Over this past weekend, my high school class celebrated our 50th reunion, which was delayed due to COVID. Yep, 50. At the time we graduated, turning 70 was such a foreign concept. But now that we’re here, well…
I missed so many of my reunions, mainly because I moved out of state. On this go-around, I became part of the reunion planning committee. From being an introverted nerd in high school to the out and proud LGBT/SGL man I am today was quite a change. One of the things I learned in life is that when I change, everything around me changes. We as the planning committee got to know each other better and we connected over such things as retirement, health, children, and grandchildren.
Overall, the energy was overwhelmingly positive during the festivities over the weekend. We as classmates worked together well, and we had so much fun. There were some classmates I hadn’t seen in 50 years, yet we had so much to share about who we were back then, and who we are now.
Trust and believe, the LGBT contingent of my class was represented as we lived our truth. Diversity, camaraderie, inclusion, and welcoming was ever present. On many levels, we had that in our graduating class long before it became fashionable. Granted, we who are LGBT didn’t come out until after high school (that was, after all, 1970), but our classmates have since evolved with age, wisdom, and life experiences, and I value them as friends and allies.
I look back at my 17-year-old self, the one who wasn’t out and thought he was the only Black LGBT student in school and the community—at least, until an early LGBT rights group came to our school to speak in my civics class during my senior year. What are the things I would tell him?
The first is something some people scoff at or feel hopeless about, but it does get better over time. I would also tell him to live his truth and not let anyone make him feel less than as a person because of who he loves. I would tell him to demand respect. I would tell him that he is never too old or too young to follow his dreams. I would tell him that change may not happen immediately, but it happens. I would tell him to remember that what he gives is what he receives.
And of course, looking back now as a husband and a father, I would tell my 17-year-old gay teenage self to believe in dreams and never give up.