“When I first realized I was gay,” Austin interjected, “I just assumed I would hide it and be miserable for the rest of my life. But then I said, ‘O.K., wait, I don’t want to hide this and be miserable my whole life.’ ”
I asked him how old he was when he made that decision.
“Eleven,” he said.
This is a fascinating read. I remember when I came out to my sister when she was a sophomore in high school and I was in college. She told me about all her friends who were out of the closet–there were tons. And she knew who liked who and who was still closeted etc. It was no big deal to her. Gay teens were part of her world, and it shocked me.
My high school world was so different. We didn’t have a GSA until my senior year. We had the day of silence, but all the gay friends I have from high school that are gay were in the closet until college with only two exceptions. That was just 5 or 6 years ago. And now we not only have teens coming out in high school, they’re coming out in junior high. Even at BYU–the freshman “moho’s” seem so much better off than I was. As a BYU freshman, I sought out Evergreen for help. I just met a new BYU freshman who was looking to meet other moho’s. He had sought out the Utah Pride Center for help.
How different would my life be if I had been born 5 or 6 or 10 years later? I knew that I was gay when I was 11. Would I have been able to decide that I didn’t want to keep it a secret if I had been 11 in 2009? Would I have had exposure to healthy same sex relationships and sexual behavior? Instead of hiding a huge burden and struggling to figure out my sexual identity in secret and without healthy input, would I have been able to date guys and get advice from my parents and go to dances with people I was attracted to? I did some horrible things as a child because I didn’t know how to go about my sexuality in healthy ways. Would that have still happened if I had been born in 2000 and grew up seeing married gay couples?
As I look back on what eventually did help me come out of the closet, the Internet played the biggest role by far. Blogging introduced me to people who were like me and it revealed “Romulus” and “Remus” who were my childhood friends. They helped me come to terms with my sexuality and become healthy–but only because I found their blogs. There were other things that did help–those few in high school that were out, the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, and the issues I resolved on my mission. But more than anything, it was the blogs on the Internet.
And it’s those same things that have created this new generation of gay teens. Social networking sites have shattered our walls of privacy and secrecy. Blogs have informed us. Youtube has empowered us. The Internet has created a new era in sexual identity.
I hope that this new generation of gays will not forget or take for granted those that went before. Because despite the enabling Internet, the fact is we couldn’t be out and proud and safe today if it weren’t for those who were out and proud when it wasn’t safe. We owe a great deal to the heroes of Stonewall who fought back and stood up for themselves. We owe a great deal to heroes of hollywood who showed the world it’s ok to be gay. We owe a great deal to the heroes of politics who fought, protested, lobbied, campaigned, and voted for equality. There was a time, when being gay meant being persecuted, and in so many parts of the world, that time is still going on. Let’s not forget it as we celebrate the joys of this new generation of gay.