Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lifeline


"It is in your weakest moments that you find your true strength" - Unknown

O.K....I'm sitting here staring at this screen trying to figure out how to put these words on the page and I am coming to the realization that I will think in circles forever and not get any closer to what I need to say....so I am going to just lay it out there and let the pieces fall were they may...

Today many people are fretting about the end of the world because of the predictions of Harold Camping. But last night we had an all to real reminder that sometimes the world does end for some of us because the world simply will not allow us to be. Last night a young man who watches our family on YouTube..and who we have been communicating with from time to time, contacted us because he was going to commit suicide. A family member had noticed that he was friends with us online and was asking questions. He was fearful that his family would find out...he was fearful that everyone in his town would find out and that his life would be in danger. So...he decided that ending everything on his own terms was a better option...so he took twenty of the first prescription meds he could lay his hands on. He contacted me right after he had taken the pills to say he was sorry and between Jay and myself, we talked for a very long time. In the end, I am very...very thankful to say that he did not die, though I know that is not the end of this young mans problems. There is still much for him to deal with.

All of this came about because of his friendship and communication with us through Facebook. This has my husband and I to wonder, if...in our desire to help others feel not so alone...we are actually placing them at a higher risk of danger through discovery. We feel this way because this scenario has played out before in slightly different ways...
We very often get emails and sometimes actual letters from young men and women who have come to accept that they are gay and can't speak to anyone about it because of their family, their community, or their cultures condemnation of it. They hail from all over the U.S....sometimes from Muslim countries...sometimes from Asian ones...but no matter where they are from the stories are always remarkable similar. They have figured out that they are gay and can't talk to anyone about it. Sometimes they are on that verge of suicide either because of shame...or sheer loneliness, fear, and desperation. Often times we answer an email with an email and pray that they read it...it helps in some way. You hope fervently that it is a safe communication that does not out them to a family member. And sometimes that's all you get...your email fires off into the electronic universe and you never hear back from that person again leaving you to wonder were their journey will take them. However...a few continue to talk to us and we make ourselves available for anyone that needs it.

Most recently it was a 16 year old young man from the south who was getting very brave with his YouTube videos. After years of not being able to talk to anyone about being gay he had found an outlet and was getting progressively braver and more able to accept himself. He also had moments in which his isolation and family life had brought him to the edge of suicide and we talked to him back and forth for some time. Eventually his parents discovered the text conversation on his cell phone and confronted him about it. he then spilled the beans about his YouTube videos..which were nothing more then him walking around his yard talking about his feelings. His parents were not happy...and nor would I be to discover my child was having a secret life on the Internet. However, This young mans parents were not accepting of gay people before and now that they knew everything one of his parents took every opportunity to express how disgusted they were with him and how ashamed he aught to feel about himself...not what he did...himself. It was another very dark time for this one as he lost all connections the outside world and found himself wanting to commit suicide again. Fortunately, he did not.


But now we have a pattern and it is prompting myself and my husband to ask if...by keeping a dialog with people who live in areas or life situations in which harm could come to them just for associating with us...if we are in fact putting them in greater danger. I can not imagine not talking to someone who has no other gay person to talk to..no one to ask tough questions to. I remember what it felt like to not be able to live what I felt inside or talk about it to anyone. Not every person we talk to is on the edge of suicide but they almost always are contacting us at personal risk to themselves. For the young man last night, it was merely being friends with us on Facebook....he lives in a Muslim country...so supporting anything gay, for any reason, ever, is an invitation to outing and possible violence. For the young man in the southern U.S. it was a text conversation. It was nothing we would be concerned to have found...but for him it led to premature outing and hell at home that has not gone away for him.

When you have a written conversation of any kind, it's going to leave a trail. Letters and text conversations can be found. Emails and browsing histories can be retrieved. Friends lists are open to anyone who has the patients to go through them. having these conversations with people will always involve some risk of discovery for them....and in some cases it can be disastrous. So...what do you think dear readers. Is it worth the risk of discovery to keep a lifeline open with a gay man living in a Muslim country or a teen living in the U.S. living in a home that is hostile to him. Is it doing more harm to them than good? From where I am sitting right now it is hard to tell.

I do not regret any of the things that were said to them..we meant them with all our heart, but it would kill us to know that when we thought we were helping, we were actually increasing their risk. We can not control what those who discover their truth will do with that knowledge and perhaps it would be wiser for us to help them take more precautions at the same time we are counciling them not to be ashamed of being gay. but neither my husband, nor myself can stand their while someone reaches out for help. We know too much what that feels like to let them fall back into the darkness.

Our friend from last night kept apologizing for not being strong enough. It broke my heart. here was a young man for whom discovery of his sexuality could equal death, apologizing to me for not being strong enough. Man, just admitting to yourself that you are gay and reaching out to others when you know the risk is so high is a courage I can't even fathom. It amazes me. Just facing every new day is an act of courage and I let him know as much. It's not about being strong...it's just about living every day one at a time until you can get to a better place. but would he have been in that place were it not for our contact with him. Would he still be curious and alone but alive and safe?....I wonder.

17 comments:

  1. Chase WorthingtonMay 21, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Hi Guys,

    I just wanted to say. If it were me, I grew up in a rural area, I was alone, I was suicidal. I was terrified of what would happen if my parents found out. I would have been grateful for having someone like you to talk to. Even if things went bad, even if my parents found out. Even if eventually it became too much for me to deal with.

    You are doing a hard thing, being a supportive helping hand. It can have unintended consequences. But I honestly think the price of not doing anything is even higher.

    Know this, you have made peoples lives better. By being who you are, by being emotionally available and providing guidance. By being strong, honest, and loving. It's a hard path to follow.

    Please also know that you're also not alone. That there are people like my husband and I who are more than willing to lend an ear when things get hard.

    I have so much respect and love for you guys,

    Chase

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  2. I do agree with Chase. The most you can do is act in the best interests of the person, providing advice, guidance and support. It comes from a pure place, unintended consequences are not your responsibility. And you cannot carry guilt should something happen.

    Which begs the question would you have felt some sort of responsibility or guilt had he committed suicide? It's not just about how you affect those you talk to but how they affect you.

    Life can be messy but I do believe what you put out there, with good intentions, comes back to you with good intentions.

    This may be the turning point for this young man's life to turn into something great. His journey is just beginning and it's too soon to know the cause and effect.

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  3. Do not despair. You only work to bring light to dark lives. If people are brave enough to contact you, they would contact someone else also. Any accidental outing would be in the works any way. I'm sure your supportive responses mean the world to people in those situations. Again, you guys are Angels on Earth. :)

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  4. We can only do and and control what is in our grasp. Another life and situation is not our to control. At best we can advise and support.

    It is very difficult to be on both ends of the situations you have described. All we can hope to achieve is to be a source of strength and safety for those who come into our lives. Maybe we can make things easier.

    It is never wrong to help another. If more people did we would have more rainbows in this world. But sometimes help has a cost, heartache.

    It is a two way street. We can hurt trying to guide and reassure and they can hurt struggling to find strength and direction. Progress comes from struggle. Thats is why rainbows tend to appear after storms.

    Just love and be a lighthouse in the storm of others lives. We can only control the beacon of our lives and show other how to shine.

    You and Jay do good things. Know that and find strength in that. Just love its the best thing anyone can do. :)

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  5. Bryan
    People make their own choices.....people way up the pros & cons then make their decisions .... sometimes it may not work out the way they hoped... but we learn..... I believe you & Jay made the decision because you wanted to help people and you are helping people slowly .... what you are both doing comes from a good place in your hearts ....you have to believe that everything works outs in the long run...I firmly believe in KARMA....
    Bella

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  6. Hi guys...I just wanted to say I too have been in your shoes when it comes to reaching out to the young about their sexual identity..I'd just like to say you have to try, find a way to keep on reaching out.. there are dangers for them as well as for you guys..I think you need to understand the legal dangers you might face and that scares me.. yes I got the worry gene.. I'd just like to make a suggestion it may be wise to assemble a list of things the guys who contact you should do to safe guard themselves from prying eyes..one of the things is to encrypt their files..delete their histories etc.. it's not about being free & out there it's about being safe..as you both know violence against gay people is worldwide.. even in some families it isn't safe.. The "It Gets Better" project should be required watching for them.. the vast majority of gay people have seriously thought of or attempted suicide more than once... I know it's tough worrying about the people that contact you for support but what if you hadn't and he does commit suicide that would be worse.. like in the medical and teaching professions you just have to save who you can and move on...oh no now look what ya did.. I'm starting to worry about you guys... hugs and kisses to you guys

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  7. Bryan,

    I have been a facebook friend, blog reader and subscriber to your youtube channel for a very long time. I don'tknow what it is like to be the teenager in a Muslim country but I do know what it is like to be a gay teen in the U.S. its hard and cruel. Sometimes and I am going to quote you, "life may kick you in the teeth" but we regain our strength and recover.

    I contemplated suicide and came very close to ending my own life several times, but yours and Jay's strength, love and courage saved me. Depfox is more than a channel for people to see what "gay family values" are. To me Depfox remains an outlet and a sense of security knowing that there are two amazing men teaching me that there is a positive side. Without Depfox there would not have been a positive side, I wouldn't have the relationship I do with my mother and there wouldn't have been a tomorrow for me.

    Sigmund Freud said "love and work are the cornerstones to our humaness", both you and Jay love helping the lost youth and you have no idea how much we appreciate it. I don't feel that any humans life expendable but, I know that you are doing more good than harm. I really don't know what could have happened without Depfox as my lifeline. So again thank you, I know this is a hard decision but in the end I hope you continue to provide that outlet that so many lost youth need. Those five minutes when we see your videos allow us the freedom to dream "that could be me one day".

    James C.

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  8. particularly to this generation, there's some many great resources to be had! though the most important is human connection and trust.

    It was hard for me, I reached out to the right people, loving and open arms that gave me wisdom and courage. and yes I got rejected, yes by family, and yes I felt so horrible I wished I were dead.
    However a dear friend was wise enough to say just one sentence that changed my outlook and my situation: "It gets better."

    And the hope I received from those three small words is how I'm writing this message right now.

    There is someone who is there for you.
    There are open arms waiting for you.
    There is a mouth to advise you.
    There is a shoulder to cry on.

    It gets better!

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  9. I think that you guys are very pure in your dissiers to help and provide guidance, advice and a light to those struggling threw the darkness trying so desperately to find a light. I also think that if they are reaching out to you, then they know their is risk, and if they could find someone else they would reach out to them.

    Unfortunately in this world we can not control the outcomes of every thing and in any situation there is the possibility that things can turn out badly. How ever I think the likely hood of that out come would be even higher without our guidance.

    I know that this is a hard one, but I still think that having some one their with a light a ray of hope and an open ear and hart to listen to you especially when you are in such a dark place is something more powerful then can be put into worlds. I say this knowing very well what it is like to live the kind of darkness that makes one suicidal, as some one that has been in that place more times then I care to remember or admit at times, it can easily be that one person, that one contact that provides enough reason enough strength to fight, and to not take those pills and over dose, or not cut those writs, or drive that car right of the road into the water etc.

    I truly think that you guys are two of the greatest people I know for not only providing such a beacon that draws others to you, but for sharing your selves and that light with them in their hours of need. You guys are truly heroes in my book, and I don't know that I can put into words how much off a different you have even made in my life. So please if you ever need anything I am here for you guys.

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  10. I appreciate how you feel about this Bryan and I completely understand your dilemma but I agree with your other readers, you are doing the right thing. It is better that young teens get to see a real positive gay family and know that it will get better, than to search on their own (which they will) and be disappointed with the results. You are not putting anyone on danger. In fact, I believe you are helping people get out of danger.

    Please keep begin the light these teens and even adults use to take them to safety.

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  11. I think you guys are providing something so many of us need: support. I know as a teenager, I was suicidial. I was lucky enough to have a few high school friends to talk to who loved me and accepted me as I am. Had I not had that, my cutting and three attepmts on my life would have me in a different place now..... Their courage to contact you is what will drive them on to find the equality or place they need to be to grow as themselves. You being there might show them that they can have happiness even with the risks. We may have less risk here in the United States, but we all still have risks. Please keep doing what you are doing. I needed you and found you. Think of all those who need your story and strength. Thank you!

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  12. Wow everyone...I just need to say that your message was recieved loud and clear. A few even made me cry..but then I'm a big softy so thats really no suprise to anyone.

    We didn't know what this would become we made our first video years ago. We had just hoped to affect marriage equality here in California...it has become so much more. We are going forward with no roadmap and that means its easy to question whether you are going the right way. I think the biggest message I took from all your comments is that the destination is not as important as the journey because we meet so many people along the way who are stumbling along lifes paths the same as us.

    Thank you for your love and support. It means alot to us too. :)

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  13. I would continue talking to these kids because personally I'm glad there is someone I can talk to if I need guidance. I'd just let them know the risks of being friends on facebook and messaging. For me on facebook if my parents ask why the hell am I friends with some 40 yr. old gay person, id just say something like they are my farmville friends. As for messaging ,its not so easy to distract from what ur really talking about but chances are if that boy's parents didnt think he was gay in the first place, they would not have much reason to look for deleted messages seeing how that is not something alwyas easy to do. I'd just encourage them to delete those messages and be cautious especially if they are not ready to come out and or know the consequences that could arise from coming out. As great as it would be for all people to be able to come out when they are ready it is important for those people to understand whether or not the people they are coming out to whether or not by choice are also ready. Some people like parents may never be ready and the best option is to wait until one is in a position where if they are kicked out or beat or whatever it is that they have somewhere they can go. There would have been no way to know that, that kids parents would find those messages but it just needs to be understood that there is a alway a chance someone could find out if one is not careful and even if they are. I personally never had thoughts of suicide, but I definitely know the frustation of having questions or just needing someone to talk to who understand me and not having someone to turn to. By chance I found your videos and was glad ever since because I know if there is a problem there are multiple ways I can contact you guys which is very comforting, and every time I do talk to you guys or watch your videos, read your blogs there is always the risk of someone knowing, seeing a pic of two guys kissing in the background, but its a risk I am fully aware of, and if by some chance someone does find out, i may not be ready, but im in the position to where I have somewhere I can go if necessary. So in short i'd never stop communicating to these people because your help is incredible and comforting, it'll just take a bit of extra work to prevent people from knowing. Hell I made a whole other youtube account just so I could watch and comment on your videos without people recognizing me. Chances are people woulnd't, but its a good precautionary just in case. bit of extra work with two accounts, but worth it.

    Thanx Dakota
    * an 18 yr. old who benefits from your words of encouragement even if they put me at risk of prematurely coming out

    p.s. as a precautionary I gave you my first name only and posted as anonymous, and chances are anyone else who would recognize me here is gay themselves, but you never know.

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  14. Hi Bryan,

    What you do on Youtube for the LGBT community as a whole is amazing, and going that extra mile and helping individuals is award worthy. I'm sure that sometimes these situations do arise, but in most occasions you are doing the best thing you could ever do for someone - being a supportive ear.

    I will say one thing regarding the facebook friend situation. I am now 'out' to most of my friends, and my parents, but not everyone knows. In most cases i feel comfortable telling people, but of course in my own terms - it just annoys me SO much when people ask me. Anyway, I digress ...

    When listening to your Youtube videos it was pretty much anonyomus to me as i never became friends with any 'real' friends on Youtube. However when i added you to facebook i must admit i thought twice about doing so because of the name of your page. After a year of friendship no one has asked any questions, there are still many people on facebook who don't know, but I guess for anyone who is friends with you on facebook it is a risk.

    The main thing of course is that being friends with GayFamilyValues on facebook is a choice of the person adding you. But seeing your videos and wanting to keep up-to-date with your amazing work, some people may choose to add you and take, what to them, may be a risk.

    For me, I could either come clean and tell them why i'm friends with you on facebook, or just say 'I support what they do,' but like you mentioned, for Muslim countries even this may be a risk to them.

    I don't want to offend, upset, or make you question your facebook name, but I wanted to put this view to you.

    Again, I support everything you do, Your amazing!
    Chris

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  15. Hello Bryan:

    I have no idea how to express my feelings to you guys. I know that you feel responsable for the safety of this to young guys, maybe you think that if you didn't exist, if you didn't email them this would have been different. But what about if it is the other way around? What if the silence, and the lonelyness of this two would take them to a darker end? What if you two ARE the thing that change their fates to a better end?

    I think that your very presence on their life give them(us) hope, light, corage. You guys show a lot of us that things can be better, that we DO have a future, that we CAN have lives, husbands, wifes, children.

    You do an amazing job showing us your life and I belive that you have save a lot of us, just by doing that. Don't ever think that trying to help people is wrong!

    Arcadio

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  16. The world is a depressing and lonely place. Sometimes people just aren't fit enough to survive in it. Maybe it is best that they end it on their own terms than continue suffering.

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