SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2004        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Charlie Wilson


“Oh my gosh, look at the booty on that girl.  Her body is absolutely amazing.”  Whoa, I thought to myself, I can’t believe I’m hearing this.  One of my good friends, who decided to come out about her homosexuality, is actually shouting out comments about females that would normally come out of my mouth.  This was definitely something I had never experienced before.  The strangeness of her words made me feel faint, as if I had just received news that was so unexpected and disheartening it seemed impossible to believe.  It was not Alisha that was making me feel this way, it was her lifestyle.  As we lay sprawled out across her bed, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be Alisha; to live out a lifestyle that was not accepted by society and from my perspective, completely wrong.

    What am I doing?  I feel so strange.  This is the first time I have ever talked like this in front of my friends.  Maybe I am pressing my thoughts and feelings on them too quickly, but it is refreshing.  Charlie has never judged me and he always respects my opinions, so at least he will be understanding, I hope.  It does not matter though, I have to show everyone who I am, regardless of whether or not they accept me.  I am sick of concealing my true being and I want to release all these pent up emotions.  It just feels good to let it all out.

    Alisha and I had known each other since we were in sixth grade, and we only lived a couple blocks away from each other in our hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.  Our proximity has given me the chance to watch her change from a boy crazy young girl to an openly gay young woman.  The summer of 2002 was the approximate date for my first up close and personal experience with expressive homosexuality.  It was late in the evening and Alisha and I were hanging out, trying to come up with something to do.  In the middle of our pondering, I received a call from our friend Lindsey who also happened to be looking for something type of entertainment.  Since it was already late and Alisha had a great collection of DVD’s, we decided to watch a movie together at her house.  We had Lindsey stop at Walgreen’s to pick us up some spicy Hot Tamales and delicious Vanilla Coke.  While browsing through the extensive collection of DVD’s, I stopped to look at a movie titled,
“Coyote Ugly,” which depicted numerous beautiful girls on the cover.  Alisha snagged the movie out of my hands, and with a burst of excitement, claimed that it was one of her favorites.  Alisha was an avid movie watcher, so we trusted her opinion.  There was one problem though; the beautiful girls in the movie caused a completely unexpected reaction out of Alisha.  All of a sudden, these sexually explicit comments began rolling off Alisha’s tongue.  I have had a few friends who were gay or lesbian, but never one who expressed their opinions with such a lack of fear or reservation.  On that very night, it seemed like Alisha had taken the cultural restraints that had confined her personal freedom and severed them.  Unfortunately, this inner breakthrough caused an external breakdown.  I was extremely frustrated and confused, but I was able to keep my feelings hidden under my forced smiles.  Lindsey, on the other hand, was unable to handle her discomfort, so she made up a lame excuse in order to go home, claiming that she had to get up early for work the next morning.  Lindsey’s egocentric response to Alisha’s comments infuriated me.  Not only did she make me feel uncomfortable, but more importantly, she most likely made Alisha feel inadequate as a person.

    I wish this moment of freedom could be savored to the point of satisfaction, but the truth is that I am not feeling that ultimate sense of freedom.  Even though I am conveying my thoughts and opening my safe of locked away emotions, I am not totally experiencing that overflow of joy.  There is a personal gratification that fills my soul, but it seems like there is nobody who wants to support me.  It is easy to see what lies ahead of me.  In order to speak the truth about myself, I will have to sacrifice many friendships.  The pain will never go away.

    As we sat in Alisha’s room in awkward silence, I discretely let my eyes wander around the room.  While looking, I came across many objects that ignited a fire within my brain.  The only thing that can keep a fire burning is oxygen, but I did not need oxygen to keep this inner fire alive; instead, I needed understanding.  Why?  Why was Alisha a lesbian?  I noticed a closet full of very large t-shirts.  Normally, I would not think anything of big shirts, but this was different.  It reminded me of Alisha’s weight problem, which reminded me of her unpopularity with the boys in school.  I always wondered if her traumatizing experiences with boys caused her homosexuality.  I also noticed a portrait of Alisha, her step-father, and her mother.  I began to question whether or not the divorce she was forced to go through as a young girl caused any problems with her identity.  Maybe her genetic makeup affected her sexuality.  Some say internal factors decide one’s sexual orientation, while others say it is external factors; unfortunately, it seems like there is no realistic way to find the answer.

    My relational situation is very complex.  The vast majority of my friends happen to be Christians, which makes me feel different.  I cannot stand all these different religions and their ridiculous rules.  Many of these Christians are cruel and hateful, and they treat homosexuals as if they have some sort of contagious disease.  I am tired of not being accepted.  My friends are not like those so called Christians, but sometimes it makes me wonder what I would find if I could read minds.

    A short time after this event, I began to realize that looking for the answer to why Alisha was homosexual would not lead to understanding.  Instead of continually frustrating myself, I turned to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  The Bible helped me understand how to treat people and show them the respect they deserve.  As a Bible believing Christian, I completely disagree with that lifestyle, but I have no right to condemn homosexuals for their ways.  The Lord teaches us that we do not have the authority to judge anyone, so I accept them like I would accept any other human being.

    The American society is beginning to recognize homosexuals.  At one point in time doctors believed that homosexuality was a clinical disease, but now it is becoming socially accepted.  The problem is that there are still many Americans who demonstrate their disgust for gays and lesbians with acts of violence and/or hate crimes.  These types of people enliven my desire to treat people equally.  It would be interesting to see the changes in these peoples attitudes if they were forced to live a day in someone else’s shoes.  Just one day in the life of someone who is not accepted by everyone in society. 

    I know there are going to be a great amount of people who do not agree with the way I live my life, but I cannot let that affect me.  People have two choices: either accept me for who I am or leave me be.

sky    Experiencing Alisha’s situation was important to me because it not only helped me understand what life is like for homosexuals, but for anybody that is considered to be different.  This is difficult for me to comprehend because I happen to be the average white heterosexual male, meaning that I have not experienced much discrimination.  I do not have a firm grasp on what it feels like to be an outcast, or the “other.”  Life is already full of pain and anguish, but people feel the need to further someone else’s grief.  The most important word I retained after my incident with Alisha was “Acceptance.”  The American society cannot afford narrow-mindedness.  We must eradicate our egocentric state of being and delve into the realm of altruism. 

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