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“They kept pointing & shaking their fingers at me ...” A lesson about acceptance & hope.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting about 40 remarkable young ladies. These teenage girls are living in a locked, secure environment because they are in need of intensive residential treatment services because of behavior issues and/or substance abuse.

Many of them have likely been rejected and written off by their families and society. I was asked to speak to them about my life because I am gay and Christian. The staff at this facility in Alabama wanted to make sure these young ladies heard a message of acceptance and hope. They wanted for them to know there are Christian churches where they will be accepted if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender … what happened was MUCH more than this …

The staff at the facility was probably not aware of the many other things I have in common with these young ladies including a history of arrest and drug abuse. They knew I would talk about my life as a gay activist, advocate, & Christian. I was prepared to talk about these facts and I also knew I would share about some of my personal struggles and my personal journey of survival. I knew I would tell these often neglected and sometimes unwanted young ladies that they are SPECIAL and about the amazing opportunities awaiting them when they are able to find hope and self-forgiveness.

The afternoon I spent with these beautiful teenage girls … these girls who have been arrested, kicked out of schools & homes, these girls who have been victims of abuse and other forms of violence, these girls some of whom are already mothers, these girls some of whom have already experienced years of substance abuse, these girls who are learning to love themselves and often survive alone … this afternoon was one of the MOST AMAZING afternoons of my life!

One shared her struggle with being addicted to the needle and the ‘process’ of shooting up drugs … I shared my scars left by dull needles ...

One shared that she has herpes and stays with the father of her child because she doesn’t want to tell anyone else because she fears being rejected … I shared about my history with mental illness and that I am a person living with HIV ...

One talked with me about the dark pit inside that she tries to fill with drugs … the need to love and be loved … I shared about my own need to love and be loved and about my experience being caught in a cycle of abuse ...

Others shared that they are gay … and talked about their struggles being accepted by loved ones … I shared that I am gay and that I was killing myself living in the closet because I feared not being accepted ...

I was asked about religion, my history of drug abuse, and relationships. I was asked about over-coming addictions to pills. I was asked about acceptance … we talked about self-acceptance, forgiving ourselves, loving ourselves, we talked about hope and survival.

I was told OVER & OVER “We support you!” …after I left the last group a Counselor told me, “I should have told you before you started that all the pointing and waving fingers at you means, WE SUPPORT YOU!” I have never felt more accepted and appreciated by any group. I hope and pray that each of these young ladies knows that I accept and appreciate them …that they are special … that they can overcome their struggles … that they too can be a survivor and be happier than they’ve ever imagined.

Together we are doing great things!!!

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