The recent heart-wrenching stories of gay youth committing suicide are just unimaginable horrors for their families and our community. Despite decades of work, and progress, on gay rights, we still see the high cost of homophobia. Gay kids have always been at high risk for attempting suicide. What is different now, it seems, is that parents are more willing to call attention to the tragedies, so that the stories can be told in the media.
Suicide is a very personal topic for me. When I was a sophomore in college, I tried to kill myself. For complicated reasons, in part for social pressure and in part because I feared ( and was told ) I could not be openly gay and a journalist, I took dozens of pills in an effort to end my life. When it was clear to me that I might not succeed and may instead be damaged physically, I called for help and ended up in the hospital for a week. My school forced me into therapy in order to remain living in the dorm that year.
Therapy did not help, but coming so close to losing my life did change me. I had actually almost been killed twice before, once at the hands of a knife-wielding attacker when I was 15, and again by a driver who ran a red light into the car I was driving, but this was different, this was at my own choosing, and an oddly empowering act. I wrote about the attempt in my poetry journal for my English professor, who just happened to be Mark Doty, now a well-known and award-winning openly gay poet. He was not openly gay back then, and he courageously came out to me in the pages of my poetry journal, telling me, in so many words, "it gets better."
That's why I was very inspired when Dan Savage started his new YouTube channel "It Gets Better." Those few words my professor wrote to me in the early 1980s impacted my life in a profound way. Not just the words, but the risk I knew he took in coming out to mein trusting me.
From that moment on, and every day since, I have not allowed external forces to dictate who I am, or what I can do. As weird as it sounds, the suicide attempt freed me to be all I could be, without the constraints of society. I am not suggesting people attempt suicide to free themselvesI should not have had to do that to know I could be my own person.
I was actually among the lucky ones. Growing up, I had a supportive family. I had gay role models ( family friends ) . I was kind of out in high school, or at least defined by the lesbian friends I hung out with. And in college, I was boldly out and started the Drake University women's soccer club that year. I was pretty well received and not a social outcast, at least among the friends I cared about. Yet I just couldn't take it anymore, no matter how busy I kept doing school newsletters, starting groups, or writing articles. Something triggered in me a fear of the unknown future.
But because gays even today have very few immediate adult gay role models, and some come from unsupportive families, the pressures still can be just as much as when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. And many gay adults are afraid of mentoring gay youth because of the age-old stereotypes about recruitment and molestation. But it is the closeted homophobes ( and pastors ) who put our kids at risk, not out and proud, well-adjusted LGBT adults. We should no longer fear being out to youth, because they are coming out at ever-younger ages. And some of these kids who are killing themselves may not even be gay, but rather they fit stereotypes and are harassed for being gaythey, too, need to see they have infinite choices ahead. That it will get better for them, too.
I am very fortunate to have survived my suicide attempt. But I do not regret it, because it created a "before" and "after" for me that changed my life for the better. From that moment on I knew it was my choice, and mine alone, to be on this planet. It sounds funny to say that knowing you do NOT have to be here frees you to really BE here, but that has worked for me. No one stands in my way, even if they shout me down at a public meeting about gay rights, or make harassing calls to my work, or send threatening letters in email or snail mail.
To the gay kids, and those who are otherwise "different," I am telling you it does, absolutely, get better. The bullies will not go away, and you may always be called names ( someone driving quickly by a recent Rockford gay protest yelled "faggot" from their car at those gathered ) . But you have to choose to live your life for you, and never mind the bullies. They do not have the power, you do. Find sanctuary if you have to, but know there are people out here who want to help you.
IN THIS ISSUE [ LINK HERE OR FROM THIS ISSUE'S MAIN INDEX ]
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Anti-suicide project reflects on cases
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php DePaul vigil remembers teen suicides
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kirk Williamson
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Toni Weaver
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Amy Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Bobby Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Eric Marcus
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Alexandra Billings
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Caleb's Story
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Karlis Streips
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by John R. Cepek
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Judy Shepard
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Lee Lynch
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kristi Keorkunian
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Joshua Plant
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Chris Hill
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Trevor Project Chicago events
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Stopping Bullies in Illinois
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Mother of Slain Teen Gwen Araujo Addresses LGBT Youth Suicide by Sylvia Guerrero
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Carl G. Streed Jr.
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Thom Bierdz
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kit Duffy
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Vernita Gray
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Wancy Young Cho