Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's been awhile...


God damn I have been gone awhile haven’t I?!? This summer I have been all kinds of busy and I can honestly say, I haven’t had this much fun in a VERY LONG TIME! I have sooo much I want to talk about! So much so that every time I go write about it I get SO overwhelmed about all of it that I just can’t seem to get the words out! So here goes my first attempt…

At the end of May I selected a university sponsored film camp I have worked for over the years, but only for a couple weeks a summer. This summer I signed a 10 week contract for sessions on 4 campuses (UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, UCSD), as an instructor some weeks and an overnight director for the teen students the whole time.

The first week was the hardest. I had spent the previous few weeks going back and forth on whether this was something I could actually do. Smiling seemed to physically hurt me, but I did it anyway and at some point pretty early on, I really started to enjoy myself. What I like most about this program are all the international students we get to attend. That first session I had students from 12 different countries and it was a really awesome learning experience for everybody there! It’s so special to be a part of such a dynamic situation where there’s a free exchange of ideas from all these different cultures.

I specialize in action sports cinematography obviously, so the majority of my class time is spent at the skate parks and OBVIOUSLY all my students are skater/BMX/surfer douche bag teens. Something that I decided to address VERY early on is homophobia. This was something I went back and forth on in my head before camp started, and all through the first day of camp. Boys get frustrated and I completely understand screaming out a good curse word to ease the anger. In fact I have been known to ejaculate a good curse now and then too. I just feel really strongly about homophobic slurs being taboo. EVERYBODY says these words (ESPECIALLY athletes in these sports) and mostly nobody means it in homophobic way, at least not on purpose, but I feel like it’s also really important to educate these guys the best I can about these words and the effect they have.

In my head the whole first day I am going through this internal struggle on if and how I an going to confront this issue. Every time I hear one of the guys scream out “FUCKING GAY!” or “cocksucker!” or “Stupid faggot!” I feel like punching them in the face! But I bite my tongue and swallow my anger instead because I still have no idea how I am going to tackle this issue in a way that I can actually make an impact and get them to think about it.

We get back to campus, shower, cuz we’re all sweaty and disgusting, and I decide to order a few pizzas instead of going to the café, so we can have some good talk time. We talk about the awesome tricks we pulled off, the awesome shots we got on film, and the things that really frustrated us or the things that just didn’t work out the way we thought they would. For awhile I let this go on because it’s putting everybody in the mood to really listen to this exchange of information and opinions. While one of the boys was talking about his big fail of the day he says “fucking gay!” to describe his situation, and I use this moment to push my gay agenda...

RGB: Hey guys I need to have a serious talk about something very important to me. You guys are all here to learn from me, and I am SO PSYCHED that all you are here and all so eager to learn from me! But more important than learning from me, I want everybody here to have a fun and positive experience. It’s only been 24 hours, but I already see a bond forming between all of us and it’s awesome! Still, I think there are a couple of issues we can definitely work on. I want to talk about all these homophobic slurs all you kewl kids have been throwing around all willy nilly.

Instantly there’s a cacophony of righteous indignation and flat out denial of my claim from the most egregious offenders. So I do my best to plow right through it so I can get through it all before this devolves into a bunch of accusations and denials.

RGB: Chill guys! I am not going around and calling each of you out individually, but just in this last half hour, I have heard the words “cocksucker”, “faggot”, and “gay”. No matter how you slice it, that’s homophobic. Right?

This leads to a very quick debate about how nobody is using these words to put down gay people, they are just saying them because its what people say when they are angry and frustrated.

RGB: I totally understand that! But would you guys be using those words if you knew the person sitting next to you was gay? Of course not! So think about this, 1 in 10 guys is gay, and there are 25 guys in this room. Chances are there are at least 2 gay guys right here, right now. Think about that, and then think about saying those words again. We all have the same interests, and the same passion for our sport, and because of that we were all able to become friends really fast! You guys have all made it clear that none of you were saying these words to be mean, and I think that’s awesome. BUT if there are 2 gay guys in this room right now, after all the things we’ve said, do you think they've had as much fun as we did today?

It got really quiet after that. I could tell that the guys were honestly thinking about what I'd said. That alone was way more than I could’ve hoped for! A lot of the guys owned up to their behavior and promised to make an honest effort to filter what they say from now on. A few of the guys even made an apology to the anonymous “2.5 gay guys in the room” and promised they’d be more careful with their words. It was all very sweet and something I was very glad I decided to confront. But the coup de grâce
came much later in the evening when everybody was getting ready for bed. One of the guys walked into my room and thanked me, he told me it meant a lot to him that I brought this up because he’s gay and because of what I said he felt comfortable sharing this with me. I let him know that my door was always open if he ever wanted to talk, and I went to bed with the biggest smile on my face. There were 25 guys in the room and 2 of them were gay! Statistics don't lie, do they? I really do just want every one of my students to walk away from this experience with nothing but positivity and in that moment I knew they would.

11 comments:

Majid Ali said...

Please help me by reading my appeal on my profile

letopho said...

Love this. You're amazing.

Anonymous said...

You're like Richard Dreyfus in Mr. Holland's Opus, or Michelle Pfeifer in that movie where she saves all the ghetto kids! Gosh, if i was in camp I'd want you to be my counselor. I totally broke down in front of my camp counselor in a one-on-one except he just stared at me and had no idea what to say. All i wanted to do was come out but it was church camp. that was inspirational to read and that kid will remember you always!

John said...

I know you like to act all tough, but when it comes right down to it. You are the sweetest most sensitive guy I know. People like you are exactly the ones who need to be out there inspiring our youth. You made a difference in that one gay kids life, but there are also going to be dozens of others who are going to be effected by the change you started in all those other boys. That alone is just so special! You are truly an amazing guy sometimes RGB. ;)

bob said...

I agree with John, you made a huge lasting impact on all these kids! You make a difference everyday just by being who you are. This is your calling in life. Reading this made me feel happy. Thanks!

Mike said...

You da Monster! Also like the bit about the international element. We should a be ingratiating ourselves more with international cultures.

Trevor said...

Glad you are back to doing what you love. Running a summer camp is what you were born to do bud. You have this effect on people and NOBODY but you could pull of the things you do the way you do them! I can't wait for you to start talking about the rest of your summer so everybody else out there can know how awesome you are as well as i do! ;)

Hetero-Challenged said...

I think about doing this every time too with friends who use "that's gay" as a comment on something bad but for some reason, I get really...reserved, I guess is the word, and end up just ignoring it. Even though I know it to be wrong.

Every time though, I get the energy to not be so lethargic and actually point out, it's wrong to say these words because...

Jason said...

I am just going to have to jump on the RGB's awesome bandwagon. You are the bees knees! You have that special something where you can get people to see your way without ever getting defensive about it. You just smile that sly smile of yours, and open up those big ass doe eyes like you do. And the world is your oyster! I have changed my mind, you fuckin suck!

Anonymous said...

When you were struggling with making homophobia an issue or not i can relate to that. There have been a few times where I've struggled with the same issues. You handled youself much better than i would have. This felt like an uncheesey version of an afterschool special. Those kids were lucky to have you in their lives!

RGB said...

I guess I would just like to start off by thanking everybody for their nice comments. In addition to these comments, I have received of emails from people talking about having experienced similar situations. There’s something extremely reassuring about knowing I am not the only person in the world with these feelings and struggles. Sometimes I think that I am just being overly sensitive or hypercritical of others, but after hearing your stories it makes me feel even better about how I handled myself. So thanks again everybody!