Growing up I always knew that I was different. I knew in third grade that I was attracted to other girls and was ashamed of the way I felt. I tried telling some of my friends, but we were young and of course that only made me “weird” and they stopped hanging out with me. After that I stopped telling people.
I eventually stopped trying to make new friends and started burying myself into books to escape. I became depressed and lonely and didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I heard the term “lesbian” for the first time when I was in sixth grade and tried, then, to tell my mother that I was one. She laughed it off and told me I didn’t understand, but put me in therapy just in case.
As I grew older, I only felt more separated because I knew that I liked boys as well but I never could shake my attraction to other girls, sometimes even my own friends. I discovered that I was bisexual.
I told one of my friends and she was appalled and told everyone in school. They harassed me and called me demeaning names. I went home and cried, and when my mother asked me what had happened I told her that I had fallen and hurt myself. I feigned sick the next day so I didn’t have to go to school, but eventually I had to face my peers.
When I was 15, I turned to substances to make myself feel better and attempted suicide not long after. If you didn’t know, suicide is the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth and an entire 30% of LGBT youth try suicide by the age of 15.
The older I got, the bolder I became and eventually decided it was nothing to be ashamed of. From that point on, I was out as a bisexual and started to date other girls. The name calling persisted, but I just bottled it up. It took me years of therapy to learn to love myself after hating who I was since the third grade. I thought that I was unnatural and that I should try to change myself to be like everyone else, but I was wrong.
Today, my son is only one years old but I have already picked up a book about accepting LGBT youth, just in case, so I can be prepared to give him the love and acceptance that he needs.
Children and teens should not feel ashamed of the natural way that they feel. It’s time to teach acceptance and love for all of our children, teens, and even our adults. We need to educate ourselves on their struggles and what it really means to have a different gender identity or sexual preference.
If you have a LGBT child, there are a few things that you can do to make their life and experiences more positive than mine:
For one, just listen. Coming out to you may possibly be one of the hardest things they have ever done. Take the time to listen to what they have to say and empathize with them. This is a very difficult time in their life and they are probably scared and confused.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions either; they will probably be excited to finally have someone to talk to. After you talk with them, educate yourself; the internet will be your best friend. Learn about the LGBT community and youth and how you can communicate with them effectively and make them feel accepted. There’s nothing worse than family rejection.
Explore your community and see if the school has LGBT groups or alliances and if there are places for LGBT youth to gather and talk about their life and what they are going through. Although this is going to be a trying time for you, just remember that it’s going to be a lot more difficult for them. Just remember that they are still the same person they were five minutes before they told you they were LGBT; now they’re just more themselves. For more information on how to support your LGBT child visit Our True Colors.org by clicking here.
I have learned through the years that who you are is your entire life; everything you do is a part of that. I denied myself and therefore I never knew who I really was and searched for it every day. Don’t hide who you really are out of shame or fear. Live your life to the fullest as a complete version of yourself or you can never expect to be truly happy in life. You are who you are and I love you for it.