January 19, 2011

Matt

Matt, age 6
Virginia Beach, Virginia (1975)

I spent a lot of time in my youth climbing trees and running around in the woods. I used to run around the house with my arms up and my wrists out like Wonder Woman while wearing my mom's long white nightgowns, which must have been a very funny sight. I remember this period in my life as incredibly free and happy with abundant potential and creativity. I felt very loved and safe, and was only aware of the difference in myself from other boys as something of a gift, or something special that made me well, me!

"I believe in Magic, Rainbows, and Unicorns"
This was also the year I briefly joined - and was kicked out of - the Cub Scouts, a "Christian" group that admittedly - freaked me out. Being raised Jewish, my first impression of Christians was noticing the dead man nailed to a stick around some of their necks.

The contrast in the smiling welcoming faces that wore this gore was such a contradiction, and it really scared the sh*t out of me.

One Cub Scout meeting was at a Baptist Church. 15 or 20 other kids my age and older were sitting in a circle, talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up: firemen, astronauts, bee farmers, or the Incredible Hulk.

When it came to me I honestly told the room: 'My husband is going to be a policeman, and I'll be living in a 3-bedroom house, with flowers and a beagle - and I'll make the best ice cream in the world.'

My suspicion about not fitting in was solidified at that moment.

Everyone got upset, and the Scout Master started yelling at me - 'You can't do that! You're an abomination, a monster!' - and my personal favorite - 'Devil Child!' (you know the drill).

The Scout Master then made me sit outside on the front steps of the church by myself, while they finished their meeting. As night crept in, I remember feeling so lonely and afraid. I must have been out there for a couple hours by the time the meeting ended.

When all the laughing kids came spilling out of the church and into their parents' cars, I asked the Scout Master about calling my mom to let her know the meeting had ended. And he loudly declared 'Oh, I KNOW whoever put you up to this is coming to get you!' Then he left me alone, at night, sitting in front of this locked church, in the dark. I had to get the janitor that came later, to call my mom.

When she got there she couldn't believe my story (I guess it was really all too fabulous?) and she insisted I must have done something wrong.
'Nobody would leave a child your age by himself! I know you're lying!'

When we got home and she called the Sadist in Question, she was told that he wanted nothing to do with her, and finally after she had spoken to someone in charge, we just never talked about it. However, I also remember my mom hugging me later and letting me know we didn't need those people. She was actually more supportive than I sometimes give her credit for.

When I look at this picture now, I feel so much love and respect for this child who was just so, beautiful, innocent, brave, and so deeply in touch with himself at such an early age.

I had no idea what sex was then, but I knew love.

Matt's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Gary Burghoff (Radar on "M*A*S*H")
He was so lovable and cute, I just wanted to hug him and fall asleep
with my head on his shoulder, while he held me in his arms.

25 comments:

Mark said...

I'm 18 and even I grew up loving Radar too haha.

Matt said...

I really want to thank Paul for putting this blog together. This is such an Important thing that people understand.

Upon further reflection i remember my mom later hugging me and letting me know we didn't need those people. She was actually more supportive than i sometimes give her credit for. kinda hard to clearly see the past when i at that point I had a secret I was certain was black and horrible.
Thank god i met other gay people when i got to be 14. saved my life knowing i could still have dreams of my own.

Thanks Mark! He was SUPER CUTE from a kids perspective wasn't he?!

Mark said...

Haha he was. I never did identify with Klinger...

T-Dogg said...

I've been reading a lot of these and Matt, hearing about what that Scout Master did to you really affected me. I think a good amount of the people who submitted their pictures and stories here faced discrimination of all kinds, passive and aggressive, but it's so disheartening to hear a recounting of such ugliness and toward a child no less. It's completely unforgivable.

I have a pretty limited relationship with Boy Scouts of America. I did Cub Scouts for a while, but lost interest right before Boy Scouts. But my cousin, who is like a brother to me and who I idolize, had such a positive experience and my uncle was his scout master.

With all the positive things that I know a good scout master and a great troop can give to kids when they're growing up, it only makes instances of BoA's discriminatory policies and the people they allow to assume and abuse authoritative roles in their organization all the more unforgivable. My heart really bleeds for the 7 year-old you in that instance. I guess seeing kids face those kinds of things always bothers me. I'm so happy to hear that your mom supported you, and I'm so sorry to hear how awful that man was to a child, going to even further lengths to be so cruel.

Man...

AshleyAnn said...

When I was in kindergarten, I asked my mom what religion we were. She said, "Oh, honey, we're heathens." I nodded my head. The next day, all the little kids were sitting around and each stated her religion. One was Jewish, one Episcopalian, one Baptist, etc. When it was my turn, I said, "Oh, I'm a heathen." The teacher called my mom :) She said, "yeah, so?" Love that woman!

I'm so sorry that happened to you!

Matt said...

OH guys you’re so sweet and Ashley I love that you’re a heathen, I bet you have the best holiday foods at your home. = )

Yeah it sucked hard but it really was a part of what made me who I am today. It was definitely the first in a mountain of hurt and isolation that almost made me a statistic in the teenage suicide nightmare that’s been happening forever but I broke free from that at 14.

I had to deal with it eventually though in a big way later in life (large PTSD stuff to deal with) but don’t feel so bad. For that kid yes, Horrible is putting it mildly, but being gay has really set me so free in so many ways. This 7-year period was like a death and rebirth for me psychologically and incredibly necessary.

Today I get to live a quality of life that’s just rich with experience. My past is such a huge tapestry of vivid color and relationships with so many kinds of people in so many ways It's just overwhelmingly cool, and it's all the result of not having to adhere by the social constructs most everyone else does.

Being free from that and ok with it is such a blessing.

When I was a kid the movie that moved me the most was Harold and Maude. I so identified with Bud Corts Character “Harold” as a teenager and young adult. My goal was to become an actor, rock star or hippie or something like that. (Pretty normal stuff and I would up doing most of these things to a degree)
Now that I’m an older single gay man, my goal is to grow old as gracefully as Ruth Gordons "Maude". I wake up everyday so thankful for all the beauty around me and I get to see it because I’m not stuck to the TV news or restricted by some role I’m forced to play in the world. Life is a grand adventure really, and my only job is to see how good it can get for myself and for those around me. = )

I know this may sound a bit crazy but I love this kind of thinking, it's just wonderful for me, and my sexuality has everything to do with it.

I still watch that movie every 7 years or so and i always remember something i've forgotten and gain new insight into something i didn't see before.

Jacob said...

Love is all anyone needs. And its sad that so many people don't get to experience it because of homophobia. Inspiring story.

miranda said...

You sound like such a wonderful, inspiring, beautiful person. I would love to have someone as positive in my life, but sadly, I don't. Maybe someday.
Thank you for sharing your story. It's adorable.
Much love,
Miranda

Nikki said...

Thank you for this beautifully written post that made me happy, then angry, then sad, then happy again. Here's hoping that one day people as horrible as S.I.Q. will either no longer cease to exist, or at the very least no longer be able to work with children!

Rachel said...

This story made me tear up....thanks for sharing!

Matt said...

Jacob THANK YOU such a simple concept and so overlooked.
Miranda: You are the person you have been looking for.
here's a present for you hun.
Follow this url to one of my favorite songs : )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJn3QJYYBr0

Rachel your very sweet.
I'm loving that i'm getting to communicate with people through this. it's really very healing for me and Something i didn't expect.
Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing it!

Katie_Did said...

Mark, your story moved me to comment here for the first time-- something that crossed my mind when I started reading this blog was that it would be a big help in standing up to angry, hateful people because they wouldn't have the heart to spit their venom at all these sweet children. It's really sad to be wrong about that, and I want to give 7-year-old you a big hug and cookies and my whole glitter palette collection.

On a different note, RIGHT ON!!!-- Harold and Maude is my favorite movie. :)

Congratulations on saving your own life. There's nothing better.

Katie_Did said...

Oh, geez. Not Mark. Matt. My friend Mark was leaving me a message while I was writing this, and there's another Mark posting here, and I'm dumb. ;p My apologies, MATT!

Lori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori said...

What a beautiful child! You are still that same child, Matthew. I still see him in your face, so sweet. This experience is so hurtful and will live on in a small version inside you. Thats the same place you keep your compassion warmth and understanding for others. Frankly, I love your reply and agree there is nothing more yummy than a man in a cop uniform!

My arms are always wide open for you. ♥Love you forever

Matt said...

Katie_Did "I want to give 7-year-old you a big hug and cookies and my whole glitter palette collection."
YAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!! In that case call me Mark all you want! Big hugs to you

Lori - I love you so much hun. Your really such a beautiful light. I'm so happy you are my friend.

Brent said...

Great story! Made me teary. Had that a$$hole cub scout guy tried that crap today I would have personally punched the idiot.

It makes me happy you turned out so well, in spite of idiots like that!

Jacob (same one) said...

No problem. I was feeling the Love that day. I was actually called a "fag" that day at the book store and came home feeling a little down and read that. I know when i grown up (Im 18) I will let my kids grow into whoever they want to.

wm. said...

Beautiful Post, and comment replies, Matt.
Y'all have inspired me...
Tks.

Matt said...

WOW Jacob thats awesome, I feel the same way.
I have much more growing to do and Life to explore : )

wm: thank you for the note, this inspires me as well.

Basel-based Michael said...

What a moving story, Matt. Thanks for sharing!

I wonder what happend to your plan of getting married to that policeman and making the best icecream in that 3-bedroom house.

Matt said...

Still workin on that one Basel ; )

LK said...

Hey Matt, I found this site through CNN.com, and although I am myself heterosexual, I've always been certain that people are born gay. I'm commenting because it sickens me that you had that horrible experience with men who called themselves christians. I'm not so naive as to believe that this rarely happens; i know it happens every day... and it bothers me a lot. The God that I know doesn't encourage people to yell abusively at small children and abandon them to find their own way home.

I live in the bible belt, and I come into contact with people everyday that disagree with me about tons of things - but I've never had to deal with someone treating me as if i was unworthy to be treated with dignity, unworthy to be a part of a community, or unworthy to be shown love. For the most part I've been accepted - but I know that if I were gay, that would be different.

What I'm saying is, I can only imagine the pain that has come from that abuse, and it infuriates me that who Jesus really is, isn't at all represented by most christians.

I've had enough with being the only christian I know that recognizes that people are born gay - we're turning off an entire community with our refusal to acknowledge this.

As someone who believes to be a real christian, I can say with confidence that despite the way you've been treated by people claiming to really know him - God loves the heck out of you!

Matt said...

LK,
Thanks -
As an adult i understand we are all human and in groups we all have both good and bad. It doesn't matter the title there just seems to be a percentage of people who act out of fear and anger. It's unfortunate but they just make more noise than good people who live humbly and want to quietly live together.
The truth is the vast majority of us fall into the latter category. We are overwhelmingly good people who get along with each other and treat each other well. We just don't create or need to create the volume of noise while we are content to live our lives together.
If these people who are so angry and afraid were as content and happy as me or you we wouldn't have any of these problems.
Isn't it a Christian concept to pray that those who have harmed you have the same things you want for yourself?
I smile everyday knowing this is the truth. The world is a much better place then the noisy people want you to think : )