On November 2nd 2016 my universe collapsed. This world lost a boy so vital, so necessary, and so important. I lost my best boy, one who had comforted me during the darkest of times, who had made me feel beautiful, who had taught and inspired me. A boy who was pivotal to my own identity. A boy who I am deeply proud of, to the stars and back.
There is sadness to this story that extends beyond my own grief. A social sadness that condemns all that fall under the label: ‘different’. Because it wasn’t Glen who killed Glen -- it was society.
I don’t know what it is to be a gay man, but I do have an understanding of how our society reviles those who do not fit the normative ideal. I understand that it thrives by punishing those who do not satisfy the précis: ‘typical’. These hateful mechanisms allow the epistemic authority to remain the authority. Thereby allowing social capital to remain in the hands of those that have always possessed it, thus perpetuating the cycle of invisibility, voicelessness, poverty, sadness and greed.
As a woman I am made to feel dirty because once a month I bleed, conversely my ‘older sisters in arms’ are made to feel shame when they cease to bleed. However, I can only empathise with what it is to be made to feel dirty in virtue of the way I make love: of the way I show affection to my lovers: of the way I touch, and the way I want to be touched. Society condemns the gay man for just that. It forces him to fulfil the heteronormative ideal, and reprimands him if he strays away from that ideal. Society makes him feel repulsive, debauched, a deviant in his own skin.
Individuals that haunt the political right wing make their homophobia clear. They scream and shout; they act with aggression and violence. Equally as dangerous is the subtle prejudice that seeps through the liberal left. The implied comments and the covert bias’ that hack into the identity of an individual until he/she believes the stereotypes placed upon him/her. People are fragile; they can only endure so much hate.
Society questions Gaydar and Tinder, it ponders an individual’s desire for ‘hook ups’ and sexual anonymity, it fails to comprehend the rise of crystal meth and chem sex. Society criticises the ways in which gay men are forced to find solace and comfort in the shadows. It refuses to take responsibility for how and why it got this far. This is the society that stole my boy.
Adding salt to the wound, six weeks after losing Glen we lost George Michael. Another gay man who refused to fit into the heteronormative ideal: a man who dealt in kindness and love. A close friend and I visited George Micheal’s house to lay flowers, and we wept. Not simply for the loss of Glen, but for those boys and girls who -- right now -- are being made to feel dirty and ashamed for who they are and how they love. For the razors being taken to arms, and the pills being swallowed on empty tummies. For the pain, and the loneliness, and the fear.
This is why we cried.
Is there an answer? When I was poorly, Glen held me at night and whispered “baby steps” over and over again. His words became my mantra. Small acts grow big when done in numbers. Empathy and love are a 100 times stronger as a team. This feels all the more prevalent when fascism and hate are knocking at our door. These are dark days, and it will be the 'beautifully different' that suffer the most. With this in mind, whether it be a demo or a march, a smile, a kind word, a cuddle, a kiss, a catching of the eye. These are the good things; these are the things that save lives. These are the things that Glen McColm taught me – and in that, he will forever be, the boy who lived.