Letter to younger myself #1: The anti-gay rights amendment

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gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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11 Responses

  1. Hi everyone:

    I’ll be away at work all day, but I’ll try to read and respond to comments tonight, if I can.

    Thanks for reading.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    In many ways, you are tracking my own journey. There was no law in play at the time, but otherwise, yeah.Report

  3. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    This is wonderful. There is much I would like to say to my younger self as well. I had some uninformed and overly-simplified views, too. And my 60 year old future self would probably feel the same way about current day me.
    Well done.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    Good piece. It doesn’t track with my history, but a good self exam and well written.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou says:

    This is a beautiful piece, as others have said. I admit it was hard for me to read the first time**, but every time I’ve read it since it’s grown on me.

    ** My letter to myself circa 1998 on this topic would have gone something like:

    Dear younger self,

    It’s OK. This place isn’t as scary as you feel like it is, having just moved here. Not every single person who voted for Amendment 2 actually hates you.

    And also, in 20 years many of them will be fervent supporters of gay rights. Just keep doing you and gently pushing, and things really will be better for people your age when you are twice as old as you are now. It’ll actually be easier in some ways to be LGBTQ in Colorado Springs then, than it is in Montreal right now! So much easier I can’t even tell you because your brain will explode :).

    That said, if anyone is hateful to your face (and there will be many), don’t feel bad about standing your ground. You have good instincts about how in your face it’s okay to be with people, and when to let things slide instead – you don’t have to second-guess yourself so much after the fact, for either reaction.

    Love,
    Maribou

    PS I know Poor Richard’s is “the competition,” but you need to go there and eat pizza in the front room while you watch women flirt with each other. It will up your feeling of safety about 500 percent, reduce your feeling of alienation likewise, and there’s no need for that to take 3 years longer to happen…Report

    • Thanks for sharing this, Maribou.Report

    • And also, in 20 years many of them will be fervent supporters of gay rights.

      One thing I worry about is that my change of heart tracked so closely with others’ changes of heart that I wonder if I’m in some way like those people who 20 years after the Civil Rights movement were “always opposed to racial segregation” when they had probably been at least lukewarm in favor. In other words, I changed my mind about things at about the time it was less dangerous to do so.Report

      • FWIW, as someone who was negatively affected by the fear on this issue, I find it far more reassuring than I do worrisome. Needing to feel safer than you presently do, to be able to change your mind about something, is a pretty human trait, and one that to me offers promise, rather than threat. (I mean, obviously that doesn’t excuse any kind of violence, but that was never you in the first place.)Report

  6. Avatar scott the mediocre says:

    Gabriel, that was a lovely letter. On consideration, I didn’t mind the cryptic allusions to things you know that neither your 18 year old self nor I know; it added a lot of texture to this reader’s sense of your feeling toward younger you.

    I admire your compassion toward and sort of steelmanning of Gabriel at 18, e.g. specifically crediting him with straightforwardly acknowledging Amendment 2 as a power play – I don’t know him except through you, but I must say I have met exceedingly few 18 year olds who had that level of self awareness: I suspect you might be crediting him with more than he really had.

    But I could also feel annoyed on behalf of your younger self contra-temporally getting the letter – when I was younger (turning 60 soon) I did not generally mind hearing “you’ll see it differently when you are {older, a homeowner, a parent, random other different life circumstance}”, although I often doubted the likelihood of that person’s prophecy about me coming true – so far relatively few of them have, but there have been a couple. But being teased with specific, nonpublic facts 18-year old me doesn’t know but in the hypothetical 44 year old me does know would be infuriating.

    Em,

    There is much I would like to say to my younger self as well. I had some uninformed and overly-simplified views, too. And my 60 year old future self would probably feel the same way about current day me

    I’m guessing that your current day self is early to mid thirties? It’s funny – while my underlying worldview about most things has not really changed very much since my early twenties, I find that consistently for almost forty years I can pick any era over that interval and think that the me of that era would be disdainful at best, more often contemptuous, of the analytic and decision making skills of the me of five years previously. I see no particular reason to expect that to change much over my remaining twentyish years – I hope not in the sense that I hope to avoid too much mental rigidification until pretty near my end.Report

    • Thanks for your comment, Scott. While memory is always suspect, I do feel that I *knew* amendment 2 was a power play. I probably didn’t think of it in terms of “power play,” however, so much as, “right vs. wrong, but right must use the power at its disposal to express disapproval.” (I don’t know if that makes sense or not.

      It’s also probably the case that I’m crediting my 18-year old self with more than I should. I *DO* know, however, that I’m crediting my 44 year old self much more than I should. I can talk a big game in my letter about love and acceptance, but I still fall short, even on this issue.

      But I could also feel annoyed on behalf of your younger self contra-temporally getting the letter….But being teased with specific, nonpublic facts 18-year old me doesn’t know but in the hypothetical 44 year old me does know would be infuriating.

      That’s one of the narrative needles I’ve had to thread. It would be much more of a problem ifI write more “letters to myself.”

      Again, though, thanks for reading and commenting.Report

  7. I’d like to thank everyone who’s read so far, and for your kind words.

    I will say one thing I should have talked about in the letter, but didn’t, was the reality of anti-gay violence. My 18-year old self certainly knew of it, both as a cultural phenomenon of joking about beating up/killing gay people and one specific example of which he was aware.Report

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