15 Years In and Still Daring to Dream

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Blog
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Taken in part from my address to the 200 attendees at Dare to Dream, October 18, 2013.

Last week I joined one of our volunteers to help with the GSA group at the middle school.  It was their open house day and the students had invited other people to come get know them and get involved in their GSA. I got to meet seven amazing 8th graders and one amazing 7th grader, including one guy who had dyed his hair pink for breast cancer awareness month.

Afterward, I had some time to think about those kids and the shifting world in which they are starting to find their adult footing. I do a lot of presentations on developmental issues, so I love this kind of compare and contrast exploration. I don’t mind admitting–it was a little depressing to realize that those students were mostly born in the year 2000—they’re Y2K babies. When I considered the many things that have changed in the past few years and how old they would have been when those changes happened, it was mind-bending.

Think about the enormous milestones we’ve passed. Y2K kids were 4 years old when Massachusetts defied conservative groups across the country and passed their same sex marriage bill. They were 8 when we elected our first black president and if they remember any president before him, there is only one other guy to remember. Imagine how different the political landscape might look having only seen two presidents in action—one white and the other black where women have always been front-running candidates. They were 10 when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, 11 when IL passed its civil union bill, 13 when parts of DOMA were struck down and they have gone through middle school watching the debate about same sex marriage in IL play out. They were born after we lost Matthew Shepard, and HIV has always been a chronic, long-term, treatable disease. Can you picture this?

They have a different world than we did, and their world is shifting-still—a lot. But there’s one thing that has not shifted as much as we need to see. While I was there last week, we did a short survey with the attendees to find out what they’d like to use their time for during their GSA meetings.  On nearly every page, they asked for help with how to deal with bullying.

I cannot tell you how many conversations we have had with gay adults in the last two years where we are asked why this agency even still exists. I can’t tell you because I’ve lost track. The impression held by so many adults, adults who themselves endured year after year of trauma in schools and in homes, that our world has shifted SO much that the kids are fine now and why even do we need a Youth Outlook (www.youth-outlook.org) …let me tell you, those folks have never been more off base and the lack of awareness is frightening.

Y2K kids need LGBT adults more than ever before. As they come out younger and younger, it is imperative that we create a safety net to support them. The problems that my agency came together to address in 1998 have not disappeared—they have merely migrated to a younger group of kids with fewer resources. The fact that nearly every survey we got back asked us how to handle being bullied—questions coming from kids in the most progressive, LGBT-friendly school in our 5 county service area, where the entire district received training on the issues faced by LGBT kids tells you –it isn’t over yet and our kids are not safe.

Y2K kids are not typically in a position to decide to go to another school or to demand to move to a more supportive community. They don’t have choices. But we do.

We have the choice to acknowledge that we are still needed. We have the choice to believe that we can make a difference by showing up to help run a drop in center or supporting a GSA. We have the choice to open our minds to the risks they face- –not so different from those that many of us faced, and given the cyber attacks that some of our kids have described, in some ways worse. When you get right down to it, we have the choice to believe that those risks still exist and let it determine our behavior. We all have the choice to be supportive of LGBT kids, to be their safety net. Our collective world is shifting and they need us to get through this shift. If I could ask you anything, I’d ask you not to kid yourself that things are all better and take this message into YOUR world. I dare you –I double dog dare you–to be the ally our kids need.

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Comments
  1. vicky says:

    Beautifully written speech.

  2. Holly Phillips says:

    You are the brightest star in the sky……don’t ever stop shining, the kids need you…thank you.

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