In the late 1980s, I joined a group of people who came together to survive. A large, proud group of gay and lesbian adolescents who met every Saturday in Greenwich Village, New York, and talked things out. Beginning in 1969 and continuing for more than thirty years, Gay and Lesbian Youth of New York (GLYNY, pronounced “GLIN-ee”) provided a safe forum for hundreds if not thousands of gay youth to meet, talk out problems of home and school, try to make some sense of life, and see that being gay and being happy did not need to be mutually exclusive.
From 1986 until 1990 I helped run GLYNY. Every Saturday from 3-6 p.m. (with barely a weekend missed) I’d sit in a room with perhaps 60 other gay teens at New York’s gay community center and celebrate friendship and life. I was lucky; I had a supportive mother to go home to. Many of us did not. For some of us, GLYNY was all we had. Many lifelong friendships and lifelong lessons were borne from the fertile ground of GLYNY. Most of us would never have made it to adulthood without our association with the group, and dozens of supportive peers who made us feel welcome, and sane, and normal.
And time passes and twenty years go by and you lose touch with people who you know to this day were among the most important influences on your life. People who you still carry in your heart, even if their numbers are long erased from your address book.
Ten days ago, a GLYNY alum created a reunion forum on the Net and started searching for former members. Yesterday, I got an email inviting me to join the forum, from two GLYNY alumnae whom I remember very fondly–and whom I haven’t seen in well over a decade. I was sitting in the middle of an all-day client meeting when I read the messages on my Blackberry.
It was all I could do not to sob in front of my colleagues.
Like your 20-year high school reunion suddenly showing up unexpected on your doorstep, I’ve been given the chance to reconnect with the people who helped me survive my teen years, transcend a world still in many ways hostile to those like me who know that love does not discriminate by gender, and learn how empowering a group of people can be when they come together to show love and support.
I know my blog gets around. If anyone reading this is a GLYNY alum, or knows someone who is, please send me an email and I will put you in contact with the GLYNY reunion blog administrator (two words: Andrew Arnold!) Some of us are sadly gone. But many of us are still here. And judging by the hundreds of postings that have appeared on the GLYNY site in just 10 days of existence, we’re overjoyed (and overwhelmed) to be connecting again.
I owe being an adult in the world to being a teenager in GLYNY. Anyone from the board who is reading this now, thank you.
I’m grateful you were there.