I'd believed that I was headed for greatness, but they had revealed in me a thing that was seemingly so dirty, so disgusting that my other talents paled in comparison to the supposed vileness of being a practicing homosexual. And for this they bullied me right out of the church.
At 8 or 9 years old, I knew that my feelings for boys were different, but I didn't know that there was a word for those feelings, or that it was the word that the bullies were using against me, cruelly and without even knowing its meaning.
For adolescent girls, heterosexuality and a traditional presentation of femininity are the foundation of the high school social hierarchy. Attaining status requires dedication to the attraction of boys. So where does this leave adolescent lesbian and queer girls?
I decided I would attempt to climb all seven of the highest peaks on each continent to raise awareness and funds for the Trevor Project, to help more LGBTQ youth get the help they need and to call attention to the important issue of LGBTQ youth suicide. This March I leave for Mt. Everest.
The focus of the "You Have a Purpose Project" is to let LGBT kids know that they do have a purpose and that we care. There is something visceral about seeing someone's expression and hearing another person's voice when they tell you that you matter.
On Wednesday nights a group of trans and gender-nonconforming young adults makes a lengthy trek to the Broadway Youth Center in Lakeview. They gather for Trans Youth and Resource Advocacy (TYRA) meetings, a space for safety and discussion.
The average coming-out age has declined from 20-something in the '80s to somewhere around 16 today, and there are many who come out younger -- in some cases far younger. Both the LGBTQ community and society at large need to be thinking about how to meet these kids' needs.
Let's resolve that 2013 will be the point in history where we no longer offer the imprimatur of respectability to the notion that a person's sexual orientation is something to be shamed and condemned, nor to anyone who promotes that notion.
As LGBT youth come out at younger ages, thousands are driven from their homes by rejecting families. And in a society that has grown increasingly unwilling to support a safety net for the most vulnerable, they are forced to endure homelessness and destitution.
Some experience a lack of support from their loved ones, and others are even faced with homelessness. Here in New York the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick-Martin Institute are invaluable resources to these kids, but both of these organizations were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
It used to be that we, as a public, could hold networks accountable and responsible for the ways in which they represent minority characters. But can we still do that? Are writers of our current television fare no longer held accountable for the characters they create?
With all the discussion lately about bullying and the frequency of reports about LGBTQ suicide, we can sometimes lose sight of the changes that have happened over the past 15 years, and we can forget the ways in which the LGBTQ community is making it better for young people.
Today, a closeted peer can look around a room and see all the people who will support his or her decision to come out. A bullied student can see the people who will not stand by without intervening. As we wear purple today, we give a visual of all the love and support we have to offer.
My family has been bullied by anti-gay activists who want to take the protection and the promise of marriage away from my moms. Were it not for our allies, I might not have had the strength to stand up and speak out in support of my family back in January 2011.
This time of year can be especially challenging for many school-age youth. Ally Week is a good time to commit to making it easy for the young people in our lives to ask for help and letting them know that asking for help is good and should be celebrated as courageous.
I'm choosing to stand up as a Spirit Day Ambassador because I know what it's like to be bullied. I know the pain that LGBT youth are facing, the self-hatred and the disappointment. There is a real need for legislation against bullying, but even more so, there is a need for allies.
As a teenager who was once ashamed to be gay and afraid to speak up for himself, I know that an event like Spirit Day can make all the difference for someone. By wearing purple, LGBT supporters of all sexual orientations and gender identities can send a powerful message.