The growing number of gay teen suicides lately has been deeply disturbing. Those who hate us, emboldened by the vocal nutjobs in the media, find license to continue their hate and even worse, do real harm. They see the freaks on tv and think it’s ok. It is not ok and every single one of us has an obligation to speak out and say so.
While I was fortunate enough to not be bullied that often in school, I did experience it. It wasn’t so much because I was obviously gay but because I was different. Up until I left home, my parents made me wear my hair like Elvis (for lack of a better description). I guess at this point said hairstyle was considered out of style and I got lots of teasing over it. Of course, being poor didn’t help. I was also rather skinny and almost frail at this point in my life. My first real experience was in junior high. My last day of 7th grade a rather obnoxious bully named Corrie snuck up behind me and sucker-punched in the face with his fist. He’d often called me all kinds of names including the F-word. I doubt he really thought I was gay, he just saw me as weak and easy-prey. I folded like a sack of potatoes as it was out of the blue and I didn’t even see him. Everyone around me was equally shocked, even kids who weren’t really keen on me were upset. He thought he got away with it clean but first day of the next school year, they expelled him for a month. At my 10-year re-union I had hoped to encounter him. One, I had beefed up and also had experience and a new-found confidence. I actually went half-expecting to get into a fight with him. Win or lose, he was going to know it was not ok to ever bully me again. He didn’t show. I found out later on he’d been in/out of jail for random crap. One only knows where he is now or if he is even still alive. There were a few other times in my life but for the most part I was lucky in that regard.
My own brush with suicide was based on years of mental-abuse from family and a final kick in the head by the loss of my first love. There was no one there to help me, no one to turn to, and certainly no one to tell me things would improve. While I wasn’t bullied that much, the pain was very real. Call it grace, God, or just dumb luck, I decided against a very permanent solution and moved on with my life. I’ve never forgotten how it made me feel though. The sense of despair and helplessness was awful and it robbed the mind of reason. When you get like that, you begin to look for an escape any way you can. Sadly, suicide often seems like the only way out. I’m living proof that it’s not. It does get better. And while that doesn’t mean life is gonna be all roses and pretty flowers, you do move past it. You discover the world is more than just that confined moment of agony.
I had a kid named Brad reach out to me on my blog some years ago after I had shared my story here. He told me that my post had changed his mind about killing himself and gave him courage to continue on his life. I’ve never heard from him since but it gave me so much joy to know telling my story helped someone else.
I’m happy the say the local police department here did an It Get’s Better video recently. Several of my friends were in it and I couldn’t be prouder. It may seem trivial or even expected coming from a progressive city like SF but I don’t think so. When a law-enforcement agency sends a message of acceptance to our LGBT youth, it is sends a powerful message of hope.
The point of my ramble today is this. Good or bad, share your story with friends, family, coworkers, and even random strangers if the opportunity arises. It may not be horrific at all but that doesn’t mean your insight can’t help someone else. You never know when someone might be listening or reading. Don’t hide behind indifference. To do so discredits all those who have come before us and will come after us.