Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Gets Better

Another report of a young, presumably gay person who took his life is making news today.

This time the events reportedly leading up to his suicide (his dormitory roommate with another student had used a hidden camera to stream him having an intimate encounter with another man live on the Internet) were so particularly callous that I'll break with my personal feelings that incarceration rarely leads to meaningful rehabilitation (at least in comparison with the damage it can do to young people) and note that the perpetrators of this invasion of privacy strike me as far too stupid to safely live among other people. More important than what happens to them, though, is why so many young gay Americans are still, in this day and age, committing suicide.

A recent case in Indiana of a young gay man bullied so much he killed himself prompted Dan Savage to launch a project calling for videos on YouTube that offer those struggling with society's ignorance about homosexuality more hope for a brighter future. It Gets Better:
Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many LGBT youth can't picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can't imagine a future for themselves. So let's show them what our lives are like, let's show them what the future may hold in store for them.
Here's a link to the video Dan and his husband Terry made. There are many more being posted all the time. If you're gay and struggling with the situation you're in, please spend some time watching them. I promise you...they're right.

I'm still working on my video, but can promise you, speaking from experience, that it unquestionably gets better once you're out of school. College is sometimes less of a problem than high school is, but once you're an adult, and get to choose who you spend most of your time with, it gets infinitely better...and actually can get down right fabulous. It's so worth waiting for and fighting for.

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13 Comments:

Blogger ellen yustas k. gottlieb said...

Very sad. This happens on a daily basic in life, even at home, when someone get bullied most often about the PERSONAL affairs. And may I ask who in out days and times have any rights to nose into people's intimate business. My answer is those who have no life and no soul, may they rot in hell, if I sound brutal I just reflect how I feel about this.

9/30/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Randall Anderson said...

I greatly admire, and stand in awe, at the strength, and courage, of my gay, lesbian, and trans-gendered friends. I'm a coward in comparison. A very good friend who's partner suffered a horrible accident lost him when the family who had originally disowned him stepped in and took him away, forever. My friend had no rights. A terrible loss.

9/30/2010 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was bullied throughout my childhood. I was quiet, shy and wore glasses. Then, I was smart in a culture that values ignorance. I liked to read and I actually liked school. For these things I was taunted, called derogatory names, bullied and beaten. I had one older child who waited for me every morning as I walked to the bus. He would taunt me, make threats and try and force me to eat garbage from the gutter. It ended when my mother began taking me to school.

Relief came when I was placed in gifted classes. At least there I was not teased for being smart and enjoying reading. But somehow, I still didn't fit in. I developed a dislike for sports and gym class and was still ridiculed for my lack of coordination on the team field.

Throughout all of this my father was exhibiting much of the same behavior as my classmates. He was calling me names and ridiculing my intelligence and my developing creativity. His disappointment in my lack of interest in sports developed over time to a real hostility.

Did it get better? Only marginally. At 10 I realized I was gay. At 14 I found a boyfriend. That relationship lasted about fifteen years. He was killed in a gay bashing incident. During the funeral and after, I was treated as a non-entity. I was not allowed to sit with the family at the service. Neither I, nor the fact that my boyfriend was gay was mentioned at the service. I was not asked, nor encouraged to speak at the service. I was not consulted on the arrangements. And the mother received the greatest portion of the condolences. Our relationship was ignored. I was ignored. Even my own mother, who should have known better, said, "What did you expect, It's not like you had a marriage."

I inherited nothing. After the funeral, I was left alone to piece my life back together. I fell into a depression that lasted at least 5 years. I heard nothing from my boyfriends family and my own family didn't understand what I was going on about, "after all, you were just friends." And I didn't have the money or the insurance to afford doctors or anti-depressants. During this time, I lost my job, had difficulty finding new employment and lost the house we bought together because I could not gain legal control over my boyfriend's estate.

After all of that, I am still here. Never once in any of my challenges did I consider suicide as a real option. What I did was keep going, trying to find the path out of my troubles.

Today, I have a new life and a new boyfriend. It was not easy building a new life, but what was the alternative? Throughout my life I have encountered gay prejudice from the subtle to the blatant. I have been told by employers to not be out and I have had straight couples not want me and my boyfriend to be around their children (this from couples that had been friends before the children).

It Gets Better is an optimistic project that I want to applaud, but from my experience, nothing beats inner strength, personal optimism and and the knowledge that you can be what you want, despite what people say.

9/30/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I truly wish you'd consider adding your story to video project, Anonymous. You experienced more hatred and prejudice than some of the others who created videos, but your story is ultimately so uplifting.

9/30/2010 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I had just finished watching the news story online when I logged onto your blog, Ed. This is a heartbreaking story.

As much as I hate to see other young people prosecuted, the buck has to stop somewhere. Two college "friends" of the man who jumped were complicit in his death by streamling live video of his encounter. Of course, with celebrity sex tape all over the Internet, they had poor (and illegal) role models for their own disgraceful actions.

Support has to start at home, and if the parents can't provide it, it has to be provided at school. The support has to be steady and unconditional. When a pre-teen member of my extended family announced that she expected to have a wife one day, her parents were completely supportive. Her identity is now a fact, not "an issue." I'm planning to take her with me to the Gay parade next year. So even if she does meet with intolerance and ignorance in school, she will have support and understanding at home. I hope that's enough.

Anon, I'm so sorry you had to experience such personal suffering.

9/30/2010 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both of these stories are maddening to hear about. As long as people stay in the closet in large numbers this will continue to happen.

I think we are a nation of bullies, our foreign policy certainly gives testament to that.

---ondine nyc

9/30/2010 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

It has been a slaughter out there lately: Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh.

I'm going to propose that John Taylor Gatto is correct that adolescence is a historically recent and aberrant development, and the bullying around homosexuality (and much else) would be mitigated if his suggestions for radical school reform were adopted. Providing more support within a broken system would be better than nothing, but ultimately palliative. I see excrescences like Prop 8, DADT, and DOMA as legal manifestations of an adolescent worldview, complete with anxieties surrounding comformity, sexuality, and adulthood. Minimizing instead of protracting adolescence might go a long way towards eliminating suffering early on, and, down the road, adolescent policy.

9/30/2010 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you weren't bullied,the difficult process of coming out makes this" It Gets Better" campaign very valuable. It gets better because you are living in truth,to yourself and others,it gets better because you are stronger for it. I just wish we could have assured this poor kid this.Heartbreaking.

9/30/2010 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder about the other guy in the video. Is his life safe.

9/30/2010 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous michael ballou said...

i think the video idea is terrific .
i also think that it would be a good idea to include people who are not gay. and why not, we are all human and it is best when we all pitch in .

10/01/2010 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Privacy is no longer a right. Everything we do can easily become public.

The two kids who posted the video on the internet were no more malicious than the folks who crush small animals for entertainment. Everything in our culture is entertainment.

10/02/2010 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

ML: The folks who crush small animals for entertainment are also cruel and sick.

The three recent suicides that Ed mentions are really heartbreaking. And the "It Gets Better" project sounds like it could be helpful not only for gay teens, but for anyone who feels "different," is bullied, etc. Teenage suicide is tragic in any circumstance. Adolescence is hard enough for straight kids; I can only imagine how hellish it must be for many gays. Whenever I hear about Gay/Straight Alliances in high schools I am so grateful that we've come this far, but an incident like this one at Rutgers shows that there is still a HUGE need for raising consciousness.

10/03/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

just take heart that most people get through what truly is a very difficult time in life - Freshman Year

10/08/2010 11:03:00 AM  

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