Gay is OK! - How many lives before they learn?
Growing up gay in a small town
Have you ever lived in a really small town? You could apply the old joke: Our town was soooo small, you had to leave the state to change your mind. And isolated? A hundred or more miles of twisty roads dotted with speed traps to get to anything larger. How small was it? Well I was in high school before I ever saw a TV or a pizza, and I never saw a black person until a trip out of state. Such isolation must be rare these days; things have changed over the years, it's no longer easy to be isolated; now I talk to people all over the world every day.
Such isolation is what formed my attitudes about the world and 'how things should be'. I am still trying to recover. In our family, the word 'gay' was never said, or even referred to obliquely, the subject just didn't exist. Outside the home, you rarely heard even a bad joke or insult about gays, the Jews kept a low profile, other races didn't exist. I knew that somehow I was different, but kept making excuses, fooling myself. Being personally isolated from my age group, I had bouts of depression, and even a brush with suicide. Is it any wonder that I couldn't come out, even to myself, until I got out of there? Even in college, when I actually started to run into an occasional gay, my reaction was inappropriate, based on fear of entrapment and ignorance of what gay really means. The bulk of the American public still wallows in this ignorance. What woke me up was buying a computer, and the discovery of gay sites on the web. But I feel that had I been allowed to know and accept myself from the start, things would have come out very differently.
I guess that what I'm trying to say is what was wrong there, and still is in many communities, whether geographically or self-isolated: One race, one religion, one language, one "right way" all adds up to a tendency for a community to be narrow-minded, bigoted and self-riteous. Tolerance, by which I mean accepting other people's ways as being just as good, though different, is what we have to learn. Sadly, there are too many people, even in places of power, who refuse to learn this lesson. If you are a teen in such a place, get out of there. Go to a distant college or jobsite, travel Europe if possible, meet people, learn new attitudes. We are all just people, after all.
Last Updated: 14 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD