Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Hooper: Let's 'make it better' for LGBTQ teens

As a prelude to tonight's performance of It Gets Better, the traveling musical production that chronicles true stories of the LGBTQ experience, the David A Straz Center for the Performing Arts staged a "World Cafe'' Wednesday evening.

It's goal: to encourage a community conversation about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community, especially teens.

The term "It Gets Better" stems from a campaign sparked by nationally syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage, who wanted to reduce the growing number of LGTBQ teen suicides with a message of encouragement.

But during the "cafe," someone said, "Instead of telling them, 'It Gets Better,' why can't we make it better for them now."

Yes.

I was able to move through my high school years in Tallahassee with nary a care in the world. Acts of innocence — asking a girl to dance at a Jake Gaither Park party, going to Dairy Queen on Sunday evening with the fellas, writing stories for the high school paper — highlight my memories.

Nothing in life can replicate the exuberant innocence of my first kiss, getting behind the wheel of my father's Plymouth Valiant or riding on the Himalaya with that special someone at the North Florida Fair. I still miss it. While some cried tears of joy at my high school graduation, I just cried.

Now doesn't every kid, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve a chance to look back at their high school years with halcyon glee?

It's not realistic to expect every teen to be blessed with the joyful naivete that guided me through adolescence. Teen angst is more than an over-arching theme in John Hughes' movies. It's real for a wide variety of teens and amplified for those grappling with a sense of isolation as they navigate the pitfalls our society can impose on those who find their identity in the LGTBQ community.

As one teacher shared at the cafe, her student celebrated the fact that he was pretty sure — pretty sure — if he came out to his parents they wouldn't throw him out of the house.

Sigh.

For other teens, however, that rejection occurs with cold calculation or hate-filled venom. Vicki Sokolik, executive director of the nonprofit Starting Right, Now, helps unaccompanied teens from all walks and more than one found themselves homeless because a mom or dad refused to accept an undeniable truth about their child.

Peers who bully, ostracize or tease — undesirable elements that social media can take to new heights — can do similar damage.

So I completely understand why we need to hand these teens a promissory note about life.

I also know that justice delayed is justice denied.

The best idea of many to arise from the cafe involved asking school districts to create a diversity and inclusion director, someone who could serve as a point person for principals, teachers and support staff. The director could raise awareness of school services and help create an environment of inclusion.

Too many kids don't realize help exists.

And I bet some local corporations would be willing to cover the director's salary.

Beyond that, we need a resource center not just for LGBTQ teens, but for any kid gripped by difficulty, be it depression, eating disorders, parental abuse, teen dating violence, cutting, low self-esteem, academic stress or some other challenge. The list seems to grow.

We need to put counseling back at the top of the job duties for counselors. We need inclusion to become the rule instead of the exception. We need to realize we were put on this planet to learn to love each other.

We need to make it better.

That's all I'm saying.

Follow Ernest Hooper @hoop4you.

Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 9 hours ago
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Updated: 10 hours ago