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My name is Tommy.

I grew up in North East Ohio with my parents who never married and my sister. I didn't know that my dad didn't live with us. He worked a lot and I remember staying up late so that he might come and tuck me in at night. I don't remember if he ever did though. I just remember listening to the low tuned radio until my eyes would grow to heavy to hold open. We didn't all actually live together until he bought a house the summer before 5th grade.

I loved my dad so much, even though he scared me. I think the bond between a mother and child is stronger though. At least it was for me. My dad beat my mom. I remember my older cousins trying to save the day. My mom wouldn't go with them though. I think by that time my aunts and uncles had given up. I don't remember them coming. I do remember one Uncle that was dying for my mom to give the word though. “He's going to hurt my Dad” I remember thinking.

I was rooting for him, my Uncle that is. When ever my sister got in trouble I was scared that he would hurt her too. She was from a previous relationship though. That was a line he wasn't aloud to cross I guess. He wasn't allowed to punish her. I remember that whenever my dad would beat me, mom wasn't in the room. I wondered where she'd go when I look back. He never beat me as bad as he beat mom though. Sure, there was the one time he punched me for what seemed like forever. I was curled up, face down on my stomach and shielding my face. Tears were streaming down it as I begged him to stop.

It didn't hurt though, not phsyically. I guess when you're all tensed up, your back is pretty strong. I wasn't just getting beat at home though. As I said, the summer before 5th grade, we moved into a house. I was excited. We had a big back yard with tall trees. I played pretend there for hours on end. I didn't have a lot of friends before we moved and when we did, I was the new kid. I'd been fairly sheltered, despite my experience living in a house with argumentative alcoholics. I wasn't sure how to handle the sudden name calling and teasing that went on. My sister was always there to shield me from those things before, but she was in High School and I was all alone.

I was being asked things I didn't know the answer to. Perverse things, by my peers. They taunted and teased me. They started to call me gay and I didn't even know what that was. Time went on and it got worse. I wasn't able to let it roll off my back. I was used to taking abuse and my strong spirit started to break. I remember feelings of panic later as I walked through the halls of High School. Who was going to bump into me? Who was going to say something now? I wondered if there would be a fight. All I wanted were friends. I wanted everyone to be my friend. Still as I scoured the sea of people for faces it seemed like eternity before I found one that I could make my way toward.

I prayed at night. I called the televangelists and most of all I hoped that my Grandparents who were dead still loved me. Mom was devastated when she got the news. Her son was gay. During heated arguments about whatever I can't recall how many times she called me a fag. I shared some words with her too. Everywhere I turned was that word, that – hate. One night my mom was drunk dialing and told the whole family that I was gay. I cut myself off from them and didn’t attend family functions until well into adulthood. Even those were far and few between. I knew what my family thought of 'queers'.

I wanted nothing to do with sports. My dad liked sports and I didn't want to be like the man who beat me and my mom. I didn't want to be around all the mean kids. With boys you can't really tell when they are being mean and when they want to be your friend. They taunt and treat each other cruelly for fun. I never understood that. I was certain that no one liked me. At one point I decided maybe it would hurt less if people made fun of me for being crazy instead of being gay. So I spent the rest of my time in school, building a reputation for being off my rocker. Bullying changed my life. For a boy who loved to daydream, I was suddenly living a nightmare. I was timid and forever changed. I learned to like being alone. I lived in a fantasy world that I created. I gave myself a new family and friends. Everything was perfect there. And when the yelling started, I bolted for the door, into my grassy back yard and passed through an invisible veil into another world. There all the pain, fear and sadness melted away. I was transformed for a little while. In an imaginary world, I was happy.

If you've read this far, you're probably wondering what I am getting at. I'm human. I have feelings, just like you. I bleed, just like you. I love, just as you do. I was promised that when I grow up I wouldn't be bullied. While that's mostly true (as I don't associate with nasty people) adult bullying is being supported by law. You might be saying to yourself now “Oh God I'm sick of hearing about this!” Or “I don't go around saying I'm straight, why must you say that you are gay!?”

I say that I am gay for all the people who are being bullied, just like I was. I say it for all the people out there who feel like they are alone. I say it because society forces me and people like me to. Believe me, I am just as sick (if not more) of saying that I want equal rights as you are of hearing it! The only way that you are ever going to stop hearing it is if you stop giving us a reason to say it. Give us equal rights. Stop bullying us and treating gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as if we are not deserving of the same rights as everyone else. To be honest, I think marriage should be left in the church and adults in love who want to be legally bound together straight or gay can have a civil union. Then you can “preserve your marriage” and we can all be equal.

As a child my mom told me that when I grow up that I can be anything I want. I'm still growing. In many ways I am just starting to live. I'm 29 now, but when I grow old, I hope that it can be with someone I love. I hope that I can hold their hand as I walk along the beach, watching the sunset with the people that we love surrounding and supporting us as we each say “I do”. And I hope that its legally recognized throughout the entire country. It does get better. I'm not living a nightmare anymore and I have a dream.


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January 2013

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