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Read this article today and felt the need to share. I’m so proud to call myself a member of an organization that fights back. For those who are unaware, there is a new non profit in Atlanta called the Saint Lost and Found. They cater to homeless queer youth and do an amazing job. This is the back story of their namesake…
17yo’s suicide – a message to be strong
By Michael Gorman
This article is for the teenagers in our community. OK, you old folks can listen in if you want – then hand this column to a kid you know. But this one is for you under-20 types.
Why should you gays listen to some old guy you haven’t even met? Good question. Maybe you shouldn’t. Of course you don’t have to believe a word I write, so what could it hurt? And old dudes can be cool to have around sometimes, my son assures me. When he needs to see some issue from a historic perspective, I’m as good as a history book and easier to access.
I share what I can of my experience and my scars with him because I want to make his path a little smoother than mine was.
I try to be honest about the world. Too many adults aren’t . I keep hoping he won’t get broadsided by stuff as much as I was. I love him. I love his generation. You guys. you’re so much cooler and more sophisticated than my generation was at your age. you’re more tolerant. You’re more honest. You’re braver. I’m looking forward to the things you’re going to give this tired world. That’s why I wanted to write to you.
See, there’s something that’s been on my mind lately. It all started with a 14-year-old guy named E.J. Byington.
I don’t know if you remember E.J. He was the guy who came out of the Capital Christian Center three Easters ago and joined the gay, lesbian and bi protesters gathered with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence out on the street. he got put on the news. As a result, the church rejected him, his cousin beat him, and his aunt kicked him out of the house. We found him in a foster home here in Sacramento, and he ended up coming out of the closet, thanks to the support of other teenagers at the Lambda Community Center.
When the state of Nebraska [they had legal guardianship over him] found out he was hanging out with gay friends, they took him back to Nebraska and put him in a military family. he ran away. Then they put him in a group home where he got beaten up for being gay. He ran away again, but they put him back in the home. he was beaten again. Finally they put him with his grandmother in Minneapolis, but when she found out he was gay she kicked him out too. He was beaten unconscious in an alley that night and “rescued” by a pimp. He ended up calling for help from a pay phone on the corner he was working.
Gay people have connections. With the help of this really cool, really butch straight lady activist in Minneapolis, we snatched him off the streets. The Sisters provided a plane ticket back to California. When E.J.’s homophobic social worker in Nebraska found out he was back in California, she almost had a cow, but none of us could remember [heh heh] where E.J. was staying, so we couldn’t help her get him back.
E.J. lived in San Francisco for almost two years. He had a gay foster dad who loved him. He was beginning to heal even though it wasn’t easy after all he’d been through. Last fall, Nebraska finally managed to take him back. he was 17. he was hurt. he was scared underneath it all. he was in despair about the idiot adult world that couldn’t even get its shit together enough to just let him grow up honestly and safely. he couldn’t see a way out. he couldn’t imagine how things could get any better. Last year, at his new foster home in Nebraska, he hung himself.
I’ve cried a lot of tears for E.J. I want to believe he’s in San Francisco somewhere making out with a cute guy. I want to know he’s where I can call him to tell him that things will maybe get better. But he’s not. He’s dead.
Some of the tears I cry are for myself; I miss him in the world. I want to believe the noise I keep making at protests and in print can make it better for the ones who come after me. For my son. For E.J. it was too little too late and that really pissed me off. At the world. At myself. I don’t know.
I’ve been remembering how it felt to be a gay kid in this ageist, homophobic world, having to watch every movie and TV show tell me I don’t fit in. You get bombarded every day by the message that you aren’t as important as adults, that your ideas don’t count, that your needs come second. you are taught your sexuality is bad, godless, sick. And if you develop a little bit of an attitude about the way you are treated, they harass you for being a troublemaker. Hell, if half the adults you deal with every day had to put up with the shit you do for only a single day, they’d be crawling to the loony bin.
I want to be able to tell you that it’s going to get better. I want to be able to tell you that the world will wake up and realize that you have a right to be respected, safe and unhassled. i want to be able to tell you that the world will wake up and realize that you have a right to be respected, safe and unhassled. i want to be able to tell you that there is a phone number you can call and someone will grant you a happy adolescence. I can’t. Damn it!
But there is one thing I can tell you. You won’t always be a teenager. One day you’ll wake up and be an adult, and there will be a measure of power that comes with that. If you make it through the crap that you face now, you will eventually be able to make more of the decisions for yourself. And you know what? As a gay or bisexual or gay-friendly person who survived the homophobia, you will have a deep well of strength that other people cannot even imagine. Some of us turn that power back on ourselves because we believed the lie that we aren’t as good as other people. If you can reject that for the bullshit it is and turn your strength outward, you will make an incredible impact on the world.
In the meantime, please make me a promise. Please make yourself a promise. Survive. hang in there. I know you can do it. I did, and I’m the most sensitive sissy I know. We need you. We need the beauty that is inside you, even if nobody realizes it yet. Our community has lost too many people, to AIDS, to cancer, to murder, to suicide. You are the ones who can give us a future. help us fight back by promising to be around.
There will be times when it will seem like the pain or the loneliness is too much, and living isn’t worth it. I wish I could protect you from those times, but I can’t. Nobody can. But you can wait them out if you make the decision to be a survivor. You really can.
I want all the gay boys and dyke and bi kids and the straight kids who love their gay friends and family to raise their right hands [middle finger extended if you like] and repeat after me: “I’m going to make it through this, goddammit! And then they’ll see!”
– Michael Gorman