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Our True Words Are Powerful Things

Last week, I finally wrote my piece in response to the It Gets Better Project. I sat on the idea of writing it for a long time, unsure of how to talk on this website about my experience, because, while I've written about my gender and sexuality here before, this site has become increasingly more public to friends and family over the last year. In the end, though, I knew that I had to do it, no matter what judgement I might feel from friends, family, and the internet at large, because, although I am happy and comfortable in my own skin now, this was not always the case, and I would have given anything to see myself reflected in the world like this in my teens and twenties.

Stupid cold 2

And so, I wrote about how hard it was while I was hidden and about how much better life is now that I'm on the other side of the closet:
I didn't really start talking about the real truth of who I am until I was in my thirties, and, even now, I don't mention it very often. Coming out, though, writing it down and being open about my identity and experiences, has been nothing short of liberating. I have shifted from someone who felt unworthy and invisible to someone who feels and is worthy and seen.

I am beautiful, and I am loved, and I am here fully in this life in a way that I only dreamed of when I hid what I once thought of as my great sickness but I now know is the gorgeous fact of my personhood and humanity.
As much as I received a lot of positive feedback on that entry, though, time passes quickly on the internet, and it doesn't take long before you feel like your message has been buried and forgotten. I learned today that this is only partially true.

Some of what we write here does get lost under the reams of content we pour into the internet every day, but some of it sticks with people and gets carried further while we're not looking. Some of it keeps going in conversations in middle schools in Iowa, which you find out through an email from a friend:
I was at a girlfriend's house the other night talking with her, another friend, and her 14-year old daughter. The subject of sex came up and then homosexuality and cross dressing. Ultimately, we started talking about the myth of choice and stereotypes.

I brought up your story and the way you have described sexuality and gender as being on two different spectrums. That analogy has always been so powerful for me, and I could tell it made a lot of sense to them.

The next day my [friend] relayed something her daughter had said. She said talking to me really opened her mind up and she went to school and talked about it with her friends.

Middle school kids in small town Iowa are having a better conversation about gender and sexuality this week because you shared your story. Perhaps someone at their lunch table will recognize themselves, or maybe they will remember that conversation later in life when a friend tells them their story. Maybe it will just be an interesting talk they had one day.

Wherever the ripple goes, I wanted you to know it was moving here, too.

Thank you for your courage. I'm so grateful you've been given the gift of communication so that you can share your story with us, with me.

...

Britt Reints
I cried after I read this email, because it confirmed my greatest hope: that what I said changed the way a few people thought about people like me, and that not only did what I wrote changed minds, but it changed the minds of people who likely will never see my original words. You know you've expressed an idea worth sharing when the specific words you put together matter less than the idea they seeded that continues to spread.

I hope those kids' conversations continue. I hope that they take those conversations home with them. What I hope most of all, though, is that there was some kid like me there to hear that they are not alone, to know that their peers might be more receptive to them now, and to understand that it really can get better.

Most importantly, Britt's email confirmed for me that what we do here — when we write out true things on our blogs and record it in videos and share it in photos — matters. What we do here matters not just during that few days when people bother to leave comments but for weeks, months, and years afterwards. We can't always see the offline effects of what we create when it moves out into the world beyond the medium in which we expressed it, but what we do continues on without us in places we do not imagine, shifting the minds and hearts that build our culture as it moves.

Our true words are powerful things.