DISCRIMINATION I

originally written Winter ’04

Not too long ago I attended a school-sponsored event with a friend. A few years past, October 1998 to be exact, some kid was dragged down, beaten to near-death, and left to die; hung on a pole in the middle of a farm in Wyoming. What could he have done to deserve such inhuman treatment? What horrible thing did this young man do to suffer that that? I’ll tell you what. This kid didn’t do anything. He didn’t rape or kill or lie or steal. No. This kid, this human being, was gay.

The person who came to talk with us at this school-sponsored event was the kid’s mother. This mesmerizing woman used the grief and the agony, emotions that could have easily ripped her apart, and transformed it into something that pushes her to strive for the betterment of mankind. She spoke of hate and discrimination of all sorts and ways to become aware of it. About half way through her presentation an idea surfaced in my brain; one she touched upon briefly a bit later: There are people who hate. Whether it was learned by friends or family or society doesn’t really matter. They hate. That’s that. There are also those who do not hate. I consider myself one of those people. But what good am I, what good are my beliefs, if I do not use them to better the world in which I am a part of? What good am I if all I do is think “That’s wrong” and “They shouldn’t be doing that” if that is all I do. I was given a gift. I write. Occasionally, I even write well. And, right here, right now, I intend to use that gift to share my beliefs with whoever’s willing to hear them.

Discrimination, prejudice, hatred is everywhere. So is GOODNESS, HOPE, COMPASSION. Don’t forget that.

I am Trystin. I am a German-, African-, Cherokee-American among other things. I am a person. I am weak and strong. I am friend and enemy. Brother and son. I am a voice…

Every day I receive these awkward looks. Every week I receive these venomous words. Because I do not dress or walk or talk or act what is socially accepted as “black” I receive these things, but I do not accept them. The hurt does not stick. It does not govern me. I am who I am. “Are you gay?” Yes, I prefer writing and theatre over football and beer. No, I am not. I am who I am. Sometimes it’s not easy to maintain what is it that makes me me; an odd shape that does not quite fit the mold and never will. As with most desirable things there are undesirable obstacles, and if you want something enough those obstacles will not matter at all. I desire to be me and that is what I will remain.

There are people, people as close to me as my own family, who tell me that I’m blind to the hate that is in the world; that I don’t realize it’s there. I know where it is. I see it just like everyone else does. I just don’t let it control my life. A life dictated by the way you are viewed by others is no life at all. Do you know what it is? It’s called “slavery”.

My minor experiences with the darker side of humanity are nothing in the greater scheme of things. All in all, I have a good life. I exist in an environment of social growth and sufficient amounts of acceptance. I am surrounded by the opportunity to forge my own destiny. My experiences are nothing, they are NOTHING compared to those people who are gay or black or Mexican or Asian or physically “abnormal” and exist in a world where these things are absolutely unacceptable; where, because of one tiny part of them, they are forcefully annihilated, bit by bit, emotionally, physically, mentally. Just think, somewhere, as you read this, there is a person, a human being, an evolutionary brother or sister, who is just…wonderful. They’re full of life. They’re gentle. They have huge dreams and aspirations. They feel. They love. They learn. They sing. They have a smile that turns night day. But none of that matters. None of that matters because their skin happens to be a different shade of brown or they happen to be attracted to a different sex than you are or they are physically “imperfect.” So many, many amazing things that contribute to this person or people and it is all taken and thrown away because of ONE. INSIGNIFICANT. TRAIT. Disgusting.

It’s just…disgusting.

In conclusion I want to first thank you for reading this and gaining an idea of where I stand in order to perhaps figure out where you do. There is hatred and prejudice in this world but this is not a world of prejudice and hatred. There is more good on this planet than bad, of that there is no doubt in my mind. It’s just that the bad, and those who promote it, are the ones voicing their opinions the most and, consequently, they are the ones being heard the most. That is why I wrote this. I wrote it for me so I could, even in some small way, affect at least one person out there. I wrote it for you, hoping that you would maybe acquire the urge to…see. To see what is wrong or right in your own mind and to decide what you can do to make the world better for yourself or anyone else who might need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.

A simple, “Hello,” can fill the lonely heart with more joy, more of that satisfaction of being noticed and needed than the average loved and accepted could comprehend. Trust me. I know.

I am Trystin. I am a dreamer. I am an artist. I am a voice. One voice…

of many.

Listen to everything. Believe in yourself.

-Stay cool. Good bye.

DISCRIMINATION II

“Close to Home”

Originally written Summer ’06

            Not two years ago I wrote an essay. It was fairly short, fairly simple, with a message that got straight to the point. It was titled Discrimination and its main purpose was to spread awareness of prejudices arising from differences in race, handicap, and sexual preference and saturated with a desire to make a positive change in the minds of readers. The essay, sent to every name on my email address book and eventually placed online for all to see, was met with a resoundingly supportive response. Friends old and new, family, and complete strangers seemed moved and entirely behind the words of acceptance and equality throughout. Discrimination was covered very generally, speaking about things on the grand scale, not so much locally. I mean, its easy to watch Oprah and say that picking on some kid with Tourettes is wrong, but when that same kid moves next door, when the distant becomes within arms reach, how will you act when the opportunity of prejudice comes close to home? Thats what Im here to write about today. And, just as last time, the motivation to write this at all was brought on by a very real event. Whereas Discrimination occurred in response to an interview with the mother of a person tortured and killed for his preference, this sequel essay is in response to responses to a major change in my own life. Most of you might know, but many of you do not, that I, Trystin Bailey, have a boyfriend. I am, for all intents and purposes, gay.

            My boyfriends name is Joshua Quay and he is, without a doubt, one of most wonderful things that has happened in my life. He is everything Ive always looked for in a significant other. A sense of humor. A unique outlook on life. Creativity. A personality that is conducive to my own inner growthand my own to his. When we look at one another there is love in our eyes. Were he a female, all would be fine (barring the fact that no one has a problem that he is a different race than me). If people were commenting on my life from the other end of a big screen, most with a mildly open mind would think nothing of it. But when friends, co-workers, neighbors, family come into playthe rules suddenly change.

            Keep in mind that this essay is in no way only about me. This is about the world just as before.

            When people are faced with something they dont understand one of their first reactions is fear. And fear often breeds hatred, because whats easier when it comes to dealing with something we dont understand than to tear it from our lives? Whats easier when dealing with a person with Downs Syndrome than to throw them away to a mental facility for the rest of their lonely life? When your best friend of ten years tells you that they’re gay, why not throw the Bible at them and abandon them in their time of need? Or how about seeing an Indian man, a person you don’t really know, in a convenience store and shooting him in the head in the name of patriotism? Granted, the last example was a little extreme but we live in an age of extremes. You get the picture.

            The time is now to practice what you preach; to live your life the way you are so quick to tell others to live their own; to accept those who are not so quickly accepted for reasons over which they have not much control.  Those who are physically or mentally handicapped are still human beings. They are not lost causes. They are not novelties. They are not this week’s garbage. Treat them like human beings. Racism is and always will be dumb. It should have ended eons ago. Race is only skin deep. Everyone is the same inside. People of different cultures should be welcomed into our lives. We should take the unique opportunity to learn from them and grow as individuals. Just because one person happens to be attracted to someone of the same sex is no reason to remove them from your life. For many, their justification for such rash actions are religious. For those people, let me put it this way. God is love. God lives in each one of us. If we share our God-given love with whomever, man or woman, we are sharing God. Anyone who stands in the way of love stands in the way of God and promotes hate.

It’s that simple.

            Issues such as race and religion and sexual orientation are some of the major emotional triggers of society today. And what makes these issues different from other ones such as murder, rape, and tax evasion is that the only reason they cause problems is because of our inclination to close our minds to the new, the different, instead of embracing it, learning from it. So long as no one is getting hurt. And we must take our open minds into our homes, our schools, our neighborhoods, our governments and put our beliefs to good use, standing firmly behind them in any situation, instead of pointing them at a sad discrimination victim on the distant world of The Montel Williams Show. Josh and I are very much happy; very much in love. Our relationship will last quite some time. The next step is not in our hands. It is in the hands of those we call friends, family. It depends on their strength to look beyond the familiar and accept the fact that things change, evolve, in ways unexpected, though, when you take a closer look, beautiful. Take interest in the customs of your new Puerto Rican neighbors. Invite the blind kid from school to a party this weekend.

Make a move.

Make a difference.

Make your world

Love.