When I was in high school, this kid used to walk behind me on my way to school whispering, “You ugly. You so ugly you should just go home. You butt ugly. You so ugly you should be ashamed…” And other such loveliness.
And that sucked because, as all bullies somehow manage to do, he’d zeroed in on the ONE THING that was vulnerable in me.
From my adult perspective, I can see that I was not ugly – I was really really cute – and chances are, he had a twisted kind of crush on me. Stupid ass.
High school has sucked since the beginning of time.
Throw a big bunch of insecure people into an over-crowded, minimally supervised hallway and… OMG! it’s a formula for disaster. But for kids who are ‘different,’ kids who are already walking around feeling isolated by confusion about their sexuality or their different body type or their disability or their weird family, it’s a minefield.
And from inside that hallway, under the blue florescent light that makes everyone look all blotchy and weird, it can seem like: This is my fucking life? This is not how I wanted things to turn out,,,
But there is so much world outside of that hallway, that high school. And almost none of it is like high school.
Your high school is a very small pond – there is a huge pond, the whole wide world waiting to welcome you. Out here, there are other different people just like you.
I keep thinking about those beautiful boys we lost this week. I keep thinking about their parents, their friends and teachers, all the people who cared about them and who are now missing them so much. I think about how if they’d only known – if the people who DID like and love them had been able to reach out and SAY SO, those kids would be here today.
I think about my two beautiful gay sisters, and what an empty, lonely world it would be without them. Thank Heaven they made it through – thank Heaven for our tolerant family and reasonably accepting community.
The gay community is a vibrant, supportive open and welcoming group where you can be exactly how you are and still be accepted. My sisters are part of two strong, supportive groups – one in Brooklyn, one in California. One sister is a sculptor, living in California, in a happy, healthy relationship with the best woman on the planet. The other has a son, is a budding chef, and an artist, also in relationship with the best woman on the planet. (There are so many ‘best’ women – and men.)
My sisters and their friends live complete, full lives. They travel all over the world and they’re constantly doing all kinds of fun and fulfilling things – snorkeling, hot air ballooning, concerts, ball games, great restaurants… what i mean is, they live joyful, whole lives.
See, it gets better.
And for all you other kids, the ones who want to help but are afraid that, if you reach out, if you say something, the bullies might turn on you, too. Reach out anyway.
Get ALL of your other friends to reach out with you. Start a club like the one my dear second daughter, Molly, joined when she was in high school. It was called something like: Straight kids who support and love their gay friends. (Something like that)
The more of you the better – and the less likely the bullies will DARE misbehave on you.
Bullies are chickens. That’s why they strut around all puffed up like they do. Bullies are cowards in leather jackets. They’re bluffing.
Call their bluff.
To gay teens, I am posting this here, just in case you stop by, to say: I am here, I care. If you need an adult to talk to, reach out. I’m listening. I’m here.
Here are some other people in YOUR community who care and who’ve taken a stand for YOU – people who want you to be happy, who want you to know this simple message: It gets better after high school.
Toll-free 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)
Look at this outpouring, look at this love…
A final note to grownups:
To the parents, teachers, men/women on the street:
Bullies can’t isolate and terrorize kids who are strongly anchored in their peer communities;. We need to reach out to kids- and to adults – who seem to be struggling. We need to open our hearts and be brave about saying, “I see you, I understand and accept you as you are.”
But let’s also reach out to bullies. They’re kids – frightened, confused kids. And while they ALL need a good slap upside the head, they need help. Serious help. Counseling, listening, outreach.
We need to dig in with kids like this, not isolate them further. Many of them – especially kids involved with cyber-bullying and Gossip Girl style text bullying – don’t realize how serious their actions really are.
Many of them claim they were just trying to have fun. Someone has to teach them, before this shit goes down, before another life is lost that this is deadly serious. It ruins the lives of the kids on the receiving end, sometimes it drives someone to suicide – and that could land THEM in jail.
When we lose a teen to suicide, we lose a precious dear one. A family is shattered. A community grieves. We also lose the bullies – troubled kids who might have been stopped if only someone reached out.
All are punished.