It's so pleasant to sit here blogging about dance, music, opera and my adventures in Gotham; it's nice to feel so involved in the world that I write about and to have my wonderful friend Kokyat preserving our experiences with his camera. In general I try to steer clear of politics and religion on my blog, partly because they are such devisive topics and I am so very tired of divisiveness. Also there are countless sites where you can go for every political and religious perspective and where you can join in discussions of those topics and rant, rage or despair to your heart''s content; I prefer my blog to be an oasis of beauty and reason.
But in recent weeks there has been an alarming spate of suicides among young people related to their sexual identity, whether real or as perceived by their peers. Columnist Dan Savage has contributed a video entitled It Gets Better which urges young gay people not to despair, to stay the course and look forward to a time when they can emerge from the shadow-world of mental and physical abuse, embrace the world in all its diverse beauty and - hopefully - live happily ever after.
Dancer/choreographer Bennyroyce Royon has made a short film that young people should watch.
Growing up in a tiny town in the 60s and early 70s, I was terrified. I was so different from everyone else. Even once I began to understand what my 'problem' was there were no answers, and no one to talk about it with. In this situation you are virtually alone.
Back then, on so many days, I pretended to be sick to stay home from school - and in fact, my fears did make me physically ill so many times. My parents were respected members of the community and my older brother (a rebel-without-a-cause type, but OK since he was straight) and my sister were very popular with their peers. I realize that if not for these facts I would have had an even harder time - I remember once when I was being harrassed an older student passed by and said, "Hey, he's Jeff Gardner's little brother...leave him alone!" I suppose if I'd had the courage to tell my brother what was happening to me, he would have beat the crap out of my assailants for me and maybe even pulled his jack-knife on them. But how could I talk to him about my feelings? How could I talk to anyone?
Dan Savage's video suggests the possibility that the troubled small-town kids of today might find ways of reaching out to older gay people via the internet. This is a great idea however it is also fraught with risks: if parents find their kids are corresponding with homosexuals - or have even watched Dan's video - it will make life for these kids even worse. And also, how would an adolescent in rural Texas or a teenaged girl in Utah be able to distinguish between someone genuinely wanting to help them and someone who just wants to get into their pants, or blackmail them?
When I attended the vigil last year for the young people murdered at a gay center in Tel Aviv I was so moved by the plight of some of our local gay youth who told their own stories of being bullied and disowned. Luckily for them here in a major city there are places you can go, people you can turn to. In Smalltown USA there are no such options.
The Obama administration, after hood-winking gays into supporting their 'Change You Can Believe In' pep talks, continue dancing around gay issues, tossing crumbs from the table here and there and trying to appear sympathetic to gays in such matters as DADT and DOMA while avoiding taking any real leadership position on either matter, and filing court briefs behind the scenes that seem aimed at maintaining the status quo.
I have sometimes asked my sister if she knows of young people in our little hometown (she still lives there) who might be in need of someone to talk to about their sexual orientation. Of course you can just imagine the reaction of parents when they hear that some faggot from the Big City wants to talk to their kid.
Of course another facet of all this is the tacit affirmation that staying in the closet is the best policy; athletes, actors, political figures, dancers, musicians, religious leaders - people who might serve as powerful role models for young gays everywhere - continue to play it straight or at the very least play it ambiguous out of fear of having their careers de-railed by an admission of their sexuality. One newscaster who interviewed the parents of a recent teen-suicide has never stood up and said that he's gay, though it was not all that long ago that you'd see him around the NY club scene. And he had a fling with my ex. So for all his 'concern' he seems to lack the basic courage to be himself and thus maybe help - however indirectly - a young person somewhere in Middle America who is struggling with an incredible burden.
It was in fact only thru the love and understanding of two people - Jeanette and Ann(e) Olga - that I never took the pills I had stashed away and that I am here today to look back on it all and thank them for keeping me alive, even though they didn't know that that is exactly what they were doing.
I have always viewed life as a journey and this song - which I've always loved and which I've been listening to a lot lately - always feels like it was written just for me. Maybe young people will listen to it and come to realize that life in all its beauty and mystery lies ahead of them:
"In my early years I hid my tears
And passed my days alone
Adrift on an ocean of loneliness
My dreams like nets were thrown
To catch the love that I'd heard of
In books and films and songs
Now there's a world of illusion and fantasy
In the place where the real world belongs
Still I look for the beauty in songs...
To fill my head and lead me on
Though my dreams have come up torn and anchored
As many times as love has come and gone
To those gentle ones my memory runs
To the laughter we shared at the meetings
I filled their kitchens and living rooms
With my schemes and my broken dreams
It was never clear how far or near
The gates to my citadel lay...
They were cutting from stone some dreams of their own
But they listened to mine anyway
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say
It could be I've lost my way
Though I keep a watch over the distance
Heaven's no closer than it was yesterday
And the angels are older
They know not to wait up for the sun
They look over my shoulder
At the maps and the drawings of the journey I've begun
Now the distance leads me farther on
Though the reasons I once had are gone
I keep thinking I'll find what I'm looking for
In the sand beneath the dawn
But the angels are older
They can see that the sun's setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise, the changing light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road til the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on"