In a post on another blog, I saw the recent “It Gets Better” video, created by gay/lesbian/bisexual students at Brigham Young University. If you are a gay student, that’s a tough place to come out or be out, since it’s owned and operated by the Mormon Church. And Mormons, like most religious folk, are not known for gay tolerance.
I’ve seen dozens of these “It Gets Better” videos, and they almost always make me cry. Part of it is because, if you DON’T cry when you hear some of these people’s stories, you must have a dead, dark pit of nothing where your heart should be. And part of the reason I cry is because I know people don’t always get the chance to find out how much better it gets. I went to a Catholic high school. Much like Brigham Young, it was not necessarily a great place to be gay, as you may well imagine. Yet there were gay kids there, and I knew a few. There’s one guy, in particular, who would have made a kick-ass “It Gets Better” video, if he would’ve been around to do it. But shit happens in this world, and people are ignorant, and often that ignorance fuels aggression. My friend found that out while walking home from a party during his third year of college.
I won’t get into the details. But I will repost a short piece that I wrote in my old blog a while ago, about what it’s like to realize that sometimes, you can’t make it better for everyone, or even for yourself, no mater how much you may wish you could.
I’m driving in the rain, thinking about my dead friend, who always comes to mind on grey days. My thoughts are fleeting snippets, fragmented images, streaming past my mind’s eye randomly and relentlessly. They suddenly come to a grinding halt as they hit a road block of memory – the two of us in a bedroom, trying on outfits, getting ready for a concert. On the radio in that bedroom is The Ghost in You, by the Psychedelic Furs.
This is a song we both like, my friend and I, and we look at each other and smile, and we see in one another’s eyes that we are in a good place, together. After feeling so different to the rest of the world for so long, we’d discovered a sameness with each other that was both comforting and exhilarating. We were now connected, outcasts no more in the world we two shared, with a bond pure and strong, forged in music and irreverence and the optimism and wildness of youth. Richard Butler is serenading us; “The race is on, I’m on your side”, he sings, and his words describe us and our friendship perfectly. From that moment forward, this song will become our song.
I am still there in the bedroom, in my mind, when in real time I become aware of the voice of the DJ on the Sirius 80’s rock channel. And then, there it is, playing on my car radio – The Ghost in You. It’s no longer a serenade, after all these years. It’s a dirge, a requiem, and its shimmering melody cloaks a gnawing sadness that draws fresh blood from me mercilessly with every note. I am in tears now, because I can never go back to that moment when this song became our song, and I will never see my friend again, and it’s because of something awful and stupid and brutal.
As the song ends, my sadness climaxes and suddenly mutates into anger at the ugliness of my friend’s death, and at the crushing pain of missing him. Just then, another song begins, this time PIL’s Rise. My radio is turned up as loud as my speakers will allow, and John Lydon is chanting, sneering, over and over, “Anger is an energy”. And by Christ it is, as the lump in my throat turns into a scream and that furious, glowing red-blue energy seeps out of my pores and radiates outward, illuminating the rain-streaked windshield and the wet road ahead and the grey sky above, the sky that dares to remind me of my friend.