If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? Be bolder? Care less (or more) about schoolwork? Don’t sweat the small stuff?
We’d all have words of wisdom to pass down. But for LGBTQ people who’ve struggled with their identities as kids, those words may carry especially critical messages.
I posed the question to LGBTQ stars and allies who walked the red carpet at TrevorLive — a fundraising gala benefitting The Trevor Project — on June 11 in New York.
Here’s what they had to say.
Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy: “I would tell myself that — as hard as I’m going to try to be what everyone expects me to be or what I thought everyone expects me to be — in the end, it’s not going to make me happy.”
“The only time I’m really going to be happy is when I understand that and accept myself for who I am, and share that self with the world. And hopefully would have encouraged myself to do it a lot earlier.”
“Orange Is the New Black” star Natasha Lyonne: “I would tell myself, ‘Kid, if you can make it — you, you troublemaker — we all can make it. It gets better.'”
“I would say to that person that everyone is a little bit broken, and that’s their underlying beauty. So that’s OK.”
Film producer Greg Berlanti: “A lot of the things I wanted to change about myself back then are the things I love most about myself now.”
“And it doesn’t seem possible when you’re in that moment because you feel like they’re preventing you from having the life that you want. But really they end up being the sort of gateway to the life that you want.”
Model and TV personality Carmen Carrera: “One word of advice I would probably give my younger self is to talk to my mom. Just talk to mom!”
“Tell her how you feel. And just know that everything is going to be OK — that you are a human being, that you belong here, that you have a place here, and you don’t ever have to worry about people not loving you.”
Internet star and activist Raymond Braun: “I would say, ‘I love you,’ because my 10-year-old self was struggling a lot.”
“At that point, I knew that I was gay, but I thought that I was going to live my entire life in the closet and never come out. I had so much internalized shame and hatred about my identity because I was being bullied every day.”
“I would have told myself to call [The Trevor Project] because I would have known there were resources out there and people out there.”
The night was full of both celebration and sobering reflections for the 20-year-old nonprofit, which fights suicide among LGBTQ youth.
The event raised over $2 million for The Trevor Project — the most ever garnered from TrevorLive. Every penny of that and more is still desperately needed to save young lives.
Teens who identity as queer — and especially those who identify as transgender — are disproportionately affected by suicide. And while society has taken significant strides forward in LGBTQ rights and visibility, that progress has been met with backlash, fresh challenges, and a vicious political climate that often leaves queer youth particularly vulnerable.
Producer and actress Lena Waithe, who took home the organization’s Hero Award alongside Berlanti, reminded the room that there’s still much that needs to be done.
“I’m really moved by the stories I’m hearing and the faces I’m seeing and all the love — but don’t treat each other like this just in this room,” she said. “We need to take it out into the world. … It’s our job to make sure all queer people are human. They weren’t born to be perfect. They were born to be whole.“
Learn more about LGBTQ youth suicide and support The Trevor Project here.
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