Remembering Howie

There was a skinny boy in my high school whom some people might not have remembered. He was tucked into himself and quick-shuffling through the halls, trying to be invisible so that he wouldn’t be a target for cruelty. He was not one of the fortunate ones. Not one of the pretty ones. Not one of those mean ones who seem taller standing on someone else’s face. No, this boy had shabby clothes, and the kind of thick, bushy, flaming red hair that kids pick on you for, and lovers later are amazed by. The reason he was a target was because he was so deeply, naturally effeminate. With me, he was free to be delighted. I can picture his way-too-white bony wrists cocked against his little bird chest, and a girlish ankle twisted “just so” behind him. He never had the chance to grow into his infectious, buck-toothed grin or his queenie cackle. He never grew up to find his pride, as we all have. This kid suffered so much queer-bashing for being differently-gendered, in the 10th grade he finally ended the abuse with a noose around his neck. He had never even kissed a boy.

I have thought of you for 27 years, Howie.

*You were such a joy*.


  1. babygirlbound

    The cruelty that people wield out of fear or ignorance always leaves me breathless and in awe of how tortured the human spirit can be. We have to see a change in this. We have to see the birth of acceptance, but in order to do so we have to never forget and never stop being heard. Never stop fighting for our very right to live a happy and complete life.

    How fortunate we are to have someone so beautifully remember our history.

  2. huskyone

    Geez Rhon, you almost brought a tear to this stoic ole butch’s eye. There have been so many Howies in this world. It reminds me of a boy in my elementary school class names James who was very effeminate too. He didn’t even try to hang out with the boys at recess. He tried to hang out with the girls, but they obviously didn’t want him either. I lost track of him when we moved out of state when I was in 7th grade. I saw him once when we moved back when I was 19, but didn’t talk to him. I heard a few years ago that he died of AIDS. I have sometimes thought of him over the years, what happened in his life. I’m glad that Howie is still remembered by you.

  3. mjsslavebelle

    You are a wonder Rhon! What a beautiful memorial to a beautiful human being! I knew a skinny red-headed white boy in high school too. He on the other hand was a bit more blessed. He got picked on but our school just wasn’t host to major cruelty and he has grown up to love and live with a wonderful man for many years and they are now raising children together. I’m just glad there are happy stories to balance out the hatred.

    thank you for sharing and letting us know this wonderful person we never got the chance to meet.

  4. dfwleathergirl

    Thank you for sharing. By doing so you have given me the opportunity to “be a friend” to Howie in an offhanded way. Some may say too late…but never is it too late to remember someone with joy (even if you don’t know them) and to also go forward with them in your heart, soul and mind.

  5. that_jake_guy

    In a slightly different sort of way, I was the “Howie” at my school. So many times I thought about ending my life because damnit, maybe then they’d be sorry. Maybe then they’d realize that even though I was different, I was human just like them, and the pain they were inflicting was real and damaging.

    Obviously, I made it through. I was at the edge and so close to jumping off so many times, but I didn’t. I don’t know what stopped me.

    Three years ago I was contacted about our 10 year reunion. I thought about going, just to tell them all to kiss my ass, to laugh in their faces, to say “Hey, how about that! You were right! I was really a man!” Stayed home instead.

    Your memory here brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye at the same time. You were a good friend to him, and for that I thank you.

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