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I wrote a hundred drafts. I thought about what and what not to say a thousand times. I called old friends and my high school girlfriend, Marie, to talk about that time in high school to see what they remember, ask them questions, see if they could help me fill in some holes.

After getting that email from (one of) my high school bully(s) my head just spiraled into this place that it never spent much time, if any in the last decade. All of a sudden I felt like I had this right to go back in time and look at it through this lens of “Holy shit, this was terrible”  rather than the narrative I used as an excuse to never totally break, “Eh, high school just sucks for everyone.” All of a sudden, after reading Joanne’s email, I felt like I had permission to go back and feel it all in a real way, like I had never considered. I finally gave myself the room to really take a look at what it was like for me to be little-teenaged-me and to be outed and treated the way I was. And guess what I always knew but never really admitted: It was awful! So very terrible. I mean, I knew that. Of course I did. I just never gave myself the chance or the permission or the time to really absorb it, want apologies, offer forgiveness. These are not things I would have ever guessed I would do or need to do or be given the opportunity to do. But I did and I did and I did.

And let me tell you something, an unexpected apology from an unexpected person at an unexpected time is incredible! I didn’t even realize that Joanne realized that she hurt me. I think, to some degree, I didn’t even feel worthy of letting myself realize that I had been so hurt. That sounds so strange, but the degree to which her email had me reeling for days and days and day, still,  makes me realize that the validation she offered me in such an authentic and kind admission, were things I had never even offered myself.

WOW, right?!?

Anyway, with all of the drafts I’ve written or imagined, in all of the late nights, early mornings, middle of work meetings, dog walks, brushing my teeth, reading your blogs, just sitting here in my living room, rereading her email, I finally wrote my high school bully back. I kept it simple. I didn’t feel unsafe but I also felt the need for some reserve. The actual letter(s) that I have thought to write her would take months to read, so instead I tried something I rarely do: I attempted to stick to the point, to the facts, to the purpose (very much unlike my style here at jljj) and here’s how it turned out:

November 21 at 5:33pm

Hey Joanne,

What an amazing email just sitting and waiting for me in my inbox. Thank you. I actually received it several days ago but have felt so tongue-tied I haven’t written back yet. I still feel tongue-tied but wanted you to know how much I appreciate you writing me and everything you said. It means so much, I can’t figure out know how to express that properly. Maybe more than you could guess? Maybe not.

High school was most certainly not my favorite time in life. It was actually really difficult for me, terrible at times, and to be honest I didn’t know for sure that you knew this until your email. That email has lifted some heavy weights from some dark places and memories and I admire you for writing me as much as I feel thankful – which is a lot. I hadn’t thought about so much of it in so long, but when I look back and really think about all of the awfulness of being outed and then abandoned and then I read the email you sent me, I start to feel lighter and feel a balance that was never there before now.

I’ve always known that you were a good person, and I want you to know that. I was never mad at you, I just missed you – and I want you to know that too. It makes me really happy to hear that you made it through some hard places in your life and I hope, so much, that you are happy in your life.

xxxxx is telling the truth, I am doing well and have found a good life for myself that makes me feel really, really lucky every day. I’m in Seattle these days and if we’re anywhere near each other I would love to get together sometime and catch up.

Thank you, Joanne, for reaching out. It was more than welcome, and could never have come too late, that is for sure.

jesse

So, this is what happened. I never talk about it really. I wonder if Violet even knows the story. I would say that it’s because the story annoys me, but the truth, as annoying as it is to admit, is because it still stings.

So, here’s what happened.

I was in high school. I was lucky and had a pretty tight knit group of friends and quite a few really. I also had a girlfriend. This is the part no one knew about. She was more popular than me and was the best lesbo-cover-up a dyke in Smallmindednowhereville could ask for. She was smart and pretty and sweet and everyone loved her. Including me, obviously.

We started secretly dating each other our sophomore year. It was a funny and awkward progression into realizing that we were a couple. We didn’t actually talk about it for the first year of being together. The first time I tried to tell Marie that I was gay I decided to downgrade it a notch (in my mind) and say I was bisexual. But when I looked into her big beautiful blue eyes I knew. Every time. I knew that I was gay and she wasn’t. We were in love, don’t get me wrong. We were very, very in love but that didn’t change who we were. So, I looked her right in her big blue eyes and said, “Marie, I’m, I mean, well… I’m a bi…” when she jumped in and said, “What, jesse?!”

“I think I’m… well, um… a bicycle.” And then I said I had to pee, which I did, and that I would be right back ,which I was. When I got back to her room she said nothing and I said nothing. We said nothing about that again, until we did.

A few months later I tried again. At this point we had been a couple for a little more than a year. This time we were taking a walk around her neighborhood in the middle of the night. We use to sneak out of her parents’ house and go on walks together in the middle of the night so that we could hold hands. It was a big deal. Holding her hand filled me with more butterflies than kissing did. It was harder to do and because it was so difficult and risky, for some reason, it felt more intimate.

As we were walking, stepping around street lights I asked, “Remember when I was a total weirdo and told you I was a bicycle?” Marie said, “Ya, I didn’t know you were stoned until you said that. Whatever.” I put my head down and said, “I wasn’t high.” And in the same breath I said, “I’m gay.”

 Marie stopped so I stopped and we both sat on the curb together. Something about the stillness of sitting there in the dark with Marie’s hands all wrapped in mine made everything boiling inside of me  fall out and I started crying in a way that I never allowed myself to. I tucked my head into my hands and felt like I might have to sit like that forever. I felt so embarrassed and exposed and wrong and sitting next to the only person who really knew me, who loved me deeper than my whole being, I still felt alone. It took me years to realize how strange it was that the first person I ever came out to was my girlfriend.

So we were sitting on this curb a few blocks from Marie’s house at 2 am and as she wove my hands back into hers, she leaned in and put her head in my neck and whispered, “I know, jesse. You’re beautiful.” And I just sat there sobbing until I nearly fell asleep on the street as she rubbed my head.  There were a million more things I wanted to say and ask and it was the first time in my life that I felt like I couldn’t say any of it to her. Any of it. And some of it I never did. And when the night sky began to lighten we knew we had to go.

—–  —–  —–

This whole post is supposed to be about the shit I went through in high school, so, let’s jump a year. Junior year sucked the most. The more my relationship with Marie grew the more isolated I felt from the world around me. I was crazy in love and no one knew, except for Marie. I also hated that I was gay. It was a safe secret so it mostly seemed like another stupid problem that I really didn’t have time for. It felt scary, the potential of it. I saw what happened to the kids accused of being gay. It was not pretty and usually it was terrible and sometimes it was bloody and sometimes the accused just disappeared to another school in a different district, never to be seen or heard from again, ever.

So, here it is – the moment that started super-suckdom-of-all-suckyness-in-all-the-land:

Marie, most of my friends and I were at a slumber party at Sarah’s house. Marie and I went into the bathroom together to change into our pj’s. We started kissing. The part of this story that I didn’t know about for several months was that Sarah’s little brother had put a ladder up outside the bathroom window to be a perv and watch us change. Well, little brother got a whole lot more than a couple of training bras putting on pj’s, that is for sure. And so, the next day he told his sister. His sister, Sarah, and I were friends but as it should turn out our friendship was not as valuable as this new information and she began to tell our friends what her brother had seen.

I still don’t know how quickly this spread or exactly how, but it did and here’s how I found out:

I got to school about a half hour before classes started, like we all did every day to have our teenage social needs met first thing. I walked down the hallway, found my group of friends sitting where they always did and just as soon as I sat down three of them stood up and walked away. The one closest to me said this as she walked away, “Gross, I think she just touched my arm.”

[Writing this out is making me take some really uncomfortable breaths. Like I said earlier, I don’t talk about this because it sounds so trivial and teenaged and that compared to the way it can still sock me a good one in the gut 18 years later, that imbalance makes me feel silly and unadjusted with the world.]

So, they all got up and walked away, leaving me sitting there alone with a bright red face and empty lungs. My mind raced to come up with, invent, another reason for what was happening but I knew what was happening and if there was any way to wish yourself dead I wouldn’t be writing right now.

So, fast forward past all of the obvious repercussions of being me and outted against my will or want in Smallmindednowhereville, past the feeling of being totally isolated turned total reality and past all of my hatred for myself being promoted and validated by everyone that mattered all around me. Past starting to flunk out of school, drinking too much, too often, past the eating disorders, past the late night drunken plans to get out of this tiny awful world somehow: running away, killing myself or just hiding in every way possible, for as long as I possibly could until I turned 18 and then leave immediately (I went with the third option), past all of the bold face lies I told to the few friends that tried to stay true, that confronted me and said, “Just tell me. I don’t care, I just want to know.” Fast forward to now. To tonight.

I hadn’t figured out how to contribute to the It Gets Better Project and at this point had decided I wouldn’t, not in the forum it was happening anyway. I am an activist by nature and I have and do and will contribute, of course, I just didn’t think I would be writing this post.

But then, tonight, I got home and checked my personal email, like I do, and found an email with a name on it that I could say I vaguely recognized, but I would say that to save face and I would be lying. The name on this email is someone I haven’t spoken to in 18 years. Tonight, just now, I got an email from the girl in high school, my friend until that early Tuesday morning when we were all 15 years old and sleepy and needed each other so much that we made it a point to get to the one building we all wanted out of more than anything, even before we had to be there, so very early in the morning, just so we could see each other, because that was enough to make it until lunch, at the very least. This woman now, my friend until that morning, that got up as I sat down next to her, who looked me in the eyes and was suddenly disgusted that I may have touched her arm emailed me tonight. Just now. And here it is:

Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Subject: Hi…

Hi Jesse,

I hope this note finds you well. It has been a long time since I have seen you. I was looking through some old pics the other weekend and ran across some from our sophomore trip together. It reminded me of what great times we had together. I am pretty sure the first time I skipped school it was with you. Anyway, I really turned out to be a super shitty person the last couple years of high school.

I wanted to take a moment to apologize for my behavior and ignorance. Most of all for being so judgmental and saying hateful things. I hope you are happy, I get updates from xxxxxx now and again, and she says you are doing well. I am sorry it has taken me this long to write you. I assure you I have thought many times about reaching out to you, but worried that it was unwelcome. It may still be unwelcome, but I did want to thank you for being a great friend, and tell you I am sorry I didn’t turn out to be one for you.

Take care,

Joanne

So, in conclusion, I am a true believer, and very happy to quote Cher when I add that I am Living Proof, that this is no joke, folks:

It Gets Better. I promise.  

Thank you, Joanne, for your apology and for your kindness. These things can never come too late. And for the needed nudge to write this post.

With all of us sitting in a circle, in little plastic desks, in my old high school, there was a room full of young, springy attentive eyes, like all of the questions had all already been asked years ago and everyone was still waiting, with bated breath, for answers.

One of the two teachers that have (bravely and not without backlash) volunteered to watch over this club said, “Well, why don’t we start out by introducing ourselves.” I told them who I was and that I went to this school 40,000 years ago. They giggled. Marie introduced herself. And as the students went around saying their names and what grade they were in it was remarkable how easy it was to remember myself then- so unpolished and so young.

Two of the girls were blushing madly and couldn’t actually make eye contact with me while telling me their names. I remember that feeling too- how anything lesbian-ish at all would just set my chest on fire and make my already awkward existence even more awkward. Like the first time I heard that song, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” on the radio. I remember the moment exactly:

I was getting ready for school, adding mad amounts of Aqua Net hairspray to my long, long blond hair when this new song started playing on the radio. The song was good, I like it. And then, all of a sudden, Sophie B. Hawkins ever so stealthily slipped in this line, “I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear…” And I froze. I think my heart might have stopped and I know I stopped breathing. I absolutely could not believe what she just said! I was frozen like a statue of myself. I looked in the mirror, unable to move- I looked like the statue of liberty, holding a hairspray bottle over my head like a torch. And as accidental as that last reference was, hearing that line in that song woke up a deep, dark place in me that I didn’t even know about, and set something inside of me free. Something in me, in who I was, started to move, and I felt really, really alive… and terrified, in a good way. And now that I think about it, it might have been the first time I felt totally out of control of my body’s reaction to feeling sexual. I couldn’t not feel, let alone stop, that sharp electric ripple that whipped down through my spine and physically forced me to curl forward and wrap my arms around that weirdly-good nausea feeling that had gone off like a bomb in my tummy (that I would feel for the second time ever, kissing Marie for the first time later that same year.)

Ok, back to the meeting: There are ten or eleven students, a teacher, a guidance counselor, Marie and me (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.) After we all introduced ourselves, one boy, who I instantly adored, immediately raised his hand with a subtle swoosh while simultaneously asking me, “Ok, seriously, I need to know. Do you think your life has changed much since high school or not really so much?”

Marie and I both laughed a little. I responded, “Um, yes. I would say my life has changed very, very much since I went to this school.

A girl raised her hand and asked Marie how she knew me. We both knew this girl was really asking, “Why is this straight woman here?” Marie said, well, like I said, I am married to a man and have two kids now, right? But in high school I was dating jesse. She was my girlfriend for a long time actually, 4 or 5 years and the first person I was in love with.” And womp. Every. Single. Jaw. Fell. It was great. This was exactly why I wanted Marie to come with me.

“You mean, you were both gay in high school?!? Together!?!” A different girl asked, still unable to make eye contact. Marie nodded and explained that no one knew of course. “No one!” She said, “It was too dangerous. Can you imagine falling in love for the first time, or even having a really big crush on someone and not being able to tell anyone! Not your mom, your friends, no one.” Most heads shook side to side while a few kids made it obvious that, yes, indeed they do know how that feels.

The same boy that I totally adore raised his hand and said, “Here’s the deal. I’m Mexican, duh! And my mom knows I’m gay but I haven’t told my dad yet. And my mom always says that it makes her sad that I’m, you know, gay or whatever, cause she doesn’t want people to make my life hard. She says if I tell people I’m gay I’ll lose friends or not get jobs or get to live where I want to or whatever. She says that being gay or whatever is just going to be way hard. What do you think, jesse? Is it totally way hard? Does that stuff really happen?”

I had already decided, before this meeting, that I was only here to support these awesome kids, not to teach them really. They can teach each other but maybe I can help guide things a little. They already know a lot, they are very self aware and this is their club, their experience. But most likely they don’t have the language for a lot of things yet, that they might be thinking or trying to say, that I could help with. Like the question my sweet, fabulous boy just asked- there’s some internalized homophobia in there, right? And I don’t need to teach them vocabulary (yet!) or how to spell it, but just help them see what they already know a bit clearer. And, I had also decided that although I didn’t want to scare them, I was most certainly not going to lie – about anything.

So, I looked my fabulous favorite boy right in the eyes and said, “Well, let’s just be honest here, you worry about all of that too, right? I mean, your mom didn’t invent that worry – you think about that too and it’s freakin’ stressful, right?!” He and a few others nodded dramatically. And instantly his entire body language changed. I hadn’t said much of anything yet but all of a sudden his eyes softened and he just looked relaxed. And I realized right then, more than anything, that just by being there, just by sitting in this room with these kids, I was validating them. All of them. All of it. Not just their experiences or their confusion or fears or sexual identities – but all of it. I was proof that what they were going through was really, really hard and most importantly, that it was all very real.

I smiled at all of their sweet, attentive faces and took a deep breath. “So, here’s the deal. Here’s the truth. I have no idea how your life is going to go. But for me, in my life, I have lost friends after they found out I was gay. I have lost a job after I came out. And I know there are a few apartments I tried to rent and didn’t get because my roommate for a one bedroom was another girl. I know all of this for a fact.” And now I really had their attention. I was the adult that was telling them the truth and they were ready for whatever I had to say.

I took another deep breath and saw that even the two teachers were frozen, paying a sort of attention that I am not use to and I continued, “But here is what else I know for sure: I don’t have any place in my life for people that don’t want me. Yes, I have been surprised by a friend’s reaction and it totally hurt my feelings, a lot. But if someone doesn’t want to spend their time with me, for whatever reason – that is a big loss for them and what can I do about it anyway? I’m certainly not going to try and talk someone into liking me. And I will definitely meet other new people, the world is HUGE, let me tell you – it’s freaking HUGE- and I’ll make new friends, all of my life, and they’ll like all of me. My real friends celebrate and cherish who I am, all of me, because that is what friends do and I deserve that!.. And why would I want to rent a home that doesn’t want me in it? You know how many places there are to live?! I will find one that wants me. I always have. And I would NEVER EVER want to work for a job that doesn’t get how fabulous I am. I am totally fabulous and I deserve to work for a place that totally gets that”… at which point my sweet boy interrupts with a snap, “You are fierce, girl. So fierce!”

I laughed and continued, “So, here’s the deal, your mom might be totally right, about all of it or maybe none of it, we can’t know. She doesn’t know, she just obviously loves you a lot and wants the world to be good to you. But we also can’t live in this constant state of fear of rejection either or we’ll never get anywhere, right? I mean, you might not get a job because you’re Mexican or I might not get it because I’m a girl, or maybe they won’t like something else about us. There are a million different reasons that the world will come up with to come down on us and make things hard and being gay is totally up for grabs that way. So? What do you do about that?”

It took them a second to realize I was asking them a question. “Seriously, what do YOU do about that? What have you done? What can you do? You certainly wouldn’t be in this club if you weren’t trying to do something about that.”

The other blushed-girl started to mumble, “I think it’s just about exposure. Like, if you’ve never met a gay person then maybe you’re afraid of them or something- but I don’t know why. They’re just people too. It’s totally weird that people say such stupid stuff about people when they don’t even know.”

My brain was screaming, “AAAAAAH! You totally get it! You are right on top of the entire philosophy and structure of the perpetuation of discrimination!” My mouth smiled big, which made her blush ever harder, and I said, “I think it’s about exposure too, like getting information before you decide on something. I think you are totally right.”

And we talked about that for a while. We talked about a lot of things. These kids are on it, they are so so ready to do good work. They decided they want to start a “That’s so gay” campaign, where they would do something about stopping that expression from being used so often in a discriminatory way at school. We also talked about t-shirts for the club, that one girl suggested should all be different colors of the rainbow. They told me what it was like to go to this school now and how there was a lesbian couple who had applesauce flung on them while holding hands in the hallway. They didn’t know who Mathew Sheppard was, so Marie told them that story. They also didn’t know Ellen was ever not out. So, then we talked about coming out and what that had been like for different folks. We talked about a lot and my heart was swooning the whole way through.

As the meeting started to wrap up the students asked, in an adorable, desperate, whiny, puppy way, if I would, “Please, please, pleeeeease come to another meeting soooooon!.” And I was flattered and said that of course I would.

I also said, “Before you all leave, I just want you guys to be totally sure, in case you weren’t or were wondering at all, that you are totally incredible and you have changed the whole entire world by starting this club. I mean, the whole entire world is a different and better place, in a huge way, just because of you guys. You made my life better even before we met today, just by starting this club. And you will never know exactly how many people you make feel better, how many lives you help, but I promise you it is way more than even the highest number you could possibly come up with and it will only continue to get bigger. It is an absolute privilege to have met you all today and to have been invited to this meeting. You are all my personal heroes and I am so impressed with all of you, for who you all are. So, thank you, very much.” To which my favorite fabulous boy flippantly said, “You too girl.”

And as they all started to leave to catch the last school bus, my favorite, fabulous boy was leaving the room when he so perfectly put the gay icing on the gay cake, “And, jesse… girl, you got yourself some goooood hair, by the way. Seriously. Fierce.”

(Looking for the line? Go to 3:18)

rainbowrainbow

As I pulled up to my old high school and parked my brand new car in the visitor section, where a decade and a half ago I use to park a classic cherry red mustang that my step dad bought me, that I totaled flying through a red light many moons ago, because parking in this section was much easier to sneak past the security guard than anywhere else in the lot, I saw the huge prison like structure to my left. It was my old high school, that depressing gray-blue building that use to make every single weekday feel already haunted by bad memories sure to come, and I thought, “Holy shit. If ever there was such a sight.”

With my high school sweetheart, Marie, in tow, we walked towards the huge Venus fly trap front doors. It was 3 p.m. and school was out. At first I was confused as to why so many kids were just standing around until finally Marie reminded me that these young folks were waiting for their parents to pick them up. They couldn’t even drive yet. That made me laugh.

We walked into the office, where I once spent way too much of my time defending myself against actions that had just gotten me thrown out of class. My mouth said, “Can you please tell me which room the GSA meeting is being held?” My brain said, “Ya, we all know I’m the big ol’ faggot dyke looking for the queer kids and I KNOW you know that so let’s all just save our breath and skip the small talk here.”

It was hard for me not to feel angry. High school was one of the hardest chapters of my life and the anger that I left behind in this building was clearly still somewhere in it. I hadn’t realized I had any feelings about this place at all until I could see it while driving from several farm fields away and felt my pulse shoot into my throat. As soon as I stepped into the building it was palpable.

Once I was inside, to my surprise, the old dusty anger was clear. I could smell it. Somehow, after all of these years, my anger was still haunting in the echoes of all of the locker doors slamming open and shut. I could hear it. Or it was lingering in the stampede of jocks pushing their self-declared-entitlement through the halls to football practice. I could see it. Maybe my rage was lurking in all of the seconds between some kid calling another kid a ‘fag’ and the teacher that blatantly heard the slur letting it go. I could taste it. Regardless, I walked into that building and felt like I was looking for the safe room, in a labyrinth of endless hallways, for a little speck of safe space on an enormously unsafe shore, where even though I had my own keys to a get-away car now, that no security guard could keep me from anymore, I was in full defense, like I have written before, and practiced most of my life, I was ready to slip my self into a much, much thicker skin at the drop of a threat. I could feel it.

I have learned to sense it, this threat, with all five, individually.

I was on a mission though. I was going to meet the kids; the really young, amazing heroes that have set my heart into constant flutters that only certain Cher songs have ever created, kids that somehow found the courage to go against the thick, hard grain that the fields surrounding them have proven impossible to bend, that would let them out of this hell hole fairly easily if they just went along. But instead they chose to rise up amongst an entire ocean of ‘usual small town’ affairs with a big huge thunderous bang, with grand intention and inherent dignity, to humbly create the newest undeniable dent, ding, scratch, spark, bang, boom, bam into the unsure, unsafe, unpaved path of social change.

Listen closely please: These kids started a Gay Straight Alliance Club in my old high school, in the middle of Smallmindednowhereville, which is everywhere that doesn’t do that.

This is the kind of change that could have saved me from a million demons more than a few years back. These kids, that, as soon as I entered the room, would look up to me like I knew something, with no clue that I was there looking up at them like bright little pimple faced beacons of hope, saving a million queer ships in a second. They had no idea. Their sweet, incorrigible, ignorant, fearless, cotton candy teenage brains could not, in that moment, wrap around who and what they were to me right then – what they had done for the whole world – and maybe they never would. But right then, the hate and anger and fear and resentment that I have unknowingly been toting around with me for more than any of those students’ entire lives just fell off of me, just like that.

All of a sudden, I was free.

All of a sudden, all of that hope that I hear about, that I read about, that I have studied, that I have searched for in dark and in light places, that I have seen on the side of buses, the kind of hope that one recent man made loud and clear, “Yes. We. Can.,” the kind of hope that came free as a kid, where learning to ride a bike was just one more honest-try away, the kind of hope that let’s you fall asleep at night despite everything you can’t stop knowing, the kind we mindlessly sing along to with the radio, the kind that I dream about at night, all of the time, the kind I have kissed once or twice but just can’t always seem to find when I need it, the kind of hope that I’ve always suspected is somewhere near by, and that I keep hearing has been at arms length the whole time, just like that, found me.

And just like that…

BOOM.

There I was.

And there were those amazing kids.

And there we all were, in a room in my old high school, at a Gay Straight Alliance meeting, just staring at each other like, “Holy shit. If ever there was such a sight.”

**Click here for part 2: part 2: jesse james goes to the old high school’s new GSA club

In the last week, every single day for the last several days, there has been a web search that says something like, “why do they call me gay” and “why do they tell me I’m gay” and “why do they tease me [that] I’m gay” that has led to my blog somehow. It’s very likely that it was several different folks and several different searches, but my gut, for whatever reason, doesn’t think so. And I’m not sure how or why you clicked on my blog each time, but you’ve been here day after day this week, so, I’m writing this post to you, on the off chance that you’ll stop by at least once more.

To my ‘why do they call me gay’ googler,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot and wondering what your story is. I’ve made up in my head that you are a 9 or 11 or 13 or 15 year old kid in some small town who is waking up each morning dreading having to go to school a little bit more than the day before. My guess is that you are a really smart kid, but it’s getting harder and harder to focus on schoolwork with the name calling. Instead you are online asking google why the world is being so mean to you right now. You are probably confused about a lot of things and you are online trying to figure out what you are doing wrong.

This may be your story, or close, or I may be way off, but this is a lot of people’s story and that sucks. It’s my story (minus the invention of google – I use to take the bus three towns away and look for books about it in a library where I prayed no one would know me. And I’m not even old, so get over that idea!)

I grew up in a small town and started having a really hard time in high school once folks began accusing me of being gay. This teasing didn’t bug me or bother me; it terrified me and made my already totally confusing life way more confusing. I wasn’t sure if I was gay or not but when I started getting called ‘gay’, and folks were talking about me behind my back, teasing me, friends started acting weird or stopped talking to me, I became way more worried about being accused of being gay than if I thought I was or not. So, I started spending as little time in school as I could get away with. I was good at most sports and stopped playing all of them. I was first chair trumpet (that means I was top dog player, yo) and stopped playing all together. I got rockin’ SAT scores but barely graduated high school and didn’t even apply for college. I waited to turn 18 and got the hell out of my town.

***DO NOT DO THIS!***

A lot of people have this story, or something close to it. And that sucks. So I see your searches that has somehow brought you to this blog all week and my stomach sinks.

Clearly this is bugging you or confusing you and I really want to reach out to you somehow but I’m not sure how to. I don’t actually know your story. (For all I know you are a 60 year old trucker lady from Minnesota.) But if you are in school and you are getting teased I want something to happen or change for you and I bet you do too. And it can, it’s just a matter of figuring out what to do… but you probably already know that.

And if you are gay or you aren’t gay or you don’t know if you are or if you don’t even care about that stuff anyway, and people are giving you a hard time and calling you names, any names, just so you know: You aren’t doing anything wrong and you don’t deserve to be teased or bullied or called names  that make you feel bad or uncomfortable! Ever, ever, ever, in your whole life you never ever need to put up with that!!!

(A really important side note to all of this would be, of course, that being gay isn’t a bad thing. I am totally gay and totally fabulous and I know a TON of gay and fabulous people, but I don’t think that is the main point in this case.)

What I wanted in high school was for someone to help me somehow. I wanted to talk to someone about things but I was way too scared and didn’t know who I could trust. Even though the teasing and the rumors about me were really hurting me I felt like I needed to keep my feelings a secret for some reason. I thought that if I told someone about it things might get worse somehow. And there wasn’t anyone I really trusted at my school to talk to.

And maybe you don’t feel like there is anyone you can talk to at school, or maybe you want to talk to someone who doesn’t know who you are? Well well well! I just found the coolest place for you to call!!! … or, get ready for this!!!… You don’t even have to call, you can just go on their website and chat with someone online!!!

Here’s the info:

Youth Talkline (for ages 25 and under but they will totally talk to you if you are older)

Phone: 1-800-96YOUTH  (1-800-969-6884)

Website: youthtalkline.org and click on “online peer support chat”

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (west coast time) (that’s 8p.m. to midnight on the east coast) and sometimes they answer a bit earlier than that.

Or, if you are over 25 and want to talk to the same awesome organization call this number instead: 1-888-843-4564

 

I just talked to a guy at the Youth Talkline, youthtalkline.org, who was super nice and he said that even though the name of the place on the website is GLBT (which stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) no one that works there cares if you are any of those things or totally straight or you don’t know what you are or you are blue or purple or tall or fat or blond or whatever.

And they will talk or chat with you about whatever you want to in total privacy. He also said they have over 15,000 different resources of different people and places all over the country that might be able to help you out regarding all sorts of stuff. These people will just talk to you about whatever is on your mind, and you don’t even need to tell them your name if you don’t want to. They sound like they know a lot and probably have some good ideas on how to help you out.

And whatever, whoever, however, wherever you are if you want to talk or ask me questions just email me, jessejamesblog@gmail.com, and we can get in touch. I would love it. (I’m the only one who reads my email!) And if I’m not who you need/want to talk to and those numbers above aren’t the right fit, maybe I can help you find a better fit.

Also, just so you know, I’m really sorry that whoever is calling you gay is making you feel confused about why they are saying that. And if they are hurting your feelings I’m really sorry you are getting your feelings hurt.

And even though we don’t know each other, do me a favor, go to a mirror, point your finger at yourself and say this as loud as you want to (it’s long, you might want to write it down first):

NONE OF THIS NAME CALLING CRAP IS MY FAULT AND I AM NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG! I AM AWESOME AND FABULOUS. I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE CALLED NAMES OR TEASED OR BULLIED OR MADE TO FEEL BAD OR SCARED OR UNCOMFORTABLE BY ANYONE AT ANY TIME EVER, EVER, EVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE… EVER!!! I DESERVE LOVE AND KINDNESS AND RESPECT AND NOTHING LESS!!! AND IF THEY DON’T KNOCK IT OFF JESSE JAMES WILL KICK THEIR BUTTS!!!

OK, that last sentence isn’t true and is actually a really, really bad idea!!! We’re working towards peace here… no butt kicking necessary.

Get in touch with that youth talk line (youthtalkline.org) and see how it goes, you have nothing to lose – or get in touch with me, but get in touch with someone, ok?! A lot of folks care about you and really don’t want you to be having a hard time. I don’t even know who you are and I’ve been thinking about you all week. I care about you.

So, that’s all I got for now, which isn’t a lot for this much writing.

Take good care of yourself, buddy. I’ll be thinking about you.

jesse james

My name is Jesse James and this website is just like me. read more about me

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