Monday, April 18, 2016

Different Doesn't Mean Alone

I am a professional musical theatre performer. I started dance at age three and spent most of my childhood getting ready for the next rehearsal. Theatre things were always normal to me. It was normal to wear dance tights under almost every outfit; it was normal to do your homework by flashlight during tech rehearsal; and it was normal to be gay.

I didn’t even realize that homosexuality was considered strange by some people until I was about sixteen. I went to a friend’s birthday party, and before I even got into the door he pulled me aside and whispered in a terrified voice that I had to pretend to be his girlfriend. He had told his parents we were dating. They had threatened to pull him out of theatre so he could find a nice girl to date. He had lied on the spot and told them he already had a girlfriend. Me.

I went along with it for the night, trying to get his mother to hate me so she would make us break up. Then my friend would have had heartbreak as an excuse to avoid dating until college. When he would be far away and out of his parents’ reach.

It hurt my heart so badly that my beautiful, loving friend had to hide who he was from his own family. It hurt me more to find out that he wasn’t the only one. But somehow I held onto this na├»ve notion that my peers would be the last ones to deal with having to hide their sexuality in order to be accepted by the people around them.

But that didn’t turn out to be true. I want to say it’s gotten better, but that might be too hopeful.
I’m in the process of submitting a new story that has some LGBTQ themes, and there are so many agents looking for LGBTQ characters. On the one hand, that’s awesome! People are actively pushing for inclusion in the publishing industry. But on the other hand, it’s terribly sad. Because if agents are searching so actively for LGBTQ books, that means they aren’t out there yet. That means there is another poor little gay boy asking a girl to pretend to be dating him so he can stay in theatre.

Maybe their generation will be the last. Maybe today’s teens will get to look back and say, thanks to us, no one has to be afraid of their sexuality. What they went through in high school will be a story to tell that their children will never believe. At least that’s the hope.

Until then, it’s up to us to write the stories so that those kids fighting to fit in will know that different doesn’t mean alone.

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