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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Guest Column: Come out, come out, wherever you are”

We thought we were making progress.  

“”Don’t ask, don’t tell”” is facing rebuke from all three branches of government. Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional. The ban on gay adoption in Florida has been overturned.  

Then September slapped us back to reality.  

A string of suicides involving gay teens, or those perceived to be gay, plagued last month.

Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself in his grandmother’s barn after being subjected to constant bullying by classmates. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head after his parents complained for 18 months about the harassment he endured from schoolmates. Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate secretly taped him having sex with another man and posted it on the Internet. Both Seth Walsh, 13, from Tehachapi, Calif., and Raymond Chase, 19, an openly gay student at Johnson & Whales University in Rhode Island, hanged themselves. Unfortunately, the list goes on.

The shocking deaths reminded us of the truth: It’s still not OK to grow up gay in America. Our community was so focused on the fight for our civil rights, we became preoccupied by the notion that our victories were representative of the nation as a whole. We forgot the teasing and tormenting harassing our isolated youth. We forgot that queer teens can’t take solace in legislative and judicial victories when they are barraged with attacks from their peers saying their lives are abhorrent and should be ended.

We live in a world so unbearably caustic that our youth can’t imagine a life free from hate. Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.  

“”When a gay teenager commits suicide, it’s because he can’t picture a life for himself that’s filled with joy and family and pleasure and is worth sticking around for,”” said Dan Savage, an openly gay syndicated sex-advice columnist, in an interview with MTV News.

“”I wish I could have talked to this kid (Billy Lucas) for five minutes,”” Savage wrote in the Sept. 22 edition of his column. “”I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better.””

Those three words inspired Savage to launch a project attempting to show queer youth that no matter how alone, how harassed or hopeless their life might seem now, it will get better. Savage posted the first video on the YouTube channel ItGetsBetterProject with his husband, Terry Miller.

“”Honestly, things got better the day I left high school,”” Miller said in the video, after recounting the abuse he experienced as a teen. The two described how much their lives have improved since then, citing meeting each other, their conservative families growing to love and accept their new sons, and the couple adopting a son of their own.  

“”But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids … depriving them of information, resources and positive role models,”” Savage wrote. “”We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.””

Since the project’s inception, hundreds of members of the LGBT community have posted tales of their battles with school-aged adversity on the YouTube page, always with the promise that “”it gets better.”” Even gay celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris, Tim Gunn and Scissor Sisters’ frontman Jake Shears sought to show that nearly every gay teen battles abuse, but the torment doesn’t last forever.  

There’s no day better than today, National Coming Out Day, for members of the LGBT community to renew their commitment to living out of the closet, openly celebrating the freedom that comes from staying true to yourself – serving as an inspiration for struggling queer teens everywhere to choose life. That’s all it takes to save someone. Dedicate yourself to living openly. Just knowing queer people lead happy, successful lives could save a teen from making an irreversible decision.  

Maybe one day, queer youth won’t be sentenced to seemingly insurmountable hatred and ridicule. That day isn’t here yet. Be a hero for the silently marginalized queer youth. Serve as living proof that it gets better.

— Kenny Contrata is the copy chief of the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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