In light of the recent suicides of gay teens around the country, I felt compelled to share my own story for the first time to let youth know it gets better and to let people know they can do something to help.
At 18, I was suicidal. I had decided I would take my life due to such deep self-hatred about being gay after years of being bullied and harassed about being the fat kid and the geek and often called faggot even though I wasn’t out or even sure I was gay. I wrote a poem that would serve as my suicide note, I planned the date, got the prescription. Two days before the planned date, I was walking as a sophmore through my university and just happened to look to my left and saw a Safe Space sticker on a faculty door. It was closed. I didn’t want to be seen looking at it but I knew it was some how gay related.
I stuck a note under the door saying “I need help, please call” and included my number.
A young professor called. He told me about this organization called GLSEN. I never told him I was planning to kill myself. But the idea there was an org helping high school kids struggling with what I was feeling made me feel less alone and I thought that I wanted to be sure no one else ever had to feel this way.
I was bullied and harassed because people thought I was gay. What kept me going was not that I was happy or less depressed but that I learned I might help someone else. He introduced me to a therapist, the gay student group on campus and the GLSEN NNJ chapter. I gave them my very first gift to a nonprofit. By meeting them, and others on campus they introduced me to, I finally told one of them how desperate I was and they helped get me into rehab to deal with my suicidality and my eating disorder in 1996.
I came back from rehab. I came out at 20 with amazing support and immediately became an activist. I lead the group with that same professor to add sexual orientation and gender identity to MSU's anti-discrimination policies immediately after Matthew Shepard's passing. I changed majors and moved towards my nonprofit career.
I’ve been privileged to work for amazing non-profits such as GLSEN and now at the Liberty Hill Foundation.
If you are a young person and need help, call the Trevor Hotline now at 866-4-U-TREVOR. Someone is there 24 hours per day.
I tell this story publicly now for the first time because I want youth to know there is hope but we as adults need to be sure they know where to find it.
GLSEN’s Safe Space Campaign relaunches this week. The kit costs only $20.00. Go online and donate $20 or more at http://www.glsen.org and help GLSEN get these kits across the country. One sticker can save a life. It saved mine.
If you live in Los Angeles and want to be part of advancing LGBT rights and equality in the City of Angels, visit Liberty Hill and sign up for more information.
Lastly I want to send a special thanks to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.AFSP.org) for their leadership on research and education on LGBT Suicide Prevention.
Watch the video of Darrell telling his story: