Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shirtless, #2 (or, Red Beads)

Back on June 12, I wrote a post called "Shirtless." It was about a couple of male teenagers walking home from the local high school in the heat of late spring, their shirts off, their bodies youthful and muscular. I made some assumptions in that post, chief among them that the two young fellows were straight, and that, because of that, their lives were so much better than mine had been at their age.

Well, I may have been hasty in my assumption. Just a few days after the Pride parade in downtown Vancouver, I saw the two young men move past our house again. One walked on the sidewalk, and the other rode his bike along the side of the road. The day was sunny and hot, and, again, the two of them were shirtless, their torsos lean, hairless, and lightly tanned.

What struck me about the young man on the sidewalk, perhaps the more handsome of the two, was what he had around his neck. He wore a string of bright, shiny, red beads, like those worn during Mardi Gras in New Orleans--and like those gay men wear during Pride festivities. I thought nothing of it at first, admiring instead his sense of style, not connecting style in a young male with being gay.

But then I realized that the shirtless young man on the sidewalk might not be as straight as I assumed him to be. Perhaps after everything I thought and wrote, he's gay. As gay as I am. As gay as Elton John is. As gay as Neil Patrick Harris is.

If this is the case, then I have even more admiration for him than I had before. Where does a young man, shirtless in public, wearing a string of bright red beads, and probably gay (since I don't think a straight young man would wear the same string of beads), find the confidence to feel good about, and draw attention to, himself? Have circumstances for young gay men in some places in this world, including __________, changed so much, particularly in the public school system, that this young man can express himself freely in what he wears and not be the least concerned about being harassed and ridiculed by people, fellow classmates or anyone else? Are circumstances really that much better now?

If so, then so much the better. There's no reason why the young man on the sidewalk can't be himself fully. There's no reason why he can't move through this world with the same degree of confidence that an equivalent straight young man has.

Just imagine this: If that young man is as confident as he is now, and unfazed about being gay, how far in the sky will he soar in his lifetime. There's no limit. A shiver runs up my spine as I think of it.

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