You may have heard recently about the teenagers who committed suicide recently because of the bullying they experienced in school because of their sexuality. Dan Savage and his husband Terry started a project on youtube called It Gets Better. The channel has videos of gays and lesbians telling today’s gay youth that it does, in fact, get better. Hang in there for now, because the other side is better. After high school is better, getting out of whatever awful place you’re in – it really does get better. Dan said,
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.
But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
Anyway, go watch videos; that’s what I’m going to do when I finish writing this. But in the meantime, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experiences coming out. This can be a long story, because it happened, for me, over years. I think that it first registered for me around age 12, and I consider the summer before my senior year of college to be when I really came out, which was age 21 – so nine years. Nine years, you guys. That’s a long story.
Anyway, here’s the short version, the major points (some of which is a repeat): when I was 12, I told my mom that I thought I was bisexual, and she tried to be supportive. She told me that a lot of people go through that phase, or something along those lines. I remember sort of sighing and feeling frustrated that she thought it was a phase, but not talking about it more than that. We were driving, and I remember exactly where in town we were; my mom has no memory of this conversation. After that, I told several of my good friends that I was bisexual, and within a few months, one of them told me that I was doing it just to get attention. So I went back into the closet and shut the door behind me.
Because, you guys, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know how to know. If I could talk to 12 year old me, I would tell her to trust herself; that people who are straight might have curiosity, but (as far as I know), not the doubt that I had. That said, I wonder how much harder things would have been if I had been out then. I always felt this strange (er, what seemed strange then) affinity to people who were out, as though we could see something in each other; I still wonder if they saw that something in me.
Fast forward, oh, nine years – I’m walking across campus to the library after getting dinner, and I’m thinking about a class I’m taking, Bioethics and Reproduction, and it crosses my mind that, if I have kids, I want to adopt. And with that realization, suddenly, I realize that I will never have the perfect family: I won’t have a husband and two and a half biological kids and a Golden Retriever. I want a German Shepherd anyway, and while we’re changing dog breeds and the biological origin of my potential children, hell, who wants a husband anyway? And I go back to the library and send this girl I had a crush on (in the back of my mind) an email asking her out to dinner. That’s a different story (and a short one at that).
Anyway, I then spent the whole summer agonizing over whether I might be gay. When I was drunk (it was college, duh), I knew I was gay. Of course I was gay – how could I doubt it? But sober, I wasn’t sure. A lesbian friend of mine insisted I wasn’t, and I still resent that – I thought she was an authority on the subject, and she would know better than I. You guys! You know better than anyone else who you’re attracted to. Better than anyone else.
At the end of that summer, I ended up in the most wonderful housing situation I have been in until I moved in with my wife. I lived with my former college roommate and two friends, a lesbian couple. Susannah would send me instant messages – while we were in the same room, usually – suggesting that I might be gay in obvious but not-pushy way. I blushed and laughed a lot. She and her girlfriend talked me into going to various gay-oriented events, including one where various faculty and college employees talked about their coming out experiences.
I wish this had happened years before it did.
It was pouring out and we were all clustered into this little room with students and faculty and staff, and I was sitting next to this one girl I’d noticed in classes and my hand was really close to her hand. Really close, and I had never been as fluttery and nervous as I was then.
Blah blah blah, within a month I was kissing her in her dorm room, and now here I am, married to a woman and ready to fight most of the WIC*.
Okay, and what is the point of this?
The point, for me, is that I had to see a lot of people in their normal, healthy, same-sex relationships to realize how okay it was, to realize how normal it was, to finally let myself recognize myself in those relationships. I don’t know that this part of my story will help anyone else, but other peoples’ stories really, truly did help me.
What is your story?
Next up: on the couples that inspire us, and on being one of those couples.
*Wedding Industrial Complex