“I’m 16 years old, gay, a junior in high school and scared about what is going to happen to us under this new government,” the letter begins.
The teen explains that he lives in a conservative state with “not the most gay-positive atmosphere.” He’s found immense comfort in his school’s gay-straight alliance.
“It gave me a safe and protected place to come out,” he writes. “Having other kids to talk to and also our advisor (a teacher) helped me feel I’m just fine. I got a lot of support from them that helped me come out to my parents.”
He continues, “Even if some people in town are homophobic, for as long as I’ve known I’m gay (five years) I’ve known it’s really fine to be gay from TV and from our government, starting with the President. Of course I’ve heard stories of the old days when people had to be in the closet and faced all kinds of discrimination. I’m grateful to have been growing up in a time when we’ve gotten equal rights.”
Now he’s afraid all that is going to be stripped away.
“Since Trump won I feel like we are getting sucked back in time,” he writes. “It’s so scary to hear about all these homophobic people he is appointing to run the government. If the federal government is against gays, I’m afraid that America will turn against us again and we will no longer be able to live openly in peace.”
He is also afraid they are going to shut down his school’s GSA.
“I can’t really focus and I’m not sure what to do,” he says.
Radkowsky has the perfect response:
“Good news,” he writes. “You’re in for an adventure that is going to help you become a stronger, more resilient human being. And, you have the opportunity to learn some lessons that are way more valuable than anything you can learn in a classroom.”
He continues, “Going forward, your job isn’t to be a compliant kid who does whatever the grownups tell you to do. Your job is to start figuring out what you believe is the right thing to do, regardless of what others around you may think and whether or not they say it’s OK.”
Radkowsky tells the teen not to panic or be afraid of bigots. Stay strong and keep looking forward.
“If anyone tries to shut down your gay-straight alliance, continue to meet. Don’t let administrators or anyone else block you from banding together and supporting each other,” he says. “If your school gives you a hard time, call the local paper. And then call a national paper. Do not stay silent in the face of hate. Put bigotry on the defensive. Non-violent resistance can be a tool of awesome power.”
But perhaps most importantly, “Remember that you are not facing this alone. You have many, many allies across the United States. But it’s up to you and me and all of us to keep everyone’s eyes open by speaking up for honesty, decency and tolerance.”
Good advice for everyone.