It Gets Different

I know there’s a theme emerging in what I’m talking about here. It seems as if all I can talk about is just how perverse it is for us to hang our hats on some “truth”, when most of what we believe doesn’t hold up when tested. But when you have little kids it becomes a daily problem. Children ask you questions and they listen to your answers. And they don’t point out your hypocrisy because they’re jerks, they do it because they’re genuinely confused.

A generation ago this was all much easier. You could just say, “that’s not a question for children,” and let it go. Unfortunately, we’ve figured out that if we don’t give our kids answers, they’ll find them. If you’ve given them a partial answer, or an answer based on a perfect world, or an answer based on how you *want* your life to be, then when they find out you weren’t telling the truth they will either assume you knew and you lied (which is awful) or more likely, that you just aren’t as smart as they thought. And the problem with both of these is that you won’t be able to give them any more guidance later.

I am a passionate defender of the LGBT community – and I say “defender” because I’m not a member of the community. I’m on the outside, hopefully helping the bouncers making sure nothing too destructive gets in to wreck the party. And although I am moved to tears by *every single* video testimonial from the “It Gets Better” series, my innate contrarianism pushes me to question the premise.

The fact of the matter is this – there have been people who were born gay, who grew up miserable in some horrid small-minded red state in a culture that told them every single day that homosexuality was not only the most socially disgusting thing you can be (“faggot!” “Homo!” “Queer!”) but that God himself will hate you for all eternity even if you don’t *act* on it because Jesus said you can’t even lust in your heart. So you grow up, you get married, you learn to stay silent, you have sex about 25 times in your entire life with a woman you resent and every time is a heart crushing betrayal of who you are, an eye-clenching act of revulsion that can only happen with the help of liquor and daydreams, you raise your kids distantly, you grow old, you never admit who you are and you die.

That happens. That has happened countless millions of times in human history, and it’s *fine*. It’s terrible for that one person, but the rest of us don’t care *at all*. Most people aren’t gay, so what the hell do we care? It’s one horrible life in 250,000 years of human history, in the countless generations stretching back to the grasslands of Africa… in the larger scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all.

Things don’t “Get Better”. We have to fight and scratch and scream at the top of our lungs to change anything and we need to keep fighting for the people behind us that we don’t care about because letting go of your morals based on circumstance is maybe the only thing close to “evil” that I can imagine. The laziest thought, in my barely functioning brain, is the famous Martin Luther King quote, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It doesn’t. Humans are just horrible little animals, caring only for their own individual comfort and, somewhat, for the comfort of their immediate families. In order for the arc of the moral universe to bend towards justice we have to act, passionately and powerfully, all the time, and not for our own self-interest but for what is *just*.

And this is my problem, when I’m talking to my kids. I want to tell Barnaby that he is better than me, that he is already a better person with  a better mind, that each generation going forward will be better than the generation we’re leaving behind. But the truth is, if he screws up his life to the same degree that I screwed up mine, he won’t be any better than me. He’s gonna have advantages that I didn’t have – parents who dote on him and more money – but IN NO WAY does that indicate that he’ll be happier, kinder, more humane or more successful. He’s gonna have to work his ass off to be any of those things, and I can’t do it for him.

The individual videos in the “It Gets Better” campaign often include a list of things you can do to make things better, and the hope they give is an undeniable pure good. Very often the message is, “hang in there, in a few years you can move to a better city, you can change the people around you, you can find your community.” And that’s right, that’s what a young kid who’s contemplating suicide needs to do. But if your parents hate you, that stays with you no matter where you are. When you find your community in San Francisco and then the entire state votes to legally make you a second class citizen the small minded shittery is gonna stay with you. When you go on vacation in Florida and you and your partner get jumped and beaten, it will remind you of the time *before* things got “better”. Getting beaten as an adult, with your partner there with you, is “better” than getting beaten alone as a kid, sure. But that’s not what we’re telling these kids.

I can’t tell my kids that they’re Smart or Talented or Chosen. I can’t. Because I would be lying, and pretty soon they’re gonna figure out that I’m lying. When I first realized that I wasn’t particularly smart or talented I was *devastated*, and I couldn’t figure out why my parents had decided to lie to me. Then I realized they weren’t lying they just couldn’t tell the difference between what actually is and what they want to be true and I never really trusted them after that. Despite what I want to be true of my kids, I can’t pass down the lies. I hate it, but the truth is better than what we want to be true.