Editor’s Note: ActionAIDS is a proud sponsor of “It Gets Better” this week at the Kimmel Center – a one-week residency full of activities, including a youth led panel, a spoken word series, a town talk, in-school assemblies, and public service announcements to discuss the bullying issues in our community and give LGBTQ youth a voice. The residency week culminates on November 8, 2014, with the It Gets Better Tour Live on Stage by the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA in Perelman Theater that includes a community choir of 115 local Philadelphians. In this guest blog posting, Rafael Melecio, Prevention/HIV Tester at ActionAIDS, provides his personal perspective on the idea that “It Gets Better.”  Photos below include Brian Sims, PA State Respentative, speaking at the “It Gets Better” Kick Off event.  

Ever since I was young I was told that you must go through the storm before you see the light. I must say that I went through the storm and now see the light. It gets better is for all those out there that have gone through or are currently going through their own storms.

Growing up is not an easy thing to do especially if you are in the LGBTQ community. As a young gay Hispanic, I went through a lot in my own experiences. As a child in middle school I got bullied, I was called names, I was physically attacked, and at times I was harassed by my peers. I am not going to deny that there were times that I wanted to treat them exactly how they treated me, but I have always thought, “What do I get from causing harm to those individuals?” As time went along and I grew up into my older teen years, I came to the realization that no one can take your joy away unless you give it to them.

What is “It gets better” and how can this help?

“It gets better” provides support through access to people that have gone through what you have gone through or are currently going through. I have been down that path, down that street that we think has no end. But I am here to tell you that, yes, it does get better, maybe not now, but it will and when you get to where you want to be you will see that all the sacrifices and all the heartache does come to an end. There are people and places that we can go to, to feel support, to have someone to talk to, and to be heard out when you are down.

How does this affect us?

In reality, have we noticed all that surrounds us? Have we seen all the teens that commit or try to commit suicide? As stated in a study by Brian Mutanski, PhD, professor at Northwestern University: “The rate of lifetime suicide attempts was over 30% which is much higher than in the general population of 16-20 years old.” He also found that “14% reported enough symptoms to meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder and slightly more met criteria for conduct disorders”

What can we do about this?

I believe that we can help our teens to feel comfortable about who they are and let them know that, yes, we will go through our rough patches in our lives, but we should think about our lives (our pre-teen years and our teen years) as the sand paper of our very own lives. Once you get done with all the sanding and all the scrapes that our emotions will receive, we will come out very smooth and ready to glow and shine. There are places where you can go or even call if you feel depressed or even if you feel like you can’t stand it anymore. Living through this storm called life will make a survivor; so my message to all is: don’t worry it does get better – just hang in there.

For more information, go to the It Gets Better Project.

–Rafael Melecio, Prevention/HIV Tester, ActionAIDS