Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Rural Municipality of Prison and other Townships

So Val Marie has put me in a position that I would wish upon nobody.

I love this town - I love my job. I love that every evening I get to see an incredible sunset, or I can go for a bike ride through a well-protected and advancing National Park. I can go for a hike through the park and discover new wildflowers, new terrain, and new wildlife. When you work for a park with over 15 endangered animal species and another 30 endangered plants, you always, always get the sense that you may just find something that has been seen for a very long time.

I've found cairns, arrowheads, dinosaur bones - things that have not been known of for many thousands or millions of years. This is just part of my job. A fantastical day at the office.

And yet...

I've not been able to sleep for the past couple of nights though. And there is no good reason to be offered except for an intense fear that has been a whispering memory for the past year but that choked the vitality out of my life in the twenty odd years that existed before that.

I am afraid of being myself in Val Marie. This stairway to heaven is creaking a bit too much - I'm uneasy here. I'm hiding in masks that I didn't know I had anymore.

The casual bigotry, homophobia, hatred that suffocates me is expressed in that most-vile of all weapons - humour. I am not the only victim; I should be thankful that I am not Metis or Indian. But it is very casual - just as I remember it being in high school.

De facto.

As though nothing else has ever existed, and nothing else has any reason to exist.

The place in which I find myself is a prison of open prairie. Its as though I was released from my fear, my hatred of the world, my refusal to be myself for a short period and then reminded of the reality of my environment. I've pushed myself back into my cell. Closed the door. Locked it - hidden the key in Regina.

I knew this was going to happen. I just had no idea it was going to hurt this much. I don't even remember what its like to talk about men. The vocabulary is lost.

Last night I texted a friend of mine in Halifax, asking her to remind me that it was ok to be gay. It surprised me that I was silently crying in my bed - courteous and selfish enough to not want to wake my ever-present roommates.

I am so alone.


  1. "The place in which I find myself is a prison of open prairie." This says so much about so many things. It speaks to, for, about spaces, barriers, fences... You name it. The real ones and the ones we create in our heads.

    I'm really sorry to know things are not going great for you. How much longer do you have to stay? I know this is a sensitive situation in many ways and yet I can't help but play the "what if" game... What if you were born and brought up there, for example? [I know, the what if I was in a worse situation is not a comforting thing to say at all, but I couldn't help it...]

    Here's a slice of my life: when I was 18 years old, out me (closeted to my parents at the time but out to everybody else) got a full scholarship to leave my small island and head to India to study. Of course, I didn't say no, being 18 and in search of great life adventures. I never even thought about what would happen of my sexuality. I just left. It was a hard year the first time around. A very hard one. Found myself in a small town, couldn't figure out the ethos, the language, the norms, the lines between acceptable and unacceptable... Of course, I stayed closeted. In the same cell that you are presently in. I lost the key for an entire year.

    That was the price I had to pay for my freedom. The price I had to pay to have adventures, travel, discover a new culture, new people... All I can say is: take it for what it is, for what it's worth and enjoy it. I know it's hard and I know it's easier said than done, but speaking from my experience, when I look back at that skinny stubborn me who was 18 years old and had gotten back into the closet, I can't help but feel happy. Even re-closeting myself was such a process of growth (didn't seem so at the time, but it does feel so now).

    And yes, I used to cry, very discretely, in my room at night. And yes, it is okay to be gay. And yes, I had lost the vocabulary too. But when I found it again, it was like finding a loved one whom I had lost.

    Be well, take care of yourself, make the most of it and if you need to gay-talk, take it out on your blog because you have gay-listeners/readers out there who love what you write.

  2. Neal, it is SO okay to be gay, and you know it.
    I don't have all the history of what you're going through. I only know that all I want to do is help other gay men feel better about what and who they are. That's what my blog is about--empowering gays, so they don't waste even one more moment not liking themselves.
    I understand from filling in the blanks that you're in a temporary situation right now. You'll get through it, I promise you. And you'll come out the other end better than you were before, perhaps in some way you don't see right now. You're going through but a moment in your life. There's everything else to look forward to. Get everything you can from every experience you have. It'll make you stronger, help you find yourself. You'll see. Hang in there. And thanks for sharing through your blog and your honesty.

  3. One more thing, Neal. I've read a number of your posts through June, and you sound like a really sweet and wonderful guy. You've got your head together, and your heart is in the right place.
    And, no, you are not alone. You're able to reach out through your blog and connect to other gay people. We've all been through what you're experiencing, and, just like us, you'll get through the isolation and the loneliness. You really will.
    Finally, did you finish reading Isherwood's "A Single Man"? Did you see the movie. I read the book before and really enjoyed it. The movie was fantastic, too. What did you think of it? It's great that you're interested in gay literature and what came before you.
    All the best,

  4. You're not alone. *big hug*