Terrance: Past has made him strong

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When Terrance McGeorge entered his teens, his mother decided to send him out of their Hill District neighborhood to Baldwin High School in the South Hills, after a difficult period at Milliones Middle School.

Annie O'Neill, Post-GazetteTerrance McGeorge gets coached during a rehearsal for the drama troupe, "Dreams of Hope." The troupe is for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and "questioning" youth.

"I was getting in fights every day with kids who picked on me for being gay," said Mr. McGeorge, 20, who said he was taunted at home for having a father who was gay, and at school for his own mannerisms, which he describes as "effeminate," although he didn't come out until he was older.

At the predominantly white Baldwin High School, he encountered a different problem, he says, "not homophobia, but racism," prompting him to drop out of school for a time -- before eventually obtaining his diploma.

This may be why young people like Mr. McGeorge represent a challenge for child development researchers. They're complicated -- not to mention hard to track down -- which may be why they've ended up in very few studies of gay families. If a child is struggling, what are the reasons? Is it because they're poor? Or black? Or because they've been ostracized for being gay, or because a parent is gay, or because they're living with a single parent, or shuttling from household to household?

Mr. McGeorge would be the first to say his life is on the right track today: Besides his Americorps job at Beginning With Books, he's also a member of "Dreams of Hope," an East Liberty theater group and is helping to plan a fashion show Aug. 18 sponsored by the People of Color Center, a non-profit organization seeking to raise awareness about the importance of testing for HIV/AIDS.

He also says his own childhood would have been more stable had he lived with his father. His mother, who he lived with for most of his childhood, loved him and provided him with everything he needed, he says, but she struggled with depression, "and I picked up a lot of my mom's hang-ups."

His father, on the other hand, was "understanding and patient with me, and if I'd lived with him, I think I'd be a better, less conflicted person today."

There's no question, though, that his own openly gay persona attracts constant comment as he walks the streets of East Liberty, but he says his own strong sense of self -- which he got from his father -- has helped him cope with adversity.

"I'm a product of my dad being gay and him having partners and things of that nature, and I think that, considering my situation, I turned out better than I would have if I had been in a straight parent home just because I've already dealt with discrimination.

"It's been in my face since my dad came out, so I've already dealt with it and that made me strong."

-- Mackenzie Carpenter


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