Dear Queer Kids,
I know you don't know me, and reading a letter addressed to a group that maybe you don't yet feel like you belong to, may seem awkward and strange, but go with it. I'm writing to you, the kids that are different, the ones that feel as though something is strange or foreign within yourself, because I was just like you. The words we may use to describe each other can be different and so perhaps are the hurdles we each have, but I'm writing to you out of the compassion and empathy of similarity and the knowledge of growing up different. I promise it won't take too long, unlike this opening.
It's the new year, and there's a resolution I need you to make.
In 2015, I want you to promise me you'll live.
It's a hard one, I know, but it's better than the alternative. I swear.
Every year I see such beautiful and talented young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people take their own lives, and every single time, a lump forms in the center of my throat as tears well up in my eyes over another tremendous loss. With every death, I think the world has been robbed of someone wonderful, someone that could have made a real difference. Like Ronin Shimizu, a brave young boy, who dared to be a cheerleader in Sacramento, and was tormented to death by 12. Or Sergio Urrego in Columbia, whose school officials not only turned a blind eye to his harassment, but gave his bullies all the ammunition they needed. And now most recently, I read the beautiful note of a bright and caring young trans girl, Leelah Alcorn, who took her life in Ohio. As I read this masterful plea for understanding with its depth of feeling and overwhelming courage, I keep saying to myself, "This is exactly who we all need! This is the voice that's missing!" And now that voice of beautiful Leelah Alcorn at only 17, is gone forever.
I cry for these kids because I understand firsthand the pain of being different, the despair of feeling unloved and unwanted, and in the darkest of these moments thinking there was no way out. That my only choice, as I saw it then, was to make a very permanent solution to a temporary problem. I was just like these kids and from the ages 12 to 17, I made 5 attempts to end my own life. I didn't have the words to articulate then that my homosexuality was one of the root causes, but now with a little space and time, I can see clearly it was. But mixed in was also the overwhelming feeling, that I was alone and I would be alone forever.
I was secretive about my pain. I felt there was no one to go to, no one that understand. Alone and afraid in these grave times, I took steps to ending my own life. The pain of the isolation I felt was simply too great. But somehow, every time, and very luckily, I pulled back, and found that there was someone, at least one person, I could talk to. One person that could and did understand. One person that loved me. Always. And often in the unlikeliest of places.
I'm hoping that this letter might be one of those unlikely places for you.
Things will change, I promise. The pain you feel right now, can and will go away. Maybe not forever, but by taking your own life you cut off all the possibility of happiness that may be right over your shoulder. I can't and I won't sit here and tell you that It Gets Better, because honestly I don't know that it does. I know that It Gets Different. It changes. Just because you're "different" or "queer" or "not normal," doesn't mean you'll get the best job or the most beautiful lover, or make even your family accept you finally. It doesn't mean that you'll suddenly wake up one day in a different city with everything perfect and every wish fulfilled. It won't "Get" like that. It'll be different but often how it's different is more wonderful than you can imagine.
And sometimes not.
There'll always be some jerk on the subway preaching to the entire train that you and how you live your life are the cause of 9/11 or Ebola or some other preposterous theory. There will always be some remark from a friend or a stranger on TV that will cut you right to the quick. But they will dwindle and you'll will find others to fill your life with a lot of love and happiness. One doesn't exclude the other, but one makes the other bearable.
And who knows, maybe one day when you'll find you someone you truly love and want to spend your entire life with, and some baking idiot won't want make your wedding cake, because they're small and afraid, but by then that won't be your problem. It'll be theirs. My favorite writer, Toni Morrison, says, you never remember you're different until someone takes the time to remind you. Believe people will always remind you. But what that means will change, and what will get better, is you. You'll see that how you're different, is how you're special. You'll see that that which you were once told was your weakness, is actually your greatest strength.
Ask any scientist in the world, and they will tell you diversity is good for everything. It's essential for any ecosystem to survive. And the more we have of it, the better we are. In a strange way, I've come to believe this about Queer people. We're essential. We help the planet. We expand the ideas about Love and Friendship and Family in directions that were never thought of before. We create something new and in doing so challenge old ideas about gender and sexuality and love itself. That's an important and valuable thing. Too valuable to be wasted.
You and who you are asks people to think about what it means to be human By giving more ideas about what is possible in humanity, you are unsimplifyng the narrative, and complicating the issues and that is Glorious. You're the beginning of a new world, and we're all excited for you. We can no longer live with black and white answers; we need all the brilliant grey that only you can bring to move forward into something new. You can teach people about love by loving whomever you want. And You can show people what a man or a woman or something elegant and gorgeous in between looks by getting up everyday and being whatever it is you choose to be. That's important and it's needed and only you can do it.
But to do this work, you have to be here. You need to be with us, expanding those ideas about love and expression all the time. You need be with us, showing up, bravely, so we know you exist. Don't be a memory, be a fact. And perhaps be the possibility for someone else, maybe someone who feels just as alone and frightened as you do now. For all these things, we need you here.
Because that work can't be done in a note.
And it can't be done on a final YouTube post, saying goodbye and you're sorry.
And it can't be done alone in your room making a very permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It's done here with the rest of us. Alive.
I know that's hard. And I know it's hard to promise that no matter how difficult and hopeless it gets, you'll stick with it. But I can tell you from someone who has looked out on a dead end more times than I can count, it's always worth it. It's always worth another try.
You're a gift to the world. It doesn't feel like that, but its true. And the world will probably not always treat you as such, but remember even as the word faggot is screamed at you in the hallways of your school, or you catch some new theory from the doddering hate-monger Pat Robertson on your TV, that they're just scared and you don't have to be. You can be brave and unafraid of a world that frightens the hell out of them, because you're part of something tremendous and real and new. That's your strength. And that's how you get better. And that's how it gets different.
So I need you to be brave. I need you to do the part of the work you're meant to do. But you don't ever need to think you're doing it alone. You're never alone. I promise. We're here, waiting for you. People like you, who know and care about you. People who can talk with you and comfort you and believe in you. And when you have moments of thinking there's not a single person out there who cares whether you live or die, please remember this silly letter from some big haired gay guy in California. And Know that more than anything, he wants you around.
We need you. You're good for the world.
And I love you. I mean it.
So in 2015, we're all going to stay alive. Promise? I swear to you it's worth it. I know firsthand. We have a lot of work to do.
Much Love and Light,
Justin Elizabeth Sayre.