NPR's Sonari Glinton shares his personal story about growing up without gay role models and gives his take on the recent suicide by a New Jersey college student.
As a gay man I have often needed people to give me guidance.
But the sad fact is that the men who could have or would have served as examples for my life are often dead.
Sometimes we forget how colossal and horrible the AIDS epidemic was, and is.
In the absence of gay role models older than I, I've done what people do: I make do.
When I search for the kind of gay man I want to be, it's often by looking at my friends -- who are younger than I.
Like my friend Tommy: He’s 21. He lives with his boyfriend of several years. He can text faster than I can talk. He leads his college a cappella group; and when he takes the stage to sing “Killing Me Softly,” he does so without a scintilla of irony or camp.
The girls and the boys go wild.
Tommy wears his sexuality like a comfortable old sweater and not a cloak of oppression.
Not one of those things could I do when I was 21.
So when I hear of suicides committed by gay teens -- kids who are just a few years younger than my friend -- it saddens me. They're the ones who are supposed to show me how to be.
As sad as I was about the recent deaths, I got hope from the “It Gets Better” campaign. It’s a collection of video messages from mostly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered adults giving support and advice to young people struggling with their sexual orientation, the disapproval of adults, and bullying by their peers.
When I watched the very first YouTube video, it was very cathartic for me and it seems to be cathartic for the dozens of people who've posted.
But I gotta say, I can't imagine 14 year olds sitting still for the advice. The thing is, I believe, the overwhelming majority of the gay kids hunkered down in hostile territory know for themselves that it gets better. They can see the world changing around them.
What I realized is that “It Get’s Better” is not really for the kids. It’s really a way for me to tell the 14 year old in my heart that one day I can grow up and be like Tommy.
And then maybe people like me will go and MAKE life better for the kids hunkered down right now.
Sonari Glinton is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered.