The sad part is, if enough light is shed on the topic, I’m sure we can come up with darker numbers.
As a result of low media exposure and total inertia from authorities, the “It Gets Better Project” was founded. And things did get better. At least for the movement. Joel Burns’s emotional speech, a city councilman from Texas, was streamed on YouTube more than 2 million times. Ellen DeGeneres featured a special on her show. How cliché! And President Obama raised his eyebrows. But most importantly, hundreds of individuals from around the globe uploaded amateur videos of their own “it gets better” experiences on the net, facing their videocams from their bedrooms, voicing hope and support to the confused youth. I can’t get enough of watching these films. Google them! The Google Employees’ video is not bad at all either.
Being a sexually-confused teen is no easy job, especially in Beirut. Hell, being Lebanese is no easy job! Justin Aeberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. All gone. How many Tonis, Abdos, Ahmeds and Alis were bullied for being GiBs? To be honest, we don’t hear of too many scary stories. Beside a fishy double death this summer, I do not recall of any major GiB news headline lately. I guess these things are kept within intimate circles, away from social scrutiny. Never underestimate the fear of shame.
We hear stories or rumors or both. Probably both. But not on the news. We’re not worthy of being mentioned. We don’t exist! But we’re targeted. By jokes. By law. By practice. By habit. By norms. By local gods. By locals. By ignorance.
Our strongest feature as a society is our ability to bond with each others and develop social networks. They replace support groups and LGBT-friendly associations. They also cause wars, sometimes, but they do keep us away from dying old in total solitude. However, in most cases, what else do we have but ourselves?
These videos refreshed bad memories. I was so fucking lucky for an unbelievable family and for the luxury of a decent education. I was granted good health and an agreeable lifestyle. Despite everything that was offered to grow up normally, I couldn’t escape those bumps on the road. I was different; I tried hard not to show it. The bullying was acceptable: it’s more or less what every kid goes through. We’re big on asserting who has bigger balls. And some occasional verbal abuse did sting. But it was nothing compared to my incomprehension of my feelings and urges. At first I refused my body’s choices. I will spare you the emotional rollercoaster I went trough. But god what a ride! You’re packed, ready to go and things still go bad. With the challenges of school and friendships, the shooting hormones, the identity crisis, the one-way infatuations, the fear of reaching out, the terror of being caught… you’re in deep to your knees. Not to mention the burden of an injured country with bad odds. University days were softer due to a new level of independence. I just wish I had GiB friends to talk to back then, they would have spared me discovering myself through creepy sexual encounters fetched on the Internet. Ambushed by diseases and sexual deviants, this is how most of us start our GiB career. When I finally accepted myself, I was an adult already. But time was on my side. I met incredible people. I lived in a happy city for a college year. I met the man of my dreams. I came out to friends and friends came out to me. I don’t live in a GiB ghetto, I am a hardworking Lebanese man with a career and big hopes. And friends. I love my life despite all its imperfections. I’m motivated. I want more of life.
This is my little contribution to the Project. Look at us, in tiny Beirut, thrown like unwanted puppies in the forest. Things will get better.