The information age has brought about this chance for someone like myself to write to a government official and voice my opinions and views. But because I am under 18 not only is that chance to talk to my representatives being taken away, but also my online sanctuary.
I face a problem just because I am young, I am gay, and I am in the closet. My problem is that the community around me is less than gay friendly, and I have no place where I can be myself and around people like myself. My salvation has been the Internet and a local gay online service for allowing me a small place on the net where I can be myself.
Once enforced, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 will take away from me the only place where I can be true to myself. The Emerald OnRamp, a computerized online service in Seattle, Washington, is a system on which I host and moderate an online area for gay/lesbian/bisexual and questioning teens.
Though I am a self-identifying gay young man, I have not come out to the public, or even to my parents. The Emerald OnRamp and "EOR Youth" provide me a safe and comfortable place to be true to myself and to the rest of the online world. Online, I use a pseudonym, Zeke. I use this only to protect myself from the inevitable onslaughts of harassment that I would face should I be identified in my community as gay.
"EOR Youth" will be in violation of the communications decency law when that law is enforced. In "EOR Youth," we provide many resources to GLB and questioning teens. Who is to say that this is "inappropriate" for users? Someone who does not understand this resource's usefulness may see the area as promoting homosexuality and bisexuality, when all it really does is provide a place to talk about the feelings we have, get information about counseling and services in our community, and have a general safe place to come to terms with ourselves without having to leave our own home.
Support groups are great. Yet, for many teens a support group is out of reach because of geographical location, and/or the fact that their parents would need to transport them to such a group. "EOR Youth" provides the safe place for youth to explore their own sexuality without having to venture into the outside world. It provides a place to be yourself without the risk of harassment or judgment.
The suicide rates among gay and lesbian youth are astounding, but when gay youth have a place to meet and talk, they go down. A support group of any kind, even an online community, can provide some sort of relief to a youth before they become helpless enough to take their own life.
Zeke, age 16.
Snoqualmie Valley, WA
P.S. I would very much like to hear your views on this issue and censorship in general, please feel free to respond. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.