Monday, September 25, 2006

My Heros have always been...Crazy lesbians?

I have an old email address that I check about once a week. I mostly get spam, emails from things I signed up for ten years ago, and the occasional suprise email from someone from my past.

Today I kinda got a nice one.

There is a great organization in Austin called OutYouth . OutYouth is an organization for gay/lesbian/bi/transsexual youth who need someplace to go to feel safe. They provide counseling, leadership workshops and safe space for teens to go and work out their issuse with being gay, coming out etc. It is a very good organization and very strict on who can and cannot volunteer there becuase it is dealing with youth. I believe you can be a memeber if you are ages 15-18. When I went there it was 18-23, but times have changed. I really belive in this organization, encourage anyone to donate time or money to it, and I have a very very good reason for supporting it.

13 years ago this center, and more specifically the executive director, saved my life.

The email I got today was an annoucement that after a long absence Lisa Rogers has returned to OutYouth. She was one of the founding memebers in 1990, and served as the Executive Director for 7 years. She's also the person that held my hand one Wednesday afternoon in February 1993 and let me cry my eyes out. She's the 1st person I uttered the words to "I think I might be gay."

Pretty scary words for an 18 year old kid from small town Texas.

I haven't talked to her in years, but I'm glad she is back where she can help other kids figure out their life and give them the courage and strength she gave me.

The first day I went there I met several other kids my age who were all trying to figure out what "gay" meant. We became fast friends and remained so for a few years through college. We dealt with how to struggle against against discrimination, how to stand up for our rights, how to have our voice heard. We also learned how to deal with coming out issuse- how to tell your family, friends etc. Remember this is before "Ellen" or "Will and Grace" This was before the Internet, no such exposure and help as we have now. We all made it through - except for one.

Sadly, one of our friends commited suicide the day he told his parents he was Gay. They rejected him becuase of their religious beliefs. It was the same day I told my parents I was gay. I think it shocked them into acceptance.

Guy's death affected us all very much. It was very hard on me becuase before that Wednesday when I walked into the OutYouth center, I was pretty sure my only option was to kill myself. Lisa convinced me otherwise that day, that's why I say she saved my life.

I'm a very different person than I was 13 years ago. I owe a lot of it to OutYouth. I went from being shy and inward to outgoing and extrovered. I learned to trust myself, and my sense of humor. I went on to become the Vice-President and then the President of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual student association at the University of Texas - which is something I'll always be proud of. I found my voice, and I learned how to use it.

I'm very thankful that I met Lisa Rogers and this is the letter I wrote her today:

Dear Lisa -

I just read the email of your return to OutYouth. Congraultions! I
hope it is as beneficial for the you as it is for the program. I am
glad to hear that you are continuing to do great thing and help
inspire Queer Youth to move forward.

I will never forget the day we met. It was the day the the YWCA
pulled their funding from OutYouth. It took all my courage to walk up
the stairs of the Guadalupe building - and when I reached the top the
office was in chaos! You took me into your office, and persuaded me
to open up. I was so confused and so so lost. You let me cry my eyes
out and then you invited me back that night - it was a Wednesday. (Wednesday nights were new member nights)

I met so many good people that night - Dottie, Sid, Matthew, and of
course Guy. When Guy died you helped keep us together. It was one of
the darkest and hardest things I have ever had to deal with - your
strength and leadership helped us understand and make it thorugh such
a rough time

I loved it when we would go on the social work panel interviews. We
had fun times with you. The best though, was when we gave our
speaches at Regan High School to persuade them to allow gay youth
programs at their schools. You encouraged us so much to stand up for
oursleves and tell our stories. (I was on TV)

Most importantly you and the program helped me find the courage to
come out to my family. I'm happy to say that my enitre family -
Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins, even 4th cousins,
love me for who I am and it has never been much of an issue. When it
has been I just remember all that you taught us and try to educate
them on the issue rather than argue. Whenver I am faced with
discrimiation and adversity - I remember the lessons I learned at
OutYouth and stand tall for myself.

Basically - you helped me walk through fire, and I know I have the
strength and courage to do it again.

I am now living in San Francisco and will probably move back to Austin one day
as it is my home. When I do, you can be sure I will look you up and
help out anyway I can.

13 years ago you saved my life. Thank you.

I hope you are well. Good luck and I look forward to seeing the great
things that you do!

Sincerely and with the Best of Wishes.


She of course wrote me back:

You sure know how to make an aging lesbo relic's day! Thank you so much. Wow. We're even.
I hope you do move back to Austin. I'd love to have an alum assoc. If/when you do, please track me down so i can hug your neck. That's so cool about your family. You got me grinning too, pal.

Fearlessly yours,


Crazy Dyke.

Lisa always said to be "Fearless" and there is only "One you for All Times". I forget to be fearless sometimes, but it's nice to have a reminder.

I hope that I touch other people they way that she touched and helped me. So here is my advice for you today. Find your voice. Help Others Stand up for what you belive in. Stick to your Guns.

And be Fearless.



Blogger Pookie Pie said...

Wow, Kel. I'm tingling. You made me look past all the grammar and spelling errors and see the core of your post.




10:02 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Good post Kel. Really good post.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Jimmi said...

Kel that is really awesome! You just took me down memory lane. What a great story and well written. You were lucky to have such awesome support at a young age. I unfortunately didn't have anything like that. Its important that youth have support especially for times such as your friend Guy. Im sorry to hear that you lost a friend in that way. Such a shame that it had to come to that for him. Unfortunately people don't realize what they have till they loose it and I am sure his parents wish they would have rethought their reaction.

Have you thought about working with the San Francisco Youth Groups or some other coming programs? I think you could honestly be a great deal of help and support for them.


10:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

That gave me goosebumps. Great post.

9:57 AM  
Blogger JR said...

That is really nice. i like that.

11:26 PM  

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