Op-Ed: Councilman Joel Burns tells gay teens it gets better
Teenage suicide among young men who are teased and bullied for their sexual orientation is rising. On Tuesday last week a brave councilman in Fort Worth, Texas gave a moving speech about the crisis.
Burns who is gay himself told those listening that he wished he could back in time to talk to the 13-year-old he was and others youth who feel alone.
"Things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy memories happen."
Burns spoke to those who are facing the taunts thinking that life does not get better to know that it does.
Burns battled tears as he spoke during the Tuesday night council meeting to get his message out.
"High school was difficult, coming out was painful," he said. "I want to tell any teen who is watching this, life will get better. ... Life will get so, so, so much better."
Burns took a huge risk Tuesday night, speaking about his own life. Being gay is not the easy way to live in some communities. That's when you are an adult.
For teens it seems that it is rare to find a place where taunting and bullies are not the focus of everyday life. School can be a nightmare, the walk home a battlefield.
It doesn't matter where a teen lives; Texas, California, Florida, New York City, Toronto. Bullies focus on those that don't fight back, don't stand up, don't have an ally in the corner.
The bullies don't always look like other teens. Those bullies can be a teacher, a school guidance counselor, a pastor or sadly in some cases mom and dad.
I know that school can be a battlefield. We, in our own family have witnessed it. One of our children is bisexual. They faced death threats at school. Talks to the school were ignored. Yes, in Toronto where it appears that being gay is accepted the truth is that it's not. In high school.
After the final straw, a child being knifed during lunch we went again to talk to the counselor. I witnessed this adult tell my child to alter their mannerisms so not to appear "so gay." One of my proudest moments as a parent came next as that child held firm to their self and told the woman that there was nothing wrong with being gay and they would not change who they were. They were not in the wrong.
We transferred schools that day.
Toronto is lucky. A small alternative school, The Triangle Program is Canada’s only high school program for LGBTQ youth. It was a lifeline, a place where our child could go and not face a bully every day.
Echoing what Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns said I want teens to know that life gets better.
If you need to talk to someone in Toronto about being these issues in Toronto please get in touch with Supporting Our Youth (SOY). Their phone number is 416-324-5077 (phone); 416-324-4188 (fax).