of Cameron Post,
and of Jared Karol––
And of You?
Trigger warning: There is mention of suicide in this post that might be triggering for suicide survivors.
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"I'm tired of feeling disgusted with myself," says seventeen-year-old Cameron in the film The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
It is her response to the conversion therapy she's receiving at God's Promise, a boarding school where she and other "misguided teens" are sent to be "cured" of their same-sex attraction.
Everyone is disgusted with Cameron––her "boyfriend" who caught her hooking up at the homecoming dance with another girl in the backseat of the car; her friends who can't believe this could happen at their school; her aunt/guardian (her parents are dead) who is scandalized by her behavior––and now, as Cameron listens to the Director of God's Promise scold her on the error of her ways, Cameron too is disgusted with Cameron.
Cameron's roommate was also disgusted with herself for being attracted to Cameron and for not being able to not act on it. It's no doubt that the boy who tried to cut off his genitals with a pocket knife in the bathroom of God's Promise was disgusted with himself too.
And I'm sure that my dad was disgusted with himself when he tried to commit suicide in 1962 at the age of 13 because he knew "something was wrong" with him––something he couldn't properly identify. And how could it be anything but disgust for himself when, five years later, he got kicked out of college his freshman year for hitting on his (male) roommate, and tried to kill himself again?
My dad must have been disgusted with himself for being a gay man in the early 1970s––when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder, when he could be fired from his job for being gay, when all sorts of other stigmas and legal and social challenges predominated his psyche. He was probably disgusted, too, when he chose to marry my mom and lead the lie of a seemingly happy, heterosexually wedded life.
I know my mom was disgusted to find out at the age of 21 that her husband was gay, and scared shitless about what she was going to do with a two-year-old son, no education, no real job prospects, and the stigma of having been married to, and produced a child with, a gay man.
Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States of America, was most certainly disgusted by homosexuality––failing to mention AIDS publicly until near the end of his second term, after more than 20,000 people in the US had died from the disease. Reagan's press secretarybarely masked his disgust with derision, and popular comedians like Eddie Murphy joyfully paraded their disgust via humor.
Disgust can be pervasive.
I was disgusted to find out that my dad was gay at the age of fourteen. My disgust was all mashed up and conflated with confusion, embarrassment, and shame. I was disgusted because I had no resources, skillset, or perspective to know what to do about the stigma I would take on if anyone found out. How would I have handled my friends' disgust if they knew the truth?
It's now 2018. Things are better for the LGBTQ community. Fewer people are disgusted by those who are non-heteronormative, transgender, or non-binary. This is a good thing, but as some of the examples from above demonstrate, disgust does not always show up in the form of malice and hatred. Disgust shows up as silence and indifference and ennui. Disgust shows up as misguided attempts to "help." Disgust shows up as dogma.
Disgust shows up because of miseducation.
Miseducation dictates that people remain silent and indifferent to the lived realities of people who they perceive to be "not like them." Miseducation brings about fear, which brings about ignorance, which brings about ingrained perspectives, which brings about a fixed mindset, which brings about more miseducation, which brings about more fear, which brings about more ignorance, which. . .
The question, then, becomes, how do we break the cycle of miseducation? We break the cycle by purposefully choosing to care; by being intentionally interested in the lived realities of other people, especially if they are "not like us". We break the cycle of miseducation by rejecting dogma or any other type of thinking that wreaks of othering, oppression, or marginalization. We break the cycle by doing everything we can to be a vocal and supportive ally.
We break the cycle of miseducation by believing people when they share their stories and experiences. Because when someone has to hide a core part of who they are out of fear of rejection, retribution, psychological suffering, physical injury, or death, we as a society have failed to perform our civic duty to create a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive.
We've all been miseducated in some way and to some degree. And, we can each break the cycle of miseducation if we choose to. In the movie, Cameron breaks the cycle of miseducation by owning her truth and finding allies who help her no longer feel disgusted; in life, I have broken the cycle of miseducation by refusing to belief the status quo narratives that are explicitly or implicitly hurtful, exclusionary, or disenfranchising.
So, what are you doing to break the cycle of your own miseducation?
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