Here's a comment I received today attached to the post titled "What I Need to Say, Part One":
"I am a young man in my twenties and your writing here makes living with myself less painful. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
First, to the young man who wrote this, thank you, for finding the courage and for sharing it with me and my readers. I know it couldn't have been easy. Second, no two sentences could have made me feel better about what I'm trying to do through my blog. I'm deeply moved by your honesty and thrilled you've found something helpful here.
Now, I'm tempted to ask the question, how can we allow a young man in 2011 to be in pain because of his sexual orientation, and go looking for someone or something to blame? But that's not where I am now, and not where I want my blog to be.
Rather, I'll ask the question, how, despite all the societal advances in accepting gays and lesbians over the decades--including legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada, a milestone by any measure--do we still have a young man who doesn't feel good about himself because he's gay? That's the gap we need to close, the real work we need to do.
The only ones who can close that gap are us. That's right, you and me. Each of us as individuals. The world is the world. In the bigger picture, what happens in it is largely out of our control. It will continue to advance at its customary snail's pace. The pattern of evolution tells us circumstances will continue to improve for gay men and lesbian women because that's the way of progress. It will happen, maybe not at the speed we'd like it to, but it will.
Perhaps the more important question we need to ask is, will we be ready for it?
Gay people are a lot like obese people, in that sense. Have you ever heard stories about obese people who wanted to lose weight their entire lives? They grew up fat kids, became fat young adults, and their lives became obsessively about losing weight because they hated themselves for being fat (only, of course, because our society discriminates against fat people as it does against gay people).
So, if they lost the weight, what happened? Every time they looked in the mirror or put on clothes, they knew they were thinner. They knew they'd succeeded at their goal. The physical evidence told them that. They couldn't deny it. It was there in front of their faces.
But in their minds, they were still fat. In their minds, they hadn't lost the weight at all. And, in their minds, they still hated themselves. Their minds hadn't caught up with their bodies. They hadn't done the hard mental work along with the hard physical work.
The same thing is happening to us, even now. Society's constantly changing, becoming, in many respects, more accepting of gay people than ever before. But we're still stuck. While gays and lesbians marry in Canada now, many of us still have the same low self-esteem issues we've always had. In other words, what's going on in our minds, affected by the small minded people around us, the individuals who stand in judgement of us, the teachings of the churches we were raised in--all of that trumps the greater degree of acceptance for us that's happening all around.
We need to catch up. We need to do some major work on ourselves. The stuff that comes at us from small minded people? We need put it in its rightful place, which is completely out of our minds and our consciousness, where it won't affect us.
When you hear something negative about being gay, think: What you've said about being gay works for you because it's right for you, based on how you were raised, or what your church teaches, or whatever. But it doesn't work for me because I know it's wrong. Because I know it's not right for me. (I hope you realize this is about changing the script in your head, from negative to positive, which I'll have more to say about in an upcoming post.)
In your mind, tell this person: My reality is different from the one you think I should have. In my reality, I'm a human being first, and gay second. In my reality, I'm a good person, a loving person, a worthy person. And I know I deserve better than your small-mindedness. I know who I am inside. And I won't allow what you think about me, or what you want me to believe about myself, to affect that. Above all, I deserve to love myself. I do love myself. (And keep repeating it, over and over, for as long and as often as you have to, until you start to believe it. Because it's true. More about that later, too.)
A few final words to the young man who wrote the comment above: Don't allow your potential as a young man to be compromised by anything you hear or see that makes you feel badly about being gay. Don't allow your light to burn any less bright. You are a worthwhile, valuable human being. And you have an obligation to love you just the way you are. Don't ever forget that. EVER. Move confidently through the world knowing it's true. From this point forward, don't permit even one more person to bring you down because you're gay. Don't let it happen. Don't. You're better than that. You really are.