Friday, January 19, 2007

Strength in numbers

A little more following from last night's post. No special point, just some thoughts spilling out.

I caught Ellen again (on some timeshift channel after getting home this evening). In her "Write On" section, in which she reads viewer mail, she read out an email regarding the T.R. Knight interview on Tuesday. "Let T.R. know," it said (as best I can remember), "that everytime a star comes out of the closet, a teen stays out of the ground." And suddenly the memories...
  • The brave student in my grade who effectively came out to the entire high school (nearly 2000 students) in order to start a gay-straight alliance. This was around 1990, before most students would have even thought about it.
  • The first student who came out to me. I was a TA with my own class and she wanted to meet with me, I assumed to discuss the work. And then she started with, "You're the only gay person I know..."
  • My youngest sister telling me of the friend from drama camp who killed himself rather than even try to tell his hyper-religious parents that he was gay.
  • The twelve-year-old who sat rocking and weeping as he told me his fear that his parents wouldn't love him if they knew.
Luckily most of those memories end happily. On graduation day, I gave the brave student a big hug and told him I admired him. The first student who came out to me eventually started a social organization for women on our campus; I remember seeing her picture in the local gay and lesbian newspaper. The twelve-year-old will be graduating soon; I don't know if he has come out to his parents yet, but I have heard that he has really come into his own in high school.

Again, I'm thankful that there are gay celebrities who understand the important role they may be playing in the lives of people they will never meet. I fervently believe that sometimes all it takes to give a closeted gay person the strength to continue is knowing that there are others out there.


Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

I had one student a few years back who, while not actually "coming out" to me, talked to me frankly, and addressed his homosexuality as a non issue. He has a very supportive mother, which is wonderful. He thanked me for being so supportive of him, and encouraging him to pursue areas that I thought were his strength, as opposed to what others were telling him.

It's a nice feeling to help. Good for you for being there for those kids when others weren't!

petite gourmand said...

I love Ellen and think she is a fantastic role model and pretty hilarious too.

Mouse said...

Naomi--I, of course, am coming at this from the gay side, and a lot of kids do seek out someone who's gay at first, but supportive people of any orientation make such a difference.

Petite Gourmand--I've been a fan of Ellen's for a very long time; I like that her comedy is not mean and still funny. I am happy to see a number of gay celebrities who have now had time to get comfortable with being themselves in public--it helps demystify being gay.

NotSoSage said...

It's interesting as a parent in a heterosexual relationship to think about how best to convey to kids that there are no expectations on our part, one way or the other.

Are you in T.O.? Did you see that "Presumed Heterosexual" campaign a couple of years ago, with the newborn's face (it may have run other places)? I found that so fascinating.

Even though our daughter is young, we are trying to use gender-neutral language when we talk about future partners if for no other reason than to cement it in our brains. But we live in a society and with some family members where people consistently stake her in het territory and smirk or laugh at us if we say something to the contrary (as if we're making a joke).

I hope that, regardless of her sexuality, she has role models --like you were to these kids -- of every stripe who can play the role of guide and allow her to recognise that, although sexuality is very important, it's just one aspect of her total being (or, in a perfect world where people weren't pigeonholed, it would be).