As a parent, I have always understood there are many different styles and methods of parenting. I try to parent as I see fit, and leave other parents to their own devices without interfering or intervening, unless the child’s physical well-being is in jeopardy. Sometimes I come across a parent I disagree with so strongly, I bite my tongue so hard I taste pennies.
There are some families who believe being gay is against God’s will or His law, which is their right. Please forgive me if I am wording it incorrectly here or if I am taking anything out of context. Please understand I am trying to make sense of this. I want to help LGBTQ children who are confused, scared, depressed, and feel helpless and alone. I do understand one thing. These parents truly want what is best for their children and they believe with all of their heart and soul it is God. They believe in order for God to accept and love their child they must repress their sexuality and try to learn to be straight. I have to ask, when did you decide to be straight? It was never a decision for me. I liked boys from as long as I can remember. I had my first boyfriend in kindergarten.
Imagine being told on a daily basis that everything you did was wrong. Close your eyes. Picture yourself as a teenager, waking in the morning. As you reach for your favorite shirt, your mother shakes her head. Choose another shirt. You also need to style your hair another way, a better way. Have you tried meeting new people at school? Perhaps you’re not trying hard enough. Some of your old friends seem to be a bad influence, maybe its time to distance yourself from them. If that doesn’t work we can look into new school districts. The group of people who have always been familiar to you, who have been your lifeline your support system outside of your home and you are being asked to give them up. You are also asked to give up everything that ties you to the lifestyle your parents disapprove of, and at such a delicate age. Do you remember that age? I certainly remember it. It was not an easy time for me or for my friends.
This scenario might sound a bit extreme, but I assure you it is not uncommon. I truly believe most parents want what is best for their children, and I think the mother in this scenario believes her child will turn out a stable, straight, normal adult one day, who will be grateful to her for saving her. My job is to just look the other way, right?
Our blended family suffered the recent loss of one of our immediate family members. My ex-husband’s brother committed suicide at the young age of 35, after fighting depression for many years. He was one of the kindest, most loving souls I have ever known.
His family and friends did everything they could to support him throughout his journey through life and battling his war on depression. The guilt after suicide embeds itself into the crevices of every beautiful memory you had of the other person, leaving you to question not only your final interactions with them, but also your interactions with those people who were closest to that person. You also begin to worry about other people. Normal day-to-day interactions start to seem like more. What if he was trying to tell me something? What if she was having a really bad day this time and I was the last person who saw her alive?
In one of the many schools I attended (my parents moved around quite a bit) in rural Texas, there was a young man, in high school, who rode my bus. There was a young man, in high school, who rode my bus. His hair was the lightest shade of blond, like snow with a tinge of yellow. His eyes were pink, and his skin a translucent white, showing the blue road map of veins snaking beneath his papery skin. The other kids shouted at him, threw food, shot spit-wads at him. Spit-soaked paper tangled in his platinum hair, as he stared out of the rectangular windows. His main objective was to stay in the center of the ridicule to protect his little sister, Marla. She was tiny for her age, although I can’t remember how old she was. She had bottle-cap glasses, and if not for her brother would have been the brunt of the jokes. Because her brother was different, more different from her, he was the target. She had a chance, thanks to her brother.
Sitting on the bouncing seats, for a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon, I watched him every day. Each day I intended to take a stand, for him. In my mind I stood in the center aisle of the squeaky bus, screaming, “STOP!” But every day, the words dissolved on my tongue. I knew that all of those mean kids would aim their hatred toward me.
I remember one day in particular, the kids were really mean to him. He endured them calling him a faggot, an ugly albino, and a freak. He sat in that brittle green seat, accepting what his peers put him through. I still believe he did it for her, for Marla. He stood and walked off the bus, with spit clinging in his hair, behind his little sister.
When I got home that day, I sobbed in my mother’s arms, for that beautiful, heroic boy. I was disappointed in myself for not taking a stand for him. That was the first time I learned what the word, faggot meant. I learned, from my mother, about homosexuality. Before I had my first period, I learned of how cruel people could be. I don’t know if he really was gay or if those kids just assumed. What I do know is he was Marla’s hero, and he was MY hero. I watched him every day for at least a year, and every day I vowed to stand up for him. There were so many things about me for the kids to make fun of and I couldn’t do it.
I still think of that pink-eyed boy. I still wish I could have been his hero. Now when I see someone struggling, I stand up. I do everything I can to help. I shared this story on my old blog previously, but was reminded of it again. Brian was the kind of person who would help others, no matter who they were and what they had done. I often wonder what became of that boy and his sister. Did life ever get better for them? I like to think it did.
Words are powerful. Whether negative or positive, they embed themselves into our minds and hearts.
“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”-Maya Angelou
To all of the parents of children who are different:
Parents, please remember how fragile the teen years are, and no matter what your teen might be going through, nothing is worth risking your child’s life. Please try to remember according to the American Psychological Association, teen suicide Teen suicide is a growing health concern. It is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Even though his parents don’t tell me about it, I know the one thing Brian’s parents do every single day is think of everything they said and did while he was alive. The wonder if there was anything they should have done differently. Every member of his family and every one of his friends does this. Nothing is worth risking the loss of a loved one.
The warning signs of suicide, taken from the American Psychological Association Website:
- Talking About Dying — any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self-harm
- Recent Loss — through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
- Change in Personality — sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in Behavior — can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns — insomnia, often with early waking or over-sleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits — loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Fear of losing control – acting erratically, harming self or others
- Low self-esteem — feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
- No hope for the future — believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
To all of those children out there who are different:
I always felt like I belonged on the island of misfit toys. I hung around with kids from a bunch of groups. Most of my friends wore all black, band shirts, had big hair, and the boys had long hair or they just were not interested in being popular. Some of them had piercings and tattoos. There were some occasions my mom allowed troubled kids to sleep on her living room floor because they had nowhere else to go. The majority of my friends considered my home a second home, and my mom accepted them regardless of their appearance, where they came from, and that is what we try convey in our house-holds as well. One thing both of my parents always made clear to me was that they were always proud of me for who I was, no matter what I chose to do, who I chose to be or how many times I reinvented myself. My parents have always supported me. If your parents are not supportive now, please try to be a little patient with them. Trust they are trying their hardest to be as supportive as they know how to be, and that they think they are doing what is in your best interest. Think of life as one big school. We are all in a different grade-level than one another. You would never fault a third-grader for not understanding algebra, so when someone is unable to see something from your point of view because they have not shared your same exact life experiences, try to think of them as on another grade-level, not higher or lower just on another level. We all learn at different paces, and it is not our place to judge. There are other people out there who will support you, accept you just as you are, whether they are friends, family, teachers, other parents, support groups, councilors, pastors, or others. Trust me, we are out there! Please don’t give up! The world is far more beautiful with you in it.
Support and help for teens:
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of eleven and fifteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, www.bigblendedfamily.com, and www.herviewfromhome.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.