Not until nearly three decades into my life could I begin living as my complete self. My journey out of those early years from shame into pride and defiance evolved the way people often come into our own, through movements for social change.
For over 5 years, I co-facilitated workshops bringing together LGBTQ youth and elders. Such a blessing this time spent with youth who shared stories of their lives and filled me with hope and delight. Our LGBTQ history is rarely part of any textbook a youth might discover in a classroom – certainly not one with individual stories about gay elders’ encounters and experiences.
Through our Intergenerational Storytelling Project, we explored our hopes and fears as people of different generations, races, and social classes. We cultivated trust with each other and unearthed our prejudices. Yet, each session ended with an affirmation of our bond and we made sure everyone felt supported. During our times of youth and elders together, we became one another’s heroes and heroines. We encouraged ourselves to hold onto our dreams and visions. We pledged as youth and elders to go forth and make a better world.
We make our history by writing our stories, organizing, and bringing change. There are thousands of stories of our actions, yet, we rarely hear or read about them. Knowing about people’s victories inspires us. Passing along our stories – telling our moments of victory, the times when people’s love shines through, times when we stand together in tears of joy at winning a struggle – these stories lift us up and take us through times of doubt or despair.
Our personal histories and lessons linked to the present can connect youth and elders, might encourage, inspire, and expand activism in our communities. Personal journeys told through the voices of activists who witnessed the cultural, social, and political changes of the time, make history alive and relevant to today. Our life stories connect us and give us kinship.
We all must know our culture in our bones, understand that we contribute, and obtain recognition and respect rather than tolerance. I hope my memoir will generate more personal stories that reach across and unite our generations.