We Should Have Known:
Flash back to my 3 feet 10 inches stage, aka when I was five. I play on the the Purple Pirates soccer team with our Liverpool coach Mr. Doyle and my dad as our coaches. Mike may have had too much sun in his hay day and looked like a tanning bed model at the end of his decades of hard work in the industry- I still see him trotting on the beach after all these years. He warns me every single time I see him that he’ll “cut my tail off if I get too close to his daughter”. Only now have I figured out what he means by this. Very ironic in the scheme of things. Besides worrying that I had a tail, I would always attempt to play by chasing after the endlessly rolling ball like all the other mop headed nuggets. But we really know that I was in it for the Caprisun juice and the soccer mom perfection cut orange slices after the game. When it came to game day I’d find myself getting sidetracked, from the kindergarteners moshpit of “soccer”, by picking the flowers on the field and handing them to my mom. It’s at this point that I say “We Should Have Known.” And in case you were wondering, no they weren’t pansies, but I guess I walked right into that one.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?:
From the extremely stereotypical interests and stories of my childhood from playing with barbies, being sensitive, clearly in touch with my artistic side and loosing many teeth while watching the Sound of Music, one would probably peg that this was one gay kid and he’d grow up to be what we call a “flammer.” If you were looking at only a few of these facts, an easy assumption would be made. That would be the easy way to sum up my actions without a second glance. But what what about the times I’d climbed up to waterfalls and catch salamanders and tadpoles or would be fearless in my slightly older years and take on ANY challenge head on with a slide-tackle, or better yet, adventuring on the bleachers and knocking myself out from falling 15ft? You’d probably say this kid would be destined for his own adventure TV show on the Travel Channel. In those moments, those actions, in those times, I was obviously a Bear Grylls in the making.
I’d always been a conscious kid and soaked up anything I was around. Surrounded by a supportive family I wasn’t faced with many troubles as a kid except one. Around the age of 13 I had started to realize that my attraction laid somewhere far from the pull out spreads of double D’s and thongs that young boys would collectively rally around. I attempted to follow in my brother’s all too classic footsteps, by putting up a poster of two girls, super attractive, pretty slutty, in little clothing, clearly with the capabilities to cut diamonds, perking their lips and seemingly staring right into your eyes. I was a cheat, a total faker. How about owning a chummy T-shirt listing the full list of slang names for different boobs worn proudly to sleep? Cheat. Faker. Though I did learn that “Flapjacks” and “Big Kahunas” are a great alternative name. Me attempting to macho-up in my books was unsuccessful.
As usual preteen and teen moments would go, I would be stubborn and complain in moments of nothingness. Without the intention my dad would call me such words as “puff,” “gay,” “fag,” which in turn, made me feel sick throughout my mind and body because of my secret, my absolute truth of who I was and will always be. Without his intention he was making me think that this group of people, this type, was less than others and basically not worth it. That, on top of the use of the word in common day to day conversations at school or on the beach, made me feel inadequate. “That’s so gay!” I remember using the word once in that connotation and it felt beyond uncomfortable. I tried as hard as I could for the longest time to pretend, to work against being amongst that group, from being that type. Any time I came in contact with any sort of hint at anything “gay” I’d check out and become uncomfortable and not be myself.
In high school I wanted to participate in sports, but I was frightened and intimidated that I wouldn’t fit in and I’d be outed. Sports are historically owned by manly men and out of reach for the weak. I had been telling myself that I wasn’t manly enough and wasn’t capable to participate in sports. I believed that I was not able to run cross country, play soccer or volleyball. So what did I turn to? Probably what we’d consider the “gayest” arena of them all, the THEATRE. In this artistic safe haven I learned to tap dance, sing my fucking face off and was always surrounded by a wonderful community of supportive players. These people would be my closest friends and spark something I didn’t understand at the time… it was my love for community and inclusion. Not only had I come out to several people in this community, but it ultimately made me feel safe and capable of accomplishing great things. In many ways I had more balls than any of the “jocks” I wished to share my time with, for I made myself vulnerable in front of a crowd of people, I “man’d the fuck up” in the largest way I ever could.
When I discovered November Project I had been attending Emerson College for over two years, where I had grown to be more comfortable, had come out to my family and was coming to terms with saying the words “I’m gay.” In this moment I was only just starting to truly care for my health and had discovered NP from one of my friends, Kristen, who kept saying her legs were destroyed from stadiums. After a few weeks, during finals I woke up and thought there’s no better time than now and ran to Harvard Stadium and knew I would not miss a day after attending that workout. NP helped with my growth of being more comfortable with who I was.
When it came to my first Friday, I initially stood at the top of Summit Ave intimidated by all these “straight” dudes who looked as if they’d crush the workout as well as the rest of the planet earth surrounding Brookline. What I’d call a “jock,” tall dude, athletic build and most likely to use the word “gay” in his description for a lot of negative things, in my mind seemed to own the hill. What I found was that I was just as fast, if not faster, than these guys and that my “gayness” really meant nothing in the scheme of things. I was quick to judge at the top of Summit that these dudes would be the stereotype and would be quick to judge me. Instead, I learned that these guys could not only be fast but also redefined the meaning of “jock” to me. This is the perfect representation of the November Project community, that it doesn’t matter who you are, how you act or what others might label you as, but that you just show up and work your ass off. I was being hypocritical in what I wanted no one to do to me and soon realized that this is not the place for that. That hill, like the many we all encounter in life or inside these NP workouts, doesn’t care about your weight, age, occupation, or type. That hill is going to be hard for all of us. Summit Ave never sees a label that you identify with, your sexual orientation, your skin color, or the color of your outfit. Summit Ave in Brookline serves up an equal dose of badass to each person that challenges it every single week. It did on my first Friday, and it still does today.
Little Boxes On the Hill Side:
We limit ourselves by choosing simple words that can categorize our closets friends or total strangers. I’ve been told by a close friend of mine that in Chinese the words “joy” and “happiness” have different meanings. In Chinese “happiness” means a quick pleasure, something we’d be able to associate with all our quick fixes on social media, where as “joy” means an open heart. Our language can limit us, but we can choose to pay close attention and redefine what certain meanings have.
I was frightened for the longest time that by saying, “I’m gay” puts me into a category and association as “the gay dude”. We too often throw others into boxes upon first meeting them, or by certain characteristics peg someone as a type of person which can degrade, humiliate and segregate that person. Sometimes, without our intentions. When we think of the word gay, queer, homo, fag, flammer, there are so many images that pop into our heads, and we have to realize that our association with words should have a bigger meaning, creativeness, and openness. The same goes for words we use to categorize others. Just because you’re “fat” doesn’t mean you can’t be fast or strong, just because you’re “black” doesn’t mean you can’t swim, just because you’re “old” doesn’t mean you can’t run a marathon. I still am a gay dude, but I’m also a dude who can run fast, a dude who can sing his heart out in the close comfort of his car, a dude who plays the ukelele, a dude who enjoys road trips, a dude who can make strangers become friends through chanting nursery rhymes at 5:30 in the morning and a dude who can proudly say he’s a Boston Qualifier. These are all parts of my identity, and one doesn’t negate the other. We all come to NP with different building blocks to our identity, and this community celebrates all of them.
Every single one of us is built differently and like DNA we’re made up of these words that people tend to think our DNA make up is. Yes I am a gay man, but does that mean I’m not capable of destroying Harvard Stadium in flying colors (watch it) before the tribe? Does that mean I can’t whip out 130+ burpees during Sebastians? FUCK NO!
Not at all. Being gay can mean different things to people in my community. To some they embrace being feminine. But I like many other gay men embrace my gayness by being badass, determined and fierce! I use my gayness to race hard and get fitter. Me being attracted to dudes is only one characteristic of who I am. I find myself in instances pushing myself harder to break stereotypes that yes, a gay man can podium and that yes, a gay man can kick your ass when faced with the Hollywood Bowl stairs, Harvard Seats, Divisadero repeats, Baxter, “the Bitch” and anything else that can be served up in this movement. But ultimately I race for the lack of boxes that are in this community. All boxes are out the window and that shit doesn’t matter any more once your flying full force, one foot in front of the other, with a herd of fast cats just like you at your side.
What’s most important is that each and everyone of you has your own identity. No matter who you are, what ever you associate with, this community is for you. All walks of life from believers to youngsters to 6 figure makers to freelancers to government officials to drag queens to perfect orange slice cutting moms to eager college students all bond over the simple activity of movement. Regardless of the label that we do or don’t have, we are all complete people, but how do you celebrate this completeness? With a community like November Project we celebrate that completeness in each person by building strength as a team. We’re in this as one, with no types, labels, stereotypes, or tails. Continue to include without judgement and we’ll continue to build this tribe and this world as a better, smarter place to be. The tribe is everywhere. The tribe is strong.Share via socials: