I will not be another gay writer. I will not be another gay writer. I will n- Oh screw it!
I have a pink T-shirt. No, you don’t understand. It’s really pink. Okay, it’s neon pink. Yes, that’s how pink it is. You see, I believe that it’s one of those things that just had to happen. It was close to the end of my first year in college when I walked into Mr. Price. It wasn’t that I really needed new clothes. Sometimes I think that the new clothes need me. Anyway, I walked in and I saw it, almost immediately. It was hanging there like a magical piece of material that is capable of giving you super powers. I picked it up… and then I put it down. And then I picked it up again and I was about to put it back down again when I thought wait, just let me go and try this thing on. I finally went into the dressing room and tried the T-shirt on. Immediately I felt like a different person. I know that it seems strange, but I felt like it would give me new confidence. But at the same time I knew that people would react to it. But then I realized that I wanted them to react. I wanted to wear something that would attract attention to me, because I hardly ever get any attention because of the way I look. I’ve never been a particularly attractive person. People hardly ever pay attention to my looks because, well, I’m plain! Nothing about me is really special enough for me to stand out from the crowd. With all these thoughts I looked in the mirror and decided: I’m going to buy it.
The T-shirt had exactly the effect that I wanted. People noticed me. Every time I wore it someone made a comment about it. Many people complimented me. Some of them made fun of me. Some of them even tried to subtly tell me that they think it’s a bit too much. But I didn’t care. As self-centered as it sounds, it got me noticed, and that felt amazing. Sometimes I think that the T-shirt was one of the stepping stones that led to me eventually coming out of the closet completely. Because, you know, they could already see it, so I just had to confirm it.
As time went by, I continued wearing my signature pink T-shirt. I even got another pink T-shirt. It’s a bit darker with a wide V-neck and it fits a bit tighter on my body. You see, since I bought the original one I lost weight and went from XL to Medium, and obviously I had to show the world just how much I could suck my stomach in. I often wore the T-shirt to rehearsals, because my drama family never fails to make an issue of it. It always causes some kind of joking at my expense and I really don’t mind, because I get paid to get people to laugh at me on stage, so I might as well let them laugh as much as they want for free as well.
On the opening day of our production of Hansel and Gretel (I play Hansel and his father.) I was very excited to be back on stage for the first time in 2014, so naturally I wore my favorite T-shirt. The theatre manager was really impressed and told me more than once that she liked the T-shirt very much and that the others were just jealous. I, on the other hand, was very impressed by her accurate insight and fashion sense.
So, we did the show. Like with every theatrical production, there is make-up involved. I’m not the world’s best applier of make-up, because I’m half blind without my glasses, so I just keep it safe with base, (not that my skin has any flaws. *cough*) some eyeliner, (I need to highlight my best feature) and powder (lots of it. Those theatre lights make you sweat like crazy!). I think that there is a little drag queen that lives deep within me, but I don’t really see myself going down that route. I like my beard and hairy legs too much and the whole tucking business scares the crap out of me. Anyway, we performed the show to a very enthusiastic audience and it all went well. When we finished we rushed to pack everything up as soon as possible so that we could get out of the theatre and make space for the next show.
When I got home I took a quick shower and my mom and I headed off to the mall. My mom had to go and look for a place to register with e-toll and I wanted to go and deposit the money that I had earned that day into my account. I washed off the make-up, but I still had some eyeliner on my lashes. I didn’t have a lot of time and on top of that, we were going to watch The Rocky Horror Show that night, so I didn’t think that the eyeliner would actually bother anyone.
When we got to the mall, I got in line at FNB and my mom got in line at the e-toll desk. Well, the e-toll desk didn’t really have a line, there were just a bunch of people standing around and looking irritated or confused. You know, the normal South African thing. Nobody helped my mom and she eventually gave up. I think that perhaps she was just too short for the people to see her on the other side of the counter. The line at FNB was quite long, because as usual, only one of the three ATMs was working on that busy Saturday. Two women were standing in front of me. One of them, who looked like she hated everyone and everything in the world, looked at me in my bright neon T-shirt and whispered to her friend; “This one standing behind us. He’s got eyeliner on. He’s a real faggot.”
Do you know what the first thought was that crossed my mind? Oh, so it’s finally happened again. You see, it’s not the first time that someone called me a faggot. I got called one throughout my time at school. It used to bother me so much, but after being called that name (and a number of other names) so many times, I almost feel like I’ve become numb to it. Because I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that’s what bothered me. I felt like I was supposed to be angry and shouting or crying and running off, but it was almost as if I just didn’t see the use in any of that. To tell you the truth, she said it in such a way that I couldn’t be absolutely sure that she said it. I’m about 95% certain that she said it, but I didn’t want to say something and perhaps be completely wrong about it. But even if she didn’t say it and I imagined it all, (because it’s possible) why did I feel so empty? The truth is that there are people out there that are always going to be hating gay people. It will always be that way, just the way that racism will never go away. The fact that I could be smart and talented, or perhaps very funny and friendly, didn’t matter to that woman. She summed me up with one look and made her decision of who and what I am.
Maybe the fact that I’ve become numb to the abuse and name-calling is a good thing. I guess that it’s good that I don’t feel so hurt by it all anymore. But it makes me sad that I had to become this way in order to cope with something that is so mean and unfair. I haven’t worn my pink T-shirt again since this incident and it’s silly, because she didn’t even comment on what I was wearing. But somehow I feel like the T-shirt has been spoiled now.