2003 was the first time the “gay devil” (as I called it then) appeared in my unprepared 13-year-old mind. On a trip to Mexico that year, he perched on my shoulder while my family and I had lunch at an outdoor taqueria. The girl at the table next to us had tan skin, brown-blonde hair, and was wearing sunglasses and a black tank top with spaghetti straps.
My “gay demon” noticed her and made sure I did too. Like the word “she” hot’ From his provocative lips, crash-landing on my unsuspecting heart, I flinched—and then turned around to make sure no one heard.
Luckily no one had one. Before handing me a bowl of tortilla chips, my father simply smiled sweetly into my worried eyes.
Over the next few years, the gay demon reappeared frequently, continuing to give me crushes I wasn’t ready or willing to identify what it was.
He was often quite rude when making deliveries. When I realized at a Stevie Bullock concert that my feelings for one of his fan club members were far beyond anything the boy pop star had ever made me feel, the gay devil was me. ridiculed. You really didn’t come here for Stevie, did you?
After a girl I liked hugged me at summer camp, he whispered, I liked you a little too much.
There were several reasons why I didn’t feel safe coming out (even myself). One is that despite the significant acceptance of LGBT people by the early 2000s, acceptance of LGBT people still seemed to be relatively few. “High school students are still few.
The other is like a place where even though I went to a fairly liberal high school, things that defy conventional wisdom still get done regardless of differences in sexual orientation, temperament, how you look or speak, etc. That’s what I felt. Exposing yourself to criticism and rejection.
Blessed with a rock solid support group of peers and unwavering self-confidence, some rare people can be quite at peace from an early age. I wasn’t one of them.
So I was hoping that I could “wait for my homosexuality to go away” as if it were a passing affliction that might resolve over time.
This notion that homosexuality is a disease goes back centuries. At one point (before it started to be pathologized) it was so taboo that we didn’t even talk about it.
For example, in Walt Whitman’s time there was no discourse to understand or discuss it.—So Whitman himself continued in denial, even though he began to feel a fascination with the wounded he treated during the Civil War. (Whitman had many affairs with young men, but his writings only hint at it rather than explicitly stating it.)
Only after Whitman’s time did dialogue around homosexuality begin to emerge, but always in relation to illness. Psychiatrists such as Richard von Kraft-Ebbing described it as a “degenerative disease.”
To counter this, the “homosexual” movement emerged in the late 1950s and early 1970s, eventually spreading the message that “gay is good” (inspired by the Black Pride movement), theatre, I tried to build gay culture through music, theater, and more. Newspaper for LGBT.
The movement also promoted and encouraged gay-affirming therapy (whose goal was to be comfortable with one’s orientation, not to change) rather than homosexual conversion therapy.
Still, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the DSM until 1973. In 2005, the remnants of that contempt were still alive in my high school.
Too embarrassed to put it into words, I danced around the gay/lesbian label for years, filling the pages of my diary with oblique flattery of my crush, all of it admiration. was coded as
After finally taking the plunge and writing first in my journal at age 15 and then to friends and family at age 18, my self-acceptance slowly deepened. Many firsts and milestones followed.
Years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be interviewing a married lesbian Australian pop duo during an internship. curve magazinee, Or attending a queer prom together and ending up dating a girl I met through the LGBT center on my college campus. I’m waiting for you.
As the years passed, little by little pride replaced shame, and now all shame is gone. But I still remember how I felt then. I remember how stifling it made me.
I remember how it negatively affected my mental health and how it exacerbated my feelings of isolation. As Colin Poitras wrote in his 2019 article (for the Yale University LGBT Mental Health Initiative) The global closet is huge: “Hiding is negatively affected by the stress of hiding.”
I also recognize that many queer people are still actively fighting to overcome their shame. People like many of my friends in the LGBT community that I’ve known over the years. The friend’s mother accused him of being possessed by a demon by her grandmother, and she cried inconsolably after she told him about it.
Another woman tried to introduce her to a male waiter shortly after her mother went out to lunch with her for the third time. In addition, her parents refused to talk to him about it at all.
Citing new research from the Yale School of Public Health, Poitras writes: , or bisexual – keep their orientation hidden from all or most people in their lives.
For these reasons, pride and community spaces are still very much needed.
If I ever had the chance to talk to my teenage self, I would tell her right now. “It will get better for you, and once it gets better, you’ll know it won’t get better.” end You and. Celebrate the victories we have achieved. But don’t let that fool you.
Not when many young homosexuals, both in rural towns and cities, remain in closets for fear of rejection from their families, fragmenting who they are. In some countries people can still be killed for living openly as gay.
And not if the rights of some members of our community (such as queer people of color and transgender people) are still under threat. Black men who can marry their partners but have to worry about police brutality are not experiencing equality in the full sense of the word.
Stay alive with your eyes, hearts, ears, and hands open to issues that affect members of both our queer community and the larger human family. Because if being LGBT has taught me anything, it’s the importance of not letting people suffer silently. . And that is the power that community, support, and the pride that is cultivated within them can have in fighting shame.