I’ve been watching the wonderful explosion of It Gets Better videos and blog posts. I love the project; I love the idea of telling everyone exactly what I sometimes needed to hear.
In case you’ve missed this particular meme, it started in September in reaction to all the kids – kids! – committing suicide because they were being harassed for their sexual orientation. Dan Savage and his partner Terry created a YouTube video to tell struggling kids to have hope, to hang on, that their lives won’t always be as miserable as they are now. That it gets better.
But I didn’t contribute to the project. I’ve had a relatively easy time of it. Sure, there have been some rough patches, but compared to, say, Steven at the Yale School of Drama (to give a local example), what could I possibly have to say?
At first I thought there would be no need to preach to the choir. And also, unlike many in the gay community, I’m *so* very lucky that my own story is void of taunting, bullying, shame, self-loathing or abandonment. I never had to pray that it would get better.
Then it occurred to me that my small contribution to this cause could be sharing a piece of my own history to illustrate that some of us are lucky enough to be swaddled in love and acceptance by supportive family and friends from the start. That some of our stories start at better and get better-er.
So yeah: I too have a story to contribute.
It’s Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for my family, for their love and support. I’m grateful for my girlfriend, my friends, my career, my home. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to write and to create.
I’m out to pretty much everyone in my life. Being gay hasn’t held me back. And I am grateful for that.
I first started to realize that I liked girls when I was in college. But I hesitated and second-guessed myself and agonized over it. I wasn’t convinced that I was gay until I was living in Toronto and started dating my first girlfriend. I was elated to finally have figured it out. And then I started coming out.
I didn’t realize what a process it is. You screw up your courage and tell people, and you think, “Great, I did it. I came out. I’m out.” Then you walk into another room of your life and realize that you’re not out there. So you come out again. Then you move to a new city and you come out again. You get a new job, travel with new people, and you come out again and again. It never ends. But it gets easier.
Nothing terrible happened when I first came out: I wasn’t yelled at or rejected or kicked out. I wasn’t struck by lightning. But there were hiccups: painful conversations where people’s curiosity outweighed their tact; strained relationships; a relative I didn’t speak to for months; a friend I never heard from again. I lived for a year in a place where very few people are out; though I didn’t encounter much hostility, sometimes raw curiosity can be horribly uncomfortable.
There was the time my first girlfriend and I were holding hands and some guys leaned out of their car to yell, “Lesbians!” Well, yes. Is that supposed to be an insult?
There were all the times she refused to hold my hand in public because she was afraid her eighth-grade students would see her.
There were all the times (when my hair was super-short) that I scared or ticked off women in public restrooms.
I learned to answer to “Sir.” I learned to smile whenever I got called “Sir-oh-sorry-ma’am.” I didn’t know how to respond the time I got called “Sir” while wearing a dress.
There was the Orthodox Jewish guy on a bus in Jerusalem that sat, squished against me, slowly starting to panic as he began to realize I was a girl, that he was breaking the law against touching people of the opposite sex.
There was also the complete support of my brother, other members of my family, and almost all of my friends. Later, I started working in places where I felt completely comfortable being out. My family grew more and more comfortable with my being not only gay but out. My most popular blog post was as gay as could be.
Just wait for the day that you out yourself and get no reaction. It’s the best, because it means that being gay is just as unremarkable as having brown hair or needing glasses or any other trait that’s just a part of you, just another thing that adds up to make you who you are.
Plus, there’s the fascination of exploring the history of other people who had come out. There’s the fun of exploring the infinite facets of gay culture, from pride parades to galvanizing activism. Best of all, there is the joy of discovering what a relationship can be with someone you’re actually capable of falling in love with.
It started off a little rough. Lonely. Alienating. Confusing. But it’s gotten better, and it keeps getting better. So hang in there. To quote Cabaret:
Life is beautiful.
The girls are beautiful.
Even the orchestra is beautiful.
Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good summary of my life.