As I began a journey of recovery from addiction to crystal methamphetamine, I needed to understand why I had experienced the pain which contributed to my addiction. I began to understand that a large part of my pain stemmed from hiding my sexual orientation. Due to the dominant conservative political and religious traditions in the South I did not feel I would be accepted living publicly as a gay man.
The lies associated with hiding my sexual orientation ate away at my spirit and I found myself very unhappy. Without realizing what I was doing I began looking for ways to feel more accepted. This led to a second hidden life, one consumed with the self-destructive behaviors associated with addiction.
There is a saying, “The closet kills.” I believe many members of our community kill themselves through addiction because of the pain they feel from not being free to be themselves. Segments of the gay community are deeply entrenched in this lifestyle. I was fortunate to survive this period in my life while many do not. Many lives are lost because people do not feel free to be themselves.
The addiction and self-destruction I experienced were very selfish behaviors. I decided to stop focusing on myself and to create opportunities for others that will help them avoid the pain and terrible choices I experienced.
With the support of friends I began a non-profit organization to serve the GLBT community in Alabama. When I began GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc. there were almost no services available to our community in this region. I am happy to say that because of this agency there are now a number of support groups and other activities.
GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services strives to provide support services and raise awareness about issues specific to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. This mission is accomplished through the administration of peer support groups, use of social media, and by cultivating a united voice on issues such as bullying, AIDS/HIV infection, drug abuse, suicide, homelessness, and the sexual exploitation of youth.
I have seen hope given and I have witnessed it being taken away. We share a message of love and acceptance with a community that fears rejection, violence, and oppression if their sexual orientation or gender identity is known publicly. We strive to give hope where it has been lost.
– James Robinson, Free2Be Founder & Executive Director
*Originally published online at The New Civil Rights Movement