A/N: This isn't slash. This is real.


This Day and Age


There is just one life for each of us: our own.



Jim Kirk is afraid of being gay.

He tugs on his t-shirt. It says, "LOVE," in puffy rainbow letters, and it's powder blue. He's wearing Gap jeans and Chucks but he's going to get looks anyway, no matter how otherwise normal he appears, because evidently he's not normal, although this is a surprise to him. He's at college and appearance matters a lot. Those tall, thick guys with buzz-cuts are going to think he's not as strong as they are, not as masculine. The edgy kids are going to think he's a sellout trendster. The glamorous, suited business majors are going to roll their eyes at artistes like him. (Of course, he is a business major, but that doesn't mean he can't hate business majors. Especially when they do, and this is documented, tend to portray overwhelmingly homophobic tendencies.)

Walking to class is an event for Jim. His college is pretty conservative, so even a clean-cut dude like him, if he's wearing a "fag shirt" (he's gotten this a lot), gets harassed. Occasionally fellow queers help him out. More often it's the straights that come to his aid. This totally preppy blonde girl on a pink-cased iPhone completely chews out a jock for calling him a cocksucker on the way to Russian Lit. He didn't see that coming, but it was nice anyway.

Jim Kirk's not anything special. He's just himself. He's a guy. He's in college. He likes books. He wants to be a CEO one day. And he's gay. Being gay is way far down his list of Things That Define Him. But everyone else keeps notching it up, so he has to notch it up too, and wear his queerness as the flimsiest armor he's ever encountered. Otherwise nothing else about him matters. Otherwise he doesn't count. It's totally unreasonable but that seems to be how it is, however little it makes sense.

In Microeconomic Theory, his professor tends to not call on him, even though he always has the right answer and isn't a dick about it. The transgender girl in the back row, who doesn't look like she was born male but who's always at the queer students meeting Jim attends, talking about how fucked up gender roles are, gets pretty pissed at the teacher one day, and there's a miniature culture war in class. Jim only ends up with an A because the TA, who grades the tests, isn't as fucking crazy as the professor and cares a lot more about externalities and opportunity costs than the questionable morality of ass-fucking (as one well-meaning but foulmouthed guy puts it during the debate). The professor gets some bad surveys at the end of the semester, but nothing happens to him. He goes on teaching kids that the opportunity cost of banning gay marriage is worth it for America's moral purity.

It hasn't occurred to Jim that he's gay his until freshman year of college, when he sees an Asian kid (who turns out to be his roommate Hikaru) and a Russian kid (who turns out to be Hikaru's boyfriend Pavel) making out on the corner of Main and MLK, totally ignoring the incredulous stares of passers-by. He has this major, earth-shattering epiphany while he's looking at them. He dodges a pothole on a cool August morning, and in between footfalls, thinks, I've slept with a ton of chicks and it never seemed right and maybe it never seemed right because it wasn't and you know I had never considered guys before hey maybe I'm gay hey maybe I could be happy now that I know who to look for, instead of just flailing around, hey maybe this will change everything.

And so in the space of a second, Jim Kirk goes from being a man who has everything to being a minority that doesn't even have basic rights. He's never had so much taken away, but then, he's never gained so much, either. As he starts looking at men, beautiful, solid men, with strong arms and sharp jaws, he thinks that gay is the right term, because he's never been happier.

It's the weirdest thing. He hasn't ever given a thought to queerness, but now he is queer, and it turns out that queers have it hard. It turns out that white male privilege is a noticeable, tangible thing that he's actually missing. He can't look around and see people like him everywhere, in all positions of power, in every level of society. He really gets this when he's leaving a gay club a week after his epiphany and two guys punch him in the face, and he owns the bruise for seventeen days.

Back at his dorm room, he sits in front of a mirror, covered in glitter and dirt, and says wonderingly to himself as he stares at the bruise, "This is so unfair."

The bruise hurts. It hurts a lot. He gets really bad headaches and it's—ironically—really hard to smile. People stare at him even more. He makes a t-shirt that says, "Love hurts," and wears it around. The student newspaper does a write-up. Everybody wants to ask, but doesn't. He sort of wishes they would, because he wants to rage to somebody—anybody.

A couple of his friends from high school de-friend him on Facebook when he changes his "Interested In" from women to men. He doesn't sit down and think, "They weren't my friends anyway," because actually, some of them had been his friends. Instead he sits down and cries. And then he thinks savagely, "fuck them," and he and Hikaru beat up some pillows to make themselves feel better about how stupid people are.

It's really weirdly easy for Jim to be gay. He just does it. That's the kind of guy he is. He throws himself in to the queer community immediately and enthusiastically. There's an awkward month where he's learning the lingo and asking a lot of really, really stupid questions, but everybody is really patient and one day, when the queer student association is talking about barebacking, he grins because he knows what that is (and also, why it's stupid to do it). It's fun learning new terms and phrases and acronyms: bear, santorum, rimming, Stonewall, frot, handballing, tribadism, FTM and MTF. Some of them are less fun: DADT, corrective rape, gift giver. He learns more than he ever thought he would about HIV/AIDS, about rape, about hepatitis A and B, about how to live without your parents, about how to survive the kind of violence that he thought humanity had left in the dark ages.

He becomes a leader pretty easily. Turns out he's a natural organizer, so he uses those gifts. Rallies, petitions, campaigns. President of the queer students association. Speaker at a march on the capitol building. Columnist, activist, one-who-does-not-lie-down. He runs for student government and the student newspaper endorses him. He does pretty well in the polls, but he doesn't win. He gets kind of famous on campus.

He doesn't change his appearance. He looks like a straight guy, he hears people say, except that he always wears a shirt with a queer slogan: "Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine." "Make love, not war." "Nobody knows I'm gay." "Closets are for clothes." Then he tosses on a jacket and shoes. No bracelets. No bright colors. He doesn't even gel his hair. He's not trying to make a point. He's just himself. That's the kind of guy he is.

And then like a ton of shit-covered bricks he gets rejected by the business honors program.

Jim's kind of a narcissistic guy, so he knows how awesome he is. Actually, according to the five glowing recommendation letters he got from faculty, he really is awesome. And his GPA—a 4.0—also describes him as awesome. Not to mention his awesome extracurriculars.

Before Jim does anything, before he even freaks out or frowns or throws something breakable across the room, he Googles who's on the Business Honors acceptance committee. Only four people, as it turns out. One of them used to teach at Wheaton and the other is his old friend, the Microeconomics Theory professor. The other two are blandly liberal, but evidently not liberal enough.

He doesn't give up. How could he do that? It's early in the day, and it's a really beautiful day. There's a squirrel arguing with a finch on the oak outside his window. Some people are playing Frisbee out on the lawn, and girls in tank tops are resting their backpacks on their binders as they do homework in the sun. Determined, he sits back and thinks, "What can I do?" Because while people are assholes (and he has come, he thinks, to realize this), their goodness always triumphs. Lawrence v. Texas overrules Bowers v. Hardwick. Dustin Lance Black wins an Oscar. Iowa legalizes gay marriage. Houston elects a gay mayor.

In the long afternoon that follows, he calls his advisor. He talks to a lawyer. He even talks to the dean of the business school. But there's problem, everybody says apologetically. Look up the law, Mr. Kirk, they say. Look up the law.

He does. It turns out that in his state, there is no law protecting discrimination against sexuality.

The second thing that hits him is bigger than a ton of bricks. It's like a sun, or a black hole. He sits there and stares, because he's just realized that there is nothing he can do about this.

He actually has no place to turn.

"What is wrong?"

Jim shies away from the voice. He realizes that he has been sitting in front of his computer for hours now, staring at the gaping hole in the legal system that's supposed to be protecting his life and liberty and pursuit of happiness but isn't. "Nothing's wrong," he says. The despair is welling up inside of him, eating away at his stomach, making his hand numb.

"Jim—what is it?"

Jim shakes his head, but he hands his letter over—the letter that says, "Dear Mr. Kirk: We are sorry to inform you…"

Jim waits for the letter to be read. "There's nothing I can do," he says emptily when the letter is handed slowly back. "I can't change the law."

"You can try, love—"

"No," says Jim. He covers his face. Finally, it's just too much. "God, no—nobody can change that law. There's no way." His shoulders start shaking.


"I don't get it," Jim says. In the dark room his voice is raw. The rejection has peeled his flesh from his bones, and he is sitting there, crude, exposed to the quick. "I don't understand what I've done. This isn't my fault. I just—I love you, Spock—" He's never meant it more. "—and I don't see why that's bad, or how I can possibly not, or why they wouldn't want me to be so happy—"

"I know," whispers Spock, wrapping his arms around Jim. "I know. I am sorry. I am so sorry."

They trickle into thin shadows. They fade into the night.

Jim never gets in to business honors. This is what he's always been afraid of: the letter, the proof of his fatal sexual flaw. The administration that fails to help him. And the hug, the hopeless, helpless clutch of limbs: how little it helps. How nothing can staunch the flow of blood from his wound. Traitors cut his heart with their hate, and nobody can heal it. There is no way to right some wrongs.


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