Monday, September 27, 2010

IT GETS BETTER

I'm feeling blown away, thinking about what could have been had the Internet existed when I was a teenager struggling with my sexuality. I received an email today that provided a link to the It Gets Better project, a series of YouTube videos by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, giving youth the message that suicide is not the answer while acknowledging that high school may be the most brutal time for LGBT youth.

If only I'd known another gay person. If not in person, then through television or other media. I struggled in dealing with the slurs spit upon me when I was confused as to my identity. How could they be so sure when I hadn't figured things out myself? And how could they be so hateful, these Southern Baptists who beliefs represented the only road to salvation and, ultimately, heaven? Two peers in high school committed suicide and it saddens me that I can't even recall the name of one of them. Were they struggling with their sexuality? At the time, that possibility never occurred to me. I was the only possibly gay person in the county. According to the peers and adults around me, if I lived a gay life, I'd be a sinner, a pedophile, a pariah. There would be nothing redeeming in me.

As I watched the testimonies from Dan Savage and his partner, from Perez Hilton, from the transgendered man from Hawaii, from the friend of the transgendered teen who killed himself before the project ever launched, tears streamed down my cheeks. If only someone had told me I was worthwhile. If only someone had let me know that he'd felt despair every day of his high school existence. If only I'd known I was not alone.

Thank you, Dan Savage, for launching this project after hearing about the suicide of 15-year-old Billy Lucas earlier this month. There are youth in rural and urban areas who need to know that there is hope, that The Now will not be The Always. Adolescence is inherently awkward, dramatic and, oftentimes, painful. When you are coming to terms with your sexual identity, it can seem utterly unbearable. But it does get better. Not in a day, in a week or a month,...but over time and once freed from the social caste system of high school. It's unfortunate that Better is still something so many have to wait for, but it's affirming to hear that it will indeed come.

Check out the YouTube It Gets Better channel and Dan Savage's video. Pass on the links. People need to know these videos exist.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

CAN THIS FRIENDSHIP BE REVIVED?

I think there's a line in "About Last Night" when Jim Belushi tells Rob Lowe or Elizabeth Perkins tells Demi Moore that you're allowed to go gaga over a new flame for three weeks. Then the friends have every right to reel you back in. (Side note: It's a decent movie, based on a screenplay by David Mamet. But then I'm a sucker for Sheena Easton songs so DVD renters be warned.)


Trouble is three weeks can become three months, then three years, then seven. I swore I wouldn't be one of those people, but I didn't relate to my ex's friends and he didn't relate to mine. And neither set of friends related to or endorsed the fact we'd left the single life. I'd suggest brunch, they'd suggest bars. I'd plan a dinner party; they'd want to go to the Sunday night drag show. The friendships faded. After my breakup and my move to the boonies, the friendships flat-out died.

In most cases, I realize there is no point in exhuming the dearly departed. However, there are a few that I would like to think can be miraculously revived. Last night, I went for coffee with Danny, someone whom I've run into a few times over the years but haven't seen regularly for more than a decade. We met at Delany's on Denman, our usual haunt—at least "usual" back in 1999 when Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera released debut albums, when a child actor was telling Bruce Willis he saw dead people and when we were saying what should have been our final goodbyes to "Melrose Place".

I used to take the seabus over to Danny's place in North Van every Monday night to catch Doug Savant and Marcia Cross as "the gay one with no storyline" and "the wacko doctor" on Melrose Mondays. (Who knew they'd go on to be "the husband with no storyline" and "the wacko housewife" on "Desperate Housewives!) Danny was the ultimate extrovert, the host who would stop at nothing to make sure everyone was wholly entertained, even if that meant taking out his "tickle trunk" and donning a drag getup to perform the most polished "adlibbed" numbers choreographed to ABBA (years before the band's resurgence on Broadway and in the movies).

Beneath Danny's boisterous personality, I knew there was a reflective, generous soul. As we reunited over coffee, that's the part that shone through. The Frida/Agnetha doppelganger was now exiled to a remote Swedish island. "I'm a homebody," he said. "I am perfectly content being alone. I'll go for a beer or a coffee, but then I'm happy to head back to my quiet apartment."

I wasn't the only friend from ancient times who'd abandoned Danny. He was no longer in touch with any of the gang. When he gave up being the entertainer, everyone moved on.

I felt the guilt and the regret. I'd let a relationship get in the way. (Would I even be having coffee again with Danny if the relationship still existed?) Yet as we talked, all was forgiven. We laughed as we always had and he continued with the more serious conversations that we'd had when it was just the two of us meeting for coffee, when I used to probe persistently so Danny couldn't deflect and try to put the conversational focus on me. Yes, I always knew there was more to Danny than others cared to see.

The get together was indeed pleasant. Still, I am aware that Danny has new friends, new routines. Do I fit in? I'm not sure. Can the friendship be as strong as it was? I doubt it. But I still care. He's one of the truly good people I've met. If they can attempt to revive Melrose, maybe there's a chance to renew my friendship with Danny. And maybe the second coming will be more notable than that of the TV show.