The New York Times has a beautiful multimedia piece today on LGBTQ youth and their coming-out stories.
It bothers me a little that these brave young people are being used as a prop in the Times' effort to create edgy feature content, but I think it's good to confront their experiences in such a mainstream venue.
In high school I started a publication called Lola's Kitchen with my Gay Straight Alliance co-president. It used poetry, cartoons, and interviews to document the culture of homophobia, transphobia, and other markers of ignorance that permeated our society and school, which is widely considered a liberal institution of secondary education in New York City.
I wouldn't say my co-editor and I got harassed so much as hassled for our work, but one time the Head of School told us we couldn't distribute the publication in the admissions office and during visiting week for admitted students. She didn't want us to "misrepresent" the student body to newcomers. So of course we put extra copies in the admissions office during that week.
Six years out of high school, I'm saddened at the familiarity of the stories from these New York Times interviewees. The word "gay" is slung around like an insult, kids are afraid to tell their parents that they have a crush on someone of their own gender, and in the midst of a transitional life period, teenagers feel they have to hide the individiuals they are becoming.
Any inroads have been slow in the making, and I remain sickened by the regressive social mainstream in this country. Young people are robbed of their sense of self-worth by ignorance-fueled hostility, and for what? There's enough to fear in the world without fearing that you must hide who you are, or that you will never fall in love, or that everybody hates you because you are gay.
Lola's Kitchen is now listed on the school's Wikipedia page as a publication showcasing student ingenuity, and tours for applicants and admitted students have a stop in front of the Gay Straight Alliance meeting room. I can only hope the experiences of the Times' interviewees turn around for them so they can fully realize their own value.