There has been a YouTube video going around lately with Ellen DeGeneres pleading to end intolerance after a spate of young gay people committed suicide.
Even in this day and age of greater tolerance towards all minorities, and even after 40-plus years of the gay rights movement, gay youth still experience bullying and are still taking their own lives because of it.
For many, coming to terms with their sexuality is a huge thing. Those who do it later in life have the life tools to deal with the repercussions, but young people are rarely properly equipped, emotionally or otherwise.
Internalized homophobia can be one of the greatest obstacles that we face.
It is often because of internalized homophobia that many choose either to live a celibate life or to ignore their feelings and try to live a straight life —until that no longer works and they come out as adults.
For a young person, coming to terms with their sexuality can be a terrifying and isolating experience. The teenage years are easily some of the toughest years that anyone faces, either gay or straight.
Add to these angst-driven years the knowledge that you are gay and it becomes that much more difficult. On top of this, if a young gay person is bullied because of their sexuality, it is a volatile mixture, and this is often where teen suicide happens.
I was contacted recently by a youth worker who knew a young gay man who was just coming out and needed support. Luckily for this young man, he had someone who advocated for him and reached out to find the necessary support.
Others are not so lucky, and it is a lonely road.
The lucky kids find the support they need right in their own families. But for many, the one source they should be able to count on fails them.
Parents often blame themselves, thinking that it is something they did or didn’t do that made their child this way. We know this is absurd, but it is still a prevalent belief.
If you are a parent of a young gay person, all you can do for them is love them and support them. They haven’t chosen their road in life, but it is what it is.
As a society we should actively condemn bullying or even teasing and should have zero tolerance for it when we witness it.
Homophobia is still alive and well and will be for a long time, but how we choose to react to even the mildest forms of teasing or intolerance will have lasting repercussions for those who are struggling.