in freshman year, you try to be cool by cutting back your vocabulary and using the word “gay” with a strange heavy weight. you think about girls when you go to sleep: how their lips would taste, their laughter, how you fall in love with everyone you meet. you are so used to hearing “gay” as an insult that you use it absently, even though it defines who you are, almost like you know you are harboring a demon. in two years, the world will change and everyone who has said awful things about you and your friends will suddenly strut around school with rainbow ally pins.

in junior year you wear a skirt that falls above your knees. halfway through lunch you call your mom crying. you feel like a monster. the word “slut” has tattooed itself across the inside of your thigh. your math teacher had pulled you aside, had expressed concern for “this kind of behavior”. you wear baggy clothes for the rest of the year, never try to step out dressed in risky, never try to be pretty. later when you see girls who wear the clothes you wish you could, you hiss the same word that you heard. in four years, the world will change and you will learn what it means to slut-shame.

we are not immobile icebergs, my loves. we make mistakes. we say the things that we hear the adults around us say. we were young, once, we didn’t know about so much. we were spat on and we said “this is how it is,” we didn’t know that it could be different. my father still tells me that gay people are trying to overthrow everything even though i came out years ago. it took me forever to unlearn everything i had been taught. we are not icebergs, we’re just little flowers and we’re growing.

we are little flowers, and we hear that young women write songs about the people they let into their hearts. i sat back and watched them rake her across the coals as if being honest was some kind of weakness. i saw her live and watched her cry when she heard our voices. i saw her live later and heard her say, “yeah, i write songs about love, what about it?”

cut your hair, let it grow out. sing along to taylor swift no matter how often people say you’re too old for it. learn to forgive yourself the mistakes being young made. write songs about love, write poems about real people. be honest, be genuine, don’t worry about how many boys you kiss. none of us were perfect.

be a better person today than you were in freshman year. be a better person than you were a month ago. be a better person than you were five seconds ago. we are not icebergs. we are just little flowers, my love. you might mess up: but oh goodness, you’ll grow.

—  the fact that what we did 8 years ago is now unacceptable makes me incredibly happy: it means that we’ve made progress. we’re getting somewhere. it’s changing. // r.i.d