Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Stories Matter

"It Gets Better" videos are all over Facebook these days, and they're collected at YouTube here. They feature a person--a young adult, a middle-aged adult--speaking to the camera, hoping to reach a young person who's hurting.

The audience, that young person, is any teen or tween who feels "different," and because what teen doesn't feel different, they speak specifically and directly to kids who are being bullied, at home or school, for being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered. They speak to keep these young people from despair, from harming themselves, from suicide.

Many of the videos feature extremely good-looking, successful adults--cast members from various Broadway productions, former Playboy bunny celebrities, award-winning mainstream actors. Many speak from personal experience, and many speak on behalf of friends and family.

Because, yes, we all have friends and family who are LGBT. Even if you don't know they are. Even if they're afraid to tell you.

It's great that celebrities use their power for something other than getting free stuff at awards ceremonies. But the stories I find the most compelling are those that express the pain of a person who might have grown up to be "just anybody."

Like Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Yes, Fort Worth, Texas. I hope his colleagues there appreciate his courage in telling his story. It is obviously a difficult story to tell. When he says, "It gets better," I know how bad his "worse" is, and I know he deeply understands "better."

This week, I've been struggling to tell a difficult story of my own. It's also from a personal experience. I finally wrote a draft Thursday and revised it Friday. It's ready to "set" for awhile.

I haven't written something like this in some time. My recent creative writing has embodied my experiences--my pain, my fear, my hopes, my secret wishes--in characters. These characters have names other than mine, different personal characteristics from mine, sometimes even a different gender. Sometimes I feel I speak on their behalf, as if for a friend, because I feel I tell their stories, though logically I know that the stories come from inside me.

The story I recently finished was mine. It was difficult to write. I debated whether I needed even to write it (I didn't want to at times), much less share it. I wondered whether writing it was worth revisiting the pain of the experience in the first place. I wondered what the cost of sharing it might be.

And then I watched Joel Burns and recognized that sometimes, the cost of telling the truth is far less than the cost of keeping silent.

I have no illusions that my story, unlike his, will radically change a reader's life. But it might, just might, get someone to think, to be a little less smug, to alter (even slightly) an opinion.

And that's well worth the risk.

So yes, I have a plan for sharing this story, and I'll post that information here. Meanwhile, here's a website for The Trevor Project, the organization that is spearheading the effort to create all the "It Gets Better" videos.