How Can I Help Others?

I got another great email this week from a 17-year-old girl from Texas. I wanted to share it along with my answer, in case it is useful to anyone else.

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My name is xxxxxxxxxxxx. I am 17 years old, a junior in high school in Texas, and I’ve also been out as a lesbian since I was 11 years old. I know you receive emails like this constantly and I honestly don’t expect you to read this, but you are, so great thanks to you.

What I wanted to tell you about what how I commend you on your specific writing styles and ideas. I’ve read both Openly Straight and Out Of The Pocket, and I am currently using Out Of The Pocket for an English project. You have surprised me with your stories quite a bit.

Most of my gay friends are isolated, sort of in an “outcast” group. I could never do that growing up. I am a loud kid who is also athletic, making me outgoing. Being on sports team and so overly loud, I have gained a lot of popularity and I have always wanted to further help kids like me be comfortable in their skin. Your books reflect my life so well and you’ve helped me handle certain aspects of being gay that I didn’t know how to approach before. I want to ask you, how was coming out for you? Your books are so interesting and the main characters in the two I’ve read have had to deal with coming out, but from reading your Q&A’s, you aren’t much like your characters. I want to know, if you’re comfortable sharing, what it was like for you to become who you are.

Personally, I fortunately don’t deal with much hate. But I know so many kids like me do and I feel like it’s kind of my niche as a gay kid who is also very popular among kids who typically are ignorant to the gay lifestyle, to inform those kids who don’t know, and don’t appreciate, the dignity of kids like me. I feel like I could make teen-aged life a bit of a better place, and I want your help. You have made so many people comfortable with homosexuals just by information. Can you help me, maybe give me some advice on how to handle bullying situations, or how to approach shy gay kids who need guidance? I have been looking into speaking at support groups and whatnot but I haven’t found anything in my area.

Mr. Konigsberg, you are a big idol to me and I think you can give me some advice that can really help me and other kids in situations you and I have both been through. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I sincerely hope to hear back from you.

Dear xxxxxxxxxxxx,

Thank you so much for your great email!
So let me get to answering your questions. I don’t have a ton of time but I want to write something useful to you!

First off, my coming out. My coming out took place almost 30 years ago, and it was a different time. We didn’t have gay characters on TV, and I didn’t even know of any gay characters in books. I felt very alone. I thought there was no one else in the world who understood, and I felt like a freak. So first I was sad, and then I got angry. I got in the faces of a lot of people who I felt were hypocritical, or judgmental of me and people like me. I wrote a play in high school, along with some friends, about LGBT issues and racial issues and gender issues. It helped me and it helped some other people.

But I guess the one ting I would say is that if I had to do it all over again, I would have focused on how I felt about me, rather than how everyone else felt about me. To be happy in this world, the most important thing is to be happy in your own skin. It sounds like you are happy in your own skin, and that’s everything. Trust me. People who aren’t happy in their own skin wind up with addictions, and lots of drama in their lives. To live a peaceful life, we have to get good with who we are.

So maybe I’d say if you want to help other kids, treat them with love and respect. Help them see what’s beautiful about them. Instead of getting in the faces of any people who are bullies, spend your energy befriending those who are bullied. If they’ve been told their worthless, show them that they have worth. Tell them that. If they’ve been told they are sick and perverted, show them that there are other people just like them and that tell them that they most certainly aren’t perverts.

Do you get where I’m going here? To me, the best way to make a difference in this world is to learn to love ourselves, and to help others love themselves.

Best,

Bill Konigsberg
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