25 for Trevor: Interview with Wade Addison

Originally reported on SensibleReason.com on October 26, 2013

Wade Addison was first labeled ‘gay’ in 6th grade by a classmate. The ‘f-word’ soon followed, and eventually the continuous torment and rumors forced Addison to switch classrooms mid-year. Suffocated by the depression that grew from a mix of feelings he wasn’t sure he completely understood, Addison contemplated suicide as an escape plan on multiple occasions. He felt completely alone. And growing up in Magnolia, TX — a small, conservative town outside of Houston — in a devout Christian family that preached early on that being gay was a sin certainly didn’t help.

“I knew from the beginning that homosexuality[…] was something that – if “practiced” – would result in eternal torture and damnation,” Addison said in an interview with Sensible Reason. ”Or at least that’s what I was raised to believe.”

The Trevor Project

After coming out when he was 21 years old, Addison switched his focus to moving forward from his past and reaching out to teens in similar situations, hoping to lift them from the despair that he once felt. When he moved to New York, Addison reached out to The Trevor Project, an organization that provides free, life-saving resources and services that build a supportive community for LGBTQ youth.

Resources provided by The Trevor Project include a free and confidential nationwide 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, a digital community that creates a safe and supportive environment, in-school workshops and educational materials for both adults and youth, and several other ways to receive and provide help which can all be found on their website. Each program is designed with the same goal in mind: prevent suicides among the LGBTQ young community. 

As an AskTrevor author, Addison responds to non-time sensitive letters from teens struggling with their sexuality and identity and looking for encouragement and support.

“I can relate to the dark and lonely places that so many teens in our country are in, and it breaks my heart,” Addison said. “They will grow and become stronger because of those situations, so in the meantime we have to remind them that there are people out there who care for them and love them, just the way they are.

For his 25th birthday, Addison is determined to help The Trevor Project in an unprecedented way;in 25 days he will raise $25000 to help the nonprofit continue its services. The initiative, ’25 for Trevor,’ kicked off Oct. 16 and will run until Nov. 9 (Addison’s birthday), gathering all support through a single campaign video and word of mouth.

At press time, 25 for Trevor has raised almost $15000 — this means they’re over halfway there, but they still need your help.

Learn more about how you can get involved and donate to 25 for Trevor here, and then check out our full, exclusive interview with Addison below!

Sensible Reason: Tell me a little bit about the 25 for Trevor campaign.
Wade Addison: Last year I raised $1400 with a video recorded via my computer camera (it was rough!) and through a party at our apartment. We had a great turn out, and we even watched the Academy Award-winning short film, Trevor, from which The Trevor Project got their name. Overall, the reach was limited in comparison to 25 for Trevor, but even from that I discovered that awareness was raised for The Trevor Project. Knowing that many people were unaware of what the The Trevor Project does and that nonprofits are always in need of more funding, I determined to go all out for my 25th birthday and raise $25,000. But to do so I also knew that a simple, self-recorded video would not be compelling enough to move people to advocate for this cause or to donate. So starting in April of this year I started planning how 25 for Trevor would come to life and then started bringing friends into the process in August.
SR: What have you been doing so far to raise money for 25 for Trevor?
WA: 25 for Trevor is a completely grassroots and word of mouth campaign that is reliant on the support of others to succeed. So far we have been pushing our message and content out through all of the main social channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube, and are really hoping for every like, share, retweet, mention, and repost we can get. Simultaneously, we’re reaching out to anyone we possibly can in order to get media coverage, which is yet another key to the initiative’s success.

PHOTO: Jen Kiraly

SR: Why did you pick The Trevor Project specifically?
WA: I’ve been bullied, I’ve been depressed, and I’ve contemplated suicide, so I can relate to the dark and lonely places that so many teens in our country are in, and it breaks my heart. I wish I could pull them out of those scenarios and give them a chance to skip all of the painful moments. But that’s not possible, and they will grow and become stronger because of those situations, so in the meantime we have to remind them that there are people out there who care for them and love them, just the way they are. My hope in choosing The Trevor Project is that they can continue to reach the kids who need support and encouragement most through their effective and innovative services.
SR: What does The Trevor Project do?
WA: The Trevor Project offers numerous crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, such as TrevorSpace – a free, secure online social network, to LGBTQ teens in order to remind them that they are free to be themselves and that their dreams and possibilities are no less achievable or available because of their sexual orientation, identity or gender expression.
SR: Aside from donating, how can one become involved/volunteer within The Trevor Project?
WA: There are a ton of ways to get involved and many are available from anywhere in the country! The best source for that information is their website: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/section/get-involved I personally volunteer on the AskTrevor team and get to respond to non-time sensitive letters, which can be done from anywhere with internet access!
SR: Does The Trevor Project know about your campaign and what are they doing to help out?
WA: They do know about the campaign and we’re currently in discussions about the best way to share 25 for Trevor via one of their established social media channels, but all of the content has been developed by and for 25 for Trevor.
SR: Do you have any future plans to continue to raise money for the organization?
WA: I’ll always be promoting The Trevor Project to anyone willing to listen and learn about the wonderful work they’re doing. There aren’t any future plans for similar initiatives, but perhaps 30 for Trevor five years from now?!
SR: Tell me a little about your upbringing — what was that like?
WA: I was raised in a very conservative, Christian home in a small town northwest of Houston, TX. And while I grew up in a very loving environment, I knew from the beginning that homosexuality, or “same-sex attraction” as it’s often deemed, was something that – if “practiced” –would result in eternal torture and damnation. Or at least that’s what I was raised to believe. I’m thankful to have moved on from that train of thought.
SR: What is the response you’ve gotten from your community back home and your family about this project?
WA: It’s been mixed. Nothing bad by any means, but my family and I haven’t really talked about this project – or not by name at least. They’ve commended my compassion for others, but since my sexual orientation is not accepted or affirmed, it’s categorized within the “don’t ask, don’t tell” bucket. However, a few cousins, aunts and uncles have reached out privately to express their support, which has been very encouraging. And it’s wonderful to see support from junior high and high school friends, especially those who are vocal in their support. That means so much knowing that in their community such views are often in the minority.
SR: Have you ever faced discrimination for being gay and if so, what kinds of discrimination have you faced?
WA: Oh yes. I was first called “gay” and the f word in 6th grade. I remember it like it was yesterday and I even changed my class schedule to avoid the torment. And I’m so glad I asked for help – I’d advise any kid who’s out there being bullied to ask for help. Then in high school there were rumors about me, which got all the way to my parents since it’s a small town and people talk. The rumors were based in truth, but I was drowning in denial. As a word of warning to young gay teens living in a similar community: when you tell your straight best friend that you love him or her because you think you may not make it back from a week long mission trip to an orphanage in Peru, the results won’t always turn out the way you’d like. Then, and surprisingly, I’ve been yelled at a few times on the streets of NYC, but only by guys in moving vehicles. I like to think that their attacks stem from insecurities that are a result of not accepting a certain part of themselves.
SR: So you quit your job… What was that about? Where are you going from here?
WA: I did quit my job! And those are excellent questions. I was a digital account executive (I helped manage the client relationship and internal creative development process) working way too many hours. It was a wonderful opportunity and I enjoyed the essence of what I was doing and especially the people I was working with, but after too many 60+ hour work weeks and a record-breaking 83 hour week, I was burnt out beyond belief. I first resigned in mid-June but then retracted my resignation when there was a plan put in place to provide a bit more balance. That plan unfortunately made my workload even heavier and my mind just became a fog. It was affecting me mentality and physically. So, after a particularly heated client call, I realized that was not how I wanted to be spending my time and that it just wasn’t worth it. And even though I already miss the paycheck (you can look at my bank account and see that quitting wasn’t planned!) I’m so thankful that I am able to focus on 25 for Trevor and pick up freelance work as it comes my way.
In terms of where I’m going from here, I don’t have a solid answer. I need to give that further thought and diligently explore various companies and opportunities. My gut tells me that another salaried, traditional 9-to-5 (read 9-to-9) job is not what I’m looking for. I want to have my hands in multiple projects without the need to worry about a non-compete clause. In the meantime I’m just pushing away any worry and doing my best to take things day-by-day.
SR: What or who has inspired you throughout this project?
WA: Lately I’ve been really inspired and encouraged by a great Steve Jobs quote:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
And also, a good friend recently shared this spotlight on an incredibly inspiring woman named Elle Luna. It’s well worth a read! And finally, check out The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. That book gave me the courage to quit my previous job, the one before my last.

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