What can we as LGBTQ adults do to show our support for those that are fighting a struggle we may have already conquered? You've come out, your professional and personal life is amazing, life is good. "But Catherine," you say, "I don't want to have to feel the anxiety, the sadness, and the rage, that despair I felt when I was 14 or 15, the loneliness of 16 and 17, the begging and pleading that was 18: 'Please, oh, please, let there be someone, anyone out in the world like me.'"
The thing is, if you don't, if I don't, if we all, as adults, don't stand up and say, "I am gay, I am happy, and I am proud," then who will? If more celebrities don't come out, like Chely Wright, Ellen DeGeneres, etc., mainstream culture will continue to marginalize and dismiss us as somehow "less-than" in society, all based on whom we love. The suicides will continue, and any child dying due to feeling alone and helpless because they are gay, trans*, bisexual, etc. is one child too many.
When does it stop? When do we as a nation stand up and say, "No more; it ends now"? When do my fellow LGBTQ adults say, "I am out, I am successful, and you can be, too," instead of hiding behind a computer where it's safe? Places like LGBTQ and straight youth centers are few and far between, and LGBTQ meetings at coffee shops, dances, etc. just don't happen anymore. When does our own community stand back and say, "We have to show the kids out there that's it's going to be OK"?
How many kids in tiny backwater towns where it's just not OK to be LGBTQ are going to kill themselves? How are they going to know if the LGBTQ community as a whole doesn't rise up and say, "I exist, perhaps even in your town! I survived, and so can you"? Worse, if these kids have a disability, chances are they're already being picked on. With the addition of Facebook, Twitter, and social media in general, the torment can literally never end. Bullies these days will miss no opportunity to harass those they see as different or a threat to them, both online and off.
You can say, "Where were their parents to fight this fight for them?" but they probably went to the school, or to the parents of their child's bully, and they were ignored! As for the schools, when it comes time to enforce the policy and abide by the rules in place to combat bullying and address parent or student reports of harassment, they remain silent. As a result, those children are dead, and they are going to stay dead, and even if the schools rewrote the policy, it won't bring them back. We should want to leave the systems that ignore these reports of violence, threats, and harassment against their LGBTQ students with no course of action but to take action! If you have attempted to speak to the parents of your child's bully, what have you found? Has bullying become a product of that child's environment, or did the bully's behavior shock and shame the parent you addressed regarding the behavior of their child? Was there a solution reached, or did the bullying continue?
To the schools that have ignored your students and their families when they came to you for help: for shame. That is not a safe-school policy; it is not inspiring a safe learning environment. Rather, ignoring these reports is the height of ignorance, and it is despicable.
The LGBTQ adult community, the college students, the working professionals: we cannot stay silent. We have to realize that for so many of today's youth (yes, still!), there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is nowhere to go, no one to talk to. If my writing this can help one person, it's a start. It will never be "enough," but it's a bit of headway on a long and uphill battle.
Stand up, take action. Don't let these children suffer alone. Blaze a trail, because if you don't, who will?
Follow Catherine Oliver on Twitter: www.twitter.com/justabitradical