Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thinking about that beautiful young girl's courage - could I have done that?

Watching the video clip of that beautiful young girl using her high school assembly as her chance to bravely come out and proclaim who she really is got me to thinking. She knew that there could be consequences to coming out so publicly. Big consequences. And I am sure that while her peers were daydreaming about graduation and parties and end-of-year proms, she was agonizing and worrying and calculating and crying and maybe even praying about something much more important in those weeks, or months, or years leading up to this big announcement.

She knew she could lose friends. She knew she could be shunned by those whose religious beliefs she offended or by those who are just plain ignorant asses. She knew that there could be adults at school, or at work, or in the community, or even in her own family who might turn their backs on her for daring to so publicly speak her truth. But she came out anyway. The burden of the secret she was keeping was just too overwhelming, too corrosive, and too heavy to carry around anymore.

Can we straight people even wrap our minds around the kind of agony and pain our lgbt children go through? Do we have any inkling of the kind of desperation they must feel when they are forced to choose between the love and respect of family and community or living openly as who they are? What kind of society straddles their young lgbt children with these kind of huge and scary choices? And yet that is what we do. No wonder this young girl felt that coming out to a big crowd of high-school peers with such a dangerous but eloquent bare-your-soul speech was the lesser of evils. She could not live the lie society expected of her any longer. This was not just courage, but survival instinct. And I know for a fact that I could not have done this. At that age I lacked the courage and emotional maturity that she had --- or maybe it was because I wasn't being forced to make such a grueling choice. And I am willing to bet that 99% of straight high school kids could not either. But then, we have not put our straight children through the sheer hell we have put our gay children through. And that we allow this to be done to them in the name of God or politics or Christian Values or Family Values is beyond cruel and twisted, it is evil and inhumane.

Our lgbt children have not lost their childhood, we as a society have stolen it from them. We have denied them the right to daydream, without shame or guilt, about who they think is cute or who they have a crush on. We have denied them the right to "fit in" and feel normal among their peers. We have forced them to spend every waking minute worrying about things straight kids never give a second thought. And we have literally denied them the right to the same hopes and dreams that straight kids have unless they deny the most fundamental part of who they are and love someone of the gender we approve of.

It is time to stop sanctioning the abuse of our lgbt children in the name of twisted religious beliefs or crass political ploys. And it is time to start putting the shame where it belongs, on those who have used homophobia and hate to advance their political agenda, on those who have used perverted religion to hurt or destroy, and on those who have chosen willful ignorance to justify their hate and bigotry.

We have lost way too many of our precious children to suicide and hate crimes. We know that as many as 20% to 40% of homeless youth out on the streets are lgbt children thrown out by their families. And we have witnessed the almost unbelievable spectacle (in this day and age) of political figures (including sitting Presidents), preachers, pastors, bishops, popes, prophets, and other religious leaders who have fed fuel to the hatred, the homophobia, and the ignorance that has so hurt our gay children.

This madness must stop. Maybe this beautiful young girl realized that as well. And I hope and pray that her actions are not only not in vain, but serve as an example to other children who are faced with the ugly choices that society so unfairly puts on them. I hope her actions open a floodgate that can never be closed. It is time to give our lgbt children back the carefree childhood that society so cruelly stole from them.

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