I have had enough of the experts talking about gay suicides when I caught the Dr. Phil show on bullying. The point that grabbed my attention was that Dr. Phil was probably a bully when he was in school. I mean, I wouldn't exactly call him "friendly" on the show. And anyone that took weight advice from a fat man -- well, you get my point.
I decided it was time to hear from the group going through the gay bullying themselves -- other gay teens. I only had to reach out to my Sarah, my "adoptive" niece. Sarah is the daughter of a very good friend from college and came out in her early teens.
I thought, wow, how far have we come since the days of my own scenes from Glee when I was getting thrown into lockers.
Then the suicides happened.
Don't get me wrong -- I like trends just like the other person. However, I like mine to be temporary, and consisting of something I can easily change back. Suicide is not one of those things.
To say its hard growing up gay is an understatement. To explain what it feels like to be different for something you had no control over would take nothing short of forever. When I went to my 20th high school reunion, many of the relationships returned to where they left off, and I was that scared kid again waiting for someone to pants me in the hallway. I was on high alert the entire evening. It brought back all of those feelings, and horrible memories of when I wanted to "disappear" from the planet and could not wait for my own death.
The person hurling the insults has no idea how much words can hurt and how much damage is almost permanent. Physical wounds heal easily and within a structured time frame. Emotional ones -- they live on in a world all their own.
But being pantsed in the hallway is practically intimate compared to what some of today's kids go through. Imagine having your first kiss -- and then its plastered all over the internet for the entire world to "share" in the moment. It's shame on levels I don't even want to comprehend.
Yes it does get better. But to simply say those words is not enough. It takes work. Years and years of work to get through the anger and frustration and self esteem crisis.
Before I get on my soapbox a bit too much, I wanted to share with you something straight from my very special own connection to the affected population. The following are words written by Sarah DeRupo, my niece, and a 15 year old bisexual female, living boldly and filled with pride on Long Island.
Take in these words before you listen to Dr. Phil again on this issue. Listen to the mouths of these babes and learn exactly how we can help them before its too late.
I bring you Sarah.
As I was sitting on my couch, watching MSNBC News with my mom, the picture of three young men flashed onto the screen. In less than a week, all three of these boys killed themselves because of their sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientations. The first was Tyler Clementi, the eighteen-year-old Rutgers University freshman who jumped off of a New York City bridge. An intimate encounter with another man had been recorded by his roommate, and was then plastered on the internet as a "joke."
Not exactly my idea of a joke.
If someone had posted a video of me kissing a girl (no such video exists, luckily) on Facebook or Twitter, before I came out, I would have been devastated. If teasing and bullying pushed me into a depression after I came out, I can't imagine being outed by people that I barely knew.
Asher Brown, was only thirteen years old when he killed himself after constant bullying in school. Not only is no action being taken against these bullies, but the school is blaming his parents for not telling school officials, which they did. Seth Walsh, who was the same age, went through a similar experience as Brown.
What scares me the most is that I was their age, only thirteen when I came out. What if the bullying was as bad for me as it was for them. Would I have been driven to that point? It's never a good thing to linger on the past, but I really can't help but wonder...
If you haven't already guessed it, I'm a member of the LGBT community. I identify with the 'B' or, in other words, I'm bisexual. Not only that, I'm only fifteen. I've noticed how there have been five suicides within the LGBT community in less than two weeks. I've also noticed how many celebrities are now trying to prevent LGBT bullying. Even though these celebrities have the power of getting the word out to the masses, I think that it's about time that a LGBT teen puts in their two cents about the whole subject. Yes, we all need role models, but it's also important to hear from your peers. That's where I come in.
Thankfully, I've found my own safe social space. I attend a "coffee house" for LGBTQ youth and their straight allies. Not only does this benefit my social life (which is always a priority when you're my age), but going there helps me realize that I'm not alone. I've found friends who can I can connect with on a different level than with my straight friends. This makes me question if these boys had that kind of support. I can only hope that they did. Even though I'm beyond grateful for the support that I've found, I've only been able to truly find it there. Even though having your own safe social environment is essential to the life of a teenager, separate but equal has never and will never work.
It's no secret that throughout this nation, LGBT teens are tortured in school. Gay bashing could get a kid expelled, but those that get caught usually get nothing more than a verbal slap on the wrists. Most of the comments made in school hallways fall on deaf ears. Even in my school, gay slurs run rampant, which may be surprising to some since I'm less than forty-five minutes away from New York City. My school's unofficial motto is, "That's so gay." The most used to term in my school is 'queer.' After getting in too much trouble for using the dreaded 'Q-word,' kids in my school created variations of the word, including 'quars' and 'kors,' because, of course, no one can figure out what that mean.
As LGBT teens try to flourish in society while discovering themselves, this small-minded world continues to shoot them down. Even though school officials will say that they are trying to keep everyone safe from bullying, the only ones that they protect are themselves and the bullies. This leaves us vulnerable to all kinds of suffering and inequalities.
At least we're getting prepared for the real world so early in life.
I know we are supposed to prepare them for what lies ahead. But I think we have a responsibility to insure their safety until they are adults.
Follow Thomas DeLorenzo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TDeLorenzo