He stood in the doorway. I could see him shaking from my desk. He sat across from my desk, avoiding eye contact. I tried to get him to speak, but before he got two words out he broke down. I didn’t need to ask. I knew who he was.
About a week before a student had come to my office looking for advice. While working at a center on campus, she met a community member who had come in looking for resources. She gave me a brief description that could be summed up to: this person had been through a lot of shit. It sadly wasn’t an unfamiliar story of a Midwestern queer, but even I have to admit that it isn’t often you run into a case this bad. Abandonment, abuse, discrimination, rape, homelessness, unemployment, isolation, infection… he had been through it all.
I listened to myself as I spoke words of encouragement I had at one point told someone else… or myself: “You’ve been strong enough to get this far, no reason you can’t keep going. There is nothing wrong with you. You have a right to live and be happy.”
I did my best lend a listening ear and set him up with some resources. The sad truth was that there was no real queer community service system for him around here… or anywhere in the state. I wish I could have done something more to help him. I should of at least shaken his hand… His eyes reminded me of another set I have never forgotten. A young genderqueer I met about a year ago in Indiana. They came up to me after a presentation with tears in their eyes and said, “This is the first time I’ve ever met anyone like me. ” I looked at them and I could swear I was looking at myself. All I could do was hug them. “I know its hard to imagine now,” I said, “but it does get better. If I made it this far, you can too.” As the words left my mouth I wondered how much farther I had come than this kid. Did I really have it all together like they thought I did?
I never heard from them. I wonder where they are now, what they are doing, if they’ve made it out ok. I don’t remember their name, only their face… the sight of my own painful past played out in someone else. I don’t think its a specific thing for the Midwest, but I do think it is part of a bigger picture. The fact that there are so many of us out there suffering when we shouldn’t have to. I wish there was some better, faster way to for all of us to know that no queer is alone in all this. Every time someone feels a pain because of their identity, someone else is having the exact same pain some 200 miles away. In that bond we can all be stronger. That bond, that connection is the reason why we have to keep working, keep fighting to make things better. It isn’t over til we are all in the clear, and no one is left behind.