This week’s column is a response to numerous letters I have received over the years, whose writers have wanted to maintain privacy. I have written these individuals back, but at the writers’ request I haven’t made their letters public. However, these advice-seekers share a common problem, and I feel I could help a lot more people by addressing the issue without sharing their individual stories. So with the risk of pissing people off on all sides of this issue, I will now pull out my soapbox.
It is not easy being a gay, bisexual, or transgendered individual in high school. Though cultural attitudes have improved over the past two decades, it is still a frightening and emotionally difficult situation. First, I want to address anyone who is going through this discovery, struggling with their identity, and/or embarking on the coming-out process: You should know that you are not alone. It seems trite, but please know that millions have come through that door before, and millions will follow you through this experience. Also: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You may need a haircut or a new pair of shoes, but inside, there ain’t a damn thing askew. It is natural to feel scared, alienated, and depressed. But you are not a mistake, and life will get better as you learn to accept yourself for who you are, and find the love and acceptance you deserve.
Your friends or parents may not understand, and may say hurtful things. Reach out and find someone who does understand. Unfortunately, San Antonio lacks quality support programs for LGBT youth, either in our school systems or in the greater community. If you do not have someone to turn to, get ye to the library and the internet. Note: Not chat rooms littered with trolling pedophiles, but rather sites with helpful information, and positive life and role models. Here are a few resources: lgbtawayout.com, pflag.org, gayteens.about.com, oasisjournals.com/resources. I am not declaring any of these the bible of true happiness or instructions on how to become the best homosexual ever. But they may hold some answers to some of your questions, give you a way to connect and identify with other young people, and provide resources for coping with and talking to your family and friends about your feelings and identity. You’ll need to go to the public library for this, most likely, but check out the gay and lesbian literature section there for books.
Suicide and running away are not answers. They make new problems. I tried suicide, and can tell you from experience it is not effective. I am still alive, and still gay. (And frankly, if I were dead, this column would suck.) Running away just succeeds in depriving you of the two things your parents are providing, if nothing else; free food, and a roof over your head. If you are experiencing abuse or are otherwise in danger at home, talk to a trusted teacher, coach, or counselor at school, or reach out to another adult, such as a sympathetic parent of a friend or another relative, who can help you get out of danger and into a situation that is truly safer and more stable.
Now I want to speak to friends, families, and peers.
Look, if your child or classmate is gay, lesbian, or transgendered, you are not going to be able to change this. Not through yelling, punishment, praying, beating, counseling, or any other counteractive measure. Acceptance is the only way you are going to protect them from harm, or evil, or whatever else keeps you up at night. There are pitfalls for homosexuals in this world. These are no different from the shit that can happen to a heterosexual kid, just more prevalent and common due to the negative stigma and hatred that is misbred, maliciously fostered, and relentlessly thrust upon our queer youth. Educate yourself and learn to love.
This last bit is for all of us. Urge your school district to implement positive programs like Gay Straight Alliances and positive literature in counseling offices for students struggling with their sexual identity. Write your elected officials. Where is our strong and established LGBT Community Center in San Antonio? Why doesn’t our community support a resource that cannot only assist our youth, but work to help queer people of all ages live better lives together? We know how and where to get together to spend our money on some awesome parties. We have worked tirelessly to support HIV and AIDS programs, but it is about time we started building and taking care of our community as a whole. I am as guilty as anyone else, but I think it’s time we step up.
And with that, I will step off my soapbox.
Much love and little early Pride,
Your Uncle Mat
Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, myspace.com/yourunclemat, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.