My name is Tenneh, I live in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I like to joke that I’ve hit oppression bingo. As a black, gay, disabled, mentally ill female in today’s America, it’s easy to complain about my situation. I try to be as happy and positive as possible, and thankfully, I have a wonderful family who supports me. Making positivity easier and less far to reach.
When I came out, I was 10. I think there are general standards of reactions around coming out widely expected by the LGBTQ+ community, and mine did not fit any of them.
My parents didn’t cry, they didn’t hate me or insist that I change. My sexuality was inconsequential to them, they didn’t love me any more or less due to it. I seemed to be the only one that being gay mattered to. In fact, I remembered hearing stories of people being beaten up and even raped or killed due to their sexuality, that panicked me.
Part of the reason I came out so early was in the hope that my parents would somehow fix it, that they would sit down with me and give me all of the reasons I wasn’t so I could go back to being what I considered normal at the time, back to being safe. So to everyone else, coming out and having your parents say it’s alright and find it irrelevant to you as a person is in a way an ideal way to come out. Unfortunately for me it was the opposite of what I wanted in a lot of ways.
As much as being gay panicked me, that wasn’t why I considered suicide. That fell more into the disabled square of oppression bingo.
Also when I was 10, I started having chronic pelvic floor pain. I was dealing with depression from the constant pain, and I sort of passively considered suicide. I wouldn’t kill myself, but if I was walking down the street and a car was going to hit me, I wouldn’t have moved.
A close family member was affected by a friend’s suicide at this time, and ended up in the mental hospital for suicidal thoughts. Seeing the way this impacted my family, I was scared to talk about how I felt. I sort of stuffed it down, sealed it away, and pretended I was okay.
What ended up getting me out of this funk I was in was my mom. I was unable to find any reason that I should live for myself, but I knew my mom would never get over it, and more than anything, I couldn’t do that to her.
She had literally carried me on her back for months when I couldn’t walk, and I knew that if anything, I owed her a daughter who was trying her hardest to be here, to be alive. In return, watching how happy I made her, how much it upset her when I had hard days, I lived for her. Eventually I found art, which made me incredibly happy, gave me a reason to live for myself.
A few years later, I met a young transgender man online, one of the most amazing people I’ve met to this day. Unfortunately, he was dealing with a lot of stress, and one day I got a goodbye message from him. I panicked, I realized what he was going to do, that he was going to kill himself.
Terrified, I told my mom what was happening, and together, we managed to contact his local police. They got to him in time, and since that day, I have seen him do nothing but prosper. I’m so proud of him and everything he’s done. I realize that, for some people, all they need in a time of extraordinary crisis is a little caring push from a loving person.
After that, I started doing research. I found out that New Mexico has one of the highest suicide rates in American. I put my foot down and started contacting local charities, trying to put on a musical in Albuquerque to raise awareness for suicide and LGBTQ+ youth. The process of getting people to latch on has proved slow and difficult, but I know it’s going to happen, because I’m going to make it. Sometimes miracles just need their own little push, and I’m very proud to be difficult and pushy.
So I’m 16 now, homeschooled due to pain, and a little unsure of what to do with my future. However, it gets better and it has gotten better. In the last two years, I’ve become an award-winning professional digital artist. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be directing a musical in my hometown.
Sometimes the path to success doesn’t look like everyone else’s, mine sure doesn’t. I’m successful in my own ways, ways that I have nothing but pride for. I love myself, my gay, black, disabled, mentally ill, pushy, gorgeous, absolutely amazing, mind-numbingly confident self.
If you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts due to your sexuality and/or gender, remember that it gets better. It might take a while but you’ll find your people, people who love you, a community that accepts you. Find a reason to live for now, even if it’s little and seems stupid. Eventually, even if it takes you a while, you’ll find something that you love and keeps you here permanently.
If you’re safe both physically and mentally, from others as well as yourself, see if you can use your safety. See what you can do to help someone who’s struggling and what you can do to help those less fortunate than you. You just might find your calling.