me happy and so I was momentarily blinded by the hope that it might be recognized as a watershed moment in tolerance. I now know it was a shameful use of one of your dearest symbols of American manliness to once again shove my disgusting lifestyle down your throat.

You'll excuse me please.

All this time, all my life - I just thought you were trying to make me be something that I can never be. I just thought you were forcing me to conform to your idea of normality. I mistakenly thought you hated me.

I was mistaken. Obviously, all this time I was forcing my lifestyle on you. Please accept my apologies.