Periodically, there are news stories about bullied teenagers who commit suicide. Sometimes, they spark a conversation on how unacceptable bullying, misogyny, homophobia, or transphobia are. This kind of conversation can be dangerous to teenagers who are feeling hopeless about their lives.
If you’re seeing stories like this, and you’re already feeling hopeless — I worry that it will make suicide look like a way to have a voice. It’s not. Even if no one is listening to you right now, you have a much much louder voice if you stay alive.
Dying doesn’t force people to listen. If you’re dead, other people get to decide what they think it means. They might not get it right. They *usually* won’t get it right. And you won’t be alive to contradict them.
If you are alive, you can fight to be heard, and you can win. Even if no one is listening to you right now, your voice matters and we need you alive.
If you are alive, you can correct people who get it wrong.
You can say: no, that’s not who I am. And yes, this is who I am. And: Yes, I matter. No, it’s not ok to treat me this way. You can come out, and be proud, and help others to be proud. You can object to the way you and others are treated. You can find the people who will listen, and who will support you. Your voice matters, and you have a much louder voice if you’re alive to keep using it.
It’s damn hard. Some people won’t listen. Sometimes you will back down when you really want to speak up.Some people won’t respect you. You may lose connections with some people who really matter to you. It can break your heart, but you can live with a broken heart. And you can build connections, and get stronger. You will be heard — including by people like you, including people like you who badly need someone to tell them that they matter. It will be hard, and it will also be worth it.
Your voice matters even though sometimes it will waver. Everyone experiences times when they can’t figure out how to speak up; everyone sometimes forgets that speaking up is even possible. Everyone is intimidated or shamed into silence sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says problematic or rude things from time to time. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Speaking up gets easier with practice, but no one does it perfectly. Your imperfect voice is an important voice.
The hate you face may not ever go away, but it won’t always loom this large. It doesn’t always get better exactly, your life may stay very difficult, you may always face discrimination. But that is not the only thing that matters, and you can have a good life. Love matters more than hate, and you’re more powerful than you realize.
Your voice matters, and you have a louder voice alive.