It’s that time of year again when the world seems festive, happy and gay. But for LGBT and questioning teens, the holidays can also be hell.
The Trevor Project – the nation’s only 24/7 free, confidential suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ teens (866-4-U-TREVOR) – recently held their 10th annual Cracked Xmas event in Los Angeles honoring Ellen DeGeneres and Clear Channel Radio Los Angeles – raising more than $463,000 to keep the non-profit going.
Jodie Foster was among the celebrities who participated in the powerful, funny and moving event, and both she and Ellen conveyed powerful messages of compassion and hope for LGBTQ teens.
Jodie presented The Trevor Founders Award to screenwriter James Lecesne and director Peggy Rajski and producer Randy Stone, Jodie’s best friend who died unexpectedly last February.
In the early 90s, the three filmmakers created the short film “Trevor” about a teenager who attempts suicide after realizing that he might be gay. The film received an Academy Award in 1994. When it was set to air on HBO in 1998, the filmmakers asked Ellen DeGeneres to provide an introduction.
They also realized the film might evoke a strong reaction among young viewers and quickly created The Trevor Helpline to provide assistance and referrals. Today The Trevor Project website also provides survival guides and ‘tool kits” for youth, parents, and other adults.
On the red carpet before the show, I asked Jodie Foster if she had ever been so depressed, she was suicidal.
“Well, I think in life that’s probably a question that’s important and personal enough to want to keep to oneself….But certainly everybody can understand and empathize with people going through adolescence. I don’t know anyone whose adolescence was easy. I think I would rather stick my eyes with pins than be fourteen again. Fourteen’s hard, I think. Thirteen-fourteen – even twelve is hard. In all the things that I’ve done that require strength and bravery and courage, I don’t think I have the bravery to go back and be twelve ever again.
I asked: What would you tell kids who are going through a tough time – especially during the holidays?
Well, you’d love to be able to say, ‘Have some perspective. It’ll all be fine and this too shall pass.’ I honestly think that’s not helpful. I think the most important thing is to listen. And that’s really what The Trevor Project does and I think what’s so extraordinary about it is it’s really hand-to-hand. One person touching one person.
T. R. Knight, star of “Grey’s Anatomy,” presented Ellen DeGeneres with the Trevor Life Award.
“Her brave decision was an historic decision. She risked everything and she taught us what true courage is. And I don’t think the ramifications would have been what they were – or what they are- without her extraordinary heart. She continues to teach me everyday how truth is one of the most beautiful things imaginable."
Ellen said she asked TR Knight to present her with the award.
“Thank God we have him now....And the gayer he gets, the cuter he gets.
I honestly say no to these things all the time because I’m so awkward at this – this is not something I’m good at. And you think that I would be – you talk to people all the time and you do specials. But this is a totally different thing. And I’m not comfortable doing it. And I have no idea what I’m going to say.
But really, it’s the volunteers that should be getting this. To Peggy and James and Randy Stone – and everyone who put this entire thing together – Peggy showed me the movie and you know – as I watched it, I was in tears. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had seen. And newly out, I was opened up to a world of, ‘Oh, my God. There are people that are struggling out there.’
You know I was able to have an amazing life and an amazing career. And I didn’t know that world – I was kept from it. And once you’re exposed to it, I don’t know how you do anything other than what we’re all doing – because we have to. Because they need voices.
I had a great upbringing, you know. I wasn’t struggling that much. I was definitely different – but I didn’t have that kind of situation where I needed a hotline like that. I had parents who loved me and I still felt different.
What I don’t understand – what I never will understand – his how different is bad. Or different is wrong. I don’t know why different is wrong. I mean – there is nothing that’s the same in nature. There’s not one tree, there’s not one kind of bird, there’s not one kind of anything.
Why are people supposed to be the same? We’re not. And I felt that need. I wanted someone to ‘get’ me. And I didn’t even know what that meant. I didn’t even know for sure that I was gay – and I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to be understood. So I went into show business! I thought, ‘This is a good idea.’
And it took me a long time because I was trying to figure out who I was and what I was supposed to look like and what I was supposed to be and what niche I fell into. It took me a long time to finally trust that who I was, exactly who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to change. I wasn’t supposed to pretend – and the people that didn’t like me and the people that were mean and judgmental – that defined them, not me.
I’m an adult and I had a lot of time to figure this all out and finally get comfortable in my own skin. And it’s really hard to say to a kid – Be proud of who you are. Be confident with who you are – when television and movies are filled with jokes about homosexuality. If ‘gay’ is a punch line – people with laugh at it. It’s the last accepted form of discrimination and bigotry.
There’s all kinds of different humor – it’s subjective and I’m not going to define what a joke is. But a joke to me is not funny when parents kick their children out of their homes and onto the street. The joke isn’t funny to me…
If there’s a message I can send to kids out there struggling – to anybody struggling – when you get through it, when you’re in that dark, dark place – when you’re devastated – when you get through it – those are some of the most beautiful, some of the important lessons you’ll ever learn in life. You should recognize that when you’re faced with a struggle – faced with any challenge – it’s an opportunity to grow and to learn compassion. And people who aren’t faced with the kind of adversity that you’re faced with – will never understand that compassion. That’s the most important quality I’ve ever learned.
I guess I’m standing here because I did something and what I did was I followed my truth and I lost my sit com. That’s what I did. And if you just hold on – you’ll never know. It just takes some time but I hope I am an example that truth is not only the right choice – it’s the only choice.
And I say thank you so much to everybody. I love you guys.