By Bradford Thompson
I had the fear every gay man has when he is a child.
There was this feeling of separation and loneliness that I could not understand at the time. The bullying was never really strong because I was clever enough to deflect it—often at the expense of someone more obviously separated.
This changed one day when I was in the 7th grade.
Two 8th grade boys caught me on the stairway. They were on the second floor above the flight to the first and I was on the landing in the middle. They began to spit at me. Large “loogies” were flying my way. I dodged.
My nature was to show no reaction because then they would have won. So I casually stepped left and right and bobbed and weaved as if I were shooing flies away. Then one hit me between the eyes. The two boys hee hawed and I ran down to the first floor bathroom.
I quickly washed off my face. I never looked in the mirror. I walked out and away like a cat who had fallen but kept his pride. All of this was external.
I wanted to be mad at these two boys. I wanted to feel the need for revenge. I wanted to want to shame them—but I couldn’t. I know who they are now.
I have wondered why I never confronted them.
I could contact them on Facebook or publicly humiliate them there. I could Tweet about it or I could write a shaming exposé. I even tried to find a poem or a song inside me about this event and these two horrible boys. I never did.
I probably never will.
The day the decision for equal marriage for same sex couples came, my mind exploded. My own emotions surprised me. A flood of thoughts and feelings gushed out of me so quickly and so voluminous that I couldn’t really even recognize what they all were. Except one. The feeling I felt was shame.
I felt shame.
I didn’t get the reason why at first. This decision and the huge support from most of the people I was connected with directly or on social media felt fantastic and empty at the same time. I sat with this that day. By the end of the day I had some insight into my reaction.
My shame wasn’t for being gay. It wasn’t for the lie I lived in a straight marriage. It wasn’t for the divorce I left my children with. It wasn’t for the affair.
People will spit on you—either literally or metaphorically. There are mean people and people who aren’t mean will do mean things. I have done mean things. I have metaphorically spit on other people. Shame for this and the other things I’ve done has had its place and been dealt with over time.
The shame I felt that day of victory and validation was the shame for how I had treated myself. I had been a bully to myself all these years. I thought I deserved to be spit on. I thought I was a terrible person. I kept my true self in a stranglehold.
Fucking faggot got what he deserved.
In my mind, those two boys were justified. I’m sorry, Bradford. You did not deserve that. You did not deserve to be hidden away.
Come out and live.
Editor: Dana Gornall