August 1, 2017

Words by Michael Riggins

Growing up as a young gay male in the inner city of D.C., being gay was like a disease no one wanted to catch. It was just that looked down upon. Being the only “OUT” gay kid in school constantly caused you to be teased or even threatened. Having more females friends than males friends seemed to be the norm because you could relate to the femininity whereas you couldn’t with the guys and their sports. Often, with no one to talk to or even help you through whatever it was that you may be going through, you acted out however you felt. I say all this to say I didn’t have any organizations (that I knew of) for gays and lesbians. Safe Space NOVA is a great asset to the community because it gives us a voice, place, home, outlet, and freedom to be ourselves in spite of. In today’s time, Safe Space and other organizations are very much needed especially with this younger generation who seemed to be so lost in life because of the lack of leadership around them.

Targeting the younger generation is where it should begin because it starts with them. They’re at that age of being easily influenced and doing whatever they see fit because like I stated before, it’s due to the lack of leadership around them. This younger generation doesn’t have the love, emotions, or even the role models to show them the dos and don’ts of life so they’re living recklessly. We must help our youth because they’re our future.

Growing up and even today as an adult, I’m faced with roadblocks throughout my life. In any situation I can easily be judged or overlooked because I’m a young black gay man. Working just as hard as the next and knowing who I am, whose I am and my rights. I overcome those obstacles that I may be faced with. Safe Space could teach you how to carry yourself in certain situations and help build that inner confidence within everyone.

I myself have dealt with depression. I still get anxiety if I have to be within a large group or even speak to a large group but I push through and remember that what I’m doing may inspire and help someone, so it’s bigger than me. Suicide was also another thought and action I had while growing up. Just not being where I should be in life, not feeling like my voice, talent, or presence was felt or heard, I slipped into that, “I should just die what’s the point of my life?” Yet again, another selfish thought. I took a handful of sleeping pills thinking that was going to be my easy way out but it didn’t work, it just made me throw it back up. I then realized that it wasn’t my time and the change and opportunity starts with me and the actions I take to get them. So I started doing more to help me get to where I want to be in life.

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