Any other Saturday Night fans out there?   I realize that there may not be a huge number of us who can remember the early years—Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd, Chevy, Belushi and low key guests like Andy Kaufman.  I’ll confess that I haven’t been consistent with my viewing habits, and that the older I’ve gotten, the less likely I am to stay awake after 9:30 pm.  These days I’m more likely to catch older shows being re-broadcast on the Comedy Channel than I am seeing whoever the current cast is, live.  But I bet that they still take sensitive issues and get us laughing with politically incorrect skits and characters.

Remember Pat?  Androgynous and ambiguous in dress as well as name, big framed glasses on top of expressions and a laugh that made us uncomfortable?  And that was the point, I think—not to make fun of someone whose gender identification wasn’t clear to us, but making fun of our bias having us experience some discomfort and maybe gain a little insight.  And that’s me—only a little insightful.

When I first saw a reference to “LGBT” (and LGBTQ) I really didn’t have a clue.  As my brain began to comprehend, recall, and attempt to use in rational thought, I experienced an attempt to balance understanding and tolerance with denial and a sense of discomfort.  Trust me, I fully get that we are living in an age of and expressing our innermost thoughts in acronyms, but “LGBT”?  Really?!  I’m still working on me to reach some kind of healthy place that feels right and respects others.  This is necessary work as I was of a generation that received a lot of propaganda and “training” that successfully installed in me bias against gays.  But I don’t have to work on what I’ve observed.

According to multiple, reputable sources of data, there is a disproportionately high percentage of young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered in the overall population of youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness.  And I relate the message of that data with what I have observed while working in this homeless shelter.  Of all the experiences I might imagine these young people having had, I would place rejection, in all its forms, at or near the top of the list.  Fear driven rejection from family, other students, messages from society, and even from within.  I have to imagine that if I were someone who experienced rejection, rather than tolerance or acceptance, from the majority of people I came in contact with that I would tend to censor myself from saying or doing things that called attention to my identity.  I bet I would tend to isolate, preoccupy myself with negative feelings and my own questions about who I was and why I was, and be at risk for depression and suicide.  I might shut down.

“Jacki” was at the Shelter for close to 3 months.  She seemed stuck, unable or unwilling to move on a plan to seek employment, not looking for any therapeutic or peer support that I’m aware of.  Looking depressed.  Never asked to join in any reindeer games.  Not funny like Pat.

I do not know what will become of Jacki, but I don’t have a good feeling.  Shelter staff and other guests have attempted connections, but I didn’t witness any noticeable improvement in her affect.

I’m reminded that other societies, other cultures including the “ancient Greeks” to many North American native tribes, saw special qualities in people whom we would deem either “psychotic” or “gay.”  Jacki and I both have a ways to go—but I experience unasked for, assumed, and regular acceptance every single day.  What does she get?  I believe that who we are has a ton to do with the luck of the draw of our birth—much more, actually, than what we may have done since that event.  You and I have work to do.

Dennis Marble

About Dennis Marble

Dennis has been the Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter since January of 1996. His previous career work includes non-traditional and adult education and management and sales and sales management. He’s a graduate of Colby College ( B.A. in 1971) and the University of Maine (M.Ed. in 1976), and happily has a daughter and son-in-law who have chosen to stay in the Bangor region.