There are days where I find myself wallowing in the thought of “What the hell am I even doing?” Why do I have this blog, what’s the point, no one’s reading it, and all of the other bullshit we tell ourselves every day. If I am good at anything, it is lying to myself about my value or the value of what I am doing.
But I have an answer for those thoughts. I find that answer every Thursday night when I walk into a room filled with 25+ very loud teenagers. I help run an LGBTQ* teen group in the town I live, and through that group I have found myself. I have found my voice. I have found that thing that pushes me to be the best I can be.
This work is easily the most fulfilling thing I have ever done, but it can also be the most heartcrushing. I see these kids one night a week. And I see them. I see their self harm scars. I hear about their medication changes, their hospital stays. I see them smile when they announce their new name, one which fits their gender identity. I see them grow and advocate for themselves. I see them struggle in a society which either ignores them or tells them they are not good.
LGBTQ* teens are a vulnerable population. The homelessness rates are through the roof, self harm and suicide occur more often among LGBTQ* teens than other populations. Many people decide that these numbers prove that LGBTQ* people are sick, or wrong. The interesting thing is, you take LGBTQ* teens with a supportive environment, and their numbers begin to match the national averages.
Yes, mental health issues affect the LGBTQ* population more than the general public. At the same time, homophobia and transphobia affect the LGBTQ* population more than the general public. We are told we are not enough. We are kicked out of our homes, our churches. We are told we are not good enough for the God who got us through rough times. We are shunned from family members and in most states can be fired or lose our housing if we are outed.
This community; my community has come a long damn way. We have so many who came before us to thank for the benefits and freedoms we have now. Yes, I was able to legally marry my wife. But that is not where the work ends. In the state of Missouri I could be fired or refused housing simply because I am LGBTQ*. I am not sure whether I will have to adopt my child or not.
I see my kids fight to be who they are in a world which tells them they’re too young to know who they are. I see them come out to parents and to friends and I see how damn brave they are.
I want to be like them when I grow up.
And so I write.
And so I speak.
Because I have a voice and I’m not going to be silenced: especially not by myself, or my own internalized homophobia.
So when I find myself full of self doubt and frustrated, I think of my teenagers. I think of their bravery. And I push forward.
Because people are dying.
And they don’t have to.