Editors' Note: "Stories from the Helpline" is a recurring feature on The Bilerico Project, bringing in the personal accounts of Helpline counselors from The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. This installment comes from Adam Guzman, a volunteer Helpline counselor from Los Angeles.
I have been working on The Trevor Project phone lines now for over 3 years. Suicide had touched me and my family twice before I started at Trevor and once since. My cousin, uncle and grandfather have all completed suicide.
Last month I took a call from a 17-year-old named Javier. Javier lived in a traditional Catholic, Latino home with both his parents and siblings. Javier was struggling with his sexuality and thought that he might be gay. He knew that he couldn't tell his family for fear of rejection. He knew he couldn't tell his friends and he was certainly trying to make it go away.
I could relate to Javier. I too grew up in a Latino household.
Javier was upset, scared, angry and thinking about suicide. He was not going to school, not working and felt like he needed to lie to himself and others about who he is. Javier tried to overcompensate by ignoring his mother and spending more time with his father. He tried wearing sports jerseys and making overt comments about girls. He finds girls attractive, but wants to be with men. He said he would rather die than have anyone know the truth.
Javier's voice was quivering and quiet. I could hear the shame and uncertainty. I remember just wanting to be like everyone else. I recall feeling like nothing was going to change and that I was stuck.
"Javier, it's not always going to be like this," I said. Suddenly, I could hear him virtually change his tone. He perked up and listened.
I told him, "It feels like this is the way it will always be, but it won't. It will change. You can work and go to school and move out soon. You can be who you want to be and who you are. It sucks for now, but it will get better."
Javier's voice and mood changed. He got it. He understood that things may not be the best for now, but they can get better. He left the line feeling hopeful.
My eyes got full of tears when I hung up. I wish that someone could have told me the same thing when I was 17, scared, in the closet and feeling stuck.