Saturday, November 22, 2003

Lucky

I came upon Bill's Story, a kid who committed suicide because he was bisexual. I read his mom's account of his life and I thought about easily this person could have been me.

I think I was lucky. For the most part, I was popular enough in school to withstand the occasional slur. I had a good support group in my friends that mostly didn't care (or didn't notice). I had not been physically assaulted, although I remember being threatened a few times by some bullies at school, who I just shrugged off and walked away.

Even so, I had struggled deeply about being gay. I don't even think that I knew what gay was until I was nearly 14 or 15. For myself, this struggle had been very much religious. I felt that all of the Bible's teachings told me that I was going to hell forever. I thought that by being "born again," Jesus would help me through this struggle, that he could change me.

He never did, no matter how hard I prayed.

I know my dad had been very concerned about my being gay. He was always telling me to walk like a man, talk like a man, and not to act gay. One day when I was about 17, he called me a fag to my face, he was shouting and yelling at me. I was scared, I had never seen my dad so angry in my life. We had fisticuffs.

I left home.

I walked around for miles, not knowing where I was going. At least I took my wallet with me. I was able to find a place to stay for a few days.

When I came home, my dad never talked about it again. The only person in my immediate family that I have not told I am gay is my dad. I don't know if my siblings or mom has told him, I don't think so. But my dad is not stupid. He knows that I am not dating women. I think--I hope that he has come to terms with it.

In order for me to find myself and be who I am, I had to leave my family, my friends and country. When I was 22, I moved to Chicago where I knew nobody so I don't have to ask for permission to be who I am. I couldn't do it under my father's roof. I couldn't do it back home, risking being found out.

Some people say that being gay is a choice. What choice I say? That I choose to be gay so that people would threaten me, call me names, be afraid of losing my family, friends, my job, my soul to eternal damnation? Had I a choice, I would choose not to suffer. Alas, there is no choice in this matter.

The only choice I could make was to decide to live my life in the open.


Here are some statistics I found in PFLAG's site:

- Studies on youth suicide consistently find that lesbian and gay youth are 2 - 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than other youth and may account for 30% of all completed suicides among teens. Source: Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989.

- Service providers estimate that gay, lesbian and bisexual youth make up 20-40% of homeless youth in urban areas. Source: The National Network of Runaway and Youth Services. To Whom Do They Belong?: Runaway, Homeless and Other Youth in High-Risk Situations in the 1990's. Washington, D.C. The National Network, 1991.

- In a study of 4,159 Massachusetts high school students, 46% who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual had attempted suicide in the past year compared to 8.8% of their peers, and 23.5% required medical attention as a result of a suicide attempt compared to 3.3% of their peers. The same study found 18.4% of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students had been in a physical fight resulting in treatment by a doctor or nurse compared to 4% of their peers, and 22.2% skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe en route to or at school, compared to 4.2% of their peers. Source: Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MYRBS), Massachusetts Department of Education, 1997.

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UPDATE 01/26/2007: Bill's mother, Gabi Clayton's blog.

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