Growing up as a GLBT youth was far from the sugarcoated clichÃ© we see on television of "perfect" childhood experiences. Mine was far from perfect. I faced obstacles daily, and, most importantly, I feared that my family or anyone around me would discover the secret only shared with my imaginary friends: my sexual orientation. As my fear elevated, I isolated myself from the rest of the world, not only damaging my already poor relationship with my family, but also preventing me from experiencing the outside world and realizing that there were others who shared the same life experiences as mine. I fell into a deep state of depression that instigated one of my toughest battles with low self-esteem. To make matters worse, I was about to start my journey through elementary school, which would be the start of a horrible nightmare called REALITY.
I remember my first day of school as if it was yesterday. When I walked for the very first time through the school halls, I was nervous about meeting other people, but at the same time proud that I had finally come out of my room and into "The World." Of course the time period was the ’90s and the only thing I looked forward in life at that time was Pokemon. My parents had just bought me a fresh pair of light up Pokemon sneakers that I proudly wore all through first grade. I must say I had a deep obsession with that cartoon to the point where I told others my real name was Ash and in my room lived a real life Pikachu. However, my first day of school and the rest to follow were the opposite of the exciting and fun days I dreamed of. I had no friends and was constantly bullied by homophobes who hated me for acting feminine. I ate lunch in the restroom stalls and sometimes watched with hunger as the popular kids took my food and flushed it down the toilet as they verbally harassed me. When third grade started, I had my first guy crush: Fabian. We became friends, and in my mind I asked myself if liking someone of the same sex was right. I never let Fabian know of my crush, and I didn’t have to, for when it was time to start 5th grade, he started realizing I was different from the rest and eventually bullied me too. I had lost the only person I thought would be there for me.
Sixth grade was hell. The fights at home between my parents reached an extreme. My father was an alcoholic and was involved with drugs. I will never forget the day my dad interrupted my sister and my Rugrats’ Marathon to kick us out of our own room to fill it with boxes of a large quantity of drugs. At that time, my innocence prevented me from knowing what was going on, but, looking back, I still find it hard to believe that the man who gave me life could do such a thing. My hatred towards him grew as I witnessed every night his homecoming from bars; he would wake up my mom to argue about her "infidelities." My mother only had eyes for him, but every time he came home, I knew he had been with other women.
At the end of elementary school came the day that left unforgettable memories and emotional scars. The 6th grade class was going on our graduation trip to the zoo. I came to school thinking this would be the first day at school that would be filled with happiness. I grew up loving nature and animals and had never gone to the zoo. My dream was crushed by my teacher who unfortunately played a part in the unrelenting bullying I experienced. She walked me into the corner of the classroom and whispered in my ear that I wouldn’t be able to join the other students in the field trip because there was no room on the bus for gays. My eyes filled with tears as I watched a bus full of excited children make its way to the zoo. I was forced to stay in an unsupervised room full of bad kids, most of which where my everyday life bullies. As I found a desk to sit down at, I was met with glaring eyes and minds filled with malicious thoughts. All the students hated me, and they took their feelings to the extreme when they decided to crowd around me and attack me, hitting me with books, chairs and whatever they could get a hold of. Rather than feeling physical pain, I was exposed to unbearable emotional pain, pain that would leave unforgettable memories. I remember coming home crying and locking myself in my room, then asking God why at such a young age, I was exposed to such a tormenting lifestyle.
Entering middle school, the bullying worsened, leading to suicidal thoughts and disbelief in religion. To make matters worse I had to deal with my parents divorce. At that time my sexual orientation became clear after my mentality continued to transform: I was Bisexual. When it came time to start high school, I decided I would try making friends. Those attempts failed when I decided it would only leak my secret that I had long kept hidden. Every lunch period I ate nothing, but stood by the lockers as I watched students sit with their friends and share stories and laughs. In my mind jealousy evolved as I wished I was "normal" like them.
At the end of each day, I came home only to find my mom exhausted over a day of work at the factory where she worked for minimum wage, sacrificing all her personal time to bring food to the table and providing a roof for my sister and I. Eventually, I decided to come out of the closet and live my live with no worries. I had read stories of many teenagers who came out around my age to their parents and were forced to live a "straight" lifestyle and others even murdered for their choices. I was surprised by my family’s response: "We love you for who you are and respect your preferences." At my new school, I made my first real friend. I was filled with joy to have found a friend that was not only straight but supported and accepted my diverse perspective. Unfortunately, he was a senior and days later graduated. I was once again left alone to face the days of school I dreaded so much.
My low self-esteem and depression followed me until this year when I met two beautiful souls who have motivated me to follow my dreams, never give up on hope, and always be positive and cherish every day of my life. When I first came to Youth First Texas I asked myself how everyone could be so united like one big family and so easily welcomed strangers into the group. I have met very few people like the youth at this organization that accept others for who they are, and aren’t prejudice or judgmental of one’s physical appearance or background. I can now proudly say that I am part of this wonderful organization that helps our youth to overcome life’s challenges while learning to love themselves. I have come to realize the cause of such success of this organization. It is thanks to the marvelous work and commitment of Judith Dumont and Bob Miskinis that many youth have managed to overcome their fears and find love and support provided by people who give time out of their personal lives to help out in any way possible, and listen to ones problems without being judged. Since the first day I stepped foot into this center, I have grown as a person and matured with the help of Bob and Judith. They have inspired me to be a part of my community and encouraged me to spread awareness and to fight against discrimination, and harassment that the GLBTQ community faces. I also owe it to them for getting accepted to join the GLSEN Jump-Start 2008-2009 National Leadership Team. With the help from both Bob and Judith, I learned of this seminar which gives young and highly motivated people the opportunity to acquire the leadership skills needed in order to successfully help out in our communities. I can proudly say I am one out of 40 students’ nationwide selected out of more than 600 applicants to be Texas’s Jump Start Student Organizer. Soon to be a first generation high school graduate and college bound, this was also my first time out of state and on a plane.
I look forward to continue making contributions to my community and fulfilling all my dreams in life. This year I plan to graduate in the top ten percent of my class with honors. I then plan on attending college where I plan on achieving my dream to become a Social Worker and R.N., two of my greatest affinities which will enable me to help create a safer, more healthier environment for future generations. I am excited about my future and thankful for these wonderful opportunities that wouldn’t have been made possible it wasn’t for the help of my loving family, friends and Youth First Texas. I can honestly say that when I grow up I want to possess the unique and astonishing qualities like those of Judith and Bob and also make a difference in someone’s life like the have in mine.