About a year ago, I was approached by a local publisher about writing a guidebook for queer and questioning teens. (The result, Queer: the Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens, written with Kathy Belge, was released this month by Zest Books.) At the time, the main reason for taking on the project seemed simple: there hadn’t been a comprehensive guide for LGBTQ teens published since 2003, and a lot had changed since then — from tweets and Glee to Facebook and Gaga. The New York Times had profiled out-and-proud gay 13-year-olds in Oklahoma, and transgender kindergartners had made national headlines. Queerness, it appeared, had planted its rainbow flag firmly in middle school. There seemed a need for something beyond Wikipedia and porn sites to help answer the important questions.
Of course, there was no way to know we were about to enter such a tragic, yet ultimately inspiring, stage of the queer youth struggle: the spate of teen suicides late last year that brought issues of bullying and self-esteem to the public eye, followed by the enormous outpouring of support in the form of the “It Gets Better” campaign and national media attention. I had a lot of trouble with “It Gets Better” — not least the marginalization of amazing teens who were doing things now to change things (I had the pleasure of connecting with many while writing the book) and the denial that economic and social problems often persist into LGBT adulthood. But the outpouring of autobiographical video messages was a sociological treasure, an audiovisual repository of gay coming-of-age tales that provided crucial virtual outreach.
It sucks that while LGBT youth are taking root in American consciousness, their gay dream is being uprooted in San Francisco. Here, gay is beginning to equal gray. (No small feat after AIDS, but still.) How many 18-year-old lesbians, without financial support from their families and a scholarship, could move here to make music and art? What 17-year-old transgender kid, kicked out of his house, could afford to find an accepting family in the city while training for a career? How many bright queer foster kids, aged out of the system, have become homeless due to housing cuts? We won’t even let them sit down on the sidewalk!
For those still here, there are some fantastic LGBT kid support organizations — LYRIC (www.lyric.org), Larkin Street (www.larkinstreetyouth.org), Road Dawgz (www.roaddawgz.org), Bay Area Young Positives (www.baypositives.org), the LGBT Center (www.sfcenter.org). Now that we’ve all made our heartfelt videos and shared about ourselves, volunteering some much-needed time and resources could be that IRL step that truly makes a difference, right in our own queer backyard.