Previously I posted about producing an "It Gets Better" video for Venango County. Since then a number of people have agreed to be interviewed. And last Saturday, I met Cale who responded to my post. He is a Venango County native now attending Slippery Rock University; my alma mater.
He's a very thoughtful, bright young man and his interview reflects it. I so appreciate his reaching out and taking time to talk. It reminded me of how important it is to hear one another's stories.
One of his comments has resonated this week. It was about how important straight allies are and how often they will quietly say they are with us, then follow with a comment that they know many are not. Polls across the country - and I wager Cale's and my own experience - are telling us otherwise. Many are allies. Many believe in varying degrees of equality and many are actually beginning to feel safe to say so.
Just 5 or 6 years ago, I did not know what Cale knows now. He is experiencing acceptance as an openly gay man. He's in a fraternity and can take a boyfriend to events. He has simply opened up and stood tall. I admire him so and am excited to know about his experience.
Finding his way - getting comfortable with himself - came after he left Venango County.
That also resonates with me. Part of that is simply growing up. But part of that is finding safe spaces that are not readily available in Venango County. He noted PFLAG as the first place he found safe space. We have no PFLAG here. And not long ago, I had a friend seek my help in finding a support group for a friend of his struggling with coming out. I could only refer him to PFLAG elsewhere.
So what about Venango County now? Are there allies? Emphatically, I can say YES. I am surrounded by them. Wonderful friends who have let me know that they accept me for who I am - for my heart - for my talents - for my ethics - and value whom I choose to love. I hope some of them will offer words of encouragement for Venango County LGBT people who may not have learned that they are out there and do believe we are equally able - equally qualified to have all rights in our community.
We just need to talk. We need to build trust. We need to work side by side. We need to build understanding. Cale and my allies remind me that it is here. Silence is being broken in Venango County. Breaking the silence is breaking misunderstandings. We have work to do together. It is Better - It Gets Better the more we work together. Tell your story. Be part of a positive change.