So I was reading this blog post in Slate about Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech. I don’t watch the Oscar’s, I didn’t watch the last night because I’d been up for 36 hours and went to bed early to sleep for 13 hours. But I read her blog about the speech because Moore won for IMITATION GAME, a movie about the life of Alan Turing. During his speech he said the following:
When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And then when it’s your turn and you’re standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.
It’s a great speech and you should watch the whole thing. The problem June Thomas, who wrote the article for Slate had with the speech was that it didn’t draw a clear line between the suffering of normal “weird” people and LGBTQIA youth. She says, “it’s also important to note that being gay simply isn’t the same as being a ‘geek.'” And it’s this that I have a problem with.
As many of you may know, I tried to kill myself when I was 19. I’ve often said that being gay was the reason, and that’s true, but it’s much more than that. When you boil down the problem with growing up gay, it’s not being gay that caused my depression or self-loathing or attempted suicide. It was the feeling of otherness. The feeling of being different. Being told that I was weird and not like other people. And not even all of that came from being gay. I’d been an outsider pretty much my entire life. I was weird because I wasn’t into sports. I was weird because I loved to read. I was weird because I liked theatre. I was weird because I liked boys instead of girls.
I think it’s a mistake to say that being one kind of outsider is worse than being another. In her blog, Thomas writes that, “overemphasizing the connection between queer teens and suicide can be dangerous,” but I think it’s just as dangerous to send LGBTQIA youth a message that they’re even more of an outsider than most outsiders. That being bullied for being gay is even worse than being bullied for being a geek. And I think it’s a terrible message to send to other youth that they’re “merely weird and different,” as if the pain they feel over whatever it is that makes them an outsider is of lesser importance.
Now, I can’t overstate enough that LGBTQIA youth do face bullying and persecution from so many different angles. But Moore’s message—that it’s our differences that make us unique, that we should embrace those differences rather than be ashamed of them—is one that took me many, many years to understand and accept. If I’d heard Moore’s speech when I was a teen, I would have felt like he was speaking directly to me. I think his speech speaks to anyone who feels like they don’t fit in for any reason! Whether it’s because they’re gay or a different religion or because of their race or because they have a disability or for any freaking reason at all! And the fact that he’s a straight guy who won an Oscar for adapting a screenplay about a brilliant gay scientist only makes the message to queer youth that much more powerful.
I think it’s great when people speak directly to LGBTQIA youth about the pressures and troubles that affect them. But I also think Moore’s speech is a great example of how we remind LGBTQIA youth that they really are not alone. That so many people feel marginalized for so many different reasons. That they may feel like an outsider because they’re gay, but that kid over there may feel like an outsider for another reason. And I think that if we can learn to see that about each other—that we all sort of feel like outsiders about something at one time or another—we might learn to better understand and accept each other.