I remember, about a year and half ago, our community held a vigil to bring attention to all the many local suicides that occured in a short amount of time. (3 within less than 3 months, I think) I was aware of the problem far earlier than that but even now – all this time later – we’re still reminded just how often too much is too much. I’ve written about this a lot and certainly express myself plenty on fb. But really, when is enough enough?
When I was working, a lot of my focus was around support & education in the LGBT community. I learned quickly, when I would travel up north or down south, that the issues there were much different than in Salt Lake City. Typically I spent my time talking about the laws we were trying to change and the rights we were trying to gain. But when I’d meet with these kids from smaller towns, they needed to talk about how to not get kicked out of their homes or how not to get beat up after school. They worried about name calling and not going to heaven and almost EVERY one of them had considered suicide as a way out of it all.
I took my mom to Logan with me once. We were supposed to talk to a group of college students for an hour about the upcoming election. Instead, we were there for almost 4 hours. They wanted to know how my mom handled my coming out. How did she keep loving me? What could they say to their parents to let them know they were still the same person they loved? When they were bullied at school or at church, how should they respond? One boy, in particular, cried as my mom held his hand.
That one night changed me. It changed the way I did my job and the way I think about what “rights” are really most important. I never really grasped the desperation before. When I came out – even though it was a million years ago – I didn’t worry about losing family or friends. I didn’t worry about getting beat up and I certainly never worried about going to hell. But when we did a “raise of hands” that night (honor code eyes closed, of course) and asked how many of them had considered or attempted suicide and only TWO didn’t raise their hand, I knew my situation was unique.
The idea that this pain only falls on the LGBT community is not true. I think it’s a huge problem, certainly, but it’s just one of the dagger words bullies throw around. Stupid, fat, ugly. Those are words I not only remember hearing but also remember using. I was a bully. I say that, knowing I do my best now to never use those words. But it’s true. I also used the words gay & fag in ways that were meant to hurt others.
Did I hurt others? I’m sure I did. Was I hurting myself? Of course. But I wouldn’t have raised my hand in my class that day. So what made it different for me?
We’ve all seen the Jonah video that’s been floating around fb. And if you follow me, you’ve seen many other stories as well. So what can we do? We can talk gently. We can appreciate the beauty of every person. We can speak from love as often as possible and we can speak up when we hear differently. We can teach our children what respect & love look like. We can be grown ups – the kind that children count on.
I have enemies. I know, you’re shocked. (insert sarcasm) It’s true though. & some of them used to be my friends. Sometimes my head is full of mean thoughts about them. If Glory could read my mind, I’d be ashamed of what I say there. And because I think it, my body feels it. And when my body is feeling that kind of anger, it flows out as I’m driving and as I’m trying to park and that dumb girl steals my place! See? Just like that.
Let’s fix it. Let’s be less angry and less mean. Every day let’s show love to someone we don’t want to love. Every day let’s be the grown up that protects another human being. Because one day it could be you protecting my daughters. And as a grown up, I would expect nothing less from you.
My sister says, “Say what you mean but don’t be mean when you say it.” I think that’s a good place to start.