Today is the 24th National Coming Out Day which was first celebrated on October 11, 1988 one year after the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Many teens and young adults will come out today and some will be rebuffed by their friends. Despite knowing the effects of doing so, the majority will be thrown out of their homes by their parents and forced to live on the streets because they have no means of supporting themselves. Below is an article by Carl Siciliano about why so many homeless gay youth turn to prostitution in New York City. I would suggest that there are similar problems in just about every city and town across North America.
I have written several posts about coming out and bullying over the past three years and the effects both have on GBLTQ teens, some of whom end up taking their own lives, and Mr. Siciliano’s article illustrates how homelessness drives desperate teens to do despicable things, including survival sex, which is extremely dangerous and life threatening.
But today I wanted to write about something that’s a little more positive:
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York had a recent exhibition called “Testimony: A Living Exhibition of Queer Youth” which gives ” visibility and voice to queer youth across the globe, in vivid colors. The show is an extension of the website “Testimony,” a worldwide storytelling project that the Coalition for Queer Youth launched last year. The project depicts the transformative power of sharing one’s voice.” This exhibition was a diverse collection of LGBTQ artists and activists and demonstrated the role of art in shaping an identity.
One post was entitled “How a gay homeless teen became his high school’s valedictorian,” another simply presented the e.e. cumming‘s quote: “it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” (These quotes are from an article in The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices).
“Testimony” is perhaps the next step forward to the It Gets Better Project started by Dan Savage, gay advocate and author. Dan recorded a PSA with his husband Terry on the channel he launched on Youtube for gay kids on bullying
Much has been said about celebrities (both pro and con) who have come out and given visibility to the fight for gay rights. Regardless how you feel about celebrities, there’s no doubt that teens and young adults look up to them and regard them as role models, so I’m including the stories of 41 celebrities who have come out, in the hope that a few GBLTQ kids will read their stories and perhaps these stories will inspire a positive change in their lives.
Teen suicides are not abating despite increased awareness and community support, maybe because the high profile is also triggering an increase in bullying behaviour.
Just tonight a British Columbia teen, Amanda Todd, committed suicide after being bullied for years. Last month she had appealed on YouTube to stop the bullying, but to no avail.
Amanda changed schools after being beaten on the bus and when the bullying went online and didn’t cease she attempted suicide a month ago, but was not successful. Her tormentors told her to “try harder.” Unfortunately this time she succeeded. Now everyone is second guessing themselves about not supporting Amanda but this won’t bring her back as she was found dead in Coquitlam, B.C. less than a month before her 16th birthday.
This paragraph that was written by Tj, one of the guest reviewers on the site, was in one of my previous posts on this topic and I’m adding it here:
What can you do? We can all help. You can become a mentor to a teen in crisis or just be accepting and supportive of all of the young people in your lives. Having a support network, people who they can count on, tell anything to without judgment, could make all the difference and even save a life. Certainly don’t ask them if they are gay, but try to convey to them that you accept them no matter what and will always be there. Adults are modeling bullying behaviour, sometimes without realizing it, and the key is to start with your own kids so that they are not the cause of a teen committing suicide a few years down the road.
What is amazing is how gay youth are able to rise above something that can have deadly consequences.
If you are a teen who is considering suicide there’s help. I urge you to contact any of the numbers below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273 TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Stop Bullying – http://stopbullying.gov/topics/get_help/index.html
Suicide/Kids Helpline: 1-800-668-6868
Canada Suicide and Crisis Helplines/website: