I was raised to be a homophobic racist.
Growing up, if I wanted to make my uncle laugh, all I had to do was tell a joke with racist undertones. Growing up, the adults had an easier time discussing boys who were attracted to drugs than discussing boys who were attracted to boys. Growing up, fitting-in was the ultimate commodity, sitting atop popularity and prettiness.
I didn’t leave 60035. I fled.
My parents like to say their biggest mistake was letting me go to The University Of Florida. Mom says I belonged at Boston College, where success is contagious, and my chameleon instincts would’ve kicked-in. Dad says I belonged at Community College, where the design they had in mind for their pigheaded oldest son would’ve had more of a chance to take hold.
Mom is wrong. So is Dad. What I got at The University Of Florida is the hardest thing to learn: how to look at the world with outsider eyes.
In 60035, I didn’t fit-in. But I could hide in plain sight. My exterior matched with beige. In Florida, I didn’t fit-in. And I couldn’t hide. Everything I did was a dead give-away. I was an outsider. Everyone could see I was an outsider.
Backed into a corner, with no way out, out of desperation, I began writing in the school newspaper, The Florida Alligator.
Writing was my ticket out. What I mean by ticket out is writing took me further away from my comfort zone, all the way to Hell. I was raised on McCraren Road, on the North Shore of Chicago. But I grew-up on Saint Marks Place, in the East Village of New York City.
There was Straight, there was Gay. There was corporate, there was punk. There were entrepreneurs peddling merchandise in stores, there were entrepreneurs peddling drugs on street corners.
Everyone was an outsider, and when you learned how to see the world through their eyes, you re-programmed yourself.
It wasn’t Hell. It was higher education. And there is no higher education.
I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a doctor. I’m not living on the lake in a mansion with an ex-wife and a couple kids in therapy. I’m an outsider, blogger, displaced New Yorker who found his voice on a God Forsaken Peninsula otherwise known as Florida.
Senator Rob Portman, the co-sponsor of DOMA, changed his position on Gay Marriage. In 2011, his son came out. Suddenly, Senator Rob Portman wasn’t Senator Rob Portman. He was Rob. And Rob was forced to look at the world through the eyes of his Gay Son, who clearly saw the Marriage Equality Debate for what it was: public Gay Bashing, with Senator Rob Portman as the heavy weight champion of Gay Bashers.
Amazing how much better life gets when you relinquish your title. Isn’t it, Rob?