10 – Ben Morse

Queer (he/him) // Colorado Springs, CO // Parent. Partner. Teacher. Musician.

With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….

“I have to preface my answer by saying that I’m a little queer, but much of my identity and experience has been as straight, so it’s not like I have a story where I realized I was gay. (This also means that I have not had to deal with many of the difficulties that many queer people do.) I went to a high school where I was in the theater community and there was a GSA — a Gay Straight Alliance — there was a lot of possibility, the space to think ‘Maybe I’m a little bisexual.’ I kissed some boys and things. It’s always been more like a little bit of a thread in my life. It’s never been a moment of ‘Ah! This is a definitive turning point!’ or anything like that. So I don’t really have a time or a place to recount.”

How old were you when you came out?

“There was a little of the kissing boys in high school, and it’s just sort of been a thing that happened once in a while in my life. I’ve never been in a serious relationship with a man, and at this point I don’t know if I would. Sort of here and there throughout my teens, and just through my adult life. There’s not really one particular moment to point to.”

First celebrity crush?

“Oh, man. Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show… I wasn’t exactly attracted to Tim Curry in that role in a sexual way, but extremely drawn to their character. Like, ‘Oh, wow.’ I did some drag performing in a camp play. I went to an all boys camp, and I jumped at the chance to do a drag role. I did a little drag in college, you know, going to Rocky Horror and dressing up, doing drag in a burlesque show. But I remember feeling then — and still — when he does ‘I’m Going Home’ at the end of the movie, his mascara is all messed up and everything, and just feeling very affected, ‘Ah man, that really gets me…’ And then later, Hedwig had a very similar effect on me. I know it feeds into the tragic transgender archetype, which has its own baggage, but that definitely spoke to me as a young person.”  

Favorite part about the community?

“So I’m new to Colorado Springs, but I was in Chicago for the last 3 years, and I met one polyamorous person, and if you meet one polyamorous person, you automatically meet a bunch of them. So there was this whole social network of people that I got in on the edge of and got to spend time with, and became close friends with some of them. It’s just that particular community — which had its own issues and people would fight with each other, of course — it was very loving and open, and people were very accepting of each other in many respects. It was nice to go to parties, and just know that there was going to be a lot of kindness.”

Least favorite?

“It’s not frustrations with the community, it’s frustrations with having a not clearly defined queerness like I do. Where I’m not – It’s not like ‘Oh, he’s gay, now he’s dating men…’ It’s more like, for example I’m a teacher, and I really want to be an open queer role model to my students, but there’s not much I can share with them, because in the end, it’s like, sex, and I teach middle school. Teachers do not talk to their students about their actual sex lives in middle school. That’s not appropriate. So I do find myself in this weird, closeted is way too strong of a term, but not particularly public about a lot of my queerness because it’s mostly kind of private by normal adult standards. That’s kind of vexing.”

What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?

“It seems like for younger people in many parts of the country, if you have a clearly defined identity, there’s increasingly a lot of room for it. And I think with the very young people, a more broad queer, non-monogamous, non-binary — all of these things are becoming more normal for people who are under 20, and I think that’s really, really great. So I would say to all of them: Don’t be afraid to say it to your peers. Find people to say it to sooner than later. Don’t be afraid to not be sure about it, but say it anyway. And if people say, ‘Oh, it’s just a phase,’ or ‘Oh, you didn’t know…’ they’re just being dumb. I think especially for people who have more marginal and undefined identities, be more open about it.”

What in your life are you most proud of?

“This is a very typical answer, but probably raising my child. I’m pretty good at my profession, I’m a pretty good musician, and I think I’m a good partner, and I’m a smart person, or whatever… but I think my child is turning into a really good person, and we have a really good relationship. She’s really capable of a lot, and she’s very politically conscientious for a 5 year old. She’s just really smart and kind, and I really love her. So that would be what I’m most proud of.”

With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, if you had the power to change one thing what would it be?

“Can this be magical? I would create radical empathy in all people, so that everyone — there’s this old Star Trek episode where there’s a race of aliens who are actually empaths, and actually can’t not know what other people are feeling, and can’t not understand their perspective — and I think if that occurred to humans, things would get better quickly. Most of the horrible stuff that’s happening is because most people are refusing to take the perspective of other people. I, myself, routinely fail to take perspective of other people, but we see it more deeply and more damaging at the level of policy and electoral politics, and that kind of thing.”

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