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It Gets Better

When Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide, we were all hit pretty hard. This was a kid who had made an “It Gets Better” video, yet even he lost hope in living.

Back in August, Jonah Mowry also made a video. In his video, he made a pledge that he will not commit suicide because he has a million reasons to stay alive.


Jonah Mowry has a million reasons to stay alive.


Johnny Robinson in response to Jonah Mowry

The L Stop and I want to tell you that it does gets better. We don’t want kids like Jonah Mowry or Johnny Robinson to take their own lives like Jamey Rodemeyer and countless others have done.

Please be on the look out for our “It Gets Better” video soon.

In the meantime, I want to share my personal story with you. I’ve been trying to write this piece for quite some time now, even before Vivian suggested that we write one for The L Stop. I’ve had some difficulty finding my voice. I wasn’t sure about how much information I wanted to give out about myself and my personal life. At the start of December, I read Dan Pearce’s essay, “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay,” and I was reminded that my confessional writings are stronger and more powerful than any “objective” piece I might try to write. But I’m still struggling with this piece. It scares me to death to write this piece. I feel like I’m re-living my past trauma with every re-telling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gouZ7eZmWuw
This pair of mother and daughter had a hard time re-telling their past trauma too.

I’ve spent days and weeks writing this piece. I kept telling Vivian and Lisa, “Wait, don’t publish it yet. I’m not done. I’m not ready.” I had to stop and resume writing every now and then. Like the mother-daughter pair in the above video, I’ve broken down so many times writing this article.

When I tell you that it does get better, I mean that it may happen tomorrow, or in a week, a month, a few months, several months, a year, a few years, several years, or many years down the line.

I want to tell you that it does get better, but I also don’t want to mislead you. It won’t get better immediately. Sometimes it may get worse before it gets better. A lot of the time, it may seem as though it may never get better. They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” It really is. When I tell you that it does get better, I mean that it may happen tomorrow, or in a week, a month, a few months, several months, a year, a few years, several years, or many years down the line. That’s the key thing to remember.

Trauma is trauma, no matter what you were bullied for.

The truth is, I’m currently on my way up. I was a victim of child abuse. I’ve never actually admitted that in so many words. I am in my mid-twenties, and while life has gotten better, it could still get way better.

I’ve contemplated suicide before too, even as recent as several years ago. I don’t know what my protective factors are. I certainly didn’t have access to all the “It Gets Better” videos that I will present to you throughout my story. These are some of the best “It Gets Better” videos that I’ve seen–Trust me, I went through pages and pages of these videos on the “It Gets Better” website.


Caelyn from Massachusetts said that the “It Gets Better” videos helped her see that she’s not alone.

When I was younger, I was that weird kid that loved going to school. I was that nerdy kid, and I didn’t care that people made that association. I had few friends and more than a handful of people who bullied me for being that small, weird, nerdy Chinese kid. What other people didn’t know was that my parents were worse than the schoolyard bullies that would randomly try to throw balls at my head; or pull my necklace off my neck to instigate a physical fight with me; or steal my pencilbox and hide it in a bush full of caterpillars; or lock me inside a dark bathroom and pour water over me and scream Bloody Mary as they ran out.

Yeah, the kids were mean. But you know what? I could handle them: I never fought them because I knew I didn’t want a detention slip. I almost always told a teacher or the principal.

No, I wasn’t always that little goody-two-shoes girl either. I once hit a girl in the back of her head with my pencilbox (the same one she hid in the bush full of caterpillars) right in front of our PE teacher. Uh-oh. In that instance, I thought, Shit. I’m going to get a detention. My life is over. Our PE teacher, however, said to that girl, “You must have had that coming… JT is a nice girl.” Whew, I was saved! My good behavior and good grades paid off! In retrospect though, that PE teacher shouldn’t have let me get away with it. He shouldn’t have encouraged me to entertain the idea that revenge is an answer to bullying. It is not.

You see, adults don’t want trouble. They’d reason, “Let the kids be kids.” In other words, let the kids fight and sort it out among themselves. The bullying continued. I even got bullied by a group of freshmen when I was a senior in high school. Can you believe that? Me a senior in high school bullied by a bunch of freshmen. You know I was sick of it by then. I subsequently told the vice principal. I even presented my senior exhibition project on school bullying, silently daring the little freshmen to watch me re-tell the story of their bullying of me to an entire classroom of students. They never came, which in retrospect was probably better for me; my knees were shaking in fear throughout the entire presentation.

Some of you aren’t so lucky: Your teachers didn’t look out for you as they should have. I continued to hold a steadfast belief in the people that were supposed to look out for me. I felt like I had no choice. I’d have otherwise committed suicide a long time ago. Back at home, I had no one to “tell on” regarding my parents. My only surviving grandparent at the time was in another country. My parents would call me stupid and worthless almost every two days, and I felt like shit. I used to cry myself to sleep every night. My elementary and middle schools were right next to the housing projects–just to give you a rough sketch of the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, and the kids in my neighborhood started smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and having sex as early as 6th grade. It was a wonder I didn’t follow suit. Excelling in my classes became my only focus because somehow I had figured out that getting good grades would get me out of my neighborhood.

Going to college was a liberating experience for me, so much so that it made me forget about life back at home with my parents. Everything was going well until my senior year. My girlfriend broke up with me; I had a fallout with my best friend; and I started isolating myself from my friends and censoring myself online. Don’t get me wrong though–not everything was bad. I still had good grades and my professors loved me; I participated in extracurricular activities; I had a decent amount of work experience; and I know that I still had good friends. I just couldn’t talk to them because a large part of my depression stemmed from my breakup and my inability to talk about it. My girlfriend didn’t want me to talk about it so out of respect for her, I didn’t talk about it. Once I started censoring myself, it inevitably led to my isolation from my friends. My friends probably mistook my inability to talk for not considering them close enough friends to confide in. I wanted to confide in them, but I feared bad karma from breaking a promise to someone I cared deeply about. The possibility of hurting someone I love became too much to bear. I slowly started to feel disconnected from my friends.

Once the school year ended, I moved back home and I fell deeper into depression. My parents were in a lot of debt,  and they wanted me to help them with the family business. Forever trying to prove my “worth” and be a filial daughter, I worked at the company. I was successful to a certain extent–I started a savings plan for them at the same time we started paying down the debt. Once the emotional, psychological, verbal, and physical abuse started in, however, I found myself contemplating suicide again.

This time, I knew it was serious because everything was going wrong in every area of my life. I felt isolated because I had no one to talk to. I felt awkward about confiding to my friends after having not spoken to them in a long time. I then worried that my stories would be met by disbelief.

I mean, who would believe that a father constantly threatened his daughter with his own suicide?

I was wrought with guilt every time I thought my actions would be met with disapproval because I didn’t want to take the blame for the death of a parent. It started to feel as though every step I took, another thing would set me back 10 steps. I started to feel as stupid and worthless as my father said that I was because I wasn’t able to lower my parents’ debt fast enough or find a job that met with their approval (In college, my dad accused me of prostituting on the streets when I was able to pay rent from working in a deli and a campus mailroom). It didn’t matter that I scoured all over the Internet and the local public libraries for any personal finance readings that might help. I came across Suze Orman’s books several times, but I didn’t know that she was a lesbian. Would it have mattered though? Not really because my sexual identity wasn’t at stake. The verbal abuse, unfortunately, was slowly becoming my reality.


Suze Orman is an internationally acclaimed personal finance expert, and she is a lesbian.

On top of that, I had to deal with an almost weekly police visit because I didn’t know how else to deal with the new physical abuse at home. The last straw came when on one of those calls, the police officers placed a 5150 hold on me. They couldn’t understand through my tears that I felt distraught after hearing my father express a desire to kill my mother and then fight with the police officers to make them shoot him. Without medical insurance, that emergency psychological ward cost me $5556 in hospital fees. I knew that if I wanted to live, I had to get out of my situation fast.

Every time I thought about leaving, I was reminded of my father’s suicide threat, and I became scared. I didn’t think that I would be able to live with the guilt of my “betrayal” triggering my father’s suicide, and I also didn’t want to be blamed by my extended family for leaving. I had already felt isolated from my friends, I didn’t want to feel isolated from my extended family too.

From there, I was able to make a plan. Then, I made several others because as you know, life always gets in the way so I had to make adjustments.

Luckily, some friends and relatives believed my story and offered me help and reassurance that the problem wasn’t with me. From there, I was able to make a plan. Then, I made several others because as you know, life always gets in the way so I had to make adjustments. Fast forward several years, and here I am: in Chicago. I overcame my obstacles and I survived. This is the story of my social mobility.

Healing takes time.

I don’t want to delude you into thinking that life will get better as soon as you put away those suicidal thoughts. I told you my story to illustrate the amount of time it took.


It took Kandy from Colorado 10 years to get to her current station in life.

If I were to draw a chart of the ups and downs of my life, you’d see that from birth to about age 6, it would look like a steady climb. Then it became a steady drop until around 18, and it spiked up high. Then it dropped way down into the negatives. Then it climbed way up high, and it’s still shaky now. My parents have since had to file for bankruptcy; our house in California is pending foreclosure; my parents are also now separated; and I am still getting blamed left and right for everything that has gone wrong over the past several years.

I even received forwarded mail several weeks ago that my mom unwittingly sent to me regarding a credit card account that she probably opened several years ago in my name. Yes, it is identity theft. Yes, that thief was my mother, and guess what? Capital One dismissed my case several years ago because I was still living with her. “She’s your mother,” they told me. I ended up having to pay over $1200– money I did not have at the time.

I am now in a much better place psychologically.

In the grand scheme of things, I am now in a much better place psychologically. It was hard for me to get to where I am today. I imagine that it would be hard for you too.

You are not alone.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there were others who suffered similarly difficult situations. Randi did:


Even things got better for Randi.

Hopefully, through my own story, you’ll have learned that you are not alone. Even I learned, through watching Randi’s video, that I was not alone back then.

We, at The L Stop, are here for you.

I am here for you.

Who are we to judge what makes your life difficult? We are here for you, no matter what your story is.

Yes, my story is a bit extreme. Yes, hardly anyone can relate. But you know what? You don’t need to have gone through a similar episode in your life for me to be there for you. You don’t have to be a victim of child abuse. You don’t have to suffer numerous, horrendous acts of bullying. You don’t have to be made to believe that you are ugly. You don’t have to contemplate suicide. Who am I to judge what makes your life difficult?


Jackie used to wonder when she would “grow up” to become beautiful.


Lexi Cruz was kicked off her cheerleading team for being a lesbian.


This Seattle woman’s bisexuality was questioned in high school.

The take-away message is that we are here for you, no matter what your story is.

There is a lot of hypocrisy even within the queer community. It’s not a perfect community. There are gays and lesbians who would tell others that they’re okay with bisexuals, but they secretly think that bisexuality is a phase or a trend. There are gay men who don’t like lesbians, and lesbians who don’t like gay men. There are people within our community who adhere to the butch-femme dichotomy and refuse to see a butch-butch or femme-femme attraction. Then there are those who think of straight people like spaghetti. “They’re straight until wet,” they’d say. Racial tensions exists within the queer community too. Gender identities outside the male-female “norms” are sometimes not recognized at all. Asexuality often gets dismissed as well.

It doesn’t matter what your story is. We are still here for you.

I fall into disfavor with a lot of people over these matters, and I am not sorry for it. I refuse to be that supervisor or manager who shies away from reinforcing a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in schools or in the workforce. I refuse to be that group member who shies away from speaking up on matters important to my heart. I refuse to be that friend who indirectly encourages hurtful gossip by not speaking up and telling the bully to “stop it.”

There are other people like myself, who are here for you too:


Crystal North Wales says that everyone in her family got more involved in LGBT politics once her brother came out to them.

My aunts in Australia and France were there for me. If it hadn’t been for them, I may not be here today to tell you that it does get better. They were the ones who flew me out to Paris for three weeks. They were the ones who reassured me that the problem was not with me. They were the ones who encouraged me to take a step outside my family’s business and to bring in income from an outside source. They were the ones who, when I came out to my parents, talked to my dad and told him that he needed to change his way of thinking before he lost me as his daughter. One aunt also has a gay son, and she was the one who kept forwarding me emails regarding marriage equality in Australia. My aunt’s here for you too because anyone who supports marriage equality is indirectly supportive of you too.


Sarah is a Christian lesbian from Wheaton.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csrI9fJ_N_s
Ryan Renfrow reminds his fellow Christians to love, not hate.


Meagan in Salt Lake City tells you, you can be both queer and Mormon.

A lot of people will argue that you cannot be both queer and religious. This is not true. You can be both. Your religious/spiritual identity, your gender identity, and your sexual identity all make up different parts of your overall self identity. There are temples, synagogues, churches, and mosques that will accept you and support you.


Ariel Eclipse tells you not to give up.

If it isn’t obvious, then let me point it out more blatantly: There are close to half a million (that’s five hundred thousand– 500,000!) pledges on the “It Gets Better” website. There are over 2,000 videos of people showing support for you, and more are still pouring in. You have people all over the world that are here for you.

Our lives can still get indefinitely better.

Just look at these individuals (including Suze Orman above!):


Andrew Viveros was crowned Florida’s first transgender prom queen.


Britt Simpson shows you what life can be like in college.


Mari Burningham Winter is a successful, “out” volleyball coach at the University of Redlands in southern California.


Amanda Simpson used to pray that she’d wake up the next morning as a girl, and she became the first open transgender woman to receive a Presidential appointment.


Anne Statton is the executive director at Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative.

As you know, I currently live in Chicago. I am over 2,000 miles away from my parents. I have a better relationship with my parents now, and I can choose when and how much I want to interact with them. I have a good-paying job at a magazine-publishing company. I discovered my inner foodie: I live to eat. I eat well. As of this posting, I have probably eaten at and yelped over 300 restaurants in Chicago alone. I’ve traveled outside of Chicago just to eat and have fun with friends at least once a year. I still do my part in activism. Aside from writing for The L Stop, I volunteer to pass out condoms and lube in Boystown as part of Howard Brown’s Safe Sex Street Outreach Program. I donate to charitable causes important to my heart like Donors Choose (usually to my old elementary and middle schools). I am financially independent from my parents, and I no longer have to worry whether I will have a roof over my head, enough to eat, money to buy clothes, etc. I’m able to save enough for retirement. I am living the life of my dreams.

After watching these videos, I am sure that even my life can still and will get indefinitely better. Yours can and will get better too. I’m sure of it.

Thank you for reading.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. There are a few more inspirational videos that I want to show you. Please be inspired by them.


Spoken word from Diane and Chana from Toronto.


Poem by Jessica Mason from Illinois


It Gets Better Song from Jesse Maria

I’m open to conversations. If you have questions or comments, please post them below in the comments area. I will respond as quickly as possible. For more personal inquiries, please feel free to email me at JT@theLstop.org.

Thank you.

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About JT

JT is originally from San Francisco, CA. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in psychology, focusing primarily on gender and sexuality research. Seeking a change in 2008, she moved to Chicago, and what a change it has been! She can been seen walking and yelping about various Chicago neighborhoods. JT identifies as queer and bisexual, and she is currently dating a straight man. She has an unapologetic love for civil rights, whether it’d be for racial, gender, sexual, or political socioeconomic equality. Occasionally, she volunteers with Howard Brown Health Center to promote safer sex in Boystown.

Discussion

10 Responses to “It Gets Better”

  1. This is a really powerful piece. Thanks so much for sharing your story. So glad to know that things have gotten so much better for you.

    Posted by Lisa | December 29, 2011, 10:37 am
  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. E many people will be able to identify with it. I wish you continued healing.

    Posted by Kirstin | December 29, 2011, 10:43 am
  3. Meant to say “So” many people.

    Posted by Kirstin | December 29, 2011, 10:46 am
  4. Jennie thank you for sharing your stories. It’s very powerful. And btw HUGS! -Sam

    Posted by sam hamilton | December 29, 2011, 12:26 pm
  5. Thank you for sharing this with us, Jennie. It’s such a powerful and positive piece. I hope it reaches some people who were in your shoes.

    Posted by Vivian | December 29, 2011, 1:24 pm
  6. You are amazing for sharing this! It shows that no matter how bad it gets, you are worth it and deserve better. And it does and will get better!

    Posted by Dawn | December 30, 2011, 8:18 am
  7. Jen, thank you for this piece. You have amazing strength. I think many people will relate to your story. Nobody should ever have to put up with any bully in their life. Sending you a big hug.

    Posted by Kim | January 5, 2012, 4:16 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] my story, I’d like to first thank all you wonderful readers for your comments on my “It Gets Better” piece. It was truly the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done online—aside from […]

  2. […] I’m open to conversations. If you have questions or comments, please post them below in the comments area. I will respond as quickly as possible. For more personal inquiries, please feel free to email me at JT@theLstop.org. This blog article was first posted on The L Stop. […]

  3. […] my story, I’d like to first thank all you wonderful readers for your comments on my “It Gets Better” piece. It was truly the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done online—aside from […]

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