youth seek acceptance
Teens say community needs more education and understanding
By JESSE SOWA
Tyler Haycock remembers being called derogatory names as he walked down the halls of his high school.
19 and a student at
"So many times I wanted to turn around with complete hatred," he said of his high school days, wiping away tears. "I wanted to hit someone. They had no idea what I was going through."
Haycock was one of several young people to express their concerns and also wishes for their communities for themselves and other gay youth. "Honoring Diversity: It Includes Our Gay Youth," held at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, was sponsored by the local Community Alliance for Diversity.
Haycock grew up in the Mormon religion. Coming out as a gay person was not easy.
"I'm gay. That's who I am," he said in front of an audience of about 30 people. "I've been on my knees praying many times, and it hasn't changed."
In seeking the ideal community and environment for gay young people, Haycock said, stereotypes and assumptions about gays need to be eliminated. Being gay doesn't have to be a topic, it should just be accepted. Educating students about hatred and violence is an important step, he added.
Cliff Richmond's coming out was not easy either. He was 14 and living with his mother, who is very religious. He didn't find the acceptance he was looking for and eventually moved from LaPine to live with his grandmother in
Now 16, with a high school-equivalency degree and a job, he urges more education on what it is to be gay.
"If families knew more about it, they may be able to accept a little more," he said. "Parents, love your children no matter what."
"It's the situation you put yourself in that makes a difference," he said. "It's just who you surround yourself with."
Sometimes the oppression comes from within yourself, he said.
"A lot of times it's all inside of you, and you need to get it worked out," he said. "Feel pride in yourself. Enjoy life. Meet people."
Jesse Sowa covers public safety and general assignments for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or 758-9521.