Thoughts by Richard Bleil
There I was, feeling pretty proud of myself. I was at a club for a ball. The club, as it turns out, is a well-known bar for alternate lifestyles, which I had never been to as I am an old-fashioned heterosexual, which feels quite antiquated and out-of-style these days. The event was actually a BDSM fetish ball to which a friend of mine had invited me since she helped to organize it, so I was also openly and publicly embracing my freak. I was dressed sharply in a three-piece suit to emulate the toughest “tops” that I could think of, specifically gangster, but not the new gangsters. No bling, no tough talking, no running around saying, “I’m gangster”. No, the original, and baddest gangsters rarely said anything at all. You could tell just by looking at them, even before they spoke, that you just don’t mess with them. They were in charge, end of statement.
Standing at the entrance just past the coat-check where my great and beautiful friend took my overcoat quite to my surprise as I had no idea that she worked there, I was talking with a few of the guys who had organized the event. As we were chatting, a man rolled up in a wheelchair. Now, the club is kind of narrow, truth be told, and had three floors. This man was there for the club, but not the event. The ground floor was dedicated to the event, which means he had to go upstairs. I asked if there was an elevator in the club, which there was not. I was so surprised that they didn’t have an elevator that I actually, and probably inappropriately, asked him how he was going to get up there. “I’ll climb,” he replied.
His intention was to leave the chair (which somebody would carry up for him), and literally drag himself by his arms up the stairs. And the way he smiled as he answered was very matter of fact, as if he had been doing it for quite some time. To me, this is the face of courage. Here’s a “differently abled” man, and yet he had no intention of allowing his challenge to change who he is, or how he wanted to live his life. And me, dressed like a mock gangster, feeling proud of myself just for showing up to celebrate a side of my personality that I like to keep hidden. I felt very small, indeed.
He’s not the only differently abled person that I have known who would not allow their challenges to stand in their way. It’s a constant lesson in overcoming obstacles to live the life we want. But the lesson that night wasn’t restricted to the wheelchair. I guess it’s not quite the taboo that it was when I was younger, but alternate sexuality lifestyles require a lot of courage in and of themselves. In my youth (which feels like yesterday), there was only heterosexual and homosexual. These days there are many shades of sexuality that, well, frankly, I don’t even know all of them. I’m still trying to figure out non-binary and queer, especially since in my day the term “queer” was meant as an insult.
Thanks to the internet, I think it’s easier for people of the various shades of sexuality to find each other, but I often wondered how it was that they would. As a heterosexual, I’ve always found it difficult to approach women and ask them out, which is becoming increasingly difficult as today it is very easily seen as some form of harassment if she doesn’t find you attractive as well. So, I’ve never understood how a homosexual could approach an individual of the same gender can have the courage to ask them out. I suspect that if I knew the answer to this, I might have had an easier time finding dates myself.
Seeing people so open today warms my heart. It’s unhealthy, in my opinion, to hide who you actually are, be it sexual proclivities, or just quirks. And, yes, I realize that this opinion might not be as universal as frankly I feel like it should be, but I’ll forever defend a person’s right to happiness.
Today there are people trying to ban books that speak of alternate lifestyles from books not only in our schools, but in public libraries as well. All too often, the people behind these movements strike me as angry, and afraid of what their children might become if they read such materials when the truth is that these books cannot, and will not, change who they are or who they will become. People don’t choose their sexual proclivities. Personally, I went to therapy for years to come to grips with my own interests, and that was just to deal with my fetish as opposed to the wider question of orientation. These books won’t “indoctrinate” anybody, but they do have the chance to help children understand their own feelings and leanings, especially if they seem to go against what they are being taught at home and in churches. Perhaps they will help these young people avoid multiple years of therapy, if only we have the courage as a society to let them be true to themselves.