by Joseph Hardin
How long have I stood watching from aside, watching the many successes and failures of both elders and peers? It seemed so long, as if I had been alive for centuries. Reading history, hearing stories and experiencing life in it’s effervescent form.
It felt as if it were static.
But not to say it was all feeling…some experiences didn’t come without bloodshed. Early on, for the price of understanding, pain surely made it’s pursuit to claim it’s fee. For a long time, I laid either alone, or with someone I loved, wondering why I kept feeling the pain of the past. My back that hit the ground…my face that met a fist…an arm that twisted unnaturally. Of all the beatings and pain inflicted upon me, 2/3 more went unreported. Held down and tormented. trapped and scared. Many times I didn’t think I’d survive. It was a miracle nothing ever broke. But after a quick amount of time, I learned to turn my body to only take a few direct hits.
The worst feeling ever, was screaming for help as cars passed by in broad daylight… only to receive glancing stares and people not wanting to help. As they closed upon me, trapped between them, a fence, and an office. I didn’t look away…not once, I wanted to see their eyes. I wanted to understand the hatred.
Do you really want to know what I saw in every pair of eyes? Do you want to know the coldness, the hardness, the guttural sense of sadism? How they looked upon me, with a sense of satisfaction of the pain they were already inflicting with their slow approach. They were on each side, and as I looked upon each, the other would advance. How I wished they would just attack me and get it over with. But what was only 5 minutes, lasted forever. Then when one came close enough, I tried to leap over. It was no good. I had been pinned. Punch after punch from the one pinning me…kick after kick of the person who stood over us. I eventually couldn’t keep up. my head didn’t register the pain anymore. My body was already weak. Soon, it was over.
I just laid there for a moment, hearing them run away. I don’t know how long I laid there. I just listened to the cars driving by. No one stopped. I eventually picked myself up off the ground. I swallowed the blood that was still in my mouth. I couldn’t believe how disgraceful I must have looked. I held onto the wall for support, each step was agonizing. I carried myself a full block before I saw someone that knew me. They asked what had happened. I just broke down. I couldn’t stand. They took me home, and I just cried as my mother held me. I didn’t understand. I looked hate right in the eye, and I didn’t look away. I probably should have. But I didn’t, and I saw a world no one should see.
That, like many other times I was beaten, is the exact feeling I feel, when someone says I’m no good for the same rights as others. I feel every bone ache, and every muscle weaken. I feel the tears that fell from years upon years ago. I feel the eyes of those who beat me stare right into me. I stand strong though. Because it is the strength that let me look into their eyes, that gets stronger.
I consider it a blessing. It’s a strength not many have, I realize. As much as I want to break down and cry, as much as I want to show how much it hurts, I keep a steady face, and a steady body. I can handle the blows, I can handle the jeers. I can handle the hatred. Why?….I know why. Because I want to show them, I can stand it. Even when my father betrayed my trust, I was even able to withstand that. Of course, not something I will fully recover from. But then, with hatred and betrayal, does anyone ever fully recover?
No…it would be foolish to believe so. But never foolish to dream. It’s our dreams that is something everyone has. Whether someone can withstand the harshest blow or not, as long as they dream, they’ll move through it. Nothing can break a dream, as our dreams in our hearts are our strongest ally.
I will admit, I cheated a little. I have a friend I always talk to. I know he’s probably a figment of my imagination, maybe someone I created as a child. Although I don’t talk to him as much these days, sometimes it’s he that is my safety net when I find there is no one I can trust. Who knows, maybe I’ll find someone whom I can tell my deepest fears and greatest hopes to. Until then, he’s been my closest friend. Keith, is what I called him. It was a name that I always felt comfort in. When I found the need to change my name, it was as if that name was ready to be assumed by me. It was at that moment, he didn’t seem to be to any side of me, but essentially became a part of me. Who knows, maybe he has been me all along. I’ll sometimes pretend he’s around, but really, I’m just re-assuring myself that I am still strong. But I will give “keith” thanks. He was always there when I needed him. So whether or not he was me those past years or not, I thank him regardless.
So maybe I was broken for a while, but I found myself somewhat healed. I don’t know how, but I learned some of my own coping mechanisms that seemed to have assimilated themselves into a whole which makes me who I am.
So, I guess what point I’m trying to make. Even if the world seems against you. Even if there is no one around to provide that comfort you need, as long as you have the dream of living a comfortable, open life…You’ll find a way to cope. and with that, you’ll find the hope you need. Stay strong, like me. If you need someone to help you become strong, let me know. I’ll be here. Just like “keith”, I want to be a strength people can depend on. I want to shine a light that doesn’t give people the way, but allow them to find their own. And in turn, everyone can depend upon their strength to not only lift them, but others too.
We need each other…and we’re all family. Relinquish all your pain unto me. I can take it when you can’t.
I can help you stand when you are unable. Because I must stand regardless. I will be the pillar that may be your reference.
I just wanted to share a fragment of my story, and I really want to give hope while I still can. I want everyone to find their path. It won’t be given to us, though. we have to find our own. But we don’t have to do it alone. I offer myself as an ear and shoulder, just like so many in our community does and wants to. If we come together, leave our misconceptions of our community at the door, as well as show our strength as both individuals and community members, we’ll pull through.
Let’s stand together. Remember those that have fallen, but do not dwell upon that alone. That would not be what they wanted. Instead, carry their strength with us. They are right with us, in spirit. It hurts, I know. And bide your strength if you must, but do not hide. Come to those you trust. If it happens to be here, then we welcome all with open arms. At least, that is what it feels like here. You can cry here, you can laugh here, you can make friends here. And we’ll share the strength we have to carry you through these times of trial
If you need a reminder, look back to this post. I would hope that many would share their stories here, and how they stood strong. Let’s show our community members our strength, so that they may draw from it. In turn, many of the new members who are not out yet, or are having difficulty, to hang on….
just hang on. Activists, some politicians, LGBT community members and allies are working as hard as we can to make this world a much better place.