Almost ten years ago, I sat with my father's shotgun in my lap, desperate to find a reason to live. I hated myself. I was convinced that I was undeserving of love and doomed to Hell, because the Bible, the media, my community, and the peers who bullied me said so. Luckily, my belief in finding love and caring about my family made me put the gun away that night, but the years of being hated for who I was continued to weigh heavily on me, even into adulthood.
The world is improving, and it is incredible to witness, but LGBT men and women all over the United States and world continue to be tormented, even murdered, for being gay. One week ago, I received an email from a young man who said that his parents threatened to kick him out of their home if he "chooses to be gay," because it's against their beliefs and the word of God. People are so wrapped up in reciting Bible verses and hating each other that they've forgotten that God simply wants us to love and respect one another. Life is short--wouldn't it be better spent taking care of each other?
October is a very special time for the LGBT community: it is not only National LGBT History Month, but October 11 was National Coming Out Day and October 16 is Spirit Day. Spirit Day was started to promote awareness about bullying and discrimination against the LGBT community. According to GLAAD, eight out of ten LGBT youths are reported being bullied. Since purple is a meaningful color to the LGBT community and represents spirit on the rainbow flag, everyone is encouraged to wear purple on that day as a reflection of your support of and pride for young LGBT people.
I will be wearing purple this October 16, but I also wanted to share something very special that I recently did with my best friend, Coleen McMahon. One of the best tools for impacting many people in a positive way is music. I'm not naive; I don't think that sharing a song or video can change the world or make everyone accept each other, but I do believe that one action can create a ripple effect. One voice can speak up for many. And music has the power to heal, inspire, and make a bad day a little better.
A little over a year ago, Coleen McMahon and I first heard the beautiful song "Define Me" by Ryan Amador and Jo Lampert. We were deeply moved by the song, which is about love and acceptance. The song was such a powerful reminder that despite our differences, we are all human and should not allow others define who we are or dictate who we love. On a whim, Coleen and I decided to record a cover of "Define Me." We never imagined doing anything with it, mostly because years of insecurity and bullying made me ashamed of my creative side. As a result, I have always been embarrassed to sing in front of anyone other than my closest friends. I decided to overcome that fear, however, and share this part of me with you, during this very special month.
Coleen and I hope the song's lyrics will remind everyone to live authentically and bravely, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, etc. We should not allow other people's beliefs or opinions define who we are and I hope everyone, especially our potential straight allies, will spend this month reflecting on how difficult life can be on the LGBT community, particularly young men and women.
To those of you who have been bullied, remember that there are people out there who will love and respect you, even if your peers and family do not. You are beautiful, you have purpose, and I believe God has a wonderful plan for you. Please don't hesitate to consult the invaluable resources out there, such as The Trevor Project. They are there to help.