Dish readers send their support:
This young man just moved me to tears. In the big picture, I'm a very privileged, gay, white, 29-year-old guy living in the Midwest with a supportive mom and friends who have made my life as easy as I could've ever imagined it. But I do remember being there and being suicidal and thinking there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
It's easy to say "it gets better" or "just give it time" to someone like Mr. Smith, but I hope that he is able to find a reason to keep on moving forward. He's a talented, handsome, charming guy who seems to have a really bright future ahead of him, and I truly hope responses to your post can sustain him in his struggle.
There is a huge world out there, full of people just bursting with love for a young man like him, and I'd like to be one of those people who tells him that I'm thinking about him, wishing him well, and can't wait to see what a huge star he's going to become with his passion and his talent – and his way with words. No, correction: with everything he's gone through, he's already a star – and I'll be out here waiting for the rest of the world to figure it out, too.
In related matters, my light at the end of the tunnel came at Lilith Fair when I was a freshman in high school. I knew I was gay for as long as I could remember, had told no one, and went with my step-mom the all-woman music festival. I remember so vividly walking in and seeing a woman named Catie Curtis on one of the side stages before the main stage began. She was singing "Radical," and that moment changed my life forever. Seeing an out lesbian, proud of who she was and proud of those she loved showed me that there was a world bigger than I knew out there – that I could be happy.
I just "met" the guy from his letter on your blog, and I'm already proud of him. And I know I'm not the only one.
Indeed – another:
I read your post and just couldn't move on and read any more until I wrote to you (or him). I so wish I could tell him that I'll send him a plane ticket to come to my house, to live and be cared for. I wish I could tell him I relate to what he's going through and that he could talk to me. But, the truth is, I'm a 40-year-old white woman from Upstate NY, now living in liberal Durham (we love our 70% against the amendment!). My boyfriend and I have a 9-year-old daughter. He works hard, does okay money-wise. I have been laid off again, but hope to start a new job in a few weeks. We are unmarried, have a child, and I job-jump. Nobody blinks an eye. I have no idea what it would be like to be him.
What I do know, however, is that I am so sick of all this suffering. I am so tired of people losing hope because hope isn't visible to them anymore. Please tell him that I read his email and I heard him. Tell him that I don't want him to die. Tell him that I want him to live.
You just did. Another:
This young man in Alabama really touched my heart. He's struggling with what seems like so much rejection. But he's got to know that many, many, many, many more people in this world really are ready to care about him than reject him. I believe that with my whole heart. My son is also in his 20s, black and gay. So I believe it for my son's sake and I believe it for this young man's sake and I believe it for the sake of everybody who struggles with acceptance.
People who reject him are only expressing their own insecurities and fears about themselves that they don't want to recognize. To tell somebody that a suicide attempt is "just to get attention" means the person who said that can't deal with reality and so, through words, is trying to declare that what's reality is not real. His family is just not in a place to hear his truth right now. It's possible that some day they may be more able to. People can change.
But even if not, there's still a whole big world out there and a new generation that he's a part of that doesn't see gender issues in the same way that a lot of their parents and grandparents do. I don't mean to sugarcoat any of this, but, beyond being gay and beyond being black, he's just himself, just a unique human being made by God with special gifts and qualities to share with the world.
I just want to say: Go for it, Go for it! Believe that you can and will surround yourself with people who like you and respect you and love you for exactly who you are. They need you as much as you need them. At 20, you sure haven't met most of them yet! But you can and you will. Believe that your life really is about so much more than being gay or being black; it's about being YOU …
From an Alabamian:
I really feel for this man. If your reader hasn't given up on Alabama, he should seek out some of the thriving LBGT communities in the cities here: Birmingham has a significant gay community, and a district there has twice elected an openly-gay woman as a state representative. Mobile's LBGT community is also thriving, and you'll see rainbow flags hanging from many buildings in the city's charming downtown neighborhoods. I hate that your reader had to suffer, but he should know there are places in Alabama where he will find love and acceptance.