I’m sad I’m not able to attend the signing of Body Counts by Sean Strub (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT MR. STRUB AND THE BOOK – THIS IS A MUST BUY, BY THE WAY) tonight at Politics and Prose in D.C. I mean, it’s only an hour away from Frederick. And a Universe. But even if I met Mr. Strub, I don’t know that I’d be able to speak. In the same way, I feel unqualified to adequately express what this book – Body Counts –which is, in many ways, about my life, meant to me.
I can’t really write about this book. Mr. Strub is of the same generational cohort as am I and we share – at a distance and without knowing one another (though it is entirely ENTIRELY possible we were in the same place at the same time) much of the same frame of reference.
But I was no hero, and he was. And is. I bought ACT-UP t-shirts (all of which, ironically, I gave away to straight boys when last I moved and culled) while Mr. Strub fought alongside and within and raised millions for ACT-UP. I supported gay-friendly politicians and voted for them while Mr. Strub cultivated them and ran for office himself. He lost a lover and chance for happily-ever-after to AIDS. I lost a lover and a chance for happily-ever-after to homophobia.
I loved the book. It is – I think – essential for young people today who take for granted the strides made to understand the horrors of the 1980s and the atmosphere in which those strides were made. I am ecstatic about the progress made, and grateful, but all one need do is listen to the reactions from the right wingers and religionists – spit out without any sense of their own hatefulness – to the weddings at the Grammys on Sunday – to know that we still have a LOOOOOOOOOOONG way to go.
It was the second thing today that made me cry (slow day for me, crying only twice, but it’s early yet-LOL) and what got me was the blonde kid who wanted to befriend the gay-goth but ended up being pressured by friends to throw the paint balloon. I’ve seen the damage those metaphorical “balloons” can do – and been splashed with a few myself – and it isn’t the ACTUAL SPLASH, not the vicious, violent, purposeful attacks that hurt the most (though they cause more than enough/too much pain) but, rather, it’s those good people – like that blonde boy – who acquiesce or commit acts of collusion. When someone who you KNOW is a person who truly loves you, someone who you KNOW is a person who knows better, someone who you KNOW has a soul and heart of Light and Love – when that someone allows others to denigrate you, or, worse, joins in, even subtly, in feeding into hate – who allows himself to be part of a story belittling you, demonizing you, not standing up for you – that is about a million times worse than any paint balloon.
I’ve been physically threatened by men who were threatened by my sexuality a few times (as recently as December, in fact) and I have been struck, pushed around, bruised up a bit by those who thought my sexuality made me less than and gave them permission to hit me; and all of that really and truly sucked – BUT FAR WORSE, far more heartbreaking, are the people I allowed into my heart, my trust, my circle of light, who bashed me with their actions, their lack of standing with and for me, their abandonment of who we were together, who they were at the heart and soul, for expediency and convenience sake – they made the easy choice to abandon and belittle, rather than the difficult choice of standing with and swearing to my Love and Light.
And that was the worst bashing of all.
P.S. Read Body Counts. His journey will create in you a future inability to ever abandon someone whose fight, whose need, whose soul might cost you some sweat and inconvenience. You will be better for having done so.