Have you ever said something like this: “All I ever wanted was for someone to look at me, see all of me, and say ‘I love you, all of you’?” I certainly have, and I’m sure in some fashion or another we all have. Seeking validation through relationships isn’t especially unique to our gay brothers and sisters. It is however an accomplishment that alludes many of us.
As a young man I took a very sweet and attractive young lady to my junior prom. While many of my classmates were finding validation landing such attractive dates, the “slap on my back” didn’t resonate. Partly because my grandmother told me my prom date was actually a cousin, but mostly because I just didn’t feel anything. There was no excitement about having a cute date, or anticipation of a make out session at the end of the night. This was the same scenario for my senior prom.
This is one of the first rites of passage for young men. Validation comes from parents, grandparents, and friends. I’ve often thought of prom as a dry run for a wedding; complete with the dress, the entourage, the limousine, the photographer, the party, the dance, and the much anticipated end of the night “action.” This rite of passage is a significant prelude that ultimately leads to adulthood.
It’s little wonder that many gay men and women never grow up. We’ve never been validated along the journey to adulthood. Our 20’s and 30’s are spent seeking a place to belong, people to identify with, and a struggle to find our identity as men and women.
There are other rites of passage absent from our lives such as weddings. There are few other passages that say “I’m a valid adult” as loudly as marriage. For many straight couples having children, taking family vacations, and buying houses are equally significant milestones. But, for gay men and women we have to seek out our own means of validation, and too often this means doesn’t get to the core of building self-worth, and a solid identity. Gay bars and bathhouses aren’t known their character building attributes.
So, I want encourage my gay friends to make a list of the things you enjoyed as a child or teen (before the drama of coming out), and spend some time doing those things. Get in touch with who you are at your most fundamental core. There is a good chance you are still this person, and you can begin to validate yourself for a change.
What would your adult self say to this child? How would you encourage this child to grow up? Think about it, and validate that child.