LGBTQ+ column: Using the election to reflect on the good

by James Rowland / Beacon Correspondent • November 16, 2016

Tuesday’s results left me speechless. I’ve heard countless individuals express what this election means for LGBTQ+ individuals. While adults vocalized anxiety over marriage rights and President-elect Trump’s promotion of a culture of hate, I starting thinking about the millions of LGBTQ+ children who will come of age in this political climate. When I was growing up I looked to the few queer people telling their stories of struggle and love on the internet because hearing their personal narratives gave me hope. So for the millions of  LGBTQ+ children listening and to the many people questioning what this election will mean for them, I’d like to take a moment and tell you my story.

When I was 16, a boy kissed me for the first time. We were both leaving play rehearsal one evening. This boy was the first real queer person I had gotten to know in person. He asked if I was seeing anyone and I nervously laughed. I told him that I hadn’t even kissed a boy before. He paused and then leaned in and kissed me. It was bit awkward on my side, but for the first time in my life, I felt at peace as I walked to my car and drove home.

That kiss was more than a rite of passage. It was the start of an incredible personal journey of being able to talk openly about the fact that I like boys. In my high school classrooms and hallways I endured many hurtful comments about my sexual orientation from my peers—fellow students called me “faggot” and told me that people like me “die of AIDS.” My first kiss gave me the courage to withstand their comments and dream about one day being openly gay. I would never have thought that I would one day be writing in my college newspaper about the phenomenal experience it is to be gay.   

When I was 19, a boy took me on a date. Well, it was more of two friends going to get food as he was hungry, but it ended in a kiss (so I’m going to count it). We wound up at this Italian restaurant in the North End. It was one of those date-night restaurants you go to before seeing a show. Not as romantic as “Lady and the Tramp,” but it was truly the first time in my life that I felt free. Because I was finally living the stories that I would hear from Logo TV’s hit show “1 Girl, 5 Gays” (a talk show where gay men talked about love and sex). That date gave me the courage to be unapologetically confident that my love mattered.

It wasn’t until last year that a boy held my hand in public. It was a cold winter night and we were walking around the Charles River Esplanade. I was shaking because I was so chilled and so he did one of those smooth let-me-warm-your-hands-up pick-up lines. As much as my eyes were rolling, there was something so perfect about that moment. We passed by a group of people talking. My heart started pounding fast and the fear that had struck me in high school returned. Would I be physically attacked again like when the boys in my tenth grade gym class threw me against the lockers because they didn’t want a “fag in their locker-room”? As we got closer, one of the girls looked away from her friend’s conversation as we were walking by. For a moment the world halted to a stop. Surprisingly, she smiled at us and then returned to her conversation. A warming sensation filled my body. Maybe because the cute boy holding my hand was squeezing a tad too tight, but it really was because I realized that everything was going to be okay. The love in my life could be shared beyond what occurred in the safety of my home. This political climate shouldn’t push any queer person back into the closet because of the fear that they might be physically or verbally assaulted.

Life is very much like an EKG machine; there are ups and downs, but it simply means you are alive. Last Tuesday’s results are very much a down, but it doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Personal narratives have so much power in political activism. So I hope that these results will push you to share your stories. You may not be the picket sign kind of political activist, but sharing your personal narratives can be a real catalyst for change. Do it for the many LGBTQ+ children listening in this post election political climate, who will hear your truths and gain the courage to be unapologetically confident.

Love always,

James