Monday, October 4, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear gay kids,

I've been sitting here typing a bunch of stuff and deleting it for a couple of days now.  I feel like, since I was once where you are now, I should have some bit of wisdom to give you.  I mean, I understand feeling like I don't matter, like the world would be better off without me.  I understand the crushing weight of so much hatred, both from the people around me and from myself.  I spent a lot of time so fucking frustrated that I cut myself and punched walls and just cried until there wasn't anything else left in me.

But I guess the truth is that I don't feel any wiser.  People aren't any different now than they were when I was 19.  As soon as just a couple of years ago, I was doing firefighter training and I heard a couple of guys--guys I'd spent hours working my ass off with--bashing gays.  People are stupid and ignorant and bigoted and they won't change.  You know what's going to change though?  YOU.

If I had a time machine, I'd go back and tell my 19 y/o self all the things that I've done in the last 13 years.  I jumped out of a freaking plane.  I saw my biggest dream come true with my first book.  I got to meet my three beautiful nephews.  I've been to London and Paris and Amsterdam and Rome.  I've fallen in and out of love so many times.  And I feel now like I'm only just getting started.  I'd tell my 19 y/o self all those things, show him what he's got to look forward to so that when he runs into hatred and ignorance he won't feel like his life is worthless.

And I wish I could do the same for every kid who's taken his or her own life.  You are NOT alone.  It WILL get better.  There IS so much to live for.  Yes, the sucky bits really suck, but the amazing parts are more amazing than you can ever possibly know.  Your life is going to change so fast and so much in the next few years.  If you end it now, you'll be robbing yourself of the beauty that's out there.

More than anything, I want to tell you that you're never ever going to have to go through this pain again, but I know that's a lie.  What isn't a lie is that you ARE strong enough to get through it.  You can push through the pain and get to the good, the great, and amazing parts of life that will blow your mind.  As much as life hurts sometimes, it can also surprise you.  It will surprise you.  You think you know what's to come, but you have no idea.

So I'm going to issue you a challenge.  Go get a jar.  Any jar.  Get a magic marker.  Write "Fuck You Fund" on the outside.  Every time you feel pain, every time someone bullies you or harasses you or says something ignorant, every time you feel marginalized or discriminated against, put a dollar in the jar.  Then, when you have a good chunk of change in that jar, go do something with it.  Take the money in the Fuck You Fund and say "fuck you!" to all the people who ever made you hate yourself.  Take a crazy road trip with your best friend, go buy a new outfit, donate it to a suicide help-line, do whatever you want with it.  But take people's hatred and turn it into your happiness.  Don't let them rob you of your future.

Your life is going to be amazing in ways you can't understand.  It may not seem like it now, but in 2 or 5 or 10 years, you're going to look back and be grateful that you're still alive.  There's not a day that goes by that I'm not thankful to be alive.  Even the days that suck.

I suppose that's it.  That's what I have to offer.  Fill your jars and lead amazing lives.  Don't let them make you feel worthless.  Prove the opposite.  Prove, by living, that you are fucking amazing.  Because that's how we change them.  That's how we win.

If you are feeling suicidal and you need someone to talk to, please visit The Trevor Project or call 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

And if you want to send me pictures of your jars or pictures of what you spent the money on, I'll post them for everyone to see.


  1. Well said! God knows I endured a hefty dose of bullying from classmates and teachers alike. With a hearing disability and on my own at 16 (you would think I'd get kudo's for staying in school), and punk attire...Some days it was all I could do to survive.

    Now I'm deaf and gotta tell you, the world couldn't be sweeter.

    Gotta remember the naysayers and tormenters are basically insecure frightened idiots. For all their abuse they're scared out of their wits of anything different. That's not something their victims should fear - rather stand proud with that knowledge.

    There is a lot of life left to say fuck you to these small minded people. I'm definitely enjoying the ride. (Hugs)Indigo

  2. Indigo: And I'm glad you're here. And you should have definitely gotten kudos for staying in school. I love your comments. They always make me smile :)

  3. Really well said, Shaun. A little bit of all of us dies when a teenager takes his or her own life, because everyone of them is carrying our potential. When people demoralize or dehumanize them or others sit idly by and ignore it or let it happen because "kids will be kids," they are basically telling the rest of us to go to hell, too. Screw 'em all.

  4. This is a great post, Shaun. Too many of us growing up have to deal with the ignorant around us, and too many teens don't see just how many reasons there are to keep plugging away at life.

    Ironically with my own teenager, I'm doing my best to help him struggle through all the idiocy of high school. He's having just as terrible a time with it as I did, which is something I'd hoped would not happen. I can honestly tell you though that writers (and musicians) like you speak to him and seem to help, so keep writing the way you do. I'm positive that the direct and honest way you put things is a good thing, and I'm also sure you're helping more than you may realize.

  5. Well said, Shaun. My heart breaks whenever I hear of the stories of kids taking their lives because of bullying. That dad who tried to intervene and got jailtime for confronting his daughter's abusers--I don't blame him. Grade school kids are bullied over their athletic ability. And the school and parents shrug and say the bullied kid is too sensitive, and the parents of those kids feel helpless. Too many kids have died over this crap.

  6. Awesome letter. Thanks!

    I hope a lot of kids read this and it changes their lives.

  7. Simply beautifly stated. Thanks for posting this.

  8. Fabulous, Shaun!! Thanks for writing this.

  9. CN: Yeah, I never understood the adult mentality of letting bullies bully to help toughen up the other kids. Shouldn't we have evolved past that kind of mentality?

    Eric: I'm sorry your son's having a rough time. HS is a great time where kids should be allowed to explore and celebrate their individuality, yet they're often mocked for it. He's lucky to have you as his dad.

    Sarah B.: I really felt for that dad. If it were my kid, I'd probably be doing some jail time too.

    Sarah L.: Thank you. I've never been a huge believer in the God, but I do know that it was as close to a miracle as I'm ever going to see that I didn't die. I don't want other kids to go through that.

    Cole: Thanks :)

    Andrea: Thank you :)

  10. Shaun,

    I told you this a while back (different screen name), but you simply HAVE to write "your" book. The one that is based on the 3 posts on your coming out process. It doesn't have to be autobiographical, but the depths of your honesty in those posts had me aching to read "that" book. If for no other reason, for a way to do something. I mean, the fuck you fund is great, but this book not only would be something helpful, it would contain the heart you need to truly "talk" to those who once were in your position.

    A Fan

  11. Thanks for this post, Shaun. Let me add that we all have a responsibility to reduce hate and bullying, whether we're the victim or not. If you see bigoted stuff on Facebook, don't just block the poster, comment on it and challenge it. Bullying in schools is enabled by those who cheer it on or do nothing. All of us have a role to play in reducing the suicide epidemic.

  12. Shaun, this is terrific and so needed. I saw The Trevor Project yesterday and this it's such a great thing.

  13. oh wow your words are so inspiring, thank you for speaking out, i love the Jar idea, it seems very liberating, say happy always :)

  14. An excellent letter. I hope those who need it, see it, read it, internalize it, live it.

    Nobody wants to hear of any more kids (or anyone at all) committing suicide for any reason... especially because of bullying.

    It's always a terrible loss for family, friends, and community when someone dies before their time. Suicide,though, is also horrible in the way it eats at those left behind. The extinguishing of someone's unique spark and beauty is heartbreaking. Grief for the loss is overwhelming; guilt for missing the cues is lifelong.

  15. Brought me to tears, Shaun. What an incredible post. I was bullied in junior high over my weight (and I wasn't even big) and nothing was ever done about it. My sister was pinned up against a wall and molested by other students and they got a slap on the wrist. She was seen as a trouble maker and the teachers and principal of the school treated her horribly. My mom finally pulled her out of school and home schooled her through her high school years. We have both had to deal with the repercussions of what we suffered as kids...and we still deal with it.

    I often wonder how many precious lives it's going to take before our society wakes up and does something about it. My sister and I managed to pull through it...but just barely. And only because we had parents who recognized something was horribly wrong and did whatever it took to help us...even when we hated them for it :) I see some strides in the right direction, but it's not nearly enough.

    Your jar idea is wonderful :) Thanks for the incredible post :)

    (lol my word verification is parti :) Very nice :))

  16. MS: It's always in the back of my mind. I'm quite afraid though. It's such a personal issue that I'm afraid of messing it up, afraid of rejection, afraid the editorial process will kill it. Even this far from it, I'm still not sure I have enough distance from it to be able to write it with the emotional neutrality that I'd need. But thank you so much. You have no idea how much your words mean. One day, I hope to be able to write it.

    Mike: Yes. You are 100% right. Standing by is just as bad as being a bully yourself. I've been the guy who looked the other way and I wish I hadn't.

    Margie: Aren't they awesome? I heart The Trevor Project.

    Blueicegal: Thank you. You stay happy too :)

    DLCurran: One of the things it too me a long time to understand was how my actions had affected my friends and family. My best friend felt guilty because she'd been on vacation, my mom would have lost her mind if I'd died. All I thought about was how my pain would end. I thought everyone's life would have been better without me. I didn't realize how much pain my death would cause them.

    Michelle: I can't believe that this kind of stuff goes on. It makes me so angry. But I'm glad your mom was so supportive. No, it's not enough. And I don't know what it's going to take to make people wake up and see it. Knowing there are people like you in the world gives me hope though.

  17. I agree with the others, this is a wonderful heartfelt letter and the jar is a great idea. I may try it :) From a gay teen's perspective all I can say is this: it's almost impossible to see further than tomorrow or next week. To picture myself somewhere different. To imagine that loving welcoming community everyone's talking about in the "It Gets Better" videos. Right now is all I can handle. I understand the importance of keeping a positive attitude, having dreams and working through the pain, but when people say "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" I just want to scream. I think what's needed is support in real life. Safe adults we can sit down and talk to face to face about our fears and stuff that matters. Ordinary gay men and women who can mentor us, you know? Having well-known gay people share their success stories is great, it's inspirational, but it's not enough. They're not here with me, they can't help me on a day-to-day basis. No one should have to go through all that pain to get where they want to be.

  18. Charlie - You're absolutely right. Hearing it's going to get better isn't doing anything to actually make it better. Do you have any GLBTQ centers around you? I know that when I was coming out/questioning, I felt so isolated. It was when the internet was still so new and there weren't anywhere near the resources there are now. I would get so excited to read even the smallest bit of information on someone who was like me. But there needs to be more, you're right. As adults, I think we forget just how hard it is and how difficult just holding on can be.

    It really is worth it though. And if you ever need to talk, feel free to email me.

  19. Hi Charlie,

    It's much harder to be standing in the middle of the downpour and getting drenched than to be in the house looking out at the rain and remembering when.

    I came out a long time ago in a state where being gay was dangerous to your health. The gay bars were in some of the seediest parts of town and had to move around a lot. And that was the main meeting place - the bars.

    These days there is more available - in some cities. I had a friend who refused to leave his crappy job in a small town because he wanted to be available for any gay teens just discovering themselves. There are wonderful people like him out there.

    It helps to know you are not alone. It helps more to have someone near you to talk to. I hope you can find someone.

    A friend of mine has an award winning blog that's all about gay books for teens (I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read. I hope you can find something good there.

  20. Sarah - Really well said. Thank you. Even though I think it gets a little better with every generation, it's still hard.

  21. You letter is beautiful and very important. Thank you for sharing.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.