Saturday, January 27, 2007

A posthumous thank you to a 19 year old hero, Anthony Castro

I read about Anthony yesterday over at Andrew’s place. And I’ve been walking around the house with such a heavy heart, crying off and on ever since. I cannot believe the terrible pain I am feeling, the loss feels so close, almost as though he were my son. But I’ve never met him and now he is gone.

This was quite the young man. Read the full tribute here, but here’s a snippet:

It's hard to write about a friend who has just died, but people need to know about Anthony Castro, killed in a crash in the Southern California mountains on Jan. 21. He was 19.

Anthony was that rarest of people – an athlete out to his team. In Anthony's case, he was out in high school to his football and wrestling teams, our two most macho team sports. It took guts to take such a step but Anthony never thought too much about it – he was not ashamed of who he was and if you were uncomfortable, that was your problem.

My favorite Anthony story involves his senior year of wrestling. A fellow wrestler used to make snide homophobic remarks to Anthony.

Rather than file a complaint with the school, Anthony addressed the problem head on – he challenged the wrestler to a put-up-or-shut-up match. It didn't take very long, as Anthony had the guy pinned in about 20 seconds. That stopped the heckling and Anthony told me the guy quit the team.

Anthony was not a student in some L.A. Westside hotbed of tolerance. Rather, he lived in Banning, two hours east of L.A. in the desert and a rather "red" part of a very "blue" state. Being out in Banning, a pretty rough place, takes some big cojones.

And let me second the part about Banning. We pass through this tiny little desert town every time we drive to California and every single time we hit the city limits, I say a silent little prayer of thanks that we do not live there. How Anthony not only survived there, but thrived is a true testament to him.

In fact, it sounds like no part of this young man’s life was easy. He had a mom that rejected him for a while because he was gay, a father in jail, and friends who’d been shot and killed. How could this young boy beat such odds only to die at 19 in a car accident? Oh God why? Why does life have to be so unfair?

I feel bad on so many levels about Anthony’s story. I am still so raw from learning about the desperate lengths my own son took to keep people from learning he was gay in high school and the fear he lived with on a daily basis. He too was a wrestler, but unlike Anthony, I think he chose wrestling in part to keep people from suspecting he was gay. Knowing my son’s struggles truly makes me appreciate the amazing kid that Anthony was.

High school is a tough enough time for most kids, but it’s even tougher if you don’t fit the norms as defined by the teen masses. None of this seemed to have stopped Anthony in the slightest, in fact it seems to have added steam to his “full steam ahead” attitude about life. I am truly awed at the courage, self-confidence, and zest for life that Anthony obviously had at such a young age. He is truly an inspiration. How I wish my son could have known him. I can only hope that somewhere in the lonely halls of Anthony’s high school there are boys like my son who benefited from Anthony’s positive impact.

Andrew put it well when he said this about this young man:

[Anthony] is part of the next generation of gay men - out in high school, unafraid to be fully themselves, even if it means violating stereotypes.

I cannot help feeling that Anthony’s death will leave an enormous void in all the lives he touched. I’ve never even met him and I sure feel it.



Jarred said...

I can't begin to comprehend this young man's strength and determination in being out in high school. I'm sure many young gay people looked up to him. I suspect he will also continue to hold a special place in their hearts, even though he may no longer be here in person.

May those who knew him cherish their memories of his strength, courage, and integrity for decades to come.

Seething Mom said...

Well said Jarred. And I agree, it really speaks to his strength and determination that he could be out and proud in high school.

Such a loss. My heart aches.

Seething Mom said...

Well said Jarred.

Jim Buzinski said...

I am Jim, the guy who wrote the tribute. Since my article appeared I have received dozens of e-mails from people who were touched by his story. It's funny, but to those of us who knew him, he was just Anthony. It's only when I sat down to write that I realized how special he was.

We played football today for the first time since he died, and it rained on us at a game for the first time in 2 years (we live in LA). "Anthony's taking a piss on us," one player said, and we knew the spirit it which he meant the comment.

Seething Mom wrote so well about her feelings and I want to thank you for spreading the word about Anthony.

Catherine + said...

Dear Mom, thank you for writing your post and sharing what mostly goes unheard in the rest of the country. You are so appreciated by me and many others. Keep writing, and write hard and with the deep conviction we know you for...God bless you Kim.