Sunday, October 31, 2010

It Gets Better

I have been living in Vancouver for exactly 4 years. Today is my anniversary of moving here and I can report "it gets better". Not only does it get better, it gets awesome. This past year has been one of the most wonderful I have experienced and I feel I have grown into this beautiful city. I am very happy to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Growing up gay is very difficult, especially if you were raised in a small Catholic community in rural Nova Scotia like me. Growing up I was consciously aware of my difference and tendency towards being 'evil'. Life was not easy being overtly gay even if in the closet. I chose to disappear. A trend that I struggle to overcome. I could manage to shrink to the back of a room and into the background as soon as a bully walked into the room. I understood that mediocrity around bullies was a strong survival skill. There was no way I wanted attention directed towards me in fear that I would be targeted. Life was hard but it got better.

Today young gay men and women are facing the same bullying and tension that I faced back in the 90s. When I was coming of age at the cusp of generation Y there were few gay role models. Being gay was not cool and the word gay was used to describe anything bad or garish. Despite great strides towards equality we still face opposition and oppression, especially of gay youth. It gets better for sure but why should it?

Let me explain. I was having a discussion with a couple of friends about the "it gets better" project on YouTube. A friend of mine related her disappointment with the movement and her opinion inspired me. First, I think this is a very valuable project to give hope to gay youth. Secondly I wonder, why does it have to get better? Why are gay youth still getting bullied? Why are gay teens killing themselves? Why are gays still targeted merely for wanting to love? Why can't it be better now?

It is a difficult platitude to think of when tomorrow one is faced with yet another day of torment and ridicule. When an individual is in high school or junior high university seems like a lifetime away. I can remember thinking of turning 21 and how long it would take for that day to arrive. I can remember 5 minutes taking an eternity to elapse. I knew it would get better but it did not make the pain any better.

It gets better but to be honest, for many, it will get worse first. When one grows up gay in a small conservative community life is very difficult. To make a transition to a life that is better one must take giant risks. A gay youth faces decisions that their heterosexual counterparts are not faced with. At a young age I realized that if I was to fall in love and live as a gay man I would have to move away from everything I knew and loved. I would have to leave my family and create a new one in a city far away. I had to choose between the place and people I loved so much or a future with romantic love. I had to make very difficult transitions to follow what most people in our society take for granted.

After a youth of fear and reproach it is difficult to break away from repression and hate. A gay teen often will have to rely on family for a semblance of security, even if the family is extremely homophobic. For an instant I want you to imagine what it may feel like to be raised in an environment that hates gays. Imagine if your parent cursed and denigrated any homosexual in the media. Imagine if being gay was referred to as disgusting. Imagine your parent telling you that you are disgusting, immoral and going to burn in hell for eternity. As a gay youth home is usually the only 'safe' space, if one can stand living with those who hate them. It gets better but for it to get better a young gay must leave those who provided shelter and food and 'love'. The gay must leave the place that was safe for them when outside people were cruel and mean. It should not have to get better. It should be better now.

The scary fact remains that gay youth are killing themselves. It gets better does not mean much when faced with getting beat up in the locker room right now. It gets better does not negate the fact the gay men are still getting beat up in the gay neighborhood in Vancouver. It gets better does not end the hate.

How do we end the hate? Why do people hate love? Why do people hate gay?

I want it to get better, now.

I am going to start run training soon. I am now running pain free which is a huge luxury. When I am out running these days I am getting back the drive to work hard and run fast. I would like to try to run sub 31 again and to win a couple of races. I still love my Nike Air Pegasus shoes and I am giving them a bit of credit for my reduction in foot pain.

Happy Training!

1 comment:

  1. J. D., check out www.makeitbetterproject.org. I had the same concerns about Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project as you have. It's not good enough for fellow gays and lesbians to tell you it gets better AFTER you graduate from high school. What about right now? How do you survive hell right now so you can get to your graduation and move on? The "Make It Better" project addresses those very issues in realistic ways.

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