Our daughter came out as gay halfway through her freshman year of high school. This event, in and of itself, would take courage by most. But in the halls of this country club that could be considered an Ivy of high schools, this took a tremendous leap of faith.
Unfortunately, there was no one really there to catch her.
The friends she had made wanted nothing to do with her. She quit sports when she was treated like a predator in the locker room.
For the last three years of high school she had a girlfriend who had never come out. Our daughter was this girl’s dirty little secret. Trying to maintain a healthy, positive self image when you are hidden away like a shameful pimple by your partner takes herculean effort.
After our daughter came out, she struggled
She did not always have the strength to deal with rejection and mistreatment in healthy ways. She struggled with anxiety and depression. She self-harmed. She attempted suicide.
After an inpatient stay, ongoing outpatient treatment, and the right cocktail of medications, our daughter managed to make her way through high school and just graduated today with honors.
Last night we sat in the auditorium as we watched many of her classmates receive various awards and accolades for their wonderful accomplishments at school. While many of these awards were well-deserved, I couldn’t help but wonder as each girl walked on stage.
Was this one of the girls who told our daughter that she could not change near them in the locker room? Was this one of her friends who dumped her after learning she is a lesbian?
I am not one that believes everyone deserves a medal. Some of the accomplishments of these students were truly remarkable.
Given the chance what might my daughter have accomplished?
But as I watched our daughter observing many of her classmates being celebrated, I speculated about what she might have accomplished had her community embraced her when she came out. Would she have been captain of the ski or volleyball teams had she not felt that she had to stop playing sports? Would she have had more energy to delve more deeply into her studies and go for leadership roles in clubs if she didn’t need to spend so much time in therapy?
We have a finite number of hours and reserve of energy. When much of that needs to be spent learning how to not want to hurt yourself, sometimes we only have enough left to do the bare minimum.
While she was not recognized by her school or peers for any overt accomplishments, our daughter achieved more than most of her classmates during the last four years.
This is what my daughter did accomplish in high school
She stayed true to who she is, even when it would have been easier to pretend that she was someone else in order to fit in.
She continued to be kind to her peers, even when that kindness was not returned.
She got herself up every day to face another lonely and uncomfortable day at school.
She worked hard on her academics, graduating with honors.
She reached out and made herself available to the few other LGBTQ students younger than she, to help them see the importance of loving themselves and being proud of who they are.
She learned that her future relationships will only be with people who are excited to show her off as opposed to hide her away.
She recognizes she can face difficult situations without harming herself. She understands the value of asking for help and taking care of herself.
She chose a college that has a welcoming sense of community, where its students are encouraged to be themselves and gender studies is a popular major.
Although these lessons and accomplishments (except for her diploma) are not the kind that she can hang on her wall after applause in the auditorium, they are, in my eyes, the most valuable and ones she will carry with her for a lifetime.
The author of this post wished to remain anonymous.
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