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By the time I get this blog posted, as many as four kids will have killed themselves today because t
 During September 2010, we learned of four young gay kids who killed themselves, two of whom were only 13 years old. All four of them were harassed and bullied just because they were gay.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 1,488 gay, bisexual, and lesbian kids kill themselves every year. That’s 4 every day.

I want you to think about that right now. By the time I get this blog posted, as many as four kids will have killed themselves today because they’re GLBT.

My heart breaks just thinking about this.

I remember being a teenager. It sucked. I had a great mom who loved (and still loves) me unconditionally. I had a roof over my head, I had food to eat, and I had clothes to wear.

I was also the fat faggy kid with glasses. Did I mention I was hopeless at sports and was a total bookworm? I should also mention I was really good at cooking. Now, think back to your school days. Exactly how many of the above made a boy popular? If you answered any number greater than zero, my guess is that you grew up in San Francisco or Iowa City.

I remember being taunted about being gay in junior high school. It was no better in high school. I remember being called “fag” and “queer” in the hallways. I remember opening my locker to find crude drawings of two guys going at it with the “no” slash mark through the picture. The picture was captioned “AIDS kills fags dead”.

What probably saved me from being beaten up was the fact that I was built like a football player. If you’ve met me, you know I’m a big guy who is tall with big shoulders. During freshman year the varsity football coach asked me if I wanted to try out for the football team. This happened at West Des Moines Valley, where football was huge. Maybe not Texas football huge, but still huge.

So, I was lucky. I didn’t get beaten up. I didn’t get shoved in the hallways that often. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel like shit every time someone called me a name. Did I think about killing myself? Of course I did. A lot.

Thankfully, I ended up discovering that my local GLBT center had a youth group. A group of people who were GLBT. A group where I wasn’t the token fag, the guy to snicker at in the hall. A group I was part of. A group where I could ask questions that actually got real answers. A group where I could talk about what I was thinking and feeling, and find out that other people were thinking and feeling some of the same things I were. A group where I was able to finally comes to terms with who I was. The truth is that youth group saved my life.

I consider myself to have been openly gay since 1990, when I came out to my family. That’s been almost twenty years now. Twenty years during which I’ve gone to college, worked in retail, worked in a factory, worked in food service, and worked in a professional office environment. Twenty years during which I’ve fallen in love, and had my heart broken. Twenty years of challenges, opportunities, dreams, and lots of fun times. That’s twenty years of amazing stuff I would not have had if I would have killed myself.

So, if you’re a young GLBT person reading this, I have these things to say to you. First, I know sometimes it sucks. Being a teenager was, so far, absolutely the worst time in my life. Without question. But life since then? So much better. So, be strong. You can get through this. Find something that helps carry you through, and cling to that when you need it. Maybe that’s music, or dance, or your faith, or a hobby, or even football. It doesn’t matter to me what that something is. If it helps you find your strength, then use it.

Second, find someone to talk to. Does your local GLBT community center have a youth group? Check it out. Does your school have a gay/straight alliance? Check it out. Maybe there’s a super cool teacher who has a rainbow flag or a safe space sticker on display. Talk with that person. If those resources aren’t available and things feel really bad, call the Trevor Project at 1-866-4-u-trevor. It’s free, it’s confidential, and it’s available 24/7.

Third, remember you are an important person. Your life has value, meaning, and worth. If you are in danger, please get yourself to safety and find help. That danger could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse...whatever it is, get help. Talk to someone you trust - a doctor, nurse, teacher, police officer, someone. You have so much to offer to the world, and we need you to be a part of the world for a good long time.

To the adults out there, my message is simple. We have to find a way to stop this. As decent human beings, can’t we come together at least to say that enough is enough? Can’t we at least all agree that our schools should be safe places for all of our kids? Can’t we agree that we need to find a way for every child, every young person, hell, every person, to be safe in their lives? Can’t we all agree to treat each other with respect and some kindness?

Because, seriously, we’ve got to find a way to prevent these kids from killing themselves. As adults, we’ve got the responsibility not only to lead the way for the kids, we’ve got the responsibility to create the kind of future they’ll want to follow us to.


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