For some time now, I've wanted to write you.
You are that young man I've seen at the mall, on the street, in Starbucks, not just in the designated places, and you're being yourself, in a way I could never be myself when I was your age. Among other things, I've seen you hold hands and even kiss, carrying on as though it's always been this way, as though you've always been able to.
Maybe you've always been able to, but we weren't. Between my teens and forties, it was rare for us to be ourselves in public. In fact, you would have thought we didn't exist at all then, unless we got so fed up that, in a defiant outburst, we held each other or kissed and didn't give a shit who saw us. And, afterward, we'd look around and hope like hell no one had seen us. The last thing we needed was someone hating on us, following us, beating the living crap out of us.
No, you don't have to do that now, at least not to the degree we did. Society's become more accepting of you. Remarkably, you can even get married in some countries, like the one I live in, or some states in the US (if the federal government gets its act together there, soon to be all states). Some people are even losing their high-paying jobs now, because they've done or said something to show how bigoted they are against you. I've even heard of instances where straight boys are befriending you–they're called stag hags–something that never would have happened when I was your age, for fear they might be thought of as the same as me.
Yes, as Bob Dylan once wrote, the times, they are a-changin'.
And I can't tell you how glad and thrilled and grateful I am that they are. Enough of us have suffered at the hands of those who wish all of us were dead, who believed, in the '80s, with the AIDS crisis, we were finally getting what we deserved, and it would be only a matter of time before we were wiped out, and the world would be rid of us once and for all. Thankfully, we're not there anymore–although I know there are still those who feel the same way. We're not all the way there yet, but it's coming. And your courage and boldness are helping us get there faster than ever. Just keep doing what you're doing. You're making a difference for all of us, and you don't even know it.
So what I'm about to say will shock you, maybe even anger you. But I hope you'll stay tuned to fully understand it.
I resent you.
That's right. I resent you.
It feels too easy for you now. Sometimes, the way you carry on out in public disgusts me, embarrasses me, embarrasses all of us. I wonder, who the hell does he think he is? And, where does he get off doing that? And, doesn't he realize how he comes across, how he makes us all look bad, how he should save that for the privacy of his home, where no one has to be subjected to it?
Of course, that's the old man in me talking (just ignore him; I do). I've done okay for myself over the years. I've been in a relationship for probably longer than you've been alive, and, for the most part, my partner and I have found support from family and friends. I've done a lot of work trying to understand what growing up different all those decades ago did to me, and it's through understanding that I've been able to undo some of the damage, give myself those things I never could have, find what was necessary to keep my relationship going all these years. Hell, I've even had this blog since early 2009, which has connected me to more wonderful, and often struggling, people from around the world than I thought possible. It's the best thing I've ever done to help myself and to try to help others.
No, the old man in me doesn't resent you. Not you specifically. Not any of you. What he really resents, if he's honest with himself, is not being you, right now. Not being able to do all the things you can, without feeling like he has to look over his shoulder all the time, without thinking he's going to upset someone who might then, in some unfortunate way, come after him and make his life even more difficult than it already is.
The old man in me resents all the wasted years. Imagine who I might be today, both out in the world and within myself, if I hadn't had to spend so much time and energy hiding who and what I was. If I hadn't had to push it down, time after time after time, and deny it. If it hadn't been so impossible to find those who were just like me. If I hadn't felt so isolated and alone. If I'd just been allowed to be me.
I can't go back, I know that. None of us can. And, in some respects, I wouldn't want to go back. Like I said before, things are pretty good now. I'm a lucky, and grateful, guy.
But, in spite of the progress I've made over the years in understanding and accepting myself, even using some of what I've learned to help other people, I realize there will always be a part of me that resents what happened in the past and wonders what could have been.
I'm so proud of you. We all are. Maybe you have no idea, but those who came before you fought so hard and so long for what you now have. Whether we marched in a parade, or carried a sign, or got arrested for what we knew was right. Or whether we joined in the battle by just having the courage to tell those we loved, one at a time, what we were, then set a positive example for all of us in how we lived our lives–we've waited for this day.
You carry the torch now.
I celebrate you.
I love you.