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.
- 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.