After I published my story on the 20th anniversary of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Phillips Academy Andover, I received this letter from alumna and writer Robin Chotzinoff, who now lives in Texas. She shares not only her reaction to how times have changed, but also what her 11-year-old daughter is doing to support LGBT rights. She's given me permission to repost it.
It's heartening to me to find such allies, especially of the younger generation. As I said in my article, I think the future is in good hands.
I read your story with great interest and optimism. In 1973, when I entered Andover in the first class of females, there was no such thing as a gay prep-school student, either male or female. At least, not until I got a few years older and realized there are gay students everywhere, always had been, always will be. I remember a wonderful story in the Andover Bulletin at least ten years ago, by K. Kelly Wise, simply called Gay At Andover, in which he interviewed alumni who were old even then, as well as openly gay. As a writer, I was fascinated by the truth and the history. I was also proud of Andover for acknowledging its gay history, even if it took several hundred years to get around to it. I'm also impressed that your student group was the second oldest in the country. [Not really "my" group; just one I covered for the article. —Dana]
There is not much to be encouraged by in society these days, but I am constantly heartened by the way my daughters (ages 11 and 19) and their friends completely accept gay classmates, parents, friends, etc. I remember my father's transition from typical 1950s-man-creeped-out-by-homos to 78-year-old man-about-town with any number of gay and lesbian friends, who no longer understood the prejudice he used to have. Ironically, I had no knowing consciousness of gay people or gay culture until about 5 minutes after I graduated from Andover. Since then, it has been as constant a presence in my life as atheism, and then Judaism, music, reading, writing, dogs, weather, humanity—you know what I'm saying. And in case you're wondering, I'm straight. It seems that regular Americans are slowly becoming more enlightened.
On the other hand, as my husband Eric says, the issue of gay civil rights is "the only no-brainer political issue there is." When my younger daughter Gus found out recently that gay couples are not allowed to marry in Texas, she was innocently appalled. I still have a copy of her letter to Governor Perry, in which she accused him of being "silly" and "afraid of anyone who's different." After that, she became something of a small-time pro-gay-marriage activist, out of sheer incredulity, and has raised a surprising amount of money for the Human Rights Campaign. She does not react warmly to people who scream "quit being so gay!" on the playground, I can tell you that. And what interests me is that there's nothing particularly personal or revolutionary about her message. It's just that we seem to have moved into the lesbian capital of the world, and she can't believe that our friendly, generous, entertaining and funny neighbors wouldn't make better parents and partners than so many other people who take those rights for granted. I haven't yet found the courage to explain don't ask/don't tell. She'll hit the ceiling.
Here ends my rambling letter. I just wanted to commend you on your work and your story. It means a lot to me.
(Robin also blogs about gardening at People with Dirty Hands and about writing at Letters to My Agent.)