One of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time was to make a video for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project.
When I found the project while doing my daily work on the Internet, I was so impressed. I'd been getting pretty pissed off about all the bullying and hate surrounding gay kids, and the suicides that resulted I'd been reading about in the news. It made me remember how the same bullying happened to me when I was in school. It was so fucked up when the other kids would laugh at me and make fun of me because I acted like a “boy.”
I would then proceed to kick someone’s ass. I got into a lot of fights—always with boys, and I always won. That got me into more trouble because a “girl” was not supposed to win a fight with a boy, right?
So, when I see the same crap happening 30 years later—the same exact thing—I am just blown away. How is it possible that things have not changed by now? How come some young boy or girl is still getting teased about being “gay” at the age of 10? How come there is no tolerance? It’s totally unacceptable.
I can understand why it happened back when I was a kid because people were not educated about gay or transgender people, so they didn’t understand. But now, in the 21st Century, we have tons of information available. The reason that one 10-year-old is teasing another 10-year-old about being gay is coming from the home: The parents teach their kids those intolerant attitudes that causes them to say that shit.
Sadly, to say I grew up around sexism and bigotry in my home. My parents are your basic middle-class Republican racists—even though they pretend not to be. They would get upset if I brought home a black friend, or if I decided to date a black guy. So, when I brought home a black girlfriend, that really floored them.
Thank God I wasn’t influenced by their attitudes. Somehow I escaped, as did my sisters. We knew better. As I grew as a person. I was more attracted to the Latinos and blacks and always felt more at home with them. My coming out as gay was totally in the black community. They accepted me and treated me as one of their own. I disowned my family for many years and grew up in these other communities. I think that has made me the person I am today.
So when I decided to do the “It Gets Better” video, I knew it was important for me to speak out to the young people who are having such a difficult time dealing with this stuff. Maybe they have no friends, maybe they feel isolated the way I did. I had no one to talk to for many years. It is a horrible feeling.
So, with that in mind, I set out to make my video. I started the camera and just began to speak. It was weird because all of a sudden, from talking about my past, emotions came up that I thought were long gone. I believed I’d overcome my sadness about growing up the way I did, but I just started to cry. It brought up emotions that had been buried deep inside of me. Everything came pouring out—the suicide attempts and the isolation…
When I finished the video and watched it, I was totally freaked out. I was not going to put this online! No way in hell was I going to be vulnerable to everyone on YouTube, and risk being called all kinds of names like “sissy” and being told “Men don’t cry” (though it is not like I’m unaccustomed to being called a variety of names).
Then it came to me. I realized that I had made this video to hopefully save someone’s life. It wasn’t really about me. I had to check my ego, which is not an easy thing to do sometimes, but when I did it, I just uploaded the video and walked away from the computer so I did not have to see it.
Then I emailed the link to Dan. There was no turning back.
Dan emailed me right away, saying that it was a really great video and that he’d added it to the “It Gets Better” site immediately. I was so nervous and freaked out, but it was like magic. People started emailing me like crazy about how they loved it, how it was nice to see me be so open about myself in a very different way. Then I got emails from some young people thanking me and telling me how moved they were, and that my video had given them hope.
The thing that has possibly been the hardest is the negative backlash from me doing this video because I am a “pornographer” and narrow-minded people think I should not be speaking to kids! That really pisses me off.
Nowhere in my video do I make reference to my adult work, nor do I talk about sex or porn, or other adult matters. I provide contact information that is separate from any of my adult-related sites. I have just as much of value to say to these kids as anyone else. I am not the devil, and besides, my work is not “just pornography.” I’m also an educator and advocate.
It’s ridiculous how people are so freaked out about sex that they fail to focus on the fact that people are killing themselves over their sexuality and gender. If my story I can help just one kid feel as though life is worth living, then there is nothing wrong with me sharing my message of hope and self-acceptance with them.