Nathan, 18

 

Nathan was in the fourth grade when he remembers being bullied for the first time. A group of boys started making fun of the way he spoke and walked. They called him names and taunted him.

At home, Nathan was met with the same bullying. His father often yelled at him, calling him a "sissy" and demanding that he "man up."

The bullying and homophobia at home and in school worsened over the years.

By the time Nathan was in high school, he was failing academically, had poor self-esteem, anxiety, and was depressed. Often, Nathan remembers crying himself to sleep. He woke up one day with a plan to to end his life. Fortunately, he didn't follow through with his plan. Instead he decided to run away from home.

On the streets, Nathan found other homeless youth like him. For the first time he felt accepted. He also found out about the Ali Forney Center through one of our street outreach workers who connected him to our services.

When he arrived at our 24 Hour Drop In Center in Harlem he found himself surrounded by caring adults who affirmed his identity. Our staff reassured him there is nothing wrong with how he was born.

Nathan has been living with us for six months. He is doing better in school and is relieved to be among people who accept him. Recovering from years of abuse is a slow process, but he is on his way.

This holiday season, help us provide care for Nathan and the nearly 1,400 young people we see each year.