Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Never Look Back

What Will You Do After Purple?

Along with countless assorted friends, family and acquaintances, I am wearing purple today. We are showing our unity, striving to be a vibrant, visible sign to those out there who’re struggling to just get through high school, to get through life – at a time when so much of the world is confronting them with the worst it has to offer.

Thanks to the efforts by the folks at the It Gets Better Project, many people are sharing their stories – true stories that often start in pain, yet end in joy and beauty. Tomorrow, after you take off your purple and put it away, you still have a job to do: Share your stories. You may not be gay or ever have been bullied, but I know you have a story to tell that will help someone out there. It’s time for us to reach out.


It didn’t take a genius to figure me out in high school. Let’s see, I was in Band, Orchestra, and Choir. I was Drum Major in the Marching Band. Not only was I in plays and musicals IN school, but I also performed with the local community players. Then there was Student Council, Scholastic Quiz Bowl, Forensics Team, and Computer Club. I was so uptight, I practically squeaked when I walked. (Oh, and a B- was nearly the end of the world…)

I knew I wasn’t like my friends, and I’d known that all my life. At 14, I finally found the words to say it to myself, and did what I considered a very brave act. I had a cassette tape recorder – some of you may have to Google that – and every now and then, I’d record the following …and then “pretend” to forget that it was on there.

“I am gay. What am I going to do about it? ...........Nothing…”

Of course, I never did forget to erase it; it was just a stupid game. Stupid, but somehow it got me through. Even if it wasn’t truly brave, it felt brave to me – and that’s all that mattered. This was the early 1980s in very rural Northern New York State; being gay was NOT something you talked about with anyone, except as crude locker room jokes at the expense of others.

Sure enough, I got called every imaginable name in high school, and sure enough, it hurt like hell. But somehow, I managed to hold onto hope and the knowledge that someday - not too far in the future – I’d be able to get on with life. (College isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than high school!)


Thanks to the incredible outpouring from breathtakingly fabulous people, YouTube is now packed with hundreds of stories of survival, of anguish and support and love and friendship. Rather than dwelling on just how awful high school is, there are some essential things we need you to know.

It gets better. I know it must seem cliché now, but I have to tell you – looking back, I could never have hoped that life would turn out this well. There will be wonderful, deep abiding friendships that last longer than you’ve been alive so far. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll be terrified of admitting you need someone to lean on, and you’ll be wildly passionate about a hundred different causes. You’ll visit places where you’ll feel truly, madly, deeply at home in a way that you may never be able to articulate to anyone. Some of your friends will become the best family you could ever imagine – and some of your family will become your most ardent supporters. And you’ll find your own way of getting through.

Oh…and there will be love. You’ll fall in love – and you’ll get your heart broken. And you’ll fall in love again. And along the way, you’ll find out how remarkable it is to love and to be loved, just for being you.
So, hold on. Be here for the good stuff. Be truly you. Stick around and see how much better it gets. No one’s promising that it won’t suck along the way, and no one’s saying that life as an adult is a piece of cake; just remember that we’re out here – and we are LIVING proof that life gets so much better.


So, to all of us: tomorrow, we might not be wearing purple, but we need to, must carry this feeling with us. There is no wrong time to reach out. There is no bad time to let others know you care. Share your struggles and triumphs. Be a good friend and a great example. Let your children catch you doing good things. Dream big and dare to love. Open your minds to a world that is better today than it was yesterday, but not as great as it will be tomorrow.

And be there, so these kids can be here to see that it gets so much better.

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