Evelina Silveira, President Diversity At Work
P. is not your average 12 year old. She has the depth and intellect of someone way past her years. She’s kind of quirky, and never dull. I have known P. for a good part of her childhood and have become somewhat of an important adult figure in her life. I have heard about her struggles with self-mutilation, on-line forays into places she probably shouldn’t go and more. Needless to say, I have grown to care about P. and she knows that she has a friend in me and can ask me for advice.
P.’s friends at school became worried when she told them about cutting herself and wanting to kill herself. Instead of dismissing it, they spoke to a teacher to get her some help. She is doing much better, now. Some of her classmates joke around with her because of how she dresses or the ways she acts, but it doesn’t seem to bother her too much. She remains the individual that she is.
A few months ago, P. shocked her classmates when she posted a message on Facebook declaring that she thought she was bisexual. I panicked. What would happen to her at school? Was this really the best forum to do this in? In some bizarre way it was.
Although she did receive some hateful messages from strangers telling her that “she would rot in hell” and similar sentiments, they didn’t seem to bother her too much. Her classmates really surprised us all. A flurry of comments came in with messages like: “love yourself”, “we still love you no matter what”, “you’re still the same P. to me” and “be yourself”. I have to say, I wouldn’t have expected this kind of acceptance from a group of 12 and 13 year olds! In fact, it is rather contradictory to the negative messages we hear about teenagers lately who bully and harass their fellow students to the point of suicide.
I share this story as a glimmer of hope. The media can pick up on the most horrific stories of youth discrimination, harassment, bullying and sexual assault. This story is not newsworthy for them but it is for me. Teenagers are depicted in the media in the most negative ways. As parents it is so easy for us to fear the worst, that there is no hope for this group. However, we must remember we rarely hear the stories like the one that I just told.
There is hope for our youth. We can learn from these young students about acceptance and supporting one another. With their help and others like them, maybe we can finally put an end to all of the needless suicides – the loss of precious young LGBT lives around the world.