A friend of mine pointed out that the message in this video is quite similar to the messages in the “It Gets Better” project videos. I agree.
For folks who don’t know about the “It Gets Better” project, it was developed in response to the recent rash of senseless suicides of LGBT youth. Some caring adults made a series of short videos with messages of hope. Here’s one of them that got quite a bit of buzz. I don’t watch the show but apparently this guy is from “Project Runway.”
NOTE: I want to preface my comments by saying that this story has a happy ending. No children will be killed in the making of this blog.
Children’s TV in the 70s often told us it was okay to be different. Of course back then “different” mainly meant “ethnic” or “a girl” but it was a start! It was a great thing for me to hear since I fit the 70s definition of different to a tee. It wasn’t so helpful for my best friend in high school though. He wasn’t ethnic or a girl but he was “different.”
We met in English class in junior year of high school. He was a huge movie buff and a hell of a good writer* so we became fast friends. We ate lunch together, studied together, we read each other’s writing, and we spent hours and hours on the phone talking about absolutely nothing. The thing we loved doing most of all though, was going to movies and sitting at the back of the theater and cracking jokes at the screen. (Foreshadowing!)
One summer morning when we were both 16, my friend showed up at my door and announced that he had just taken way too many of his mom’s tranquilizers and that he needed to talk. Now, selfless humanitarian that I was, the first thought that went through my mind was that I was not allowed to have boys in the house when no one was home and that if he OD’d on my living room floor I was gonna be so grounded! He seemed a bit sleepy eyed and he slurred his speech a little but he didn’t seem anywhere near death’s door so let him in I did.
I can’t remember the sparkling teenage conversation we had before he worked up the nerve to come out to me. I don’t even remember what my response was though I know it was generally accepting. I just remember him sitting on our couch crying and saying over and over “I didn’t want this. Please, I don’t want to be gay.” I don’t think it struck me then but it certainly does now how monstrously unfair it is that he should have been made to feel so terrible about his difference while we the brown skinned and X chromosomed were being so eagerly encouraged to celebrate ours.
At the time I, of course, did what all red blooded Americans do when faced with a person who is experiencing painful and uncomfortable emotions. I did everything in my power to make it stop! I tried hugging but that just made it “worse” so I tried ice cream which, of course, always helps at least a little. Finally I resorted to the thing we loved best. I turned on the TV and we sat and made fun of movies. Here’s the funny thing about it though. It turned out that for him laughter was the best medicine! That first day I don’t think either of us was up to a full blown heart to heart dialogue, but we both felt comfortable slipping occasional jokes about his newly declared sexuality into the conversation.**
I’d love to sit here and write that my consciously developed and ingenious movie riffing therapy saved a life that day but that’s clearly not what happened. I just turned on the TV and helped an already very strong kid laugh during a really rough patch. I was just a self centered (meaning normal) 16 year old kid who kicked her suicidal and probably still quite high friend out at precisely 4:30 to avoid getting grounded for having a boy in the house. To my credit though I did make him promise not to take any more pills and to call me the minute he got home. He did call, that night and nearly every night thereafter for the rest of high school. There’s a picture on the wall behind me of the two of us smiling arm in arm on graduation day.
We went separate ways for college but we still keep in touch. He’s a counselor for at risk youth in the LA area and, at this point, there are probably many other people out there who owe their lives to the fact that he chose not to end his that day. LGBT youth will probably never see anything I write but if I were going to send a message it would probably be not only does it get better for you, it might also get better for the people whose lives you touch. Please stick around!
*still is a huge movie fan and a hell of a good writer.
**We did eventually get comfortable talking about it.