I was born in March of 1977 in Little Rock, Ark. That same year in California, Harvey Milk won his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This was a full three years after the American Psychiatric Association finally took homosexuality off its list of mental illnesses.
All in all, not a bad time for a gay child to come into the world. Some historians credit those two events as hugely important milestones in American gay history – that is realizing we were both electable and, you know, collectively ‘un-crazy.’
This March, for my birthday, I took advantage of Facebook’s new charitable giving option. I chose a little charity back home in Arkansas, Lucie’s Place, as my cause. Lucie’s Place provides young adults experiencing homelessness in Central Arkansas with a safe living environment, even job training and counseling services, and is just generally a queer presence in the middle of a largely red and rural state – a glittery queer beacon. You might wonder, is LGBT homelessness in Arkansas a real problem? In a word, yes. And it may be getting worse.
Large and increasingly influential evangelical churches basically encourage parents to throw out queer kids, now coming out as young as 12 or 13. In places like Arkansas, there aren’t a lot of homeless shelters to begin with. And many, often funded by religious organizations, aren’t equipped to deal with LGBTQ kids, if they take them in at all. Through the Facebook charitable giving option, my friends raised $1,400 for Lucie’s Place. I was told by Lucie’s Place administrators that that amount is enough to run one house – everything from clean sheets and meals and bus passes – for over a month.
The whole thing got me thinking. Though there are, of course, several great charities here in Washington, D.C., with the same goals and aspirations as Lucie’s Place, what exactly is owed by us here to those back home? It’s often said that no one is actually from D.C., so what about those that either can’t leave or just don’t want to. And what about those of us that left? It’s certainly easy, easier anyway, to nestle ourselves in our urban queer bubbles, with our fluttering rainbow banners adorning our streets and LGBT-friendly politicians sitting in our highest offices. Let’s not forget that for many back home the struggle is both real and every day.
Yes, there was a great deal of collective, larger group self-esteem wrapped up in Milk’s election, or the striking of homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. But there’s also sort of a micro-esteem boost that comes along with knowing you have clean sheets, the self-esteem that comes along with walking into a room and having someone welcome you. In that sense, the kids back home might be all right.
When I was a senior in high school, I basically snuck out to see the weekday late showing of “Philadelphia.” Tom Hanks was playing gay, and though I wasn’t out at the time, that was certainly the end-goal once I got to college. And seeing a mainstream actor play gay was an incredible sight. Kids back home now have “Love, Simon” to go see. Some have bemoaned the film’s saccharin-sweet, neat-little-package ending, to which I say, so what? Like Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia,” we have been dying or outright murdered in films for years. We typically met rather pathetic ends. After all these years we certainly deserve a “Love, Simon.”
Thanks to organizations like Lucie’s Place, the kids indeed might be all right. And after what they may have endured trying to get there, they certainly deserve a happy ending.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.