Something that many of my friends in the equality movement don’t know about me is that for 11 years now, I’ve had a really fun career. I moved to New York 12 years ago to be a musical theatre actor – and though I haven’t really pursued that in a number of years, I was able to fulfill those creative needs with producing Broadway concerts and events – and doing voices for cartoons.
I’ve been in a whole bunch of Japanese anime titles and a couple other things here and there – most notably, I can be heard on Yu-Gi-Oh!, Viva Pinata, and as “Barry” on Pokemon for the past few years. As a voice actor, I’m often invited to attend anime conventions around the country. I’m not going to lie – the first time I walked into one of these “cons,” I was a touch…intimidated – at all the people in costumes. People dressed up as characters I’d played, people who knew far more about the shows I was on than I did – it was a lot for me.
Over the years though, I’ve grown to love it. I’ve begun to revel in the awkwardness of the random 50 year-old running around in a Sailor Moon costume, the big girl wearing perhaps a bit less than society would expect her to be wearing, and the complete abandonment of any social norms that have ever been taught. This is a rag-tag group of kids and adults who have found a world that they know everything about.
Growing up gay, I had that need to find some little thing that was mine – something I could control and could be an expert on – for me, that was Broadway – so I found my own way to relate.
This weekend, I’ve been in Columbus, Ohio at Ohayocon, a pretty large convention at 10,000+ attendees. My friend and fellow openly gay voice actor Greg Ayres, texted me last week and asked if I wanted to do an “It Gets Better” panel with him and of course I jumped at the idea. I’d met a lot of gay kids at cons in the past and there seems to be an obsession among teen girls, with something called “Yaoi,” or man-on-man anime. So around here, gay is okay.
The panel was excellent and was far better-attended than I expected it to be. Greg and I spoke about our experiences and about the It Gets Better project, encouraging people to join in and make videos and find ways of fighting bullying in their own schools – and then we took questions. It became very clear, very quickly that these kids really needed to talk.
Questions ranged from “How long is it going to take for equality to happen in the US?,” to “How do I tell my Conservative Christian parents I’m a lesbian?” While we didn’t have all the answers, we were able to direct everyone to a different resource that could help them. But what was most incredible to see was kids answering other kids’ questions. The support for one another was something unexpected to me – I’ve always known that this was a safe place for everyone, but the throngs of applause when a girl introduced her wife or a young man talked about having started his own Gay Straight Alliance at his school – it was encouraging to say the least.
Though it had nothing to do with anime per se, being able to talk about equality with teens and young adults in the middle of Ohio gives me a great deal of hope for the next generation of LGBT kids. It seems they’re looking out for one another far more than I felt as a kid growing up gay. I frequently worry about the state of the “LGBT Community,” with our sometimes fractured issues, different priorities and separate tactics at winning equality. Now I have a little more hope that our younger brothers and sisters might reclaim that incredible community that we so need to win this fight.