Student CAMP: Talking 'Bout my Generation
|by Kristen Minor|
I was born in 1982. In a little over a month, I'm graduating from high school. Soon after, I will turn 18. As I sit here thinking about these milestones, I have been considering the next generation of gay activistsmy generation. Yes, this is a rant. I'm sorry... I'll go back to flippancy next issue. I promise.
Recently, I was presented with a Vice Versa Award. I won't bore you with the details, as they were basically covered in last week's issue, but suffice to say that it was one of the best moments of my life. What meant the most to me was that my parents came to see me get the award. All three of us were crying by the end of it. I feel like my relationship with my parents and their acceptance of my homosexuality has broken through yet another wall.
I digress. Back to my generation. When I was presented with the award, I was asked to make a speech about gay youth and the press. The request led me to thinking about gay youth in general.
So here you have it, folks: the no holds barred expose look at the mind of one poofy haired lesbian teenager that might just save your queer kid's life. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)
I don't remember when Reagan was president. I don't really remember Bush. (Some would argue that these are good things.) Until I read about it, I knew nothing about Stonewall, the first marches on Washington, the history of the gay rights movement, the meaning of the rainbow flag.
I know what I worry about as a gay teenager. I asked some of my friends as well. What we came up with is that we're worried about our voices not being heard. I don't feel that teen issues are understood or recognized. Even if they are recognized, they're not often made concerns of the gay media or gay organizations at large. There's a sense of alienation, of dissociation from what are considered hot button gay issues. For example, while gay marriage is important, it isn't something I think about much; to me, getting married is something that is remote and far away. Hate crimes laws? Until the world can be taught from an early age that homosexuality is normal, no law in the world is going to stop homophobia, especially in schools.
I feel that most gay teenagers are worried about what is more real to us, more personal, and more ignored. We worry about the high rate of gay teen suicide, drug use, promiscuity, and depression. Because I am gay, I am several times more likely to attempt to kill myself. This statistic makes me wonder how many of the people I know who have taken their own lives would still be here if someone told them that being gay is just fine.
We worry about surviving homophobic high schools and the fact that if we come out, we cannot escape our classmates and their hateful words. We worry about our safe places and our gay straight alliances being challenged by the ignorant. Fundamentalist Christians bother me. I'm a devout Christian, but I don't think that my belief in Jesus gives me the right to take over the public school system and make them teach my beliefs.
We worry about the reaction of parents, whose control we are still under, because becoming legally independent can be close to impossible. We worry about being thrown out or having college funds denied, because a disproportionate number of street kids are gay and we, as a population, are broke.
All of these fears are well founded, yet they are not often addressed by the gay press or the gay community. In looking at issues of major gay magazines, I have been bothered by the lack of coverage on gay teen issues. There's more to our lives than fighting for GSAs, although that coverage is very important.
I understand the problems. I know full well that most gay teenagers in Sussex County will not read this column for various reasonslack of access, the stigma of being seen reading a "gay paper", obliviousness to it's existence. I know that adults are afraid of being accused of pedophilia, corrupting minors, and recruiting. Adults: If you want to help gay teenagers, don't be afraid of what people say about you. Remember, preventing a suicidal bisexual teenager from overdosing on pills is worth being accused by a fundamentalist of making little Timmy gay. (At least it is in my opinion. I've never had to face legal action for corrupting a minor.)
There is one reason that I have overlooked as to why gay adults should be reaching out to teenagers. It's the most important, so I saved it for last.
I don't remember a time when AIDS did not exist. It's something that my generation has grown up withwe've been brought up with both the legends and the facts of HIV/AIDS. AIDS is like cancerjust another disease, something far away and uncatchable. When it comes to HIV and AIDS, the only thing my generation lacks is fear. I'm 17 years old and I'm never going to die.
I should say that the above paragraph isn't something that I agree withthe "I'm never going to die and AIDS is like cancer" part, that is. Those are things that I have heard time and time again from other gay teens.
A thing that I should mention about my generation is that we have some ideas that are going to get us killed.
What can be done about gay teenagers and AIDS? I don't know. My solution is to make teenagers afraid of AIDS. The problem is that fear leads to ignorance, and then we go back to square one. AIDS education is great, but when it's a unit in health class that you have to take pop quizzes on, it's not real. AIDS needs to be made real again. Gay teenagers need to be made into more than a feature of the month.
Gay adults can do wonders for gay youth. Simply put: Listen to our concerns, join our voices, become our votes. Teach us. There is a gap between adult and teenage gays that needs to be addressed by both sides. The gay press is the most important part of closing this gap. Gay adults are the most important part of making sure that the gap never happens again.
Kristen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 19, 2000.