It Gets Better. It Gets So Much Better.Posted: October 27, 2010
Hi there gentle readers. Your blogger cannot figure out how to make a video and then get it onto the internets. Your blogger is somewhat technologically inept… sorry. A video is definitely in the future, but until I can figure it out, I wanted to put my thoughts down here.
I expect this post will be difficult for me to write, because there are a lot of things I don’t really spend a lot of time talking about; I’ve gotten through them, and I have the privilege now of not having to hash them out to everyone. But the kids who took their own lives in the past few weeks – the young people who, because of the cruelty of others, felt there was nothing to live for anymore – they will never get to this place. They’re never going to get to put the pain behind them; they’re never going to get to share their voice with the world. It breaks my heart.
My name is Alex. I’m 26, I’m a third year law student in Seattle, Washington, and I wanted to share my story with you because I want you to know – that it gets better.
Some of my friends in high school waited until after graduation to come out. I didn’t have that option, I came out when I was 12. I’ve known I was queer since I was able to know anything at all, I’ve probably known since before kindergarten. At 12, I just didn’t see the utility of keeping it to myself anymore. So I told my parents. And to my great shock, because it hadn’t occurred to me that they would be anything other than supportive, their response was “well, don’t go around advertising it.” That’s it. That was the entire discussion. For about 10 years, that was everything my parents said to me about who I was. What they meant was easy even for a 12 year old to comprehend: Shut up. Don’t be yourself. Fit in.
For a bunch of different reasons, I left my small, rural town and went off to an all girls’ boarding school for high school. Which you might think sounds pretty damn ideal for a young lesbian, but if you did think that, you would be wrong. I guess in a sense it was great – my friends were wonderful, they will be my friends my whole life, and I’m so thankful for them.
For me, the bullies weren’t my peers; the bullies were the people who were supposed to be protecting me, supposed to be nurturing me and making me safe and healthy. They were teachers, administrators, school staff. They were adults, who had so much power over me, and they used that power to try and try and try to break us.
My freshman year of high school I fell in love for the first time, with a junior who was also new to the school. It was everything young, first love ever is – intense, ridiculous, joyous, powerful, important, persistent.
It took us about three weeks to get caught. I remember being called out of class one day into the principal’s office, in December of my freshman year. I had no idea what was going on – it hadn’t even occurred to me that being in love was something I could get in trouble for. My friends with boyfriends weren’t getting called into the principal’s office. When I got there, my girlfriend was already in the office, crying. She tried to apologize to me, I learned she had been so scared that she had denied everything: no, she wasn’t gay, no, we weren’t gay together, no – nothing was going on. When we didn’t persuade the principal, we were forbidden from seeing each other. We were forbidden from being in each others’ rooms, even with the doors open, forbidden from sitting together at meals, forbidden from passing notes in the hallway, from speaking. For our own good. And yet my friends with boyfriends had them in the dorm all the time. We were threatened and terrified. The message was loud and clear: there is no place safe to go.
Instead of breaking, though, we pushed through – we spent the next two years fighting a daily battle against people infinitely more powerful than us. At times it was so bad I thought there was nowhere I could go to be safe, nowhere where it was ok to be who I am. Neither of us could go to our parents, neither of us were safe at school. It was crushing, the weight of it. They did everything they could to break us. They treated us like discipline problems, like they could punish the gayness out of us. We lived in constant fear, we were sneaking around, we were always tired. They told us we were sick, that we were unhealthy and wrong. That there was no way to have a healthy relationship if you were gay. They held our future over us – they threatened to expel us, they threatened to put discipline on our records, telling us we’d never get into college.
At one point the principal thought it would be a great plan to out us to our parents without even warning us. Again, out of the blue, we were called into the principal’s office during the school day. It was a courtesy, she told us, that she was even talking to us at all – she’d already spoken to our parents. It was a disaster. It was bad for me, it was catastrophic for my girlfriend. Her parents showed up that day and pulled her out of school for a while – what happened with her is her story to share but it was weeks before she would even speak to me again. After this happened, I thought things couldn’t get any worse. I thought I had no voice, I thought I didn’t stand a chance – the people who were hurting me were so much more powerful than me, I was just a kid. I was 15. I thought life wasn’t worth living anymore, I even thought of taking my own life.
I’m so glad I didn’t. When I look back now, I don’t know how I made it through – my friends, the ones I still count as family today, they gave me a reason to make it through every day.
After my girlfriend graduated, the administration of my school changed, and things got a little bit better. I found a couple of teachers who helped me stay strong, who helped me learn to be tough, to fight on when things were hard. And high school only lasted four years.
I got out of there as fast as I could – for me, that meant going to college. When I got to college I was so amazed – I was so shocked to be meeting people who were queer, who were gay, lesbian, transgendered – and who were happy. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who cherished me, for exactly who I was. I found a world where I could hold hands with the woman I love, without fear. Where I didn’t have to lie, to deny who I am. Today I live with my partner of 4 years, she is the love of my life and I assure you, our family of the two of us, one silly lab puppy, and two grumpy cats is quite healthy. I’m studying to be a criminal prosecutor – I’m going to make this world better by doing my best to keep people from hurting others, and hopefully giving people who the world has tried to silence a voice. A perk? All the fight I learned, the refusal to give up, the strength I gained by pushing through – it’s made me one badass radical queer woman.
And the best part is, now I get to add my voice to this project – I get to pass on a message to people who stand where I stood 10 years ago – and tell you, I promise you, no matter how dark it feels right now – it gets better. It gets so much better. There’s a world out there, full of people who love you – there’s a world waiting for you where all the things that make you different are the things people cherish most about you. There’s a world of love, and joy, and freedom from fear. Yeah – there are still going to be people who try to make it hard, I wish I could tell you otherwise, but if you make it through this time right now, it also gets easier.
Please, if you think you have nowhere to go, if you’re thinking of hurting yourself – call the Trevor Project at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR Or email me, at alexis dot rado at gmail dot com.
The world needs you. This world needs your joy, your love, your hope, your voice – this world needs you because you can help make it better.