Today is National Coming Out Day. Though I identify as heterosexual, I have many beloved friends and respected colleagues that identify under the LGBT moniker. I use today as a reminder to be a light to everyone, no matter their race, gender, orientation, or socioeconomic status.
I don’t know how it feels to be bullied for being gay, but I do remember how it feels to be unhappy in high school. I was geek before it was chic. I was nerd long before Big Bang Theory made the mainstream. I felt awkward for liking school and weird for being smart. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t perfect or blameless: I pushed people away who tried to help and set up defense mechanisms to avoid getting hurt. I hurt other people’s feelings, too. It took me years of healing and forgiveness to accept myself for who I was/am, and more time to embrace my life and accept others for who they were, too.
If there is anything I could tell my 15-year-old self, it would be, “It gets better.” Dan Savage started the It Gets Better project about a year ago, and I can find no better phrase to encourage the downtrodden than that hopeful expression of future joy. If anyone had told me that I would find extravagant happiness with the man I am married to, I wouldn’t have been so upset that I didn’t have a boyfriend when I was 16. If anyone could have told my young self that my career would exceed my wildest dreams for myself, I wouldn’t have always felt so awkward in my own skin.
I am a teacher, because I see a mission towards my students. If I can help them find their way in life, then I have not lived in vain. If I can ease the suffering, even just a little, then I can help them guide themselves into bountiful, blessed life. As, an adult, reflecting on life past, present, and future, I can honestly say, IT GETS BETTER. Really.