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.