It's 1992. My 16-year-old self is a blur of poet tops, jean skirts, and the reddest lipstick I could get past my mother. I didn't know anything yet about Nirvana or grunge, but I knew I liked girls... a lot. I spent 1992 wrapping my head around the word "lesbian." I know the term now is "queer," but back then it was pink triangles, rainbow flags, and k.d. lang as far as the eye could see. Women were reading Our Bodies, Ourselves and accepting Radclyffe Hall as their personal savior. Or, maybe I got that idea because the Holgate Library only carried lesbian books from 1974. I didn't know. But from what I read, I was in for a lot of camping.
There were no "out" celebrities and people hardly said "gay" on TV unless it was a daytime talk show. My knowledge of the gay community was limited to what I could figure out by reading The Original Coming Out Stories (Crossing Press, 1989), and sneaking in the occasional gay-themed Donahue. The episodes would be charmingly named something like "Lipstick Lesbians... Are They Real?" and I would fervently but silently scream at the screen, "Yes! Tell me! Are they real?" Because I was also just as fervently hoping he'd say, "No! Just kidding! Got ya!" and I could go back to being normal. Whatever the hell normal was.
In my head, as soon as I told "them" about "IT," my mom would disown me, my friends would shun me, and my family would chase me out of town using the same torches they use to drive out the evil town villain in the movies. In my vision, everyone would be jeering and heckling, and I'm running while looking over my shoulder to make sure they weren't advancing. Maybe that's why I became a stand-up comic. I feel at home.
Life was a series of challenges that culminated in me being who I am today. That's therapy talk to get over the relentless bullying, name calling, and rejection that was my youth. No joke. I even tried to commit suicide at 17. I was saved from trying again by my mom saying, "What? Are you stupid? Do you know what that would do to your brothers?"
Today, I am a published author, GLBT activist, stand-up comedian, and vocalist. My mom looked at me when 25 and said, "You know what? I'm glad you're gay. You've never let anyone define who you are, you've always been your own person."
So to those kids (and adults) who are struggling with a hard time: You are bravely becoming your own person. Don't let the assholes get to you. Someday they'll wish they could be so fabulous in their own way too. It gets better and it gets great. And you shouldn't miss out on one second of the ride.