I forget.
I go to college in a place
where if someone doesn't like the fact that you're gay,
they don't talk to you.
I attend weekly gay-straight alliance meetings
where we eat rainbow cake and play Never Have I Ever
and watch drag queens parade around
and forget what it was like to be in middle school
and have those first burgeoning thoughts of
maybe I'm different.

I forget.
I forget how scared I was of everyone
before I came out.
How I couldn't trust anyone because if they found out,
my life would come to an end
figuratively of course,
unless it wasn't.
I forget how I was planning places I could go
in case my mom kicked me out of the house,
how I asked my best friend how long
she thought her mom would let me sleep on her couch,
how I planned ways to pay for college
if my parents refused to help me anymore,
and came up with nothing and considered dropping out
as a 4.0 student.

I forget how I went to high school every day,
walked the halls with an ear listening for word on who knew
and when people told me that they heard I was gay
and asked, wanting to know if it was true,
I got that ticking feeling in my stomach
the clock starting a countdown of how long it would be
until a group of football players beat the shit out of me after school.
And then I thought,
if someone beats me black and blue,
screams "dyke" while they kick my ribs,
how will I explain to my parents
without them finding it out?
I forget how I was afraid that someone would kill me.
I thought about Matthew Shepard every day,
knowing that somewhere out there someone had a fencepost
they were carving my name into.

I forget the way my hands shook
when I came out to another person for the first time,
even though it was over instant messenger,
even though she had already told me she was gay, too,
I could barely type the words I think I like girls
and release them from my possession.
I forget the way that I cried for two hours
the day that my college roommate told me
she couldn't live with me because she was afraid of me
because I said I had a girlfriend,
and how the same day I told my mom
and I had to repeat myself three times
because I was sobbing so hard she couldn't understand
the words she had never wanted to hear.
I forget the way that my mouth went dry
the first time I held hands with a girl on the street,
how when we walked past the Domino's Pizza store
and the girl I had been terrified of in high school saw me
and looked at me with eyes full of hate,
I had to resist the urge to break into a run
to escape her revulsion.
I forget the way I was warned by my sister
at my freshman year high school winter formal
not to dance too close to my girlfriend
if I didn't want people to know,
because people were talking and they'd be watching.
I forget the way that I scratched out the word gay
when I wrote it for the first time in the seventh grade in my diary
marked it out with sharpie as a big black blotch in the middle of the page
trying to erase the truth I wrote in ink.

I forget the way that I couldn't accept who I was,
I that am now so proud
so comfortable,
so happy,
the way I tried to make myself straight,
tried to like boys and flirt and wear short skirts
hoping one of them would have the power to cure me,
how I would gossip with my friends
about which boys I thought were cute
while leaving out the fact that I thought my girlfriend
of a year and half that I was in love with
was the most gorgeous person in the entire world.
I almost forget the way I hurt myself,
trying to punish the queerness out of me,
trying to destroy whatever it was that made this possible.
How I tried to drain the love out of my veins,
how I would repeat over and over to myself,
this is for your own good
this is for your own good
this is for your own…
I almost forget how I tried to kill myself,
because I didn't know what else I could do
to make me right again,
because I had been taught that I was broken and fucked up,
I had heard that you had to kill the queers to stomp out the sickness,
I was told that love was an abomination unto the Lord,
and nobody had ever told me any differently
because you can't say gay in a classroom.

I forget.
I forget, watching my lesbian romance movies,
kissing my girlfriend at a party,
hanging a rainbow button on my purse,
hanging a rainbow flag in my dorm room,
going to Pride where it's all a party and
everyone's trying to forget the struggles,
trying to drown their decade old fear in commercialized pride
but a tee shirt from Old Navy wouldn't have made
middle-school me not cry in fear when she heard
another story about a gay-bashing in a rural town just like hers
and it wouldn't have kept her from using a Bible as a noose
and it never had the power to tell her it was okay to love.

I forget.
I don't want to think about how hard it was.
I don't want to remember.
But I will.
Because right now, there are a thousand kids
who are who I was
who are struggling as I struggled
who are scared like I was scared
and who I can tell
that it's okay to love.
It's always okay to love.
Tell them to toss the 20 sleeping pills
currently residing under their mattresses
"just in case"
tell them to go to the movie with their crush
and hold hands in the theater, everybody's watching the screen,
tell them to stay.
I wish someone had told me to stay.
Told me to hang around for awhile and see
what gifts I had to offer the world,
what love I had to offer someone else,
what story I had to tell to someone just like them.

We forget.
We forget.
But there a thousand kids who can't forget,
who are living the nightmare of uncertainty and self-deprecation
who are coming out to towns full of unfriendly faces
who are living on the streets because they have nowhere to go
and they are forgotten
and they are us
and we are them
and we
cannot
forget them.