I love Dan Savage. I think his “It Gets Better” campaign is brilliant, timely, and more than necessary. Since I saw his original video he posted that started this campaign, I have been thinking about what I would want to tell LGBT kids about surviving this world.
I haven’t done a video. Mostly this is because nobody really knows who I am and I honestly don’t think my voice will be a big addition compared to the thousands of people who have shot video. The other thing is, I am not sure if I could be “Really, it gets better.”
There is a comic based here in Sacramento, Keith Lowell Jensen, who has a joke that he couldn’t really tell someone it gets better because they would ask, “When?” and then it would just get awkward. I adore the joke because its painfully true.
What I think happens is not that you get through the shit that is your teen years and things get bright and shiny. That doesn’t happen. What happens is that you find community. You find people with the same and similar struggles you have. You find support and connection. Life stops being so lonely.
This happens for many LGBT folks. It also happens for those of us who are kinky, poly, and just live outside the box. We search, some of us for decades, before finding someone who we connect with and who understands us. It is the lack of connection that makes the teen years so horrible.
I was lucky. I never thought being queer was weird for me. I can remember thinking that my gay friends struggled and my straight friends struggles because they insisted on limiting themselves to dating and loving one gender. I have no clue how I developed that thought process, but I am grateful.
I connected early with community. I knew there were others like me when I was young. I found the writing by Pat Califia. I found out about Dykes on Bikes. I found out there was an LGBT Center in San Jose, there were gay kids, there were adults who supported us. And my mom helped me connect with lesbian and women’s scholars at San Jose State University.
Knowing there were others like me, or sorta like me, made things easier.
Writing and Being Out
Pat Califia’s porn saved me. Seriously. I bought Macho Sluts in 1988 when I was a junior in high school from the local gay-friendly book store. First, the stories in this book were what my fantasies had played on the borders of. Of course, being 16 and new, the book opened me to so many new and exciting permutations of kink.
Beyond that, there was a picture of Pat on the back cover in full leathers, all butch and hot as anything. And he (she at the time) lived in the Bay Area! My young mind was amazed such strong, hot, leather-clad folks were accessible to me if I only new the code to get in to the community.
I read, and re-read Macho Sluts, and later Doing it for Daddy, Public Sex, and pretty much anything he wrote that I could get my hands on. This literature and what it introduced me to gave me hope that I could be really who I wanted to be.
When I was 16, I skipped my Senior Prom and went to a formal fund raiser for LGBT groups. Dressing that night, my mom told me that she feared, “Some older butch will sweep you off your feet, drive you away on her motorcycle, and introduce you to things we will never be able to talk about.” And all I could think was, “God, I hope so!”
It didn’t happen. But I saw a couple hundred gay people coming together to support each other, raise money, and support youth. That gave me hope.
Living Out and Loud
For those of us lucky enough to live out and loud as queer, kinky, and non-monogamous, we can forget that many people don’t feel they have this option yet. We hear stats about teen suicide and parents who still kick their gay kids out of the house. We forget how scary it was to walk into our first munch with kinky folks. We forget how terrifying going to your first play party or public dungeon can be.
Those of us who are established in the community have a responsibility to others to help them find community. At kink munches, I still see clique-y behavior. A newbie comes in to the space and can be totally ignored by others. Even the hot new additions can be sideline to sitting quietly at a table by themselves.
We need to take it on ourselves to welcome newbies. If we want new blood in the community we need to be open to the new ones (young and old). Yes, with the whole 50 Shades crowd we are getting lookie-lous and those who fetishize fetish. But we don’t know who will make this a big part of who they are and who will fall off if we close ourselves off.
We also have a responsibility to protect the newbies. We need to teach them about red flags, about the abuses that happen in the community, about the “Doms” and “Masters” who prey on newbies, isolate them, and abuse them.
In the LGBT community we need to teach the young’uns about their history. Gay Pride Parades have become massive corporate plugs. Floats for alcohol, HIV drugs, and wedding planners often are bigger and more present than groups representing those fighting for our rights and inclusion.
This new generation needs to know that Pride was never meant to be about hitting all the vendors and sporting rainbow-fucking-everything. It was about our right to exist without threat to our lives. Its about the right to access the workplace, healthcare, and federal benefits for doing the same damn things heteros do. Its about protecting our brothers and sisters in this world so they are not assaulted and killed by some drunk jag-off who has bought the line from the church or Republican party that you can rape a lesbian and make her straight or that a trans woman deserves death.
I see the LGBT community being scattered and dying out. We are in all walks of life and many of us want to “just be allowed to live our lives.” We don’t want to sport rainbow and hit the bars and carry the pride flag for others. But if we lose community, the next generation will lose its place to connect.
Kink still has some community, but not like it was 20 years ago. Kink is also very segregated by sexual orientation and race. We need to, as a whole, see why we don’t see more lesbians and gay men at local munches. We need to address the overt racism allowed in the community so that everyone feels comfortable.
We need to do this because kink, like sexual orientation, is core to who many of us are and how we move through our world. Some people still keep kink as something to occasionally spice up an anniversary. But many of us find our submission or dominance core to who we are as humans and how we function in relationships. And we need to welcome those who want to join this community.
So yes, it gets better if you find community. As a community, we need to make sure newbies can find us and access us. Then it gets better for everyone.