Why I Loved “Love, Simon” (and why you should see it)

We’d been invited to screenings of “Love, Simon,” the new movie adapted from author Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 young adult novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” over the past several weeks. Because of schedule conflicts we couldn’t work any of the dates offered into our already crazily busy life. So last week when I saw that a nearby theater had a preview screening scheduled for tonight I quickly snagged a pair of tickets so my husband Joseph and I could attend.

I’d seen the trailer and read some early reviews, so I was aware of the basic premise, but to be honest, I wasn’t prepared for all the emotions and triggers that were in store for me. You see, I was that young man, albeit it 35 or so years ago. With a lot less technology at my fingertips. Social media? That wasn’t even a term in the 1980’s. Just like in Simon’s case, we too had one openly gay guy in school (impressive in and of itself at the time in Gaston County, North Carolina), whose visibility left an impression on me that I’ve never forgotten. But I digress…

“I’m just like you, except I have one huge-ass secret.” Boy, did they get that one right! Just like Simon, I had been holding onto my secret since I was about 12. In fact, one of my earliest memories of “gay” – not that I knew exactly what it was – surfaced within the past several years as I’ve begun working with others to help them share their own stories.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1976 – I know the year because I did a bit of research, just to make sure, once the memory surfaced – I was sitting next to my grandmother watching a television show called “Alice” about a single mother working as a waitress and raising a teenage son in Phoenix. In that particular episode, Alice was dating a retired professional football player who came out as gay. The minute he said the words “Alice, I’m gay” my grandmother stood up, walked over to the television set (they didn’t have remote controls in those days), changed the channel and sat back down.

At that age I wasn’t exactly sure what “gay” actually meant, but based on my grandmother’s reaction I was pretty sure it wasn’t something that society in general – and my grandmother in particular – was terribly fond of, so I’m guessing that experience pushed me further into the closet for several years. If “gay” was so bad that it would cause her to change the channel on a show that both of us liked watching I figured it wasn’t something I should be a part of. But, like Simon, I soon learned that I wasn’t a “part of” gay; it was – and is – a part of me.

But enough about me. “Love, Simon” is possibly one of the most important films to be released in recent years. It’s the first one I can remember being released by a major Hollywood studio featuring a gay teen in the lead role. Especially in these turbulent political times, when the LGBT civil rights movement is facing, in many cases, government-sanctioned backlash from the gains our community has made in recent years, teens need to see someone like themselves featured on screen. From my perspective, that objective was achieved in this movie.

The casting directors couldn’t have picked better actors to portray the roles, especially Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, who play Simon’s parents. One scene, in particular, pulled at my heartstrings. After Simon is already out to his family and his school, he comes home one day and his dad is taking down the Christmas lights. They experience an emotional moment where his father apologizes to him for missing all the signs. Not lecturing him for his “lifestyle,” but genuinely apologetic for any jokes that he might have told that Simon could have perceived as being homophobic, displaying a real loving concern that he might have accidentally and unintentionally hurt his son.

That’s a far cry from what many people, especially those in my generation, experienced after coming out to their own parents, although to be fair it was a different time and the resources we have today weren’t readily available. My own parents, in particular, have long since made up for anything they may have said or done at the time because they genuinely didn’t understand.

As for the one openly gay kid I knew in high school? We’ve been reconnected on social media for several years now and tonight as the credits were rolling I sent him a message that said “Just got done seeing ‘Love, Simon.’ I’m a triggered, blubbering mess 😜❤️🙂 All good triggers, but triggers just the same.”

I forgot to say one thing in that message – and that was “thank you.”

Love, Simon” opens tomorrow nationwide. CLICK HERE to watch the trailer.

Charles Chan Massey is the co-founder and Vice President of One Million Kids for Equality and co-founder and Executive Director of The Personal Stories Project. He refers to himself as an “Accidental Activist” because just like he didn’t choose to be gay, he didn’t choose to become an activist. Activism chose him. You can reach Charles at charles@onemillionkids.org.

This story was co-published with the Personal Stories Project.

3 Reasons LGBTQA Teens Abuse Substances

When teenagers abuse substances, the reasons are often different from the average adult. Their lives are in a greater state of flux, making them more susceptible to making poor decisions. They are also typically more vulnerable, needing more support and guidance than adults.

When their needs are not met, they can turn to methods of escapism including drug and alcohol abuse. On top of the standard teenage difficulties, LGBTQA teens must deal with a significant amount of extra hardship including rejection, abuse, and stigmatization. Here are a few of the top reasons LGBTQA teens may become addicts.

1. Rejection from Family

LGBTQ Substance Abuse

Image via Pixabay by Leiver

In the modern wave of acceptance and visibility, more kids are finding the courage to admit to the world that they are part of the LGBTQA community. Unfortunately, a number of parents have not caught up with this modernization and are responding in detrimental ways. Some parents will simply patronize their children, saying they don’t know what they’re talking about and that they will settle down with a nice person of the opposite sex and be happy.

This infantilizing of teens is frustrating at best and mentally harmful at worst. Teens, though they may seem old enough to stand on their own, still very much need the love, acceptance, and support of their parents. Some parents will go as far as to evict their child from their home, acting as though their child never existed. This is where substance abuse becomes even more likely to occur.

2. Homelessness by Choice or Force

When parents reject their child for being born differently, they often end up out on the streets. Though shelters do exist, they are often overcrowded and never a permanent solution. The combination of parental rejection, conditional love, and a physically difficult situation, substance abuse seems a very logical result.

This situation causes lowered self-worth, depression, and overall, the desire to forget what is going on in their lives. Substances can, for a short while, create a way to escape. The longer the teen is left on the streets with no love or support, the more likely they are to become addicted to a substance available to them. Occasionally, the pressure of a negative response from family can cause the teen to flee. When parents express disappointment or distress over their child’s revelation, the child begins to feel angry, guilty, or both.

They are angry because their parents’ love is conditional, and they’re guilty by simply existing and having caused their loved ones pain. This is enough to want to run away, resulting in the same homelessness and the same risk of addiction.

3. Social Consequences

Even when the family is supportive and accepting of the teen, the vast majority of American society has a negative view of the LGBTQA community. Teens within the community experience wrath, judgment, disapproval, and derision from complete strangers, making them feel unsafe and unwanted in their own hometowns. Even with familial support, social rejection can have a similar negative impact, causing the desire to escape from the situation.

Furthermore, with social and familial rejection being so rampant, the LGBTQA community has actually begun to incorporate substance abuse into their social spheres. When a large group of people experience similar rejection and band together in their desire to escape, drug use is often the outlet of choice. When the teen goes to seek social inclusion and safety, they are then exposed to substance abuse.

The only way to truly eradicate drug abuse among the LGBTQA community is to alter societal responses. While we are working slowly to do this, it is not an immediate solution. If you know an LGBTQA teen whose parents may be less than accepting, the best thing you can do is step in as a role model and support system for that teen.

A parent figure is one of the most important things in a teen’s life, and when the biological parents are not stepping up, the task may fall on others. Let the teen know you are there to listen, not to judge. An at-risk teen does not need a lecture. They need acceptance.


Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.