It Gets Better

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.

My mom with me, way before this story, because who doesn't love a good baby picture?

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.

me, late middle school, dating the one on the left

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.

me, high school, clearly mature for my age...

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.

pensive... pretty sure I'm wondering whether I'm gay in this picture. The button-down shirt, I think, should have given it away.

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.

best housemates ever; despite the downs, the ups were amazing.

fantastic college roommate

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.

happy. grateful. (photo by E. Leonardsmith)

What is your story?

Next up: on the couples that inspire us, and on being one of those couples.

*Wedding Industrial Complex

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12 Comments

Filed under gay, Marriage/Wedding/Engagement, Relationships

12 responses to “It Gets Better

  1. cmc

    Yeah that cool thing the gay profs did for us was so cool, eh? That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Dan Savage video(s).

    Lots of LOVE!
    CMC

    • SO cool. I don’t know who to thank for that, so I’ll thank you for talking me into going 🙂 Thanks. Also, thanks for being so normalizing when I drunkenly admitted girl-crushes a whole year before that! You rock.

  2. i feel hesitant to comment because i have no coming out story… but i just want to say thank you for sharing this and the photos. 🙂

  3. I never considered that being gay was an option for me. I didn’t really ever think about it- not in reference to myself anyway. I had a couple gay & out friends in high school and I admired them. I saw what they went through on a daily basis, and I was proud to be counted as one of their friends. These friends were both male, and it only really occurred to me after I left high school that I didn’t know any lesbians. Lesbians “didn’t exist” in my high school, in my home town.

    When I went to college I met a girl who I soon learned was a lesbian. I wasn’t really sure what to make of her. I would look for her while I was walking to class, while I was in the dining hall or while I was walking through the dorms. I wouldn’t say that I had a crush, but I was intensely fascinated. It was like I was observing some rare creature.

    The summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college was a time of intense realization. I met a great group of friends and through this group of friends I met a girl. This girl liked me and she made no effort to deny it. I spent that summer flirting with a guy at work and then kissing this girl during beautiful summer nights. It was exciting and scary and I was terribly conflicted for most of that summer. I don’t even think that I actually liked this girl- but something was different with her. Something fell into place for me that had never been there before.

    That fall- the strange creature that I had spent the previous year looking around the corner for- she and I got drunk, and then she wasn’t so strange to me anymore. It was like she had let me into this exclusive club and I suddenly knew the secret handshake. We spent about a month together having fun and I felt like I had been liberated beyond words, beyond anything I had ever imagined.

    Then I met Lauren. Holding hands with her made me feel like I had never touched another person in my life and I never looked back. While it took me about 4 1/2 years to completely come out to everyone in my life, I never once doubted my confidence in her and in us. The rest of the word may doubt us, but we are solid.

  4. I … hmm. How to put this.

    Thank you? I don’t know if that covers it.

    I’ve been with my girlfriend/partner/love of my life/what have you for four years and her family knows and I think my mum and dad “know” (in a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of way). But my family is/as been/wasn’t very … “I hope you don’t grow up to be gay” is something my grandmother has been saying to my brother and I all our lives because neither of us really dated like our cousins. “Thank the lord no one has divorced and our grandchildren aren’t homos” is something my other grandparents have said. In their dinner time prayers to God.

    So, thank you for posting this, for having this blog (for existing and being fabulous?). I now feel very awkward and am going to leave it there.

    Happy Thursday~

    • “I’ve been with my girlfriend/partner/love of my life/what have you for four years and her family knows and I think my mum and dad “know” (in a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of way).”

      This sentence described my life exactly up until about 6 months ago. My partner’s family knew and was nothing but supportive, but for four years I never said a word to my parents. Somewhere along the way I know that they “understood” but we never ever talked about it. I know it isn’t an excuse, but there is never a convenient time to talk about it. My parent’s don’t pry- and I really wish that maybe just this once they would have asked me the uncomfortable questions so that I wouldn’t have had to sit in the kitchen while my mother made dinner when I was home on breaks from school struggling to try and find the right words to let them know.

      I finally told my mother, after I got engaged. AFTER I got engaged. The first words out of her mouth were “Am I going to have grandchildren?” before she hugged me. My step-father wasn’t far behind, while he does still jokingly ask me if I am STILL getting married. I had truly underestimated my parents, and I feel so lucky to have them in the know- now.

      • Ahh, me too, me too! I mean, my parents weren’t really warm and fuzzy towards Turtle at all… she was there for some things but we didn’t really talk about her. And then once we got engaged, things changed. And now they hug her hello and goodbye and send their love over the phone. I, too, felt like I underestimated my parents, and that, had I asked for their support sooner, they would have given it. They just didn’t understand until they were forced to understand, and now they are so wonderful…

  5. Caroline O.

    De-lurking and going off-topic to say “awwhh, CTY picture!” And to say that I love your beautiful wedding pictures and can’t wait to see more of them. Congratulations! 🙂

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