Friday, October 15, 2010

It's getting better

The world is (rightfully) having a strong reaction to the wave of gay suicides and general bullying going on. There is Dan Savage's new "It Gets Better" campaign which seem to be getting lots of the attention. I certainly appreciate the waves of people coming forward and am thrilled with how many un-famous, totally normal people are participating. Regardless of my opinion on the project I think there is always value in queer people telling our stories.

Still, if I had seen these movies when I was in high school I wonder if it would have made a difference. Would they have calmed me, given me hope? A part of me thinks that this future these people are describing would seem so far away, so remote that although I would have greatly valued seeing positive images of queer adults, it would have been very hard to imagine my life ever being like theirs. I was too busy trying to figure out what I was to imagine any day beyond tomorrow.

I am more interested in the world getting better, and getting better now. I, like so many It Gets Better videos, could tell you about how I grew up in a small, religiously conservative town in the mid-west. I could tell you about the boy who wore a "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" shirt to school. Or the one who wrote his research paper for Advanced Composition on how gays should not be in the military. He defended his position by stating that gay soldiers could get shot and bleed on not gay soldiers and give them AIDS. I know I probably would have been harassed or beaten up if I had come out at Holland Christian High School as a lesbian, or, heaven forbid, as a trans man. And I could tell you about how I have transitioned, moved to a large urban area, have friends that like me for myself and a fiancé who loves me for the person I am, but in this case I'm going to lay off the personal and talk about the world.

The world is changing--and its changing fast. My sister is 6 years younger than me. By the time she was in high school her friends knew I was queer and thought it was "cool." I was a groomsman in her wedding and walked down the aisle with one of her high school friends in front of many people who 10 years ago would rail against the evils of homosexuality. I thought all this was amazing, but I was blown away when I saw the story of Oak Read.

Oak is a senior at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, MI. Muskegon, though larger than Holland, is still in Michigan. I remember playing Mona Shores in sports matches as a student. There wasn't much remarkable about the students, but now I will never forget them. The students of Mona Shores High School voted Oak Reed, a pre-op FTM, to be their Homecoming King. The school then stripped him of that title claiming he couldn't be Homecoming King because he was registered at the school as a female. The students revolted, starting a Facebook campaign in support of him. These students, in my mind, are doing more to make queer teens feel safe than 100 videos by Tim Gunn could ever do.

The world is changing. People are changing. Some more slowly than others, but they are changing. As adults we need to keep telling our stories, as parents we need to teach our kids to love everyone, as allies we need to create a safe space for queer youth to be loved unconditionally. But, to all the young people out there--take a lesson from Mona Shores Students. It's getting better. It will continue to get better. And when history is written this is not an issue you will want to be on the wrong side of. Stand up for someone so they don't have to stand alone. It could change the world, or at least someone's world.

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