Roddy

My name is Roddy. This is my story.

From a very young age, when I was around six years old or so, I knew there was something unique about me. I just didn’t know what. While other boys were into cars, trucks, play fighting and all things dirt I preferred Barbie, music, and the theatre. As I got a little bit older, and my friends who were boys started to talk about girls and how pretty they were, I was starting to have the same thoughts they had about the girls about them. At this point, I did not yet know what it meant to be gay, so I thought something was wrong with me. When I was ten years old I learned what being gay was and then all the thoughts and actions up to that point in my life made sense and I knew that I was gay.

Two and half years later, at the age of 12, the first person I told was my aunt when we were on vacation. We had always been very close, and she knew everything about me because I would always tell her things and I still do. That day I had been acting shy and off because I was thinking about the shame I felt because I was gay, as I often did back then because I thought being gay was wrong because of my “religion.”

That night she came into my room and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. When we got far enough from the house where we were staying she asked me if I was ok and I told her no and she asked me what was wrong. It was then that I told her that I was gay. She stopped walking, looked at me, hugged me and said, “Honey, I already knew that” and that it was ok. After that, we walked and talked about everything for hours. And I felt much better. After coming out to her, and with her help and support I came out the rest of the family and my friends at school; some were supportive of me and others not so much.

I was bullied for several years to follow, and even though at this point in my life I knew who I was and that it was ok to be myself, deep down I started to believe all of the things people were telling me and began to go through a very difficult time in my life. I often had thoughts of suicide and actions of self-harm; I had accepted who I was but others had not, so I felt unimportant, alone, unwanted and unloved.

Fellow students would frequently call me names, push me in the halls, mock me, threaten me and sometimes even physically hurt me. I was told things like “You’ll never amount to anything,” “You’re worthless and should just die,”  “Oh look, it’s the gay kid – he’s such a fag,” and so on.  After this had gone on for three years I realized, thanks to some fantastic teachers, school counselors, friends and the work of the Trevor Project, that there were people who loved me and that life would get better. It was then that these things started to not bother me as much and I started to accept myself all over again.

I began to surround myself with friends and people who accepted me for me, who would be there for me as I worked on learning to love myself the way I was and while I found other people who were also LGBTQ. After about a year I was ready for the next phase – to become an activist and share my story and my voice in hopes that what happened to me would not happen to others, so that others like me would know that they are loved, they are important, they are wanted and that they are never alone.

I am now a proud, OUT gay man. I’m a model and actor as well as an LGBT activist. I work with organizations such as The Human Rights Campaign as a Youth Ambassador, Free 2 Luv as a Youth Empowerment Advocate, Teen Talk Hotline as a blog contributor and many other great groups and organizations to facilitate training on diversity and inclusion, sharing my voice as a positive figure for those in need.

I know first-hand that being a member of the LGBTQ community in today’s society can be very difficult. I know how hard it can be to come out and feel accepted in your school or community. I hope that by sharing my story, my experiences and my voice I can help other LGBTQ youths find the resources they need to feel safe, loved, and accepted and let everyone know that there is hope out there – all you have to do is just look past the darkness and into the light on the other side.

I’m sharing my story to inspire others to tell their own stories and to show that you can be successful no matter what struggles you face in life. I’d like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth of all ethnic backgrounds, races, national origins and religions to know that no matter what, they are perfect just the way they are, that there will always be someone who loves them and cares about them and not to give up.

I challenge each of you to be a game changer in the lives of LGBTQ youth everywhere by being someone they can come to, talk to, look up to and always know that no matter what they are going through they are free and welcome to be themselves around you.

One Million Kids shared Roddy’s story was shared in partnership with The Personal Stories Project.

nevada conversion therapy

Bravo! Nevada Passes Ban on Conversion Therapy

Nevada passed a ban on conversion therapy yesterday and today Nevada’s Governor signed that legislation. Conversion therapy is an attempt by “therapists” or religious leaders to change a person’s sexual orientation – although it does more damage than good.

Senate Bill 201, sponsored by Sen. David Parks, Las Vegas, would make it illegal for licensed mental health practitioners to provide therapy attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts Nevada on the list of progressive states that are passing laws to make the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals better. Seven other states including Oregon, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy.

You may recall the story our board member, Curtis Galloway, who testified in support of the Illinois bill to ban conversion therapy. Curtis now lives and operates a chapter of One Million Kids in St. Louis, and provided comments on the subject.

“I think it’s fantastic that Nevada has chosen to protect LGBTQ youth from this harmful practice! More and more states are realising that this practice is ineffective and does more harm than good. And I hope that more states follow in this path. I know that what I went through was awful, but I also know that it gets much worse than what I experienced,” said Galloway.

Many states are currently attempting to ban conversion therapy including Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. However, some are worried that our current White House Administration may attempt to hinder the progress towards banning the practice in other States.

Curtis added, “I am very worried about the future of this movement. Vice President  Pence has publicly come out in favor of conversion therapy. I remember rallying against him when he was Governor of Indiana, driving several hours, after he signed his religious freedom act. And now this same man is second in command of our country. It’s very worrying and unsettling,” Galloway said. He added, “One thing is certain though, the bans that are in place, at least in Illinois, cannot be touched by this administration.”

Laws in other States, and now Nevada, do have flaws. They all exempt religious organizations, only creating the ban for certified therapists and psychiatrists. This means that anyone who claims to be operating a conversion therapy like establishment or session under religious grounds are exempt.

“It is a huge exemption as many of these individuals are going to start using religion as means ‘to pass the baton’ to religious leaders,” Galloway said. “However, I am hopeful that with this law as a basis, even religious attempts to convert will be found to be child abuse.”

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge of California’s Ban on Conversion Therapy

The United States Supreme Court on Monday rejected a California Christian minister’s challenge to California’s ban on conversion therapy.

The Pastor challenged the law with an assertion that it violates religious rights.

For the third time in two years since it’s passage, the court let stand a lower court’s ruling that the law is constitutional and neither impinges upon free exercise of religion nor impacts the activities of clergy members.

The law prohibits state-licensed mental health counselors, including psychologists and social workers, from offering therapy to change sexual orientation in minors. The Supreme Court in 2014 refused to review the law after an appeals court rejected claims that the ban infringed on free speech rights under U.S. Constitution’s the First Amendment.

‘Conversion therapy’, often referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” is a range of practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a theory that has been rejected by every major medical and mental health organization for decades.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed that there is no place in civilized society for so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ We at One Million Kids For Equality applaud the justices for affirming that California’s law against this barbaric ‘treatment’ for something that isn’t a disorder, is correct and just.” said OMK Co-Director, Charles Chan Massey.

To date, ‘conversion therapy’ has been outlawed in 6 states (CA, IL, NM, NJ, OR, VT) and the District of Columbia.

3 Reasons LGBTQA Teens Abuse Substances

When teenagers abuse substances, the reasons are often different from the average adult. Their lives are in a greater state of flux, making them more susceptible to making poor decisions. They are also typically more vulnerable, needing more support and guidance than adults.

When their needs are not met, they can turn to methods of escapism including drug and alcohol abuse. On top of the standard teenage difficulties, LGBTQA teens must deal with a significant amount of extra hardship including rejection, abuse, and stigmatization. Here are a few of the top reasons LGBTQA teens may become addicts.

1. Rejection from Family

LGBTQ Substance Abuse

Image via Pixabay by Leiver

In the modern wave of acceptance and visibility, more kids are finding the courage to admit to the world that they are part of the LGBTQA community. Unfortunately, a number of parents have not caught up with this modernization and are responding in detrimental ways. Some parents will simply patronize their children, saying they don’t know what they’re talking about and that they will settle down with a nice person of the opposite sex and be happy.

This infantilizing of teens is frustrating at best and mentally harmful at worst. Teens, though they may seem old enough to stand on their own, still very much need the love, acceptance, and support of their parents. Some parents will go as far as to evict their child from their home, acting as though their child never existed. This is where substance abuse becomes even more likely to occur.

2. Homelessness by Choice or Force

When parents reject their child for being born differently, they often end up out on the streets. Though shelters do exist, they are often overcrowded and never a permanent solution. The combination of parental rejection, conditional love, and a physically difficult situation, substance abuse seems a very logical result.

This situation causes lowered self-worth, depression, and overall, the desire to forget what is going on in their lives. Substances can, for a short while, create a way to escape. The longer the teen is left on the streets with no love or support, the more likely they are to become addicted to a substance available to them. Occasionally, the pressure of a negative response from family can cause the teen to flee. When parents express disappointment or distress over their child’s revelation, the child begins to feel angry, guilty, or both.

They are angry because their parents’ love is conditional, and they’re guilty by simply existing and having caused their loved ones pain. This is enough to want to run away, resulting in the same homelessness and the same risk of addiction.

3. Social Consequences

Even when the family is supportive and accepting of the teen, the vast majority of American society has a negative view of the LGBTQA community. Teens within the community experience wrath, judgment, disapproval, and derision from complete strangers, making them feel unsafe and unwanted in their own hometowns. Even with familial support, social rejection can have a similar negative impact, causing the desire to escape from the situation.

Furthermore, with social and familial rejection being so rampant, the LGBTQA community has actually begun to incorporate substance abuse into their social spheres. When a large group of people experience similar rejection and band together in their desire to escape, drug use is often the outlet of choice. When the teen goes to seek social inclusion and safety, they are then exposed to substance abuse.

The only way to truly eradicate drug abuse among the LGBTQA community is to alter societal responses. While we are working slowly to do this, it is not an immediate solution. If you know an LGBTQA teen whose parents may be less than accepting, the best thing you can do is step in as a role model and support system for that teen.

A parent figure is one of the most important things in a teen’s life, and when the biological parents are not stepping up, the task may fall on others. Let the teen know you are there to listen, not to judge. An at-risk teen does not need a lecture. They need acceptance.

 

Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.

Statement on Attack in Orlando

In the early hours of Sunday, June 12th a deranged gunman walked into Pulse Nightclub, an LGBTQ club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire on hundreds of bar patrons. It was latin night and many of the victims are young people of color.

Our co-director and Board President, Brad Delaney had the following to say about this harrowing tragedy:

“50 people lost their lives last night and another 50 are wounded after a gunman opened fire in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando Florida. To say we are devastated would be a huge understatement. There are simply no words strong enough to describe our sadness.

Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones who have been affected by this deliberate act of violence against our community.

June is supposed to be a month filled with pride, joy, and celebration. Instead, this has left many of us with feelings of sadness, anxiety and fear.

We ask that you join us in a moment of silence this morning to honor the many lives we lost last night. Take your moment whenever you’re ready.”

Gayby Baby in Chicago! Join Us For A Special Screening.

One Million Kids For Equality has been working to share the stories of youth since we got started last January – from sharing the voices of 5 youth last spring with the Supreme Court in the Voices Of Children brief to working to end conversion therapy in Illinois. Time and time again we’ve seen that when youth speak up they are able to present their stories in a way that changes hearts and minds forever.

Kids being raised by same-sex couples are growing in numbers worldwide. We are in a Gayby-Boom. But who are these kids? What do they think about having same-sex parents? And do they face different issues to other kids? At a time when the world is debating marriage equality, these questions are more pertinent than ever. Told from the perspective of the kids, Gayby Baby is intimate and sometimes humorous account of four children and their families.

We invite you to join us for this FREE special screening of GAYBY BABY in Chicago on April 30th, an Australian feature documentary in which four kids take us into their homes and share their personal experiences.

One Million Kids For Equality is cohosting a panel discussion between screenings with filmmakers and partners addressing how we empower children of LGBT parents and improve the lives of families in our work.

Secure your seats and learn more athttps://gaybybabychicago.splashthat.com/

In honor of International Family Equality Day, our sponsor for this event, MyFamilyBuilders is offering all attendees and members of One Million Kids For Equality an exclusive $10 discount off of all toy set purchases. Use promo code OMK at checkout. See the coupon below for more details.

My Family Builders

Businesses Are Joining The Fight Against North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law

Published in The Huffington Post.

Companies are taking a stand against North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law, which Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed on Wednesday.

House Bill 2, approved by the state’s General Assembly in a special session, prevents cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. The law came in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance recently passed in Charlotte, which allowed transgender people to use the bathroom designated for the gender with which they identify. Conservatives, including McCrory, vowed to take down the so-called bathroom bill, arguing the law would give predators license to enter women’s bathrooms. (As HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel reports, this rhetoric has doomed many equal rights initiatives.)

The resulting legislation is a wide-ranging measure that blocks local governments from passing laws protecting LGBT people, requires schools to designate single-sex bathrooms based on “biological sex” and preempts city policies involving wages, benefits and other workplace regulations.

Corporate leaders in the state have been swift to condemn the law, echoing the backlash that helped take down Indiana’s “religious freedom“ law last year.

Dow Chemical, which has several factories in the state, tweeted its opposition to the law. Biogen, a biotech company that employs more than 1,000 North Carolinians, also opposes HB 2. PayPal, which just announced a new 400-person office in Charlotte, offered a similar message.

The law also drew opposition from the NCAA, which had planned to host at least 20 high-profile games in the state in 2017 and 2018, including the immensely popular Division I men’s tournament. The association hinted that HB 2 could change its mind.

“We’ll continue to monitor current events, which include issues surrounding diversity, in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites,” the organization said in a statement. “Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values. It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events.”

American Airlines, which has a major hub in Charlotte, also condemned HB 2.

“We believe no individual should be discriminated against because of gender identity or sexual orientation,” American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody said. “Laws that allow such discrimination go against our fundamental belief of equality and are bad for the economies of the state in which they are enacted.”

The NBA, which has scheduled the league’s 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte, said its leaders “do not know” how the law will affect plans for the game.

Another big name going after the law is Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who fought Indiana’s anti-LGBT bill and is battling a similar bill in Georgia. Benioff told The Huffington Post he is lobbying Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Charlotte-based Bank of America, to speak out against the law. The bank, one of the largest employers in the state, has not specifically condemned the legislation, but did release a statement to the Charlotte Observer saying the company has “been steadfast in our commitment to non discrimination and in our support for LGBT employees through progressive workplace policies and practices.

Equality groups are also pressing Bank of America, along with BB&T and Burt’s Bees (a subsidiary of Clorox) to break their silence on the law.

“As three of the largest corporations in North Carolina, all of which proudly protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees through LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination policies, we believe these corporations have a moral obligation and responsibility to voice their opposition when state legislatures put the communities they serve in danger of discrimination,” said Brad Delaney of One Million Kids For Equality in a Wednesday statement.

Facebook, which has a data center in Forest City, said it was “disappointed” by the law. “As a company, Facebook is an open and vocal supporter of equality. We believe in ensuring the rights of LGBT individuals and oppose efforts that discriminate against people on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” a company spokesperson said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was among those from outside the business community to express disappointment.

On Thursday evening, demonstrators gathered outside the governor’s mansion on North Blount Street in downtown Raleigh. Several were arrested, according to posts to Twitter and Facebook.

LGBTQ Organizations Call on Big Business in North Carolina to Oppose Legislature’s Attempt to Repeal Charlotte LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections.

 

Charlotte, NC – A coalition of LGBTQ organizations led by Equality North Carolina, Campus Pride, and One Million Kids For Equality is calling on Bank of America, BB&T (Branch Bank & Trust), Burt’s Bees, and it’s parent company Clorox to oppose the North Carolina legislature’s attempt to repeal Charlotte’s recently passed city ordinance that aims to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination.

These new legal protections mean that as of April 1st businesses in Charlotte can’t discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender customers, in addition to long-standing protections based on race, age, religion and gender. The ordinance applies to places of public accommodation, such as bars, restaurants and stores. It also applies to taxis.

Immediately after passage of the new city ordinance many within the North Carolina legislature began advocating for statewide legislative action to block local governments from enacting their own nondiscrimination protections. When North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory and Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger announced that they would not convene a special session of the legislature to address new legislation, the legislature took it upon themselves to convene a special session. The special session started today at 10am.

“As three of the largest corporations in North Carolina, all of which proudly protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees through LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination policies, we believe these corporations have a moral obligation and responsibility to voice their opposition when state legislatures put the communities they serve in danger of discrimination” said Brad Delaney, President of One Million Kids For Equality

A copy of the letters to Bank of America, BB&T, and Burt’s Bees (Clorox) are available here:

https://onemillionkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NC-BofA-Letter.pdf

https://onemillionkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NC-BBT-Letter.pdf

https://onemillionkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NC-Clorox-Letter.pdf