My room is dark. The purity of the silence of the night is shattered by the ringing of the phone. In the blackness I answer the phone to hear a desperate voice at the other end talking about not being able to take it anymore. Instantly I know who it is and I have a vivid picture of where the call is coming from. It is a small room with the bare essentials, but one that serves its purpose well. One that I also know has a shotgun in it. Instant, overwhelming fear grips my soul as I know the meaning of the words just spoken.
This isn't the first phone call of this type I had ever gotten. My friends seem to know they can reach out to me in their darkest times. I try to help, I try to offer advice as appropriate, and I try to give a new perspective on their situation... but mostly I listen. Mostly that is all that is needed. Acknowledgment of the feelings and the pain.
So I breathe in, mostly for the courage to build to speak the right words to quell the desperateness at the other end. I inquire as to what has happened to get to this point. As the story unfolds, the theme becomes clear. Acceptance from the all important family is long in coming and in fact, rejection is looming on the horizon. The familiar phrases are tossed about..."No child of mine...," "It's just a phase..." "You'll grow out of it..." But it isn't a phase. Not by a long shot. There have been many sleepless nights devoted to hoping it was a phase, if only to make life simpler. But no. It is what it is. And no amount of wishing will make it go away.
And so after a particularly heated familial discussion, I was suddenly in the position of trying to convince my friend that self inflicted death isn't the answer. I could have talked about how there is so much to live for or how the act will only succeed in hurting more people and not solve the problem. As I recall the conversation, I think I probably did say those things too. But what was needed was to listen to the pain. To have someone hear of the feeling of being stripped down to nothing by people that should, by all accounts, always love you. To have those intense emotions validated. To finally allow a feeling of self worth slowly creep back in because no one, not family, not friends, not strangers, no one has the right to viciously attack another person and make harsh judgments about other people or their lifestyle, just because they might be 'different' from the norm. In listening, I allowed a transition to take place. A transition from a place of darkness and feelings of worthlessness, to a place of strength, and self righteousness.
It was a long night. I remember the crisp feel of the air as I stepped out of my car and walked into the house so that I could physically make a connection and finalize the transition back to a world in which friendship, acceptance and love would overcome the thoughtlessness and the ignorance that led to the phone call in the first place.
Years have gone by since that night, but the memory is still vivid. The intensity of the emotions that were felt because of the words that were said is still palpable to me, even now. I couldn't imagine why a family would think it was okay to say mean and hurtful things, to say threatening things, in an attempt to change one of their own into something they felt was acceptable.
Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered isn't a phase. It isn't an experiment. It is part of many people.
Being lesbian isn't the thing that defines me, it is just a part of me.