Sunday, June 9, 2013

It Gets Better!

This morning I spent about an hour or so reading gay related 'stuff' - quotes about pride, quotes about marriage, history, famous gays & lesbians, pride celebrations, news briefs - but the thing that stopped me was the gay teen suicide stories. This got me to thinking about my teen years and dealing with my sexuality.

I didn't grow up in an overly religious family (we hardly ever attended church) but the things said about gays (or faggots, as my Dad called them) really scared me. Also my family really didn't talk about things, so there was no discussion about what 'gay' was, I just knew it wasn't something that was accepted. From these things I guess I assumed that I didn't have any support as a gay youth. When I first realized I was gay I remember lying in bed one night trying to figure out why I was the way I was - especially if it was wrong. I remember crying and thinking about all the things I could remember that I had done. I wanted to find the 'bad' thing I did that made me into such a bad person. Why did all the boys at school talk about liking girls while I was liking boys? This was a constant recording in my mind. I knew I was gay but I did everything I could to try and make sure no one suspected. I tried out for sports teams (which didn't go well), dated girls (which also didn't go well) and made every effort to move and talk like all the boys (again this didn't go well). I had no gaydar at that age so I did not know of any other boy that was like me, so I kept my thoughts to myself. That meant that I didn't have anyone to talk to - or so I thought. I eventually learned (or figured out) that I had two aunts that were lesbian. But as I said before my family didn't talk about things. So I silently took the name calling and beatings and worried about what would happen to me if someone really knew the truth that I was gay - because up to this point people were only speculating that I was gay because I never did anything to suggest otherwise - I was too scared. At some point, and I am not sure when, I met someone that was gay and talked to them about what I was feeling and I started to realize that I wasn't alone. As time passed I met more and more gay and lesbian people and slowly built a support system. Now I feel confident in who I am as a gay man and I am so happy I survived my teen years to be living the life I have - in a 23 year committed relationship with a great job and people in my life that accept me for who I am.
All this got me thinking about the gay teens who have recently committed suicide due to bullying and rejection just because of their sexuality. We have so many great LGBT groups that we can go to for support now it makes me wonder why these teens felt they had to take their lives instead of trying to get help. I thought about my teen years and tried comparing that to now. I was 'isolated' compared to the teens now. We had phones, but not cell phones and definitely not phones with cameras. There were no computers (well maybe they were just getting started) and no internet. Information wasn't as easily shared and not on as global a scale. Everything you do and everything about you now can be transmitted throughout the whole world in a matter of seconds. How is someone who is still maturing emotionally and who is trying to make sense of their sexuality suppose to deal with that.

I know I had feeling of helplessness but I don't ever remember thinking that suicide was the answer. I am so thankful for that. It saddens me that our gay youth don't feel like they can continue to live when the truth about them is exposed. It is wonderful that we have organizations that are out there to help anyone who needs it. I know we can't fix all the problems immediately but I hope that the gay youth of today know we are there for them - we need them to know that they are loved and valuable to society. So we need to continue to reach out to them and give them the support they need.

This post is dedicated to . . .

Tyler Clementi (18), New Jersey - 2010
Ryan Halligan (13), Vermont - 2003
Jamie Hubley (15), Canada - 2011
Jamey Rodmeyer (14), New York - 2011
Jim Wheeler (19), Pennsylvania - 1997
Joshua Pacheco (17), Michigan - 2012
Jarrod Nickell (18), Michigan - 2012
Phillip Parker (14), Tennessee - 2012
Jeffery Fehr (18), California - 2012
James Borges (19), California - 2012
Seth Walsh (13), California - 2010
Asher Brown (13), Texas - 2010
Billy Lucas (15), Indiana - 2010
Haylee Fentress (14), Minnesota - 2011
Paige Moravetz (14), Minnesota - 2011
Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr. (14), Iowa - 2012
Jay "Corey" Jones (17), Minnesota - 2012
Jadin Bell (15), Oregon - 2013
Justin Aaberg (15), Minnesota - 2010
Aiyisha Hassan (19), Washington, D.C. - 2010
Raymond Chase (19), New York - 2010
Zach Harrington (19), Oklahoma - 2010
Brandon Elizares (16), Texas - 2012

. . . and to all the others I missed or haven't heard about.

There are many groups and organizations where someone can get help, here is a small list . . .

The Trevor Project
Give a Damn
It Gets Better Project
Stand Up Foundation
Faces for Change
NOH8 Campaign

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