Editor's note: As a part of the 2012 Fullerton High School "Mr. Fullerton" pageant, senior Kearian Giertz was asked, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" Kearian responded that he hoped that in 10 years marriage equality would be legal so that he could marry the man of his dreams. As a result of his answer, a school administrator disqualified him from the competition. Immediately after the incident took place, Kearian's classmates, seniors Blake Danford and Katy Hall, started a letter-writing campaign, asking the question, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" They added their vision of what is needed to create safe and supportive schools. Blake and Katy teamed up with the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County and Youth Empowered to Act (YETA). The campaign became the foundation for YETA's comprehensive, student-led program to inform students, faculty, and administrators about California's school laws, provide support and advocacy for students, and create safe schools in Orange County and beyond.
The Huffington Post is sharing the stories of several youth involved in the campaign responding to Seth's Law, which was enacted last week. For more information, and to participate in the campaign, visit Youth Empowered to Act.
High school is a tough time for everyone; we're all trying to figure out who we are, how to be adults, and what "clique" we fit into. This is especially difficult if you're also trying to figure out if you're gay or not.
I knew by freshman year that I was gay, but that entire year was a lie for me. I thought being gay was bad, or wrong, or maybe just a phase, and I knew I could hide it. But the pressure of all the lies was deeply upsetting, so I told my best friend. She proceeded to tell everyone else, too, to spread rumors about me. My lie was over, people knew, and I felt like everyone was staring at me. But at least I still had the support I needed to stay alive: my boyfriend.
A week after I was outed, he disappeared. I didn't know what happened to him, and I felt like my life was over. It was a few weeks later, when I was at one of the lowest points in my life, that I came into contact with one of his friends and discovered what had happened to my boyfriend. He'd come out to his parents a few months before he met me, and they'd kicked him out of his house, so he'd begun living on the streets. He'd disappeared because he'd passed away.
I felt really alone, but I reached out for help. Then I met a great friend, the absolute strongest person I have ever met. She helped get me back on track. Now I've just finished high school and am about to head to college in New York! I completed a two-year internship at the sheriff's department and actively volunteer with Youth Empowered to Act (YETA) at the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County.
It's so important to reach out to LGBTQ youth and let them know that they are supported and embraced for who they are. Sometimes things get low, really low, but you'll find a way out of it and get back to the top. The trick is to stand tall and stay confident. Don't let people bring you down. Ignore the bullies. Especially now, with Seth's Law in place, you are protected. If someone harasses you, you have options. Schools are now legally obligated to stop the bullies. So if you're having troubles, find the support system you can trust, and stay tough. There will be hard times, times when you'll feel like there is nowhere to go, but I can tell you with certainty that it gets better.