One of the hardest things I've dealt with as a teacher is counseling students with suicidal thoughts. The high school years are so difficult with hormones, crushes, insecurities, identity angst, parental battles, and grade issues. At a time when they most need support and approval, many teens are disowned (literally or figuratively) by their parents for being gay. The rejection of a parent is devastating; our parents have so much control over our self-esteem. We believe what they tell us. We're not at an age yet, even as high schoolers, to see how wrong they can be – about us, about sex, about everything.
And sometimes they are wrong. A student once shared a book with me called Toxic Parents. I don't even know if it's in print any more, but it's about how emotionally damaging parent/child relationships can be when parents are controlling and judgmental – and when those parents take away their children's rights and their dignity.
I've often tried to tell depressed students how much better things will be when they're just a little older, when they're away from home and on their own. I've tried to point out all the things in their favor. I remember telling one young man that he was smart, and good looking, and talented, and had many friends, but he didn't see it that way – because I was describing his life from MY perspective. And, whether they have supportive parents or not, that's what's missing for so many teens who give up – perspective. There's no way for them to see their adult lives down the road, away from the cruelties of teenage peers, and sometimes away from parents who want to take away their identities.
This is why I applaud the "It Gets Better" project. As a straight adult, I can't tell gay students their lives will get better. I can't speak on a personal level to the unique problems they face in a homophobic society. But gay adults can. And they have. I am so encouraged by the impact that videos from all over the world, from all types of people of all ages can have on middle schoolers and high schoolers who are strangers to them – because these kids are often isolated and alone with their secret. A secret that can kill, as we've seen too many times in recent months.
Please share the website It Gets Better and the Trevor Project with anyone you know who comes in contact with kids. Some statistics say that 10% of them are gay.
I've been reminded so often lately of a W.B. Yeats quote that I love, "The best lack all conviction while the worse are full of passionate intensity." If those of us who believe in love and acceptance don't aggressively voice our convictions – both at the polls and in our hometowns and among our adult peers, we're giving the bullies permission – to run our governments and to run our lives. If we don't stand up to them and speak loudly about our convictions, we're no better than the bullies themselves. Please help spread some "passionate intensity" for a more accepting world. We can't afford to lose any more young people.