It's never easy being a teen, and it's harder if you are gay or dealing with autism. In junior high and in high school, I was dealing with both. At the time, I didn't know I had Aspergers and was working hard to deny being gay.
I remember being picked on and told I was gay and the teasing was bad in my junior high years. I can remeber especially when I was maybe 14 or 15 being picked on in church. There was one particular guy that would always call me gay or insinuate in various ways that I was different.
Long story short, I didn't fit in and while there was a lot of good things that happened to me back then, I also felt very lonely and very afraid at times.
Back in the summer, our Christian Educator, Deb told us about what was happening in the Anoka-Hennepin district, a suburban school district north of Minneapolis. A number of teens have committed suicide after being bullied and most if not all of those kids were gay. After hearing some of the issues from a friend and teacher in the district, Deb was spurred to action and our church helped put together a fundraiser for the teacher, Jefferson who is walking in the American Foundations for Suicide Prevention's annual walk this Saturday. Deb even went farther to create a program for gay youth where they can come and talk and have safe space at a choatic time in their lives.
Columnist Dan Savage was spurred to action because of teen suicides in his area and put together a project called, "It Gets Better." In the video below, he and his partner help young gay teens know that life does get better after high school. I was touched by Dan's story of seeing Paris at dawn with his five-year-old sun. My partner Daniel and I went to Paris in 2008 for our honeymoon. I had been to Paris 10 year earlier, by myself, but I will forever remember this trip because I was with my love. I remember eating pastries with Daniel from bakery right near Notre Dame. What a wonderful memories.
The fact is, it does get better. Hey, I got to be a pastor! And I got to travel to Buenos Aires! My parents have come to accept me as being gay and they love Daniel as the white-Norwegian son-in-law they never had.
I should add that kids with autism should also know that it will get better. You will find people who accept you for who you are and will love you. People will come to love and accept you, even with your quirks.
I guess the thing I want to say is that things can get better. If you are a young gay teen or a kid with autism that is having a hard time at school and church...know that it does get better. The bullies will only last a time. And know that there are caring communities out there. Seek them out. You will find out that life really is worth it if you just stick around.