The 21st Century LGBT Teens Cry for Help

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The 21st Century LGBT Teens Cry for Help

Though I was relatively drunk when I decided to go through with it, I remember my very first kiss with a woman. Chicago, fall 1997, outside of The Closet, a lesbian bar in the nascent Wicker Park neighborhood. I was nearly 22, a senior at Northwestern University and just beginning to come to terms with years of repression – sexual, social, emotional and psychological. This nice Catholic Prep School, former debutante from Tulsa, Oklahoma – after a summer of safe investigation in DC, where no one could find me and out me – decided to take the plunge into a life both frightening as hell, liberating beyond belief and carnally, as well as intimately, exhilerating. The magic took place on a cold sidewalk with a random stranger, whom I never saw again. The moment was not broadcast.
 
This past week, most LGBT people likely relived their personal coming-out experiences – and the despair they sometimes brought – again as blog after blog informed us of one, then two, then three, then six young men who took their lives as they strugged with the new identity that probably turned their lives upside down, as it had for each of us who have gone before them. Every death was beyond heartbreaking for the families and beyond vexacious for us, for each one reminded us – even up here in the New York bubble – that the culture had still not granted us, or our young successors, true acceptance. The most upsetting suicide, for me, however, was that of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after discovering his first forays into gay life had been cruelly recorded for the world to see on the Internet. This one reminded me of the true depths of the inhumanity homophobia can take, except the Internet seems to offer new avenues every day – ones even all the LGBT organizations and the online support networks can’t counter.
 
I came out while riding the first undulations of the gay rights movement and investigating gay life on a black-and-white, dot matrix Power Mac. There was not yet an acronym for school gay/straight alliances; gay marriage was barely a theory; everyone still consumed media on VHS tapes; and social networking meant walking down to Tommy Nevin’s on a Friday night to mingle with my mostly



Comments [1]

Sarah Pappalardo's picture

nice piece

Total factcheck dickitude on my part, but the closet is in lakeview, not wicker park.