This month I'm going to take a break from my usual ranting and write about a young Oasis columnist that some people seem to think is a fraud, and last month one writer spent most of his column putting him down. I no longer feel that I can just stand in the corner and let this continue without throwing my two cents worth in, so I'm going to take a bold step.
I'm going to defend Ty.
I've known Ty probably longer than anyone associated with Oasis, and that puts me in a position to speak up for the young man, because I've watched him change and grow over the past 2 1/2 years...he never ceases to amaze me!
I first met Ty in a gay chat room on AOL, I had been checking out those rooms because around that time I was first starting to come to at least acknowledge the fact that I was gay, and I thought that maybe talking to others like me would help. Well, at least it was a nice try! All anyone seemed to care about was age and penis size, and exchanging phone numbers. Not to mention "going private" for some joyous cyber action. Oh boy!
One morning I was going through the rooms and I stopped in one right as they were doing the standard age/sex/size check, and I saw this thirteen-year-old kid's screen name...that freaked me out because everyone else was in their twenties! I sent him a instant message and said "Hi" but within a few minutes he had logged off and I figured that everyone had scared him away.
The next day I looked in my mailbox and there was one from him, saying that he was sorry he had to leave suddenly and that he thought it was cool that I didn't ask him about his penis like the other guys had, and maybe sometime we could meet online and chat in a private room. I wrote back and told him when I was usually on and said that I'd love to talk to him sometime.
Almost two weeks went by before we crossed paths again, and we spent nearly two hours one morning chatting in a private room...remember this was in the good 'ol days of paying by the hour on AOL! I was totally blown away by him and the things he told me, but what really got me was when he told me his real age! I thought it was amazing that a thirteen-year-old could write such things, but when I found out that he was actually eleven I was floored!
We kept in touch over time with regular e-mails and an occasional chat, and when I first discovered Oasis I passed along the address, thinking that he may find it interesting. I even suggested for him to try and write a column, using the previously published ones as a starting point, and maybe it would be accepted?
The rest, as they say, is history.
I remember how awestruck I felt as I read his debut column, and that was the encouragement I need to get off of my can and write my own debut. He was able to put ideas into words so easily, and that is something that I, an aspiring author, dream of being able to do, and yet this fourteen-year-old successfully achieves this each and every month with apparent ease!
Yet instead of patting him on his back and encouraging him on, what does this young man receive?
Okay, maybe that's too harsh of a word, but it sure seems like that at times. Last month's issue is a perfect example, and I know it will happen again, just as sure as the tide rolls in like clockwork. Yet, I've known this kid for some time, and I just cannot see him as a liar! Maybe I'm foolish, but he told me the same things when I first e-mailed him as he wrote about in his columns. He's also told me things that haven't appeared in Oasis, but I don't feel that I have the right to disclose that privileged information. I know what school he goes to -- among other personal information -- but I would be jeopardizing his safety if I revealed that. He's mentioned some incidents of people trying to locate him, and that scares both of us.
Ty treats me as a confidant, and that is something I prize...when he had sex for the first time with a girl, I was the first person he told. Not his boyfriend...not his parents...not even his brother! He told me first in a e-mail he sent not long after the fact, and while some of you may not agree with me on this (or what he did!), the fact that he trusted me enough to tell me something so important and personal first made me one happy guy! When he asks me questions that he feels he cannot ask anyone else, that makes me feel like I'm doing something positive for him, that he values and trusts my guidance.
He sends me his new columns when they are completed, asking only that I give him my honest opinion, and from time to time I've made suggestions on editing, but as the months go by it seems like I tell him more often than not "Don't change a thing!". His November 1997 column was in my opinion one of the best things ever written in Oasis, and after reading that I knew just how special he is.
Yet I'm one of the few that feel this way, which is so hard for me to comprehend! Here this kid is, pouring his heart out to us, and instead of offering encouragement and praise, he's criticized! Some of the points that his critics raise as "evidence" against him sound an awful lot like envy to me...has anyone taken on a greenish pallor lately??? When I see someone "complaining" about a teenager writing with "clarity" I become scared -- with American students falling deeper and deeper behind their counterparts around the world in academics every year, we need all the intelligent and literate kids we can muster, yet we have a shining example of one right in front of us that some dismiss as a fraud... because he "writes too well for someone his age".
How terrible...a kid that uses his brain!!! Far worse than one that uses drugs or guns instead, huh?
Maybe these same people would care to dismiss the diary that one young lady in Holland wrote while hiding with her family in an attic to avoid persecution during what may have been the darkest period in this century -- wasn't she a young teenager when she wrote her initial entries in what is arguably the best and most personal account of life in those difficult days? Does anyone care to dismiss Anne Frank as a fraud?
I didn't think so.
Ty has given Oasis readers something special, a deeply personal account of his life, and more recently, the acceptance of his sexuality by not only himself but also by those closest to him. As we move along in a new year, perhaps we should resolve to not only encourage this young man to be the best he can be, but to encourage us all to be the best that we can be?
I'm behind you Ty 100%...Don't quit! All my best,