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October 18th, 2021

Sie…du…dich…dir…I Have No Idea Which You It Is…

Maybe instead of blaming the cultural homophobia he grew up in, I should consider the language he was born to…

Also…

 

Communication between us was probably doomed from the start.

Now if he was reading this, which I know he isn’t because he told me straight up once that he never reads my blog or looks at my cartoons, he’d probably be getting all ticked off now. For as big a tease as he is he has a really thin skin and hated being teased back. And speaking of language barriers…I think it was sometime during one of my 2014 visits I began to see with clarity that we are just not very compatible personalities.

I was struggling with basic beginner level German and bought a t-shirt at the Epcot Germany gift shop that said “Ich Bin”, which in English is “I am”.  Now, I’m the kid who grew up under the icy cold glare of a bitter Baptist grandmother who despised my dad (and his entire family I later learned) with a venomous passion, and there I was bearing his face and handy for taking it out on because he was clear on the other side of the country and I was right there in arm’s reach. So by the time I started my walk into puberty and had that moment of realization that I’m gay, I already knew there would be people in my life who would hate my guts over something I had no choice about and no control over. So that Ich Bin t-shirt tickled a part of me that’s fiercely defensive of my own unique human identity. I Am. But it did it in a kinda fun way. Or so I thought. I am. No, not German. Not my dad. Not your favorite homosexual stereotype. I am Bruce Garrett. Deal with it. Ich Bin.

And…he could not. I wore the shirt into his restaurant and when we met up I pointed to it and said “Ich Bin…I am”, because I was proud to show him that I knew at least two German words and could put them together. German grammar would later kick me in the teeth and I gave it up, but that was to come later.

He looked at me scornfully, like I was somehow making fun of him, and said, “And what’s funny is you trying to teach me German.”

I must have looked at him like he was a total stranger I’d just run into who happened to look like the guy I’d crushed on madly in high school and it was confusing me. What the fuck man…are you Serious? Did you really think that’s what I was doing? 

Wow…where the hell did That come from? You’re not really the person I thought you were…

Most people experience that moment with their first teenage crush back when they’re teenagers, not when they’re in their 60s. You have a good cry over it, take his picture out of your class notebook, and move on. But while my generation was allowed to see the promise land, most of us could not walk into it. We will always live in a time before Stonewall. So geht es… Looking back on it, and the torrent of abuse we all got thrown at us from every direction, I’m surprised any of us found their other half. No…it wasn’t a language barrier. We were just a couple of gay teens who, in a better world, would have figured it out, gone our separate ways and kept looking. But that was not the world we came of age in.

I still have that t-shirt. And I still wear it proudly.

What I am is what I am
You’re what you are or what?

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