2011 will mark ten years since I walked the chaotic corridors of a high school as a student. In the cloudy crevices of my memory, I recall those years being accented by first love, a chronic lack of direction and a general feeling of awkwardness. But I guess that’s pretty much adolescence defined for most people. With the recent untimely deaths Of Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase, and any other teen, LGBTQ or otherwise, who have felt that suicide is a viable option out of the hell that can sometimes be highschool, I can’t help but wonder about the burdens that today’s youth have to bear. What is different today about the worries and fears that challenge the strength of young people struggling to define, justify and make sense of themselves and their sexuality? This isn’t just an LGBTQ issue, it’s a human issue.
In 2001, my biggest fears and worries included if the tree on my Timberland boots was noticeable since any other symbol on a tan work boot was punishable by the torment of your peers. Rumors and gossip of my peers’ sex lives usually remained unproven and intangible. Teenagers today are surrounded by technology that allows them to completely submit the intimacy and privacy of their lives with no regard for the consequences and no concern for the long-lasting effects. But is that technology’s fault? I don’t think the answer is that clear. What I will say is that with the development of technology has followed a decline in most people’s ethics and moral fiber.
Teenagers today are dealing with life experiences that draw emotions that even most stable adults have difficulty navigating. What’s even worse is that many of these teens’ thought processes have difficulty matching the intensity of the situations they often deal with on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t a blame game, but I do feel that most young people are being forced to face these obstacles ill equipped, because frankly they shouldn’t have to face these obstacles at all. Our teens are in the world everyday taking the final, but have never even had the class.
I truly believe that everyone at some point will face some form of mild depression. Depression can slowly seep into the heart and soul like a virus invades an open wound, slowly breaking down the body’s defenses one desperate thought at a time. And the symptoms aren’t hard to ignore: loneliness and hopelessness. Mine came at an early age, but through my tears I found inspiration and creativity, in my anger I found strength, and my self-pity slowly changed to pride, and at age 26 I can honestly testify: Not only does it get better, it actually gets damn good.
I am confident that the dramatic rise in suicide rate and the stories of others like Tyler Clementi and Raymond Chase will raise awareness and draw a sense of unity for all of us to treat each other with respect and compassion, but I can’t help but wonder what significant change and beauty their lives could have brought the world. Our youth need to know, that it is always darkest before dawn and that it does get better! They need people who are fighting for them and beside them for the right to be themselves and be different. They need resources and that will reassure them that it is just as OK to be exactly the same, but the important thing is for them to just be…
The Trevor Project is the national provider of life saving resources to LGBTQ youth and their families. Several famous faces have joined this effort to advocate acceptance and help prevent teen suicide by promoting mental health and positive self-esteem. The Trevor Project is based on a 1994 Academy-Award winning short film named “Trevor” whose title character makes an attempt to take his life after being rejected by his peers for his sexuality. For more info please visit: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/