Cartoon Rerun

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Queer Senior

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Jun 16, 2022, 9:41:42โ€ฏAM6/16/22
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(I'm a little late in posting this, as things have been busy the last three months. Anyway, time to catch up!)

I don't know what cartoons are printed in every newspaper, so just to tell you, this is about one printed in my daily paper.

You should remember a cartoon that was printed between 1979 and 2008 by cartoonist Lynn Johnson. The cartoon dealt with a family and sometimes it dealt with difficult issues. It began being rerun just after Lynn stopped doing it in 2008. Th ones being printed now are from around 1993. The daily strip that was recently printed dealt with one of the friends of Michael Patterson, the son of the main family in the cartoon. Michael has a friend that' been his friend since his childhood, a boy named Lawrence. But now, the boys are teenagers, and I'm guessing they're in either grade-11 or grade-12. I guess that because last year, they did several 'panels' about Michael getting his driver's license. Since Lynn Johnson is from Ontario, Canada, that would put Michael 17-years-old by this time. Lawrence is also 17-years-old. The story that ran from March 25th until April 23rd has pretty much been about Lawrence. Why? Lawrence came out and admitted to Michael that he's Gay. Remember, this was originally published back in 1993.

I usually do read the comics after I'm done reading the rest of the daily paper, which can take me anywhere from 15-minutes to 2-hours, depending on editorials and such. The story of Lawrence has great interest to me. Being 17 and coming to grips with his sexuality is something I can identify with, as when I was 17, I had been struggling with my own sexuality, not only when I was 17, but all through my teens. With me, I've always known I was Gay, but it really became apparent to me when I was 10-years-old, and realized I had a crush on a boy in my class who also happened to be my best friend. There was a big problem with that! I went to a Catholic school, the most Homophobic group in the world next to Islam, and only "just" above evangelical conservatives. High school was really a struggle as I had developed crushes on several classmates in those four tortuous years, and felt I couldn't pursue them.

In June 1969, when I was 14-years-old, I had just finished my first year of high school. By then too, I was really starting to come to terms with being Gay. Quite a lot happened that June. The first "thing" happened on Friday, June 27th. On that day, the Canadian government had removed "the Homosexual Lifestyle" from the criminal code. Yes, up until then, being a Homosexual in Canada was a crime, a crime punishable by either being imprisoned, or being put to death. At the time, Canada had the death penalty, and it was by hanging, although by then, the last person hanged was 6-1/2-years before, in December, 1962. That hanging turned into a disaster, as there were two men hanged that night, and one, an older man, he was in his mid-50s, had his head torn off! Wow! As it would happen, Canada finally abolished the death penalty in 1976. Today though, the Conservative Party of Canada has vowed that if they get back into power, they will return Homosexuality to the criminal code, they will reinstate conversion therapy, which was finally banned in 2021, and they will reinstate the death penalty. Will Homosexuality be punishable by death? Odds are, it will be! As for the removal of (my) lifestyle from the criminal code, it didn't remove the discrimination and hate. Gays were, and to a certain extent still are discriminated against, and were, and are quite often subject to physical violence and even murder. Police regularly harassed Gay males, and it didn't take much for a Gay guy to be arrested. And if a Gay guy reported being assaulted, the police took the report, then they did absolutely nothing about it. If a Gay guy was murdered, guaranteed, the crime would go un-punished!

Anyway, the very next evening, in fact, it was Saturday, June 28th, 1969, I remember sitting there with my mother and we were watching the news. Well, guess what was on! The Stonewall Riots! The day Gay people in New York had decided to fight back being harassed by police. (A point here, the police where I live still harass Gay people. I know it well as I've faced harassment from police on multiple occasions.) Anyway, as the news show had images of the riot, my mother suddenly piped up that they, the rioters, should all be executed! I remember asking why, which got me into serious trouble with her. Her answer: "Because they're all Queers and Queers are sick!" Nice mother! Well, she didn't know that I was one of those Queers she wanted to see executed, and she wouldn't know for almost 8-years.

I actually came out three times. The first time was on October 16th, 1973, and it was to Ashley's parents when Ashley came out and told his parents he was Gay, and that he and I were lovers. The second time was in March of 1975, and happened during my Human Sexuality class in college, when I sort of got backed into a proverbial corner by one of my female classmates (there were 10 females and 3 males, including me), and was forced to come out and admit to the class that I was 100% certified Queer. Interestingly enough, I have two travel mugs with those words printed on them. One says "Certified GAY", while the other one says "100% GAY - Satisfaction Guaranteed". I didn't come out to my parents until April 10th, 1977, when I was 22-years-old! (I'm writing a nice 'essay' about my coming out that I will be posting just before International Coming Out Day, which is on Tuesday, October 11th, 2022.)

As I wrote about before, I finally met the love of my life on September 4th, 1973. Four days later, when we suddenly found ourselves alone with some privacy, we got into some seriously romantic intimacy, and I don't think it was a half-hour later, "Ashley", my boyfriend, and I found ourselves in his bedroom, where that evening, we surrendered our virginity to each other. My first ever experience at anal sex was so beautiful, both as I felt him penetrating me, then as we switched and I penetrated him. That evening, September 8th , 1973 was the most beautiful evening of my life! And it happened 2-1/2-months before my 19th birthday!

I remember the first time Ms. Johnson ran this series about Lawrence. With each strip, I felt like she was telling my story. Each panel of that cartoon spoke to me that I really wasn't alone with my struggles. I remember thinking that I wished she had of created that story back between September, 1968 and June, 1972 when I was in high school. Funny, considering she didn't start creating the cartoon until 1979! Since she retired from creating the cartoon in 2008, papers have been replaying her cartoons. As I said above, the panels telling Lawrence's story were printed from March 25th until April 23rd. By the way, this time, I cut them out of the paper, and I'm keeping them. The way the newspaper prints the strip, it's at the top of the column, so when I cut the strip out, I get the date the cartoon was published with it so I can keep them in proper order. One of these days, I'll go to Chapters-Indigo, a chain of bookstores in Canada that are similar to Barns & Noble in the United States, and see if they can get me a copy of the book with the collections of the "For Better or For Worse" cartoons from that time. The book is called "There Goes My Baby".

There was something else that happened when Ms. Johnson created Lawrence's story. There was a ton of controversy and backlash, especially in the United States, particularly in the southern United States, the bastion of Christian-based ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, racism, Homophobia, and Transphobia, just burning hatred in general. I watched an interview she did on YouTube, and she said she received a phenomenal amount of hate mail over the series. And by "mail", I mean the old-fashion kind where people had to actually write the letter and mail it. Remember, 1993 was before e-mail, and as she said, if email was widely available, imagine the threats she would have received then. Add that there were numerous protests outside newspaper offices. Subscriptions were cancelled, and some papers even dropped the strip all together. She did say that her and her manager did have an alternative plan, sending out strips that had a different subject matter, but some papers obviously didn't get the memo.

The actual storyline started a couple of weeks before it got into Lawrence's story with a woman named Connie, a friend of Michael's mother Elle and also Lawrence's mother, getting a puppy because all the kids were grown and gone all day. The story progressed to where Lawrence and Michael were walking and Michael made the comment that his mother was told the puppy will keep her company until Lawrence gets married and has kids. That was when Lawrence confessed to Michael that he was Gay. Michael was not very receptive to the news and wasn't very nice to Lawrence. Then it got down to Michael forcing Lawrence to tell his mother. That went horribly wrong. Lawrence's step-father became involved, and Lawrence was kicked out of the house. "Go where "your kind" hang out." In the middle of the night, Lawrence's mother got frantic. She called the Patterson's. Michael went looking for him, finding him at an all-night coffee shop. It was supposed to be a Tim Hortons, but I guess there was a licensing issue. Anyway, Michael took Lawrence home. It ended with his mother apologizing, and also his step-father.

If it only was that easy!

I identified with Lawrence. Back about five-weeks after I met Ashley, this one Saturday evening, Ashley and i were to go out. But when I went to pick him up, before we left, Ashley decided to use the occasion come out and announce to his parents, his sister, an Aunt and Uncle, and two cousins that he was gay, and that he and I were lovers. The reactions weren't what we expected. Well, they weren't what I expected. His sister asked to tell something we didn't know, while his mother and father said they were wondering how long it was going to take for Ashley to tell them. They had already guessed about us. The outcome? As far as his parents were concerned, they had gained another son, me. While his sister was happy her brother admitted to being Gay, she wasn't too happy to have another brother. I think it was to do with that "older sister" thing!

Ashley didn't meet any of my family until the evening of my 19th birthday. Right away, I could tell mother didn't like Ashley. I don't know why, but I could feel it. Ashley could too. My plan to come out and announce that I was Gay was put on hold. It was on hold for over three years! Then came the day I decided that enough was enough. April 10th, 1977. I had been in my own apartment for almost six weeks, so if anything went wrong, I wouldn't be homeless. In fact, while we were very discrete, Ashley and I shared that one-bedroom apartment. And nobody in the building cared.

On that Sunday evening, April 10th, 1977, I got up the courage to announce to my family that I was Gay. While my father could not have cared less about whom I loved, my mother was another story. Mother was extremely Homophobic! And I mean E*X*T*R*E*M*E*L*Y, as in over the top full of hate. She exploded! And I mean E*X*P*L*O*D*E*D! We're talking major melt down. In her true fashion, the hate came out. She screamed and yelled as loud as she could, calling me every name in the book. She even threatened to kill me! And she would have, if she could have gotten away with it! Then she started to throw stuff at both me and Ashley, who was with me. Her final words to me were, "Get out! And I never want to see your horrible face ever again!" We left.

My mother didn't speak to me for several weeks, and neither did my older sister, who was like 8-years older. It was only through the intervention of two of my cousins and my father that both my mother and sister agreed to start speaking to me again. Admittedly, every time there was a family gathering, there was a ton (tonne?) of tension in the air. Mother never forgave me for being Gay and took her dislike for me to her grave when she passed away in 2002. My father had passed away in 2005, and the day of his funeral was the final time my sister and I ever spoke. She banned my niece and nephew from ever speaking to me, but in recent years, my niece has reached out to me, much to her mother's chagrin.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to re-read that strip series. It brought back memories of my own struggles with coming to terms with being Gay, and the struggles I had with being accepted by my family. This time though, I clipped the panels out and am saving them!

Love to all!

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