I’ll start off with this: I’m 17. Just to get it out of the way, because I’m sure it will come up again and again. Sorry ’80s lovers, I grew up to Friends and the genius of ’90s music: Melissa Etheridge [hot], Sarah McLachlan [hot]. I wish I was around for things like the emergence of lesbian comedy or Ellen DeGeneres coming out, but my youth has been shaped by a different kind of lesbian culture, like “The L Word” ladies and the struggle for legal rights. Yes, my global friends, America has yet to get it right.
My friends and I have a little tradition.
[Also, when I say friends, assume that most are gay, and that the straight ones are the MOST amazing straight kids you’ll ever meet.]
Every few months, we plan a huge evening where we go out to our favorite restaurant—a nice little Italian joint next to Hooters—and have a therapy session. The conversation always revolves around being a young homo, and the young heteros don’t seem to mind. There’s crying, there’s laughing, there’s the sharing of lusts and the sharing of troubles at home.
The tradition started quite a while back when our group of eight needed to forget about two hours of History reading we had at home. Sitting at the table, my friend Reggie spoke candidly of the torture of naked boys in the locker room. We all laughed at the familiar feeling. He wondered aloud what would happen if all of his jock friends found out he was gay. We all answered silently in our heads: it would be over.
Next to him, Megan spoke of her relationship with her girlfriend. Megan has only recently discovered her love for the ladies, and she’s had a tough year. As soon as her parents found out, life was hell. It was hard to know what to do when she showed up at school crying in such pain over her torn life. It reminded me of a line from one of Melissa Etheridge’s songs, “…deny all that you feel and they will bring you home again.” I remember thinking, how can this be happening to us?
Sitting at the table with these confessions lingering in the air with nowhere to fall, I knew I had to say something. I’d come out long before the rest of them and I probably went through the longest hell. A year of my mother’s denial, a Southern Baptist grandmother and several bouts of depression later, I better know something from it all.
I knew what it felt like to be scared as hell, to feel alone, and to pray every night for God to make you like everyone else. Searching for something in the least uplifting, I said that we are given gifts in life, and we are supposed to teach people with them. We were supposed to be strong and soft and thoughtful, tolerant and understanding, proud and unyielding—no matter who we are.
By the end of it, all of us were crying. We were crying, I suppose, for ourselves and for each other and for everyone else in the world who felt this kind of pain. We were crying because, suddenly, we understood more from each other; we communicated in a way that we’d never done before. We became vulnerable and scared and raw, and it was so healing.
It makes me wonder what the rest of the world would be like if we all sat down to talk. Could we empathize with each other? Could we understand? I’d like to think that we could. We haven’t been so great at doing that in the past…it’s so much easier to understand with guns than it is to understand with words. It’s simpler and less complicated to bomb a country than it is to be diplomatic, and it’s certainly easier to live in fear than face truth. Our history, as a world, has shown that understanding and empathy are not worth our time.
But this is a new dawn. I know this because at the last “therapy session” a week ago my friends and I decided it would be so. It will start small, with us. and people like us, but there will be a new dawn of hope. America, my home, has a new leader. Our days of teaching people fear, and living in it as well, are over.
Maybe it’s because I’m young and naïve and I’ve still got all that belief in goodness in me, but I believe so strongly it’s a new day. I believe that my kids [who I’m convinced I’ll have with Rachel Maddow, despite the age difference] will grow up in a different world than I did.
I’ll summarize with a quote, because my English teacher tells me I’m terrible at conclusions and I’ll screw up all my previous writing with one:
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love. – Coretta Scott King
So walk a little softer and love a little more today.
by Lauren from Life as an Underage Lesbian