10/05/2010 02:11 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

An Open Letter to the Gay Youth of America

In light of all the recent teen suicides that have swept through our country lately, I thought now would be a good time to reach out and send some positive thoughts to anyone struggling with who they are for being "different."

As a young teen, it may seem as though the world doesn't understand you. You are trying to figure out who you are, you may be experimenting with different ideas and lifestyles to get to the heart of your true self. In doing so, you may feel the need to express yourself in ways that other people might find "weird" or "different."

As my friends and I have talked about many times, high school is not a real representation of the world outside. In high school, those who are ostracized for being unique or different (for whatever reason) are often the people that go on to have interesting and fulfilling lives. When you keep your mind and heart open to new ideas and new perspectives, you become a more compassionate, understanding and accepting person.

Standing out from the crowd can seem overwhelming, depressing and scary at times. I know it seems as though high school never ends, but it does. And guess what? Things get better, they truly, truly do. In the real world, you get to pick and choose who you want in your life, instead of being stuck in a classroom with kids that were brought up to be close minded and afraid, like the parents that instilled these thoughts in them from when they were small.

You see, change is difficult for a lot of people, and when I was a tween and a young teen, I thought that parents knew everything. I thought that adults were the smartest people around and when I would grow up, I would be awakened to all of these progressive and brilliant ideas. But, as I grew up and saw how some parents were just as afraid, I realized that I wanted to be a light for others to follow, even if I wasn't a grown-up yet, to show others that they had nothing to fear by being themselves. I was a quirky kid, certainly not the most popular in school, but I was lucky enough to have family and friends that loved me for who I was, so I didn't have to hide myself. The liberation one feels when they accept who they are is the most intensely wonderful and freeing feeling you can ever know.

You can be that light. By believing in yourself, by knowing that it won't always be like this, by pushing forward and standing brave in the face of adversity, you can change people's hearts just by being you. Sounds like a daunting task, it may sound like an impossible task, but the truth is, just by showing the world that you aren't afraid of who you are, that you aren't afraid to be yourself, you may change others' minds to accepting that it is OK to be different. It is OK to be gay. It is OK to be exactly who you are.

High school can be so tough, but it is through our trials and tribulations in life that shape our character. Use their close-mindedness and insecurities about who they are to propel you forward as a individual who respects others and is secure in themselves. Over time, if more and more of us join together and stand up for one another, maybe we can slowly change the energy of our collective spirit and progress into being a more evolved, more peaceful, more loving people. There are people out there who care about you, who want you to do well in this life, who wish you nothing but peace, joy and laughter. Focus your thoughts on that sentiment and let the rest wash away. In time, you will heal and bring your wisdom to others who may be afraid.


Natalie Bencivenga and All Those Who Wish You Well