Tuesday, October 05, 2010

it gets better.

There has been a lot of media attention over the past few weeks covering teen suicide, specifically gay teens committing suicide. Celebrities, gay and straight alike, have been coming out of the woodwork to speak out about it. Gay teens are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than straight teens. It's no wonder - technology and social media have provided an anonymous avenue for ignorant homophobic cowards to target individuals and spread hate, all without a second thought to the incredible harm they are inflicting.

The challenge, of course, is that the idea that it is okay to hate someone because of their sexual orientation does not occur in a vacuum. Kids learn from the environment, from their parents, the news, from politicians who denounce gay marriage, and their schoolyard friends (who are influenced in the very same ways). Casual sayings like “that’s totally gay” and “you look like a fag” seem harmless, but at the root of them is the idea that gay people are not as good as the rest of us, it’s okay to make fun of them, and it’s okay to hate them for being different. The fact that gay marriage is even up for debate adds to this crisis. It is not considered a hate crime for a politician to get up in congress and state “gay people do not deserve to be married, because what they do is wrong, against god, and they will destroy the sanctity of this holy union”.  Trust me, straight folks have the market cornered on that last part, give me a break.

So our children suffer in shameful silence. Being a teenager is so incredibly difficult. As a straight teenager, I was riddled with anxiety, depression, a desperate need to fit in, and I always felt a deep insecurity that I would not be accepted for who I was. My mother told me time and time again that it gets better, the rest of the world is not like high school. One day you will go to university and be valued for your intelligence and your ideas. You will leave these people behind you in the dust. And for the most part I have. But I would be remiss if I did not admit that as a teenager there were times when I considered suicide as a real option.

If I were the parent of a gay teen, I’m sure I’d give them the same message – it gets better, the rest of the world is not like high school. But if you were a gay teen, being bullied or outed against your will, would you believe that? The hate comes from the top – don’t ask don’t tell in the military, gay athletes and politicians hiding their sexual orientation for fear of repercussions, and anyone with a soapbox being given the freedom to proudly spew hateful rhetoric about gays not deserving the same rights of straight people. It’s no wonder there is an epidemic of gay teens committing suicide.

After you sit down with your kids tonight, and explain that bullying anyone is not okay, in any form, take a look at yourself and make sure you aren’t contributing to this unacceptable behaviour as well. While you may not be uttering homophobic slurs, remaining silent while others do is just as bad, if not worse.


  1. Anonymous3:12 p.m.

    Such an important message,Kat. Thank you for making your blog a vehicle for social change on this issue.

  2. Your Mom was so good for stuff like that. I remember her telling us when we were 13 that, basically, all the social stuff we were dealing with was bullshit, and we were going to have great lives if we just stayed focused on what we loved and got past being teenagers.