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And the messages that stream back into John's box are mostly from kids his own age, many marooned far from urban centers for gay and lesbian youth.
Such is Christopher Rempel, a witty, soft-spoken Ace of Base fan from (as he puts it) "redneck farmer hell." Christopher borrowed the principal's modem to jack into a beekeepers BBS and gopher his way to the Queer Resources Directory, a multimeg collection of text files, news items, and services listings. I came to terms that I was gay last summer and, aside from some depression, I'm OK. I would like to write to someone that I can talk to about issues I can't talk about with my friends.
After mood swings plummeted her into a profound depression, Kali - like too many gay teens - considered suicide.
Her access to Gay Net at school gave her a place to air those feelings, and a phone call from someone she knew online saved her life.
"Teens are starting to throw their weight around," says Quirk, the leader of the AOL forum.
She was also the "Girl Saved by E-mail," whose story ran last spring on CNN.
I conformed to society's paradigm, and I was rewarded. Everything I did was a diversion from thinking about myself.
Finally, last summer, my subconsciousness felt comfortable enough to be able to connect myself with who I really am, and I began to understand what it is to be gay.
For young queers, the Magic Ring is the bond of community.
John's posts have the confidence and urgency of one who speaks for many who must keep silent: The struggle for equal rights has always taken place on the frontier of the legal wilderness where liberty meets power.
Once I was an automaton, obeying external, societal, and parental expectations like a dog, oblivious of who I was or what I wanted.