I think I was around 30 when I started feeling slightly scared of teenagers on the subway—when I was far enough out of high school to be absolutely beyond relating as a peer, and too many years pre-motherhood to understand these creatures from a parent’s point of view. After-school rush hour is still my least-favorite time to ride the train—teens are just so loud! So unwieldy! So explosive with their jarring energy! And, although I am now the mom of a “threenager,” it’s really not quite the same.
But earlier this month, I made a decisive step to both renew my activist energy (the number of LGBT protests I’ve taken part in annually has been on a gradual decline since turning 35) and make some teenage connections—and, hopefully, to impact some young lives in the process. To that end, I spoke to a Gay-Straight Allience (GSA) on the Upper East Side as a volunteer with Live Out Loud. And it was an amazing experience.
Live Out Loud is an incredible organization that aims to “inspire and empower LGBT youth by connecting them with successful LGBT professionals in their community.” It’s a simple yet brilliant concept, especially in these times of bullying and unbearably sad suicides like that of Tyler Clementi (whose cyber-bullying case of NJ against Dharun Ravi continues this week), and tragedies like this week’s Ohio shooting rampage by TJ Lane, who, it should not be overlooked, has been described as an outcast by his peers.
The GSA I addressed—a group of about 10 young women (no boys in this one, interestingly enough) at the esteemed admissions-only Eleanor Roosevelt H.S.—was beyond impressive, comprised of wonderfully smart, sensitive, well-spoken kids. First they took part in a guided discussion about gay people they admired—and almost all, very sweetly, cited relatives, from a closeted gay aunt to an out-and-proud gay dad (“My father always told me there were three kinds of romantic love: between a man and a woman, a man and a man, and a woman and a woman,” this lovely daughter said).
Then I talked about my life and career, touching on coming out, my early activism, being out at work, my experience as a journalist focusing on LGBT issues, and about being a lesbian mom (including a brief lesson about how I went about getting pregnant—though I couldn’t tell, from the silence, if the details stunned them or if they were too city-sophisticated to flinch!). The girls became most animated when I passed around a few family photos, something that the Live Out Loud adviser had suggested I do. I suppose it wasn’t all that surprising, since, for queer kids having trouble feeling okay about themselves—even in Manhattan—it’s the hum-drum “normalcy” of gay family life that probably feels most extraordinary.
I know that, sometimes, it even feels that way to me.
The Live Out Loud 11th Annual Young Trailblazers Gala is Monday April 30, 6–9:3opm, at TheTimesCenter. Please join me!