When Dan Savage emailed me a couple of weeks ago to float the concept of his “It Gets Better” project, I almost fell out of my chair at the idea’s brilliance and, perhaps as importantly, its simplicity. What an easy to execute, yet incredibly powerful way to reach LGBT youth at risk! But a moment later, I also felt a strange pang of guilt because I had nothing to personally contribute. I was never bullied or taunted for being gay that I can recall.
My father was certainly disappointed with my uninterest in sports and that often-expressed regret seemed to come with an implied assessment of my masculinity. But overall my parents were largely indifferent to my high school social life, which as far as they could tell primarily focused on geeking out over Saturday night Risk tournaments with the rest of the chess club. (Little did they know those evenings often ended with a trip to the Parliament House!)
As for religious damnation, our family’s already sporadic attendance (Easter, Christmas, etc) at Orlando’s Good Shepherd finally petered out when I entered middle school, so I never personally heard any promises of burning in an eternal lake of fire for being a dirty little queer. The concept of homosexuality as an “abomination” was merely an odd notion, one I remembered from the more severe St. Egbert back in North Carolina. I knew some people felt that way, but the thought scarcely crossed my mind.
Tell us about your own high school experiences. Did you keep your head down and blend in, as I did? Were you out and proud, as I wish I had been? I never had to deny my gayness because nobody ever really “accused” me. But I also never had a high school sweetheart, never went on a real date with a boy. I was probably as happy (and morose) as the average teenager, but I sure missed out on a lot. Tonight I’m thinking about what I sacrificed. But that thought also makes even more proud of today’s brave queer kids and what they face in today’s ugly environment of cyber-bullying and anti-gay religious crusades. Let’s talk about that.