The Fort Worth city councilman, Joel Burns, did a very courageous thing this week. He spoke from the heart about growing up a gay teenager in Crowley, Texas. Joel described his own experience with bullying and how it almost ended him one day. Joel is the first openly gay Fort Worth councilman in history. I am a Fort Worth citizen and Joel happens to live across the street from me. I am honored to know him and am proud that my hometown, good old Cowtown, has him in service.
Joel Burns reached out to gay teens in the community in hopes of preventing another gay kid from committing suicide. As a nation we are seeing an increase in these cases at a time when it seems that people are more progressive on the social issues. Why is that, I thought? You will have your own opinion…but I think mine is a pretty logical conclusion. I think sexuality is a sliding scale….100% queer on one end and 100% straight on the other…..most of the population is somewhere in between. Those underlying feelings….they scare people….when they see gay kids they strike out. The hate and the violence is a product of the deep seated knowledge that the gay kid is not that different than the bully.
I posted this week on Facebook that I was taunted in junior high…people were surprised. Why?? I was a teen in the 70s….magnify the homophobia you see now by about 400% and you have life in 1976. I never got to use the water fountain in 7th grade. Every time I bent down to take a drink a kid would walk by and hit the back of my head..forcing it down into the drain. “Dyke!” the kid would yell and everyone around would laugh. And I have blogged before that when I would enter the girl’s bathroom…someone would quite often be there to yell, “hey, a guy is going into the girl’s restroom!!” Compared to the recent news stories, my examples are not that bad….I just remark about them here to make another point. Show me a queer and I am willing to bet they have some bullying stories to tell. Kids jump on anyone that is different, queer kids are an easy target.
I have also blogged before that I would like to start a mentoring program…similar to a big brother/big sister program, but for gay kids. Have the teachers watch out for kids that might be in trouble or have a hotline for kids to call. (Joel offered his private number)
The young person would be matched up to a local gay professional to show them that IT GETS BETTER!! I think a program like this should be in every high school in America. It is time to draw the line and to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH! One life is too much to lose…let alone the numbers we are seeing on the nightly news. I am going to reach out to Joel Burns and volunteer to assist him in starting a program like this here in Cowtown. Maybe we can be the model for the nation to follow.
There was a dark day or two in my early life. When you are a kid and you look in the mirror…there is that day when you come out to yourself. You look in the mirror and see a queer. At that moment you realize it is a part of every fiber in your body, something innate….something that is not going to change. You realize your road is not going to be smooth…you will have challenges and you will receive ridicule. Your life, whatever you choose to do, will be deemed “alternative.” I look at my home and family and I don’t ever think “alternative”….I see love and normalcy. But at that moment when you are 10, 11, 12, 13…..and see yourself truly for the first time….it is scary. These kids that are killing themselves have this realization and don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Our job is to show them the light….show them that it gets better!
The readers of the blog know that I had a supportive mother. As I was listening to Joel speak this week, I wondered what I would have done if my mother had looked at me in shame or disowned me. I might very well have killed myself. Like Joel said,….he would have missed so much….and so would have I. We have to throw out life-vests to these kids……grab the rope! We have to throw love at these kids and acceptance…..we have to throw out HOPE. Hold tight my young friend….I have walked a mile in your shoes and have turned out fine. Grab hold of life and all that it offers…..WE VALUE YOU AND YOUR LIFE……IT GETS BETTER!!