Lately, coincidentally as Christmas draws near, I have been receiving a number of e-mails from men: lamenting their oftentimes horrendous childhoods – filled with stories about taunting, bullying, and even physical abuse by classmates, their siblings, and unfortunately, sometimes, their own parents. It’s gut-wrenching to read. Once again, it reminds me how blessed I have been. For, many years ago, I recall hearing similar tales of trauma from men, who albeit may have been somewhat effeminate or awkward as boys, that clearly affected them to the present day. I could only partially relate as I had grown up in the rather protected an insular world of the Catholic parochial school system. There were certainly mean-spirited and vicious children, but it was never allowed to get out of hand as often took place in the open-pits of the public schoolyard. Strangely enough, one year, I recollect watching the Rankin and Bass version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964) with a group of gay friends. At the time, I didn’t realize that the film had a surprising resonance with homosexual men. Watching, it became abundantly clear why: with Rudolph’s feelings of personal insecurity, his shame, and then the rejection by his peers and the macho reindeer coach. I will never forget my borderline transvestite friend likening himself to the neurotic little doll on the Island of Misfit Toys; a weird dumping ground for the universe’s disregarded and misshapen stuffed animals, model trains, pet birds, and so on. Right away, I though of The Castro. Later, I joked with my buddy a few times about it. But, oddly, that image always stayed with me. Because, at the same moment, it’s all sort of pathetic and tragic: the lonely lost boys, huddled on a forgotten and frigid prison, waiting for anyone to accept and love them. This mental situation breeds a peculiar sensation of claustrophobia and desperation: a desire to feel safe and protected in a secluded enclave, but also a longing to be wanted by the wider world.
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