They go to classes at the start of the bell, envision what they will grow up to be, worry about being cool and dream of love. In every respect, they're not unlike most every other kid that walks down the hall at school, with one exception - they're gay.
This week wraps up the Minuteman's series on Growing up Gay in Bedford. Although they carry with them the same worries and fears as their straight counterparts, gay students in Bedford - as everywhere - have an added burden. Attracted to members of the same sex, many carry with them a secret, afraid to reveal something essential to their identity. Those who "come out" face slurs, rumors and - perhaps the most damaging jolt to a teen's self-esteem: ostracism from their peers. Growing up gay isn't easy - but it's getting better.
As columns in our series have shown, although homosexual teens in Bedford have struggled to connect and fit in, they've also found friends - fellow students, teachers and parents who lend support and understanding. As a No Place for Hate community - a state certification that recognizes the town's efforts to educate about differences - Bedford is working toward becoming a place where those who don't fit the "norm" can feel OK to be themselves, without threat or reprisal. We're not there yet. But the few who stand up and reach out to these struggling youth are moving us in the right direction. More are needed, though.
Growing up is tough enough without being the recipient of public scorn stemming from fear and ignorance. Understanding, compassion and tolerance, however, can work miracles in any teen's life.
Published in the Bedford Minuteman newspaper on September 29, 2004. Copyright Herald Media Inc.