J. Burns

October 1997

X-Ray Heart

I can sometimes see through a person's chest, into their interior cavities. Right into their heart. Some would call it gaydar. I'm not sure what this is, for I am not very skilled at it. You can't tell if a person is gay by their clothes, their hair, their voice, or the way they walk. My best way of knowing is when someone reaches out to me with their eyes.

I remember a few years ago, a boy named Jason. He was a beautiful boy, but he tried to hide it under a baseball cap and a sense of humor. But I saw how he was drawn to me, how he focused on me, how we'd talk and laugh and I knew he wanted more, but didn't know how to give it. I moved away, leaving him behind. Some nights I think of him, and how I let him down. How I was too weak to save him.

I'm nineteen now, comfortable with my sexuality, and really happy about who I am as a person. I want to share it all with someone, though, but don't know how to reach out and give it. How to make that connection.

In my previous blindness I couldn't help, could not reach out, could not save the dying hearts, the wounded young. Now I hope to make a difference. Tonight is my first meeting for Youth Outreach, a program to help young people with issues of sexuality and HIV/sex education. I'm also starting a gay/lesbian/bisexual student group on campus. It's a small school, but with 4,500 people, there should at least be 450 queer people. I hope people show up. Even in they don't, they'll at least have that option. That option I never had. The option Jason never had.

As gays we are usually socialized differently. We don't get a loving hand, a happy youth, affirmation of our beauty and worth. This is a generalization, but for me it is true. Every time I tried to love someone I was hurt, rejected, and this can affect someone's ego. Sometimes I feel as though I'm scared to love, for I've conditioned myself for rejection, for hurt. It's hard for me to reach out when I feel as though I'll only be defeated again.

"It takes courage to enjoy it -- the hardcore and the gentle," Bjork said. It's true. It takes courage to come out, to be yourself, and to even ask someone's name or ask them out on a date. But you've got to have that courage. Now it's time to enjoy.

** J, 19, currently attends college in Michigan.

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