Friday, November 17, 2017

#MeToo Pt. 1: Where do you go if you're a gay man?

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." --Fannie Lou Hamer

On a Saturday night in August, 1983, I, a 26-year old gay male, was abused and raped by my former high school English teacher. (He was gay, too).  It was the worst experience of my life. I became a different person that night.

I've followed closely the current wave of revelations, by mostly women, of assaults from powerful white men. Each revelation takes me back to that apartment on Riverside Drive and the gut-wrenching emotional pain I experienced the next day and in bursts over more than 34 years.

A character in a favorite show, Six Feet Under, once said to a business rival, "There are things much worse than death." I believe I am familiar with them.

The rape and abuse on that night robbed me of any sense of an already fragile self-confidence. Family, friends, work colleagues, and shrinks alike comment frequently on this deficit.

"Where is your anger?" pleaded/questioned one therapist for whom I had forked over more money than I could afford. Relationships, never easy in the gay world, burned out suddenly and rapidly. In jobs, I worked below my capabilities and when I was lifted up by some enlightened people filled with grace, I burned out on the job and walked away.

The last 10 years have been spent in a relationship strained to the limit. Scrapping to earn money, I have found myself at food pantries and bottle return machines. Without my partner's financial support, SNAP, and Obamacare, I don't know where I'd be. I do not denigrate all these supports; neither are they ennobling. They dig the hole of self esteem as much as provide food and medicine.

Wherever that place would be, what happened in the late summer of 1983 rides along with me, never exorcised.

To the Kevin Spaceys, Harvey Weinsteins, Donald Trumps, Louis CKs of recent note, you must somehow learn the devastation of your assaults. Not in the moment, not the next day, but throughout a lifetime.

I understand the character in Six Feet Under: There are things worse than death.

End of Part 1.

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