I took this picture a couple of years ago. I found this little guy in my garden in Auckland. He may not be the original Oscar Bug, but he did reignite that long forgotten memory and inspire me to write the poem. So I guess he's Oscar now too. I love watching Mantis walk, very hypnotic, plus if you play music, it looks like they are dancing, hours of fun. They are also very photogenic, don't you think? All he's missing is a little top hat and hipster beard.
I don't normally believe in giving much back-story or explanation behind a poem, because like a song or art in any form for that matter, I believe a big part of what makes it powerful is that it's subjective. Each individual can perceive it in their own unique way. I love that two people can read the same poem or listen to the same song and experience something completely different. However, I didn't realize the significance of this tiny moment in my life, or what it meant to me, until I wrote this poem.
When you are born with a secret, you are born with baggage, and this baggage get's heavier as you grow. A child should never be burdened with this kind of weight, especially so early on in their development. I knew I had a secret before I even understood the concept of having one or what mine meant. I was always aware that I was different and I instinctively knew that this was something I had to hide. I didn't fit the images I was being fed. We are assigned our roles in society very quickly, we are shown how to act, what to like and who to love. When I turned on the TV or opened a book or even just walked down the street, I couldn't find any reflections of who I was inside. If you haven't already guessed my secret was that I am gay.
If I were to grow up today I'm sure I'd feel different. There have been some amazing strides in the fight for equality in the past few years and that is fantastic. I hope it's easier for kids growing up today. There is definitely more representation of the LGBTQ community within the media. It exists now, which is great, although it's still something that for the most part I have to seek out. It would be nice to go to the cinema and come across your basic, generic romantic comedy, but with two dudes. (Edit: I finally got my wish with Love, Simon.) One which is more than a coming out story, one where nobody is persecuted, one where nobody dies and preferably one with a love scene that isn't terrifying. I went to the cinema to see "Brokeback Mountain" when I was still a virgin, and honestly, it scarred me (THE TENT SCENE). It's a great movie, but I was young and this was the first gay movie I had ever went to. I was still coming to terms with who I was and what that meant. I left the movie theater thinking "Is this the life I'm destined to have?" It almost scared me right back into the closet. It probably wouldn't have had this negative impact on me if there had been more representation of gay men in mainstream cinema at this time.
The first recollection I have of knowing I was gay was probably when I was between six and seven years old. It's hard to explain how I knew, It's not like I had a physical attraction. I just remember when adults would ask me if a friend or neighbour was my girlfriend it made me squirm. I'm sure this is common for most kids but when I'd play make believe games like "House" I remember thinking "why can't there be two dads". Even then, I knew that I would rather have a pretend husband than a pretend wife. No one had to tell me that this was not something I could tell my friends. So, I guess that's when I started talking to bugs.
I have always loved nature and been obsessed with animals and bugs of all kinds. So much so that my childhood nickname became "Nature Boy". I knew it was meant as an insult but it never bothered me. I loved running outside and lifting up the nearest rock and finding the hidden worlds underneath. I realised I could tell an animal or bug anything and they would never judge, but most importantly, they could never tell. I remember being at my granny's house and saying it out loud for the very first time. I was no older than seven years old. I remember it vividly, telling this tiny little bug that I liked boys. I hadn't even heard the term gay at this point, I'm pretty sure I thought I was the only one that felt this way. That was a very terrifying and lonely place. Somehow, vocalising this, even just to a bug, helped lighten the load I'd been lugging around. I've never told anyone about that before, not because I was ashamed. But, like I said in the beginning, I didn't realize the significance of this tiny moment until I wrote that poem.
At it's heart, Oscar Bug is a story about the importance of communication. A lot of young men struggle to open up and talk about the wars going on inside their minds. This makes me extremely sad. Living that way is very debilitating and unfortunately in too many cases, deadly. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and tell that little kid who cried at night and prayed that he would wake up tomorrow and be normal, that he is perfect just as he is. But in a way, I guess I already had, because I told Oscar and he was cool with it. I realize now that Oscar was my way of telling myself that it was okay. Oscar was the me that I was yet to be, the me that back then I was too afraid to be. He was cool with it.