Think about telling your story

by Bruce Hartley
Life Columnist

Recently one of my students said, “Hartley, can I ask you something?” I replied, “it depends.” I was cautious as I wasn’t sure what she would ask.

I am very transparent in my classroom and often make comments about my fiancé, and sometimes I even refer to him as Bill.

The student went on to say, “you have kids … and you were married … when did you know you were gay?” I thought this was a loaded question, and it inspired me to write this column.

We Baby Boomers should be open to questions about our history. Think about it.

Think about the recent media stories in the areas of music, movies, politics, religion, sports, health care, etc. Recent stories and topics give Baby Boomers new platforms to share with the younger generation.

Think about the recent announcement about a potential breakthrough for AIDS and HIV. Also, the recent production of RENT by FOX shed additional light AIDS and HIV. The coverage of news and entertainment may leave younger people with questions.

Baby Boomers lived through the 70s and 80s when we watched AIDS sweep through our nation causing pain and fear for our community. Most of us know someone who died from that cruel illness. We can share our stories with young people to give them perspective.

Think about the recent allegations made toward the famous gay actor. I don’t claim to know what happened, but I had students ask me about that topic. That story opened the door for me to talk about the abuse and bullying that I faced in my life. I was bullied as a kid and teenager. Those years of bullying pushed me deeper into the closet.

Think about the recent announcements from religious leaders and organizations about LGBTQ+ inclusion. These topics allow Baby Boomers to talk about our belief systems in or out of church. Also, for Christian gays, we can talk about our personal relationships with God. I grew up in church, and I have searched for a church home since I came out of the closet five years ago. My recent discovery is a church that appears to be accepting. I watch the service on Facebook live.

Think about news in the media about conversion therapy. That topic has opened the door for me to talk about a person I knew from high school that I believe went through conversion therapy. I am sure most Baby Boomers have similar stories. These stories allow people to understand the terror of such therapy. Most of us are living proof that family and friends can’t “pray the gay away.”

I have been asked to be part of a panel on diversity/inclusion at my university. I am nervous about sharing my story, but I know I need to step up. I am planning to talk about how things have changed since when I was in college. The Gayly has given me a supply of papers to share at the event, and this is exciting since my campus does not currently have a distribution site.

Back to my student who recently said, “Hartley, can I ask you something?” Thanks for helping open my eyes to the fact that I am now an elder in the LGBTQ+ community. I still believe “50 is the new 40” and I am not an old man.

Baby Boomers can use our history to give the younger folks a frame of reference to how far we have come. Think about it.

BABY BOOMERS: For information on how you can tell your story in The Gayly, write to editor

Copyright The Gayly – April 10, 2019 @ 6:55 a.m. CDT.