Sunday, November 16, 2008

So, the good thing about Facebook is getting in touch with people you haven't been in touch with in years.

And the bad thing about Facebook, of course, is getting in touch with people you haven't been in touch with in years. As in people from junior high school.

I've been in a foul mood all weekend, and I just realized it's because I somehow ended up on Facebook discussing junior high - well, middle school to be perfectly accurate - with one of my former classmates. I guess I'd totally blocked out how loathsome fifth, sixth and seventh grade were for me, a skinny and short and painfully unathletic, slightly effeminate gay boy, not quite but almost at the bottom of the Elm Place Middle School food chain.

I remember in the seventh grade I got a headache every single day during seventh period. My mother even brought me to the doctor, who said it was nothing. I think it was actually fifth period band practice, where "Dr." Schoonover used to pitch a fit nearly every day, throwing his baton at us and making us play whatever part we'd just messed up, one by one, and anyone who made a mistake would have to stay after school and practice.

And low as I was, I still remember making fun of the poor girl who was stuck at the very bottom of the elaborate Elm Place hierarchy - not really to her face but by flirting with some other little girl, tagging each other with the "germs" from the girl stuck at the bottom. We were merciless, in that thoughtless way children can be. Until one day during social studies, in the sixth grade, she was sent to the office and the principal came in and gave us all a lecture about treating her so badly. Which shamed me. I stopped it with the stupid germ play.

It was such a revelation to get to high school, where you could actually choose your friends based on whether you liked them or not, and not based on any number of other bizarre criteria, such as whether their desk was near yours, or that they lived near you. And the high school was so big, with 2,500 students, that there was no social hierarchy, just different groups, and people were no longer teased or excluded.

I suppose I learned something from middle school about compassion, but I can't imagine that it was worth it. You couldn't make me go through it again, not for anything.

The Swedish word for the day is tortyr. It means, of course, torture.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What a week. First Barack Obama wins the election, to everyone's great relief. "Congratulations," I was told by various coworkers and acquaintances. As if it were my doing. And yes, I did do my small part, although I'm registered in DC and DC always votes democratic, so I'm not sure how exactly my little vote made a difference. Still, I could do nothing but beam about it.

But then there came the sting.

All those nasty hateful anti-gay ballot measures that passed. What is it about gay marriage that scares a majority of the straight population into adding amendments to state constitutions? Is there any way to stop this from happening or do we just have to wait until the WWII generation kicks the bucket? While I'm not surprised really, it is nonetheless dismaying.

(Which is not to say that Sweden doesn't have its own problems with gay marriage: the current center-right coalition government has been trying to convince the hold-out party - the Christian Democrats of course - to sign on to a coalition-sponsored resolution to make marriage gender neutral. But they've finally given up and will instead let it go out as a general resolution for members to vote on. I'm not 100 percent sure I understand exactly the difference between these things - in Swedish one is proposition and one is a motion and I don't remember which is which. Anyway, it is certain to pass since of the seven parties in Parliament, the only party against it are the Christian Democrats, which also happened to be the smallest party and make up a tiny minority. It's expected to be up and running by May 2009. How's that for a bit of Swedish political arcana for you?)

Still, I keep the faith. My remarkable parents are fighting the good fight, doing far more than I have ever done to further the cause of equality for the whole GBLTQ sandwich segment of the population. And my dear friend L. is making his way on a book tour, plugging his history for teenagers - Gay America: The Struggle For Equality - which should be in every damn city and school library in the country. L. was in fact signing the book at Barbara's, which curiously enough just happens to be my parents' local bookstore in Oak Park. And my mom, as always, doing her part, buying copies for the library and the public schools, and for the PFLAG group that she founded, and for herself of course.

I salute you, L. And you, too, mom.

There, I'm done proselytizing.

The Swedish phrase of the day is andas ut. It literally means breathe out, but I think a better colloquial translation would be breathe a sigh of relief.

- by Francis S.