Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How One Gets Along - My Story About Domnique Starr

In the past I related this story.

It was really quite formative of my youth, and now here's the next truly formative age, fast forwarding in time to 1980.

I came out 30 years ago. Bit by bit, piece by piece, social segment by social segment, and my family last. I never realized till much later, and still think to this day, that "coming out" is a process, rather than an event. And so, from the beginning, my process unrolled, and continues to do so.

From the pot-smoke filled '71 Mustang where I told my best friend the first time in '79, until I told my mother in '80, there were layers. And ever since then too. Experimentation of HOW to just get the words out were a big deal to me (still is.)

We're talking about 1979 and 1980 after all. In backwards Phoenix AZ to nail the place as well as time. It was so different there, then. Violence was really an issue for me. It was so prevalent. [The story of the scar on my ass while I was getting mugged doesn't happen till '84, and is a different post.]

After the fits and starts, I began to get the hang of the words, and how to come out. Surprisingly quickly, but surprisingly devastatingly.

You'll never believe this, but my school was actually the easiest entity to come out in. A boys only Jesuit High School.

Reading that sentence above, I realize I'm going to give a lot of people the wrong impression. It was no homo playground. That school was so right wing and jock oriented, it was tough to be myself. But it was also such a world, where intelligence, acumen and loyalty totally counted, that I had some amazing experiences, particularly when I was homeless.

That's right; homeless, which really wasn't a word at the time, or at least didn't have the same cachet or meaning of circumstances.You see, to come out as publicly gay was "simply not suitable, this is disgraceful" thus, I could not be allowed in the home. Away with you!

Which was perfectly fine with me then. At that minute that I handed my mother the key to our house, and turned away, I knew the life I had expected was gone, and whatever was going to happen was not what I had expected previously. At that point I was 17 years old by less then a months worth of days.

Dominique Starr was still in my future by about 6 weeks.

What I did during those earliest days, was make deals with some of the guys at school. Two in particular. Let me store my suitcase in your trunk, and sleep in your car. I'll do your homework. Worked for about two weeks, as I'd shower at school, and keep that whole suitcase thing to a minimum. The clothes situation I handled by sneaking into the locker room, and doing my clothes in the school's laundry. So far, so good.

Busted! About 3 weeks into this, I'm innocently going to my goddamn LATIN class, first class of the day, and get hauled into the Principle's Office.

He was a prick to begin with. SOP - Standard Operating Procedure. Then -

Mike: How are things going?
Me: Fine.
Mike: No, I mean how are things going with you living with your dad?
Me: What?
Mike: Your Mom tells us you're not living with her.
Me: True.
Mike: Your Dad lives in San Diego, right?
Me: Yes.
Mike: Then where are you living exactly?
Me: [hackles rise] What do you care? I'm coming to class every day.
Mike: This is what we find amazing.
Me: What?
Mike: Because in normal circumstances, you'd be long gone. You wouldn't be here. Most kids run away and don't go to school. You've run away, and you still show up. What's the deal?

Honest to God, right then I lit a cigarette in his office; right then and there.

Me: Mike I didn't run away, I was thrown out.
Mike: Put out that cigarette.
Me: Sorry, nope.
Mike: Don't call me Mike, It's Father _____, and put out that smoke. [Fr. Mike was smoking BTW. Those were the days at that time.]
Me: No. You can throw me out, but since I'm responsible for myself, res ipsa loquitur. [The thing speaks for itself. I actually really said that. The Jesuit took notice, and hard.]

Mike: [pushes himself back from his desk] What are you saying?
Me: I am responsible for myself. [I blew a cloud of smoke out at then. The irrepressible hippy/punk kid.]

[big pause]

Mike: So you're not living with your mother?
Me: No I'm not.
Mike: You're not living with your father?
Me: No I'm not.
Mike: Where are you living?
Me: However I can.
Mike: [the ever keen Jesuit] you said however. I asked where are you living?
Me: I told you. However I can.

Good ol' Mike spun his chair around, where he didn't have to observe the next exchange.

Mike: We're prepared to make a deal with you.
Me: About what?
Mike: Tuition.
Me: [trepidatiously] OK
Mike: Yeah, your mom, well, you, if I read your thoughts correctly, owe the school about $10,000.
Me: No no no. She sued my dad for tuition, and won. You should have been paid. I only owe for today forward.
Mike: Sadly, that's not the case. There's nothing paid on your account beyond the first enrollment of your freshman year.

Dear reader, you cannot imagine my fury, angst or impotence that I felt at that very moment, as those feelings were fused, all together at a single point in time. My parents used me as a pawn between each other, threw me out the house, AND dumped the whole Jebbie School debt on me simultaneously. Freaks, really. That's all changed but only in degree, not in substance. And I fell sorry for both the parents, but in different ways, which is for another telling.

It didn't dawn on me for years that this selfsame Jesuit asshole who was basically CEO of a mini prep college was badgering a homeless kid for thousands of dollars. I bought into his meme for a while - and cut a deal. That's what you do with the Republicans In Charge, right?

I got to stay homeless and agree to thousands in debt with these fabulous Christians.

Needless to say, it totally got around the grapevine what my situation really was, and the kids who were in-the-know and at all sympathetic dried up, as their parents really couldn't have "such a situation." It was really socially unacceptable. My life was really unacceptable at that point. Until I met;

Dominique Starr.

Dominique was a transsexual and performing at several bars around town, the seedy ones you know. Including one in the neighborhood of 3rd and Roosevelt [back in the day] where she busted me blowing some dude for cash.
Her fury was legendary, the dude was instantly disappeared, and I was esconced on her couch in her apartment immediately. Dominique Starr was a Saint to me.

You cannot, dear reader, imagine the relief that Dominique provided me. Street knowledge alone kept me from being killed. Aside from that, she was a real Pridester (as I call it now.) She was FIERCE! and Proud and simply couldn't accept what had happened to her, happening to anybody else. I hung onto her for advice all through the early and mid 1980's when we had the MLK marches happening in Phoenix too. She was fantastic and unsung and passed away from AIDS in '85.

Dominique was a shrewd character; she only co-signed for my apartment when I had ponied up 6 months worth of rent for the 6 month lease I signed in 1980. (Don't ask how I put the money away.)

I was devoted to her; how could I not be?

So aside from the whole DOMA/DADT bullshit going on lately, I simply can't countenance any ENDA legislation that does not include the "T's".

I only understand help and freedom from where I got it, and I ain't abandoning that source. What Dominique did for me mattered; what I do in her memory matters too.

No more kids rooting around in garbage cans and alleys or blowing tricks for a living. They're human and this nightmare has to stop.

And just let me tell you this, whether you like it or not; you have seen one of these kids. You have passed by them in some McDonalds or Taco Bell as you go through your life. Someplace like that. You just haven't seen them in their seedy reality, unless, you actually have. And if you have;

Are you Dominique Starr? Can you help one of these kids?

Do it. I find for myself I simply must do something that helps.

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