Initially I remember jumping up and down when I finally knew who I was. Then it dawned on me that it would go against everything I have been told, everything I’ve known. Then I thought, “What would mom say?” I felt immediate denial. I begged myself to reconsider. To simply check again. That could never be me.

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There was a constant struggle between my mind and my heart. I felt desolate, like in that passage of the Bible: Tossed by every wave of the sea, without purpose or direction. Then Affirmation appeared in my life.

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Jorge Valencia, former President of The Trevor Project (the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization) and current Executive Director and CEO of the Point Foundation (LGBTQ scholarship program), shares from his two decades of experience serving LGBTQ young people, how to support and empower them to living strong and meaningful lives.

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I put on a happy face during my teenage years. Not even my family knew how much I was hurting. So please understand that your/our children are listening. Negative comments about LGBTQ people or negative comments about gay marriage will hurt. The wounds can run deep and are long lasting.

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My son Jonathan told us he was gay about ten years ago. I didn’t react well. I tried to convince him he could be straight. I tried to convince him that even if he was “a little gay” that he could marry a woman. I couldn’t believe that “this” happened in my family. The first time my son brought home another young man and introduced him as his boyfriend, I nearly became sick to my stomach and I treated them both like lepers and didn’t want them to come into the house. Affirmation healed my relationship with my son. He knows now that my former homophobia is totally gone and that I love him unconditionally.

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When I became an Eagle Scout four years ago, nobody knew I was gay — I was still in the process of accepting it myself. If I had told anyone, I would not have been given the award, despite a decade of involvement with scouting, countless hours with dozens of volunteers installing a garden at my elementary school and more than a hundred nights camping in the California wilderness.

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The repetition of the word, “struggling,” may send a message of weakness of self, testimony, self-image, etc; having difficulty in resisting the “temptation” of an LGBT sexual orientation; a second-class status or sense of patronizing; or other such negative images. Based on direction and guidance by the Spirit, this may be an opportunity to explain that LGBT’s really do struggle. But the struggle is not with “same-gender attraction,” sexual orientation, being gay/lesbian, or such. Rather, the struggle is with living in fear of being found out, not because of who s/he is, but who others are; with not feeling loved and accepted by other members without any judgment. with those who let ignorance be their Liahona; and with the fear of being rejected by family or ward, whether figuratively or literally. That is the real struggle so many LGBT members face.

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