The picture you’re looking was sent to me by a friend back east… It’s me in my junior year of high school way back in 1979 (I was 16). Now, after the initial shock of the hairdo wore off, there I was, all of a sudden, being bitch-slapped by a flood of emotions caused by a picture I hadn’t seen in decades… And it surprised the hell out of me.
You see, it had been some time since I checked in with this young man and then, all of a sudden, there he was reminding me of a past that was incredible painful. A past that saw daily beatings from a brother who referred to him as a “faggot” and a “queer” in a home where he was marginalized and made to feel as if he didn’t have a right to exist. And what’s even more sad is that this young man lived with thoughts of killing himself on a daily basis because he felt so alone. But here’s the thing about this young man, he survived. He has climbed mountains and pyramids… He has explored caves and jungles… He has swam in the ocean with humpback whales, ridden on the back of an elephant and has been licked on the face by a dingo (that’s right, a dingo)… He has lived his dreams and he has experience heartbreak… But the most amazing thing about this young man is that he has loved and continues to love… Something he never thought he would be able to say all of those years ago.
This picture also served another purpose. It was a reminder of the fact that there are still young men and women out there today that are living with the exact pain I felt all those years ago. And despite the progress we have made in the last few years, LGBT youth still struggle daily because of the hate-filled words and actions of others… Words and actions that cut like a hot knife through butter and make them believe that they are less than… That they are damaged… That they are an abomination and unworthy of God’s and Society’s love… And this, my friends, is something no adult should be okay with.
Our past can be a great motivator, if we allow it to be… It affords us the opportunity to reach out to others who may be living through some of the challenges we faced and let them know that it does indeed “get better”.
Our future is only limited by our lack of imagination… So, today I am choosing to imagine a world where no child is ever made to feel as if they don’t belong… A world where every child knows that sexuality is not a flaw but a gift. A world where every child is honored simply because they were born into this world and is never bound by their parents expectations of who “they” need them to be.
LGBT Youth, you are a gift. Know that you will survive. Know that you will succeed. Know that you are loved even in those moments when you feel most alone. Reach out your hand. There is a world, a community, ready to take it and embrace you for the gift that you are. You are loved. You are valued. Know this and step into the light where your brothers and sisters wait.
Thank you, David, for the gift of this picture.