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[columns]


Dan Shortridge

November 1997

You Are Not Alone

Introduction

Well, a lot of things have happened since I wrote my first Oasis column last month. I officially joined the Wooster Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Alliance, signed on as the local coordinator for the National Day of Silence program, and had my first editorial published in the student newspaper (calling for the abolition of the CIA). I also got to go home for fall break and visit with my family and friends; I got to see "In & Out" (and highly recommend it to everyone -- it's absolutely hilarious) and attended my first PFLAG meeting.

Most importantly, I got to spend some time with Beth. We're both now counting down the days until Thanksgiving break...

I also got quite a bit of email concerning my first column, mainly from people thanking me for standing up for gay rights even though I'm a straight guy. I decided to address that issue, among others, in this column. And so, here goes....

More than 1-in-10

The "one-in-ten" statistic (that ten percent of the population is queer) is often given as proof that homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals are not alone. I actually find that number very depressing, and rather inapplicable to daily life. If one in ten people are gay, it's still very difficult to find those people in a setting like school or a job where pressure, threats, and violence are common. In other words, people won't come out or even know whom to come out to when the rednecks and KKK run the schools.

That's where "friendlies" come in to the picture. I recently had the meaning of this word explained to me by my friend Kristen (who also writes for Oasis) as a straight person who counts gays among their best friends, who wears freedom rings and pink triangles with pride, and would march in a parade holding hands with someone of the same sex to make a point. That describes me, and many of my friends. We may be straight, but we understand what's going on. Most importantly, we can help.

Since there are, statistically speaking, more heterosexuals than homosexuals, it's more likely that a queer teen will come out to a straight friend than to a gay friend. We are out there, believe it or not. We're straight people with a bit of common sense and compassion and who realize that people are people are people and that it doesn't matter a damn bit who you fall in love with.

But who are we? Just like there's no way to tell who's gay and who's not just by looking at people, there's no way to tell who's gay-friendly and who's not just by looking at them. Unfortunately, you can't even rely on close friends; there's no telling how they will react, even though they might have been your friends since you were in kindergarten together. Sometimes people you barely know will take your side.

There's no real way to categorize people who are friendly; we may be liberal, conservative, black, white, religious, atheistic, Wiccan, or a number of different things. They may or may not have questioned their sexuality in the past. I am personally liberal, white, male, agnostic/atheistic, and am very heterosexual. But we are out there. Come talk to us. Please.

Suicide

"And when you're dying in America
at the end of the millennium
you're not alone..."

- "Living In America," RENT

More queer teenagers kill themselves than straight ones. That is an indisputable fact. Some of my closest friends have considered it; I know I have. Sometimes things just get so bad that you think there's nothing that matters, no one who cares about you or whom you care about -- that life isn't worth the pain of living.

I read a book for an English class a few years ago by Judith Guest, "Ordinary People," about a high school student who tried to kill himself and was in therapy. I understood what he was thinking and feeling because I had felt that way myself; I'd continue to feel that way over the next few years. I was seriously depressed off and on. I couldn't talk to my parents; therewere no teachers I could go to; and I always though my friends were "perfect," and didn't have problems like that. I was alone.

Thankfully, I wasn't.

I was eventually able to talk to my parents. My teachers understood what was happening. And my friends proved more understanding and loving than I had ever thought possible. I start counseling soon for depression, and might end up taking medication.

But what brought me out of it the most was love -- the love of my family, but most importantly the love of my friends. Beth, Kristen -- thank you so much, for more than you know.

It's more difficult for queer teens to find friends and teachers who understand, and it's next to impossible to talk to parents who have no concept of what you're going through. But there are people out there who will understand, and who can help you get out from under that huge black cloud. There's nothing wrong with getting help; there's nothing sick or twisted or insane about a person who's in counseling, or on anti-depressant medication. There's nothing wrong with you.

We're all players in this great game of life. And we're not alone as long as we're all together.

My thinking about gay rights used to be simply that it was none of my business what people did and who they did it with. But as my gay friends have come out of the closet, I've realized that the question transcends sex. To me, it's now a question and an issue of love. Compassion, caring, and commitment are values that can be -- and are -- held and expressed by anyone, towards anyone.

Love can not only help you survive the journey -- it makes it really worth living.

Well, that's all for this month. Hope you liked it. If you have any comments or questions about anything, email me! I love getting email, and will always write back. Viva la revolution! All luck, honor, and love.

Peace, Dan

E-mail address: shortrdf@acs.wooster.edu


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