18 & Gay
When I signed up to do this, I honestly thought it would be so easy. But with most things, I signed up, forgot, then remembered, and then forgot again. With a opening as brief as this one, what possible thing could I have to say that would mean anything to anyone? So here goes.
I struggle every day with how to be gay. I understand that even as a 31 year old, it’s okay to still be figuring it out. Everyone’s journey is different, right? (Note that my use of right is purely for emphasis of not entirely believing it myself.)
For the best part of the end of last year, and still even now, I began a process of creating a new theatrical work through interviews with gay men. 2019 is World Pride and what a better way to mark it with a look back and forward, right? This verbatim theatre piece would be made up of fifty interviews, with fifty gay men, from 1969-2019. One man, for each year, to discuss where he was at on his 18th year of life in terms of his gayness.
I set out to look for differences, but what I found instead was how connected we all were, so much more than I realised. The years may pass, the acceptance of society may alter. Rights are given. Rights are refused. But one thing which remains the same is a shared personal discovery…no matter at what age. This then opens us up to a new community, a new world, and a space to truly be ourselves.
I accept that this is not the case for all members of the LGBTQ community. It can be difficult. It can be soul destroying. So in keeping with that, I’d like to offer some wisdom from the men who I spoke to, in the hopes that if you are a young person coming to terms with who you are, you are not alone. We are here for you.
1. Be Kind
Not only to others, but to yourself. If you can, navigate coming out on your terms. It doesn’t have to be rushed. And if your agency has been taken by others, your personal discovery will still only be yours and yours alone.
2. Find your people
You may be living in small town hell, or big city heaven, but there are people out there who want to know you. Who have experienced a similar journey. You will find them, and whatever road you take to do so, will be the right one at that time.
3. Remember our past
Coming out can be an explosion. It can be a small fizz. But no matter how it’s done and when, do not forget those who died so we could. Do not forget those who continue to be persecuted because we can. We are beneficiaries of everyone lost. Learn it, love it. And tell it to everyone.
4. You are different
There are many members of the community who would rather be indistinguishable from our heterosexual counterparts. To those members, I ask: Why? We are not the same. We are all unique and should celebrate it. Lift up queer artists, support queer events, create space for us in the world so that others can share in it, revel in it and live in it. Our community is rich with history; some sad, but honestly most of it fucking fabulous. So enjoy it, if you can. And help those who can’t wherever possible.
I had hoped to finish this project by this year, but with many projects, it became bigger than I imagined. If you’re interested in learning more, or would like to take part, please complete the form and I will get in touch to chat further.
And remember, if you ever feel low, there are places and people who will and want to listen. I have learned how to be gay for me, and for me, it’s being fucking fabulous.
JD Stewart is a gay Scottish writer and performer. He received his MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, ‘17. He is writer/performer of his acclaimed one man show, GAY BOY. He was shortlisted for the Theatre Uncut Political Playwriting Award, is a recipient of a Dewar Arts Award for Scotland, 2016 and is the Executive Story Editor for the upcoming web series, Tech Bae (created by Fikile Kani).