So Much More than Stories of Loss
My name is Darren Cummings, and I’m a graduate student at York University in Toronto.
I have been excited to help the Beyond Bullying team select stories to include on this website. I love hearing and reading people’s stories, particularly LGBTQ+ stories.
As a younger person I didn’t hear many of these stories at home, in school, or even in the media.
Here’s a story I might have told sooner, if I thought there’d be an audience to appreciate it
I was 13 years old and sitting on my mother’s bright Pepto Bismol pink throw-covered sofa. I was working on some kind of school work because I had a piece of paper and a book on my lap. I do not know where the thought came from, and I can remember at the time wondering why I was just now able to put into words what I had known for a long time; “I am gay.” I wrote it over and over again many times on the paper, wondering what it all really meant. My only instruction at school about the existence of gay people came from negative words directed at me by my peers. I do not remember any specific teaching or discussions about being gay in any other context, school or otherwise. This, of course, was in the early 1990s, when Oprah wasn’t yet often talking about queer topics and Ellen had yet to “come out.” Therefore, I can only surmise that my teachings regarding my sexuality came from my peers. My conceptualization, therefore, was that, yes, I was gay, as I had frequently been called, and that meant that I was attracted to boys, and it also meant that it was wrong and that I could not tell anyone. I rushed out to the wood stove and burned the piece of paper so my Mom wouldn’t see it.
This story eventually appeared among a number of stories I included in the Master’s thesis I wrote two years ago. When I began that work, I told my stories with the hope that they would speak to other people’s experiences. As I began writing, I realized that I found it easier to recount stories of negative experiences I had lived through, like this one.
It was winter time and I had stayed over at my boyfriend’s apartment, as I had many nights, because I didn’t want to drive home in the snow. His apartment was in a house with a couple of units downstairs and one upstairs beside his own. He didn’t really talk to his neighbours and I hadn’t met them before, but would see them often. That morning it was cold and frosty. I left early because I hate driving when the roads have the potential to be slippery. I went to the back of the car to get the window scraper and stopped, frozen and immobilized, by the three letter word written in the frost on my windshield.
As I did more reading, I learned that LGBTQ+ topics are often talked about in ways that suggest our experiences are dominated by loss, or fear, or homophobia. I suspect this pattern paints a false picture of our community.
We are much more than the painful stories of bullying, the name-calling, the abuse. We are joyful and loving, artistic, talented, and creative. We are friends, family, partners, and lovers. We are survivors. Are those negative stories important to tell? Yes. Those stories importantly illustrate the painful and destructive impacts of a homophobic society, but I think they need to be told along with the stories of LGBTQ+ lives as lives we might actively and happily pursue. I titled my work, “Desirable Queerness” and tried to include more stories like this.
It was the first Easter with my new boyfriend and it was still only a few months into our relationship, so I decided to get him something little. I went out and bought a chocolate bunny and wrote on the package, “To Sam, From the Easter Bunny” and put it in the living room for him to find the next morning. When he woke up he went into the kitchen to make coffee and found the bunny. He brought it back into the bedroom, smiling, and laid on top of me with his head on my chest saying how much it meant to him that I would give him something for Easter.
Or this one.
I was walking home from a party with my boyfriend who was “out” to the family, but not to his co-workers. It was two in the morning and the snow was falling gently. We were walking side by side, still intoxicated by the fun of the night. We turned around the corner to go up the back road to my house and I took his hand. He let me take it, even though we were out in public, and we walked the rest of the way home together.
I am drawn to the Beyond Bullying Project because the stories here, on this website, add to a more complete picture of LGBTQ+ life as a site of struggle, pleasure, connection, and complexity. I hope you enjoy reading the Beyond Bullying stories as much as I have.