Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And the World Is Still Flat...

A few weeks ago, a young boy named Larry King was shot to death in an Oxnard, California middle school. From all reports at this point, it seems the boy was shot by a fellow student because he had started wearing feminine clothes to school. Apparently, Larry adhered to the school uniform policy, but he accessorized with jewelry and makeup.

It's a pretty sad story all around. And particularly heartwrenching for those of us in T-World. It's one of those incidents that reminds us, young and old alike, how hated and misunderstood we T-Girls are. Sure, we've made gains in the past 25 years… most minorities have… but the story of young Larry King reminds us of how far we still have to go.

I told a friend Larry's story. And she was sympathetic. But when I mentioned the fact that Larry was unashamedly wearing feminine accessories in public, my friend grimaced. "Someone should have told him not to do that," she said.

I know what she meant. She didn't mean to be insensitive. She just knows how rough and intolerant schoolkids can be. She certainly didn't mean to suggest that little boys who wear girl's clothes deserve to be shot. But she inadvertently communicated a sad truth: people are safer when they don't challenge convention.

"Someone should have told him not to do that."

Those words stuck with me. And, because I'm a hardcore baseball fan, I immediately thought of Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson is a hero today. But 60 years ago, no one wanted Jackie to play major league baseball. The fans didn't. The opposing players didn't. Even Jackie's own teammates didn't really want him to play. Someone should have told Jackie to stay in the Negro Leagues.

And someone should have told Rosa Parks to give up her seat. Someone should have told Galileo to put away his telescope and stop challenging the church. Someone should have told Cesar Chavez to shut up. And someone certainly should have told Columbus to turn his boats around - because everyone could clearly see that the world was as flat as a pancake.

Someone should have told all of these extraordinary people not to do what they were doing. And then it occurred to me. Someone probably did. In fact, almost everyone these heroes knew probably told them to stop. But they didn't. And neither did Larry.

A long time ago in a classroom far far away, I was involved in a discussion about history. Is history the story of mankind? Or is history the story of a few fearless individuals who had the courage to stand up for what they believed in?

I tend to believe in the latter.

From what I've heard, Larry King's parents are hoping that Larry's death won't be used for political purposes. And I sympathize with them. They don't want to see their son's death trivialized. They don't want to see his name become a soundbite on the national news. To them, Larry wasn't a martyr or a trailblazer or gender rebel. He was their sweet little boy. And all they want, more than anything, is to have their sweet little boy back.

I doubt that Larry's parents will ever read this blog, but I hope they don't mind me writing a little bit about him. I'm not a very political person, and I never intended to write an "issues" column. But this story touched me. And I was touched, not by the way Larry died, but by the way he lived.

He was, at 15, more true to himself than most of us will be by the time we're 50. His classmates said that he got roughed up every day. But he insisted on wearing his feminine attire. One of his classmates told reporters that, "When people came up and started punking him, he just stood up for himself."

How many of us would have been strong enough to do the same? I know I wouldn't have. I mean, if there's one thing that we T-Girls know perhaps better than anyone, it's this. The hardest thing in the world to be, is yourself.

Upon his death, Larry's parents donated Larry's organs to people in need. I don't know much about that process, but I do know this. Some lucky person just received an amazing little heart.

Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be yourself.



Jay said...

I am compelled to write in response to Larry's death and the world around us all. I know I won't have the space here to speak my piece so I invite any who care to hear my words to come to my blog where I will write my eulogy for the young, unashamed and brave soul of this young man. For those who don't have the time I simply use this forum to say that my prayers and the prayers of my partner and friends go out to Larry and his family.

Brave New World to have such people in it....

In reverance;


Anonymous said...

Something similar to this happened about 10 years ago when I was in HS with a better ending. A your TV was being tourmented for being "faggy". Surprisingly enough, it was the football coaches that ended the harassment by the students. Though I wish something similar would have been done for Larry, do not forget that there are good people out there.


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