Friday, October 01, 2010

Homophobia killed these youth

The recent suicides of these young men has been burrowing deeper under my skin over the past few days.

GLBTQ youth are at a higher risk of suicide than non-GLBTQ youth. Each of the lives pictured above could have been saved. We live in a culture that continues to allow the bullying of kids that are deemed as 'different'. For queer kids it can be relentless and come from all directions: home, school, church. The feeling that can develop over time is one of helplessness, anxiety, and constant fear. Where are the grown-ups that were supposed to protect these young people?  How many suicides is going to be enough?

I don't often share my own experiences as bullied kid because it makes people uncomfortable, and also because I like to think that I've moved beyond those painful times. But then another bullied gay kid kills himself and I find that the wounds are still there. They have healed some, but not fully.

When I was a teenager (pictured, right)  I didn't understand what gay was. I did not identify as gay, even though some of my classmates enjoyed labeling me as such. I never got beaten up at school, but I frequently received threats, punches, teasing, taunting. I remember once in middle school a kid drew a target on my shirt sleeve so that another kid would know where to punch me. They thought it was hilarious and the teacher did nothing. I remember getting the back of my chair kicked a lot. I got called "fag boy", "faggot", "sissy", etc. In retrospect it's not surprising that I didn't come out to myself until my 30s; I had years of internalized homophobia to deal with.  But this is all just part of my story.

We all have an opportunity to help fix this crisis. For starters, speak up about it. If you hear friends, family, or colleagues say anti-gay things, step up and correct them. If you are closeted yourself and don't know what to do, start with your local organizations - they exist everywhere.  Make sure you are not voting for leaders who support anti-gay legislation. As long as we have laws that categorize gay people as "less than" we are going to have kids being treated as "less than". For those of you who have kids, is this what you would want for your child?   

Change takes time, but it takes even longer if we as a society are afraid to talk about it.

A big *THANK YOU* to Ellen DeGeneres for making the following video, which has been generating discussion all over the web:
 Note: Thanks to Matt at Asterisk for posting the following over at his website:
"If you’re in a bad way and you feel you might hurt yourself, please call The Trevor Project at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR."

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