High school. "Jesus," we think for the rest our lives. "I can't believed I survived."
Whatever horrible things befall us, we still think: "I survived high school. How bad can it get?"
A lot, of course, is the answer. We could be President.
During high school, I kept a suicide note in my sock drawer and a knife underneath my stereo. True story! I'd look at the knife sometimes. I'd talk to it. After a terrible day, I'd run the dull blade along my arms, leaving dry white lines on my forearms because I was undermoisturized.
I'd also revise my suicide note, which was more of a suicide directive.
"Give my books a good home," the directive advised. "Complete all my half-written stories using the notes provided," it continued. "Play 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' at my funeral."
Then I'd revise the note. "Play 'Last Midnight.'"
Obviously I had no suicidal intent. I was just a trope in search of a TV show.
Here's where I should mention what it was like being gay in Alabama. Here's where I should mention how it felt to be gay and alone. Here's where Dan Savage should throw in that 'It gets better.' Blah.
It does get better. And worse. It gets different, is what Dan Savage should say.
Gay people are like straight people, btw: some people, no matter who they want to fuck, have nice lives. Other people just have lives. The trick to having a life is to have it.
Don't let it have you.
Anyway, so while I was having the life of a young gay kid with a knife under a stereo and a constantly revised suicide note in a sock drawer, there was this: I had a President who wanted to let gays serve in the military.
Bill Clinton made it a point of saying that, under his Chief of Commanderism, he'd make sure all willing volunteers--regardless of sexual orientation--would be allowed to serve in the US military.
Calloo! Callay! Put the knife away! The President himself was so sure that my existence was worthy that he was willing to trust I could serve in the US Military. Except of course I couldn't, really, because my eyes had already disqualified me.
Still, though, if my eyes weren't so terrible, I could serve as a gay man (surely I'm gay? surely I'm a man? My high school self still questioned both qualifiers) in the military, and be recognized as an actual useful citizen of my country.
Quick history of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Bill Clinton ran on the intention of opening up the military for gay/lesbian service. He failed. He failed because he announced his intentions before he had the ability to make his intentions real. DADT consumed the first few months of Clinton's first term--vital few months--and to shut up his critics, Clinton signed DADT into law. Don't ask, don't tell.
When Defense of Marriage Act happened, I was in college.
Fun fact: the knife had long since been returned to the kitchen drawer, and the suicide directive torn up. The suicide directive was as directional as I was, and ended up scattered in pieces in the wind.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a horrible way to deal with gays in the military. DOMA--Defense of Marriage--was a terrible way to deal with marriage.
Recently, I was asked by a friend what my thoughts were on Bill Clinton's recent op-ed about DOMA. Here are my thoughts: fuck Clinton.
Yes, I get that Clinton was dealing with a hostile Congress, and was living in a different time, the same time I was rubbing a knife along my arm and hoping I'd be validated as a citizen.
Yes, I understand that Clinton didn't really mean for DADT and DOMA to be longstanding law, no more than I intended my high school suicide note to become a directive.
But. Seriously. 20 years later, we're still dealing with Clinton's signature on those laws. Signatures, like elections, have consequences.
DOMA! When Clinton signed DOMA into law, he was face-fucking an intern. He was inviting a 23 year old woman to use her vagina as a humidor. And he was telling me--and other gays--that our relationships were less important than any relationship he may have with his wife, or any service to our country we might attempt is lesser to his own service to the country.
Rather than a rainbow flag, I think the gay community should wave a stained blue dress during Pride Parades.
Because no matter how true or false the stories of Clinton's adventures with that woman--Miss Lewinsky--are, the falsehoods told about same-sex couples are far more vicious.
Bill Clinton in 1992: President.
Me in 1992: Not seeing a future.
Bill Clinton had a chance to be a leader, and decided to be a follower. It has taken him decades to admit his failure. In those decades, he has enjoyed the privilege of a married man, and fucked around. I hope he doesn't keep a knife under his stereo, but I do hope he keeps revising his Will.
The man wrote an autobiography that Ben Johnson would deem 'a bit much'. He barely touched on DOMA and DADT.
And just now, when it is safe and sound, is Bill Clinton pushing for equality.