It is often said that being gay is only one aspect of who any of us are, which is true. However, it is a very significant part of each of us since it impacts who we are attracted to both emotionally and physically. In short, who we fall in love with. Trying to pretend otherwise, or worse yet, trying to deny that one is gay and desperately attempting to be straight results in all kinds of issues, including self-hate and possibly self-destructive behavior be it drug use, excess alcohol, or unsafe sex. I certainly am familiar with the attendant self-hate that goes with being in the closet and the thoughts of death as the only solution since I found I was unable to change no matter what I did. Fortunately, the younger generation of gays are coming out and declaring who they are at a much earlier age and, hopefully, they will not experience much of the emotional and psychological damages many of us older gays lived through. Because of this, I believe everything possible needs to be done to support this new generation be it in terms of GSA's
or anti-bullying laws. Coming out is still a hard thing to do and far to much of the world and society remain hostile. Today's Washington Post
has a story on one brave teenager who has come
out before age 15 and who refuses to hide his true self. Here are some highlights:
School's out, and Saro Harvey and his best friend, Samantha Sachs, are hanging out in his Arlington County bedroom. . . . The 15-year-olds were voted most popular last spring in their section of ninth grade at Wakefield High School. Still, Saro knows there are those on and off campus who don't like him, who never will.
Saro, who first said he liked boys to a classmate in sixth grade, is like many of today's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who openly discuss their sexual orientation and identity with friends, and sometimes family, before entering high school. In doing so, experts say, these youths are escaping the isolation of generations before them but also finding themselves vulnerable to harassment -- or worse.
"Within any given school system, there may be a very accepting crowd and a very hateful crowd," said Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute in San Francisco, a national center for LGBT research and public policy. "You have to find a way to avoid the people who will hurt you and keep close to the group that will accept you." *
While children are coming out younger, studies show that they are doing so in schools where staff members have received little training in the area, where their fellow students use such language as "That's so gay" every day to express dislike, and where anti-bullying policies often don't exist or don't specifically protect students on the basis of sexual orientation.
A generation ago, the typical coming-out story for a young person involved a college student and distraught parents, said Lindy Garnette, executive director of Metro DC Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Now, she said, the more likely scenario involves a minor living at home, and the questions from parents have evolved from panicky to pragmatic.
"I worry about him all the time," she [Saro's mother] added. "All the time." Her immediate fear: Will someone hurt him? Her long-term concerns: Will he find someone who loves him for him? And if he does, will he have the same rights as everyone else?
Doris Jackson, the principal of Wakefield, said the school does not tolerate bullying for any reason. "To me, it's more than having a policy and enforcing it. It's establishing an environment of tolerance of everyone," she said, adding that the school even provides a separate restroom for a transgender student so the person is not forced to use the girl's room or boy's room.