Flint, Michigan. Infamous for its depression. An ugly symbol of the fallout of capitalism. And yet life goes on, here. At Coty’s Westside Diner, the waitress served us vanilla cokes and greasy hamburgers. It couldn’t have been any more truly American. We met up with Rachel, Greg, and Kyle and chatted about their lives at the turn of the millennium here in Michigan’s once-great industrial center. It was a conversation we’ll remember for a long time.
YGA: This really is a classic American diner.
KYLE: It is. We love it. Coty’s is our Cheers.
RACHEL: Although I don’t come here anymore.
YGA: Why not?
RACHEL: Because they don’t like me. One day I was in here with Roxanne, my girlfriend. We had a fight, went outside to talk, and ended up making up and making out right there in the parking lot.
KYLE: Like the whole side of the restaurant was plastered to the window, watching them.
RACHEL: When I walked back in, people were saying “you have to tell them they can’t do that in the parking lot, it’s gross.”
GREG: It’s a free country.
RACHEL: Later on, the owner asked that if we’re gonna do that we go around to the back of the restaurant.
YGA: Did he ask all the straight couples to go around to the back too?
RACHEL: Nope. It sucks cuz Roxanne wanted to be here to meet you guys but she couldn’t make it. She’s actually grounded. That’s quite a story too.
YGA: What happened?
RACHEL: Well her mother let us borrow her truck to drive to a forensics tournament. Afterwards, we were going to a concert. We picked up another friend who Roxanne’s mom ddn’t know was going to be riding in the truck. When Roxanne’s mom found out the other friend was riding in the truck with us when Roxanne called home, her mom called the police and reported the truck stolen.
YGA: The police came after you?
RACHEL: They were at Rox’s house when she came home. I haven’t heard yet what happened, she just left a message on telephone. Her mother took away her AOL account. Her car. She can’t go anywhere. She can’t see me.
YGA: Why would her mom get so upset?
RACHEL: Cuz her mom is crazy.
YGA: So Rox had permission to use the truck, but her mom called the police and reported it stolen.
YGA: Fucking parents, man.
GREG: Thank God for my parents, they are the best.
YGA: Really? How so?
GREG: My mom is really good about things now. Before, she was like “don’t tell our extended family, don’t do this, don’t do that.” Now she’s like “whatever.” Last year she had a problem with me taking a guy to prom so I took my friend Jenny. This year, I took Kyle and nothing happened.
YGA: That’s great you went to the prom together. How was it?
GREG: Awesome. Everyone was afraid something bad might happen to us at school but nothing did.
YGA: That’s really great about your mom.
GREG: She was like, “I guess you’re going to be coming out at your open house to the rest of the family. As long as you’re open and dating someone at the time you shouldn’t have to hide or be ashamed.” I’m thinking Who are you and what have you done with my mother!!!
KYLE: I feel bad so many people have all these awful coming out stories. My coming out was a very very very good experience. I walked into my dad’s room and said “I don’t know how to tell you this but I’m seeing Greg.” He started clapping, and I burst into tears. He said “oh I’m so glad you feel comfortable coming to me with that. I didn’t want to have to come to you…” it was very encouraging.
RACHEL: I was jealous of Kyle’s coming out.
KYLE: Yea, Rachel had to live with me for 2 months when her parents weren’t so great.
YGA: Tell us your story, Rachel
RACHEL: In April of last year I met Roxanne and I started to think about coming out to my parents. I’d met her at a forensics tournament, we started dating and talking, and my mom got suspicious about why I cared so much about talking to this girl. We started fighting a lot about it and one day when we were working together she (my mom) brought up something about our past in an argument and we were both so angry I just blurted out “is that why you think I like to kiss girls!?!” I called Kyle and had him pick me up.
I wasn’t sure if she’d heard it because the next day she acted really normal like I hadn’t said anything. I sat down on her bed and said “mom did you hear what I said yesterday?” I was kinda mad because she said no. Then I said “well…” and fumbled around for a while, it took me 10 minutes to say it.. “Roxanne and I..” then I’d stop.. “she and i…” then I’d stop again… “I KISSED HER I LIKED IT AND I’M A LESBIAN!”
YGA: Then what happened.
RACHEL: My mom said “what do you mean?” I said “what do you think I mean?” We argued for a while about what it meant. A couple days later she told me I’d have to tell my dad or have to leave the house. Now I live with my two moms. My dad knows…he’s pretty much nonexistant.
YGA: Who are your two moms?
RACHEL: They’re a lesbian couple I met at a PFLAG meeting. I kept getting kicked out of my house and trying to go back. I got kicked out four times.
YGA: How can parents do that.
RACHEL: On the fourth time, I called my friend Chris and said “I don’t know what to do.” He called the president of the PFLAG chapter here and got me the number of these two women. They’re two lesbians with a son named Rob. Normal, nice people who take in destitute dykes like me.
YGA: So you live there now?
RACHEL: Yup, right down the street. They’re my moms. I call one of ‘em mom and one “M.” Rob’s my brother. I have a new life! And a second chance.
YGA: What’s it like living in sorta infamous Flint, Michigan.
GREG: Flint used to be a booming city. Now it’s thousands of dollars in debt. It’s like a huge ghetto.
KYLE: One big ghetto where the nice areas are just nicer ghettos.
RACHEL: I hate it here.
YGA: Do you all consider leaving?
RACHEL: Oh yea.
YGA: To where?
RACHEL: No idea.
GREG: Maybe Europe.
KYLE: I love Paris. I was meant to be born there.
YGA: You guys should go.
KYLE: Actually, the week before Rachel officially moved in with me, a group went to Paris, and Nice, and Rome. It was very cool.
YGA: What did you like about it?
KYLE: Just the people and the atmosphere. It’s a different way of life.
GREG: They’re way more accepting of a lot of things. Less uptight.
KYLE: People think the French are egotistical and snobby, but that’s not really true.
RACHEL: I don’t think people are egotistical enough, anyway. Flint is very suffocating. There’s not a lot to do, especially for gay people, unless you want to go to the bars which are all in the sleaziest part of Flint and you have to be over 21.
KYLE: Bars scare me.
YGA: How come?
KYLE: Because I’ve grown up around drunks and have found that there are more bad things to bars than good things. Also I’m afraid of being in a situation where I would be surrounded by belligerent people.
YGA: It’s really unfortunate that that’s where you have to go to socialize.
GREG: There’s no teen clubs.
RACHEL: The only thing we do really…which is the way I met Kyle… is go to PFLAG, every 2nd Sunday. That’s where we meet young people. There’ll always be a few young people coming in here and there.
KYLE: The thing is, the same goes for straight youth. There’s nothing for youth, period.
RACHEL: And they wonder why we have so many drug-addicted teenagers. Well it’s because they don’t give us anything to do.
YGA: It’s so weird that people can’t put that simple equation together.
GREG: OK, I wanna tell my coming out story.
YGA: Go for it.
GREG: At one point my mom and I worked at a department store called Myers. She was a greeter, and I worked in the bottle return department. We worked first shifts on Saturdays and Sundays and I’d go talk to her in the morning. I started telling her that I was starting this GSA at school. She was like “Greg why would you get involved in something like that unless you’re that way?”. I was all quiet. Then I said “well actually, mom, I am.” And I love her response. She says, “you am, huh.”
RACHEL: That’s classic.
GREG: I didn’t know what to say so it was like seeya, and back to work. We were riding home that day and I asked if she had any questions for me. She said no. A week went by, we did a lot of talking, and we started thinking how are we gonna tell dad? One night they were both in the den and I was talking online to my friend Sara about the GSA. I was talking about wanting to be Vice President. Sara was like “does your dad know?” So I sat there, turned around, and was like “dad I’ve got something to tell you, I’m gay.” He scrunched up his face, shaked his head back and forth, and went back to what he was doing. The next day we had a heart to heart. I told them about Kyle. Now, my parents even consider him part of the family. The 15th member of the family. We have a family rule that significant others must play chess, it’s like a requirement.
YGA: Do you play chess Kyle?
GREG: Yes he does and when he comes over, my dad’s gonna play chess with him.
YGA: Rachel, what kind of advice would you give to all the girls out there who might be going through situations similar to yours?
RACHEL: I don’t want to get too cheesy but, be proud of who you are. Be very proud of the fact that you’re a woman. I was thinking about this last night while watching If These Walls Could Talk II, Chloe Sevigny’s part (a butch motorcycle-riding grrl), thinking don’t be afraid to express yourself. Be who you want to be. There’s always going to be a lot of people who won’t agree with it. But there will also be a lot that will. Again, be proud of the fact that you’re a woman.
YGA: Is it tough being not only a woman in a male-dominated world, but also a gay woman?
RACHEL: Sometimes I feel hopeless and sometimes I feel proud. It’s a double-edged sword.
YGA: When do you feel hopeless?
RACHEL: Specifically, when men treat lesbians like objects of lust put on this earth to turn them on. A lot of straight men don’t understand that it’s not just something you do for them, it’s something really meaningful. I feel like saying to them, “look, lesbian porn is nothing like what real lesbians are like.” It really pisses me off. I don’t like being looked at as more sexy or more sexual because of the fact that I’m a lesbian.
GREG: Sara said people will come up to her and her girlfriend in school and say “I’ll give you a dollar to kiss her.” She’s like, “I’ll take the dollar but I won’t kiss.”
RACHEL: Another thing that pisses me off is when people ask who wears the pants? I always say, we both wear skirts. But it still really pisses me off. We’re both women and we’re both proud of it, and we’re both strong. I can understand they’re just trying to make sense of it. But it makes me feel they’re trying to take away from my sexuality.
YGA: And what about the things that make you proud?
RACHEL: I’d have to say the fact that I know I’m making it better for people who are like me. For women, for the next generation, specifically lesbian women. Being out there and happy. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve survived Catholic school this far. I’ve survived life. It makes me proud of myself to know I’m a survivor.
YGA: How old are you?
RACHEL: 18. Roxanne turns 18 right after Christmas.
YGA: Do you like to think ahead much about relationships?
RACHEL: Not really. That’s the big problem. I’m trying really hard not to get too wrapped up and involved.. but I love her to death. I’d do anything for her. I try not to be a hormonal teenager, y’know? I try to be logical about it and take it one day at a time.
YGA:We wish you all lots of luck, and same for Sara and Michelle (see prom pic on sidebar). It was so nice meeting you all