Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes, it truly does get better.

Nowadays, it's the best of times and the worst of times for gay men in America. DADT was just deemed unconstitutional, and a federal judge barred the Pentagon from pursuing any action under the policy. Of course, with such a volatile issue, we can expect a lot of wrangling before the dust settles. (UPDATE: Yep, the "stay" was just stayed itself. No surprise, but still a major bummer.) In the meantime: the result? Utter pandemonium and dissent in the ranks? Decreased morale and resignations by those disgusted by their fellow gay and lesbian soldiers? It's still early, but you can be the judge.

In addition, although the run seems to have slowed down, 5 states and Washington D.C. now allow gay marriage, and 3 more legally recognize it. And on a lighter note, Denver reprazents on Project Fashion Week, and my money's on Mondo to take it all.

But on the other side of the coin, Logo is shilling the worst gay minstrel show on TV that should be avoided at all costs ("The A-List: New York"). Seriously, I never felt so good about being a suburban quasi-guppie in middle America after seeing this show. If that's the A-List, I want nothing to do with it. And if straight America wants to get their worst suspicions confirmed about gay men, then that's their show. Me, I cringe, and thank God that it's not being shown on a (slightly) more mainstream network like Bravo or Lifetime. Those guys certainly don't represent how I live on a daily basis...or how the vast majority of gay men in America live.

And most seriously, the biggest news item lately: the teen suicides that are occurring as a result of homophobic bullying. Five of them within the past month, right? Although I don't want to minimize the suffering of these five teenagers and their devastated families and friends, it has to be said: Those are only five that have been publicized. There's plenty more casualties. I won't go deeply into statistics, but thousands of teenagers yearly take their lives, and queer youth are nearly 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. You can do the math.

These suicides have spurred a lot of overdue action and publicity. First bit I saw was the Give a Damn organization, showing videos by all sorts of celebrities discussing the fears and agonies so commonplace to queer kids of all sorts. Pretty poignant, these. And they're a wonderful contribution.

Dan Savage - the outspoken sex advice columnist of Savage Love fame - started the It Gets Better channel on YouTube. Being a teenager really sucks, and it really, really fucking sucks if you're a gay teenager. And if you're gay, you can't easily look up to teachers who are out and proud and happy to be mentors and role models...because they're pretty few and far between. And schools won't bring in gay men and lesbians from the outside, lest parents accuse us of something absurd like recruiting or trying to inculcate moral depravity. So Dan did what he felt was the next best thing: He opened up a place for any LGBTers and straight allies who survived their adolescence and subsequently saw their lives get exponentially better to post videos about their experience, so gay teens could see gobs of living proof that people lived through that hell, and are now living wonderful lives. What an amazing idea. Hundreds and hundreds of videos have appeared, filled with fascinating and often heartbreaking stories.

God, have I been there. It started when I was 13. I woke up from a rather vivid dream and suddenly put two and two together...did this mean I was gay? Scared me to death, as you might imagine. And indeed, within the year, after moving schools, becoming a complete outcast and nerd, and being accused of being gay numerous times, I nearly took my life. I had my head in a noose a classmate had jokingly made and hung from a rafter. I had one foot off the chair, and felt the other one begin to lift off, but then decided not to follow through, for whatever reason.

Then came high school. While many of the popular kids were totally getting it on and following their instincts, I was struggling to simply plant a first kiss on my girlfriend - just one, after she had asked me, after months of being together! - and feeling deep down in my core that this was wrong, so wrong, no matter how cool and sweet and pretty and intelligent and understanding and just plain fucking awesome she was. While some friends were going to parties and making out (I'd imagine), I was staying home and taking a knife to my arms and legs because I felt so different and wrong and misunderstood and because...well, if there's something wrong with me, there's only one person to blame and punish, right? And while lots of classmates were excited about their futures and wondering what they would bring, I was morbidly predicting that I would not live past the age of 17...that in fact, it would be wrong for me to live longer than that.

That was over half a lifetime ago. Now, every day that I live is in large part in gratitude to my 13 and 16 year-old selves for not taking my life. Every day, I also try to prove to that boy and that young man how amazing my life has now become, and how much better it keeps getting every day. I keep coming closer to becoming who I was fully meant to be every day. I'm in a wonderful, tremendously loving relationship with a really amazing guy; we just celebrated our 9-year anniversary a few months ago. I have a multitude of friends who love, accept, and celebrate me just as I am...and the sentiment is definitely returned. My work is very fulfilling...I see people grapple with health issues every day, and I do my best to help them overcome these issues and become as healthy as they want to be. At the end of the day, I'm thrilled to just plain be alive.

Normally, I don't go in for being so forward...particularly when there's a lot in just this blog post that could defame my character, let alone the rest of my blog. (I long ago wrote off running for public office.) But maybe I could reach a kid who has lost all hope and is about to take a horribly drastic action, and prevent him or her from taking that action. Or even just help someone who needs some reassurance after a tough day. For that, I will step out from behind this blog.

And if you're that kid reading this, I'm glad you're here. Stop. Take a deep breath. You're not alone. And trust me, and the thousands of people beside me who have already posted videos: Yes, it truly does get better. Hang in there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott, for your courage! Judi

Gleemonex said...

This got me teary-eyed, friend -- I wish I had known any of this when we were teenagers. I might've been less of a self-righteous religious a-hole (in my defense, it was all I knew -- but oh, how I regret some of the things I thought and believed and said back then. And I hope, most fervently, that I never said anything that made you feel worse. )

But this isn't about me -- it's about you, and kids who might be going through the same thing. This is what it will take to change people's hearts. Thank you. I wish I could reach back in time and hug you and tell you it's OK, YOU'RE OK, you are loved and lovable and everything will work out eventually. Maybe these videos are the next best thing -- reaching back in time, sort of, to help the kids who are now where you were then.

Also, frivolous note: PUMP UP THE VOLUME!!!! Oh my god yes. I can still quote it, almost line for line, all the way through. AWESOME.

Uncle Spike said...

You never said or wrote anything easy on that. Believe me, though...I wish I could go back in time to tell myself that it would be okay. I didn't have much in the way of support anywhere. Certainly not from my parents. To my friends, it almost never came up (thank God). However, there were rumblings in the background. My girlfriend's BFF warned her that I was gay, and to stay away from me. (Honestly, it would have been for the best; I remember coming out to her a few years later and apologizing profusely and sobbing pathetically for denying her what should have been a more complete relationship with someone. But we got past it. And now, she's all but disappeared off the face of the planet, unfortunately.