Calling all allies and future allies!
In my work as a speaker over the past school year advocating pro-kindness, anti-bullying, and mental health awareness across the country, the question that was most asked during and after my assembly program was, “Is it OK to be gay?”
I was asked this question in city schools, rural schools, suburban schools, and Catholic schools. I was asked this by kids in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
Each time a different student asked this same question, my heart would break. I would quickly confirm it is OK to be gay, but then I would immediately worry that these kids are asking this question because there is no one else in their lives telling them the same thing.
LGBTQ youth are more likely to contemplate suicide — almost three times more than heterosexual youth — and are almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A startling 40 percent of trans adults reported having attempted suicide, with 92 percent of those surveyed having attempted doing so before the age of 25, according to The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
I mention these devastating statistics, because kids who feel this hopeless are not being told that it’s OK to be gay. Kids who don’t think it’s worth living to see 13 years old are not being told that it’s OK to be gay.
You might be reading this right now thinking, “I don’t know any gay kids.” Really? I didn’t know any either until they felt safe to come out of the closet.
My best friend in high school came out the summer going into our senior year. He knew he could safely come out to me because I was super open about having a gay brother. He knew it would be OK.
I’m writing this column for those of you who have a closeted LGBTQ kid in your family. You might not think it’s OK to be gay right now, but I need you to consider the alternative: A world where your LGBTQ family member felt that it was safer to end their own life than to disappoint you with their true self.
Considering that alternative, isn’t it OK to be gay? Isn’t alive and gay better than OK?
This month, whether or not you fall under the umbrella of LGBTQ, please celebrate Pride and let everyone in your life know that you think that it is not just OK to be gay, it’s fabulous.