What has being kicked out meant for you?
I find that my experiences, especially my kicked out experience, have not only helped shape my life, but have been a struggle to analyse as well. Figuring out what happened in those few moments and the lifetime that lead up to them has been the challenge of my life and taken a lot of my emotional energy. The hardest thing was trying to conquer the victim mentality that has the potential to shade out reality and cause me to ignore other peoples’ stories. One thing special about this book is that it puts our narratives in perspective and helps give a sense of how important our stories are to us and the need for someone to hear them. I have to say that although I did not anticipate the events of my life, I have enjoyed the ride and the discovery they have brought with them.
What role has art and writing played in your life, and how do you see that as part of community building?
Reading other autobiographical narratives and seeing bits of my story played out in movies has given me an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie with my fellow human beings. Reading someone’s story, or seeing an adaptation of life on film, helps me put my life into focus. Listening to others and trying to see life through their eyes has changed the way I perceive the world.
What has being part of the Kicked Out anthology meant to you?
The anthology has really helped humble me and make me yearn for social change. If anything our stories teach, it should be that our stories should not exist. The people in this country who claim to care most about their families should read this, and maybe they would realize that families are what you make them to be. Whether you were born into a family or found one by chance in life, the relationships take work. No relationship can work unless the parties listen to each other. You cannot tell your children, or anyone, that you love them, while at the same time telling them they need to change a part of their identity. “I love you,” and, “You are going to hell,”cannot coexist in a relationship. I really hope the message these stories are sending makes it to the people who need to hear it the most. Our stories should be warning to questioning parents who read. I hope we can be the admonishing Christmas Spirits to those Scrooges who need to know what they are missing out on.
What are three things people don’t realize about being kicked out?
- Being kicked out is often a lot more complicated than simply being shown the door. Often parents don’t even know when they are kicking their children out. It is so ingrained in their minds that their children, no matter what age, do as their told. Sometimes people cannot simply follow orders or take the logical choice in an ultimatum, the one that involves food and shelter, people need to know they are loved as they are and that they are wanted somewhere. When a child finally realizes that they are not wanted the way they are, and they realize they cannot change, the relationship is over. It doesn’t matter if there never comes a physical estrangement, their minds, hearts, and souls will always be the prodigal child with no hope to return.
- Sometimes you have to get kicked out more than once and it takes a lot of strength. After being kicked out the longing for family and the need to feel you belong can be crushing and overwhelming. LGBT youth experience similar emotions as battered women. Children will take a huge amount of abuse and for a long time, and it will build up. Parents are lucky when their children just disappear in the night, instead of winding up dead. We all escaped alive, if barely so, but many never make it out. Love your children while you can.
- Finding a new family is hard, but rewarding. My gay dad and I had a very difficult time at first. The community didn’t like us and people didn’t understand that even though I was a bit older I still wanted someone to love me as a parent. Love is hard though. It takes a lot of work. The work brings joy, though, and the rewards are great.
What is one message about homeless LGBTQ youth you hope people take away from reading Kicked Out?
We are everywhere. There are a ton of people who wouldn’t even say they were kicked out, but who could not face the pain their parents inflicted upon them so they left. Parents: do not assume your child is going to be exactly what you want them to be. Your expectations for their futures should be that they be happy and that you are part of that happiness. Children: Don’t grow bitter hating your parents. As stupid as it sounds, they had a hard choice and may not have known the consequences of their actions. Be honest with your parents. If there is one thing I have learned through all of this and from listening to others, it is that if you don’t tell people who you are, they won’t know. If they don’t know, you can never be certain that they love you and you will never have the fulfillment and satisfaction of knowing. Even if they choose not to accept you, the alternative of knowing and being able to deal with it is much preferable to the darkness and uncertainty of spending every holiday wondering if you are actually loved. Parents: One last note: you cannot love your child and reject a part of them, whatever your beliefs, whatever you try to tell yourself, telling your child that part of them is ugly or should be changed will only bring despair to all involved. Love your child sincerely. Be honest with them, but be very delicate. They experience abuse everywhere else in the world, when they experience it at home as well, their choices are only death, despair, or starting a new life.