Making Friends

When you’re a lesbian you experience rejection from friends, family, and society. Once you find a group of people who are like you, it’s a good feeling. I remember the first time somebody came out to me. I was over at my friend Raymond’s house. His parents were out of town, and he usually hosted a week-long sleepover in their absence. My friends Raymond, Rob, and Michael came out to me in Raymond’s living room. I don’t know how I didn’t know they were gay, but I was unassuming back then. I knew Raymond from church, Rob from Ms. McBride’s speech class, and Michael from school and church. I had an instant peer group. The four of us along with a few other folks were a clique of inner city gay and lesbian youth.

We started attending IYG that same summer. I had just turned 16. I remember my very first IYG event. It was a Sunday Social hosted at the house of two lesbians who lived near Ellenberger Park. It was exhilariting and frightening at the same time. It was great to be around so many people like me, except I wasn’t really sure how much we had in common. After all, I wasn’t campy. I no longer cross-dressed. I didn’t sneak into bars, and I certainly didn’t talk about my sexual exploits in public.

I would go on to be involved in IYG for almost three years. I took on a leadership role in the organization and represented IYG regionally and nationally at conferences and on radio and television shows. I have some good memories. Good memories don’t haunt like the bad ones. I’m not going to go into the details now, but I will as time goes on. I will share with you the end of the story as it was written 14 years ago. I was rejected by IYG. I was told that I was too fucked up. I may have been fucked up, but I wasn’t the only one. And I hardly believe that the appropriate response by an organization that purports to support at-risk gay and lesbian youth is turn one onto the street because she’s “too angry”. I had good reasons to be angry then, as I do now. My experiences at IYG helped to fuel that anger. It also helped to alienate me from the gay and lesbian community. No more. I’m talking about what happened at IYG.

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6 Comments

Filed under Childhood memories

6 responses to “Making Friends

  1. I stopped going to IYG because I wasn’t “gay enough.” It was clear when I “came out” that I was no longer welcome. Despite supposedly being open to GLBT and eveything in between, I wasn’t a lesbian and after watching the other members do skit after skit making fun of bisexuals, I left.

  2. Ok, I could’ve been one of those laughing kids. Back then, I wasn’t very sensitive to bisexuals. Nor was I sensitive to the g’s or t’s. Here’s why: At the tender age of 16 I was sorting out my identity not just as a lesbian but as a woman, too. I was discovering feminism and what it meant to be political. As a result, I had a hard time understanding what the hell gbt had to do with l.
    I’m not saying I was right or that these other folks were right. I’m saying that as young people we were all struggling with our identities, regardless of (and in addition to) our sexual orientation. In my opinion, IYG should have been a playground for me to be a feminist and for you to be a bisexual. When there were clashes, the adults should have helped us understand our differences, learn to respect them, and help us grow. Unfortunately, one group alienated another and before you knew it there was very little diversity.
    A big part of the reason I was dissatisified with IYG was the lack of representation of women’s issues in IYG’s programming and funding. It was all about the gays, and I still believe that women (especially young women) have different issues than gay males. I would almost go so far as to say that lesbian youth have more in common with straight female youth than with gay males.

  3. I remember you telling me about being ejected from IYG at the time it happened, but I don’t think I ever really understood all the details of it, and I didn’t know that you withdrew so much from the community.

    You always seemed to have such a strong sense of self that I guess I didn’t really know how it affected you.

  4. At the time it occurred, I tried to minimize it. I was in disbelief. I suffered one rejection after another. Most of my friends turned from me. I shouldn’t really call them friends. I didn’t lose my core group of friends. I lost access to the lesbian community in IYG. It wasn’t much, but I still didn’t want to be rejected from it.

    At the same time, I encountered numerous disappointments as I turned to the adult leadership at IYG for help. Nobody would talk to me. When I told Chris that I wanted him to put me on the Board’s agenda, he told me he would have me arrested if I showed up at the Damien Center. Chris controlled the dialogue. And as I’m starting to realize, he still has a lot of power over me all these years later.

  5. I should add that I convinced myself that the separation was for the best. I was almost 19 years old at the time. I’d been involved in IYG for almost three years. We’d just finish taping the 20/20 segment. I told myself that it seemed like a good time to start to think about the next chapter in my life. I had dropped out of school when I was 16; IYG was my high school. I was legally eligible to take the GED exam, which meant that I would finally be able to secure gainful employment and go to college. It was definitely time for me to make a transition, but I never expected it to be so abrupt.

  6. I have to admit, I still have some strong feelings about Chris, too. He was definitely human – flaws and all. It kinda bothers me that he was turned into a saint after he died, because he wasn’t perfect– he did good stuff and bad. But I’m not perfect either, so I shouldn’t throw stones at him.

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