I picked my 13-year-old son up from middle school on Valentine’s Day, and among the young teens walking home, I noticed two girls were smiling and holding hands.
“They’re gay,” Sam said when I asked about them. “They’re dating.”
“Do kids pick on them?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “Why would they?”
Wow. Things have really changed since I was in the eighth grade.
I explained that back in the old days, when I was in school, if kids were gay they’d do everything they could to hide it, for fear of being ostracized by their peers or possibly shunned by their families.
“That’s stupid,” he said. “They can’t help who they’re attracted to.”
I wasn’t surprised he felt that way since that’s the type of thing I would say, but to witness the other kids not seeming to care about the two girls comfortable and brave enough to be themselves had me feeling elated.
What if it had been two homosexual boys walking hand in hand, though?
“I’ve never seen that,” Sam said later when I asked.
“They probably wouldn’t because they’d get bullied.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Most of us like girls. Maybe it scares some guys when someone’s different.”
“Why wouldn’t lesbians scare them?” I asked.
He wasn’t sure, but his guess was that they could relate to liking girls and weren’t threatened or turned off by the idea of them being together.
“Lesbians might get picked on too,” he said. “But probably not as much.”
For other reasons as well, there definitely seems to be a higher level of acceptance in our society for homosexual females as opposed to males. That’s why I found it surprising a couple hours later to see Ellen Page, the beautiful Oscar-nominated Canadian actress making headlines for coming out of the closet. Why was she even in the closet in the first place?
In an emotional eight-minute speech at a human rights youth conference for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning) the 26-year-old described how she had been affected by the crushing standards of Hollywood, and that she was “tired of hiding and lying by omission.“
Her spirit, mental health and relationships had suffered due to her fear of coming out, and she now felt a social and personal responsibility to go public.
She said she had learned that the beauty, the joy and even the pain of love “is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being, and that we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”
I couldn’t agree more.
We only get to live our life once, and we should be able to live it authentically, without the judgment of others impeding our happiness.
I understand how difficult that can be, especially for young people with all their pressures to fit in and be like everyone else. But it’s when we’re able to embrace our individuality and gain the courage to be ourselves that we have a better chance at a fulfilling and wonderful life. And that applies to anyone, not just the youth, and not just the LGBTQ community.
“This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another,” Ellen Page said to a cheering audience. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is if you’re nice.
Live and let live. When we’re old and on our deathbeds, we’ll be happy that we did. Thankfully, the younger generations seem to be embracing this way of thinking, and will hopefully continue to become more accepting of other people’s differences.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com