The True Meaning of Patriotism

If I’ve learned one thing on my trip around the United States, talking to LGBTQ youth about coming out and suicide and depression for The Trevor Project, it’s the fact that the concept of unity in this country is an impossibility.

How do we unite:

The 18-year-old gender fluid person of color in Little Rock who has three current partners but really considers themselves only sexually attracted to themselves, and

The older white gentleman in St. Louis who said he liked E. Lynn Harris because he didn’t blame whites for racism, and

The older black gentleman who heard this comment and said, “It’s interesting that you said that…”, and

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Hot Headed in Houston

So here’s what happened when I visited a high school in Houston.

It’s been an interesting tour so far! At moments, I’m keenly aware that I am doing important work. Then, at others–often when I’m driving–my brain takes over.

No one knows who you are, it tells me.

These kids think you’re OLD.

You’re kidding yourself if you think talking to such a relatively small number of kids is going to make a difference.

But then I remember the butterfly’s wings, and how we don’t really know who we impact, and I feel better. A little, anyway!


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The Dialogue: An old, cisgender guy meets a group of trans teens

What follows is the transcript of a fascinating conversation I had Tuesday night with a group of transgender teens at the Oasis Project in Nashville called TYME (Trans Youth Meet to Empower)

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I started this journey with a subpar understanding of what transgender really meant, and I’m in the midst of a fast and wonderful education. I want to share that with you, so that maybe you can learn some things from these amazing kids, too. If questions come up for you, I suggest you work to continue this conversation. We learn by asking each other respectful questions. I still don’t know that I fully “get it,” but I’m trying.

In the dialogue, I am ME, and the teens are T. T is not for trans, but for “They,” a pronoun a majority of the teens feel comfortable with. Instead of naming particular speakers, I offer their words as a sort of Greek Chorus.

Finally: Snaps are the group’s way of applauding. They snap.

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The thing about traveling the country for a month by car is that you feel very alone.

You aren’t with your family and friends, the people who love you. You know they’re there, but they aren’t there, if that makes sense. You look around the coffee shop where you’ve set up to work for the day, and you think, “does anyone here really know what I’m going through? Does anyone care?”

You think about ways to numb the loneliness. You could do any number of things. That cinnamon roll looks pretty damn good. Is there a casino somewhere in Texas? Should you find a bar? But nah. You’ve been around the block a few times. You know where those answers will lead you.

So you sit with the feeling that’s nipping at your gut, and you breathe. And you breathe some more. And you realize it’s just a feeling, it isn’t reality. You’ll be fine.

The thing about coming out when you’re a teenager is that you feel very alone.

Even if you have wonderful parents and friends and you know you’re loved, they’re not on the inside of this journey with you. They’re there, but they aren’t there, if that makes sense. You look around the cafeteria and you think, “does anyone here really know what I’m going through? Does anyone care?”

You think about ways to numb the loneliness. You could do any number of things. There are drinks and pills and websites that could make you feel better, for the moment. You haven’t been around the block a few times.You don’t really know yet where those answers will lead you.

The more you sit with that feeling gnawing at your gut, the more you become sure that this is more than a feeling–it’s reality. And you’re not sure if you will be fine.

Tonight, as The Trevor Project Awareness Tour with Bill Konigsberg kicks off in Dallas, please let me funnel my energy into impacting the life of at least one teenager who knows what this feels like. Please help me find a way to let her know that she is NOT alone. Any feeling of loneliness or shame or sadness that a human being feels is NOT unique. Millions of people have felt the very same feeling, and in that way you’re not alone, not in the least. And neither am I. We are bound by so much, and sometimes the answer is to reach out and let others know how we’re feeling. Lonely. Sad. Unsure we can make it. Whatever it is. Because by reaching out, we may get the strength to realize we can survive, and thrive. And that we will.

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Rules for the Road


I’m heading out on The Trevor Project Awareness Tour with Bill Konigsberg on Friday!

I’m excited and nervous. I have never taken a 5,000-mile driving trip before. When I start in the south (Dallas in early September), it will be summer. When I end (Minnesota in October) it’ll be chilly. I have to take two full suitcases to be prepared for all that. I’m gonna have to figure out doing laundry on the road, when I have a pretty full schedule. I have one day when I have a 7-9pm event in Bloomington, Indiana, and a 7am flight the next morning out of Indianapolis. This quick turnaround, along with packing for a trip during a trip, and leaving a rental car at the airport, and–you get it–has me feeling … a bit overwhelmed.

Here are some of my goals as I approach this new experience.

  1. To be fully present for each presentation. Sometimes when you get comfortable presenting, it becomes possible to “phone it in.” My goal is to be fully available and connected for every single visit. I want LGBTQ youth to know that I care, because I do, deeply. The challenge here is being open to hearing and empathizing with the pain that some of these kids are dealing with. It’s easier to put up a wall, but I vow to keep my wall down, even if it becomes emotionally exhausting.
  2. To smile at strangers and engage people along the way. At restaurants, at hotels.
  3. To do interesting activities everywhere I go (when time permits). I plan to hit the Clinton Library in Little Rock, and tour Music Row in Nashville. I know there will be a temptation to sleep afternoons away in hotel rooms, and I do want to make sure I get my rest, but this opportunity is too good to pass up.
  4. To sing along at the top of my lungs to Ben Folds and James Taylor and Fleetwood Mac, even if the windows of my rental car aren’t tinted.
  5. To make at least some of my car snacks healthy. Okay. Healthy-ish.
  6. To call family and friends from the road so that I stay connected.
  7. To blog about my travels, weekly for Huffington Post’s Gay Voices blog, and more frequently on my own blog.

That’s all I have for now. I hope you’ll follow my journey!

Oh yeah: I’m raising funds for The Trevor Project during this trip. Please consider donating today!

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I’m so excited to announce that I’m hitting the road this September, visiting 18 locations through the South and Midwest. The tour, called The Trevor Project Awareness Tour with Bill Konigsberg, will raise funds for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Specifically, all funds raised will benefit TrevorSpace, a safe social networking site for LGBTQ youth ages 13 through 24 and their friends and allies.

For more information on the tour, click here.

To donate, click here.

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Shame, or the sportswriter who wouldn’t talk to me

As you may know, before I wrote books for teens, I was a sports writer and editor, first at ESPN and, and then at The Associated Press.

By the time I got to The Associated Press, I was already openly gay, having come out at in an article entitled “Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays” back in 2001. I made no effort to conceal my sexual orientation, and at the AP in New York, where I worked, it didn’t seem to be a big issue. When Esera Tuaolo came out, I got the interview. When there was an article about gays in sports, I was the point person. It was fine.

There was, however, one guy. He was a longtime sports writer, and I worked with him for three years, often just a seat or two away from him where all the sports editors sat.

I won’t name him, as it doesn’t matter. And this isn’t about shaming him. It’s about exploring my own shame.

I worked with him for more than three years, and in that time, he never said a word to me.

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