Daine Grey finally found love, acceptance and support at the Queer Resource Center nestled within the City College of San Francisco.
As a 22-year-old gay trans man, it made sense why he was drawn to a warm, affirmative place — a place where it was okay to be gay, terrific to be trans and where love is love is love is love. He had only come out as trans the past fall, knowing it might tip some of his family and friends over into hatred and disgust as, you know, it’s one thing to be gay … but trans??
And he was right: His family disowned him. But he found and cultivated his chosen family at the Queer Resource Center, where he was loved and accepted unconditionally.
As summer came, his safe place closed for the school break. I imagine the old aching feelings of loneliness, fear, and hopelessness returned and, sadly, Daine committed suicide last month. His parents refused to claim his body and lay their son to rest; he was rejected in death as in life. His chosen family rallied and raised over $22,000 to give him a proper burial so he could rest in peace.
I understand at least some small part of the pain Daine and many other queer kids feel. I understand how some days it takes every effort to hold on in a world that sees you as perverted, disgusting and even an abomination.
I was different on so many levels and across so many identities. The deepest, darkest difference that I was terrified to admit even to myself was that I was a lesbian. I was gay. I was attracted to girls. It made all of the other differences seem miniscule. Growing up was hard. I was asked to leave home and I moved from place to place; no-one wanted a struggling, obese, red-headed, adopted, immigrant, queer little girl who was coming to terms with her burgeoning female body and her romantic feelings toward other girls.
It wasn’t until my early twenties when, like Daine, I found my tribe — my chosen family — and I began to blossom. Finding community opened the door to experience an alternate adolescence in a community where difference meant strength. Uniqueness was celebrated. Differences meant that I had survived and now I could thrive. And, indeed, I did.
I discovered during that second growing up that I wanted to be a counselor. I wanted to help all those queer little kids gritting their teeth and fighting through the pain of being different and, then, as grownups needing to heal and learn to how to love themselves. I did this work in the dark days when a disease ravaged our community and was seen by many as a proof that who we were and who we loved was indeed an abomination. I did this work through my teaching and practice, patiently affirming the validity and beauty of sexual minority individuals, couples and families. And I did this work through service as a leader at both the local and national levels — steadfast and unwavering, never budging from the firm belief that the differences facing sexual minorities were magnified by societal prejudice and bias that, to this day, still has very little patience for people who are left-handed, let alone differently gendered or affectionately oriented.
As we prepare to celebrate Pride in Santa Barbara, I am setting forth a call to action. It is up to all of us to embrace our queer brothers and sisters a well as our allies so that we survive and learn to thrive. Stand up and be that one person who affirms all lived experiences and loves others just for who they are. Those touch points contradict the internal and external messages that scream that sexual minorities are sick and perverted.
We need our allies, our families and chosen families to stand with us. Doing so helps to combat the ubiquitous negativity so we can love ourselves and love others, and bring healing to others so that maybe, just maybe they can decide to hang on and stay here a little longer. Love really is the answer. Love is love is love is love.
Dr. Colleen Logan is director of the master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Fielding Graduate University, an official sponsor of the Pacific Pride Festival.