Ashley Thomas Medcalf
U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVIST, 13 YEARS OF SERVICE
ASHLEY ON LOVE, ENTITLEMENT, FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS:
I was an army brat, my mother was in the army, she joined when I was nine much to the disagreement of my family as no one wanted her to join. It changed our lives. We were from Arkansas, a farm type situation. My mother’s first duty station was California, a big change for us Kansans. I was 9, my name was Ashley, had always been Ashley, but once we moved to California that changed. Suddenly, Ashley’s a girl’s name. We went down this road of figuring out masculinity. As a kid, I was always cooking, was always intrigued by what was going on around me. We went from California to Germany to Texas and we were doused with a large amount of diversity. It was lovely. So fast-forward to graduating high school, when I knew I did not want to join the military. It was not something I wanted to do, I thought it was the easy way of life, like taking over the family business, something you did because your parents did it. Paying for a semester in college, going in on a scholarship and failing everything except a few cooking classes I did really well in, I realized I had to move away, I was too much of an adult to I’ve in my mother’s house anymore. And I wanted to travel, so I thought, why not join the military at that point?
Originally I wanted to be a Marine because I wanted to be that idea of what a man is but my mother said no, I’m not signing anything, you’re not going into the Marines. So I did what any 17 year old boy would do, I ran away to my dad’s house. But his marriage was falling apart, my father and step-mother had separated. And in that time there was no space for me. I was in a place I had to figure out what to do. I talked to my dad and he said if going into the marines is what you want to do, I support you. Less than a week later, I decided I didn’t need to do that. I decided fighting against my mom was what it came down to. I wanted to do it and she said no, so then it became, I’m gonna do it, of course I’m gonna do it, you can’t be the boss of me. Of course I’m going to do it.
I eventually went into the Air Force, my mother was very happy about that. I’ve never seen my mother cry, ever. But there were two times in my life I think she cried and when I rode that bus out to go onto basic training, she sat in the car but wouldn’t see me off. I think that was one of the times she got teary eyed or had some emotion about that.
At nine we went to California, I can trace back to the time that I started to be intrigued by guys. It wasn’t sexual. It had nothing to do with any of that. I remember one day, my neighbor and I were playing around, just normal kid stuff and we said show me yours and I’ll show you mine. I remember seeing it and I was like…. oh! I started hanging out with girls more around then. I had two best friends who were dating, a girl and a guy and I realized I had a crush on him. I realized that I enjoyed them both so much but for some reason I had a crush on him. This was also the time that people started making fun of me about the name Ashley. Ashley’s a girl’s name! Ashley’s a girl’s name! It’s not a girl’s name, it’s my name. I remember going home and telling my parents I didn’t want to be called Ashley, I wanted to be called Thomas and they both said okay without even a question. It was the first time that I started covering. I had created now, an outside perception. Simply because they had started calling at me Ashley’s a girls name! Ashley’s a girl’s name! Well it wasn’t a girl’s name, because I’m not a girl. That was the first time when I said this is not going to happen. Thomas is a boy’s name, that’s who I’m going to be.
This was also around the time, from nine to 11, that my father put me into sports. I played basketball, baseball and I took piano lessons. I hated basketball with all my heart. I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t like it. That’s also the time I wanted to be white. I felt like being white was a much better life- they were so different than me and my family and it’s funny because that’s also the time I got tested for ADD. This short period of time changed my entire world. My parents got divorced, and I stepped up as the oldest and I made meals when my mother was working. It gave purpose to things that later on I’d be fighting over. Being in the kitchen was a woman’s place, not a guy’s place. But I went to it because I was good at it, and I enjoyed it.
Then we went to Germany where we stayed with some family. That was the first time that people started to tilt their head at me, like he’s different.
Puberty sets in, seriously, and I found that I was deeply intrigued by the male physique. For the most part, that was what it was. It was curiosity. Curiosity is what has always driven me, but in this… people make it out to be a perversion, but it wasn’t anything like that, it was curiosity. It was great place to be because people outside of the U.S. are different; the ideas of masculinity are different. It was a military school, so there were German military, parents in the military, so it was easier to find a place to belong to, because people were different. Later we moved to Texas, but before that we did a stint in Arkansas. That’s when I realized that whatever I was not right. I was 14 or 15. I can’t say I knew what gay was, people would question, grown men would question why I was the way that I was. I was always just me, that’s what I’ve always bee. I remember my dad asked me on this car ride, as I was telling about some girls he said just as long as you’re not messing around with guys or anything like that. The funny thing about that was that I didn’t know how to answer that question, but I wanted to be snarky about it, which totally backfired. I said the opposite of what I’d meant to say, because I was trying to be sarcastic. He got quiet and I was like, whoa what did I just say? He didn’t say anything else. Later on, my father asked me again if I was gay and I said, adamantly no. No dad, I don’t even know why people think that about me. At that point, I had already had encounters with guys and I was like, full on no. I knew that I was attracted to guys, but I hadn’t really acted upon it. People started teasing me about being girly, a punk or a faggot. At one point we were staying with a family member who was very physically abusive – and emotionally as well, for that matter- who I think thought that they felt that they could beat it out of me, at a time when I didn’t understand what they were beating out of me. It solidified that this is not okay. But I didn’t know how to be anything different.
Because like I said, curiosity has always driven me in life. When you don’t know, you feel like you’re behind. I prefer not to be teased, so I don’t say things that I don’t know. If I don’t like it, if I’m not curious, I am not going to be in that area. It was a protective mechanism.
We left Germany and were in Texas now, from 15 to the end of high school graduation. Fort hood, Texas has got to be the gayest military post ever. That high school had this undercurrent of people who were covering. They had this façade of who they wanted people to see, not who they were. And military people were the same way. It was very easy for a young gay guy to be around gay adults. It was a military community, so if you were looking for support, you could easily find people to support you. So very quickly, I started getting involved with the gay community, the black gay community there. It was so intriguing. I remember being so curious about it, watching how they acted and feeling comfortable. More than anything, feeling comfortable. The funny thing about the gay community is that age is not a barrier, because it’s so much smaller, and you are around people who are super afraid that others will find out, so the community has to be super tight, super small, whether it’s an enlisted officer, whether it’s a person young or old. The only people you can talk to are people who have been down this road, in the bible belt of America. They are the people who can give you a break from the fighting. For me it was a recharge. I could go there and watch people get super crazy, mannerism crazy. They could guide you to better situations. People would be broken wrist, hey girl, hey- get out of here, boo! The cattiness that goes on in the gay community is funny, free. So it gave me a recharge where I could be with these people and then I had to go out and be Thomas.
The sad part of that is that I was spending more and more time with these people, I started to pick up those mannerisms as well and I didn’t notice it was happening. While it was nothing new for me to be teased about being gay in high school, I became upset about why people would think that. I didn’t really have an idea why. I didn’t want able to see it. Later, my mom was deployed and I was at my dad’s watching TV and I look over and my arm was limp wristed. I realized that was it. That was why people knew, because this is what I’m showing them. And I didn’t have any male role modes who were respectable, who didn’t want something, who weren’t using other people, who could relate to people. When I got around family, the bond was family. I needed the security to be who I could be, because I lost that at nine, and I never recovered. Hell, I can say that, I can say I never recovered. The reason that I joined the military was to get out.
But I found that community. When my parents were divorced, I didn’t have a community, I had an obligation. Once the teenage years started, my mother and I, we were at odds, my brother was a superstar- he could play basketball, he was popular, and my sister was five years younger than me. And I was the oldest and I had to take care of them. There wasn’t a place for me to be my own person, which is what I was looking for, even in the marines- I said, okay, I’m gonna join the Marines, I’m gonna be a man, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But my mother was right, she was very much right for not letting me join. Shortly after I joined the Air Force, September 11th happened. I went to basics in January, went to my first duty station in July and shortly after, September 11th. The base that I was at was full of Marines and I met a Marine who I was really cool with. We started talking and he was the book type and I could tell he went into the Marines for the same reason I wanted to go into the Marines and he was not fairing well. It’s funny, because his masculinity was broken down because he was a nerd, and he was a gamer and at that time it wasn’t cool and it wasn’t masculine. And I remember they broke his thumb one time, he did something “wrong” and they broke his finger. And he couldn’t say they broke his finger and he couldn’t say why they broke his finger. But everybody knew. So I called my mother and I said thank you. She said no, it’s okay…and I said, no mother, I have to say this, thank you. Because joining the Marines, I would not have been a happy person. I would not have been a happy person. I believe that the Marines, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Army, the Air Force, they all have an image that they have to portray, they have an image and a mission that they have to do. So the type of people that they are, as a generalization as a community, is because that’s what the mission calls for them to be, to do. So the Marines, when they section 11 they are getting ready to deploy on the ground. And they have to be strong, they have to be tough and they have to be able to follow directions of the people who are leading them. And so breaking someone’s finger is following orders. This is the consequence of a direction that you didn’t follow. It’s made real. And I wasn’t that type of person, I didn’t need physical instruction, I needed intellectual instruction, I needed a maze at times, which is what I got at the Air Force for sure.
The reason I went into the military was ultimately to get away, to experience things on my own, to become the man that I knew I needed to learn to be and just kind of move on. And the military was the quickest resource I knew. At that point, experiencing gay, I wasn’t OK with it, as a matter of fact I was on antidepressants for a while. I went to a counselor at one point and the thing he was asking me about was porn, when you look at porn, do you look at the male or do you look at the female? I said, I just look at it. He started to make assumptions about me, he started to create reasons as to why I was gay. He was pushing his thoughts and his beliefs on me. It was another opportunity to learn that I needed to be quiet.
I will say the military has provided a cover story for me. To those family members who thought I was gay, I’ve grown up, joined the military, become a man. Their perception of me is very masculine because wearing the uniform is a very masculine thing.
When I got to my first duty destination, Guam, I didn’t know where Guam was before I got there, couldn’t have pointed it out on a map with a gun to my head. Getting to Guam, I started going to gay clubs, venturing out, meeting other people and just started trying to be normal. With one caveat to that, I got to the base and within five months I was under investigation for being a homosexual. I remember finding out when someone else told me I think you’re under investigation and I said for what? For wha!t? This was before I had really started going out and partying. He said apparently you were on the golf course and sucking some guy’s dick out in public. And I didn’t even know where the golf course was. I was like, I don’t even know where the golf course is to be sucking someone’s dick out I public. Do you now where I grew up? I’m not going to be doing any of that stuff out in public, first and foremost, and second, I don’t even know where the golf course is at.
I realized at that point that I had to be very, very careful. I didn’t hear anything; I didn’t hear that the investigation had started, or that it had ended. I had just heard that this person had started many investigations on many different people and that I wasn’t his big fish anymore. I knew then that I could only be around people who were safe and be careful of any other people. I definitely felt like I was being watched, even after that. The only gay club was off of one of the main roads there and I would park away from the building and try to hurry to get inside of the building. Once I got inside, I felt safe because if you were inside of this building, you were assumed to be gay. But the reality of it is that OSI, the big scary investigator, could get you if you said you were gay.
So I never said I was gay. I never said that I was gay to someone in person. They had to make a move. I would never make a move. They had to touch me; they had to do something to show that they were interested. I wouldn’t do it because I was too afraid of it, unless they were already a part of the community. You wouldn’t just meet some random and be hey, are you gay, I’m gay too! No. Who are you, who do you know, I don’t know what you’re taking about.
I’ve always been really independent, when I was young, I would go on long walks by myself and in Germany it was the same, I would go places alone and I was okay with that. I met this guy at that club and he seemed cool, we chatted a little bit and he invited me to a party he was having at his house with a bunch of people. It was far enough away that if I was going to be drinking I would have to stay and he was like, yeah, it’s fine. He was attracted to me and I was attracted to him but we hadn’t met formally. He said you can come over, there’s going to be a bunch of people and we’re going to go hiking the next day, we can make a day of it. If we meet and you’re not attracted to me, it’s okay, there’s a couch there and I have other roommates…
So I go and I get there to find out he has a boyfriend. He is much older than what he seemed to have been and his boyfriend is super unattractive. So I thought okay, this is not going to happen, it’s cool, I can sleep on the couch. The plan was made. People started to leave and he said you can go change in our bedroom. I said okay and as I started changing he came in and then his boyfriend came in behind him and he proceeded to rape me. Of all the things I remember his boyfriend, who was very flamboyant and also a drag queen, a local at our club, was holding me down. He’s on the floor and he’s holding me and I’m laying chest to chest to him while his boyfriend is raping me and he’s saying don’t fight, don’t fight. It’s going to be easier if you don’t fight. I retreated. I literally retreated inside my head. He finished. The guy rolled over and I didn’t come back. So I couldn’t get up. And so I’m laying in between them. I can’t move and I can’t get up. They turn the lights off to go to sleep and of course I can’t sleep, and the guy turns over again and proceeds to attempt again. And that’s what brought me out. I yelled, I must have yelled. I say that because it was almost like looking at something through a window because I saw his reaction and he was stunned. And I just laid there.
The next morning the plan was to go on a hike. And I went on a hike. His roommate was there with a guy that he was seeing. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the situation without it pointing back to me, like they’re going to know. We went to the waterfalls and that’s where I washed. I literally washed in the water and I stared off and that was the moment where it didn’t happen, I cut it off. It didn’t happen until four years later. I buried it super deep.
That changed my idea about safety. Even though we were abused as kids, we always had some place to go back to, to be safe. My mom was eventually coming back. I had reasons to stay, to protect my brother and sister. I realized I was no longer able to be protected. [Not] coincidentally, it started a huge fear in me of the white gay community. Shorty after that I PCSed to the next base and I was only around gay black military and gay black Americans, or minority groups. I started having panic attacks. I knew I couldn’t say anything about it. I couldn’t go and yell to someone that I was raped. How? I was already under investigation for being gay for something I didn’t even do.
How do I say I was hurt and not say that I’m gay? Even if I wasn’t gay, it doesn’t matter. Because under don’t ask, don’t tell, under the UCMJ, that is a homosexual act and I can be kicked out because of it. So of course I’m not going to tell anybody, and of course it didn’t happen. The following years were the worst because I started having panic attacks and I didn’t even know they were panic attacks. I went into a really deep depression. I had issues where I just wanted to be the smallest person I could be. I don’t know why that was, it was so weird… it was a hard time to get through. I didn’t have any reasons that I was being the way that I was. I wouldn’t remember what I looked like for weeks on end. I had this really odd idea of my own perception of who I was. Like, what I looked like. I ended up going to counseling, but not being able to talk about what I needed to talk about because I was in fear of being kicked out. At the time I was in a really bad relationship and needed to get out of it but didn’t know how to get out of it. The relationship was making me more and more depressed. I went to counseling and couldn’t talk. So I ended up going on anxiety medication to subside the symptoms of panic attacks and such and ended up being deployed, which helped a lot. It was like my alone time. We had invaded Iraq in July, I volunteered and was a part of the second team over there.
The rape happened in early 2002, the first time I admitted it was in 2005, and at that point I was on my third base and they were having a mass briefing on sexual assault in this huge auditorium. It was three days long and they passed around paper, we all had this paper. The briefing was like any other. At the end you had this paper with 5 questions on it, demographic information. They asked have you ever been sexually assaulted. I quickly wrote down no- and then it was like the question caught up to me and I went back to it, stayed on it for a minute. That was like the first little sunlight. Then I started to have this anxiety, if I say yes, what are they going to do? How will they know it’s me? I went through all the questions and determined that there was no way they could find out this was me. I went back to the question and put yes. That was the first glimmer of reality, three years later that it actually happened. It took me three years to get to that point.
In Germany, let’s say that I was talking to somebody on the phone last night I went out with Michael. I would feel, sense or hear someone come into the room and immediately it would be yeah me and Michelle stayed out late last night…the person in the room would leave and immediately the name would change back to Michael. The person on the phone would know immediately because they were military too and had done this before so it was no issue. I had become a mastermind of creating back-stories for where I was. I wouldn’t hang out with my co-workers, I would make appearances and I’d tell stories. I learned then that all people want you to do is give them enough to paint the picture. Especially when they don’t want to know. Especially, when they don’t want to know. People are more okay with tilting their head to the sun and saying, hmm, he’s different, rather than knowing he’s gay.
But very early on I realized that Germany was a safer place for me. My co-workers knew I was gay. During that relationship I was living in the dorms and my boyfriend came around, they knew him, they met him, they were okay with him. He was a civilian living in Germany, and they were cool with it. And we moved in together. The relationship became very strenuous and very hard to keep up with. My supervisor even let me go home and leave work to kick him out of my apartment. So the first time that I could start being open was in Germany. When in Rome, they say. It felt safer. And I started to learn that people referred to me as the gay guy. Oh you know, the gay guy that works over at the dining facility. And that’s when I started to be offended at being called gay. I assumed the first thing you would see about me is that I’m black. The black man, or the black gay man… Give me more than just that. I started being upset at being defined as gay. Now, I think that it was because I had such a negative connotation to that word so, I was not that. Don’t call me that. Even if I am that, don’t call me that. And so I went to my next base and went back into the closet.
My first base back in the United States was Grand Forks, North Dakota. The best thing about that part of the country is Canada. At that point I had been out of the U.S for 4 years. I had forgotten what prejudice was. I had forgotten how Americans treat other Americans. They didn’t have homeless people in Guam or in Germany. It was the saddest thing to me, being back, it was almost as if I was in a dream world for the last few years and now I’m back in the U.S. and I have to be a black person in America. I don’t want to be the gay person. Now I’m back to being fearful.
But, I will say that at that point I had become more okay with having two different lives: military/ straight life and gay man/ civilian. They didn’t mix. I didn’t go to a lot of military functions. I lived downtown and I hung out with these gay groups. The University of North Dakota was there and they had a gay organization on campus. I started hanging out with them. It was cool, it was a great way to be around other gay people. But they were all white. And the issue now was me being black. It wasn’t because they were racist. I realized that being black and gay in North Dakota was like having a pineapple in Arkansas. Oh my god, you have a pineapple, I want to try that; I want to make a pineapple cake, or a pineapple upside down cake! It was like some type of nostalgic thing that everybody wanted a piece of but nobody wanted to take home. It was very hard to be black and gay there. For the most part, what I’ve wanted all my life is community, family, closeness with people and it all seemed fake there. If I look back, one of the sad things is that I’ve always had to find comfort in a section, but never in my whole person. I can finally say I like being gay but I didn’t want to be just gay, that wasn’t all of me. I’m in the military, that’s a piece of me too. I’m from Arkansas, that’s me too. I love cooking. They are all pieces. And I want to be all of those pieces. So at that time, I had very compartmentalized lives: gay life, military life, black life, European life.
Deployment, as long as you can stay alive, is my wilderness. Biblically there are always people going out to the wilderness to talk to god.
As a kid I’d go on long walks by myself. As an adult, being deployed was that for me. Your life is concentrated down to three things: eating, sleeping, and mission. And then working out would be the other, because there’s nothing else to do. Being deployed in Iraq is whittled down to that. When your purpose is to stay alive, when you know your mission, when you know what your goal is, no one cares about anything else. Who had time to think about it? Who has time to think about any of that? You have the afternoon to hang out, and that’s about it. There become these people you become super, super close with, which sometimes last forever and sometimes just for that deployment, but those are your people and those are the people you hang out with. What consumes peoples minds are their families, the relationships that go on in the desert which becomes a big soap opera of who’s seeing who, and the mission. Gay is not a part of it. Actually my best friend Don and I met on my first deployment. He walked into the dining facility and I gave him extra bacon. He asked me back to his tent and I asked him if he was gay. He probably didn’t say yes but he didn’t say no. And we just became best friends after that.
I was able to cover. It was easy, I could mold into every environment I get into. I just couldn’t lose all of me and that’s the piece that made peoples heads turn. It doesn’t look like he’s committed to the story because I had a hard time lying to people. Internally, I had the hardest time. Because I’m lying to you and I have to make some kind of peace with it. You’ve told me that you’re breaking up with your wife or your husband, you’ve entrusted me with very close details of your life, but I’m lying to you. How am I supposed to be? But you make peace with it. It’s the life you have. And I liked being in the military. I still like it. Deployments are always peaceful. Because for the most part, you’re not having sex, and you’re just around people who are close. When you take people out from around people who are going to judge them, they act differently. Get people who normally don’t care if you’re gay or not around people who do care and suddenly they care, because they have to chose. But in the desert nobody cares. That’s my experience at least. Granted, I was never out during any deployment, people did not know I was gay. If you knew I was gay, you were gay too. That’s not going to change. Now I really want to deploy, I miss the simplicity of life. But I have civil union with my partner, so…. now I feel the need to validate him, which is a weird thing to say. I never cared what people thought about me. I say never, but…it was never hard to put me aside.
Ultimately, I knew that what I was doing was for the greater good, giving up my freedom joining the military. Because none of us are free. We’re fighting for freedom, but we’re not free. So that was just a part that I was giving up as well. But now, one, it’s not illegal and I won’t lose my job by saying it. And two, I feel a responsibility to say that I love him and he’s my partner. It’s a weird thing to say too. Because the paperwork says single, married, or widowed, civil union or domestic partnership isn’t even a part of that. So we did the introduction today with my commander in front of the entire center, that’s what they do in the military, they say this is so and so, he or she is married, she has this many kids, he or she is single, kids…it’s a package. You’re not just a member, it’s a package. And for so long, gay people in the military have been denied a package. People put it in their bios, I’m married, I have two beautiful kids, I’m from so and so. And mine would have to say, I’m single. So today my commander asked me, are you married? I said, no. I have a partner, his name is Chris. He was like, okay, how do you want me to refer to him? Because we are all new to this. I was like, I call him my partner. And that is what everybody does, it’s like saying queer. What does that mean? I say I have a partner, they say, well, how do you refer to him? I say I refer to him as Chris. I say partner, not husband, because in the state of Colorado we cannot get married.
I have a partner, I’m in the military and I get no benefits for that. If I die my life insurance is given to him because I can select anyone. As soon as I got civil unioned I had a will created because I don’t know when I’m dead, what anyone else will do. My parents are not okay with me being gay. They know, but they are not okay with it. My father thinks this is still a phase that I’ll grow out of, and my mother, she is hoping this is a phase. But they don’t know that we were legally civil unioned because we want it to be about us.
So now I say that he’s my partner and today it was mentioned to the entire center. I’ve never been a person who is closed off. They can ask me anything because I believe that there are so many people who are wounded and hurt and they won’t talk about it, they can’t talk about it. As a black male, homosexuality is not something that’s talked about because it demasculanizes you, it feminizes you so it’s not talked about. As a military member, as a male victim of sexual assault. Only women get sexually assaulted, what are you talking about, and then only a minute number of women legitimately get…wait, not true, at all. So because of that, I feel the need to let people ask their questions and keep my emotions at bay. Why do all black people listen to rap? So, how do ya’ll have sex? I take myself back, laugh a little bit and educate them.
I found out religion because my grandparents knew I was going to be the next preacher, I was very attached to God and the reason why is because I had to find my connection. Everything I am is a sin, so now I’m curious: is he really serious about me, am I condemned to hell, is this wrong? And I came to the conclusion that it’s not. It’s not wrong and it’s not okay for you to tell me its wrong. I’m good, I understand where I am with religion, so don’t put yours on me. It’s you. I told a co-worker recently and he said I’m surprised. I thought you believed in God. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years and had many religious discussions. He took his sons out of boy scouts once they started to let homosexual kids in. He got a letter from someone who called him out and told him everything that he was. He said I did what was right for my family. I said, that is free. When you lay your head down at night, you can say I did what was right for my family. All I want is the same right. I’ve deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve fought for the right for you to be free. But I can’t. So you can take your boy out of boy scouts but I can’t put mine in. At the end of the day I have to lay my head on the pillow and say if I die, I’m good. And I am, with me. I don’t need my parent’s approval. I don’t need that from them.
I learned long ago that to expect love, is asinine first of all, all you can do is give it. I don’t control what anybody else does, I don’t control what anyone else perceives of me. All I can do is give love. I don’t judge you. I may not think that you are doing the best thing, but you are doing what you need to do. I don’t regret getting raped, I don’t regret joining the military and having to be under don’t ask don’t tell, I don’t regret having to serve my country and still not being free in my own country, I’m still ¾ of a person. I don’t regret any of that. Because while it may have been quiet then, I have earned my right. It wasn’t entitled. Being black and male in America is not an entitlement. Being gay in America gives no entitlement. And I have literally built up the resume and the background so that I can now, finally, at 31, live my life and be free. And say to people you don’t like that I’m gay? You know you can turn around, right? You don’t have to see it. While I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve served my country in Qatar, I’ve been deployed, and I can’t be here? So you’re saying that the rights I’ve fought for are not for me? Tell me how that’s okay? Explain to me that. And they won’t, they can’t. The retreat is religion. I just believe…just for me and mine. I say, okay, that’s good for you, you don’t have to believe what I believe. Are you okay that I don’t believe what you believe though?
I am okay with me. I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I end up in hell, because there’s such a thing as hell, at least I was happy here. I’ve spent a lot of my life unhappy and I refuse to live the rest of it unhappy because other people need to be happy. I don’t know what’s going to happen after this but I don’t really care because I’m living this one and if I go to hell I’m gonna say damn it was worth it. I’m gonna be as happy as I can be. I don’t believe in hell and I don’t believe that that’s a place where I’m gonna go. But when I lay my head down at night, I’ve made peace, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve always had very strong dreams. Growing up in a religious home there’s this whole idea of prophecy. When I was younger I would always get really serious headaches in the day and have really deep dreams at night, so much so that I would learn to control my dreams, to change my reality in them.
I never wanted anything else other than family. As a kid I wanted to be a father and a husband. To have a family. When I was a teenager and accepted, I prayed and cried for two years straight to be different, at 15, 16 and one day I woke up and I said, I guess this is it, I’m done crying about this, I’m not going to be anything else. God if you want different, than you change it.
I had a dream that I picked up a child and he smiled at me and I remember feeling that he was mine. I woke up balling. I fell back to sleep, he came into the room and he had to prepare himself because he thought I had done something terrible and I told him that that was never going to happen. Another time I had a dream about this same kid, this time he wasn’t mine but I found him. I was asking people who is this kid, where did he come from? I looked down and I smiled. It was a moment where I felt, are you going to be mine?
In had these dreams where it was almost as if I fell into the spot and when it got to climax part, something completely changed. I am running away from something, terrified. I trip over a log in the forest. My face is in a puddle. I can’t get up, I’m suffocating and I’m suffocating in real life. Instead of drowning I go into the puddle and now I am breathing and swimming under water, now I’m exploring. When I learned I can control my dreams I wasn’t afraid anymore.
I had one dream about going back in time. All the black people were walking forward but the bus I was on was going backward. People’s clothes changed from mid-century to slave-era clothes, the dream transformed from a review of my lineage to techno-color, sci-fi. Soon the road changed, it became very windy. Not to use mystical in that way, but it changed.
I was dreaming shapes. At that time, in real life, I stopped looking people in the eyes. If I looked at people too long, their face would change or turn to something that wasn’t nice. I’d become afraid of looking, so I stopped looking people in the eyes.
As I aged, dreams became less vivid and more worn.