Ron took a lot of risks and made some major decisions to be at this conference, but I think he would tell you that it was all worth it. You see, up until two months ago, Ron was working as a psychiatrist, seeing patients. After some deep reflection and soul searching, he gave up his day job to pursue his passion: helping LGBTQ youth understand that they are beautiful and perfect just as they are. I'm so proud of him for following his dreams.
I couldn't think of anyone better to do this job. That's because Dr. Holt isn't just any psychiatrist. He understands what GLBTQ youth are experiencing because he is a proud, openly gay man who struggled with his own sexual orientation as a kid. Growing up, he was taught that being gay meant being weak and that the world didn't tolerate or have room for anything outside of heterosexualism. As a result, he struggled with anxiety, depression, social isolation and thoughts of suicide. He never had an LGBTQ role model in his life, and now he's working to be a role model to any young person struggling with his or her sexual orientation or gender identity who might need one.
To achieve this goal, Ron combined his personal story with his expertise as a mental health professional into two books. The first demonstrates that it is okay to be part of the LGBTQ community and shows what happens when people try to or are forced to suppress who they really are, and the second is a companion coloring book full of positive affirmation of self love and self acceptance.
You might be wondering how I know Dr. Holt and that's where this story -- at least I think -- gets really cool. Dr. Holt and I went to the same small college in Nebraska called Wayne State. Each year, as part of his mission to help LGBTQ youth, Ron comes back to the college to speak. A few years before I met Ron, my best friend came out as lesbian. As crazy as it may sound, her coming out was actually a defining moment in my own life as well. I saw the struggles Molly faced as a queer teen in Nebraska and felt compelled to help in whatever small way I could. So when I heard Ron speak, his words hit me on a very deep, personal level. We had an instant connection and never lost contact.
Ten years later, Ron asked if I could assist him at this conference and I jumped at the opportunity. But it gets even better. He and I were not the only graduates from our college to attend! Ron also enlisted the help of two other alumni, Max and Eric. Max graduated from WSC in 2012 and now leads a LGBTQ center at a community college in Minnesota, and Eric lives right here in D.C.! Being able to connect with other WSC alumni who I hadn't previously met was awesome! Being able to share with them this incredibly important experience is something I will never forget.
I know from everything I see around me that being an LGBTQ youth in America is not easy. But I am confident that, because of organizations like HRC and people like my friend Dr. Ron Holt, it will get better.