January 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm EST | by Michael Radkowsky
New era stokes gay teen fear
since Trump won, gay news, Washington Blade

We are being handed an opportunity to decide how we want to respond to tough, threatening circumstances.

Dear Michael,
I’m 16 years old, gay, a junior in high school and scared about what is going to happen to us under this new government.
I’ve lived in a red state my whole life, not the most gay-positive atmosphere even in my hometown but my public school has a gay-straight alliance that has been a lifesaver. It gave me a safe and protected place to come out. Having other kids to talk to and also our advisor (a teacher) helped me feel I’m just fine. I got a lot of support from them that helped me come out to my parents, who have been supportive.
Even if some people in town are homophobic, for as long as I’ve known I’m gay (five years) I’ve known it’s really fine to be gay from TV and from our government, starting with the President. Of course I’ve heard stories of the old days when people had to be in the closet and faced all kinds of discrimination. I’m grateful to have been growing up in a time when we’ve gotten equal rights.
My phone screensaver is a picture of the White House lit up in rainbow colors for the legalization of gay marriage.
Since Trump won I feel like we are getting sucked back in time. It’s so scary to hear about all these homophobic people he is appointing to run the government. If the federal government is against gays, I’m afraid that America will turn against us again and we will no longer be able to live openly in peace. I’m thinking they’d definitely shut down our group at school.
I can’t really focus and I’m not sure what to do.

Michael replies:

Good news: You’re in for an adventure that is going to help you become a stronger, more resilient human being. And, you have the opportunity to learn some lessons that are way more valuable than anything you can learn in a classroom.

Going forward, your job isn’t to be a compliant kid who does whatever the grownups tell you to do. Your job is to start figuring out what you believe is the right thing to do, regardless of what others around you may think and whether or not they say it’s OK.

If you take this path, you’re going to develop a strong sense of integrity, meaning you will have an internal guide for living a decent life, a life that you respect. This is a recipe for having self-esteem, which, not incidentally, is exactly what anti-gay bigots want to take from you.

So do your best not to panic. There’s no point in being afraid of bigots. You don’t want to give them any power over you. Remind yourself that they are lying, hateful fools (because, really, they are). Stay standing and keep moving forward.

If anyone tries to shut down your gay-straight alliance, continue to meet. Don’t let administrators or anyone else block you from banding together and supporting each other. I’m sure you know that when LGBT youth absorb the hateful message that you are defective, you are at high risk for depression, self-harm and suicide.  Having a supportive peer group helps inoculate you from self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. So stay united.

If your school gives you a hard time, call the local paper. And then call a national paper. Do not stay silent in the face of hate. Put bigotry on the defensive. Non-violent resistance can be a tool of awesome power.

And remember that you are not facing this alone. You have many, many allies across the United States.  But it’s up to you and me and all of us to keep everyone’s eyes open by speaking up for honesty, decency and tolerance.

You also have an ally in GLSEN (glsen.org), an amazing organization that works to keep schools free from anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. If you need help, reach out to them.

You, along with so many of us, are being handed an opportunity to decide how we want to respond to tough, threatening circumstances. Standing up for what you believe in isn’t always easy, but at times like these, it’s what living an authentic life is really all about. Yes, a new wave of anti-gay policy is rolling in, but we certainly don’t have to drown. We don’t even have to let ourselves be knocked off balance.

Stay strong. We are all in this together.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com.

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