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  • October 2010
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Make It Better… A Message to Everyone

Today is National Coming Out Day, which for me represents an opportunity to reflect on the recent rash of tragic gay teen suicides and urge everybody reading this to take simple steps to make America better for trans, queer, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and all teens whose sexual and gender identities don’t fit society’s mold.

Feelings of intimacy, attraction, and love are intense, scary, and confusing enough when you’re a teenager. And living up to the expectations of the gender you were given at birth can already feel like enough of a hassle, even if you identify with it.

When you identify along the LGBTQ spectrum and people physically assault you, call you nasty names, invade your privacy, or do anything they can to hurt you, it’s hard for people to understand what might make it hurt so bad. A bruise may heal; the echoes of words like “fag,” “dyke,” of “freak” may fade; what lasts is the idea that you are simply not welcome in the world–and that’s what hurts the most.

Dan Savage created the It Gets Better Project as a temporary infusion of hope. If you’re somebody who is feeling like this world is simply not for you, I hope you listen to these stories and have an opportunity to realize that you too are welcome in this world and that if you hold onto life for–though it may seem like forever–just a bit longer, you’ll find places where you can explore your orientation and identity to the fullest. My favorite is of course the charming, effervescent Tim Gunn of Project Runway:

(If at any point you are seriously considering ending your life, please also call The Trevor Project at 866.488.7386 or make an appointment with the Persad Center at 412.441.9786. No video is a substitute for the kind of help they will give you.)

But it’s not everything. I was another kid who, growing up in a small Midwestern town, shrugged off the abuse until I ran off to college. There, for just the first time, I allowed myself to consider those aspects of who I am, and I now have literally hundreds of friends who support me in whatever they may be. And I can’t even describe how pumped up I get when I see a rad friend group of straight and queer teens at the library, supporting each other. And that I get to be an unassuming, accepting adult figure in the life of whatever teen comes my way.

But going to college isn’t an option for everyone. Especially teens who might grow up with less money or in communities where coming out as LGBTQ means being thrown on the street. For example, for the trans Latino teen in Los Angeles who has been kicked out of her home and must work the streets in order to afford expensive hormone treatments, there is no magical age where it suddenly gets better.

That’s why we–all ages, sexualities, genders, parties, and ideologies–can’t just sit back and expect teens, no matter how strong they may be, to simply endure. We have to MAKE IT BETTER. We have to challenge our libraries to collect and promote materials with LGBTQ content. We have to challenge our schools to enforce rules against harassment. We have to challenge our politicians to not stand for hate and intolerance. We have to provide better social services and healthcare to trans youth. We have to stand up for each other and against people who would impose any violence, whether physical, through language, or through ostracization against our youth.

So, before I go, I would like to give a special shout-out to all the LGBTQ youth and their straight allies who might read this, of all shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, whether happy, sad, alone, or rolling many deep. We got your back at CLP (and you can check out our awesome resource list for some other awesome organizations that have your back as well)!

~Joseph
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

4 Responses

  1. Thanks, Joseph. You rock.

  2. Thank you for writing this, Joseph! You are an inspiration and a hero!

  3. […] beyond.  The discussion also continues over at CLPTeensburgh, where Joseph Wilk has written an amazing post that captures this issue far better than I can.  And as always, readers are invited to […]

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