Monday, July 20, 2009

Progress in Idaho / Ending the silence

Last night was a local PFLAG meeting, and I finally decided that I should go. It's important (especially in this town where gays) to know some supportive people.

I finally saw pictures of the PFLAG chapter's float in the Fourth of July parade, and I was astonished to see how good it was! They spent a long, long time doing paper-mache to build a bright little scene of a child, flowers and a dog. This perfectly fit the parade's theme of "Through the eyes of a child." I was proud that they marched in the parade, and from what I hear they got a lot of praises for being so joyful and fun. (incidentally, the "Tea party" people had a float of the tree of liberty with an ax next to it reading 'Obama,' and they've been criticized from all corners for an overtly and excessively political float and for not even caring about the parade's theme)

I can't imagine PFLAG doing a float when I was in high school. But now they're pretty out and proud! And two students from my high school were there to talk to us about their Gay-Straight Alliance. I'm so proud of them for that! I can't imagine that it's easy for them, but it's a definite start.

The hardest part of being LGBT in a community like this is the silence. The silence about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered folk is incredibly powerful because it takes away information. When I'm talking information, I mean something more than just facts. When no one's talking about LGBT folk, then we LGBT folk and our allies don't know who to trust. We won't know who is supportive of us, who disagrees with us but still care, and who would do us harm. When you're not sure how someone would react, then there's this impulse to hide our information, too. If I'm not sure how you stand on gay people, then I will probably be inclined to withhold that information about myself until I know. We all want to be safe and loved.

When this silence on LGBT issues is community-wide, though, then it also isolates. In order to have a meaningful conversation on LGBT issues, you have to take a side. You can't hide your cards and wait for someone else to reveal their position. Unless someone is willing to come out in support, then the default option seems to be to assume that others are against you. You assume that their love is conditional on you not being gay, so you don't risk losing it. It hurts a lot and it isolates.

Given that my home state has the third highest teen suicide rate in the nation, I can only assume that a significant portion of those are from LGBT youth who feel alone and scared for their futures. If you don't know you are loved for being LGBT, then it feels like you're living a lie. If people aren't open about their support and love, then LGBT youth are left feeling that they're "broken," "sick," or "sinful." That can only go on so long before it deals horrible damage. Silence really is death; if not physical death, then definitely emotional and spiritual death.

Ending the silence here in Idaho will be a great blessing, and God is blessing Idaho through the work of PFLAG and the Gay-Straight Alliance.

1 comment:

Phil said...

I'm with you on the not knowing who to trust and who you can talk to about being LGBT. I came out to a family friend in rural Iowa this weekend and a cousin or two and not knowing if I'm going to be looked at differently is really stressful. I'm glad Idaho Falls has those resources.