Sep 052011
 

It’s been 20 years since I started high school. My high school was located in Western PA – I wouldn’t say it was an extremely conservative area but diversity wasn’t a word for us.

There were certain groups/types that I could count the number of on one hand – 4 grades, each with over 500 students.

  • Blacks
  • Overweight
  • Pregnant (I’ll go by per grade, but i think the most overall at any one given time during my 4 years was 10)
  • LGBT and open
  • Poor/very low income families

We were kids; and you know the saying “kids can be cruel” – they can. Overcompensating for their own insecurities. So yeah we gossiped and rumored about who might be gay but it was most certainly never in a positive light. Years later I’ve found out that some from my graduating class were in fact gay. Some we’d had an idea, some were a shock. All kept it fairly secret, though. There wasn’t even a hint of Kurt.

Through a situation that I don’t want to tell the entire story on to protect privacy, I found out that the niece of my old friend is an out lesbian AND has a girlfriend. And she’s a sophomore. Not at the same high school we attended, but in a town very nearby. I was shocked, if I’m being perfectly honest, but absolutely thrilled at the same time. Good for her!! She’d told her aunt that she’d known since she was a child. Her parents though are fairly conservative. Her father is a cop – a tough, daughter-protecting sister-protecting closed-minded rigid conservative. Her mother, I’d always thought, was fairly cool albeit quite religious. I’d wrongly assumed that at least her mother was supportive. It brought tears to my eyes when my friend told me that neither parent was supportive (although I’m not sure what exactly they’re unsupportive of – her being a lesbian or being out or having a girlfriend or all three) and that the only supportive adults in her life were my friend and my friend’s late mother.

Since I moved away (but even then, long before that occurred, we’d drifted apart) I had less and less contact with my friend’s family. I used to babysit for the girl and her sister, but the girl was a toddler back then. When I saw them both last year I was frankly surprised they had much memory of me. Bottom line is – I don’t know her. I’m “facebook friends” with her mom, and reconnecting with her aunt (my friend) but I do not know her. I told my friend to pass along my words of encouragement and support, to let the girl know that I think she’s awesome and brave…so brave. I find myself wishing that I could do more but I can’t. It’s not my place.

I know that bullying is rampant these days, I know that gay teen suicide is huge concern. I know that things are still hard for them. But can we maybe take a small “victory” that they’re coming out in high school years, and that it’s an improvement (albeit a very very slow one) from 2 generations ago?

Baby steps. But I wish they were big steps.

 Posted by at 11:23 pm
  • Violet

    I too started high school in 91 – although I know our system is different. High school started just as I was turning 12 and it was my 8th year of education and I would’ve been class of 96 (that is if I wasn’t one of those pregnant ones!)

    Almost as soon as we started high school there was one guy who was so close to that Kurt (not to be mixed up with the kurt who is synonymous with the 90′s) I often feel that charachter is based on him. He was also out, proud and fully supported. There were others in years above me that were also out, open and supported.

    Over the years more kids joined their ranks, albeit most of them girls. But we were lucky to live in a town that had a very hippy vibe where pretending to be someone you were not was a far bigger crime than being proud to be someone who was a little bit different.

    Don’t get me wrong highschool was still a drama and cruel kids abounded, but for some reason the gay, bi and lesbian students were almost like royalty amongst the ranks.

    I’m very happy that my very extra-ordinary experience is starting to become more common.

  • http://afemalesperspective.com Sabrina

    I think that we have made some positive steps, but as you have alluded to, we still have a long way to go. I went into high school in 2003. I know I’m a youngster.

    During that time I think that it was still hard for gays. I knew that I was bisexual then, but I did not dare tell anyone. People can indeed be very cruel. I saw people being harassed and bullied on a regular basis. Like in your situation, I know people who picked on others who I know now to be gay themselves. It is truly amazing the behaviors that self-hatred will cause.

    My experience in college is completely different. It is very refreshing to see that for the most part society is moving in a better direction.