I is for It Gets Better (Part One)

Back while I still pondering over what H is for, I felt I was for Invincible. I said to myself, being open, being confident, being who you are, makes you invincible, makes you impervious, makes you incredible. I felt of sharing: When I’m afraid, when I don’t think I can go on, I surround myself with positive things–with thoughts of my friends, thoughts of the great people in whose presence I stand, of the glory of God imbuing everything there is with his light and his love, and then I feel invincible and I can go on.

Last week, I began to wonder if I really is for invincible. Instead, I began to think I is for Individual. I felt of sharing: There is no greater bliss than of knowing who you are, all your faults, all your foibles, all your fortes. To understand what goes on inside is to make you impenetrable, insightful, indivisible. To feel, nay, to know what is hidden beneath your exterior, that part of us that we so often wrongly equate the entirely of “I,” is to open doors and possibilities and events that otherwise would remain lost forever. To be an Individual is perhaps among the greatest gift God has ever given us.

Today, although both of these statements stand true and always will–I am Invincible, I am Individual–I know they are not all I is worth. I is worth a wealth of ideas, a well of inspiration, a river of incentive. I spoke the other night with a wonderful man, a man of whose nature and build I did not think even God could have crafted, and it made me realize, in that strange way that unrelated events inspire worlds of difference, in the way that butterflies in Africa incite hurricanes in America, that I is well worth so much more than all of this.

Through darkness I may wander, may there always be a light
The pain in which I despair, may it always lead me right
Through the sorrow so deep in me, may there always be the fright
The sadness in my soul I keep, may it prove me weaker than my might

This poem, written December 7, 2006, I called Prayer. When I find myself in the darkest of dark places, I read this prayer a few times over and it helps me recover. For a long time, I’ve also kept a sort of running commentary on my poetry, to help me remember what inspired them; for most of my poems, I write this months afterward (if ever at all) and that weakens what I was feeling and how I identify with the poem. For this one, although the former is true, what I wrote speaks volumes of the latter:

I sadly cannot recall the feelings that promised this poem upon paper, but I love this poem. It is a prayer for goodness amid darkness that has been accepted as eternal. May there always be a light to lead my way, may I always be led right, may I always be afraid of the awful temptations my sorrow compels me toward, and may my might be weaker than what this sadness within me wants to do.

It speaks of hope that turns to desperation; it speaks from the darkness in which we fall, never knowing if we will return.

This is a prayer, in so few words, that it will get better.

There is a campaign online called the It Gets Better Project. Its aim is to have people, as many people as will do it, talk about their experiences as GLBT individuals to tell the youth of today’s world that no matter where they are, in life or in location, it will get better. This is a message echoed by music artists like Lady Gaga, television stars and sports teams, the common person on the street whose life has taught them more than any school could teach. I hope, someday, that someone even more influential–maybe even the president and his wife–might take up this chant for themselves, to truly let it reach all the nations, because it’s a message I thoroughly believe in.

I’m shy in front of a camera. I don’t like the sound of my voice. So making my own video has been something I’ve been hesitant to do, but to tell my story in words, this medium I call my second home, is natural. It’s what I can do.

And let me assure you, it gets better.

My life is a story of repetitious circles in which those things that go around, come around, and those things that pass, will pass again. My story is one you’ve heard a thousand times, and not all the chapters in my book are relevant, but I shall pull from three that I feel have formed that capstone of how I know it gets better.

I’ve always known that I was attracted to men. On television and in movies, it was the image of shirtless men that drew my greatest attention during scenes on the beach or nearing the bedroom. I felt there was a certain beauty to the male form unparalleled by the female body. Good arms, a built chest, a smile especially, and I could gaze eternally into the image, imagining, envious. The Greeks, I told myself, idolized the male form (for I was an avid ingester of mythologies), and this, I told myself, made it perfectly acceptable for me to do the same.

When I had nothing better to do (and sometimes precisely because I did have something better to do), I let my mind wander. I would imagine, and I would fantasize, and I would often find myself in such strange situations involving other men in often rather friendly ways. It was simply a part of my mind’s wanderings, and not knowing any better, I assumed it was part of the psyche that every man possessed, that I was not unique in possessing it.

I don’t remember the first time time I heard the word gay–although I can extrapolate that it had to be on TV, wherein my parents would quickly scowl and change the channel, or in Boy Scouts, where it was regarded as an intense insult (there are those I’s again) and the prime nomenclature of ridicule. Regardless, I heard the word in contempt long before I knew what it meant and I don’t know when those two sides finally came together.

What I do know, however, is the first time I fell in love. I met him, ironically, on the seventh of December, 2005; I was then sixteen. We were both at Hebrew High, the joint high school program for Jewish kids in my community, but he hailed from the Temple (and I from the synagogue) so it explains why we’d never met before. He shook my hand. His grip was crushing. I felt I had turned to butter right then, right there. At first I didn’t know what it meant, just that it was a feeling I couldn’t ever recall having before. And it felt great.

Within the month, I had stumbled across a profile on MySpace (yes, MySpace! It was rather popular then) that I had found via a common interest of Enya. The guy’s name was Z and his picture was mesmerizing. And his profile said he was gay. The next day (this was now the day after Christmas) I emailed him. We talked. It was as Dumbledore likes to say, “Help will always be given … to those who ask for it.”

By January 8, I had begun searching and scouring the internet, reading anything I could about homosexuality. It was on this same day that I first wrote in my journal I thought I might be gay. I still thought of my friend from Hebrew High. If anything, I thought of him much more.

In February I started secretly watching the Real World. There was a gay man on that season, and watching it made things more real. In a way, they validated what I was feeling, told me others felt the same way.

Despite all of this, this slow process of beginning to come out to myself, it was an incredibly painful transformation. I felt like it was something I could not talk about, and I think there might have been one person in the entire world that I spoke about my feelings with openly, continuously. I feared telling my parents, feared they would hate me like other parents hated their children like I’d read online. I was young, looking for guidance, not knowing who or what to turn to, to understand myself, to open myself–and the best the world had to offer me wasn’t very much, was admonitions and warnings of the dastardly side effects of coming out. I read a few positive stories, but the risk far outweighed the few payoffs the internet revealed.

And all the time, my love for him grew stronger.

Years would pass before I told anyone how I felt. One Purim I spoke with an older student I had attended Hebrew School with who had came out to me privately. He offered to kiss me if I thought it’d help me know for sure. I declined. On the surface I was indecisive, but on the inside, I already knew.

The first time I came out, I did so as a follow-up to a friend telling me he was bi. I didn’t have the bravery to do it on my own.

I was in a dark place. No words can describe how cavelike living a lie can be. I had to divert my eyes on TV, had to remind myself not to stare in public, had to bend the truth and sometimes shatter it altogether to keep this part of me hidden. And as I hid one part of me, the rest of me sunk down with it. These shadows were infectious like a rising tide, slowly claiming shelf after shelf, swallowing whole all the light they held. Many times I felt suicidal. Many times my only savior was the knowledge of the pain my death would inflict on those I loved.

It’s from this despair I began to learn it gets better.

Click here to see how the story continues.

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