Jacob Rogers at Cheatham County Central High in Ashland City, TN who killed himself yesterday morning because he could no longer take the bullying over his sexuality. According to the article he had spent four years at the school. But his senior year got so bad that he recently dropped out. Apparently he had complained over and over but was ignored by the staff and teachers at the school. As I read and watched this story I felt so much anger rising within me. I remember those feelings well from when I was in high school; intimidation, fear, hiding within myself, uncertain where to turn. At the time I really didn’t know what gay was or could even label it as such. I was just different drawn to things girls did like cooking and sewing instead of what the boys did like football and basketball. During those days I really didn’t engage in sexual activity but I certainly recognized the attraction. But that was some thirty years back. How can we still live in a time when others can still be humiliated by others and the ones in charge look the other way. I keep thinking the world has evolved so much since my youth. There is so much positive information about being gay in the modern media that it no longer carries the negative connotation it once had. It seems that every show now has a gay character or is played by open gay actors. You hear about the fight for gay marriage just about every day. It many ways it strengthened me early on as I somehow came to acceptance of what I was and held my head high with dignity and pride. Once I came to that acceptance of myself I felt I gained the respect of others and become a positive roll model of what a healthy gay person could be. But I also saw the world around me changing as the awareness grew. In many ways I think my parents struggled with it more then I ever did because they were always fearful for me and, in a sense, that alienated me from them. I remember my father once seeing a clip on the news about a gay march in New York commenting on how the media only choose to show the outrageousness of gay culture of drag queens, leather men, and mostly naked sissy’s dancing about. He said “this isn’t you, you are just normal. It doesn’t do your cause any good to be represented at such.” And I remember saying we are all different and express who we are in different ways. I embrace this difference and it’s what I love about being gay. Living in Montana we experience the extreme. We have fabulous drag queens, who are wickedly funny and rather amusing, and we have many a gay cowboys. I photograph both! I love both and see the best of myself in either direction of that spectrum. In fact have seen cowboys swap their heels of a boot to a pump and transform themselves within an hour or so from one to the other. These are the ones I admire the most. I have often thought about putting together a show about Cowboys and Drag Queens, the backstage life of a rodeo or a drag show. There are so many similarities as they are not that far apart as they are perceived.
But my heart still sinks to know a life has been lost and I am reminded of how far I have come in my own journey and this morning aches for that stranger in Tennessee who will not experience the glory of being so unique.
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