I am almost 50 years old now, but I am not too old to remember what it felt like to grow up “different,” being picked on and taunted and teased. And as a parent now, I know that it has, in many ways, gotten even more difficult for kids who don’t fi “the norm” — the smart kid, the overweight kid, the new kid in school, the kid with glasses, the kid with parents who definitely aren’t traditional.
It’s frightening to be a parent. It’s frightening to be an LGBT adult seeing the discrimination and outright hate our LGBT youth are faced with every day. And it has gotten even more frightening over the last month or so as stories have made headlines about LGBT youth being assaulted, raped, murdered, mutilated — Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado in Puerto Rico, Jason Mattison Jr. in Baltimore, Jayron Martin in Houston, an unnamed teenager in Liverpool and, most recently, an unnamed teen in Texas’ Big Bend area.
All this just since mid-November! Every day I come to work expecting to hear word of another attack on the youth of my community, and every day I worry that my own children might fall victim to some form of hatred or violence. I admit, it’s put quite a damper on my holiday spirit.
But last night, I found a bright spot, a ray of hope that at least some LGBT youth have someone to look out for them, someone who won’t turn away from them or, worse yet, strike out at them. It came in the form of an e-mail from a man named Mike.
The subject line on the e-mail read “I need a little help.” It came from a man named Mike who explained that his 16-year-old grandson had just come out to the family. It wasn’t really a suprise, Mike said, and the family overall has been pretty accepting.
The boy, Mike said, has had some problems at school with “the religiously-impaired.” But, he added, “I have talked with him about his personal value as a human being based upon a variety of factors; and that ‘gayness’ does not define him, it is just a part of him. Yeah, I probaly heard that on TV or something. But grandpas, and even parents, can’t deal with all of his needs at this formative stage of life. I want him to see himself as a part of a global community so that he is aware of the real world, and can adjust to his own realities and develop his own interests in it in spite of the peckerwoods he must endure.”
Reading those words made my heart swell with happiness for this young man and his family, and with hope for all LGBT youth. And then it got better.
Mike told me he had gone online to try and find some local resources for his grandson. He found Dallas Voice, and was planning to get his grandson a subscription for Christmas. He also wanted to know if I knew of any magazines specifically for LGBT youth. And he even asked if I had any ideas on resources for his son-in-law, the gay teen’s father, who “accepts but does not understand” his son.
I was thrilled, and immediately sent Mike a reply, telling him how to get a Voice subscription if he wanted, but suggesting that he instead get his grandson connected to the Voice Web site, and that they look into Youth First Texas. I gave him phone numbers and Web sites, and then I suggested that he get his son-in-law connected with PFLAG. In fact, I told him, PFLAG would be a good idea for the whole family.
And then I thanked him — not just for loving his own grandson and wanting to help the boy grow up healthy and happy and well-adjusted, but also for making me feel better about the state of our world as a whole. As long as there are people like Mike around, there is hope. I just wish we had more like him.