Mentor [men-tȯr, -tər] noun: somebody, usually older and more experienced, who advises and guides a younger, less experienced person.
Growing up in a Mexican-American and conservative family, I was expected to be “manly”, to do the rough work, to be tough. Anything less than that meant being labeled a “sissy”, “crybaby” and other words that I cannot repeat. Those words meant you were weak, less than a man. Coming from that background into the world that is Austin was a shock to me. I went from my closet to a new, exciting and also unfamiliar world. It’s a world where I could be myself, and also a place that can be scary and difficult to navigate without proper knowledge. I didn’t have a role model or someone to look up to. How I felt didn’t match up with the ideas of what mainstream culture said a gay man was.
This brings me to an issue I feel is challenging in the LGBTQ community, that is meeting the need of having mentors for the youth of the community. Growing up as a LGBTQ young person one goes through the challenges learning and growing, and also struggling with questions of expression, identity, wellbeing, safety, etc. These questions matter because of the continuing struggle of discovering oneself and the environment in which that discovery is taking place. There are many stories of living in and/or coming from an unwelcoming environment and going through the challenging trials of coming into oneself. I feel that having a better ability to organize and provide mentors to youth would help with the difficulties of being a young LGBTQ identified person.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people that have become my mentors and provided me with guidance. A friend of mine that I’ve known since coming to Austin has been an important influence in my life. He's the first man I was able to talk with about issues in my life. The first time I reached out to him was over dinner. I was struggling with the idea of coming out to my family. He told me of his experience of coming to his family and made reccommendations to me that are sensible: take your time, do what you feel is right, be careful, etc. That was the first time I felt anyone could relate to me and guide me through my tough times. He's like an uncle I've never had.
Every person should be able to have that connection with another person whether they are an older wiser friend or a peer you can simply talk with. It's easy to point out a problem or need. It's difficult to find a solution. I don't think a solution can be found in one blog posting. However, I think that this can be a beginning of a dialogue of ideas.