I took a walk on the beach in California today. When I was about a half mile from our camp, I started to wonder if I should be nervous because I was walking alone and wearing my “Legalize Gay” t-shirt. I usually walk in the afternoon with my Dad, and I think it’s universally accepted that you never mess with a girl when she’s with her Dad. I am a feisty person but I’m also small, and there are a lot of people who could take me in a fight. And unfortunately, discrimination and hate crimes against members of the LGBT community continue to occur.
I started to wonder things like, “Should I be afraid?, ”“What if someone calls me a name?,” and “What if it’s a child?.” I started to imagine scenarios of what could happen how I should respond, if at all. I began to admire the strength and courage of the people who advocated for LGBT rights in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. I’m sure the majority of the people on the beach weren’t concerned about other people’s reactions to their t-shirts.
Then I had a thought: What if there’s a 13 year-old gay kid on the beach who is on vacation from a conservative state or a conservative family, and all they hear is that homosexuals are perverts, sinners, and pedophiles? What if they know that they’re gay and they have no gay role models or positive messages about homosexuality? I wonder how good it would be for them to see someone wearing a gay-positive shirt in public without seeming to care about what anyone else said or thought. Maybe I gave that child hope that they will someday live in a community where they will be accepted just as they are.
Today I was reminded that I have a responsibility to project a positive message to queer youth. Just as I needed education, guidance, and support in my baby queer years, so do they. The least I can do is not be afraid or ashamed of who I am.
Maybe I gave a kid hope today.
Or maybe I just took a walk on a beach.