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Bethany

February 2000

On Soulmates & Such

It's ten o'clock, and this article is due in two hours. Therefore, I hope you will forgive me if this is rather full of tangents and rambly. Recent weeks have been long, hard, and exhausting. If you are applying to college in the next year, get those stupid CSS and FAFSA forms in early, or else you'll have your parents fuming at you at 9pm two nights before they're due to be sent, when you don't have the profile and it takes almost a week to get it, and later making you call to be sure that the deadline is flexible like your friend said when you called her frantically the night before. Argh!

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Have any of you read the book "Annie on My Mind" by Nancy Garden? It was the first gay print book I'd ever read, and it helped me a lot in the questioning process. One of the most beautiful things about "Annie" is its exploration and stressing of the soulmate concept. Liza, the narrator, sums up a story from Plato. I'll give you just the barebones of it:

In the beginning, people had two heads and four arms, and the like. Some people were male-male, some were female-female, others were a combination of the two, and the only word we have left to describe them is "androgynous". These double-people decided to make war against the gods, or the gods were jealous of their love, and eventually Zeus used his lightening bolts to divide the double-people. He gave people the "correct" number of limbs, while also splitting their very souls in half. When they woke up, and realized what had happened, they clung to their other half, trying to reconnect like they had been tied before. So that is why some lovers are heterosexual, and others are homosexual.

The story (from Plato's Symposium, if you want to look it up) rather leaves out all the bisexuals, but it is a beautiful story nonetheless. As the story of "Annie" progresses, Liza remarks that as their relationship blossomed, she began to feel more and more that Annie is the other half of her. I think Nancy Garden really likes this concept, because it also appears in her other "coming-out" novel, "Good Moon Rising". The soulmate ideal is something I think many of us look for. We all want to find that person who makes us feel complete, who understands all our little quirks, who loves us regardless because to deny that love would be to deny life itself. After lending "Annie" to a friend of mine, who had been anti-gay not that long before (this was before he came out, obviously!), he wrote to me that both "Annie" and another 'gay' book we'd both read stressed the soulmate idea and that "I really don't believe in that sort of destiny, but the inseparable closeness which those characters had...I'd give up almost anything for that. And I guess that kind of love is the biggest reason why I couldn't 'condemn' homosexuality or whatever; love like that is so achingly rare, how could you not take it on whatever terms it came? ... I wish you luck in finding that soulmate." The soulmate reality is something that every human being craves- we want someone who will know us better than we know ourselves, someone that just by holding us chases all the demons away, someone who would rather cut off a limb that hurt us. It's as my friend put it "achingly rare" but it is something achingly real. May we all be blessed enough to find our other halves.

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I swore that I'd only ever speak of "Dawson's Creek" in a negative sense. Well, we all make promises we can't keep. And you have no idea how much kidding I'm going to get for writing this. My friends will smugly be saying "I told you so" for about three months, if not three years. I can honestly say that I've seen no more than half a dozen of the show's episodes, and over half of those dealt with Jack, the gay teen character. Perhaps I watched just because I'm desperate to see a sensitive portrayal of a gay teen- and I haven't seen a "My So-Called Life" rerun in ages.

Anyway, I've seen both the "coming out" episodes, as well as the one about the guy from the train at the festival- in words for those of us who don't watch the damn show, about the first gay person the Jack character gets to know and talk to in person. Jack's awkwardness, uncertainty, and internal struggles aren't demeaned, rather they help to illustrate that gay kids are normal. We confront many of the same struggles that our straight peers face- unrequited love, not knowing if someone is interested, not knowing how to confront our feelings, etc. He's not a stereotypical gay guy, nor ultra-masculine. He plays sports (I think) but also cries. The expectations of family and friends versus his actual identity isn't ignored, either. It's treated sensitively, with compassion. Jack is not a stereotype, nor is he the opposite thereof. He's a "real" person. Albeit, with plenty of Dawson-esque extra angst, the show actually treats a gay kid like a person, instead of a problem or someone to be pitied. For a show with many faults (fans, please don't flame me!!!), "Dawson's Creek" actually knows what it's doing when confronting the quandaries of gay teen life. And maybe sometime, we'll actually see a *female* gay teen... Now, that'd be a shocker! In essence, kudos to the staff of "Dawson's Creek" despite the kidding I'm going to get for saying this... I've been very outspoken in my anti-Creek stance in the past.

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The 90's are over. It's a scary concept, I think, for someone like me who barely remembers the 80's. When that decade ended, I was in second grade. Now, as we all head into the 00's, whatever they'll be called, it's scary to think that the decade that I essentially grew up in will be over. This year, I graduate from high school, and in 1988 I graduated from kindergarten. What progress have we made in the past years? Most of you probably remember the Gulf War- I myself can even remember the fall of the Berlin Wall- but then there was Jeffrey Dahmer, too. There've been major elections, such as Bush vs. Clinton, and major scandals, such as Zippergate. The Soviet Union, and the Cold War, have ended while various nations have collapsed or descended into civil war. In Denmark and Norway we can even get married. (I had to put that in, and not just because I'm proud since I did my 6th grade Country Fair project on Denmark!)

There have been a lot of shows on lately charting the last ten years, looking over the events that have defined the maturing of Generation X and the youth of Generation Y. Most of it has been in terms of culture, such as when various movies came out or certain musicians made it big. Some has been about news events. For me, this decade has been defined by everything from the Ninja Turtles and Gargoyles to Dances With Wolves and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I remember getting sent sand from Saudi Arabia from my uncle, who served in the Gulf War, during third grade. I remember the time I spent at camp, where I could be myself for the first time in years, without any preconceived notions of who I was supposed to be in the minds of my camp buddies. I remember falling in love for the first time, and kicking myself in the head for never telling her. One cool May morning I remember coming out to my dad, and one sticky June night last year, I remember coming out to my friends.

I think how we measure the past isn't in terms of what society has accomplished, or what it hasn't, but rather in terms of how we've progressed, matured, evolved as individuals. I can see what progress I've made in just the last year- it's scary to consider how far I've come in ten years. From my first second grade crush to coming out is a long road. As we all get settled into this new decade- yes I know not technically, but bear with me- please take a second to look back and see how far you've come. It could be very illuminating. Then take a minute to look forward and see how far we have yet to go. That should be even more interesting.

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Bethany is a 17 year old gay girl from Western Massachusetts. She writes, reads, listens to lots of music, plays in the school jazz band, and will be graduating in five months!!!!!!! Contact her at k41632@yahoo.com if you like. She apologizes for the haphazard nature of this article and will do better next month.


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