On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up feeling relaxed, refreshed and determined to knock out some work before celebrating one of my favorite ( albeit subdued because of the pandemic) holidays. That was short-lived when I checked my emails around 8 AM.
“You should’ve killed yourself back in 05.” It was a simple pointed message from someone named Alvaro C in response to an ad placed on Craigslist in DC to recruit new writers.
My initial reaction was, “Well, this person has nothing else better to do with their lives,” and laughed it off. Over the next hour or so, I thought of at least 50 different responses that I could’ve sent to this message, from passive-aggressive phrases to expletive-laden rants. In the end, I had to remind myself of one of the golden rules of the Internet: don’t engage with douche bags.
As the day wore on, it struck me as to how important this was. Had this happened while I was growing up or even just a few years ago, this message would’ve had its desired effect and ruined me. Truthfully I have been teased and bullied my whole life mercilessly and each time, it cut me immeasurably deep. Over time, I suppose skin has gotten thicker or I’ve just learned to block out the noise.
When I started MyUmbrella a few years ago, people repeatedly asked me if something like this was still needed in “this day and age” and were continuously surprised when I rattled off stats about mental health and LGBTQ youth, both in this country and around the world.
Cyberbullying and in person bullying is still a significant issue. There are children, teenagers and adults young and old that are the targets of hate speech/crimes just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
When my journey with MyUmbrella began, I vowed never to forget my 15-year-old self that struggled so much. And thanks to Alvaro, I have even more fuel in my tank to keep going forward and doing everything I can to let people in my community know that they’re not alone.
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