I wrote the letter which follows this intro three years ago after another gay teen committed suicide, this one in a city which isn’t too far away from here. At the time, I said I felt it was becoming contagious.
I say contagious knowing I have the right to use that word. I remember years ago meeting with a California couple whose marriage counselor told them, “The best advice I can give you is to move out-of-state.”
In the late ’70s, divorce was rampant on the west coast. Today that advice wouldn’t work, since divorce is everywhere. But the counselor recognized that there was a ‘climate of divorce’ there at the time and if you could get away from it, you had a better chance.
Today, with the internet, there’s no getting away from social trends, and to be gay in 2014 is to realize that bullying can indirectly take the life of your peers. When I wrote this in 2011, with no disrepect intended, I wrote, “They’re dropping out of the sky on a weekly basis.” One campaign says, “It gets better,” but honestly it doesn’t appear to get better, certainly not for the average adolescent high school student. The boy in the story, who was 15, said he simply wasn’t up for waiting three years.
Reports at the time implied that he left a suicide note on his blog. That’s not entirely accurate. As I scrolled through the 30 pages of that blog it was obvious to me that the entire three months he posted (apparently replacing a previous blog) it was, from the beginning, full of pain, full of angst. The blog was like one long march toward a suicide that appeared somewhat inevitable. Did people see that? What if the right person had picked up on that and been able to intervene?
It’s unlikely that readers of this blog would ever stumble across the writing of a teen like Jamie. But if I did, would I simply click away? Perhaps the best thing would be to leave a note; a note something like this:
Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.
High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.
Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’
You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.
I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.
I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my Christian friends. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.