New Youth Rising
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New Youth Rising
Being young and gay is, simultaneously, the most challenging and exhilarating aspect of my life. My decision to come out while still a teenager was difficult, yet utterly essential. I distinctly remember being thirteen and lying in bed, pondering the prospects of a closeted future; at that moment, I realized that I could only truly call my life “successful” if I lived it openly. The ramifications of this realization have freed me from much anxiety and allowed tremendous room for personal growth. Yet at the same time, understanding that the road ahead will be rocky because of my choice and vividly recalling the trials of my prior closeted life, I know firsthand what it is like to be straddled with the burden of shame that comes from a homophobic society. Rather than being worn thin by these experiences—a turbid mixture of victories and defeats—
I have allowed myself to be inspired by them. The result has been a fierce dedication of much of my young life to promoting LGBT equality. I am excited about my future in our community and am enthusiastic about helping to transform the gay experience from an isolating, derelict journey into a profound, positive one for as many people as possible.
Like all gay and lesbian people, I’ve experienced a fair amount of adversity in my life. The overwhelming fear of rejection, the socially-tempered reflex to hide my difference, the intense self-consciousness—all of these, which saturate the LGBT experience, have been a part of my own life. When I finally came out, it was because I’d come to a point where I realized that it is simply unacceptable to allow one’s sense of self to be dictated—and dehumanized—by the majority. After having found my strength—through writing, reflection, and the caring outreach of others—I am now in a position where compassion comes naturally and serving others seems essential. Though I have overcome many of these challenges, I am well aware that these problems still seem insurmountable to countless LGBT people. I see this fact most clearly in my own life when I encounter other LGBT youth, so many of whom are either homeless, addicted, or dropping out of high school—the products of a lifetime of self-doubt, shame, fear, and sometimes violence. It would not be an exaggeration to consider this a crisis in our community, and I am deeply disturbed when I see these trends playing out amongst my own friends and loved ones.
When issues like this are made visible, it is easy to recognize the need for strong, inspired leadership within the gay community. In order to counter the heavy plagues of taboo and hatred, we must act tirelessly and deliberately. Specifically, the overwhelming need for stronger support structures within our community is clear. We must reach out to one another, in love and the spirit of interconnectedness, to counter the subtle knife of internalized homophobia, advocate higher education, fight addiction and disease, and defend our sisters and brothers— from courtrooms to courtyards across our nation. Grassroots campaigns and local groups are an integral part of this process, and I am intensely interested in helping lead such measures. At the same time, we must not neglect the importance of the political and social frontlines of the equality movement. Public relations campaigns, activist demonstrations, and congressional lobbying are all essential elements of our mission; as our visibility increases, so too does our status within society at large. I am eager and well-equipped to take on a leadership role in this arena, as well. This mission— as complex and multi-faceted as it may be— is intensely close to my heart, and I am already deeply involved in it. I currently lead Solebury School’s on-campus LGBT organization, take an active role in our local LGBT youth center, and am preparing to speak at this year’s Equality Forum in Philadelhia. In the coming years, I plan to participate in the gay community as a leader, comrade, and role model. I am strongly convinced that the best years in the gay community are still ahead and that we can grow stronger, healthier, and more visible. But in order to prosper in these ways, we must make crucial decisions, hold ourselves accountable, and act immediately. I am enthusiastic about what I may be able to contribute to this cause, and am ready to give myself fully to these efforts.
There has never been a better time to be gay in America. The more I learn about the progression of our community—from Mattachine manifestos to the modern marriage movement— the more deeply impressed I am by our successes. At the same time, however, I am acutely aware that we still have much work to do. I see our community’s future leaders all around me, speaking out at podiums and in classrooms across our country, and I am, despite all adversity, truly optimistic. I am grateful that fate has carved out an opportunity for me to be a leader in the most significant civil rights struggle of our time, and I am eager to undertake such a mission—for the sake of my loved ones as well as for all of our society. I know that the future holds great promise for the LGBT community, but it is equally clear to me that it is up to my generation to harness this potential and carry on the legacy of our elders. And so, as I prepare to enter the adult world, I do so with a distinct purpose. With a resolute mind, a clear vision, the support of my peers, and plenty of inspiration, I pray that my talents and abilities may contribute greatly to our success, and that my commitment to the gay community only strengthens with time. My most sincere hope is that, through my efforts, leadership, and coordination with others, our community may boldly continue the struggle to combat the paralysis of silence, realize our wholeness, and reclaim ourselves.
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