I Was Sexually Harassed by the Chair of My Department at The University of Alabama

Photo on 10-22-14 at 6.02 PM #3

I don’t want to write. Goddamn, I do not want to write. This is crazy. It’s 14:45 and I got a nap in. I needed it bad because I’ve been up before 04:30 for the past four days. I’ve been going to the gym with the cameraman before his call each day. He’s a cool guy. Which terrifies me a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot. I say that I want a new relationship, the relationship but when I meet a guy I even think might be someone I might want to date, I sort of panic. I got hurt so bad last time, I’m afraid to ever put myself in that position again. Cheap (okay, free) and meaningless sex is so much safer emotionally. Actually that kind of sex isn’t really “meaningless” to me. I love them all in a certain way. I know how crazy that sounds. Trust me, I know.

I feel like shit. Maybe I need some water. Hang on.

Okay, here’s water. (I chose sparkling.) And some apple and cheese slices. And crackers (no offense). They’re gluten free. I’m not. But it’s what Scotch had in the cabinet and he told me to help myself. He’s been incredible to make me feel so at home on this trip. He and Kit made it possible in the first place. Which reminds me, I have to call and book the return flight. I don’t want to. Go figure.

20:04 I’m going to bed after another wholly unproductive day. This has got to stop. Within each day there are moments sublime and others that seem so bleak its as if I’ve always felt this way and never going to feel anyway different. They are all problems of my own making. I have faith in the ability of my mind to sort things out if I’ll only give it the chance but I don’t. I go from one self-medicating behavior to the next just to try to feel better. Always, always trying to put away the pain. I spent a few minutes in this guy’s apartment tonight. He was the second today. A slow day. We’d never met and likely won’t again. It’s not that the interaction was anything other than what it was supposed to be. That’s just the nature of those things. The thing is there was the smell of dinner in the air and a basketball game was on. My eyes kept finding the game. My stomach rumbled because of the smell of food. I remembered when Adam and I would eat the meal I made and— wait a minute. No. That’s not the way it went down at all. I was about to— there must have been happy moments yes. Hmmm. It seems that Adam was always unhappy on those nights—when I was trying to make things happy. Surely there were happy nights at home together. They just all been eclipsed now. It’s all black. I hope it’s worth it to him. I hope what he got is worth the destruction he brought down on me. Because I love him still I hope that karma is a lie. If it is not, I’m afraid my heart will finish breaking when he gets his.

Back to tonight. In the young man’s apartment I thought for a moment of how much I’d rather be sharing a meal with him than making one of him and that, as much as I hate basketball, I would have sat down and watched the game with him if he’s only asked— and gotten more of what I need— what I so desperately need.

He was the back-up. Another man tricked me by sending me a fake address as a joke. I’m sure this happens a lot— men playing cruel tricks on fags.  Who’s to say it was a man? It could be a woman or a girl or a group of girls or the Lions Club for all I know. Sitting around an iPhone fucking with the fags for a laugh. I’m amazed that more men are not hacked up through anonymous hook ups. Surely the queer killers have thought of this. Perhaps they are and we just never know about it. Maybe the perpetrators are that good at hiding the bodies.

I’m done with chasing meaningless sex for today. And I’m going to get on my knees when I wake up tomorrow morning and pray that I can go tomorrow without it. I’m actually supposed to hang out with a guy I’ve been on some actual dates with tomorrow night. Well, we’ve “hung out” a few times. Haven’t done a lot of movie watching or ball gaming. A shared burrito. Some work outs. He’ll have to go away. He seems open to the possibility of a relationship and neither one of us are ready for that. He might be ready for a relationship. But not with me. No one would be ready for a relationship with me right now. I’m too damaged.

I drove to Pasadena this morning after I dropped my friend at work. The drive was to meet a man— which I did. How many is that for today? Do I count the two with the chaotic men on the laptop? Is this what you bought the laptop for? I thought you bought it to write scripts on. You’re disgusting. What if you invested a thousandth of the time you’ve wasted on sex over the last ten years on doing something to better yourself or the world? What would life look like then? Would you be worried about abusive preachers, teachers, counselors, parents, society, ex “husbands?” Fuck no you wouldn’t. You’d have a better life. But yet you just compulsively seek the next hit. That’s it, the “hit.” Because it’s the only way you can get high now. And what you are so very hungry for is to be high. So high. So far from the bullshit. Opiate high. Amphetamine high. THC high. But none of those are okay anymore. And if you need to escape, the only thing left is your dick. Leave that poor beat-up bastard alone. Get on your knees and beg for help. Nothing is going to happen good if you don’t stop wasting all your time and energy in this way. Nothing is going to change. And on September 1, 2015, you’ll fine that a year did nothing. And you won’t be able to do anything about it. Because of all these goddamn needy fucking people and their demands on you so that they don’t have to feel discomfort. You are a slave to their emotional wellbeing.  Accept that. They are your captors. You can be miserable all you want. But you have got to stay. So they don’t have to feel sad.

Once, after I went back to school to study theatre, I was in a class called Period Acting Styles which was designed to teach the acting students the modalities of acting appropriate to different periods in dramatic literature history— pretty much like it sounds. My teacher was Jonathan Michelsen but he wasn’t there one day and the head of the department, Ed Williams taught our class. There was something in some of the literature or subject matter that alluded (in sort of a Shakespearean and veiled way) about circumcision so it was introduced as a topic of discussion in the class. People made the regular ignorant and inane comments not knowing what the fuck they are talking about. I am a HUGE advocate for NOT mutilating boy children in this way and I am uncut myself (thank Christ and my parents).  Finally, I was sick of the insulting comments and instead of sitting there in discomfort and secrecy any more, I told the class how offensive some of the things they were saying was and “came out” as an uncircumcised man. There was an uncomfortable silence and I gathered my things to leave. It was near the end anyway so Ed Williams, the Chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Alabama at the time, dismissed class. Ed passed me in the hallway on the way back to his office, the office of the Chair of the Theatre Department at The University of Alabama. He summonsed me into an empty classroom. I thought for sure he was going to make some statement of apology for what I had just experienced or at least try to make me feel better in some way. After all, I was a student, working very hard to get my degree in what I had finally discovered was my passion and he was the Chair of the Theatre Department at The University of Alabama at the time.

What he actually did was ask to see my cock. “Let me see it.” he said as he looked down at my crotch. I had been first abused by a school teacher when I was twelve and then again as a teenager in high school. Here was someone else in a position of academic power over me trying to coerce me into doing something sexual that I did not want to do. I was shocked. I was saddened. What was it about me that made men think that this was okay?! What is it about men that makes them think this is okay?! No wonder I’m such a whore. I’m sexually broken!

I can still see Ed Williams, Chair of the Theatre Department at The University of Alabama standing there smirking, even after I had refused him. He had a lot of power over whether or not I would get roles in the university productions. He knew he had a lot of power over me. For the record, I was never cast in any major roles during my time there at The University of Alabama. I guess Ed Williams, Chair at that time of The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance did not like my refusal when he told me to, “Let [him] see it.”

It had been such a long, hard road to finally figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d return to sobriety after a vicious relapse and returned to The University of Alabama with a new major and a new lease on life. I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be an actor and a writer. I entrusted my dream to the faculty of this school, The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. I trusted them to give me a safe space to take artistic risks and to grow. But the space afforded me was anything but safe. I was the victim of sexual harassment at the hands of the head of one of the departments of a major university and I was so disempowered by the history of abuse I had suffered, I was unable to walk a few buildings away to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and report what had happened to me. And because I was so beat up already, Ed Williams got to finish his career there and retire with the praise and good wishes of that department and that university. I fucking hate what has happened to me sexually. And I hate the way I’ve behaved around sex today.

I still owe about $61,000 for that mostly useless degree. It is (as it has often been) in deferment. I’m living off my veteran’s disability check and trying to get my shit together. I have to get out of Alabama so I can make a living doing what I love again. But is this what it’s going to look like if I move here? Constant pursuit of hookups to feel better which make me feel bad so I have to hook up to feel better. These are all rhetorical questions and I, especially on this issue of sex, do not want to talk about the blog. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep all your advice about how to overcome sexual addiction to your goddamn self if you don’t mind. I know exactly what I have to do and I am furious that I have to do it. Fuck God for giving me all these cards. Tonight, I am one ungrateful sonofabitch.

I hate that I still owe $61,000 dollars for a degree that I can’t even think about without thinking about the fact that I was sexually harassed by the head of my department and that I was so weak and afraid that I didn’t fucking sue the fuck out of the University of Alabama in an amount that would have payed that goddamn ridiculous tuition bill, gotten me help to overcome the trauma, and helped me help others get help too— others who have been sexually harassed or assaulted inside the education system! Oh I got an education alright, just not the kind I was praying for—not the one I was paying for. I wish that I didn’t owe that $61,000 for a degree that is mostly just a painful memory for me. I wish I didn’t pretend to love the University of Alabama so much. I wish I’d learned to speak up this loudly years ago. Maybe then people wouldn’t take one look at me and say, “Oh look at that one. He’s an easy target. I can do and say to him what I want and he want tell.”

I used to thing sexual abuse made people gay. After all, so many gay people I talk to have been sexually abused. What it is is that sexual predators have a knack for sniffing out the disempowered, the ones that won’t tell because they are already too afraid. My culture, religion, school, community, parents and extended family set me up for abuse by not creating a space for me as a queer child. My begin able to “be me” was conditional and had limits. It taught me secrecy. It taught me shame. When Dale Palmer (the first teacher to molest me) saw me, he saw I little boy who wouldn’t tell. He was smart. I was afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore. I may not be a man with nothing to lose, but I am a man who is sick enough to feel like he has nothing to lose a lot of the time.

Someone wrote to Jen, Max’s mom shortly after I started writing this blog and asked her, “Jeff is not saying all that shit around Max, is he?!” For the record, I am not although I hope that Max knows he could come to me with absolutely anything that he was concerned or embarrassed about.

Not that my brother reads my blog but I’m sure if he did, he would wish that I would not be so open and honest about all this embarrassing shit. He too, after all, came from the same culture where abuse and oppression are fed with the fuel of secrecy. One of the reasons he would rather my keep my mouth shut is because of his children. He’s afraid of what embarrassment it might cause them.

I’m sure that man who wrote to Jen did so out of his concern for Max. I love Max, and my own blood nieces and nephews, and my godson Cedar, and Scotch and Todd’s kids more than my own life. And I would never do anything to embarrass or hurt them. But here’s the deal— by saying all this shit out loud, FINALLY, I am helping to create a world where fucking sick shitbags like the Dale Palmer and Ed Williams maybe, just maybe will be less inclined to perpetrate crimes like the ones that were perpetrated on me. And  in that way, through my pain and my viciously fighting (still) to overcome, I will have made the world a better place by sharing my shame (and my shameful behavior) so publicly. This is probably the biggest gifts I can give these kids, even if it embarrasses the adults around them. Maybe if I shout from the mountaintops, the world will be safer for them. When I think of any of these children I just listed (or any children for that matter) having to go through the abuse that has such obvious and longterm effects on me, it makes me physically sick. I think if I caught anyone, or even found out about anyone hurting any of these precious ones in that way, I would not be responsible for what I would do.

Tomorrow is another day. If anyone is left,

I’ll see y’all tomorrow.

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