Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Empowering Myself at the Pride Agenda

Post by Pride Agenda Intern Jeremy Markman. Find out more about interning at the Empire State Pride Agenda.

When I opened up Facebook this past 4th of July and had realized that Joe had killed himself, I was paralyzed. Questions mixed with anger stormed my head. This array of emotions was juxtaposed with a genuine understanding of what initially led him to that dark place. This was another premature gay death on top of too many. At the bottom of all these tragedies appears to be a self-hate that runs deep--so deep, that the individual actually sees opting out of life as a viable solution. The suicide rate and addiction rate among the LGBT population is drastically higher than the population at large. Why is this and what can we do to stop it?

Coming to terms with my sexuality at a young age was not easy, despite the fact that I had a great deal of family support once I came out. I always felt different from my peers and certainly encountered some rough bullying growing up because of my differences. In retrospect, I handled this the best way I knew how. I immersed myself in academics and pushed through. With every “faggot” flung my way I tried to remain tall, even if I was breaking down inside. The seed of shame grew wildly out of control and through the years continued to fester. It isn’t until relatively recently in my life that I have been able to come to a strong sense of who I am, what I am about and really nurture that. It has been such a long process to feel truly proud of who I am and be able to show that to the world. This is not an easy task for so many, especially those who are LGBT and have been beaten down physically and emotionally. To be quite honest, I still can fall prey to that shame, but as I become more aware of it, I am able to not let it overtake me.

In high school, I remember when Matthew Shepherd was killed. This affected many people by the sheer brutality that was inflicted upon this innocent young man. This hateful act affected those of us who identified as LGBT on a deeper level because we realized that this could have easily been one of us. Matthew Shepherd was just the symbol at the time for homophobic injustices that were taking place everywhere. While writing this piece I happened to see that Joe was a fan of the Empire State Pride Agenda on Facebook. This adds another layer to why interning here has so much meaning for me. “Pride” is the operative word, and with that comes empowering oneself. It is about working toward creating policies that support this sense of wellbeing, that have all too often been eroded away in LGBT people.

We live in an America where we have leaders like Rick Santorum who preach hateful rhetoric about being gay. We must be role models and protect our gay youth from ever feeling that they are insignificant or less than. We must make our voices heard and say that anything less than equal treatment and respect is not going to fly. That is why I am doing this work and that is the underlying principle that embodies every word typed, email sent and phone call made. It is about showing support and respect to one another within our community and then making sure we have one another’s back to combat any lingering injustice we face within the larger population. I do this for all the Joes out there who found or continue to find it extremely difficult to live at peace in this world. I want to do my best to help other LGBT people who are struggling to know that they do indeed matter and that they should feel nothing less than entirely proud of who they are. As I continue to lend my hand in this quest, I get closer to fully accepting who I am as well.

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