Nathan and I went for a late night walk last night. Goal: to get a coffee from the local coffee shop that is open 24 hours. The walk not only gave us a chance to get out of the house, but it also gave us a chance to look around at the new fallen snow and relish in the beauty of a still winters night. As we walked, we passed by our local shelter for at-risk teens, which was, unsurprisingly, bustling with activity. As we passed by, I felt a twinge of sadness, for as Nathan and I prepare to hit the road tomorrow for a long trip filled with friends and family, these teens, many of whom have been ostracized by the family because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have only the Youth Shelter as a place where they can be themselves.
As people all over the world gather with family and friends over this holiday season, it is important for us to recognize that there are many within our community who are hurting and feel like they have no hope. They are all around us, yet we often do not see them. It could be the young man we see at the bus stop, who is afraid to go home because his father will call him “faggot” and “queer”. It could be the young woman, who hides her true identity from her family, because she does not want to be rejected. It could even been the religious teen, who feels that God will not love him if he embraces his sexual orientation. Many of us know what these individuals are feeling; we too have been ostracized by our family or have felt the bitterness of being surrounded by people who supposedly “care” about us, yet would reject us if they knew the truth.
Our community has come a long way in the past few decades. We are slowly starting to see our work bear fruit, as the votes this past November in Maryland, Washington, and Maine show. Yet to the young gay teen in Memphis, whose parents are active members in the local Southern Baptist Church, the progress that we have made does nothing if his whole world is crashing down around him. He can read in the newspaper that voters in Minnesota have not put an anti-gay amendment in their Constitution, yet that does nothing for the hell that is his life.
So this holiday season, as we gather with those closest to us, it is important that we think about those who are not as fortunate. Send up a prayer on their behalf, that they would find peace and happiness in who they are, no matter the obstacles that they may face. Yet don’t stop with prayer and supportive thoughts, actually get out in the community and do something for these kids. Volunteer with your local gay and lesbian community center, or be a consistent fixture at your local shelter for at-risk kids. It is up to us, those who have overcome the negative societal and family pressures that these kids are experiencing, to support and guide these kids in their time of need.