My reaction To "Torch Song Trilogy"

A post to the Pflag-Talk email list by Jason Hungerford

[Editor's note: Jason Hungerford is a 19-year old youth who is an activist in support of gay youth. He is a remarkably mature young man who owns several email lists and is web master for a number of popular web sites.]

From: Jason Hungerford
Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 02:13:59 (EST)
Subject: My Reaction to Torch Song Trilogy

OK, so it's been a while since I've posted a lengthy "Jason Post". I've been pretty quiet on the list for the past few months, but I'm here tonight, because, well, I guess I just needed some support (that IS what this list is for, right?!) :) and to air out some of my feelings.

Tonight Gavin [my live-in boyfriend :)] and I had one of my friends over to watch a movie and order a pizza and just chill for awhile. Amber, the friend who came over, suggested we rent Torch Song Trilogy. I had vaguely remembered hearing the movie's name (possibly on this list) but didn't really know anything about the movie or what to expect (other than it had a gay theme). And I'm not quite sure why this is affecting me so much, but it is. [BTW, I HIGHLY recommend seeing the movie if you haven't already!]

I cried during the movie (trying not to be noticed) and after the movie ended, I went into my bedroom and cried some more. It was definitely a sad movie and a touching story, but I don't think that was the complete reason I got so emotional.

It was guilt. I'm too lucky. I have it too good.

I have nothing but extremely supportive friends who I love and cherish more than anything.

I have a mother who has made, and continues to make, EXCELLENT progress in accepting her son [to the point where we actually talk about it --- IMAGINE THAT! :)].

I have the most loving and supportive grandparents anyone could ever ask for. To quote my grandmother referring to my grandfather's reaction after he was told about me: "Joe really surprised me. Here he is in his 70's, supposed to be set in his ways, supposed to have the 1950's mentality, but when I told him about you, he was just like, 'So what? If he's happy, what does it matter?' Don't get me wrong, I'm glad this was his reaction, but I just find it surprising. Here he has a gay grandson, a daughter who is dating a black man, another daughter who has a son by a half-black man, and he loves and supports each one of you. I just thought he would be disgusted by the fact that he has a gay grandson, but he's not. He's very proud of you and he loves you very much. And although I may not completely understand it, you know I love you, and if it makes you happy, I'm there with you until the end, supporting you all the way."

I have a father, whom after finding out (and meeting my boyfriend Gavin over Thanksgiving), hasn't disowned me (which is very surprising and all that can be asked for at this point).

I have a brother (who is like a son to me) who, despite knowing that I'm gay, still looks up to me, thinks the world of me, and puts me on the highest pedestal possible. (I haven't officially come out to him -- remember the talk I had with him that I posted to the list about six months ago? -- but he knows, he may only be 9, but he's not stupid.)

I am out to my employers and coworkers, with absolutely no fear of losing my job. The owners of the company view their employees as family, and treat them as such, and I am no exception. And I just recently got promoted to manager of one of their stores.

I was never bashed or harrassed either verbally or physically in high school, or ever, anywhere, really. Sure, I know back in high school people sometimes talked about the possiblity of me being gay behind my back, but it was never really in a negative sense, it was more curiousity and something to gossip about than anything else.

So when I watch a movie like Torch Song Trilogy, or hear the horror stories about kids being kicked to the curb by their own parents, or good hard-working people (like our very own Broph) losing their jobs because of their sexuality, or people who are taunted and teased or beaten and killed because of other people's ignorance and insecurities, yeah it gets to me. Not only because it's wrong, and bad stuff shouldn't happen to good people, but because of the guilt feelings. Why am I spared? Why do I have it so good? Why am I the lucky one? What makes me any different or better or "more acceptable"? Don't get me wrong, I am glad I have never had to experience these horrible things, but it just makes me feel even more for those who have.

It's because of the kids who live on the streets, and the innocent children disowned by their parents, and the people who have lost their respectable jobs, and the people who have died senseless deaths, it's because of all of them that I do what I do.

I don't have to be out in every way possible. But I am. I don't have to be this "role model" for closeted gay youth. But that's what many have claimed me to be. I don't have to offer my support to struggling gay youth. But I do.

I could just live a normal life and not worry about any of this. I could just live my life quietly and keep to myself and worry about my own problems and not everyone else's. After all, it isn't to me that these bad things are happening. I'm doing just fine.

But I do what I do because there are people out there who have DIED so that I am able to live a comfortable life being as out as I am, without a single fear. There are teenagers who sleep on the streets at night so that I am able to have a loving and supportive family, without a single fear. There are people out there who have killed themselves because they received no support and were rejected by their friends so that I am able to have wonderful, supportive, and loving friends who mean the world to me, without a single fear. There are people who have been fired from their jobs simply because of who they love, so that I am able to be secure in my sexuality AND in my job performance at the same time, without a single fear.

I do what I do and I am what I am because of those people. They have made it so that I am able to do these things. And I do what I do because I could have been one of those people. So I owe it to them, and to myself, to give back all that I can, in every way that I know how.

A few months ago I posted to this list about my burn-out. What sparked my burn-out was a post to the SCHOOLS list that I own about a teenager being bashed because of his sexuality. Being the owner of the SCHOOLS list, I constantly have to deal with the stories of successful students dropping out of school because the harrassment becomes too unbearable. I constantly have to deal with hearing about another child leaving this world by his or her own hand because he or she could no longer justify continuing living in a world that seems to be dominated by ignorance and uncompassionate people who spread senseless hate, but who hypocritically fail to claim responsibility for the deaths of so many innocent young people that they have indirectly caused. Constantly hearing these things on a daily basis can really get to me sometimes. But this is the reality. It may not be happening to me personally, but it is happening to people like me all over the world, and something needs to be done about it. I may be living care-free as an out gay teenager, but every once in a while I'm snapped back to reality and reminded how lucky I truly am, and reminded of those who are not so fortunate. I was reminded again tonight by the movie Torch Song Trilogy.

Thank you members of PFLAG for giving your love and support for those who had none. You have turned them into proud, self-respecting, and productive members of society. Thank you members of PFLAG for educating those who have severely needed it. You have turned many of them into understanding, compassionate people who love and support their children as they should: Unconditionally. Thank you members of PFLAG for allowing me to be who I am and for bringing me to where I am today and for again allowing me to share a peice of my life and my inner feelings with you in yet another very long post (anyone still reading?).

Thanks and much love to you all,

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Copyright © 1997, by Scott Bidstrup and Jason Hungerford. All rights reserved.
Revised 1/19/97