Thinking Out Loud

October 11, 2014

Letter to a Gay Teen Who Feels They Can’t Go On

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:

Dear __________,

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.

Paul.


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August 4, 2014

Remembering Braxton Caner

Braxton CanerThe death of Braxton Caner, the 15-year old son of Baptist writer Ergun Caner has haunted me all weekend. I’ve followed various internet rabbit trails trying to extract some meaning from his sudden, untimely death, apparently at his own hand. Why?

From the obituary:

…Braxton loved three things: God, his family and sports. When he got to Texas, he added four things to that list: Football, his friends, weight training, and Hannah Spencer. Braxton only loved one girl in his whole life — He and Hannah were inseparable for these last two years, and reflected a godly love far beyond their respective ages… Before he died, Braxton began researching collegiate programs in sports fitness and kinesiology, and wanted to become a sports trainer. Braxton only lived 15 years and four months, but he did more in his brief life than many people do in a lifetime. He traveled with his parents, visiting 41 states. He attended over fifty weeks of church camp in his life, on every major ocean. He learned to surf in Hawaii, escaped a moose in Alaska, got chased out of Canada, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, and ducked out of the way of a lion in the Serengeti. He got to help do a chapel for his beloved New England Patriots and learned to drive his F150 pickup truck on dirt roads of Texas. Braxton’s faith in Christ was also reflected in his life: He was the best big brother to Drake, led his cousin to Jesus shortly after his own salvation, and was a positive role in the lives of many others. He traveled around the world on eight mission trips, including Kenya twice, Tanzania, Israel, Mexico, the Bahamas, England and Wales…

While there has been speculation as to what propelled Braxton to this action, I think this is one of the news stories that will only become clearer with time. His father is not without controversy, and some have noted* that Braxton was being bullied on his Twitter account by enemies of Ergun Caner. He left no note…

I leave the comment section open to anyone else who has followed this story and wishes to add their insights; please be respectful… 

*UpdateTuesday, August 5th, 10:30 PM EST: The investigative website The Wartburg Watch thoroughly chronicles the role that certain people would appear to have played in Braxton’s sudden death. Writer Darlene Parsons begins, “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever written;” and many gut-wrenching paragraphs later, concludes, “Things have gone way too far.” To read that article click here.


News search results from last week:

Evangelicals Grieve as Braxton Caner, 15-YO Son of Christian

Christian PostJul 30, 2014

October 20, 2011

Letter to a Suicidal Gay Teen

Another gay teen committed suicide, this one in Ottawa, Canada which isn’t too far away from here.  It’s 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 2011 is to realize that bullying is indirectly taking the life of your peers.  They’re dropping out of the sky on a weekly basis.  The campaign may say, “It gets better,” but honestly it doesn’t get better right away, certainly not for the average high school student.  Jamie, the Ottawa boy, said he simply wasn’t up for waiting three years.

The newspaper reports implied that Jamie 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 one long march toward a suicide that appeared somewhat inevitable.  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:


Dear __________,

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 friends and even me at times.  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.

Paul.


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