My grandparents love and admiration ensured that I wouldn't listen to those who tortured and tried to belittle me.
Tortured by violent nightmares which included physical assualt and emotional and psychological abandonment, I began writing and then blogging as a direct response to the rash of gay youth suicides.
The Bronx students who dared to claim their rights by starting RESISTANCE and demanding a better education have forced us all to listen to what has become a serious social change movement.
When I received an email yesterday informing me that a group of young people had now taken up the fight, two things ran through my mind : this movement will be highly successful and we have no idea what we've unleashed (the power and enthusiasm and unyielding energy that is the exclusive property of youth).
Remember that many movements for serious social change started with young people at the core.
There will be those who want to argue with me and state facts, opinions and discrepancies. Those of us who have memories of eight track players, three televison stations and (gasp) life before the internet have done plenty in keeping the status quo (life, economic meltdowns and global warfare) debilitating for most of our citizens.
As an older generation member, my job is to support and offer guidance when and if it is asked for.
I am part of the 99% who was led to believe that if we worked hard and did the right thing we could at least aspire to the 1%. No one ever discussed if this was the best use of our time not to mention what this would cost the world and ourselves in terms of social upheaval.
The young students in the Bronx are challenging us all to look at a very misguided and upsetting way of dealing with pedagological endeavors that train young people to do nothing but passively consume. This current change is as powerful as it is scary.
The people who formed and maintain RESISTANCE are now forcing us to do the unthinkable: challenge our values. While I am thrilled about all ten of the demands (by members of RESISTANCE)for educational change that would fundamentally change The Bronx, Nyc and the world, three of the demands stand out and rock me to the core.
1. The Demand for Quality Instruction
2. Smaller Class size with a Teacher/Student ratio of 15:1
3. An overhaul of the Community Board that consists of at least five student representatives
Perfectly reasonable demands and expectations. It is my understanding that Quality Education is removing the "one-size-fits-all" business and determining what type of instruction each student requires. Instructing from a "real world" experience ensures that each student has the skills to think and create their lives regardless of the amount of education they pursue.
A fifteen to one teacher/student ratio provides for greater personal interaction and less behavioral problems. When I taught, most of the behavioral issues were sorted out by provididng direct interaction/instruction and interruption of "acting out" and attention seeking shenanigans. Managing fifteen student behaviors is different than even twenty or god forbid thirty .
Finally, the students want to represent themselves (five strong) on the school board. This is the most powerful entity suggested. By mandating that there be a rep from the student body, young people learn ownership of their education and pride in how their schools are run. It completely does away with what I refer to as "passive education".
It puts power in their hands and decision making practices in their minds.
It teaches collaboration, standing up for one's beliefs and working with and using difference to problem solve and create change.
When I first moved to California, I began meeting and talking with several men who were homeless hustlers.
Miguel,Sean and a few other attractive and kind individuals schooled me in the ways of making money with your body. This was not new to me. Living in Harlem many years ago, my neighbor who lived down the hall supplemented her income by tricking. I learned a great deal about power and how it's wielded.
In more than one conversation, it was shared with me that sex, the need to not be alone and the soul crushing and mind numbing entity that is loneliness is a commodity that can be bought, sold and negotiated.
While no one would admit it, Capitalism and the need to survive and be seen ensure that with enough money things (sex with young bodies) can be purchased. While many people assume that sex workers only do this "type" of work because they're nasty and sex obsessed, the hustlers I've met do not see things as being this simplistic.
Within gay male culture the obsession on looks, youth, cock size and sexual prowess is mind boggling.
Add to this frightening mix of self doubt, the inability to stop the aging process (regardless of what those ads promise you), the almost blinding ways we are told that we are not enough (isolation) and the belief that with the proper amount of currency anything is attainable and you have an exchange that requires very little thinking and even less planning.
Although I am not a scientist and can't statistically prove the following statement, I am pretty certain that when certain factors present themselves, the issue of safe sex is generally not brought up.
I am not referring to repeated interactions with a semi-regular trick. Instead, what happens to young people who have to "give it up" in an effort to not be on the street.
What of the young individual who offers unprotected sex for a hamburger or slice of pizza and foolishly believes he is at no serious risk because he is not getting fucked. With few marketable skills and no money, it becomes difficult to tell the "$100 man" with the nice car and fat wallet that you might want to use condoms.
Miguel,when I first met him, was living on the street with this motto as his guiding principle : No money, no honey.
To him, his attractive physical attributes were the means of survival. This is a very tricky scenario because as gay men we are sanctioned to develop our self esteem based on our "hotness" and the ability to attract and ruminate in male attention. On a sunny day in NYC'S Village, I was approached with the assumption that I was "working".
Being mistaken for a hustler was both troubling and somewhat of an compliment.
At one moment I was thinking "eeek, how could you ?" and in the exact moment thinking "wow, this joker thinks somebody would pay me for sex." In that milisecond, I realized how I too had been seduced into thinking that I am young and desirable and this is what matters.
When we are seeking love, most of us will risk becoming infected with HIV.
Living unapologetically can only occur as one ages.