"It Gets Better" campaign a few weeks ago, he asked all of us to create a video message and share our stories so that LGBT teens would feel less alone, less desperate and more hopeful about their futures. The rash of reports of LGBT youth taking their own lives as a result of bullying has motivated thousands of ordinary people to celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and politicians like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to create and post their messages in hopes of inspiring kids to hang on long enough to get through what is the toughest part of their young lives.
On the heals of the Justice Department's filing of a brief indicating their intent to appeal last week's ruling that overturned Don't Ask, Don't Tell, President Obama has released his own "It Gets Better" message. The President tells kids that they've done nothing to deserve what's happening to them and assures them that they are loved.
First, I want to say that if this video helps even one kid find a reason to go on, then it's well worth the effort. However, if this president truly believes in full equality for LGBT Americans, as he says he does, then he needs to walk the walk and stop sending mixed messages.
What I find most hypocritical about this message is that President Obama has the power to really make things better for the LGBT community and yet, time after time, he throws up road blocks that keep us less than equal, strengthen our enemies and send the message to all of us, old and young, gay and straight that we are somehow less deserving of equal protection under the law.
In his message, the president urges bullied queer kids to talk to an adult, like their parents or teachers. But what if, as it was in my case, the adults in your life are not only aiding and abetting the bullies by ignoring or condoning their behavior, but are taking part in the bullying themselves? What if you're a kid being raised by religious zealots who follow their church's teachings and blame the victims, saying they wouldn't be bullied if only they'd change?
I attempted suicide myself in 1980 when, after dropping out of college in my 3rd year while in the throws of the darkest depression I have ever experienced, I pulled my 1968 VW Beetle out into a busy intersection and was hit broadside by an oncoming car. Obviously, I wasn't successful in ending it all. The other driver survived and in the shock of the aftermath, the incident was treated as just another car accident at a dangerous intersection. Rather than speak up about what I was going through, I never told anyone, even my shrink, what really happened. Although I've written before about the abuse I grew up with, this is the first time I've said or written anything about my suicide attempt. I hope it helps even one kid feel a little less alone.
My point is that it's never as simple as people make it out to be. When the people in your life tell you they love you while they abuse you, you learn not to trust anyone. Bullying is child abuse and should be treated that way, even when it comes from another child, but most especially when it comes from the adults in a young person's life.
Unfortunately, young people don't have the freedom to choose who is going to be in their lives on a day to day basis, but once you get out into the world and start making your own rules, you'll see that there are people out their that will love and accept you, warts and all. You will find more people like yourself. You will discover your queer cultural heritage and a legacy of survival that will inspire you to become the awesome person you really are.
It does, in fact, get better once you're able to rid your life of the assholes who just want to bring you down to their miserable level. That day does come if you can find the strength to hold on. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."
As for you, Mr. Obama, as comedian Sarah Silverman points out in her own video message, kids learn how to hate from adults. It's up to all of us, especially the leader of the free world, to lead by example. Where do kids learn to be bullies? As Silverman says, Mr. President, "They learned it from watching you".
AARP Pride Information and Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People, Families and Allies - AARP