Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dealing with the baggage

I often wonder, with some wistfulness, what life would be like had I not grown up hating myself for being gay. So much of my adult life is taken up with managing the genuinely profound emotional/spiritual damage--anxiety, depression, social phobias, internalized homophobia, etc. My greatest, and most difficult, accomplishment is just having survived. There are many blessings that have come with being gay, but there is still so much baggage that must be repacked and rebalanced every so often that it can still be exhausting, even after all sorts of therapy and support and coming out, etc.

The darkness, the sickness of the sort of homophobia I was surrounded by and absorbed as I grew up is occasionally made newly clear. I know now how much of it was the result of government anti-homosexual, anti-communist propaganda, and I've read that the government worked to make homosexuality socially unacceptable to prevent men from claiming to be gay to get out of military service during WWII and the Korean and Vietnamese wars. And then there was psychology run amok.

Exgay Watch just posted a link to the YouTube video below, on the occasion of the death of its producer. This is the sort of thing my parents were taught to believe: that "homosexuals" were "sick" men driven to seduce, molest, and even murder young boys. That's what homosexuals were back then. That's what I was taught. And so when I began to realize I was attracted to other guys, not girls, I was horrified and terrified and did everything I could to stop it.

I watched much of this video yesterday afternoon. Sickening. No wonder I have so many issues, I realized anew.

Then last night, I had the immense good fortune to be channel surfing (see, that's one addiction that can pay off sometimes) and come across the documentary A Touch of Greatness, about the extraordinary teacher Albert Cullum, on PBS. One of the most inspiring things I ever saw.

All the clips of Cullum show him to be one of the most stereotypically gay-acting people I've ever seen. Neither the documentary nor any of the hits I found in a quick Google search said he was openly gay. But I found myself wondering if any of the parents of the children in the film ever worried about him. And then I was horrified with myself for projecting that, because some corner of my brain still cannot erase the programming that conflates homosexuality and pedophilia. And I remembered that once my son (the paradoxical wonderful result of running away from my same-sex attraction) had a rather effeminate piano teacher whom I didn't want to be alone together with my son. I feel ashamed for having felt that way. And horribly angry at all those who produced the sort of crap in the clip above. And angry that nobody told me or my parents that there were great people, people like (most probably) Albert Cullum, who were homosexual.


Anonymous said...

I am a gay elementary school teacher, and let me tell you, I work in an unbelievably hostile environment. I am NOT safe, and the proven positive results I have attained at work DO NOT make my job secure. All of the work I've done could be ripped away from me at any moment, and I feel positive that absolutely no one would be willing to defend me. I don't mean to be overly negative about this, but I'm telling the truth.

Eric Edberg said...

It hurts to read your comments, for I know that you speak for so many.

I am extraordinarily fortunate that I teach at a college with a gay-positive administration and faculty. So when I was inadvertently outed, there was a sense of delight among some that the university finally had an openly gay faculty member.

Anyway, my support and love to you, and feel free to email me privately. (eric @

Anonymous said...

I am the same person who commented above, and I hope you find my comments. I have something decidedly more positive to report, though it may not sound that way. As it turns out, I was entirely correct in my predictions: I was not safe, my job was not secure, people did attempt to rip my work away from me, and really, no one defended me (until later, when it was "safe" to do so).

I came out at my job, and immediately faced tremendous hostility. After hitting bottom, I realized that the behavior of the people around me was specifically aimed at attempting to make me into a victim, which is something I will never be. I refused to allow them to control, coerce, scare, dominate, or intimidate me. It was a tremendous difficulty, but I'm still teaching today, and many people respected me and eventually came to my defense.

Eric Edberg said...

Wow. I'm so glad things turned around, that you fought back, and especially that you did not allow yourself to be internally victimized. Not only did you do something wonderful for yourself, but for your school and community, and especially all the kids.