Camping with the future

I just spent the weekend with 15 Gaybies.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s generally used for younger gays. In this case it applied to those from 16-22. And they were much more sophisticated and self-aware than I was at their age.

We had formal presentations about safe sex, HIV, relationships, spirituality, humor & health, and I presented on “Coming Out of Guilt and Shame”- and honestly, their shame (mostly) was dwarfed by my own adolescent case of it. We told our coming out stories, we made bracelets, we ate and laughed, watched movies and played “Apples to Apples”- Okay, I fell asleep on the couch- everyone else played… We had at least 7 take HIV tests, we stayed up late, ate too much candy, laughed a lot, cried some and, for the most part, became a community. A community relatively free from harassment and fear, from pain and secrecy. The acceptance was implicit, the care and concern overt.

Each of these campers came from somewhere in Montana, from a high school, college, or a home that didn’t (couldn’t) know them as well as the group assembled in that lodge did. That group made for immediate relaxing of defenses, moments of availability, and, as I witnessed, a few moments of pure joy at being understood and pure sorrow at leaving it all behind when it was over.

I said during our closing, “It is a privilege to share this time with you. Just remember you are not alone- you take us all with you as you leave and I take all of you with me as I go.” And it’s true. The privilege of watching these brave, young men tell their stories, explore new ideas, share their thoughts and opinions and try out social skills with each other in that safe space stays with me still. It’s a glimpse of the future, and if the experience of the past weekend is any indication, I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.