I'm angry today.
I'm agonizing over yet another suicide of a young gay teen in Tennessee. It's the second loss in as many months. Phillip died because he could not escape the endless bullying from his peers. He died because he lived in a world where being gay made him a target. He died scared, hopeless and alone.
|Will Batts is the Executive Director of the |
Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center.
I feel a rage building inside me. This is not the world we want for our kids. This is not an environment where LGBTQ kids can prosper and succeed. You know what it's like. Those of you who grew up gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer...you know what it's like to be afraid, to be bullied, to be ridiculed, to feel alone. Some of us had it worse than others. But most of us have felt that knot in the pit of our stomachs when someone finds out we're not straight. We all remember the anxiety the first time we said to another person "I have something to tell you" or "I have a secret." Many of us remember feeling afraid for our safety. Some of us have survived damaging abuse. I can only imagine the pain that led Phillip and too many others to want an end to their suffering. But WE CANNOT let that be the end of the story. We CANNOT let suicide be the way that our kids find relief.
All of us who work for LGBTQ equality in Tennessee want this to end. We want a better world for our kids and our friends. But this is not about us today. This is not a request to donate to MGLCC. This is a request for your voice and your presence.
We have a legislature that actively targets the LGBTQ community. We have a legislature that wants us to be hidden and silent and ostracized. We have a legislature that wants to give religious exemptions to bullies. We have a legislature that wants teachers prohibited from even acknowledging our existence. These horrific laws must be stopped. Their passage means a perpetuation of the dangerous environment where our kids find no relief or refuge.
YOU have an opportunity to make a difference. See...part of the problem is that we don't have enough folks raising their voices and shouting that this must end. I know it can be scary to take a stand. Doing so might threaten our jobs, our position in the community, or simply make us uncomfortable. But somewhere in Tennessee, in a small town of 2,000 people, there is a little kid who needs each one of us to stand up to our legislators and say "STOP! Stop targeting our community. Stop making it easier to hurt our kids. Stop denying us equal protection. Stop attacking our right to live in peace!"
Tennessee Equality Project coordinates a day for us to speak one-on-one to our legislators. This is the 8th year for Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. The date is Tuesday, March 13, in Nashville. I am asking each one of you to show up that day and respectfully demand that our legislature stop targeting our community. We have people in our city, and in small towns all over this state, who are looking to us to lead. They are praying for some kind of relief. They need our help. We won't be able to stop this overnight. But neither can we wait for a better time to fight. The attacks on our community must end.
Reprinted with permission.