October 27, 2010

It Gets Better

As a reaction to the recent suicides of younger gay people recently. There’s been an effort to reach out to queer youth to let them know that they aren’t alone and that things do get better.

I don’t have fond memories of some of my younger years. I especially remember junior high and high school as some of the darker times. Early on during this period I didn’t even know what the word gay meant, but I knew that I was different. And the other kids knew I was different too. I spent a lot of time and energy hiding who I was and feeling that there wasn’t another person in the entire world I could talk to about my feelings.

I remember secretly having crushes on other guys and hoping they would feel the same way but extremely afraid to let anyone know how I felt. I remember in high school getting a phone call from some unknown guy wanting to know if I wanted to have sex with him. I also vividly remember saying ‘no’ but desperately wanting to be able to say ‘yes’. I really wanted to fit in, but also knew in my heart that I didn’t fit in.

I think that feeling of being completely alone is common to many queer people. Many of us share a time in our lives when we couldn’t talk to anyone about what we were feeling and many of us heard hateful speech about the way we felt. When a queer youth hears some of the hateful stuff that’s out there, he or she can’t help but think that hateful rhetoric is directed at them!

But things did get better. By the time I got to college I was able to begin exploring who I was and I realized (even back in the late 70’s/early 80’s) that I wasn’t alone. I was able to meet other guys who felt the exact same way I did and was able to connect on multiple levels for friendship, fun and, yes, even erotic exploration.

I was especially disturbed by the death of Tyler Clementi, the university student who killed himself after a video was released of him having sex with another guy. Our erotic energies are so powerful; sometimes that power can be difficult to handle – especially when were’ just getting acquainted with those feelings. We have these strong drives and feelings then are overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or shame afterward. It can be especially troubling when we have no one to turn to talk about those feelings. The irony is that one way to address the shame and guilt is to have a supportive person to talk with.

Many of us who have these feelings toward the same sex spend years running and hiding from the rest of society. We may even feel that there’s something wrong with us or we should be fixed. Nothing is further from the truth. These feelings are integral to making us who we are and integral to the human experience. Whatever our individual beliefs are, these energies are a gift. It allows us to connect others or to ourselves in a way that words can’t describe.

It really does get better.

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