Having lived out for the last 25 years, first as a gay boy, and very shortly after as a transsexual woman, I tend to maintain a level of cautious optimism about the LGBT liberation struggle. There’s always something in the news about our community, and I am very grateful that it’s no longer a given that we’re referred to using terms like “homosexuals” (in the cases of gay men and lesbian women) or “transvestites” (in the cases of transsexual women). Yet, there always seems to be another shoe that drops when we make any progress: a state or nation supports gay marriage, some entity vows to fight it and does so; schools make an effort to reduce bullying of LGBT youth in schools, someone in a position of legislative authority opposes it and fights it. The shoe that dropped this week, however, was that of none other than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who declared his support of same-sex marriage.
The vote in North Carolina to enhance the language that forbids same-sex marriage (NC already had a gay marriage ban on the books from a few ago) was the kind of thing that we who provide counseling and advocacy for LGBT youth have come to understand as our cross to bear. We understand our responsibility and challenge to remind our youth, via efforts like the Trevor Project, that “It Gets Better,” even when some of these youth are the children of people who voted this new law into effect in NC. We understand how, in addressing the immediacy of teen hopelessness and subsequent risk that can in the face of such extreme and unexplainable human cruelty, we have to stretch ourselves in conveying the message of hope we want our youth to have. We often do the job that we wish all parents of LGBT youth would do, which is to provide loving support and take action that instills hope for the future. Last week, President Obama made all of our jobs a little easier. The other shoe that dropped fell squarely on those who oppose LGBT civil rights.
No matter what happens next with the sociopolitical climate in the struggle for LGBT rights, we cannot deny what President Obama’s support means in instilling support for our youth (it feels pretty nice for those of us for whom the bloom left the rose a few years ago, too). This is the leader of the free world making a declaration here about our rights. For even the most at-risk of LGBT youth who is seeing no visible hope or support in parents, teachers, or peers, President Obama’s message is a very clear beacon of hope that perhaps there’s a reason to live another day. I can’t predict what this means for the 2012 suicide statistics for LGBT youth, but as I said in the beginning of this blog, I approach this period with cautious optimism.
In the meantime, I also recorded my own “It Gets Better” video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-poYVhgqv4
Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.