I can't stop thinking about the suicides that have been in the news recently. Getting things out sometimes makes me feel better, so:
Like many gay folks, I spent some time in my youth thinking about killing myself. I was never bullied, in the traditional sense: I was never beaten up or stuffed in a trash can, though I was called 'faggot' and 'gay' more than necessary in high school. But things got really bad when I went to college.
At Harding University, when I was 18, 19, and 20, coming out seemed impossible. I'd been taught all my life that people like me were going to hell, and Harding's professors, administration, and students helped keep that belief alive (I'll never forget the day my favorite college professor compared gays to dogs). It was par for the course that being gay was not just a sin, but it was a form of mental illness.
I spent my freshman year trying to figure out how to be a better Christian, in hopes that all the 'homosexual' thoughts in my head would somehow go away. In my sophomore year, though, I realized that my soul was losing the battle against my mind and body. I thought I was doomed, and I thought there was no way out. I correctly predicted that I would lose my church, and I correctly predicted that I would lose my family. I wasn't sure if I would keep my friends.
It was an awful year. I felt completely trapped and alone. A part of myself was completely cut off from both God and the world. It was then that I began to fantasize about killing myself. I thought about pulling into oncoming traffic, I thought about jumping off a building, and I thought many, many times about breaking my dorm room mirror and cutting my throat or wrists. The last fantasy was most prevalent, since I couldn't stand the sight of myself.
Anticipation of things to come got me through that year: I was slated to study abroad after my sophomore year, and the excitement and anticipation of seeing a larger world excited me and kept me sane. I'm glad it did, because my time in Florence was the first time in my life I achieved some form of inner peace. When one sits on a hill overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in the world, one gains a little perspective. My problems didn't seem so big, mainly because my world got so much bigger.
And then things started to get better. After returning from Europe, I began to go out and meet other gay people. I came out to my friend Robyn, who let me cry and then told me she loved me. I slowly (and ungracefully) began the process of coming out, and there was no going back.
The coming out process is a search for personal integrity. I would not achieve that sense of wholeness until much later in life (when I got sober), and I occasionally feel like it can slip away if I don't pay attention and guard my spiritual life.
Some bad things happened after I came out, and life didn't always seem like it had improved. But it slowly and surely did get better.
My point is this: bullying comes in many forms. It's the big jock beating up the skinny kid, sure. But it's also in the use of the word 'gay' as a slur, it's also in the assumption that men should behave a certain way and women another, and it's in the university that teaches students to condemn behavior first and ask questions later.
Oh, and bullying happens one more place. It is codified in Christian doctrine. Teaching that gay people are sick, teaching that our relationships are invalid, and teaching that we cannot fully participate in the life of the Church is bullying, plan and simple. An attempt to silence the weak, and to push us into conforming with straight folks' expectations is not Christianity, and it is no different than stuffing a skinny kid into a locker.
Gay kids: God is love, and God loves you. Any person who acts unlovingly toward you is acting on their own. They do not speak for the Church.
Straight kids: Play nice. And repent. And tell your churches to repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, where there is neither male nor female.
It really does get better.