by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
I've never spoken about this part of my life before to anyone: growing up in a small town, feeling completely alone, being afraid to identify as being Gay. No one knows that, starting about the age of 16 when I finally accepted I was Gay and this wasn't going to change, I had so much fear and shame that I seriously contemplated killing myself several times. In many ways, it was a horrible time in my life. At 17, the first guy I'd ever fallen in love with wanted nothing to do with me and I felt completely isolated and heartbroken. Dying seemed like the best option to alleviate the pain, and I found myself focusing on how alone I was and that no one cared or would ever love me. The present and future were very dark, and I could not see anything positive.
Clearly, I chose to live, and I am so happy I did. At the time, I could not have foreseen how much I was going to enjoy my life and how many people I would come to love and who would love me. Yes, there have been many hard moments, yet I wouldn't change a thing. I love my life, my friends and family, and I am thankful for what my life has brought me. I love being Gay! My life is rich and colorful.
My story is not unique, however, it is important. It is important because it describes a process that many of us have been through and that too many are going through still today. I want to talk about this because of the recent article in the SGN titled "Studies show LGBT teens bullied more, at higher suicide risk," and I want anyone who finds themselves in the position of seriously considering suicide to not do it!
GLBTQ youth become suicidal when they feel so horrible about themselves that they feel no one will accept them or love them - ever! They feel hideous because they've been hearing for years that they have no worth, that they are sick, an abomination to humanity, and that being LGBTQ is a perverse, deviant sickness that will make them want to molest children. Some of them are being beaten and are victims of daily/weekly physical assaults by family or classmates.
In this hopeless place, young GLBTQ men and women fixate on the darkness and lose track of their dreams and ambitions. It begins to feel like life will always be this way. When they accept this as their destiny, they have rationalized their plans to end their lives and, far too often, put their plans into action - with devastating consequences.
If you are a young LGBTQ man or woman and are in this place, read on. If you are a friend, family member, teacher, or community leader, you can help, as well.
First, even in your despair, do not continually focus on how your life will never change. Your mind is playing a bit of a game with you. It will change. It cannot go on forever. Things will get better. You have to continue to focus and plan on the life you want to lead. You will be loved and you will love. You'll have experiences that you can't imagine right now - lots of laughter and fond memories. Sometimes life will be hard, but it won't always be this dark!
Reach out and talk to someone. I know sometimes it is hard - I was there - but eventually, circumstances come around and you will be able to connect with others, which will lead to friends and experiences that will bring you out of this dark place to laugh, love, and have fun again. This process happened for many of us. Have patience. I sympathize with how hard it is to be patient when you are being beaten or humiliated, but it is necessary! You'll see.
Talk to your doctor or school counselor or call a therapist. If they are not as supportive as you need them to be, tell them to help you find someone who is. As a teenager, you have rights to confidentiality so confide in a professional who will help you gain a positive perspective about yourself and your life - support in healthy acceptance as being GLBTQ.
I cannot emphasize this enough: You are not a hideous creature. Being GLBTQ is not a sickness or perversion! Being GLBTQ in no way equates to being a child molester or deviant. You have gifts and talents, intelligence and beauty that will benefit those whose lives you touch. Even if you don't know how this will happen, you have to believe it will!
Our place in this process is to step in as friends, family, teachers, professionals, and community leaders with acceptance. First and foremost, we have to always let these young men and women know how much we love them and how valuable they are, and that we accept them as GLBTQ. Messages that they are sick and perverted are no longer tolerable. Ideas that they have to change are inexcusable. We have to participate with them in their hopes and dreams and positive identity formation as GLBTQ.
Adults, join a PFLAG organization (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) so that you can get support in accepting your child or in working with GLBTQ students in schools. If you, as a parent, are struggling with having a GLBTQ child, get professional help so that you can set an example and provide your child with what they need to be a healthy adult.
I cannot conceive that any normal, healthy, intelligent adult would find it acceptable that a young man or woman was suffering so much self-hatred that they would want to kill themselves. Do your part to figure out what you have to do to accept GLBTQ youth.
As a GLBTQ youth, do what you need to do to accept yourself in a positive way so that you can achieve your goals and live a rich, colorful, productive life. We need you! Don't give up! Don't give in! Hold on so that your story will inspire the GLBTQ youth that are coming up behind you.
Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at email@example.com.
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