My name is Jason Schlachet, and I am a homosexual.
Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. It is a globally recognized day to bring awareness to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) issues.
I decided to write and do the following after reading about Asher Brown, a 13 year old kid from Texas. He was bullied at school not only for his size and clothes, but also for his sexuality. His parents went to the school to complain about the harassment, but the school officials denied they were confronted about the ongoing bullying. After suffering from years of pain, Asher came out to his parents one morning and that afternoon, took his own life with a gun.
Stories like this have been becoming more visible lately, and it makes me so sad that kids like Asher would end their life before they had the chance to see that life does get better over time. Normal childhood bullying is one thing, but to be harassed over something as personal and natural as this and seemingly inconsequential to others is a damned shame. LGBT youth have it especially rough, sometimes feeling like they are completely alone in this struggle or worse, rejected and betrayed by their own friends and family. These kids are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Sadly, many schools can’t even provide a supportive enough environment, a place where their own students can feel safe.
“You feel so helpless, and day in and day out you’re being called something, and they’re telling you the same message: ‘Your life is worthless.’ And you start to believe it.” — Joey Kemmerling, who came out in eighth grade, in an interview on CNN.
I was one of the lucky ones. I grew up with an understanding and accepting family. When I came to terms with my own sexuality, I became withdrawn and very private about my life, even at home. As many kids do, I took it upon myself to learn what it meant to be gay, and made a few friends who were going through something similar. I remember one frightening phone call from a friend who was on the brink of suicide and told me how he wanted to kill himself. I was lucky in the fact that I didn’t suffer from harassment or bullying because of my sexuality. I was able to deal with things own my own time and largely in private, and I eventually came out to my family and friends. I opened my life back up to those close to me, which put an end to hiding who I was, who my friends where, and who I was dating. Life only got better after that. Given the time and place, had I been overtly gay in school things might have been different for me.
It’s getting over this hump when kids are the most vulnerable and when it’s most important to have visible role models and support. I feel that National Coming Out Day is important because it gives hope that you can rise above this adversity despite your sexuality. These kids are not alone in their struggles. Many have gone through the same struggles and have made it through. It’s important for them to understand that life will get better, and that what they’re going through now is perfectly normal and not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. If they are being ridiculed or harassed, they need to find constructive help and allies to help them through the rough times.
So, today I am coming out via this blog post, to show that a nerdy introverted kid from Plainfield, Indiana can come to terms with being gay and continue on to become a happy, fulfilled, productive member of society. If I could pass my own circumstances and resources to other kids in Plainfield, or anywhere else, I would in a heartbeat. If nothing else, I want to be part of an open and accepting society that shows there is nothing wrong with being gay. Now as an adult, I can say with authority that there are far worse things to be than a homosexual.
In light of all the sad stories about gay kids lately, I feel inspired to make a significant mark of my own on this Coming Out Day. To this end, today I have become a Circle of Hope member of the Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization created by writer James Lecesne, director Peggy Rajski, and producer Randy Stone. They created an Academy Award winning short film named Trevor, a story about a gay teen who after being rejected by his friends because of his sexuality, attempts to take his own life. As their film was about to debut on HBO, they realized there was no national lifeline for the young viewers the film would reach. Thus they formed The Trevor Project, the first national 24/7 suicide prevention hot-line for LGBT youth. The Trevor Project has since been supported financially by the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others.
Organizations like this can sometimes be the only reason kids choose life over death, so they need our help and support. The Trevor Lifeline can be reached at any time at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
You can learn more about their organization at their website, TheTrevorProject.org.
As is everybody else who is taking this day as an opportunity to come out of the closet, I hope that our world takes a small step towards acceptance of everybody regardless of their sexuality. Being gay is just one facet of one’s life and I want everybody to understand that people who are gay are also many more things. They are still your sons and daughters, your brother and sisters, your cousins, your classmates, your neighbors, your coworkers, and your friends.