As young people become more aware of a gay or lesbian orientation at a younger age they face greater problems and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. The youths who are at the greatest risk for suicide are the ones who are least likely to ‘come out of the closet’. Suicide may be a way of making sure that no one ever knows. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “Report on the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide” found that “A majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. They may comprise up to 30 percent of (the estimated 5,000) completed youth suicides.” The report went on to say that almost all gay and lesbian suicides occur between the ages of 16 and 21.
According to Dr. James C. Scott, a Barry University clinical psychologist, research consistently shows that GLBT boys and girls are the highest at risk youth population for committing suicide. But he insists there is hope. “The key to the prevention of this tragedy is education. These kids need to know that they are not alone, their situation is note hopeless, and that although they may be “queer”, they are not abnormal,” said Dr. Scott. “They need to know that their pain will ease and happiness is possible,” he continued.
Geo Bustamante knows that pain well. Last year the 20 year old Bustamante came out to his parents, which resulted in immediate estrangement. It’s been more than eight months since that painful day when he told his parents he was gay, but Bustamante is stronger and he’s more determined than ever to live a fulfilling and happy life. Geo, a budding writer and photographer, has become a familiar face in the south Florida gay social scene. He writes GenNow, a column that addresses gay youth issues, for GaySOFLA Magazine, an online media venture that he recently helped launch. Geo also serves as the magazine’s primary photographer.
But the young Latino with a quick smile concedes that his teen years would have been much easier if there had been someone he could have confided in, a trusted individual that he could have shared his ‘secret’ with. In researching one of his recent columns on gay youth suicides, Geo discovered an organization called The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock suicide prevention helpline (866-4UTREVOR) for gay and questioning youth. “If I had known about The Trevor Helpline when I was a teen, I would have definitely called the number,” Geo said. “But at least I can support them now so that they might have the opportunity to help someone else,” he added.
Bustamante is passionate about helping other gay young people who might be going through what he went through. In less than a month he will celebrate his 21st birthday and plans on using the occasion to raise awareness about gay youth suicide...and hopefully some much needed funds. Geo will celebrate his entry into ‘legal drinking age’ on Thursday, August 23, beginning at 11 PM, with a birthday bash benefit at downtown Miami’s Discotekka nightclub. “Discotekka is pleased to be the host venue for Geo’s Birthday Benefit for The Trevor Project,” said club owner Joe Marcella. “When we heard that Geo wanted to raise funds for The Trevor Helpline, we immediately agreed to have the event at our location. It’s about saving kids’ and we are glad to do our part,” added Marcella.
While Discotekka is donating a portion of the door proceeds to The Trevor Project and tickets are available for advance purchase for a VIP Meet & Greet party with Geo and Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora, other businesses have joined in to help. Make it Happen Luxury Car Rentals is providing transportation to the event for Geo and his closest friends and numerous local businesses are donating items for a raffle to be held at the benefit. One hundred percent of all VIP party and raffle proceeds will go directly to The Trevor Project.
A certificate of appreciation will be presented to Geo at the benefit by Michael Gongora, the city’s first openly gay elected city commissioner. “I am proud to know Geo Bustamante. He is a powerful young voice for the gay community in south Florida. It is with pleasure that we honor Geo for his effort in educating us about the tragedy of gay youth suicide and he is to be commended for working to raise funds for the Trevor Project,” Gongora said.
The Trevor Project officials have also joined The Commissioner in thanking Geo for his efforts. “We’re grateful that the funds raised from Geo Bustamante’s Birthday Benefit will help to ensure the Trevor Helpline is open 24/7,” said Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project.