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Dangerous Discrimination This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Lyman, ME
For many years, I was confused about my sexuality. I needed to learn to follow my heart. I had to stop thinking that I wanted to be heterosexual, because I knew deep down that I wasn't. The sooner I learned to accept myself, the sooner others would accept me, but I held back, afraid of what my friends and family would think. I wondered every day who I was, who I was becoming, and whether people would accept the real me.

Anti-gay language hit me by the fourth grade and degraded me 'til seventh grade. I can never change the remarks I've dealt with, tried to push away, and attempted to ignore. I was hurt and scarred for life. Why did others try to ruin my childhood in this way? I'm sure you see the discrimination and hear the harassment; you even may be the one doing it. Why do you do it? Why don't you stop it?

In today's society, acceptance of those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) has a long way to go. Do heterosexuals and non-trans people have any idea how it feels to struggle to accept yourself while simultaneously not being accepted by your family, friends – even your community?

You may be asking by now, why does this even matter? I'll tell you why.

According to the 2009 National School Climate Survey carried out by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly 90 percent of GLBT middle and high school students reported being verbally abused. Forty percent reported being physically harassed, and only about a third felt safe at school.

Consequently, young GLBT people are challenged by discrimination or lack of acceptance because of their sexuality. Have you ever been afraid to tell your parents something? GLBT youth have to worry that their parents won't accept them for who they are. This all adds up to a sad fact: GLBT teenagers are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as the average teenager. It is estimated that 500,000 teenagers try to kill themselves every year, and about 5,000 succeed.

Discrimination was the cause of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover's suicide. On April 6, 2009, 11-year-old Carl hanged himself with an extension cord after being taunted daily about being gay. This was the fourth suicide from middle school bullying in 2009.

You may be thinking, I'm not gay and neither are my friends. Why should I care? “As was the case with Carl, you do not have to identify as gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language,” Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, said. “From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers. In many cases, schools and teachers either ignore the behavior or don't know how to intervene.”

We must learn to accept people of all genders and sexual orientations, because they won't just disappear. The next time you hear anti-gay taunts, ask the bully “Why does it matter to you?” or defend the one being bullied and make sure that person is okay. Give your peers the support they need through these difficult and confusing times. Learn to accept, not attack or seek to change. The world has a lot to learn, but it can start with you.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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DreamsAreBroken said...
Dec. 29, 2010 at 9:15 am:
I disagree and agree with you. I agree the world's harsh and I'm so soryr you had to deal with all of that. I agree that homosexuals are born that way, who would choose to be born in a way you are persecuted. But I disagree that it's right and that you can't stop it. I have a disability myself and you know what I learn to control it to help it.
 
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Bethani said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm:
That's so sad. :(
 
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