October6th

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Did you know that 32,637 Americans took their own lives in 2005? [source] Did you know it is the 11th most common cause of death in the United States? [source]

I’ve never understood suicide. I am thankful for that fact. I read of suicides and am always confounded and can only imagine the thoughts that the individuals must have had during the last moments of their life. Thinking that the world was against them; that this was their last option to end the pain; that it would never get better.

Suicide in any event is an absolute tragedy, but did you know only 1/10th of the youth population is gay, but that 1/10th composes 1/3rd of all teenage suicides? That makes gay youth 300% more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. [source]

In the past 3 weeks, 5 gay teens have killed themselves. Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi, and Raymond Chase were the victims of bullying, cyber-bullying, invasion of privacy, taunting, and abuse. These 5 young men were just the ones that have received national media coverage – there are thousands more. Seth Walsh was only 13 and hanged himself in his back yard. Asher Brown was also 13 and shot himself. Billy Lucas was 15, Raymond Chase was 19 – both also hanged themselves. Tyler Clementi was a college freshman at Rutgers University – he walked to the middle of the George Washington Bridge and jumped. Instead of walking into school with fresh paper and sharpened pencils, excited for a new year, they are dead.

I know I have mentioned the fact that I’m gay many times on this blog, and although I truly do hate to push it in people’s faces – I can’t help but  feel personally effected when I see news stories like this. The reason I want to write this post is to share my story and to let people know that it really does get better…

I was reluctant to come out at first, as most people are. I felt I couldn’t do it in high school – after all, high school is one huge rumor mill anyway – it’s a pretty relentless atmosphere for anyone! I was well-liked in high school and never really had any true problems. I remember a few idiots in my PE class saying a few words a couple of times, but I never let it get to me. I was a LA state champion in debate, I was student of the year, I never made a B in high school, and I had amazing friends. Throughout my struggles to find myself, I knew that I had a lot to live for and that I was surrounded by people I loved and could trust. No matter how horrible you may think your life is, there is at least one person out there that loves you more than the world itself – and there is always something to live for and look forward to.

Times will be hard. Youth is not easy. Adulthood isn’t easy! Life isn’t fair. But in times of trouble, one has to remember that it. WILL. Get. Better.

The reason I waited till after high school to come out was also to make sure that I was 100% comfortable with it before telling anyone else. I wanted to be able to look the person in the eye and say “I am fine. I am happy. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

So after high school graduation I made a promise to myself that I would tell someone before Christmas. So on Christmas Eve (I’m a procrastinator!), I told Hannah. I got super emotional since it was my first time to really say it out loud – and once you say it it’s hard to take it back! She leaned in and simply said, “Ross, I will always love you no matter what.”

The first person I told within my family was my sister, Randi. That seemed appropriate since we’ve always been so close. We were preparing for a baby shower that I was throwing (with Rand’s incredible assistance and creativity) and I stopped her from our work and asked her to come to the living room.  I just said it…and it was fine. Same reaction as Hannah – unconditional love. I won’t go into details of the conversation, but I knew that I would always have Randi on my side – not that the thought ever truly wavered.

I had to write a letter to my parents to come out to them, because I wanted to make sure I got it all out at once. It was about 3 pages long. I handed it to my mom first before dad got home, then I handed it to dad when he arrived. I don’t remember our entire conversation, but I do remember them saying that all that matters to them is that I am happy. and I am.

Mom and Dad wrote me a letter in reply later that week. I read it every once in a while to remind me what an exceptionally lucky man I am. I remember not long before I moved here to Belgium, someone asked me what I would grab if my house was on my fire. I said, “I would first grab my dog, Merlot, and then the letter my parents wrote to me when I came out to them.” I always kept it on my desk and knew exactly where it was…It’s that amazing and it’s that important to me. It is actually one of the only personal articles, other than clothes and shoes, that I brought to Belgium with me:

I know I haven’t gone into great detail here about my coming out story, and that was the point – after all, I could write a book. But this isn’t about me coming out, it’s about the people who haven’t come out yet. It’s about the people scared of the consequences of doing so. It’s about the young people going through life in fear of what their friends and family might think. It’s about the teenagers who are scared to attend school for fear of being abused and bullied. It’s about the people who take to heart all the interviews of extreme conservatives and the laws of a government that refuses to treat us as equals. It’s about the young people that believe their worth can actually be measured, and that their fate sits in the hands of those that judge them.

We should never fear being ourselves.

If I stand for one thing, it’s that. I stand for equality.

If you’re afraid of your friends disowning you, then they aren’t your friends. If you’re afraid of what your parent’s might think, you may find yourself surprised how far unconditional love extends.

I do recommend, however, that you wait until you can say with 100% certainty that you are happy being yourself. Because before you can expect anyone else to be accepting of you, you must be accepting of yourself.

I know I only reach about 50-70 people on a good day with this blog, but if I can help one person or at least spread a little hope – then my mission is accomplished.

If you suspect someone is being bullied, report it to the appropriate authorities and make sure there is some follow through.

If you suspect someone is capable of killing themselves or are in the middle of a crisis that may lead to a rash decision on their part, please visit The Trevor Project to find out what you can do to help. If you have any suspicions at all, why not take action now? Don’t wait and kick yourself later about what you may have been able to do…because by then, it’s no longer the thought that counts.

Just remember, whether you are gay or straight or young or old, there is never a reason to kill yourself. If times are tough now, they’ll soon improve…I promise. Tomorrow is another day – you should to be here to experience it.

Life is a beautiful gift – enjoy it and cherish it to the fullest.

– Ross

3 Comments

  • Comment by J Bennett — October 6, 2010 @ 04:11

    Teriffic post, Ross!

  • Comment by Mom — October 6, 2010 @ 10:28

    I’ve always said – we raised two awesome children.

  • Comment by dad — October 6, 2010 @ 22:21

    Great post and great message bud! We all have our days when we get down, but with a little effort, they become the ones that are forgotten and give meaning to the ones that are magical!

    You forgot to mention that between the time you gave mom the letter and then gave it to me, that we went and ate at “The Dawg House” (Southwest burger and Blue Moon all around). So in hindsight, now I know why y’all were a little more “conservative” than normal, and didn’t order bread pudding! It meant a lot to us to get your letter, and trust us with your feelings, but like I told you, I think I knew you were gay about the time you recognized it which you said was very early. For years I really thought that we would be riding in the car, and you’d look to me and say, “you know I’m gay don’t you”, to which over time I’d prepared the eloquent response of, “yea”. I figured the depth and thoughtfulness of the response combined with your insightfulness would give you the confidence to know that our before and after relationship would be exactly the same. However, you’re way was better, and it gave mom and I the chance to tell you again why we’re so proud of you. Love you.

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