Melissa Etheridge’s “Brave and Crazy” is on the mandatory playlist in Arizona.

I used to listen to that all the time when I was 15 and working as a tour guide for the city museum.

It was a small town. Visitors were few and far in between.

I got picked on in school because I “wasn’t from around here” (hey dumbfucks I am literally related to Benjamin Edgerton by marriage) and didn’t go to their church. And they all laughed at my ankle monitor in the gym shower. People started to whisper about how I’d transferred here from the juvenile prison.

Their nickname for me was “Church.”

Suicide was starting to cross my mind when Lizzy Londerville handed me a cassette tape of Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar.”

She wrote a sweet and encouraging note and said “evil within will allow you to be you.”

Never underestimate what a kind word will do to someone who hasn’t heard one in a while. I’ll circle back to this and underline it again later.

From that point forward I huddled with the goth crowd. They took me in and people mostly stopped fucking with me.

One of the times I was heckled one of the goth boys grabbed me and made out with me.

We hated the army recruiters. I’d walk up holding hands with one of the goth boys and we would flip through their brochures feigning STRONG interest in enlisting. It was hilarious.

We didn’t really have the internet just yet — BBS and dialup shell accounts, sure — but I was born a troll. One of the goths figured out that the admin password for the LanTastic software was “Football” and I started going into home directories and downloading test answers.

I deleted the principal’s resume and I kept her dot matrix printer busy from time to time printing out Marilyn Manson lyrics. I preferred to do it when she had left for the day and I could waste all of her paper.

  • One “Dr” (phd in some stupid shit like English) Jennifer Gottlieb, who is very enthusiastic about putting children in literal jail for dress code violations but refused to do anything about queer bashing or queers being beaten – very typical of the petty small minded tyrants who run the K12 to Prison Pipeline.

I got her into trouble with the state for fraud – she would simultaneously try to have me arrested or my license revoked because I had run away from home — while collecting $40,000+ a year and falsely claiming her school provided me special education for those two years. She had to pay it all back:

The one asshole who used to physically assault me and shove me into lockers and shit (no one would do anything about it) used to drive by and scream “Hey freak are you going to church?” at me when I walked to work or school.

He crashed into a tree drunk and died at 21.

Today I listened to an old favorite album and gave my first thought in decades to those long, hot, and sleepy afternoons sitting in the Tobacco City Museum listening to Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang, waiting for the occasional visitor who I’d be forced to say something nice about Edgerton to.

If I could go back and give some advice to 15-year-old me, it would have been to throw away the tour guide script and make up my own until someone fired me:

“Welcome! So, they used to grow tobacco here but that was a hundred years ago. Now there’s just a Piggly Wiggly store and a bunch a racist shitheads. My favorite part of Edgerton is Highway 59 leading right the fuck out of it, you can see it out of this window on your left. Do you want me to show you some rusty old shit that people have found in barns and farm houses in the local area and donated to us? Some of it’s kind of neat. I guess.”

Melissa and k.d. were my main points of reference for being gay at the time, which everyone but me knew that I was by then. I would look at the cover of Melissa’s self-titled album and I knew right then and there that I wanted to dress just like a lesbian.

Our ignorant ass principal would look at my leather bracelets and my turquoise bandanna with a rainbow on the front of it and she’d say I couldn’t wear it because it was “gang related.”

The goths discouraged my desire to dress like a lesbian and steered me towards such edgy and original apparel as black mascara and dog collars and Nine Inch Nails T-shirts. I sighed at everyone saying “this is the real me, expressing who I am,” honestly I only dressed like that because I enjoyed that “dead inside” look in the principals eyes that told me how badly she was wishing that I would go home and put my old clothes back on.