Student CAMP: Art and Affection
One of the first things that I learned as a gay individual was that mainstream society does not take well to queers expressing their affections for their partners through conventional means. For instance, the greeting card, a perennial-favorite for young lovers wishing to express their feelings, rarely comes in the following incarnation:
Front: "Are you a fag? If not, please discard and ignore return address label. And if you arewell then, open and continue on..."
Inside: "Wow, I guess this is my lucky day! So, will you go out with me? Love, etc."
Anyway, you get the idea. And to my knowledge, there are no such cards. Another example of a novel but generally impractical way of expressing one's love is my favorite, the singing telegram. You know, the one where that really cute butch girl shows up in the bell-hop uniform and sings an annoying jingle about the object of your affections. The embarrassment factor alone is enough to cause love to blossom. However, the singing telegram becomes hairy when it involves the cute butch girl singing a gay jingle at your lover's homophobic office building.
Needless to say, this is the part where we are forced to become creative. For me, this is where art comes in. Thinking back, I realize that I started writing poetry, acting, and playing the piano at about the same time that I started having crushes on other guys. There are many reasons why this could be the case, but I like to think that it is because I had to learn ways of expressing my passions other than by having relationships with the aforementioned boys. For me, art became an intricate system through which I could release all of my feelings.
So I started writing poetry, and thus enter the world of colorful metaphors. Because when you're still in the closet, you can't very well write poems about "that sexy boy who mows the lawn" and claim it all in the name of art. So I started studying myths (at the time if only because I liked the idea of ancient cultures in which boys could have relationships with other boys and it was okay). Before I knew it, I was writing more about Narcissus and Saint Sebastian than the ancient scholarscombinedever did in several thousand years of history. What can I sayI'm a poet, and I'm hormonally frenzied! In fact, I believe that the two are almost inseparable, but that is a tangent for an entirely different day.
Moving on from poetry, I then started playing the piano. The piano, for me, is an instrument of passion. Any of my friends who have ever watched me play can offer testament to this fact. For the rest of you, perhaps I can draw the parallel between myself and Tori Amos. Not that I'm that good, by any stretch of the imagination, but let's just say that she gets her groove on with her piano bench like ain't nobody's business. Therein lies the parallel. Furthermore, I love playing music from the romantic period. You know: Chopin, Debussy, and
the Russians (yet another good name for a bad cover band....). Those people didn't mess aroundtheir music always goes straight to the heart. For me, playing the piano is an emotional catharsis. A release.
Finally, I started acting. Acting is oddly similar to playing the piano. It enables me to pick a particular work which resonates with an emotion I want to experience, and then I can step into that emotion or that situation. On the stage, I can embrace passion, love, freedom, joy, all without the slightest fear of being criticized for doing so.
In short, art provided a doorway through which I could step into my heart. For the first time, I was able to make artistic sense out of my sexuality, while all other sources had informed me that my sexuality was senseless and wrong. In art, I found a sourceor at least a channelof power. If what I experienced is not a purely individual instance, than I find it no small wonder that many gays I know are also very accomplished artists (and by accomplished I mean personally more than publicly). Perhaps they too went searching for a way to release their pent-up affections, and at length found it in the act of creating beautiful and meaningful works of artwhether that be in pictures, words, or sounds.
Adam is a senior in high school. In his free time, he enjovs studying, writing poetry, playing the piano, acting, and reading anything and everything. He welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999