I like to think that we all have someone in our lives who has been a huge influence on us, and whether or not this person is a parent or sibling, a teacher or best friend, or even just someone you know off the Internet, their impact on you is part of what you are today. My life is filled with these mentors, and I feel deeply blessed to know that I am surrounded by people who are there to offer a guiding hand and a listening ear when I need one.
One comment I've heard many times over from other gay teens is that they feel like they're all alone in their struggle to not only accept their sexuality but to see how it will affect their lives in the future. Being a teen can be isolating enough, but when you're gay you can feel like you live in a world totally separate from everyone else.
I feel very fortunate to have an online mentor named Taylor who has been a guiding force in my life during the past few years, and he was the first person other than my boyfriend to know I'm gay. From the beginning he has been someone that I can ask and tell anything, and he is one of the few people outside of my family who knows where I live and what my real name is. He also encouraged Eric and I to use condoms and warned us about some of the risky behavior we had been engaged in. Without a doubt, he has been one of the biggest influences on my life.
Many people who are reading this are not as fortunate as I am and don't have someone that they can turn to for help and advice, and that's a shame. In our society, growing up without a Dad has become routine, and without positive role models many kids turn to negative activities to try to feel their needs, which ultimately affects all of us.
As a columnist, I have become an online mentor of sorts, and judging by some of my e-mail I am a bigger influence on some people than I probably know. My point of view represents a part of our culture that doesn't feel like they belong to the mainstream gay society and instead wants to just be themselves, a difficult thing to do in our image-is-everything culture.
While some teens my age may think of older gays as useless and even refer to them as a "corpse", what they should remember is that these people have been gay a lot longer than we have and they have experienced much more than us. By dissing them, we are refusing to acknowledge our past, and as they old saying goes those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
So what can we do to improve this?
Maybe the next time you're online in a gay chatroom and an older gay wants to chat, give them a chance...maybe they just want to bridge the generations? And for those of you who won't talk to younger gays, just remember that you might be the person who will become the mentor they have been searching for.
You know what?
They won't be the only one reaping the rewards.
Ty is a fifteen-year-old who lives in a small suburb in the Midwest and will be a high school sophomore this coming fall. In his free time he likes to be with his family, play guitar in a heavy metal band, and ponder what his future will hold for him. He loves hearing from his readers, and be sure to say hello if you see him online.