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Roughly every year, 34,000 people commit suicide. On average, there are 121 suicides every day. Would you believe me if I told you that 33 percent of those that commit or attempt suicide are LGBT? That means, that right now, there is someone taking their own life. Someone's mother or father, someone's aunt or uncle, somebody's son or daughter, somebody's brother or sister, is ending their own life, right now. So we search for answers to try and "cure" suicide. Try to find something to blame for suicide. We blame the music, or technology, or the media when the real fault lies right within ourselves.
It starts with the words that have become anything but foreign in today's vocabulary; fag, dyke, he/she, it, tranny. It starts with the separation and division we let those words have over our lives, judging brutally, when told not to judge others. It starts with the unacceptance, indifference, and denial of these people who are simply just like us. It starts with the fact that to this day, in 2018, we are still continuing to deny people their basic human rights. Parents are denying their children; the ones they birthed, raised, and loved. There are teens and youth taking their own lives, living on the streets and in shelters. Broken, alone, lost, and neglected. There are teens and youth dreading the day at school because they'll get bullied and harassed. Beaten, abused, and hurting. We teach our kids from birth that boys do this, and girls do that; a pink and blue division.
Imagine sitting down one day with your child and them telling you that they were gay, or a lesbian, or that they were transgender, or bisexual. They know what could happen, they know what could go wrong. It isn't a phase. They know the side effects, and it isn't a decision. Would you choose to be a minority if you knew it'd mean facing discrimination? What if being yourself meant losing everything? Losing your family, your friends, your life, your reputation.
I want you to imagine something with me, so if you will, close your eyes and truly listen to the words I have to say.
Ashley lives at home with her two mothers and younger brother. She's always had a happy life until, at her uncle's wedding, she meets a boy named Noah, and that's when she knows she's in trouble. The feeling she got around him just wasn't... "normal." So, she tries brushing it off. One day while playing with friends, they decide to play house. While deciding what roles each should be, she makes the suggestion that instead of playing as either moms or dads, they should just be a mom and a dad. That's when her peers find out that she's heterosexual, a "breeder" as they call it.
The next day at school, while in drama class she hears the story of Romeo & Julio, and that Shakespeare originally wrote it for a duchess he was in love with, but couldn't be with because he didn't want to be known as a "breeder." So that night at dinner, she tells her parents about the story and gaining a role in the school play. One mother seems relaxed, excited about her daughter's achievement, but her other mother is enraged about the drama teacher teaching the students about something so "revolting" and claims she was going to call the school to complain about it. The mother also informs her wife and children of the hetero couple that just moved in down the street, and instructs her children to go a different way to school, even if its longer, because she doesn't want her children "exposed to such a perverted lifestyle." After dinner, Ashley goes on a bike ride, riding her bike past their house. She saw them scrubbing off the words "god hates heteros" off of their garage door, spray-painted in red.
That following Monday at school, three girls dragged Ashley into the boy's bathroom and shoved her face into a toilet, punching her as they did so. They made remarks, calling her a "ro" and a "filthy breeder." The principal storms in, saying that her mothers wouldn't like it if she was holding hands in public with a boy. Saying he should call both of her parents, but what happened was punishment enough, and saying "this is just a phase you're going through, you'll grow out of it." She hoped and even prayed it was a phase too, but deep down she knew it was anything but.
One night while studying, her phone begins going off. It was littered with texts from her peers, all of them negative comments about her being hetero. By then, she figured the whole school knew. She tried brushing it off and ignoring it, thinking maybe it'd go away, maybe they'd stop. So she went to bed.
The following school day, she was told by Noah to meet her in the auditorium, he had something to tell her. Not thinking anything of it, after school, Ashley meets Noah in the school auditorium. He informs her that his brother found out about him being straight, and threatened to tell his parents. So, Noah breaks it off with Ashley. Noah explains that his aunt Sarah came out as "heterosexual," and their entire family cut her off. Trying to accept the harsh reality, Ashley asks Noah for "one last kiss," when a bunch of their peers walk in, catching them. To get off the hook, Noah lies and pretends as if Ashley was trying to kiss him, and makes up the lie that Ashley had a crush on him, and he was just trying to be nice to her and tell her to leave him alone. One of her female bullies, Paula, makes the comment "you just can't be nice to heteros, but you can always teach them a lesson," and tells the other girls to grab her. Ashley runs, and they begin chasing after her. They get other peers involved, saying they're going to play "smear the queer." Ashley runs into the gym, where a bunch of high school kids are, and she gets caught by them. The other kids find her, and they all take turns beating her up. Paula writes "queer" in sharpie on her forehead, and they tell her to "just do everyone a favor and kill herself."
It's late at night, and she's walking home alone in the rain. Her mothers are sitting in the living room, one of them on the phone reporting her missing. When she walks in the door, her mothers corner her on the stairs and see her bruises and bruised face, and begin demanding to know what happened. Instead of doing anything about their daughter getting bullied, her mother immediately tells her to go upstairs and get cleaned up.
She goes to her room and lies on her bed. Her head swarming, aching, her body tired, and her soul worn. She listens to her parents downstairs arguing, blaming one another, blaming whatever they could. "It isn't normal," "what's going on with her," "our daughter's a breeder." Her computer and cellphone began blowing up, disgusting messages, degrading pictures and names. Hatred, sadness, unwanted, filling her young mind. As tears well into her eyes, she thinks of what she has to do, hearing her mother scream " I just want a normal child!" The cycle of her phone and computer ringing, screaming, the words of her peers, like an invisible cyclone, filling her head until there was no silence. All she wanted was silence, for it to stop.
She goes into their bathroom and locks the door behind her. Turns the bathtub faucet on, and plugs the drain-stopper. Water begins filling up the tub, her tears filling up her mind. The depression and agony scratching its way through. She stands in the mirror, looking at herself. Self-realization she can never truly be herself. "Nobody loves me," "nobody wants me," "I don't matter," "I'm just a burden," "everyone hates me," "I hate myself."
Her mothers walk up the stairs slowly to talk with their daughter. Tears began leaving her broken blue eyes. She grips the sink, the faucet running from both spouts. "Why does everybody hate me?" Ashley reaches into the medicine cabinet, and pulls out her mother's prescription sleeping pills, "Maybe there's a hetero heaven?" Her mothers reach the door and knock lightly. She tries wiping off the sharpie from her forehead, the word stamped, tattooed onto her face, her broken reflection. "Hetero." What she was, deep down, nobody could change that. She took her wet hands, scrubbed her forehead until it was smeared with black. Her mothers begin knocking on the door more, wondering what is taking her so long. She gets into the tub, water still running, and stands; her breath trembling, her body shaking. Her eyes are blurred with tears, but she takes the razor blade in her right hand, it shook with a storm of anxiety as she breathed faster, heavier.
Her mothers are knocking on the door heavier now, and she rolls up her sleeves. Two slices, one down each wrist. Red trickling into the water. Red like her pain, red like the war she felt within her own self, war between her and what she'll never be able to have, red like the broken rose petals of a lover. Her heartbeat slows more, and she collapses into the water. Her mothers are pounding on the door now, trying to get through to the other side. They bust the door down, her heartbeat stops, they realize their baby is gone, gone, gone. Tears, screaming, and then—silence.
This is the sad reality of the world we live in today. Stories like Ashley's, and similar stories of bullying, hatred, and unacceptance exist in the real world we live in today. That is why the month of June, Pride month, is so important regardless of your sexuality, religion, race, or gender. It is dedicated to anyone who has felt such a darkness due to other's hatred and misunderstanding. It is truly a message of loving yourself, loving others, and understanding that words to hurt and impact our lives, whether we think they do or not.
It is important to realize that regardless of who you are, we are all human beings who are all imperfect. Teach others to love themselves and one another, spread the message of equality and acceptance. Coming together as people, and pushing forward towards better days and change. Pride isn't just the month of June. For some, it's every single day.