By: Madelyn Gelpi
“You are loved, you are beautiful, you are not alone.” –These words have echoed through the darkness of my most difficult moments. In them, I have found solace, hope, courage, and direction. These ideas, while seemingly simple, are some of the most profound pieces of wisdom and comfort we can offer others (and ourselves) throughout our lives.
As an LGBTQ person growing up in Louisiana, I struggled to love myself, let alone accept myself. Because of the lack of acceptance and support in my community, I saw my sexual orientation and gender identity as irreversible flaws that made me unlovable, diseased, and immoral. Even now I find it difficult to articulate the depth of the depression I faced during this period of my life.
When I found accepting friends, family, and communities like The Trevor Project, I came to discover that when I looked inside of myself, expecting to find something wrong, I actually found a person who is incredibly beautiful and unique. I was able to find that “thing,” whether it was my sexual orientation, gender identity, or something else, that made me special, absolutely fabulous, and intricately human.
Through the YAC, I’ve met other LGBTQ people across the country who have overcome similar struggles to accept and love themselves, and now work to raise awareness and educate communities across the country about the issues LGBTQ youth face everyday. By coming to know so many LGBTQ people who used their own difficult experiences to help others, I discovered that the most powerful force in combating homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination as a whole is echoing, voicing, and reinforcing the feeling that can move the world: love.
The Trevor Project YAC helped me understand that one of the best ways to put this into action was to work towards the betterment of mental health. The knowledge and perspective I gained on the Trevor Project YAC has lead me to my career as a Mental Health Counselor in San Francisco, and will continue to guide me as I attend graduate school next year to obtain a dual masters degree in Public Policy and Social Welfare at UCLA.
The guiding principles I’ve learned as a Trevor Project YAC member are now the values I try to instill in others I encounter everyday, in my job, in my friendships, in my family, in every person I meet: You are loved. You are beautiful. And, you are most certainly not alone. Shine on, friends, in whatever way you shine. I can see your light.