Home > Family, Thinking Time - Put on your hardhats > Let’s hear it for the boys.

Let’s hear it for the boys.

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today is Spirit Day. I was taking Personal Time from this blog during the genesis of much of the discussion around this day, but I did want to comment on suicides as a result of harassment and bullying on perceived sexual orientation.

Over the course of my life, I have entered therapy a handful of times. I was tested for learning disorders by an educational psychologist. I went to therapy right after my grandfather died, and my therapist was one of the first people I ever came out to. Then I went to therapy three years ago because I was considering suicide.

It always seems silly to say it “out loud” like that, but that is the reason that I went. In general, I am a person who is unaffected by any mental illness. There is no history of it in my family. I have never exhibited any prolonged symptoms of depression or of disordered behavior. I’m not trying to brag. Rather I want to drive home the following point: Every time I entered therapy, I went because I could not reconcile a happy future for myself with my being gay. Almost every aspect of my life is benefited by some (occasionally absurd) amount of privilege. My life has never been hard. And yet, at times, I’ve seen no hope for myself. I can only begin to imagine what hopelessness those who have been through tougher times than me have felt.

Sometimes I find it hard to slip back into the despair that I felt then, and while that is a good thing, it can make it difficult for me to empathize with the me of 3 years ago. If I remember it correctly, what I saw for myself was a future filled with constant negotiation. I saw myself making a decision to come out to every single person I would ever meet, for the rest of my life. Do I try to date men because I feel a sexual attraction, even if I have no interest in a relationship with them? Just because I should? Just because if I have a chance to be in a heterosexual relationship, I should? Will I be thrust into the role of educator, simply because of an accident of birth? Sometimes it felt like I couldn’t even take a break with my friends. With my straight friends, I was constantly being singled out for being different. Every time I mentioned something gay, I felt like I was derailing their “normal” existence. And with my gay friends, I felt like I couldn’t admit the pain I was going through, because I’d developed into a sort of role model for younger gays – never compromise! Be who you are! But I felt that pain too. I’d go home and my cousin and sister would get teased for being boy-crazy. And no one ever asked if I was seeing anybody. I was invisible. It came from a place of kindness – “We don’t want to make you feel like you have to say that you’re gay in front of your great-aunt.” – but it just made me feel different and lonely and afraid of never sharing my future wife, my future family with my current family. That my family didn’t want to see my life.

Eventually I felt that no one wanted to see my life. Nobody wanted to hear my pain. And when I was coming out, those fears were even more paralyzing – because I hadn’t heard anybody say, ever, “You are gay, and that is integral to who you are, and thus, is integral to why I love you.”

If I had ever followed through with my desire to die, I would have missed a million things. But something I often think about it is that I would have missed the single most meaningful conversation of my life. I was on a family vacation. My younger siblings left my parents and me alone to eat lunch. Somehow, as we began talking, the topic of my grandmother came up. My grandma and I had a very close relationship. She was and remains a guiding force in my life. My parents confessed that, before I came out, they had asked her, “Do you think Harrison is gay?” And she had thought about it, and responded – my 89 year old grandma! – “You know…yes, I think she is.” And then all 3 of them talked about how worried they were, and how badly they wanted to minimize the pain I would feel throughout my life as a result of my being gay.

Just think. The three most influential adults in my life were sitting around, asking how they could help me, but let me grow on my own – before I’d even fully realized myself that I was a lesbian. After that conversation (which had happened entirely unknown to me), I visited my grandma and she brought up Matthew Shepard.

“Have you heard of Matthew Shepard?”
“Yes…”
“I think what happened to him is one of the most terrible things I’ve ever heard.”
“…Me too, Grandma.”

For years, I was perplexed by this exchange. It seemed to come out of nowhere. But after my parents mentioned their conversation with her, I told them about it. And we all agreed that she had been trying to tell me: “What’s happening in your head…I still love you, even though you can’t voice what’s wrong yet.” How do you describe the moment when somebody reaches beyond the grave to pass on that much love to you? It was powerful. We all cried.

If I had died, I would have missed knowing the love that says, “I love you not in spite of who you are, but because of it.”

I don’t put resources on this blog because I try to keep it almost totally personal. There’s been talk of Hello Cruel World by Kate Bornstein, the It Gets Better project by Dan Savage, and the Trevor Project on the blogs I frequent. They’re all good places to go. If you need it, please find it. If I have one thing to say it’s “Stay alive. You will hear that you are loved, more times and ways than you can count.”

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  1. kalisisrising
    October 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    This made me cry…thank you for reminding me of the powerful, unconditional love of grandmothers and family.

  2. October 21, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Beautiful post – your grandma!!!!! Wise, loving woman. I’m glad you’re alive.

  3. October 21, 2010 at 6:11 am

    This was beautiful. Thanks, Harrison.

  4. qtn
    October 22, 2010 at 11:57 am

    hello there! i really hope you continue writing. i just stumbled here today, started reading, and that was a few hours ago. i get so much from reading your posts. and i’m straight. thank you! i hope to continue reading!

  5. Kaitlin
    November 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    This made me cry. What an amazing, amazing woman your grandmother was.
    I’m glad you’re here and writing.

  6. November 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you for the comments on this post. It’s among my favorite things I’ve ever written, so thank you for your comments, especially about my grandmother. She was a spectacular person.

  7. Omy
    December 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I just found your blog through geekporngirl’s links and when I read this post I began to cry at the end. The part about your grandma reaching out and touching you from the grave, the part about your family knowing before you knew yourself that you were gay, but how they let you figure it out for yourself. So beautiful and touching.

    As I have started blogging my experience of coming out, to myself, to my family, it’s been very powerful for me to read these kinds of stories from other people who have been there before me.

    Thank you for sharing.

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