Young Gay Youth at Seemingly Different Ends of the Spectrum
This past week in God's Waiting Room has been interesting, frustrating and challenging-- and all of these feelings and reactions have been caused by two gay boys, both under 21 years of age. In both instances, I had been asked by their great-grandmothers to speak to the boys. One's father was deceased and the other boy's parents were divorced. In both instances, the wise great-grandmothers realized that their offspring did not have a male (much less a gay male) to ask questions and to help them make certain that important decisions regarding sex and relationships, etc.
For the sake of clarity, I'll fabricate their names as Justin and Mark.
Mark is a student at Rutgers and is uber-handsome, self-assured and mature. Justin is a sophomore in high school and seems to be accepted by all of his friends. He is out of the closet "to the max."
We'll start with Justin. When I met him, I asked him what a typical day was like for him now that school is back in session. The conversation went pretty much like this: Well, I woke up in my gay bedroom, took a gay shower and put my fabulous gay clothes on. Then I ate a gay breakfast and barely caught the gay school bus, but I made it. All of my classes are so gay, but my gay English teacher and drama coach is the kind of gay man I hope I become. When we changed classes, I spoke to some of my gay friends. To some of the rest, I gave the gay wink, which is a communications skill I learned in kindergarten. [I interrupted to ask if his kindergarten class was gay, and Justin told me "of course it was."] Justin ddn't really need to explain every gay class in his gay high school that day. He did tell me that he went to a therapist who told him that he just might be a little obsessed with the gay dimensions to his life, and that it isn't the first thing a person needs or wants to discuss-- that it would come in time. Justin changed therapists.
I asked Justin if had a serious boyfriend, and he rolled his eyes as if to say "Duuuuude, doesn't everyone?" So I tried to steer the conversation a little and asked him about safe(r) sex. Essentially, Justin told me that AIDS is a now highly cureable disease of the past and that it's just not a big deal. To this boy, I suspect that the concept of safe(r) sex means not falling out of bed or having his partner bite him!
Justin began to show a different side of himself. He said he is proud to be gay and wouldn't change even if it were possible. He belongs to the drama club hoping to get the lead role in "Mame" this year. He helped organize the school's Gay/Straight Alliance, and he's up to the minute on just about every gay issue such as: His right to join the Army, although he's not sure he wants to do that, his right to marry, his right to be treated fairly and respectfully by the faith tradition he was born into. Justin's mother worries about him (a right of motherhood for sure) and fears he will be attacked by militant homophobes, or that he is being ridiculed and marginalized by some students and that he's not aware it's happening. She also worries that she will have no grandchildren, and she freaks out when she contemplates coming out to Justin's relatives. Since Justin has always had so many girlfriends his mom believes that the "gay thing" is some kind of phase and acting out-- which Justin will decide to opt out of very soon. So, his mother worries much of the time, and Justin unintentionally giggles in response to her worries. Justin's mom would be welcomed at a PFLAG meeting. There is no possible way to explain how much good this group has been doing on a national level for families for over forty years now. Their number for the North Jersey chapter is 908-300-4227.
Now, we come to Mark. He is very comfortable in his gay skin, but he doesn't make it an issue with all but a small group of trusted students on campus. He told me that he is concentrating on his career and that his sexuallity has nothing to do with it. He has a social life, dating both women for fun and men for sex He also told me that he owes nothing to the gay communty at large, nor to the younger people who would come after him. None of this was said with hostility or anger. Mark just wanted me to understand that he never intends to march down Fifth Avenue in New York or at the pride events in Asbury Park. He also explained that joining the military was not a "right" he wanted. He smiled and told me that he didn't want to do anything which would break one of his well-manicured fingernails. I liked Mark's honestly, even if I felt he was a bit selfish and I thought to myself that he has G.O.P. branded on his forehead. I later felt puzzled that Mark's great-grandmother and his mother were so worried about him. He seemed to be very comfortable with his orientation and viewed his sexuality as his own personal dimension. In essence, he felt no desire to become involved in any GLBT group or to work for equality or to tackle bullying. He concluded by telling me that the gay community never did one thing for him. I gently mentioned all of OUR freedom fighters we had since Stonewall, as well as before and after. Mark didn't really care.
You have just read my impressions of two gay young men who will be inheriting, for the most part, a society won for them by countless GLBT pioneers who probably never believed we would ever arrive at the year 2011 with the advances and the rights we now have. By no means have we won all the battles needed for a fair and just society for LGBT people. I did not set out to judge either Justin or Mark. The requested intent was to make sure they were okay with their lives.
I'd like to ask a small favor of our readers. In the comment (response) part of the NJGayLife blog page, it would be very interesting to see which one of these young gentlemen would make you feel more comfortable having step up to the plate as tomorrow's leaders of the GLBT community. A simple "Mark" or "Justin" suffices as a comment. If you care to expound on your choice, by all means state your reasons for your choice.
To quote some anonymous (to me) source-- WE DESERVE WHAT WE GET, AND WE GET WHAT WE DESERVE.
Thanks for reading, and an extra thanks if you share your thoughts with us, even if it's just the name of the dude you find more comfortable as a leader of tomorrow's gay community which starts today!