27Oct/120

The Face of Gay 15 (Kharisma Rhayne)

RECOVERED

Everybody has had their fill with talk about the upcoming election, myself included. Yet, it’s why I started The Face of Gay blog series back in June. I feared the future. I feared what would happen if people didn’t sit up, take notice, and realize that every member of the GLBT community is just like everyone else and just as deserving of the same rights as everyone else. If the country votes one way, then the community stands to lose its right to marry those who we love. I stand to lose my marriage. We stand to lose more than that, too.

There are consequences if we lose this fight. We need only look at our own history to see the warning signs. I have one of those warning signs today. Welcome to today’s Face of Gay.

The Face of Gay 15 (Kharisma Rhayne)

There are certain things that will always bother me: being mean to children, being mean to the elderly, not respecting military personnel, being racist and judging people for their appearance or their sexual preference. As a parent, I try to do what I can. I push to have gay sex education at school, I push for YA gay books to be on the shelves, I push for EQUALITY. I tell my children not to judge, but in the end, the decision is theirs.

I’m going to embarrass myself here and explain how I grew up. My Grandparents raised me and they loved me. I love them to this day, even though neither is still here. Unfortunately, I was taught too much judging. White people were to be with white people, marriage and love were a man and a woman. Luckily for me and my children, I’ve always been stubborn and made my own choices. But even I can’t hate them for what they tried to teach me. Yes, it was wrong, but in the end, it’s my choice…I believe and live how I choose, not how anyone tells me to.

So, I don’t for a moment believe: “I grew up that way.” “I was taught to be like this.” Stop making excuses.

The first time I met a gay man was when I was 19. I was working at a restaurant. He was flamboyantly gay and everyone hated him. I’ll call him Mike.

Everyone hated him, except me.

I couldn’t hate him. Mike made me smile. He always had something nice to say. As we got to know each other, to the absolute horror of everyone else we worked with, we started going shopping together and talking about the hot guys that would come in and arguing over who they’d rather be with.

Mike would tell me if a hairstyle was bad, if my ass looked big or if I’d put on a couple of pounds. We’d talk about our dates, about hoping to find the one and about getting married (which, then, he could never have legally done).

Come to find out, Mike had a second job. He was the best drag Cher impersonator I’ve ever seen. He looked more like Cher than Cher did. He was great at it. When he was at the gay club performing, it was hard not to be affected by the mood of him and his friends. They were all so happy and having fun. Yes, I was pretty much the only straight person there…but that was OK with me.

About a year later, problems were still going at work and I’d been promoted to management. Management started allowing him to work only the shifts I had. If he had other plans or couldn’t work the hours I was given, they cut his hours. A few of his friends came in dressed in drag on New Year’s Eve. They were going to go perform at the club and wanted to make sure he was coming (we were closing early).

Bad idea. The next day it was all over the restaurant and there was more gossip than you’d hear anywhere. Mike was made to be even more isolated at work. People jumped out of his way so he wouldn’t touch them or brush up against them when he was walking past. It was awful.

He’d brush tears from my face because I cried for him. He’d tell me that they were the ones with issues, not him and that he was a better and stronger person for all he’d been through.

Six days after that conversation, one of his friends from the club came into work and told me that he’d taken his own life. I was devastated. We’d become such close friends and he didn’t even call me. He’d left a message with his friend to tell me that I was the ‘best straight friend’ he’d ever had.

No one at work cared. When I sent flowers and went to the wake and funeral…they all were against even having their names placed on the flowers.

To this day, I will never understand how anyone could have so much hate in their heart. He was still someone’s child, still someone’s friend. There were people that loved him.

All over who he chose to cuddle with. Who he chose to find comfort with.

I don’t care who you grope in the dark or who you fall in love with…and neither should anyone else. Love is rare. You have to find it where you can.

Later, I found out that his parents had disowned him once he admitted to being gay. I’m sure they regretted their choice when they ran out of time to change their mind.

–I still miss you Mike & your friendship was one of the best I’ve ever had.

If you’re still reading, please consider leaving Kharisma a little love below in the comment section. And, as always, if you have something you’d like to share for this blog series, please contact me.

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)
The Face of Gay 11 (Rob)
The Face of Gay 12 (Dorien Grey)
The Face of Gay 13 (amy with a lower case /a/)
The Face of Gay 14 (David)

Original Responses

Dorien says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:42 am
Thanks to Kharysma for a heartfelt but tragic story made even more so by the fact that there are too many stories like it. Her children are blessed to have her guide them away from the stupidity of hatred.

Dorien

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:16 pm
Thanks Dorien,

I try so hard with my children so they don’t cause the hate or become a victim of it. But, in the end, I know it’s up to them. I strayed far from what I was taught in my early years.

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Katherine T. says:
October 27, 2012 at 10:00 am
A sad story indeed. One that happens all too often because people feel the need to judge and be cruel. It needs to stop now. I don’t want Mike’s story to possibly be the story of one of my children or someone elses child in the future.
Take solice in the knowledge that you were a true friend and a rare shining light in Mike’s life. If only more people could be so beautiful, the world would be a better place for all of us.
Thanks for sharing your story. Keep being that kind and accepting person. It makes a difference in so many peoples lives.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm
Exactly…I don’t want a situation like this to ever touch my children or anyone they know.
I think of Mike often…knew I missed him, but never realized exactly how much until I wrote this.

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Lloyd Songal says:
October 27, 2012 at 10:38 am
I feel this to be a very sad commentary on our society.
I found it to be a very slow relaxing read of two unlikely friends with a rather an unexpected ending that makes you sick with heartbreak.
How adults can band together with such un-exceptable “Mob Mentality” behaviour toward one individual who is not a sports figure, where as a population in general we find this type of behaviour acceptable.
On a personal note, I am glad that their are now places where young people can go to get concealing and positive reinforcement on their sexual preferences.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm
The sad part…Mike was a wonderful person and because of judging him, so many missed out on who he truly was.

I wish that there was no need for places like that. While, I admit they’re needed, I just can’t understand people and their lack of compassion and acceptance.

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Kimber says:
October 27, 2012 at 11:09 am
There are no words. I have absolutely nothing that could possibly make such a terrible act of hatred be anything less than what it is…unforgivable. It’s moments like those that my basest, most animalistic nature comes to the forefront and I find I am no better than the haters of the world. They are the ones that should perish. That’s ugly. That doesn’t make what they do any better. I know these things. I can logically make sense of them. But at moments like this, hearing such a tale, I become so enraged. This could be my child.
I have always tried to make my children understand that they are special, that they are loved. I do not and never will understand how a parent can treat their own child in such a manner. As long as there are parents willing to disown their children because of a difference and who they love, how is society supposed to learn acceptance?
*hugs Kharisma*
Thank you for sharing your friendship, for sharing your friend. As long as you hold him in your heart, he will never be gone, and through sharing him, his spirit will be able to touch the lives of others…like mine.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm
I could never walk away from one of my children. How any parent could is beyond my understanding.

It was hard to share Mike today, but it’s important for people to see how something like this can affect those left behind, even so many years later.

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Angel Martinez says:
October 27, 2012 at 11:16 am
*hugs Kharisma* I’m so sorry. We can’t fix it after the fact or make it better for those left behind but maybe, just maybe, this will open someone’s eyes and make them think before they act in such a horrid manner toward another human being.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm
I hope so too. It’s what he would have wanted. Even if one person realized that it’s not fair….it’s a small step toward progress.

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MzSimpson says:
October 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm
I support equal rights as well.. I’m bi and I get harassed for it..
Thanks for the wonderful post/blog

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm
I’m sorry for that. No one should ever be made to feel that way. 🙁

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Aisling Mancy says:
October 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm
A very moving and heartrending story. It saddens me to say that, while some progress has been made over the years, the prejuces and resultant behaviors are no less severe, no less damaging, no less tragic. Mike will remain, indelibly imprinted in our minds and hearts.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm
I hope that in my kid’s generation, as they get older…there will be more acceptance. But only them and the parents can make that happen

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Tom says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm
Kharisma, I don’t even have words.

Lost two loved ones to suicide, and sometimes I wonder if it’s almost as hard on the ones they leave behind as it is on the one who chooses to leave.

I hope Mike found his peace.

I see so many stories of children who kill themselves from the bullying and hate they endure, and I wonder, was it this bad in the past? Or is it just pulled out into the harsh light of day to make us all examine ourselves?

Love and hugs to you.

Tom

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm
Oh I’m sorry Tom. It’s so hard. Even years and years later.

I try to think of Mike happily married to his perfect someone in the after life he imagined. He helps me feel a little better. Having him happy rather than hated by so many people. He didn’t deserve it – no one does.

There was hate while I was growing up. But I do think it’s gotten even worse 🙁

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm
I hope that in my kid’s generation, as they get older…there will be more acceptance. But only them and the parents can make that happen

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Vastine Bondurant says:
October 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm
Hugs, Kharisma.
I’m so glad that you were Mike’s friend, and you were there for him.
It won’t take away your pain and the loss of him, but YOU gave him love, and you had a wonderful bond with him.
I wish it wasn’t so, but I’m afraid too many of us have our Mike’s. The friends we love who meet with such hatred.
And all we can do is keep loving.
Thank you for sharing, sweetie.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm
Yes, that’s the sad part. Almost all of us know someone or know someone who knows someone that lost a Mike in their life 🙁 It’s sad.

I just wish others would have given Mike a chance. I loved Mike and I know they would all have as well…had they not been so hateful.

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Patricia Logan says:
October 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm
Yeah, this one is a tear jerker Kharisma. Bullying in any form, including stepping out of the way when walking past, makes me just ill. This is so sad. I wasn’t going to comment because I couldn’t add to the others but I wanted to let you know that your post touched me deeply. *HUGS* Kharisma

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm
Thanks Patricia…that totally means enough to me. ♥ Thanks for taking the time to comment

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Nick says:
October 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm
Thank you so much for sharing this! It shows how Mike stood strong in the face of hate. His parents rejected him and then his coworkers followed. He found family away from the ‘normal’ world and thrived. It is a wonderful thing for you to be his friend and face all of it with him. It is just so terrible to read that he ended his life. 🙁 I am so lucky in comparison to the majority of these ‘Faces’. Sending love and peace to Kharisma!

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm
He was strong. I think that’s what hurt the most, in the end. He knew he was the better person, but they still got to him.

Unfortunately, it shows that even the strongest walls can fall.

I hope you continue to see the good side of people…I know it’s there. Sometimes, some of us just have to look a little harder to find it ♥

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Lou Sylvre says:
October 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm
Thanks Kharisma. A story that illustrates so honestly why it matters how we treat others, and also how powerful–deadly–hate can be. And you’re right, it’s our individual choice. I’m glad you and Mike had your friendship, though. That’s the sweet part of the story.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm
It can be. I don’t think most realize the true impact of their actions. I just hope a few more have, from this post…before it’s too late for someone.

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Gabrielle says:
October 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm
Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and personal story. I am one of the lucky ones who grew up with a parent who believed that everyone was equal. I have lived in the gay neighborhoods and some of my best friends are gay. I see the pain and torment that they go through with narrow minded people and I am embarrassed to admit that as it turns out my ex was one of those people. I did not realize this until he was my ex as he kept it well hidden until my son went to school and had to ride the bus through a largely gay neighborhood and the ex was afraid of this as if it was contagious. I am so glad that both my sons realize what nonsense this is and have befriended anyone that they feel is a friend no matter what color or sexual orientation. People need to think more about the person inside not just their sexuality.

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
October 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm
You know? I’ve always thought that even if gay was contagious…it would be a heck of a lot better than some of the people I’ve encountered over the years. I’d rather be a green with pink poka-dots martian than to be someone so filled with hate.

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Darcy says:
October 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm
Hi Kharisma,

I am so very sorry that you lost your sweet Mike. The world is a sadder place each time we lose anyone who is in so much pain.
I’ve spoken out against homophobia since I was a teen oh so long ago, and have taught our 2 children the same.
I’ve taught them to embrace, love and respect everyone for who they are for we each are unique. Taught them that we love who we love, and family is not always blood, but rather those who we love and open our hearts to throughout our life time. I’ve taught them to speak up, and not to walk on by and ignore when they know that someone is being bullied, but stand up and be that someone who can make a difference in someone else’s life even if it means it’s not popular because being popular is nothing but being a phony.
I am so glad that I saw your post on Facebook about this blog, and I’m eager to go and read the other posts.
Thank you for sharing your painful loss of Mike, and I wish you all the best. I’m sure Mike made your life richer for having him in your life for that brief time…*S*
Your heart is blessed, and your wonderful words encourage others to step up and be the better humans they ought to be.
Wishing you all the best, and you have touched my heart deeply.
Take Care!

Darcy

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Kharisma Rhayne says:
November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm
Hi Darcy….
He did…to this day, he was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. ♥ ♥

________________________
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake (also to be re-published under his real name), and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

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