Apparently, we have to get an education in some land of make-believe shot through a vaseline-covered lens in order to get a "real" job, and then endure the "real world" where we won't have it so easy, and then, at some undisclosed point in the future, "it gets better"? If we don't expect the level of community and political engagement that is growing all the time at all educational levels to translate into "real life," then how are things going to get better? Are people suddenly going to start taking seriously the labor laws that compel companies to give perfunctory seminars on how not to sexually harass your coworkers? Probably not. I think it's going to involve breaking down some of the boundaries between "school" and "work" that treat theorizing and activism and even a little naïve enthusiasm as immaterial to the way the rest of the world works.
Gay high schoolers have a pretty rough go of it. Bullying, harassment, and feelings of isolation are all too common for a lot of gay teens, and many of them live in situations where they don't have access to queer-friendly organizations. Last week, a gay high school student in Indiana named Billy Lucas took his own life, reportedly because of the torment he experienced at the hands of his peers.
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.
But gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.