The first anniversary of my coming out to my parents has come and gone, and as I go into my second year of open secrets I find myself looking back over how much I've changed over the past fourteen or so months, and at times I'm amazed at how much I've grown since that fateful day.
When I look at myself in the mirror I see the same person I did before I was out, in fact I've changed very little physically since that day, but inside I'm a totally different person. I've seen with wide open eyes just how the world can treat you when you are different and it's not always pretty...and it's downright ugly when members of your own family have a hard time accepting you as you happen to be. It took quite some time for my Mom and I to go back to the good relationship we had before I came out, but in all honesty I can't say that things are like they used to be because you can't go back to what was, you can only move forward. At least we reconciled, which isn't always the case the kids come out to their parents.
Although I'm out to my family, to the rest of those in my life I'm just another face in the crowd. The same old Ty. When people see me out skating they just see a kid skating with reckless abandon, not a gay kid on skates. In school I'm just another freshman trying to fit into high school life, not the gay freshman struggling for acceptance. In other words I'm just a regular run-of-the-mill fourteen-year-old.
While this may be fine by me, to some members of the gay community this enigmatic appearance is somewhat undesirable. To some, being gay means that you have to live out loud or else you're just not gay enough. We are encouraged to wear symbols that "proudly" display our sexual orientation. We have "gay" music to listen to. Our so-called fashion rules suggest that we wear the brightest colors possible and do whatever we can to draw attention to ourselves.
So whatever happened to freedom of choice?
What bothers me the most about the gay community is that instead of being the open and accepting environment that we seem to try to portray, we are in all actuality just another cliche. I've had people write to me asking "what kind of fag listens to Metallica?"...as if their music is only for heterosexuals. When my brother and I went to a youth gay support group we were asked why we didn't have any PRIDE wear on? I suppose that we really aren't gay then, are we? Instead of finding acceptance we were greeted with contempt, which sure goes against what the gay world should be all about.
If there is only one standard for being out in our society then surely there will be people left out in the cold, an outcast among the outcasts. To some if you are not "attractive" to their standards then you are invisible. Those who are overweight are treated bad enough as it is by our society and are treated even worse by the gay populace. To some being thirty or older is the equivalent of being dead, as my uncle has found out.
As we approach a new millennium, isn't it time that we abolish the archaic stereotypical image of what a gay person is or should be like with a more realistic one? Hollywood doesn't seem to have the ability to do this, and even independent filmmakers shy away from portraying gays as anything but the "gay" the public is most familiar with. If gays were shown to be normal people, think of the possible effect that could have on the way others see us? If someone is brave enough to produce a TV show that portrays gays as normal people then maybe the general public will see us as being just like them except for our sexuality?
And maybe then there won't be another senseless death like Matthew Shepard's.