In the past few weeks there have been more suicides in the young LGBT community than I can count on one hand.  As a teacher, a mother, a member of the queer community, and a citizen of the country that is doing nothing to protect these young people from harassment, abuse, and humiliation, I find this trend unacceptable on a violently angry level.  We’re talking the type of anger that makes my pupils twitch and my hands shake.  These kids, like many in our community, were treated in ways that would make anyone feel helpless and hopeless, especially at a point in their lives where they are vividly aware of their differences and want nothing more than to be accepted.

All across the country gay adolescents are told they’re just confused, that they’re broken or sick, and that they should be ashamed of how they feel, think, and love.  At best they are ignored by their parents, but often they are punished, chastised, or beaten.  They are cast away, kicked out of their homes, and shunned by their families.  Their spiritual leaders tell t hem they’re damned, their peers ostracize or bully them, and there is generally little to no support or protection from schools or the community.

But what about those of us who could help them?  What about those of us who have been in their shoes and could guide them through one of  the most trying and confusing points in their lives?  We’re kept away from them in hopes they’ll grow out of it and in fear that we’ll encourage them to be themselves.  Instead of being seen as a support system or valuable resource, queer adults are considered a detriment in a youth’s life.  Why is this ok?  At what point do we stop telling our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and giving them the mentors and environment to nurture whatever that might entail?  When do we instead start limiting and judging them?  More importantly, why is any of this treatment allowed to happen?  Why were these young people pushed to a point at such a young age that they felt it would never get better?

In his September 22 article Dan Savage speaks of how the first of the recently publicized suicides touched him.  Like many of us he was heartbroken.  Like many of us he has been where these kids were and are today.  Like many of us he knows that something needs to be done.  It’s time the people who can give these young people a little hope stopped being stuck in a closet and spoke out to them.

“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?”, he says. “We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”

So, Dan and his partner made a video.  Then they made a channel on YouTube and encouraged members of the community to make and post their own videos to encourage these kids and share our stories to show that it does get better.  To find the instructions and post your own video, you can go to youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject .  As soon as I figure out how to use the camcorder function on my new smartphone I’ll be posting my own.  If I can get over my technophobia and do this, you should all be making videos!

My life as a bisexual teen (and at the time there was only gay or bisexual in my world…no pansexuals, homoflexibles, heteroflexibles or otherwise) was fairly quiet.  I kept it that way purposefully.  It had its rough moments, but for the most part I’ve forgotten the trappings.  Yes, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that’s not always as free-thinking and forward as it sounds.  I went to an all girls catholic school, and had several strikes against me already.  I had friends who knew I was  pagan, but it wasn’t until I was extremely close that I admitted to my sexuality.

I knew at a very early age I loved everyone equally, but never expressed any of it.  I was told it was a phase, that I just didn’t know how to express my feelings towards friends, and that I’d get over it someday.  My mother passed before I could try to talk to her about it, and the rest of my family was all about not making waves.  My confusion and fear caused me to withdraw completely.  I didn’t go on dates.  I didn’t socialize much.  I didn’t have my first kiss until I was almost eighteen, and that one defining moment started a revolution inside me.  I could no longer be quiet.

I can’t imagine my life being any different.  It took moving to Philadelphia, a place most consider a lot more conservative that Berkeley, CA, to find “my people”.  I am never ashamed to talk about my husband and my girlfriend.  I am never ashamed to be poly, pagan, or pansexual.  I wish nothing more for these young people than to know how good life can be when you find where you belong.  We owe them that optimism as people who have laid the path.

Today begins LGBT History Month, and what better way to start than with each of our own personal histories.  Those who came before us gave us a wonderful foundation, and we have built the beginnings of a wonderful world, but these kids are the ones who will be in charge of finishing the job.  We need to invest in them the pride and freedom we know is possible.  Our goal isn’t just for them to survive, but to live.  Like a good bra, we must not just support but uplift.

This is my promise to the queer youth of America…You can always come to me.  You can share with me.  You can talk to me.  You can be safe with me.  You have all my love, support, and optimism.  You have my arms for hugging and my shoulder for crying.  I will help in whatever ways I can, and I will never abandon you.  I will never stop trying to show you that it does get better if you can promise me that you’ll never give up being you.

Yours, Autumn.

~*Namaste*~

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