Writes of Passage: Jeffrey Gerson
To Jeffrey Gerson, age 13:
Let’s take a minute and put aside the improbability of a letter from the future. We can deal with the space-time continuum later. This letter is about the fact that you’re gay.
That sent a shiver up your spine, didn’t it? It’s one thing to think about it, but it’s quite jarring to see it spelled out so plainly. But then again, reassessing your identity never is an easy process.
As you debate these questions about whether or not you’re actually gay (you are) and whether or not you should tell anyone (you should), why don’t I provide you with some food for thought.
There are a few key figures in those first few years who will be especially pivotal. A Los Angeles hair stylist named Matthew will be the first positive image of a gay man you’ll be aware of in your life, and almost ten years later he’ll still be a wonderful friend and confidant (as well as an amazingly talented stylist). There will also be Abi, a bisexual camp counselor who you’ll befriend over the course of three summers at UCLA. She’ll support you when you become enamored with the new handsome male counselor, and she’ll be extremely influential when you decide to tell your friends at camp about it. While they are the two who stand out, your friends will be the momentum that always propels you forward. First at that camp in Los Angeles, and later back in Pennsylvania, they will realize you are the same person you had always been, only now a little more fabulous.
Beyond all of them, though, know that you have unbelievably amazing parents who will accept and support you every single step of the way. Don’t believe me? Wait until you have a certain conversation with dad on Father’s Day of 2010. The rest of the family is pretty damn good, too. Grandma won’t be too happy about you being a Democrat, but the gay thing won’t faze her one bit, I promise. It will also serve as a major bonding point with your aunt, and it will help bridge the gap with various estranged family members. You and your cousin will also develop quite a strong—though snarky—friendship, and a large part of that will be due to you both having a fierce loyalty to your individuality.
High school won’t be as bad as you fear. The same friends who stuck with you from the year before will still be by your side, and your dedication to academics and activities will help you weather the occasional whisper of “fag” in the hallways. The gym locker room will be awkward, naturally, but no one will give you any trouble, nor will they do you any harm. Your teachers will encourage you in ways that you would never expect; never be afraid to forge strong ties to them. And though I’m hesitant to spoil the surprise, you’ll also be Wallenpaupack’s first openly gay Homecoming King—that one is a shocker indeed.
After graduating high school, your world will truly takes off. You’ll be accepted to Stanford University and during orientation you’ll learn about a queer movie night on campus. Though you want to go, you’ll be hesitant as you’ll be the only out LGBT person in your freshman dorm (at the time). But two straight RAs will have the compassion to go along with you, and that night your world will change forever. You’ll find yourself among more queer people than you have ever seen before, and that will be only a taste of the depth and diversity of what Stanford queer life is like. The students who work at that LGBT center will craft within you a sense of belonging so profound that even now as I write this letter (in that very center), I smile. You will become steadily more immersed in what it means to be queer and, more importantly, how you choose to shape your own identity with that in mind.
You’ll rally people on campus and protest for your rights, enlist in queer theory classes and learn about things like pansexuality and gender spectrum. You’ll connect with a group of friends who never stop fascinating you and who care about you deeply. The icing on the cake, however, is you will become the manager of the LGBT center that gave you so much, and along with a group of what must be the world’s most astounding coworkers, you will help others find the same sense of self that the people at Stanford inspired in you.
Now that I’ve painted you the picture of this charmed life, keep in mind how lucky you are to have it. Many others, if not most, are nowhere near as fortunate. Few come out as early as eighth grade, or in rural areas, and make it out unscathed. Keep this in mind as you continue forward, and let it always remind you to give back to your communities and cherish the opportunities you’ll have.
Be true to yourself, stay confident, and have an open mind.
You’ll turn out just fine.
Jeffrey Gerson is a junior at Stanford University, where he is pursuing an English major with an interdisciplinary emphasis in queer theory. He also manages Stanford’s LGBT Community Resources Center.
Read more letters in our National Coming Out Day section on Gay.com.