Grade School

Me in grade school Photographer unknown.



To the boy that is me,

You and me, we are not so different, even with so many intervening years separating us. We are fighters, stubborn, curious, seekers of justice, too trusting sometimes, lovers of nature, smart, naïve, innocent. We are hurt and we are healing.

I want you to know that you could not have done anything differently. You fought as hard as a ten-year old body could fight. I still fight with my aging sixty-plus body, with my mind, with words, and with a stubborn fervor. Because I never want to see another boy or girl hurt the way that you were hurt at such a young age.

When the fight was gone, it was still not your fault. Know that it was not your fault. It took me years, but I know it now. It is never a child’s fault. It wasn’t your fault at ten years old. It wasn’t your fault at seventeen. Or anywhere in between. It was never your fault.

I am sorry for the times you were unhappy because I couldn’t figure out what was hurting so badly. I am sorry that I turned to alcohol and drugs to hide the pain and dull my senses. I was doing it for you, but didn’t know there were better ways to deal with it all.

It took years, but I am so glad we reconnected. I love you. I love me. That took a while, too, but we’re here together now. I promise I will protect you now and that I will love you always. I wrap you in love and feel the warmth around me. I am content. I am happy. I am healing, and I am filled with gratitude for your strength.






About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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