Friday, May 14, 2010

Chronicles of a Life in Linden: Coming Out in Cass County

I recently went home and opened the newspaper to a story about a man who was living a closeted gay lifestyle with a crossdresser who called himself Sa'Derius. You have to understand that crossdressing is something you have to drive 4 hours to Dallas to do; it must've taken a lot of stealth and planning on Sa'Derius's part, and somewhere between Commerce and a club in Deep Ellum, Sa'Derius must've done some soul searching. He decided that he and his partner should come out to their families and stop living life as if they were ashamed of themselves. When Sa'Derius approached his lover to convince him to come out to Cass County (ok it was Bowie but the alliteration is appealing), his lover shot and killed him. He told the judge he was convinced Sa'Derius was clutching a gun in his hand, but when he pried open his cold, dead fingers, all he was holding was a bottle of blue nail polish. Honest-to-God true story.

It's hard to come out in Cass County. When I was teenager, I had a friend who didn't so much come out as she was outed by her lover, who was a wild girl with dark punk hair and Goth white skin and acne. When she sat down at the prep table and put an arm around my friend, she was making a statement. Before we could blink, Goth girl had taken out a rotten banana and taught us how she and my friend had learned to do all kinds of things with it. She took time to take in our faces, and then she left. My friend never recovered from the ridicule that followed her outing in the school cafeteria. She moved and didn't tell a soul where she'd gone. I haven't heard from her since.

When I was a bit older, I met one of the best preachers I'd ever had. She helped me through the worst year of my life -- 1996, the year I became a 16-year-old, had my first heartbreak, and lost my grandfather to cancer -- and helped me understand Faith and Doubt can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. When she moved to become a pastor in another city, she divorced her husband and took a female partner, a Lindenite who had also been married with children. Everyone buzzed. I'd heard some people xeroxed her partnership announcement in the paper and tacked it up on telephone poles, but it's impossible to say if that was true.

It's hard coming out as anything different in Cass County, and that applies to just about any label someone might try to adopt. It's hard to be a drug addict, divorced, depressed, alcoholic; it's tough to be too smart or too dumb, to have no job or two jobs, to have no kids or ten. Being part of a rural town is a lot like being part of a big family. Some types of deviation can bring you closer to everyone in it, while others can make you a permanent outcast. Which it'll be is anyone's guess.