I will never forget the day I woke up in the ICU. My memory of the prior evening was spotty at best, but I knew why I was there. I could feel my mother’s presence at my side, but I refused to look, choosing to focus on the nurse who came to check my vitals instead. Later, I was greeted by the family doctor, who clearly took personal offense from the situation. For the next three weeks, my privacy disappeared. Everything that had been bouncing around in my head for the last year was now public knowledge. I was gay.
I’ve had more than 20 years to reflect on that pivotal moment in my life and have come to many conclusions as to why it happened. But first, I want to go on the record saying there are much easier ways to “come out.” At the time, though, it didn’t feel like it. There weren’t many resources for LGBTQ+ people in my community. There was no Internet, no RuPaul’s Drag Race, no neighborhood rag, and there was no It Gets Better Project. My only understanding of what it meant to be gay was that it was wrong.
It took me a long time to wrestle the demons that led me down that dark path. I didn’t understand why I felt so hopeless, until I started having real conversations with other gay people. I discovered that I wasn’t alone, and it gave me the courage to embrace who I was. The experience ultimately led me to a life for which I am eternally grateful – one marked by an incredible capacity to give back to the community that came to my rescue.
Today, I am in the unique position to reach out to others — specifically young people — who may be grappling with the same challenges I faced on my journey to self-affirmation. As the Executive Director of the It Gets Better Project, I get to work with an amazing team committed to inspiring and empowering young LGBTQ+ people who may be feeling isolated, on the verge of crisis or, in a worst-case scenario, ideating self-harm.
I know from experience that life can get better. It may not get easier, but the world becomes more predictable, and our ability to navigate its challenges becomes more refined over time. This I know through through the lens of the thousands of LGBTQ+ people who have bravely come forward to share their stories of resilience and triumph as part of the It Gets Better Project.
The It Gets Better Project began in 2010 with one objective in mind: to collect and share the stories that can prove to an LGBTQ+ kid that they have value and that the challenges they’re facing are surmountable. Today, nearly 10 years later, more than 60,000 people have shared their It Gets Better story. From beloved celebrities to everyday people, the It Gets Better Project’s arsenal of inspiring stories grows every day.
The LGBTQ+ community has come a long way in the last 20 years. Although many of us around the world continue to live under oppressive circumstances, the tide is changing. The issues our community face are a mainstream topic of discussion, and progressive laws protecting our right to exist are being enacted around the world. There are thousands of organizations in the U.S. and around the globe that are working day and night to ensure our continued progress toward a time when all LGBTQ+ people can embrace their worthiness and power as individuals. Among them is the Horizons Foundation, the steward of National Give OUT Day – the only day dedicated to supporting the organizations that champion the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
This day is of vital importance to the It Gets Better Project and the hundreds of organizations that come together every year to amplify National Give OUT Day’s call-to-action to invest in the LGBTQ+ community. Whether you choose to support the It Gets Better Project or one of the other worthy organizations working to uplift the LGBTQ+ community, you can make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ people today — and in the lives of future generations of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. There is power in being visible and vocal, and National Give OUT Day gives us all an opportunity to show up and be heard, together. Be loud and proud with us on Thursday, April 18th and visit GiveOutDay.org to pledge your support for our community!