I wrote ‘Gay, Interrupted’ at the peak of my troubles this past summer. Since then, I have struggled and stumbled, but have managed to continue fighting in the ever uphill battle of getting myself back on my feet. I am happy to report that I currently share an apartment with a wonderful and considerate roommate and that I have since landed a full time job at a bookstore; the pay is decent, my bills are getting paid and I have been putting money aside into my savings. I am tired. I am so, so tired. But I am happy, and that is more than I could say before.
My circumstances have changed, yes, but I hope that this piece still resonates with you, dear reader. Writing this piece gave me power, it allowed me to see an ending somewhere through the haze. The subject matter isn’t pretty. True, I’ve lost the company of some people whom I considered very dear to my heart. But it is the truth, one I’ve had to live with each and every day. It is the truth—and I must bear witness to it.
I am most thankful to the team here at LGBTeen. Thanks for bringing me aboard!
“I am 23 years old, homeless and a homosexual … but who am I to let that stop me?”
People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can’t answer the real question. All I can tell them is, It’s easy.
-Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted
It was a cooler than average day for New York at the end of last month (and the air conditioning on the N train wasn’t helping matters) so I was wearing a light sweater on loan to me from a dear friend, as I, at the time, had no sweaters to choose from. A woman carrying a small tin box filled with the meager number of coins she’d managed to scrounge for throughout the course of the day entered the car. Her name was Rita, she said. She had been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband and had run away to a shelter with her two children. She had a Master’s degree, but barely enough money for toothpaste.
My mind immediately went wild ruminating over the possibilities. I wondered if, a few months from now, I’d have the unfortunate honor of following in her footsteps. I wondered if I should just kill myself if I ever got to that point.
But those feelings, I understood then and understand now, are the result of teachings which have become fundamental in our society. We are taught to value outward appearance above all else. We are told that the panhandlers out on the street are all there as a result of their bad choices. We are conditioned to stigmatize mental illness. We elect politicians who would have to be mentally ill to vote against measures that could potentially appease the suffering of the mentally ill. We walk by these people. We turn up our noses. Bury ourselves in our iPods, our phones.
But there’s very little separating you and them, or you and me.
That I am one of the more fortunate members of the NYC homeless population is not lost on me. I am blessed to have a network of supportive friends. I am currently subsisting on the generosity of two of the kindest women I have ever known, and it is their strength which has kept me from going over the deep end. I have a couch I can sleep on. A hot shower awaits me every day. There is food in my belly.
And there’s very little separating me from having comfort to having no comfort at all. That I have chosen to accept this and own the situation as if I asked to be put here in the first place has been my salvation. I devote many hours to the job hunt. I also make it my business to keep my mind sharp by doing the things I enjoy most. Writing is chief among these things and a major reason why I started this blog in the first place. I’ve also been told that if it hadn’t been for my writing, I wouldn’t be in this predicament at all.
On December 4, 2013, a Facebook status of mine was posted on the page Have A Gay Day. In that status, I recounted my experience as the survivor of a gay bashing. The content resonated with plenty of people and I received scores of friend requests and positive messages from around the world. One of these messages was from a man I wound up dating.
One of the more frustrating things I’ve had to come to terms with, eight months later, standing amidst the destruction he’s left in his wake, was just how fragile he’d rendered me. It was a change that had been noted over time by those close to me, but the extent of his emotional abuse did not truly hit me until the day I pulled up my credit reports and discovered the number of accounts that had been opened up in my name.
We’d made plans to live together, but that, of course, could no longer be. Nor could these plans ever have materialized; through contact I made with one of his family members, I discovered that the family didn’t even know he was gay. He had, apparently, told his family that he was engaged to marry ‘some girl in Brooklyn.’ I was involved with a man who’d thought nothing of defrauding his own grandmother out of $30,000, certainly one who’d thought nothing of defrauding me, of deceiving me into giving up my first apartment for a life in the clouds. I was involved with a man who had, twice before, been arrested on charges of identity theft. The prior two victims had also been gay males.
I was raised very well by a charming, intelligent and, by some accounts, difficult woman. I have inherited her practicality, her wits and her resilience. Even she, for a time, was fooled by his accounts of his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. The forged papers from West Point. The military discounts he saw fit to brag about and collect. The friend’s head he claimed to have brought home to a grieving mother in Binghamton.
Let us not forget how we all became privy to his tales of his time on the New York City Council, of how he had to step down, being succeeded by Jimmy Van Bramer, to support Uncle Sam on his third combat tour. The way he ingratiated himself into my family, even going so far as to involve himself in the guardianship case of my grandmother, an unfortunate victim of elder abuse by the hand of my extended family, defies all lines of human logic.
To say I’ve felt ignored by the authorities, by the media and even by some of those closest to me, would be apt. But I will not, not now, not ever, remain silent. This is about justice, not just for myself, but for all of his victims, those that I know of, past, present and future. There was a time, before this man was even a thought in my head, when my mother and I, broken down over the countless letters we wrote to our councilman and Public Advocate on my grandmother’s behalf with no response, of the endless stream of telephone calls we made to APS, to the media, to the mayor’s office, to no avail, thought of giving up.
“No one,” my mother told me, “cares about your grandmother. Is it her last name? Sanchez? What the hell is it? How could MONTHS go by while her own son squats in her Section 8 apartment and denies her medication?”
I’ve thought much of that, thought much of the arguments my now ex and I had over my grandmother’s case, of how he told me numerous times that a Spanish last name was an automatic death sentence in a courtroom, no matter the circumstance. I lost my grandmother. She is currently in another country, in the care of an aunt and she barely knows who she is, let alone who we are, and my mother diligently took care of her for thirty-four years. But my mind is at peace, because I know my mother and I did exactly what she would have wanted us to do. I did mention that I was raised by a very level-headed and practical woman—where do you think she got it from?
Just last week, I heard it again. I walked into a bank and requested the information asked of me by one of the many creditors I’ve had to deal with over the last few weeks. The branch manager inquired as to how I could possibly have landed myself in such a predicament and demanded I tell her the full story, from beginning to end. By the time I was finished, she still refused to help me.
“No one,” the manager told me, “cares about your case, just like they didn’t care about you or your grandmother. Identity theft and fraud are common crimes. They’d believe me over you. Pay up. Set up payment plans with the banks, with the credit card companies. It’ll all go away the second you play ball.”
This is why people like this man get away with the crimes they commit, why they are allowed to walk our streets. The cards, I’ve been informed, are stacked against me. I’m broke. I’m homeless. I have an identity to clear up. I have a Hispanic background. I’m gay.
And yes, I am all those things. Yes, I do feel marginalized. The mere looks I’ve received from those in positions of authority have chilled me to the bone. But if playing ball, as it were, was the solution, there wouldn’t be a homeless population on the New York City streets, nor would 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. If playing ball was the solution, my mother and I would have thrown in the towel with my grandmother’s case long ago. Playing ball would imply that I have a life to reconstruct, rather than a life to live and a life worth living.
I am 23 years old, homeless and a homosexual. I have no job and no bank account. But who am I to let that stop me?
Alan is a voracious reader and rabid cinephile who lives and works in New York City. When he is not working on his novel or composing numerous volumes of poetry or even playing Pokemon, he can be found writing his heart out on his blog, The World According to Ryland.