A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Since “what happened in high school” is all part of the national discussion, let me tell you about my high school experience.

I was small for my age, with a waistline that I would give anything for today. I was reserved. I was very, very introverted.

For the last three years of my time in high school, I endured the emotional scars of a bitter divorce between my parents. As a result, this young introvert became even more so. The open war between my parents had massive collateral damage, all of it with deep emotional scars that took me years to overcome.

The exact events during that time between my parents are still difficult for me to talk about. By the time the dust settled, I felt trapped.

During those years, I just wanted out. Thankfully, I never considered suicide as an option. But leaving home and never returning was more appealing with every passing moment.

I’ve since learned that those times were even more traumatic to my sister, who was molested at the same age her daughter is today. She was only nine. It was someone I remember being very jovial, kind, and willing to help around the house. He was a friend of my brother’s.

Like everyone who came by, he always called my mother “Mom,” and had a flashy smile. Little did I know the monster that he really was. I had no idea that this beautiful man held down my sister as he violated her in our living room.

As for myself, I simply kept everyone away. I never allowed myself to get close to anyone because of the constant taunting I got from my peers.

I had not come to realize my own sexual orientation at the time. Hell, I didn’t even know I was remotely gay. I didn’t think I was, well, anything. I had a couple of friendly dates with girls, but we simply had fun. There was no real attraction, and we remained friends.

I never hung around the “out” gay kids. In fact, I had a fair amount of disdain for them. I laughed at the gross anti-gay jokes my brother’s best friend told, never recognizing the pinch of pain that I felt deep in my soul. I simply retreated further into my own self.

I walked the corridors of Clarksville High School every day, hoping to dodge the boys that would sneer at me. They’d call me “faggot” every time they saw me. The sheer, scorning hatred that spewed behind their voice is still unforgettable to this day.

I didn’t even think I was gay. But I was. They saw that in me somehow. So I retreated, every single time. It didn’t matter if I was gay or not. I was weak in their eyes. So I was a faggot. They were the predators, and I was the prey.

They’re the same boys that were popular, and had a gaggle of followers everywhere they went. I could see the utter contempt for me they had in their eyes. And their sneering scowl was seared into my memory — every single time.

I didn’t come to terms with my own sexuality until I was 30. It took 12 years after high school to have enough emotional wellness to look into myself and see the truth and accept it. Yes, I’m gay, and yes, I’m just fine as a gay man.

When I watched the face of Judge Kavanaugh during his testimony yesterday, it was the exact same sneering, bitterness, and the identical contempt for the “different” that I saw on the faces of those boys who delighted in tormenting me.

His warm smile every other time was the exact smile I saw on my sister’s rapist, every single time I saw him, with his delight in calling my mother, “Mom.”

And this man is about to become our next Supreme Court justice. I know full well how deep my own scars go, and I was never molested or raped by anyone. I can imagine the crushing horror that my sister feels watching these proceedings, as well as the dread felt any rape or sexual assault survivor.

All of this is why I’ve always stayed focused on the positive, the hopeful, the good. We’ve forgotten how to inspire each other. Instead, we revile each other. The bullies are in charge now, and we celebrate them. The weak are to be shamed, and the broken are to be cut down. That’s our current political reality.

It’s time for us to rise up and restore a sense of inspiration — challenging each other to be the best we can be, instead of tearing each other down. Because people like me have been torn down time and time again. No more. On this, I stand.

Please call your senator and ask them to vote NO on Kavanaugh. We must stop this train of bile continuing any further.
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