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October 1, 2010

There is a video project aka YouTube channel happening now in response to the suicides of young gays after being taunted and bullied. Dan Savage started it. The idea is for adults to share their stories, to tell children + teens contemplating suicide that it gets better. My friend Kristyn Burtt has posted part of his entry explaining the “It Gets Better” effort in her latest Red Carpet Closet post. I recommend you read it and watch the embedded video by Michael “Buck” Buckley of “What the Buck.”

The official “It Gets Better Project” link.

Matthew Shepard’s mother Judy has also put out a call to speak out, to “protect gay youth from suicide” by speaking out against bullying and teasing.

The Trevor Project is a resource for any gay,lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth contemplating suicide. If that’s you, visit their website. Or call them instead. Now. Their 24 hour hotline is 866-488-7386. If the website takes awhile to load, be patient. Sing something. Doodle. Or dance.

I have been thinking about what to say in a video. I’m more of a writer/director/animator and less of an on camera talent, although I keep trying things out on Gayle (and in Kristyn Burtt’s comments.)

So I’ll try writing some things on the subject of “It Gets Better.” If you’re a reader, you’re in the right place.

I was oblivious to attraction/dating in middle/high school. My parents got married at 18 on the rain date of my mother’s high school graduation. They both gave up college scholarships (my father tried out the collegiate football team, it didn’t take.) College was the goal for me and my siblings. I remember standing in my high school at 18 thinking there’s no one I’d marry. College was the next step, for me. College is where I eventually met Gayle and so many other people. I even met myself.

One day I realized there was a reason I’d always been fascinated by Diana Rigg on The Avengers, Barbara Feldon on Get Smart, Erin Gray on Buck Rogers (Gayle still laughs at the fact I watched Silver Spoons reruns for their Erin Gray content (and comedy) while she was away for a semester at grad school)…there were non celebrities as well.

So, back to one day I woke up and it was a “yeah duh” moment. Everything made more sense. I was me. Green eyes, blondish hair, occasionally warped sense of humor, bad for my GPA library instead of classes habit, likes girls, doodles, drinks grapefruit juice to stay awake before tests, etc. No big deal.

There are mean people. There are people who want things a certain way. There are people who will say mean, hurtful, stupid, bigoted, cutting things. That is their problem. It is more about them than you. I had a “best of friends worst of enemies” situation with a girl from 1st grade on. Later, she told me she was gay too and I realized a lot of the stupid things she did were because of what was going on in her head about herself.

There are also people who just like picking on people they think won’t fight back. So fight back, by standing up for yourself or someone else, by leaving the situation, by not listening, by finding someone who will help you. What is most important is that you be true to yourself. And survive. Evolve. Stay in the game. Everyone is different. Gay is just one part. It can seem huge when you’re trying to figure yourself out or find someone to date, but it is just one of all your qualities. And all of you matters. Believe that. You matter to the universe, to me and a lot of other people, some of whom you will meet in the future. So have a future. There is no way to be officially gay or straight. The only thing you can really hope to be is you. And you are the only person who knows how.

It gets better. Gayle and I have been together for 22 years, I proposed 21 and a half years ago (before it was trendy), we have friends through church*, theatre, family, classes, work…all the usual ways you wander into people. We helped raise my then pre-teen brother who would spend all his school breaks with us. We’ve done plays + movies together, seen plays + movies together, tossed around baseballs, travelled, learned, laughed, loved…

Make your own list. And be safe about it. I always prefer the word gay as a generic catch all term because it can also mean merry. But that’s my version of gay, somewhere in among all the rest of my versions of things.

So be you. Respect the individual in yourself and others. And have some fun, darn it. It gets better. Believe it. There is an increasing list of people who want to tell you that because everybody feels alone sometime. We can all imagine what we’d like someone to say. We all know what it’s like to lose someone. There are people reaching out to you who want nothing more than for you to know that while your experience is unique, your story is worth sharing, your situation can improve and there are people who care.

Take care of yourself. Be you. Be merry.

*Episcopal. I recommend it. Gayle was raised Southern Baptist and I was raised Roman Catholic. It took us a long time to find a church we agreed on. Gayle attends much more frequently that I do, and if religion isn’t something you’re interested in, that’s another facet of you, but if it is, there are churches that will accept, support and fight for you. Find one.

  1. I am finally catching up after a month away. Thanks for sharing your story….and good church recommendations. There are some wonderful options out there.

    • Thanks for stopping by Kristyn. Sorry it took me so long to respond. The religion topic always makes me thoughtful. Too many people discount faith/religion as having any validity at all and too many churches/clergy abuse the faith that is placed in them. This can leave people brought up in strong faith traditions even more alone than bullying. Integrity has come through again with a blessing for the bullied.

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