Monday, April 25, 2011

Perfect as You Are

I'm about three quarters through reading Dan Savage and Terry Miller's It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.  So you'll forgive me if a number of my recent posts have been connected to this book, whether quoting from it ("Thoughts for the Day") or being inspired by it, to share some of my thoughts with you.

In general, I like the concept of the "It Gets Better Program."  If it achieves what it sets out to do--prevent young LGBTQ youth from committing suicide, because of the bullying they're subjected to at school and the resulting isolation and worthlessness they feel--then it's a success.

But, as I wrote in a post titled "Make It Better Project," published on October 19, 2010, I believe we owe our young people so much more than hope for some distant point in the future--a future that, at their age, seems so far away.  We have to give them something right now, something they can use to get through the day-in and day-out of being tormented (since none of us have figured out a way to stop bullying altogether).

When I was young, suffering from being the first child of parents who were children themselves, and from incessant bullying in grade school for being different in a way I didn't understand, I wish someone had taken me firmly by the shoulders, looked me squarely in the face, and said this:

"You are okay just the way you are.  The rest of the world is down on you for being different--from your parents, to the kids at school, to the Catholic church--and you're understandably scared as hell about what that means for your life and your future.  But don't be.  Don't buy into any of it.

"Maybe there's nothing you can do right now to stop the teasing and the hurtful and ignorant things people say, because you have no control over that.  But what you do have control over is how you feel about yourself as a result of what they say and do.

Sure, it takes a strong person to rise above, but I know you have that strength. I know you have that strength because I know you're special and wonderful and beautiful and fantastic and sacred.  And do not allow anyone to make you think differently.  

"Love yourself.  Love everything about yourself.   Know how important you are. Know how valuable you are.  Know how much you mean to the people who love you and to the world.  Be confident in the knowledge there's nothing wrong with you, you are just the way you're meant to be.

"If you are not strong, those who want you to hate yourself will win.  They will see you're weak.  They will take control.  They will rule your mind.  They will destroy your spirit.  What they do to you will have a negative effect on your life for years, even decades, after you graduate from high school.  And, long after their bullying ends, you will continue to bully yourself, having accepted, in one way or another, what they said as the truth.

"But they must not win.  They are no better than you are, even though they might come across that way. Nor do they know any better than you do--not about this, not about who and what you are.

"I'm not here to talk about the future, even though it will be so much better than you can imagine. Rather, I'm here to talk about right now, because you need help right now.  You can do this.  You must know you have it in you to be strong, as strong as you need to be to get through this.

"You must not let yourself down.  You must not give in to the negativity, no matter what it looks like, no matter what form it takes.  Draw strength from that core within you that knows you are good.  Your character is being tested, but you are stronger than anything thrown at you.  And I know you can do this.

"I repeat, above everything else, love yourself, because that's the greatest lesson you will ever learn. Know in your heart you are worthy and don't deserve any of the abuse you're going through.  Believe in yourself.  Honor yourself.  Respect yourself.  Have faith in yourself.

"You can do it.  You will overcome."

Today, if you are a young person being tormented because you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning your sexuality, I'm taking you firmly by the shoulders.  I'm looking you squarely in the eyes.  And I'm telling you what you need to hear from someone who knows.  Someone who's been there, who survived everything grade school can throw at you, who came out the other side.

Please, please listen to what I have to say.  Hold your head high.  Be proud of who and what you are. Go confidently forward in the knowledge nothing is wrong with you, you don't deserve what you're going through, and you are so much better than everything you have to endure.

You are perfect just as you are.


  1. I love this book, but I think the videos are what are so powerful. I think they did the book for kids who may have access to it at a library, but not have internet (is that possible these days? I guess in some families, computers are pretty closely monitored....) I know he's gotten a few emails from kids who've said that the videos are a life line, because they live in families where they tried to come out, and were basically told to deny it or be kicked out. It's hard to believe that any parent would do that to their own child, but obviously it's still happening in places in the States, so maybe this is what will get them through that period of time. I agree, it's tough to say, "wait it out," but sadly, some kids live in families or communities where that's the only choice. But yeah, if you could find every one of those kids and say, "you are worthy," wouldn't that be great?

  2. So good to hear from you again, Sarah. (And I should have said this in my previous comment--I missed you, too. A lot.)

    When Dan came out with his Project, I watched a number of the videos and was deeply moved by them. What a wonderful way to reach out to so many LGBTQ youth and to attempt to support them at a time when they need it most.

    But I guess I'm a little old school. Initially, I asked myself why Dan captured some of the videos in a book when videos are more graphic and immediate, but I see why now.

    I've really enjoyed the connection between the book in my hands and reading what people have to say about their experiences being bullied, in many cases attempting suicide, and surviving to realize how much better their lives get. I LOVE books anyway. They have been more faithful friends to me than many, many human beings I've known.

    Your last line above really hits home. And, of course, that's exactly why I wrote this post. Every last one of those kids needs to know he or she is worthy. I pray I've written something here that will be all the proof someone needs to believe that, to get through the hell of school, and to look forward to a brighter future.

    Once again, my sincere thanks for your comment. It's great to resume our conversation.

  3. Hi, I'm here by way of Heather Chomos. I loved reading your shoulder-grabbing heartfelt comments. My son, who is now 43, was unceasingly bullied because he is dyslexic---not really a comparison to your case---but by some wild chance, I thought to tell him the things you're saying now, and as an anti-bullying technique, I can affirm that it works.

    Like you, I've been moved to tears by some of the It Gets Better video. That promise of hope must be life-changing for some people, and the medium is wonderful, graphic and heartstring-grabbing. I've yet to read the book, but I know I will, and can imagine that for some people books are a more useful medium. I'm a booklover of some repute, so it pains me to say I haven't read the book yet, but I feel so uplifted by the videos, so hopeful that change---real change---is coming that I proselytize about the videos to anybody that will listen.

    I wish you would post this blog to PFLAG Canada "My Stories". It is truly inspiring and the obvious next step in positive action.

    And I'll be back.

  4. Lorna, I'm so happy to hear from you, and to read that you believe my "shoulder grabbing heartfelt comments" could work. I believe they could, too. I really think if someone had said them to me, especially early on, they would have made an enormous difference in how I felt about myself and how I processed all the bullying I took. In that sense, they would have shaped my future so much for the better, which was the whole point why I wrote them--to help someone else going through the same things I did.

    I'll be sure to thank Heather for making you aware of my blog, and I will certainly consider contributing in some way to PFLAG Canada "My Stories." That's a great idea I hadn't considered.

    Many thanks for stopping by and for leaving a wonderful comment. I hope to have an on-going conversation with you for some time to come. And thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate it.

  5. By way of update, Lorna, I submitted the above (with a few edits) to PFLAG Canada today. I truly hope it helps someone who reads it, both here and on the PFLAG website.
    Thanks for suggesting I submit it.