Earlier this month, a fifteen year old boy hung himself after years of being bullied and called a "fag" and "gay."
In response, Dan Savage, a relationship and sex advice columnist, started the It Gets Better Project, in which older gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people share their stories of how their lives improved after high school, to convey one message: high school is not forever -- one day, the bullying will stop. And that message is so true. And, yes, there will always be bigots. But once you get out of high school, you will find people who accept you and love you for who you are.
And thank God that we finally have the opportunity to tell this to the LGBT kids of this country!
In the 1980s, along with social marginalization and legally enshrined discrimination, the gay community faced the AIDS epidemic. Though that fight is by no means over, our community has made great strides to counter it. Our generation, however, faces another epidemic: that of suicide. This is a serious problem -- yet one that too few are willing to address in any meaningful way.
Between 2004 and 2008, nearly half of the country passed amendments to state constitutions prohibiting lesbian and gay people from marrying someone they love. Prior to that, Congress had adopted the "Defense" of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and which allowed states to refuse to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. Attempts to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage have repeatedly received a majority in Congress. Alongside all of this have been efforts to ban same-sex adoption, prevent any positive discussion of homosexuality in schools, and organized efforts to prevent the emergence of gay or lesbian characters in popular culture. In all of these campaigns, LGBT people are demonized as the moral equivalent of pedophiles or those who practice bestiality; our relationships are characterized as somehow inferior to those of our heterosexual counterparts; those who supposedly represent us in government denounce us as "unnatural" and "abominatons." It is not uncommon for LGBT youth to be kicked out of their homes or to be sent to camps to be "fixed" through prayer.
Is it any surprise, then, that the suicide rate for LGBT youth is between three and five times higher than it is among straight youth? These political realities have very real consequences for children in the United States today.
Obviously the effects of these political activities don't have as direct an effect on most as they had on me. But they do have a significant effect: people listen to our nation's leaders, and accept their views as legitimate.
And as long as Republicans push for abstinence-only education, and with it a general school curriculum that systematically denies the existence of homosexuality; as long as LGBT youth are called "faggot" and "gay" every day they go to school; as long as our school administrations sit by and let it happen -- as long as gay kids look around them and see a world that rejects them, and as long as they look toward the future and see one that's no different from now, they will keep killing themselves.
I recognize that most of us, as everyday people, can't change most of this. But we can do one thing: we can change that dark vision of the future held by so many gay youth. We can tell them that it does get better. We can tell them that it doesn't matter what their elected officials say -- or what their church leaders say, or what the bullies say. We can tell them that once they get to college, once they get out of high school, once they go out into the world, life is so many thousands upon thousands of times better.
Harvey Milk once said:
And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.
Let's do exactly that: show them that gay people can make it.And here's mine: