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1994: What Would Enrique 'Rickie' Vasquez Do?

What Would Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez Do?

Wilson Cruz pens a letter to the My So-Called Life character that launched his career

For 25 years, OUT has celebrated queer culture. To mark our silver jubilee, we look back at some of the biggest, brightest moments of the past 9,131 days.

Dear Rickie,

Your friend Angela Chase once said, "This life has been a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have received instructions on where to go and what to do." She was right, you know? This life is a test, but it is an actual life. It's a life where you will be tested on how much love you can share, how authentic you can be with the people in your life and with yourself, and it's a test of how resilient you are when this life will, inevitably, try to knock you down.

Deep down you already know this, Rickie. At 15 years old, you are passing this test with flying colors. You've proven to be the physical embodiment of love. The only thing you want more than to love your friends and family is to feel and know their love in return.

You are truly authentic. You disarm us with your personal style, your unyielding faith in a higher power, and your willingness to be unapologetically different--an openly gay boy of color in high school in the 1990s.

This is not to say that it's been easy for you. There's nothing easy about blazing a trail. It requires a fire inside and a stamina to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead. But you know this. You've been bullied and beaten at school and at home for being who you are, but you get up, put on your eyeliner, and not just survive but dance through the pain and find yourself stronger on the other side.

In the next 23 years, you'll find that you have been well served by these lessons. You'll be a witness to and a part of a movement built, in large part, on love, authenticity, and resilience. You will find great comfort in knowing that you modeled those ideals for an entire generation of young LGBTQ people who would grow up and change the world.

With love in their hearts they will fight for and see HIV/AIDS become a more manageable disease, killing fewer and fewer people every year. They will take their broken hearts into streets and say enough is enough when a young man named Matthew Shepard is tied up, brutally beaten, and murdered in Laramie, Wyo., eventually leading to an expansion of the federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. You will see these young people become adults and come out in historic numbers to their friends, families, and, perhaps most important, to their communities, where they will be on the front line of a decades-long national debate about marriage equality. There will be setbacks, but ultimately, it is a willingness to live authentically that will lead to a dramatic change in public opinion that will allow the Supreme Court to make marriage equality the law of the land. The Vasquez generation faces a new set of obstacles today--from protecting the rights they've fought so hard to achieve to continuing to fight for legal protections in employment and housing to standing up for other marginalized communities threatened by an increasingly menacing administration. It won't be easy. After all, this life is a test. When it gets hard, I hope they do what I do when I'm not sure of my next step. I ask myself, What would Rickie do? Then, I just do that. For all of this and more, thank you, Rickie.

Love always,


Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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