It gets better-er
It’s Thanksgiving, so naturally I’m working because “the newspaper still has to go out” or something. And when I take breaks from being bitter about working on the holiday, I’ll probably feel thankful. Or hungry for tofurkey. One of those. Just like the pilgrims. So in the spirit of the holiday I’m not observing because I clearly chose the wrong career path, I thought I’d try writing a different kind of post. If you’re looking for the usual snark, please scroll down.
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Amid a shocking slew of suicides among gay youths, author Dan Savage and his husband, Terry, co-founded the It Gets Better Project, an effort dedicated to sharing tales of coming out, overcoming obstacles and growing up in hopes that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens will learn that life is worth sticking around for as an adult – that it gets better.
The movement quickly spread through the blogosphere around the same time that I was being rather self-absorbed by lamenting my 30th birthday and trolling for sex on Netflix. Although I fully support the cause, I wasn’t really sure how or whether I should contribute.
In my personal life, I am politically aware and active. If my to-do list had a title, it would be Liberal Agenda. But that’s just crazy talk, because I’m far too lazy to keep a to-do list, even if it had a bad-ass name like Liberal Agenda. Also, the list I’d make if I weren’t such a sloth would be written on kitten paper. To clarify, I’m referring to paper with kittens printed on it. Not paper made of actual kittens. That type of technology hasn’t been invented yet.
My blog, however, purposely isn’t political or activist. I’m not the sort of person to push my beliefs onto others – I’ll even fight tooth-and-nail for your right to disagree with me – although by now it’s probably obvious I’m always right. And by “right” I mean “left.” Rightly left, let’s say. Anyway, I assume that the awesome people who read this blog are for the most part on the same page as I am when it comes to issues close to my heart. Such as equality for all. And cats.
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.
I realized I was gay my last year of college when two girls had crushes on me at the same time. No boys – rarely boys – but two girls. That prompted some major soul-searching. I wondered what those girls knew or suspected about me that I didn’t. On Valentine’s Day, after a performance of the Vagina Monologues, one of the two invited me back to her dorm room. After watching “Coyote Ugly,” she snuggled up to me while I was reclining on the floor. Before I knew it, her face was hovering over mine, and she kissed me. I kissed back. Then she teased, “You just kissed a girl!” She had a knack for stating the obvious.
It was simple, innocent and sweet. The only shame or guilt I felt was about watching “Coyote Ugly.” It’s awful, you guys. I never worried that what I was doing was wrong. I never wrestled with pangs of doubt or fear. What I did feel was a unique blend of excitement and peace; I was getting to know myself better.
After spring break, I assembled a few of my closest friends to tell them the news. I was so nervous and serious, my dear pal Carol thought for sure I was going to devastate everyone by announcing that I was terminally ill. In a shaky voice, I said: “Umm, what I wanted to say is that … I think … there might be a chance … maybe … possibly … that I’m bi.” “That’s it?” Carol blurted out. “I thought for sure you were going to say you have cancer!” She still mocks me about that to this day.
I didn’t come out to my family until about two years later, long after I’d relocated to rural Virginia to be with my then-girlfriend, Vicky. It’s not that I didn’t want them to know, or that I was scared about how they would react. I just wasn’t ready. But my mom definitely knew. Moms just know. I mean, who sports a red AIDS awareness ribbon on her jean jacket in junior high, decorates her childhood bedroom with Elton John posters and picks up and moves south to the former seat of the Confederacy for a “friend”? Your lesbian daughter, that’s who.
When I finally confided in Mom that Vicky and I were together, she was nothing but accepting, just as my friends had been. Most of the conversation is a blur, but I remember she asked me whether she could tell my dad. I hesitated and said “no.” And then she totally did. It was, in retrospect, exactly like the first time I got my period. He was cool with my being gay, too. He’s still iffy about the period.
It’s been almost a decade since I began questioning my sexuality. Once a shy girl who could barely find the words to come out to my friends, I’m now a blogger who openly and happily shares the nitty-gritty of my dating life or lack thereof with strangers on the interweb. It has been and continues to be an extremely positive experience. Out of the 1,600 comments this site has received so far, only one was homophobic. (I’ve left it up, because censorship doesn’t make the problem go away.) As long as I write honestly and candidly about my misadventures and post cute photos of Teva and Isabel, you guys don’t seem to care whether I’m being dumped by men or women. Failure, it seems, is universal – and funny. Progress.
Not everyone is as blessed as I am, however. If there are kids or even adults out there who are struggling with their sexuality, being ostracized by family and friends and feeling hopeless and alone, I hope reading this helps you realize that there are so many people in this world who will embrace and support you, no matter whom you love. We are here. We can’t wait to meet you. And worry unnecessarily that you have cancer, and laugh with you when you fail, and endorse your highly lucrative and ingenious inventions like kitten paper, and fawn over adorable photos of your cats. And you definitely will have cats.
I *promise* you it gets better.
And if you already have it better, then I’m here to tell you it gets better-er.