I know what you're going through right now is very difficult. Why? Because I have suffered it. The haters robbed my marriage of any chance of a honeymoon phase with Prop 8. And I suffered through campaigns against me in other states prior to that. You have every right to feel scared, persecuted, hated: that's what these people want. They want to force you back into the closet so they don't have to deal with how icky it is that a guy might want to kiss another guy...or even (gasp)...marry him.
Lord knows, these campaigns have been documented to cause significant mental health concerns for the people they target.
But you and I, and millions of others, aren't going back in the closet. And this genie isn't going back in the bottle. My partner and I were talking just the other day about what amazing change this time represents in comparison to what we were living not even ten years ago, much less when we were your age. I hope our conversation gives you a little perspective and a little hope. It revived mine.
First off, look at where you are: North Carolina. We were talking about Amendment One. Ten years ago, this would have been a no-brainer. Many have still written this off as an easy win for the haters, but make no mistake, what's happening where you are is a massive shift from what it was less than a decade ago. You are in a southern state with a lot of religious right nutjobs, my friend, and yet...people all over the state are standing up to say, "This is wrong. This is bad for our present, and even worse for our future." They can't find a single CEO who will come out in support of the damn thing, and even though they're still favored to win, the haters are on the defensive. In many cases they're being held up to shame and ridicule. IN THE SOUTH. I know there's a lot of hate coming your way amid all this, but take heart in the vast number of people who are standing up for you all over what many would not consider fertile ground for LGBT rights. Compared to how this kind of campaign went in places like Texas - where I endured the haters' campaign in 2005, and they won by a 3-1 margin at the polls - the fact that there's even a ghost of a chance of an upset win for our side is a stunning change.
Second, look at the world around you. We were talking about television as an example. My partner watches a lot of it. He was watching a show called "Smash" (haven't seen it). It's apparently about Broadway musicals - I'm a bad gay, not into that sort of thing, but he is, and that's what it's about. So there are gay storylines. And he watched a soap-opera-style hot-&-heavy makeout scene between two men who were obviously in bed and about to get down to business on primetime television. And no one had a conniption about it. There was no hue and cry raised by christian groups everywhere - and lord knows, there's enough hate groups, one would think one of 'em would have raised enough of a stink to scare an advertiser, but no. Not a peep. We've come a long way from Will & Grace, with lovable Jack, the stereotypical sissy that everyone in America can accept because that's what gays are supposed to be, and sanitized Will, who never had so much as a long kiss. Or Ellen, whose coming out on television was practically seismic. People freaked out about that. But now she's a beloved national television talk show host who's pretty much hate-group-untouchable. Not to mention LGBT characters all over the place of many stripes and colors and identities. Not to say we don't still have a long way to go, but LGBT characters are downright common. Just like us. They're not going away, and neither are we.
We're not just on television. We're on the ballot, too, and I'm not talking about Amendment One. I'm talking about LGBT candidates across the nation - the Tammy Baldwins, Jared Polises, Barney Franks, Annise Parkers, and many others across the nation who change perceptions about who we are by publicly standing for American values at the ballot box and in the halls of government across the country. We're representatives, speakers of houses, mayors, city councilpeople...we're everywhere. One of these days, one of us will be a senator again, maybe soon. One of us will very likely be a president. Could it be you?
Finally, look at your own generation. It's where I take the most heart. The CEOs who have been speaking out against Amendment One have it right - they know that the young, brilliant, and creative vote with their feet. I have younger friends and colleagues (even some my age) who aren't LGBT, but value openness and a welcoming atmosphere - and they refuse to look at jobs in places that treat us badly, because they don't want their kids growing up in such a place. Put simply, they think it's BAD FOR FAMILIES. And they're right - not just our LGBT families, but theirs too. And I encourage you to look at leaving, if you feel you have to, should the atmosphere in North Carolina not support you well enough. But if you can, stay and fight. You're the kind of person they desperately need.
(Late edit: here's a video piece I was reminded of, which offers some of the perspective above:)
But you young'uns - my partner and I were talking about this - you're unbelievable. He came out when he was 18. I was 19. We were scared shitless to come out, as so many are, and we were on the young side for our generation a couple decades ago. Now kids come out in their early teens. Sometimes younger. So many come out with loving support from family and friends and are able to self-identify and date and have a relatively normal adolescence. Unfortunately, that's not a universal thing, or the "it gets better" campaign wouldn't exist. But it was exceptionally rare when I was that age. My job puts me in contact with a lot of younger LGBT folks, and so many of 'em DID come out at 12...13...15. A few even younger. It's incredible to me. It takes courage, but the environment also has to offer enough support and information for it to seem feasible -- and that change is mind-blowing for old guys like my partner and me. We are constantly stunned by this.
So the short version of this is: I know it hurts right now. These kind of campaigns are the worst kind of widespread well-funded bullying, and you have every right to feel so awful. But please, please, please, hang on, hang in there. It's not just that it gets better. It may not always seem like it, but it already HAS gotten so MUCH better -- and so quickly. Please fight with every ounce of your strength to keep the tide going forward. We're pulling for you, and we're fighting alongside you. And we are all winning.