I am worried about our nation's young weirdos.
Things are still very, very, very hard for LGBTQ youth. But the real bullying, I think, happens when there's a combination of factors in place. Being gay and being on the football team affords you the option to keep your mouth shut until you can get to college or to another city and, as YouTube tells us, it gets better. It's not easy, but at least you see your young athletic body reflected in the aesthetic of the websites that promote gay men's culture. And if you come from a New Jersey high school with a ten-year-old Gay-Straight Alliance, you at least probably know that there are places for you in this world.
It's the weirdos, people. It's the geeky, nerdy, odd, socially wacked-out boys who want to wear nail polish but aren't quite pulling it off with that swagger some have. It's the kids who can't make friends, who can't talk to people, who suffer from crippling social anxiety, who attract bullying like magnets well into college. It's the boys who lisp and mince pretty much from birth, but it's also the boys who wear sweatpants to ninth grade and interrupt class with weird vocal sound effects they don't even notice they're making. It's not the girls on the softball team so much as the girls with the acne and the doughy round faces who hide behind their stringy hair and play Halo.
I've been to middle school and high school, and it seems to me like the very hardest thing to be in this world is very weird and not extraordinarily smart. If you like fantasy games and aren't also a math genius, the road ahead is extremely tough. And trust me, people will call you faggot and dyke along with every other slur they can throw at you just to show you that you're a reject, an outcast, that you are reviled. Inherently homophobic? Sure. But gay kids are far from the only victims.
So yes, reach out to the kids getting bullied and being called gay. Some of them really are gay, or will turn out to be gay. But plenty of them are not; plenty of them are just different. Maybe their parents are hoarders or schizophrenics or just shy social phobics hiding from the world in a dark domicile. Things are tough at home, love is scarce, and there are few places for these kids. The internet offers a kind of connection to the world, but an imperfect one at best. And there's no magical Castro or Chelsea or Park Slope for all the weirdos of the world to move to and find love.
So weirdos, let me tell you, as a person mercilessly mocked throughout elementary and well into middle school: it gets better. It does. You will find people like you, who like the things you like and share your interests. You will get dates and gain freedom and transport yourself to LARPing events and comedy clubs and Ren Faires and other places where freak flags fly freely. And you may never fit in at your high school, and you may never feel like society fully accepts you or speaks your language, but you will learn how to express yourself safely and comfortably, and you will be celebrated. You will make a life you love. And you will be happy, because you'll have bucked the narcotic pull of conformity and chosen the kind of life you wanted. That's far more than most people get to do.