Being a teenager really sucks. Especially if you're not "normal" or "socially acceptable." However, it doesn't have to suck. I am told that it gets better after high school; I don't know if it will get better or not, but I do know that high school shouldn't have to be the hell that so many teenagers experience. There are places that will accept you, regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation. You shouldn't have to "just survive" high school; you should thrive in high school. However, you do have to have ways or strategies to allow yourself to thrive.
My name is Bobby. I am 15 years old, and an openly gay sophomore at Glenbard East High School in Lombard, Ill. I didn't always go to Glenbard East, though. I spent my freshman year at a high school in the Northwest suburbs where I was the target of a near-constant onslaught of anti-gay jokes and remarks. This bullying was not stopped even by teachers who witnessed it. The bullying became so intense that I resorted to cutting myself, and even considered suicide for a period of time. While these ways of coping may seem appealing at first, they do not in any way solve your problems. They simply distract you for a short time, nothing else. Your problems will still be there, you'll just be worse off.
When my parents found out what was really happening at the school, they offered me the options of homeschooling my way through high school or up-rooting from our home and moving to a town with a more accepting community and school. I chose the latter, despite the fact that we hadn't even lived in our house a full year, and we began the search for a new place of residence. We shopped for schools before we shopped for homes, and after extensive research, I chose Glenbard East High School.
Since I started my sophomore year at Glenbard East, the difference has been incredible. People aren't taken aback when they find out I'm gay ( if they haven't figured it out already ) , and I don't have to worry about what I told who, or remember who knows what. I'm out of the closet, and that's the end of it. The school also has an active GSA ( Gay-Straight Alliance ) that is constantly advocating for and promoting equality and acceptance for all students, not just LGBTQ-identifying students.
If you have parents who accept you, that can be huge. Talk to them. If not, try to find a teacher to confide in. If you can't find that, talk to a social worker at school, especially if you're having acceptance issues. By law, they cannot tell anyone anything you say regarding your gender identity or sexual orientation but they can probably hook you up with some resources to help you. There are telephone hotlines, Internet groups, and other sources of support out there where you can remain anonymous if you want but still get help.
Your school can be a resource to you in other ways too, depending on the administration's resistance ( or commitment ) to being LGBTQ friendly. Start a GSAit's illegal for the school to not let you, as long as you fulfill the requirements of every other club. Find teachers who are sympathetic to your cause. If you have an ally in a teacher, that can have a huge effect on your school experience.
You might have to look beyond your high school to find an LGBTQ-friendly environment. Community colleges often offer groups for people in the LGBTQ community and its allies. In addition, accepting churches may offer a safe meeting space for LGBTQ people and allies.
Here are some other tips:
Don't take everything personally.
Your safety should be your first priority, so be careful what information you share about yourself with others and what environments and situations you put yourself into and who you hang around with.
Understand that there will always be ignorance and stupidity.
Try to get to know and surround yourself with accepting people.
Advocate for others who are not treated fairly, as well as for yourself.
Read and gather information to help you better understand yourself and your society.
However, the first step towards help is accepting yourself. This is the most important survival tactic I can give you. You cannot share your love if you don't love yourself. Never, ever be ashamed of who you are: gay, straight, bi, female, male, and everything in-between. Once you accept yourself, you can start advocating for acceptance of others. It can get better for all of us.
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 Tracy Baim
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 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