Clandestine gay/lesbian centers were still around when I was a college student. It was where The Tribe introduced younger souls to the movement before their straight friends or a minister could talk them out of it. There wasn’t a -QI back then, at least not officially. Bisexuals were only tolerated. Trans people were considered strange at best. Open allies were few and treated with deep suspicion.
We listened closely to the tales of our secret society and secret history. More than a few cried when the burden of their birthright was lifted from their shoulders by new friends who told them that they were perfectly normal, and not alone.
It may be time to bring back such centers with a new type of young person in mind: The children of our opponents. That’s right, perhaps we should intentionally focus on turning the mostly heterosexual, conservative Christian-raised and -educated children of those who believe we represent everything wrong with American values and politics into strong allies.
It’s low risk, high reward. We now have the opportunity to be the conversion specialists their parents most fear, and it’s a very simple strategy indeed. We will just be ourselves. No, really.
You see, there will come a time for the majority of these teenagers when they will start to question what their parents believe. We all did this at one time or another. Most of us with the unrequested blessing had a far easier time in this department, but even conservative-raised kids start to look around by the college years when their parents cannot keep close tabs on them anymore. They are usually brave enough by this point to ask some really private questions to knowledgeable types they believe they can trust.
We need to be ready for that moment and not automatically lump them into the same category we reserve for those we consider a real threat at first sight. Our advantage over the advocates of the Dark Enlightenment is our kindness—our secret conversion weapon, along with our sincerity and our conviction.
Kindness in this scenario means respecting the backgrounds they came from and listening compassionately to their questions, and their fears. Remember your coming out process? Multiply that fear by a factor of ten and that’s what some of these kids are going through when they begin to question the wisdom of their parents.
Kindness *does not* mean referring to their parents or their home environment in derogatory ways. It’s about giving honest answers to questioning minds in a way you wish someone did for you at their age. Sincerity is acknowledging that we were scared of asking these questions too at one time.
They need to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a cisgender, heterosexual person with a religious-based outlook on life as long as they understand that there
is nothing wrong with being queer as folk either. And they may be surprised to learn you do not turn into a progressive lesbigay robot if you choose to open your mind about certain issues.
The majority of these kids will have been raised in an environment where being openly LGBTQI is considered to be just dead wrong, if not worse. They need to be taught, in a loving and patient manner, that our special gift tends to make us question many aspects of our upbringing and faith, and that’s ok too.
We know who we are, and we have been fighting a multi-generational culture war just to be ourselves. We will never give up this fight, nor will we fail to help others who just want to live their own lives too. Everyone has to make their individual decisions on how they need to live their own lives. Individuals may disagree, but we can disagree without being disagreeable, and can become friends in the process. That will be one of the most important life lessons we may impart upon these kids, if anything else.
It all starts with chatting these kids up and choosing not to run away from what may seem like a challenge but is truly an opportunity. So, if you ever have that opportunity sometime, seize it. The best miracles in life are the ones we make ourselves.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. A graduate of The University of the South at Sewanee, she loves butterflies, strong women and the Austrian School of Economics. Graphic via The Daily Dot