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COVER STORY

It gets better

A local take on the national project to save gay youth

Photo: Photos by Carlos Amoedo, License: N/A

Photos by Carlos Amoedo



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I decided one night I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had this bottle of pain pills, and I remember thinking I just can’t do this anymore.

I took the bottle of pills in my bedroom, barricaded the door, put a chair up underneath it. I can’t remember how many pills I took. I remember I started getting sick because I’d had so much water to try to get them down. I remember I told myself to calm down, and I laid down, and I just wanted to die, to finally, finally stop. Then I could go to heaven and be with my grandmother. I just wanted to be with someone who loved me.

I remember I could feel my hands getting really numb, and I remember thinking, OK, it’s gonna work. I remember feeling happy and feeling kind of relieved for the first time in a long time, which is kind of weird because you feel you have to die to get relief. That’s pretty sad.

I went to sleep and I woke up the next morning, and I remember being incredibly disappointed that I woke up. I got up in time to go to work, and I remember thinking I’m such a loser, I can’t even kill myself right.

I eventually ended up getting out.

I was actually living in my car for a while, and in a trailer in a barn for a while with some people from church … I remember thinking that even though I was in one of those little Airstream trailers in a barn, for the first time I felt safe.

There is a point you can get safe, where you’re gonna be OK, where someone won’t hit you anymore. Where you won’t get bullied. Where you don’t have to sleep in fear anymore. I know it’s really hard to think that there’s hope of that. But there is.

I started working hard and going to school, and I immersed myself in trying to take care of myself … I bought my first house at 21. I just wanted to have a place I could feel safe. Eventually, I said You know what? I want to be who I am. I was running around with folks who were older than I was; they were basically rednecks, I didn’t know how they were going to take me. But I ended up meeting one of the women’s daughters. And she ended up being a lesbian, and we got together. I ended up meeting my first girlfriend, and it was the most unexpected thing ever!

The funny thing is from the time I was 21, when I came out, to the time I was 25, I became a full-blown activist. It was pretty amazing. Once I felt safe, then I could accept myself. But it took me getting to that point where I could: I had to have safety first, then I could deal with all these other things.

Michael Wanzie, 53

playwright, actor, WTKS Real Radio 104.1 personality

I was born and raised Catholic and we were weekly churchgoing folk; the only two things I ever said I wanted to be is either an actor or a priest. I was brought up very religious.

In retrospect, I can look back to as early as first grade and know that I was attracted to boys, I just didn’t know what to call it. And you just didn’t let the thought process in your mind, even though it was always there. I’d never heard the word ‘homosexual’; I never heard the word ‘gay’ growing up. I was blind in one eye, so I didn’t have depth perception. I couldn’t catch a football or a baseball; I couldn’t know when the ball was going to come to me. No one ever explained to me that my lack of ability to do those things had to do with my vision problem. So in my head I started thinking that because I liked a lot of things that my sisters liked, that the two things were aligned and that maybe I should have been a girl. I had nothing else topin it on.

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