But when you know you do better…
Lord help me. I do not want to write this post. I will get flack no matter what I type here. Some will think I’m coming across too strong…others will think not strong enough. I know I will simply not make everyone happy. I’m ok with that because I felt the nudge to write this. This is truly to just inform people who have been asking me questions. And since people have them and not everyone asks…I figured this was the best place to address them.
I discovered that my son is gay 9 years ago. I say discovered because he never “came out” to his dad and I. As I’ve written before, we knew something was going on with him because he lost his “spark.” We started monitoring his computer usage and Mike would look at it on and off all day, even while at work, because we knew something was up. That’s how we found out Kyle was gay.
Once we knew what was going on, we had lots of conversations. My boy was lost, and I was trying desperately to find him. He went from an American Eagle – Aeropostale kind of kid to a Hot Topic, dye my hair black kind of kid. Nothing wrong with that, but when your kid goes from one extreme to the other it’s scary.
One day I was at work and I got a panicked call from Mike. He found a suicide type note on Kyle’s computer. Well, it was more like a suicide story (he’s a writer). It was horrifying. I tear up just thinking about it. Man…like my heart is pounding really fast. Anyway…he happened to have a counseling appointment that day and we took the story with us. His counselor took one look at it and told us that we needed to get him to the hospital. (you can read about that here)
He was hospitalized for a week. He got out of the hospital on a Friday and started school, at a new school, on Monday. It was not a good experience for him. He was bullied. It caused him great anxiety and he continued with depression. For five years, FIVE, he had on and off suicidal thoughts. He stayed in counseling, he was on medication…we and he…did everything in our power to get him through it.
He went to our small community college for two years when he graduated. He had his ups and downs. When he transferred to the university he chose for his junior year of college, he lost 15 pounds. Because of how he was bullied in the past, his anxiety was so high that there were many times he found it difficult to leave his room. There were many times that I would work all day and then drive the hour to go see him to make sure that he could eat. There are no words that can describe what a dark time this was in our lives. The stress was overwhelming. Trying not to constantly worry about whether my kid would be alive or dead the next day. Texting him every morning while he was away at college desperately waiting for my cell phone to alert me to a text so that I knew he was still alive. It was awful. To this day, when Mike calls me in the middle of the day my heart leaps into my chest. It brings back all the emotions of the time when Kyle was so depressed in an instant. I can’t have the same ring tone on my phone that I had back then because I was finding I would panic every time my phone rang.
Bullying. Can we just agree that some kids are just mean and nasty? Is that a far stretch? It doesn’t matter what you have going on…kids can find a weak spot and can just be relentless about it. If you’ve never been bullied, or your kids haven’t…consider yourself very lucky. I sat with a mom this week who has a lesbian daughter and is at her wit’s end because she is bullied so badly. The school has tried everything they can think of and this mom may have to pull her child out of school and home school. The girls are catty about it, and the boys quite frankly tend to be aggressive with gay girls. Kind of the macho “if you had sex with me you wouldn’t be gay” kind of attitude.
These kids can’t get away from it. And unfortunately for some, they are bullied at home as well by their own parents. The parents who are supportive do everything in their power to help their kids. They take them to counseling, a lot of them go on depression medication, they are given tools to help with anxiety. But when you are bombarded with a constant barrage of slurs, and other bad behavior it is a lot to handle…especially as a hormonal pre-teen or teenager.
I posted on my FB page on two separate occasions this week that a teen had taken their life. This isn’t the first time I have shared this type of news. I don’t share every time because quite frankly it happens enough that I don’t want people to get desensitized to it. I share it as a way to inform people what is going on in the world. It’s a reminder as to why I’m an ally to the LGBTQ community. This time, however, I posted more as an answer to questions I kept seeing about the election.
Ok…here we go…deep breath.
Unless you live in a cave and never go on social media or watch the news, I’m sure you have seen some of the responses to the results of the election. Some people were very happy that Donald Trump won, and others were quite devastated. I kept seeing this phrase over and over again…”What’s the big deal?” Trump won…so what…get over it.
And so I posted that part of the big deal is that kids are taking their lives over it. Which as you can imagine brought up a whole lot of questions. I will do my best to explain.
Those bullies I mentioned…for whatever reason…they got very bold when Trump entered the race. Here is what was happening…and it wasn’t just kids doing the bullying. I know that there were many people in the cross hairs of this behavior, but since I write about LGBTQ subjects I’m just addressing those instances.
Warning…the language is offensive.
A server in a restaurant was given payment with the words, “I don’t tip faggots. Vote Trump” written on it.
A gay kid was beat up and while he was being punched and kicked a group of kids were yelling “Trump that faggot!”
A group of gay teens were walking down the street and a car drove by and said, “When Trump wins, you faggots are gone!”
This list goes on, but I’m sure you get the idea.
I was told these kids were afraid of what they were seeing in the media about Trump. They don’t need the media…they experience it first hand. What was already a bad situation for them has gotten much worse. I know a lot of teachers and they are seeing it as well.
So I imagine you are thinking, “Lesa what in the world does this have to do with Trump himself? He isn’t doing it. He didn’t tell people to do it.” While that is true, I do believe that his demeanor during his rallies and his posture in dealing with people was one of being a bully. But whatever the reason, people are doing these things in his name. And I know it’s not ALL Trump supporters. And I know that just because you voted for Trump doesn’t mean you are against LGBTQ people. I am also aware of all of the protests that are going on since he has won. People are doing terrible things on both sides of the fence. I am just giving information about what is happening in the LGBTQ community and I am talking about children.
Now something that Trump does have control over is his stance on LGBTQ people. Depending on where you look you can see him on both sides of the fence. There is a video where he says he will do everything to protect the LGBTQ community. It was during his campaign so it’s hard to say if he means it or if he was looking for votes. He did, however, pick a vice president who is very well-known as being anti-LGBTQ. When your rights are threatened to be taken away, it is a scary prospect. And it is so easy to say, “That isn’t going to happen, what are you worried about? Just forget it.” Ask the people who have had to deal with HB2 in North Carolina how things are going for them.
The bullying hasn’t stopped now that the election is over. I know of a car that had Trump spray painted on it and then set on fire. And a lesbian couple that woke to find a note on their property that said, “I can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is reversed now that we have a REAL president. Gay families = burn in hell. @Trump2016 #repent, #Godbless. Imagine being a child and you have two moms or two dads and you see a note like this.
So when you ask, “What is going on that these kids are taking their lives?” Remember that they are already fragile, they are already vulnerable…and they are kids. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control our responses when we see that this is happening. I could say so much more, but I will leave that to private conversations. When you heard about the two lives that are now gone (there were more than two – I just didn’t mention them all on FB), did you feel like – “Man what can we do to stop this?” Did you feel hopeless? These kids feel hopeless every day of their lives because society doesn’t accept them. And please try to understand that to the LGBTQ community a vote for Trump felt like a vote against them. I know that there were many other issues on the table with this election, but to them this is very personal…whether you think it should be or not.
I try not to worry about my son every time he walks out the door, but I do fear for his safety. It’s a thought in my mind every day. I can only imagine what he goes through each day. The threat is real whether physically or practically like when it comes to his rights as a human being. I will not dwell on this election. As my dad always told me growing up…I will not borrow trouble. I will fight for his rights when and if necessary. And I will continue to try to inform people as to what is happening. My health requires me to try to stay positive and that is what I’ll do.
You don’t know what you don’t know…but when you know you do better. People are hurting over this election. Be respectful with opinions. Everyone has them and we all differ in many ways. We don’t have to agree, but look through a lens of compassion and try to listen. This is really tough stuff.
But most importantly…love each other…it matters now more than ever.