Everyone has a story. I have many. One of them is about the night I tried to kill myself.
It was the late 80s; I was 15. Back then I was a girl who liked girls. I had liked girls since I first asked Kelly to dance in preschool. Since I wrote the love letter to Tonya in first grade. Throughout the series of unrequited loves that left me feeling exhausted and helpless. That made me hate myself. Back then I felt alone, unloved and terrified of facing my future. I was tired of being sad. I was tired of being hurt. I was tired of being alone. And I was tired of being scared of the rest of my life. I began to cry like I had done on so many other nights in the dark. But this was harder. These were tears from outside of my body that I had invited in and let flow through me. I was done and I had to stop living.
I walked into the kitchen and pulled a dull knife out of the wooden block. The biggest one would do. I took it with me into the living room and sat down in the dark. The street lights shone through the windows and off the muted blade. Car horns sounded, music played from adjacent apartment buildings and alarms went off. It was a San Fernando Valley soundtrack.
Was there a ceremony for this, I wondered as I gripped the knife in my right hand. It shook. Was I supposed to say something? If so, I didn’t know what. Goodbye? Fuck you? I wanted someone to know, to come and get me, but I knew no one would. The safety that knowledge offered prompted that first cut.
Well. That goddamn-piece-of-shit knife. I clenched my fist and stared at my left wrist. Nothing happened. It barely hurt. My mom and I had had the set for years, and she would keep it for years after. To say the knife was dull wasn’t doing it justice, barely able as it was to cut through a lukewarm slab of a Hungry Man salisbury steak. Back and forth, harder and harder. And finally. Finally it started to hurt — sting, really. There was a little blood. Then more and more. But it still was not enough. And then that was it.
Fuck. I was still breathing. I thought it would have been done already, but all I could do was grip the knife harder and cry. I couldn’t go through with it no matter how much I didn’t want to face the next day. My attempt was over. I was still alive. I was still alone. And I was still gay, silenced in a literal and figurative darkness. I had to wake up in the morning and go to school; I had a basketball game.
Perhaps it was a semblance of hope, my friends and playing organized sports for school that saved me. But there are LGBTQ youth right now who don’t have that hope or support or lifeline, no matter how thin. And they don’t stay alive because the despair is too great to handle while breathing.
This is why, almost 30 years later as a transgender man, I sit on the board of directors of the GSA Network, an organization dedicated to providing safe spaces on school campuses where youth can thrive in their own skin. Where they can have a community. It trains LGBTQ students and their straight allies to become leaders who effect change at the policy level. It trains them to start GSA clubs designed to create safer schools, educate their peers and train teachers to stop bullying. Like the teacher I had in third grade who told me I looked like a little monkey. Yeah. Teachers can be assholes.
I didn’t have a GSA Network when I was growing up. The organization, which formed in 1998, operates solely on the support of amazing people like you who want to ensure that LGBTQ youth have every opportunity to live without fear. In our uncertain political climate, the safety of LGBTQ youth is under attack, and you can join in the fight with a donation to the GSA Network.
A place in the dark is scary for adults. It’s worse for youth. Money helps. Every little bit.