"you said good friends are hard to come by
i laughed and bought you a beer
'cause it's too corny to cry" - Amy Ray
Seven and a half months ago, my friends could have given up on me. They could have said, sorry, we don't want to deal with this, with you. But they didn't. I don't know what went through their minds when they found out I was gay, but as they've presented it to me, there never seemed to be a question of whether or not they'd accept me. It seems to have been a given. I was shocked.
As my friends and my parents have told me, and I agree wholeheartedly, I was essentially a miserable, nasty, wretched person for years before I came out. I was so angry with myself and hated myself so much that I unleashed all my rage on those that I loved the most. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't right, but that's what I did. I knew it then, too, and couldn't fathom any logical reason for my friends to stick with me. They must have been able to see something that I can't.
When I was young, I'd sign letters "Friends Forever" and I still have some old letters from ex-friends that have that line at the end. I used to believe in the ideal of never-ending friendship, too. I saw my parents and the friends that they still had from fifth grade, were still in contact with, such as my godparents. As I've said to my current group of friends, I can pinpoint the exact moment my optimism regarding friendship started to die. It was the morning that I called my (ex) best friend to tell her I was moving to a town an hour and a half away. I still remember the feel of the phone receiver in my hand and the words that we said. Some part of me knew then that our friendship had started to die as soon as she knew I was leaving. I was right.
About a year later, she had stopped replying to my letters. Having that happen, and then watching two best friends in my new social group in my new town start to hate each other, fight with each other even though they'd been friends since toddler-age, truly destroyed the last shreds of optimism in me. If friendship lasted forever, I reasoned, then why didn't any of the friendships around me seem to last? And years later I reasoned, if friendship was such a weak thing as what I'd seen, what I'd felt and experienced, then why the f*ck would my friends choose to stand by a queer?
I've learned that friendship defies all logic. And in that is its beauty. The ties that bind hearts together via friendship can be weak as a politician's conscience and thin as a sheet of paper, or strong as steel and beautiful as gold. We all hopefully have reveled in the sweet knowledge that there are people there for us. And they're there because they want to be, not because they are related by blood or forced by duty. For a long time, I couldn't believe in that. But I do now, because my belief in friendship has been restored.
I've read a lot about gay teens rejected by their friends and most of my gay friends have experienced that. But that's not always the case. As far as I can tell, I've just been lucky. My friends, beyond reason, beyond what one would expect from members of Generation Y (that's what we're called, right?), have accepted me. It is possible. From the first friend I came out to who said (wrote, actually), "I will support you always", to the friends who actually jumped up and down, to the hushed, secretive, "I heard about last night- and I'm okay with it," at the lunch table, my friends have proven themselves to be good, true human beings. I'm very proud of them, and the other unsung heroes who have supported their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends. They've made a great difference in our lives, and we should thank them. I intend to.
On a totally different note, I'm trying to figure out how to come out to my grandfather. What annoys me is that while I've found plenty of stuff on how parents can adjust/cope/whatever to having a gay child, there's nothing out there specifically geared for grandparents dealing with a gay grandchild. And I think there should be. The relationship between grandchild/grandparent can be exceedingly unique as compared to a parent/child or aunt/nephew relationship. There is a special magic between children and their grandparents that needs to be addressed in all the coping literature out there.
My grandfather is in his late seventies- he has a totally different frame of reference for adjusting than his son, my father, who is only in his late forties. If any of you have read the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth original report from 1993, something that made an impact on me, beyond all the sort of "duh" things that were finally be said out loud about queer youth, was that a grandmother testified. A grandmother of a lesbian teen who wasn't even out to her parents. I think that says something about how strong and precious the grandparent/grandchild relationship is, that a teen would turn first to a grandparent instead of a parent.
That a woman most likely in her seventies or eighties would stand up for her closeted granddaughter at a public hearing on the issue of queer youth, would speak of how she watched her granddaughter in so much pain because of the rift between the girl and her parents, is wonderful. That she did it without any direct help from a pamphlet that told her she wasn't alone, etc. is amazing.
Personally, I can feel the distance between my grandfather and I because I can't be honest with him about this, and it hurts. I can't be honest about my most important after-school activity, which is our diversity club/GSA. He knows I'm in it, but I think he believes it concentrates mostly on racial issues or something like that. The thing is, when I do come out to him, because I will eventually, there isn't any book or even brochure that I can hand him that says, "Your grandchild is gay. This publication is going to help you understand and accept that." All I have is some stuff from the American Psychiatric Association and a couple of PFLAG brochures meant for parents.
That just makes me feel sad that while such wonderful organizations are printing up so many wonderful pamphlets and companies are publishing some great books (currently my mom is working her way through "Beyond Acceptance") they are ignoring one of the most beautiful and precious relationships that can exist. That bond between grandparent and grandchild shouldn't be strained to any extra extent just because there's nothing I can give my grandfather that's geared directly for him. There's a need for that kind of publication and at this point, I don't know of anything that's trying to meet the need.
Because I want to, and because we all could use a laugh, I want to end this with a quote from the one-act play that helped my class win our school one-act competition for our senior year: "Roomers" by Jerome McDonough, in which I made my stage debut (my grandfather ironically called it my 'coming out') as the character these lines were said to: "Leave her alone, Velveeta. So, your boy's gone with the soldiers, has he? Well, we'll catch up soon. I traded my oxcart for a Subaru. Four-wheel drive, you know? Takes on anything the battlefield has to offer. Can't you see us now, girlie? You, Velveeta, and me selling lard soap and foot powder and "Gentlemen's Quarterly" out there amongst the gore?"
Bethany is gay, mostly out, 17, and from Western Massachusetts. She plays flute in her school jazz band, badly butchers the Spanish language in la clase de espanol, listens to a lot of music, and writes profusely. Bethany can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org