This Is What Was Wrong

Let’s call this a preemptive answer to a question some might have after reading the acknowledgements for Lightning Rod when it comes out in October. About halfway through is “Thanks to Dr. Curtin for telling me it was wrong.” I want to make certain right now that there’s no ill will toward Dr. Curtin, there’s no sarcasm in that statement, but I realized I can’t be all that cryptic when it comes to something like this. But first, a little background…

Like it says in my bio, I went to SUNY Oswego for undergrad, though it was a split attendance with a three year gap in between. It was after I came back that I took some of my best classes and met a lot of my favorite professors. One of these professors was Dr. Maureen Curtin, who taught my Theories of Diverse Sexuality literature course, or as it was commonly known “Queer Theory”.  It wasn’t like some Dead Poets Society moment, no one was standing on chairs yelling “O Captain, my Captain” at the end of the year, though our campus did get a visit from the attention whores from the WBC while I was taking the class, who even showed up on the Day of Silence for maximum “Look at meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!” (Being only an Honorary Goth, when I passed by them, I sighed in an unimpressed fashion, rolled my eyes, and kept walking)

But besides that incident, Dr. Curtin was the one who showed us photos from the Mapplethorpe exhibit and made admit, in detail, out loud what we saw. Like, for example… This.  (Link NSFW) Guess how long (no pun intended) it took for her to get us to admit in our descriptions the race of the subject? The answer? Three of the most awkward and embarrassing minutes of our lives. Just sit there, wait three minutes, you’ll see how long that actually is to just come out and say “It’s a black guy.” But once we did, once we got a little brave and used our voices we could actually see what the message of the photo was, and it was a powerful one (but I’m not telling in case you’re looking for info for a paper).  And the fact that we didn’t even want to admit it was a black guy in the photo was rather telling as well. Even though it’s perfectly obvious, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to say it.

And this brings us to the point of this.And what any of this has to do with Lightning Rod.

I’m an abuse survivor.

Mostly it was isolation, verbal, and emotional abuse but near the end it got physical as well. The year that followed was one of the darkest of my life and I won’t go into details, and what happened in Dr. Curtin’s office a year after the abuse and the class wasn’t the “turning point” if you’re curious, but it was definitely a milestone in my recovery. She hadn’t been aware of what had happened to me, I was still in the process of letting people know. My family knew, they were supportive, but like most families they didn’t want to talk about it about as much as I didn’t want to relive it. I didn’t recount that many details to Dr. Curtin, mostly the quick and dirty edit that I’d gotten used to skimming through. And she responded, “Well, what he did to you was wrong. You know that, right?”

You’d think I did. You’d think that after a year someone would’ve told me that, but no, no one had. And it’s not because everyone around me was an asshole, or that they condoned what he did to me. It’s like that Mapplethorpe photo; it’s obvious, you just don’t want to say it because clearly there has to be more to it. It never occurs to you that a person wouldn’t know that it’s wrong, and you don’t want to state what’s apparent when you could be saying something more helpful like, “If you need anything” or “I’m here if you need me” or “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this”. Saying any of those things is okay, and it’s something I needed to hear when I heard them, but for a year no one told me that it was wrong, what he did. And during that year, there was a little part of me that asked those questions I shouldn’t have been asking myself.

What if I hadn’t done this or done that less? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that but instead this? If I’d just done that maybe he wouldn’t have…

So no, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know for sure that it was wrong, and my former English professor telling me so didn’t make all those questions magically disappear, but they no longer seemed insurmountable. Now they had answers that all led to the same place where there were different questions: Maybe it wasn’t my fault? Maybe it would’ve ended up here no matter what I did? Maybe what he did to me was wrong no matter what preceded it.

And because of that, I was able to start getting on with my life. So thank you, Dr. Curtin.

Thanks to Dr. Curtin for telling me it was wrong.

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