Since I am currently trapped in the town of my childhood, I feel that now would be an appropriate time to expose Rochester Hills for what it really is. I, along with all the other troubled adolescent queers, grew up in a conservative town. The particular problem with the ROC, however, is that most of the residents are under the impression that our surroundings are rather liberal. NOT SO. Having an abundance of shopping readily available and a hustle and bustle, community-based, active lifestyle does not make you liberal, you affluent motherfuckers. It’s truly bizarre to negotiate as a teen and even more difficult to describe in words. Let us just say that Rochester Hills will not allow a 7/11 within city limits, so during high school lunch breaks we would have to race to the nearest boundary (the perimeter of Rochester is basically outlined by Slurpee havens). I’m not sure if I’m really setting the stage well, but I know that my fellow Rochester survivors know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, right along with this conservative community comes the stench of a strong dose of heteronormativity. (Why is that underlined in red? That is a real wold and a real problem!) For those of you that don’t know, I didn’t come out until my sophomore year of college, and I would say that most of that tardiness can be attributed to the fact that I was not exposed to homosexuality or anything of the sort until I left Michigan. Obviously, I knew what it was, but there was really nothing I experienced outside of watching Will & Grace or Glee. (The first gay kiss on Glee was a hot topic of conversation during my senior year of high school. Rochester was in a TIZZY.) In my class of 350 students, there was not one openly queer person by the time we reached graduation.
So, needless to say, the times when I visit Rochester Hills are a little strange for me. Two of my close friends, one guy and one girl, have also come out in the last couple of years, and it is comforting to know that I’m not the only person who was too oppressed by the Rochester bubble. Actually, I got lunch with both of them yesterday in order to meet his new boyfriend. (Who, might I add, was beautiful and generally a wonderful person. Ugh. My life. I mean, congrats!) I think that most of my friends from back here are aware that I’ve come out, even though I didn’t bother making an official announcement, and I don’t think that many of them care too much either way, which has been a relief. The problem, however, is with the adults. And now I transition into an anecdote from yesterday.
After spending time drooling over my friend’s aforementioned perfect boyfriend, I came home just in time to go right back out the door and attend a Christmas party with my family. My mom asked if I was going to change, and after assessing the formality (or lack thereof) of my family’s outfits, I said no. She retorted, “You need to change out of those ridiculous pants.” She was referring to my new polka dotted jeans that I got from work. (They look like this, but blue http://tinyurl.com/cptpnsl) In my humble opinion, I think they are killer. Annoyed, but not surprised, I refused to change because I was not dressed inappropriately, and I had no interest in being at a party where I would be presenting myself as anyone other than who I want to be. After a heated spat about respect, conformism, and the term “normalcy,” I made an ultimatum, that she could either take me as I was, in what I was wearing, and accept the fact that it didn’t matter what other people thought of my “outlandish” style choices, or she could leave me behind. My family left without me. I repeat: annoyed, but not surprised.
It’s hard to think that after twenty years of working really hard, and being an overall good kid, that a mom would be so embarrassed or concerned to have her son show up in polka dot jeans, instead of proud of who he is and the courage he has to stand up for himself. Her last words out the door were, “I am disappointed in you.” And mine were the same. I should clarify, just because I haven’t blogged about my mother before, she is a wonderful person, is incredibly loving, a ton of fun, and I could not imagine what my life would be without her. But even so, Rochester Hills is a place that values “normalcy” and the societal opinion more than almost anything. It’s incredibly difficult for me to live a double life between school and home, but my goal is to start acclimating Michigan to the person I want to be. The person I truly am. My mother and I talked later. While neither of us really gave in to the other, she did apologize for implying that who I am and what I do, wear and say are not “normal.” It’s a baby step, but I was happy for it, nonetheless.
Take me or leave me, Michigan, because I am what I am. And I will make no compromises and certainly no apologies.
Stay hot and keep it messy,