In this, my twenty-second column, I want to discuss what Oasis means to me, what it's done for me, and maybe most important of all, what I have given to Oasis.
Oasis came into my life at a time when I needed it the most, and for all practical purposes it gave me the strength and inspiration to not just want to wake up each morning, but to actually roll out of bed and want to <I>live... </I>while at the same time an equally strong voice inside of me wanted to end the pain once and for all. Believe it or not Oasis was what teetered my will to survive, and on more than one occasion.
As a fifteen-year-old living in what often feels like a staunchly conservative and homophobic prison-like small town, Oasis is my only real way of reaching out and communicating with people that are like me, and sadly they often must guard their secret lives with the same vigor as I do. While all I have to fear is being shunned by my peers, some of us live in places where being gay can literally kill you.
One of the biggest criticisms I face is that I'm setting a bad example by not coming out completely to the public since I don't use my real name or provide a photo for my column, but then again why should I? My brother and I have gone to gay youth "support" groups only to be mocked and called names by some of the older and more openly gay members. While some offer the grand illusion that all you have to do is come out and you'll be accepted by other gays, maybe they should finish the sentence with, "as long as you fit our standards?" It sure isn't fun to have to struggle with your sexuality and then have to fight all over again for acceptance, is it?
At times I feel that what I write isn't just the voice of an angry young teen but is also that of others, regardless of age, who also feel the same sense of alienation as I do. Like those that go on with their lives while maintaining the delicate balancing act between what they seem to be on the outside and who they actually are on the inside. Or ones who refuse to play along with the mockery that is so common when gays are portrayed on talk shows and other television programs, as well as in gay themed movies that serve to further deepen the public perception that we are all just a bunch of sex starved perverts. While making gays look like fools may be an easy way to boost ratings, ultimately we, along with future generations of our kind pay the price.
During my tenure with Oasis I've reached out to a wide range of people, and while not everyone has agreed with me or should they have to, I've been able to make a difference in many lives, from a grandfather who wrote to me saying that my columns made him feel better about his young teenaged grandson's coming out, to an eleven-year-old who told me that I saved his life. Literally. Nothing could have ever prepared me for that when I starting writing my columns in June of 1997, and even now the thought that I have made even one person cope a little bit better with their lot in life is beyond overwhelming. While at times I've considered quitting Oasis, what has made me stay more than anything is the fact that I am reaching out in my own way and helping others, which is what all the other columnists are doing whether they know it or not.
So what can you expect out of me in future issues of Oasis? While I never actually know what I'll write each time until I actually sit down and do it, I think it is safe to say that I hope by discussing the realities of what it's like to be to be a young gay teenager in America that others will understand why I remain in the closet.
One of the many, the unproud, the alienated.
I'm not alone either, am I?