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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (April 17, 1998)
Acknowledging homosexuality enriches columnist’s perspective
ANTHONY COLMAN is
sophomore general studies
major and a Daily
I remember vividly the first time
I ever heard a song by the Pet Shop
Boys on the radio.
It was late at night, and I was rid
ing in the back of the family station
wagon with my sisters and parents. I
can recall the glow of the dash lights
and the headlights of passing cars.
I was 11 years old, and for the first
time in my life, I became suddenly and
keenly aware of my need and desire for
a communion with my own kind.
Somehow, hearing the music of
the Pet Shop Boys led me to con
ceive of myself as having an actual
gay identity, and to realize the possi
ble existence of a gay culture.
At a very early age, I simply real
ized that I was attracted to boys
instead of girls. Somehow, I also
realized, even at that early age, the
importance of keeping it secret.
Not much later, I would learn a
vocabulary - faggot, queer, homo -
to define what I was. And that was
something different; something
other; something not straight.
By the time I was in grade
school, I understood pretty well the
consequences of how I was different
and what would happen to me if I
revealed this fact about myself to
Though I was very aware of the
outlines of my libidinal impulses, I
was still unaware of my needs for
affection and the desire for any sort
of physical or spiritual fulfillment.
As I sat in the back seat of my
parents’ car and listened to West End
Girls, I began to conceive of such
possibilities, and realized that others
existed in the world who were like
me - others with whom I longed to
For the very first time, I was imag
ining not just sex, but love and affec
tion. For die first time, I viewed my
homosexuality not just as the secret
that made me different from my peers,
but as that which defined my identity;
which largely made me whom I was.
In that moment, I felt filled with
both hope and desperation - because
for the first time ever, I felt I had a
connection to some larger whole, but
it was something very far from my
It would be nearly 10 more years -
nearly the whole of my adolescence -
before I was finally able to come out.
Not until I got away to college,
away from my family and peers, did I
ten anotner soul
secrets I had
spent a lifetime
and so much
Not until then
did I finally kiss
a boy, have my
or say. “I love
you” to some
then did I final
ly start living
up to what
always felt like
my real identi
ty; the one I’d
really start liv
ing my life.
When I came out, I did it mostly
on my own.
Unlike my heterosexual counter
parts, for whom history, rituals of
courtship, models of behavior and
codes of decorum are handed out
daily in the classroom, I’ve had to
seek out my own rules of conduct
and sense of connection to the world
I had no script to follow when I
came out I had no social conven
tions, no sanctions and no rituals. I
had to figure it all out by myself.
Our society has in many ways
become an easier place in which to
come out. People are generally
becoming more accepting, and there
are greater resources available.
Still, even the luckiest gays and
lesbians are isolated; even in places
where people tell you it’s all right to
be gay. You have to tell them you’re
gay first, and that’s never easy.
Despite my independence of
thought and the support system I’ve
created for myself, I often still feel an
edge of alienation when around groups
of my heterosexual counterparts.
Whatever else we might have in
common, the different experiences
and different languages of sexualities
can create a barrier. One on one, it’s
usually not so bad, but when I’m in a
group of straight people, the differ
ences can become quite marked.
So why choose to be openly gay?
I’m out because it’s who I am. I’m
out because I have every right to be.
I’m out because for me, there is no
alternative. I cannot live in denial. I
cannot lie about who I am or keep such
a significant part of myself hidden.
I am out because to deal openly
with my sexuality is the only way to put
it into the realm of the visible, the
speakable and the culturally intelligible.
To be out - to simply be honest
and straightforward about my sexu
ality, to simply admit that I’m gay, to
declare my rights - is, in the view of
some, tantamount to “flaunting” my
sexuality. I am told to be discreet,
and discretion seems to mean not
really acknowledging it at all.
There are those who would claim
that my sexuality is unnatural. My
mind and body tell me differently.
From my standpoint, nothing could
be more natural.
Few things infuriate me more than
people who smugly declare my sexu
ality and my choices to be immoral,
improper or unnatural - their opinions
based on cliches and stereotypes.
I have no tolerance for the impli
cations that my sexuality, my emotions
and my capacity to love are not legiti
mate. I am deeply offended by having
my entire lived experience negated,
and I resent the notion that anything
not fitting the parameters of hetero
sexuality is value
I am perpetu
ally subjected to
it from sopho
who spout their
who thunder on
about the offen
siveness of gay
the norm, no one
about it. To be open about one’s
homosexuality, by contrast, seems
always and necessarily to be making
some sort of “statement” about the
fact of being gay.
Our society still works under the
premise that gays and lesbians can be
denied equal rights and fair treatment
because of their sexual orientation.
I can be (and have been) fired for
being gay. I can be denied housing. I
don’t have protection from hate crimes.
I don’t have the same rights to marry.
I have been harassed. I have been
threatened with physical violence. I
have grown up in a world where I have
had to hide my sexuality, suppress my
natural development and miss out on a
lot of the parts of my youth so many
others took for granted.
In view of all this, I am obligated \
to be out and upfront about my sexu
ality because it is necessary to fight
for my civil rights and equality '
before the law, to break down the
barriers of homophobia and stereo
types and to gap the gulf between
“them” and “us” - the heterosexual
and homosexual realms.
I am obligated to closely examine
our notions of sexual identity in all
of its individualistic complexity.
I must be straightforward and
“flaunt it” to make this world a safer
and more hospitable place in which
I am out because I refuse to take
abuse and inequity for granted.
But being different, being an out
sider, living on the fringes of our
social systems - is valuable.
My life and experiences give me a
rather unique vision of our world.
Taking less in life for granted, I am
better equipped to examine our ways
of thinking. To be the voice of dissent.
Instead of blindly accepting and
reaffirming the structures of our
society, I am more apt to examine j
them. I am more sensitive to injus
The music of the Pet Shop Boys still
evokes bittersweet emotions for me.
If at that moment in the back of
the family station wagon, when I
heard Pet Shop Boys and felt so sud
denly very alone, I was presented
with the possibility of becoming het
erosexual - evading the struggle and
uncertainty of living my life as gay -
I honestly don’t know how I would
have responded. ..; ^
, . Would I have takei£fi$ egc^way
out? Or wouleFMien ha\%$e*$£fc8fctp
pursue the uncharted life before met
One scary and unpredictable, but
perhaps still intriguing. What was in
my heart then?
But such choices do not truly exist.
And quite honestly, I am very
deeply grateful for the unique life I
I feel my world is richer and
more interesting for the uncommon
experiences I have had and for hav
ing to examine more closely the
Sin tax errors
Raising taxes on *legal drugs’ won’t cure social ills
CLIFF HICKS is a junior
news-editorial and English
major and a Daily
Honestly, do you think raising taxes
on cigarettes is going to stop anybody
Price was never the issue for the
people I knew in high school who
smoked. They would find the money
one way or another. Jacking the price
up wasn’t going to do a damn tiling.
The legal drug trade has been inter
esting to watch the past few years.
Don’t kid yourself - cigarettes and
alcohol are drugs.
As the tobacco industry has fallen
under fire, with people complaining
about second-hand smoke, or saying
that the tobacco industry knew about
the addictive and harmful potential of
cigarettes for a long time, alcohol has
passed right under the wire.
If you really want to keep kids from
smoking, put on a penalty they’ll fear.
Caught smoking and you’re under 18?
Welcome to a month without your dri
We’re already getting stricter on
selling alcohol to minors, but tobacco’s
still getting off easy. Confiscating the
cigarettes? Please. As they say in the
business, “they’ll make more.”
So let’s crack down on these peo
ple. Think the driver’s license won’t
work? A night in jail, maybe?
Don’t start talking to me about how
smoking underage isn’t a big deal. If
you try that, you fall under the category
of “dominated by the industry.”
The tobacco and alcohol industries
want you to forget that their products
are hazardous. They want you to forget
you’re buying poison from them. They
want you to overlook the fact that their
products are responsible for thousands
and thousands of deaths every year.
They want you to pretend with
them that it’s all going to be all right
Smoking causes cancer. Cancer
kills. Drinking usually enhances prob
lems. Drinking irresponsibly kills.
Drinking and driving kills.
We need to crack down on these
problems. And there realty isn’t an
obvious place to start
As fascinating as prohibition was, it
didn’t work. Banning cigarettes would
be about as successful, I think. Images
of a guy in a black trenchcoat and dark
sunglasses going “You want to buy a
pack of Camels?” are disquieting.
So banning them is out And I hate
to say it, but taxing the life out of them
doesn’t seem to be working either. The
numbers of smokers dying is more than
replaced every year by new smokers, a
lot of whom are under the age of 18.
I’ve heard the “smoking is harm
less” argument dozens of times and
“Well, I know what I’m doing” just
about as much.
I grew up in the house of a smoker.
My dad even admits it’s wrong and has
tried to quit several times. I’m hoping
he’ll succeed eventually.
Why do they do it? Lots of people I
knew smoked. Most of them claimed it
helped calm them down, relax them
and make their life easier.
What I found funny is they were
often stressed out and die cigarettes
never seemed to help. In some cases,
they made them worse, as these people
stressed out trying to get their next fix.
And I can’t say that I didn’t know
anyone underage who drank. Most of
the people I knew in high school had.
Some of the people I know now do, and
they’re underage. It’s a lot more ram
pant here than it was in high school.
Most people say, “Oh, there’s nothing
wrong with having a few.”
Right I can’t say I’ve never broken
the law. I think everyone has sped at
some time or another. There are little
offenses we’ve been guilty of, but
drinking undo* age is not a “little
Which brings me, in a roundabout
way, to my other point Why aren’t we
taxing the life out of alcohol?
We tax cigarettes a ton. Why aren’t
such taxes on alcohol? Why haven’t we
banned alcohol ads on television? Why
aren’t we stipulating more firmly the
ads alcohol companies can have?
Many people say that it is because
alcohol is a social drug. So are ciga
A lot of people say that alcohol
doesn’t have the same dangerous
effects as cigarettes.
Tell that to the people who died
from drunken drivers.
Tell that to the people whose bodies
are wasting away.
Tell that to the families of people
who lost a loved one to suicide while
that loved one was drunk.
I didn’t drink in high school Now I
only drink at home in the company of
friends. If I decide to go to a bar, odds
are I will be the designated driver.
Call me paranoid, call me overcau
tious. But you can still call me because
I’m still around to answer the phone.
I say raise taxes on alcohol The
government can use the money, and it
can be put towards cutting down on
And take photographs at an acci
dent scene of a drunken driver. Don’t
take the kind where you see just die car
or the glass scattered on the street The
ads showing home movies of people
before they died aren’t good enough.
Take pictures of die bodies, of the
injuries. Show these high school stu
dents the gruesome reality of what
drunken driving results in.
Just because alcohol’s devastating
effects are less direct doesn’t mean it
should fly under the wire of our detec
tion. Nor should we be lenient on ciga
rettes because tobacco companies are
making a weak attempt at repenting. ,
There is only so much I can take of
this, and it’s something we need to stop
kidding ourselves about
You have the right to be a drug
addict to drink and smoke to excess.
The government has the right to tax the
living daylights out of it and use those
taxes into educating the populous.
I don’t think there’s a smoker out
there who doesn’t know it’s hazardous.
They think they’re immortal, but that’s
their choice. Maybe people don’t think
liquor is dangerous. Maybe they say,
“Hey man, I don’t drink and drive.”
But someone’s doing it Look at the
death rates. It’s happening.
And on Friday, a lot of you will go
out to your drug dens and have a few
drinks just to “relax.”
I’m glad to see someone can relax,
because I sure can’t
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