Sometimes Being There is what matters most

So, I have had a pretty selfish week. It’s been a lot about me, and my book that I am editing. Then someone sent me an article from the Rolling Stone:

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

The article is hard to read, not because of the length or the prose, but because of the heart-wrenching content.

I grew up as a gay teenager in Little Rock, Arkansas. For most people who read this, that will not be news, but if even just one person out there comes across this and is in need, well, I think it is worth talking about a little bit. I’d like to start off saying that Little Rock is not the worst place to grow up gay. It is also, however, not a great place either. I was fortunate to find friends who loved me, in the closet and out, and honestly that is what saved me. I’ve thanked those friends often, but I never can thank them enough.

I pondered suicide in school, there were times I got close to killing myself, on nights or weekends when my parents were away. I thought about how I would do it and where. I wrote several “final letters” over the period of 5 years. Sometimes addressed to my parents, sometimes friends, and sometimes to no one. Because I thought no one would care. Part of what stopped me, was that my explanations never felt like enough. I worried that somehow my death wouldn’t be enough to make the statement about the hell I was living, and I also found I wasn’t able to write a letter that did any better. I think that in the darkest of times, this might have been what kept me alive.

For people who are in that place, and reading this, I hope you can see. It really does get better. We’ve spent so much of our lives becoming used to things getting easier and faster so the idea that you might have to wait 5 years to not feel persecuted or horrible, sounds like a pretty tall order. I get that, I’ve been there, and I can tell you, it is worth the wait.

What I want people, especially kids, to know out there, is that they are not alone. I know what it is like to be surrounded by a football team, thrown into the mud, kicked, scratched, and beaten. It’s something I don’t talk about, because most of the people who did it, grew into better people. It, and a few others, were moments that really pushed me to the point where I thought I’d be better off dead. But talking to someone, anyone, really did help. I talked to strangers a lot in those days. Sometimes strangers are people who become friends, but often, strangers are just people who show you that humanity is actually good at the core. I have never been able to thank them, because I have no idea who they were.

If you want to contact me, do it. I’m happy to lend an ear. Tell me about anything that is troubling you. Even if you don’t think talking about it will help, just do it. There are plenty of people like me in the world, who were once like you, and any of us are happy to talk to you, or simply listen.

Your voice is powerful. You probably know the power words have had on you. Don’t let anything silence you for good. Even if your words only reach my ears/eyes, they could possibly change the world.

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5 Comments

  1. katherine said,

    February 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Richard I’m tearing up reading this. I know you struggled growing up, but didn’t know you’d contemplated suicide. This is such a powerful message and another reminder that I am so lucky to know you.

  2. kyoske said,

    February 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Katherine, well it was a long time ago, and ever since you’ve known me. I’ve been blissfully happy dating the love of my life. While I was well out of the darkness before him, his love really gives me the strength to shine as bright as I do these days.

    I thought about it, because in the microcosm of middle school and high school, it felt like it was the only option. I literally had to take it on faith that people were right, that things would get better. Being raised Southern Baptist…made faith a hard thing to trust.

    In many ways I was lucky, my teasing at school was only really intense during 7th-9th grade. I really had begun to believe that with the world so connected out there, that kids would have tons of places to go to, when they felt like i did. I am sad to know that there isn’t as many places as I thought, which is why I felt like there needed to be another one out there. Honestly, I can’t imagine how people can turn away kids, when they summon the strength to reach out.

  3. Dace said,

    February 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I am really happy to see that this is become viral. More and more people speak up, more and more information gets up and more and more teens stand up for themselves and others.

    I didn’t grow up in Us, I grew up behind the Iron Curtain and I also thought about committing suicide as that seemed the only way out.

    I just wanted to say that I support your cause, I admire your dedication and I really hope that it will get so unbearable for bullies and religious fanatics that they will be forced to crawl back into their holes where, hopefully, they will rethink their lives and their convictions. Even better, it would be more than desirable if they would educate themselves and learn a thing or two

  4. Melanie said,

    February 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Sometimes i think I’m the only one who struggled with thoughts like that… Just having someone who’ll listen (whether you’re gay or straight) can make all the difference. When I met Nizzar, he became that person… And he taught me how to get what I need myself. Takes a while sometimes.

  5. Rachael said,

    February 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Fear of the unknown, tends to encourage hatred. Why can’t we all just accept people for who they are–a person.


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