|Gay me in high school. (With super supportive Jeanie.)|
Having come out when I was in high school 25 years ago, it has been a long time since I have felt much emotional pain over being gay. As the tragedy of all of the recent suicides by gay teens came to light in the media I was angry and upset. But I was also surprised. Surprised that 25 years after my own struggle with isolation and fear–with all the positive baby steps and giant leaps for gay civil rights and gay visibility during that time–the darkness remains for the most vulnerable in our society.
It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. With the very loud voices of hate often drowning out those who are supportive, it really should be no surprise that some LGBT youth feel just as isolated now as I did in 1985.
I hope every parent out there who has a feeling deep in their gut that their child is different–and trust me, most parents know before the really know–I hope those parents stop and think about what they may be conveying to their child. Do your words and attitude make them feel worse then they already do? Does your fear or embarrassment overwhelm you when you think about your own child being “one of them”? So much so that you forget about the fact that you love your child? To you I say “wake up!” Deal with your own issues and don’t make them your child’s issues. Do it before it is too late. Give your gay child a hug, don’t wait to cry over his dead body. My parents struggled just like I did, maybe for different reasons. But I always knew that they loved me.
The parents of the bullies have a responsibility as well. Saying “boys will be boys” isn’t good enough. You don’t care about the loser queer kids? You don’t need to. Think about yourself and your own kid. Do you want your bully of a child to go through his life knowing that he was responsible for someones death? Like it or not, the march for gay rights and inclusion is inexorable. There may be set backs, but I can guarantee that by the time your child is an adult he will be ashamed of his actions or be in the minority. So you too need to think about what you are conveying to your children.
Some have criticized the “It Gets Better” campaign for putting the responsibility onto the shoulders of the gay kid and leaving the bullies alone. Well we don’t have time for the bullies to change. We need to let gay youth know that their lives will get better if they are only around to see it unfold.
As I said, I got over my issues with being gay 25 years ago, but seeing all of these It Gets Better videos has not only reminded me of the pain and isolation I felt back then, but it has also been incredibly life affirming. The gay movement has been many things over the years. There were the brave, righteous days of post-Stonewall gay rights in the 1970s, and the brave, righteous fight against hate and apathy in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s. There has also been the mainstreaming of gay in every day life. From being out at work, to seeing gay faces in popular culture, to the rise of gay couples and their gaybies, to, what seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago, gay marriage.
Out of these terrible tragedies there is a real opportunity for gays and straights alike. Faced with the prospect of having blood on our hands, we all need to stand up do the right thing. Do we stand silent on the side of darkness or do we choose to affirm the value of every child?
This is a watershed moment for straights to get off the fence and pick a side, but it is also a watershed moment for the LGBT community. Many of us have become so comfortable with our own status quo we have forgotten the struggle. And I know I personally have stayed clear of issues related to gay youth. So worried that I might be seen to be “recruiting”. The result was to leave it solely up to supportive straights to take on the responsibility of safeguarding gay kids. The plethora of It Gets Better videos has shown me that we in the LGBT community owe these kids more. We not only need to be advocates but we need to share our stories. And one thing these videos do so amazingly well, is show that we are up to the challenge.
So many of these videos bring tears to my eyes, not just over the sad stories, but over the joys of making it through the struggle. Over the realization of the universality of what we have gone through. And this makes me proud. I think many of us in the gay community have shied away from those in the community who didn’t look like the rest of society. We have discounted diversity and been afraid of the oddballs. With these videos I feel the last vestiges of my own internal homophobia break apart and slip away. The oddballs, the fairies, the freaks are not to be feared. I am them and they are me. If they don’t deserve a place in society, why should I?
Maybe I am projecting my own feelings onto a mythic gay community. But I really feel like these videos show a LGBT community that is no longer afraid of itself. No longer worried about fitting in. No longer confined to the gay pride parade or a gay bar. Showing every gay kid the incredible array of possibilities is powerful. And I hope they all live to see what great things are in store for them.
So here is a selection of my favorite videos. There is something for everyone here. Clergy, opera stars, farmers, and a whole lot more.
And a link to the official It Gets Better website.