It Gets Better; We Can Make It Better
Nine states have legalized same-sex marriages. Washington D.C. sort of counts as the tenth, though it’s not a state, really. Two Native American tribes—the Coquille and the Suquamish—have done the same. I’m not going to talk about the two states who only “conditionally” recognize it.
We’ve come a long way, America. But we’re not there, yet.
We call it the LGBTQ community—lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-, and questioning (or queer, depending on)—and it’s easy to picture it as this mass of tightly-knit individuals. It’s easy to think that such a community doesn’t need our support. They have each other, right? They know who they are, and what they need, and where they’re coming from. They’re a unit of like-minded people, like a fandom or a neighborhood or a group with a common bond to hold them together.
…Or are we?
Going Through the Motions
Like most kids, I was bullied in school. Not as badly as my older brother, who was frequently in physical fights, but I didn’t escape the name-calling. They were usually sexual in nature, because that seemed like the obvious target in school. I was called “blowfish” (I… still don’t know why?), “mosquito” because I was flat-chested until much later in life, “she-male” because I sang a lower range than my female theater companions. Anything relating to my gender, they picked on. If they could sexualize it, they did. Even the extended family immediately closest to my age didn’t help. I was unwanted at best, a ripe target at the worst. Every day for years, school was a strange, surreal balance between classwork, emotional stress, and the escape I found in the library.
I developed a coping mechanism—one that went beyond the books that weren’t much of a shield. As I started my middle school years, I began to dress in outlandish ways. I wore colors that didn’t match, behaved as if I welcomed the attention, anything to give them an easier, less hurtful target to pick on. If I wore something wild and they mocked me for it, then it didn’t matter—that was the better target.
The bullying didn’t stop until my sophomore year. I credit that with the fact that my older brother’s friends and a handful of the football players decided I needed protecting, thereby cutting down on anyone who wanted to mess with the linebackers. By my junior year, I was confident enough to stand on my own—and focused enough on experiencing the things I wanted to experience not to care what the strangers at my school had to say.
I was lucky. I found the balance. And I was relatively asexual until my mid-teens, which certainly helped, since I didn’t bother navigating the often treacherous waters of schoolyard romance.
The Sexuality Clause
I was still in my “tween” years when my uncle came out to his family. At the time, I remember feeling bemused—why was it such a big deal? It never bothered me, never even occurred to me that my beloved uncle was any more or less “different” than any of us. I didn’t really know how my uncle was feeling until a few years later, when in a teenage fit of pique, I was ranting about my brother’s behavioral… let’s call them choices, and he asked simply, “Do you suppose he’s gay?” I said that I was pretty sure that my lady-killer brother was straight, so my uncle told me wryly, “That’s good. One homo in the family is probably enough.”
That statement stayed with me for years. I don’t know if my uncle meant it the way I heard it, but for the longest time, I replayed the conversation in my head—even while I was searching for my own place in life. As I grew up, I had gay best friends, lesbian classmates, questioning acquaintances. It’s a tricky, tricky world already, and trying to find yourself in it when you already feel “different” is one of the hardest things a person can do. Some know who they are before they graduate, others take much longer.
I knew I wasn’t straight the year after I graduated. But I wasn’t a lesbian, either. It wasn’t the “negative” inherent in “not straight” or “not a lesbian” that defined my interests; it wasn’t the lack of interest in one or the other. The opposite, in fact. I was attracted—not simply passingly, like a crush, but full-blown attracted—to people, to personalities, to individuals regardless of gender or inclinations. The quickest definition is “bisexual”. I’m awfully tongue-in-cheek about my own proclivities, though, and call myself greedy.
Yet, in the back of my head, I heard, “One homo in the family is enough.”
Because, what, there’s shame in having two? Three? Because there’s dishonor in even one?
My uncle is an amazing man. Since that time, I’ve never heard him make another snide remark about his sexuality. I talked to him many years later—not that long ago, actually, maybe three years ago? four?—and we reminisced about that comment. He didn’t remember making it. I don’t blame him. Whatever misgivings or uncertainties he might have had about his family accepting him for who he is, I like to think they aren’t there anymore.
Yet that doesn’t undo the underlying symptom—one that goes beyond me, or my uncle.
Queer is Not a Sickness
The LGBTQ “lifestyle” is not a plague. It’s not a choice. It’s not a broken anything.
The sickness is in us. The rest of us, as a larger people, a country. It infects how we deal with the knowledge that there are men who love men, women who love women, people who transition to the genders they feel. The “lifestyle” that needs to change is the one that excludes these amazing people from view. The choice that needs to be made is the one that puts our kids—all of our kids—first.
The system is broken. We have people in authority—politicians, teachers, people who should be moving our society to one of unity and cooperation—tearing us apart with things like the Defense of Marriage Act. We have school districts that promote a “neutrality policy” that keeps teachers from stepping in when anti-gay bullying hits a student; a policy that can fire or suspend any teacher who tries to promote a tolerant classroom, an accepting state of mind, just because it uses words that address a gay point of view.
We have kids, so many kids, committing suicide because they’re feeling isolated, confused, alone. Even losing one child is too many, and we’re standing by as we lose more to the terror and frustration of violence and intolerance in our own schools. Often promoted by councils and authorities. Adults who should know better.
Look, the LGBTQ issue isn’t just about equal marriage for adults. It’s not just about the independent people who want to find happiness and recognition for loving someone else.
It’s also about the kids who don’t have as big a voice as the adults they might not become. About the kids who are mimicking the intolerance their parents, their teachers, their congress, is preaching.
Now is the time when our kids, all our kids, need a supportive hand.
Now is the time to give them one.
It Gets Better
The It Gets Better Project is committed to reaching out to LGBTQ youth, in school and otherwise, and helping them through this already tough time. Hundreds of videos have been made, by average Joes and celebrities; by LGBTQ folks and straight; by teenagers and adults. Each one promises that it will get better, that all every young person needs to do is stick with it, keep dreaming, speak out and be strong.
The project doesn’t stop there.
The project is committed to raising awareness for LGBTQ youth, to fund suicide prevention and help hotlines. If you’re looking for a way to help and don’t know how to start, it’s easy. You can start here. You can take their pledge, and commit yourself to ceasing the spread of intolerance. You can donate directly to them, time or money.
Or, if you just don’t think you can spare more than a few dollars, you can buy a book.
Because I feel so strongly about this, and I know you do, too, I’m offering some incentive for your help.
Consider this my gift to you.
Wicked Lies: a Dark Mission novella
On March 5th, 2013, the third Avon Impulse novella in the Dark Mission series will be released. Wicked Lies is set between Sacrifice the Wicked and the final Dark Mission novel, One for the Wicked. It will be availble through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most likely anywhere else e-books are sold.
It will be e-book first, and then available for print later.
Now, pay attention. This is important:
Every dime I make on the book will go to the It Gets Better Project. Every last cent.
So I need your help. I need you to tell your friends, your family. I need you to buy this book, to gift it. To talk about it. And in exchange, you’ll have a story that I’m so glad Avon supported me on when I said I wanted to write it. A story about a man who never dared let himself dream about that happily ever after, and the man who might just give him the opportunity to do just that.
I wanted to write about Jonas so very much, and my editor, Esi, didn’t even blink when I asked. When I originally offered the idea to you, delicious readers, many of you wrote me to say you’d buy it to support the cause.
I’m holding you to this.
You and I, we’re going to change the world. One book at a time.
So without further ado, I give you Wicked Lies: a Dark Mission novella.
In this Dark Mission novella, Jonas Stone emerges from the shadows into his own story, and finally allows himself to have the same shot at love he’s given his friends.
Jonas Stone has been given his first independent operation: rescue the insurrection leader’s imprisoned grandson from the Mission. Getting the job done means more than getting Danny Granger out—it means staying with him while he heals. Staying too close, for way too long.
Danny is everything Jonas isn’t: confident, optimistic, honest—a man to be reckoned with. If only it didn’t mean going against everything Jonas has planned. He’s kept his secrets for years, hid behind a mask no one could see through…until now. Danny isn’t the kind of man Jonas deserves. But he might be exactly the man he needs…