To all those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, to all those who are young and old, to all those who are being bullied and think that your life is just absolute hell, I'm here to tell you something, something that I think all of you should know: IT GETS BETTER.
Like many of you, I was shocked and devastated about the tragic suicides that took place in Fall 2010 and again this Fall 2011. These bright young students were constantly picked on and bullied severely because they were gay or perceived as gay. I know some of you who read this are probably saying right now, "Oh, you know how kids are, they can be so cruel, kids are going to bully regardless". Those who have said it or are even thinking those words as I am speaking, you know who you are. I am letting you know how bad this hurts me as a student who once was looking for the support she never got when she was bullied and harassed in middle school. But I'm getting way off topic. This isn't about you, this is about children. The children in your community. The children in your neighborhood. The children in your family. YOUR CHILDREN. Their lives are in your hands unless you help stop the homophobic bullying that is taking place. That's all I have to say to you.
To all of you who are being bullied and feel lost, scared, or alone, I want to tell you all that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. IT GETS BETTER. I promise you it does. Listen, I've spent my whole life being both autistic and bisexual, and I'm nearly 21 years of age now. I knew from the moment I left my mother's womb, from my first day of school, from even the first birthday party I went to, I knew that I was different, I knew I was bisexual. But there was nobody to talk about it. I can't recall whether it was because I was too young at the time, because I didn't know the words to describe how I feel, or because I never knew it was normal nor that I knew it was different. Like many of you, I was scared and felt alone and like many of you, I was bullied and harassed mercilessly. I've been bashed into lockers, been spat on, been beaten up, even had objects thrown at me because I was quote unquote different by the other students' standards. There were many times I thought about taking my own life because I simply could not deal with it anymore. I contemplated suicide many times in 7th grade and again during my second year in college.
In college, I was unhappy. I felt as if I had no direction in life. I honestly thought I was only being a huge annoyance to the people I love and pushing them away. I even planned a date to when I was going to take the final step. It was going to be a little after New Years. I truly thought it would never get better. Pill bottles filled with God knows what was sitting in the cabinet waiting for me to consume and take me into an everlasting dark abyss away from pain. However, my attempt of suicide failed. I was interrupted by a phone call by my best friend who was inviting me to her house for New Years. That same day I met my other best friend who is gay. And things really got better. When we joined the college GSA, I gained new friends who are a huge part of my life today. I've experienced friendships and joy I never thought in a million years that I would ever have in life. I began to be more true to myself and accept me for the person I am. All the while, I cannot help but think that had I not gotten that phone call from my friend, had my suicide attempt been successful, I would have missed out on so much in life. I would never have met my many best friends. I would not have known the thrill that rushed through my body when I went to clubs in West Hollywood and had a good time like any adult should. I would miss out on my little six-year-old sister growing to be the stand-up comedian she's turning out to be. I would have missed out on my younger sister setting sail to engineer a large ship while in the Australian coasts. I thank God everyday for the phone call that saved my life and all my beloved friends for coming into my life and making it worth living.
The reason why I told you all is this and forgive me if I sound just like that cheesy poster with the picture of a cat hanging off a tree branch: JUST HANG IN THERE. If you feel like ending your life is the only way out, it's NOT. If you feel like taking your own life, DON'T! There are people out there in your community who support you, who want you to be the person you are, and who love you. Talk to someone who will listen. A teacher, a parent, a friend, a relative, a principle, a preacher, a rabbi, ANYONE who will listen. Take part in GSA clubs in your community, if available. Participate in gay and lesbian centers in your area. Have faith and hang in there because-- I said it once and I will say it again-- IT DOES GET BETTER. I promise you. Will it be easy? No. Nothing in life ever is easy. Will it be worth the pain and struggle? YES! It will be, because the best feeling in the world is being able to be the wonderful and unique individual you are. Never think of yourself as anything less. I'm going to get a bit religious here, but if there is one thing I know, it's this: God does not make any mistakes. You were put on this earth for a reason. You make the world a wonderful place to live. Don't take yourself away from it. The world needs you. People need you. I need you. Life cannot go on without you. If you ever feel depressed or suicidal, there is a 24-hour toll free number you can reach and talk to someone who cares. It belongs to a great organization called The Trevor Project that can help you through this. That number is 1-866-4UTREVOR. Many of your favorite celebrities have contributed to the project: Ellen Degeneres, the cast of Glee, comedian Margaret Cho, Joel Madden from the rock band Good Charlotte, expert personal financier Suze Orman, the cast of the Broadway musical Wicked, the cast of HBO hit series True Blood, Daniel Radcliffe, Chaz Bono, musical artist Ke$ha, comedian Kathy Griffin, even our president Barack Obama, to name a few. The people mentioned above are many of the reasons why you should stay with us.
By giving in and ending your life, you are letting the bullies win. And I know in my heart that you wouldn't want that. Suicide is never the answer. You have so much potential and I can see it in you. There are so many opportunities in this world. People are becoming more tolerant, things are getting easier, and together we are becoming stronger. Life is getting so much better. And you should be alive to see it. You are all very beautiful, wonderful, special people and I love you all so much. IT GETS BETTER. I promise.
Love you Always,
Shaina Roxanne Barnett