Monday, October 11, 2010

Gaylings

I suppose some kids have it easy, effortlessly and unself-consciously growing up, absorbing the rules of the game like fluoride through their drinking-water.  There have to be some who experience their childhood this way...but I cannot imagine many.

No one gets an owner's manual when they show up in this life. Kids, at home and in school, get peppered with rules and regulations like "don't hit your sister" and "keep your eyes on your own paper" and "no running in the hall" -- things that are easily generalized and enforceable.  Like the card game "Mao", however, the many remaining blanks are filled only by participating, observing and imitating.  Failure to do so leaves you holding cards you learn you shouldn't want.

There are plenty of ways to be different and they are never more painful than during the great societal birth-canal of high school. Not only does just about everyone get to experience it, you get to experience it in a group setting of child-to-adult morphlings zooming around unsteadily on newly-minted sexual driver permits.

What fun!

Did I mention the locker-rooms?

Like I said before, few have it easy.  HOWEVER, the advantage straight kids have in navigating their own individual love boats is inestimable.  From the moment we all are born, we are bombarded by messages from all sides that Joanie Love Chachi and that "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage" and that dental hygiene facilitates making out.  There are dolls and dollhouses to play with, dances and proms to go to, Valentines to give and receive, bridal showers and bachelor parties to attend, and babies to have to start the cycle all over again.

Assuming your inclination is to do this anyway, the road happily rises up to meet you and the wind is ever at your back.  Your road might be bumpy and the wind variable, but the path is provided ...along with "a sail."

But what if your inclination orients you elsewhere?  Intuitive at first, then becoming more plain and finally downright insistent, it may or not be apparent to those otherwise-engaged that you're not keeping up with the herd.  Being reassured that you're a "late bloomer" helps for a time...until you realize that your bloom isn't late; it's been stunted, and not by you.

If you're lucky, you see through the messages -- realizing they are valid for many but not for you -- and are ok with this fact and strong enough to bide your time, if necessary, until you have more control over your life as an adult who is free to move and associate.  It's a lot to ask of teenager, especially one as young as 13.  But some do it.  Others aren't so lucky and internalize all the implicit then explicit (sometimes violently explicit) negativity that comes from not following along, even if you're trying so hard to do so.  Some of these kids ultimately respond with the seemingly logical conclusion that they are better off dead.

People paying attention have long understood that gay kids are more likely to be bullied and have higher suicide rates. Thankfully, our ever-increasing ability to communicate and connect is bringing this problem to a larger audience.  In the days and weeks preceding this year's National Coming Out Day, it seems like there has been an increase in the number of gay suicides.  Towleroad reports that it's actually our awareness that has increased. Speaking with The Trevor Project -- a suicide hotline -- Senior Public Policy and Research Manager Dave Reynolds had this to say:

From what we know and can tell, there has not been an increase in suicide completions among lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth over the past few weeks.  Sadly, there are likely this many deaths every week, but the media and the general populace are just starting to realize the depth of this public health and social justice issue.

Assuming this is true -- and he ought to know -- the sadness and outrage many have felt this last few weeks is long overdue.  Every kid deserves nurturing, protection and encouragement, and caring people obviously need to do more because the need is not being met.  Gay adults have a special role to play and can no longer sit on the sidelines, allowing fear-based accusations of recruitment and pedophilia from a vocal minority keep them quiet and sitting on their hands.  To do nothing means we've internalized the lies and the fear-mongers still exercise the power to control us.  Happily, Dan Savage has most recently advanced the baton by creating the It Gets Better Project, a You Tube channel devoted to people sharing their stories of how it got better for them, post-high school...all because, as Dan reminds us, it was Harvey Milk who said: You gotta give 'em hope.


Hopefully, one day soon, we'll all make way for gaylings.

[Image source:  here.]