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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019
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An open letter to the community
An open letter to the community
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

There has been a lot of news coverage about the Day of Silence at Mount Si High School and other schools across the nation. Mr. Neil Lequia represents and speaks to the struggles and triumphs that young GLBT men and women face. I applaud Mr. Lequia and his peers for their work to recognize the difficulties in being GLBT in environments which are, minimally, unwelcoming and, more often than not, hostile and violent. These young men and women have strength and integrity in coming out as GLBT or supporting their LGBT friends.


Dear Parents, Families, Peers, Community Members, Religious Leaders, Teachers, Administrators, Business Leaders, Policy Makers, and Politicians,

There are young women and men in our midst who, naturally, are very loving, talented, intelligent, hard-working, and excited about their futures. They are eager to build their lives surrounded by family and friends and to embark on careers that contribute in a positive way to the direction of this country and the world. They seek what most of us seek: to be successful in our lives, to contribute in some way, and to fulfill our dreams. They want to have acceptance and love from friends and family, to have someone special in their life, and to build a family of their own. In this way, they are no different than you. Yet, they are not like you; they are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender.

Too many of these young men and women also carry a tremendous burden; fear and shame - I know this fear and shame well from personal experience! This shame and fear isn't a natural part of who they are. Rather, it is infused into them by the negative messages that certain segments of society continue to push at them - messages from people they are told to look up to, yet they know these people are wrong and hurtful. Messages of hate, violence, and intolerance whose origins are steeped in the fear of the individuals sending the message. When you speak of excluding individuals or groups because you don't like them, your message contains hate and intolerance. When you act in ways that cause hurt or pain to others, you are perpetrating violence - psychological and/or physical. Shame is not an act of love.

The consequences of these negative messages and actions are deep and, for too many, can last for years. In worst-case scenarios, these despicable messages literally end lives through the despair that leads to suicide or through inflaming the fear of misguided individuals, which leads them to horribly take the life of another. These shocking events cause unimaginable agony to loved ones left behind. Most of us can empathize with the horror of these scenarios if we allow ourselves to and would not want that pain, despair, loneliness, or agony inflicted upon anyone.

The fact that these negative messages lead to these horrific outcomes is not disputable. Anyone who is touched by this pays an emotional price for this.

This is an unnecessary price for individuals, families, friends, our community, and our society to pay. Please, deeply reflect upon the impact that your messages and actions may have on these young men and women. Ask yourself whether your values lie in loving them, their success, and accepting them or whether you value inflicting untold pain and despair with potentially life altering, devastating consequences? What legacy do you want to leave? Remember, either way, the impact is much more broad than the individual; families, friends, communities, and society are impacted positively through love, success, and acceptance and negatively through hatred and violence. The actions you take based on the values you have will also bear out over time. Where are your values?

I encourage you to be intentional about focusing on the rich, valuable contributions that these young GLBT men and women bring now and all they will bring in the future. They are to become our parents, teachers, physicians, artisans, politicians, engineers, business leaders, researchers, athletes, theologians, and philanthropists. Their upcoming contributions are yet unknown, but if you look closely at them now, you will get insight into the greatness they are and will become. Know that your loving support and acceptance is a key ingredient in how they see themselves and how they will make their future become reality.

LGBT men and women embody love, compassion, strength, integrity, fairness, and acceptance because of what they have been through and what they are likely to endure in the future. These are values and traits that every healthy society needs to sustain itself. They are your children, students, brothers and sisters, friends, employees, and future leaders. Love, accept, and respect them. Support and guide them so they can fulfill their potential and live their dreams of success.

To Mr. Lequia, thank you for making your important story public. You may never know the positive ways your story has touched people and the resulting positive effects it has had, but know that it has had a positive impact. To his family, friends, and supporters, thank you! Continue to love and support Neil and others in his situation and let them know how important they are to you and the rest of us. Your positive support will unequivocally help others as well.

For all other GLBT men and women (any age) who are struggling in or out of the closet, please stay strong! You have much to offer and you have support. Look to what you are passionate about and make that a part of your life. Know that even though you may be struggling now, we need you and that you have a lot to offer! Find someone or a group that will help you, in a healthy way, stay strong and live out your potential as a healthy, happy, contributing GLBT individual.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.

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