Trying to be a role model (or just look like one)

This weekend Tawn and I had brunch with an 18-year old exchange student from Canada.  He’s another of those “Xanga friends”, that class of interesting people you meet through this community whom you might otherwise never have the opportunity or occasion to know.

In January I received this message (name changed for privacy):

Hi There, My name is Ian, I’m a Canadian Exchange student currently living in Bangkok. I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago – and meant to send a message, however I thought you might find it odd to receive a comment from a boy 20 years younger than you. (I assure this is not some insane form of reverse pedophilia.) haha, this is simply one person, genuinely interested in the life of another.

The truth is that your entries have really brightened my last few days – Seeing a happy successful Gay Couple gives me a lot of hope for my own future. The truth is that although I accepted my sexuality a few years ago – I never managed to meet anyone with the same lifestyle. I’ve met a lot of confused teenagers – but never any adults like yourself. It’s great to know that people like you and Tawn exist!

Anyways, I hope your New Years was a happy one. This has been my first one outside of North America – it was amazing.

This is the first time I can recall that anyone looked at me and Tawn as role models.  What a responsibility!  What a bad choice on his part!  (Ha ha… just a little self-depracating humor there.)

I stayed in touch with Ian through his blog.  His time here has been interesting: he’s picked up Thai quickly, explored the city and many pats of the country, made many Thai friends as well as friends with other exchange students, and met a young Thai man his age who (it sounds) stole his heart.  Ian says that he’ll be back to study at university as soon as he finished high school.

With Ian’s time in Thailand running out soon, I suggested we should meet up.  He is now 18, so my fears of Rotary International exchange parents hunting me down for corrupting the young have subsided.

To provide a wider range of examples of other Thai-western couples, I invited Stuart and Piyawat and Ken and Suchai to join.  We had a pleasant brunch at Kuppa, a San Francisco-style restaurant situated in a former warehouse on Sukhumvit Soi 16 that roasts its own coffee.

Meeting Ian in person was a nice experience.  He’s young but he handles himself well around what must have been a rather boring bunch of chattering middle (or nearly middle) aged gay men.  But I hope he realizes that there are many other people who have already walked down the same paths he will travel. 

There are multiple paths we represent, from being gay, to being in successful same-sex intercultural relationships (heck, being in any type of successful relationship), to moving to another country and adjusting and thriving in it. 

Most importantly, I hope he realizes that there are many people here who will help and support him when he decides to move here; he’ll have the advantage of a network of resources.

All this got me thinking to the responsibilities we all have to give back, or more accurately, to give forward to the generations that follow us.  What contributions are we making to help younger generations?  Some of us are parents, many more are aunts and uncles either by blood or by choice.  But all of us have the capacity to share our experiences and to help others in their lives.

What other things can I be doing to make this contribution?