Making a difference

When Dallas resident David McCrory learned of the plight of a homeless gay teen in Colorado and tried to help, he discovered he could help make things better, but it wasn’t easy

McCrory.David

David McCrory

Draconis von Trapp  |  Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

One person can make a difference.
It’s been said a million times, and while some believe the old adage, some are still skeptical.
David McCrory used to be one of those skeptics.
But McCrory, a gay man who works for Dermalogica and a native New Orleanian who moved to Dallas from Los Angeles, discovered a whole new perspective after he helped a 19-year-old boy from committing suicide — from two states away.
McCrory moved to Dallas for his job and ended up participating with the Human Rights Campaign’s entry in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade this year for the first time. The parade featured British ex-rugby star Ben Cohen, who founded the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation that focuses on battling bullying and homophobia in schools.
After working with Cohen, McCrory started paying attention to the StandUp Foundation’s Facebook page, and that’s where he happened upon a post about how Jamey Rodomeyer, a young gay boy, had committed suicide.
As with most celebrity Facebook updates, there are usually several hundred comments. McCrory, usually not one to bother reading those comments, decided this time to take a look at the feedback.

“I was just browsing through the comments and I noticed this post from A.J.,” McCrory said. “And I guess it was the timing, having just read about Jamey, that I felt like I needed to reach out to him.”

A.J. had commented about how he felt that his only option was to end his life, saying that he was homeless just because of his sexual orientation. He said that he didn’t want to kill himself, but he didn’t know what else to do.

The comment was left in the morning on Sept. 21. It only took 30 minutes for someone to respond to A.J.’s post, recommending that he call the Trevor Project. But it took another eight hours for someone to proactively do something about it.

McCrory, after reading and responding to A.J.’s comment, emailed Cohen’s manager, Jill Tipping, confirming that both she and Cohen had read that post and responded to A.J. with suicide hotline numbers and contact information for different organizations that could help.

Feeling that more needed to be done, McCrory added A.J. as a friend on Facebook, started emailing him with reassuring messages and exchanging phone numbers with the young man.

After feeling out A.J.’s situation a little more, McCrory discovered that the teen had been living on a park bench for two days with no food after an altercation with his father.

“I left Colorado to go to Michigan to get in touch with my family there,” A.J. explained. “That kinda went south, so I came back to live with my father and things were fine.”

But the next day his father started questioning A.J.’s orientation. While A.J. had been out to his friends, he hadn’t yet come out to his family and wasn’t sure how they would take it. While he figured they would react negatively, he said, “I didn’t expect it to go as far as it did.”

After that, AJ’s father told him to leave.

McCrory said he did contact the Trevor Project, and while they were friendly and helpful, ultimately they could do nothing for A.J. immediately.

They provided some more contact information for organizations and crisis intervention programs in A.J.’s area — and that was the end of it.

McCrory said he tried all the contacts that were given to him but had little to show for it. Most numbers led to voice mailboxes and the one immediate crisis line he contacted could only help by advising he call the police.

At this time it was starting to rain where A.J. was, and McCrory was running out of options.

Finally, using his hotel points, McCrory booked a room for A.J. at a Marriott Hotel and, after discussing A.J.’s situation with the manager, was given the room for free as well as two meal vouchers so A.J. could eat that night and the next morning.

With cab services refusing credit card numbers over the phone and the police being short staffed, McCrory’s cousin used her credit card to have a driving service fetch A.J.

The next day McCrory tried to contact the LGBT community center in Colorado, but never got through to anyone. In a moment of clarity, it occurred to him that most towns had an LGBT-friendly church, and upon researching it, he found one close by A.J.’s location.

The Metropolitan Community Church’s pastor, Weff Mullins, provided McCrory with more up-to-date, reliable resources for A.J. and welcomed the teen into the service that Sunday.

One reputable organization Pastor Mullins recommended was Inside/Out Youth Services, which McCrory contacted, finally talking to someone who was able to get the ball rolling on providing A.J. with housing, therapy and a job to help him get back on his feet.

It was the help the young man needed.

A.J. has been living for free at a hotel since then and said that he has a brighter outlook on his future — one that doesn’t include suicide.

“I’m actually much better than I was before,” he said. “I’m mostly stable now and I’m pretty good.”

A.J. and McCrory have kept in contact and often talk on the phone.

“He’s a good kid,” McCrory said. “It’s pretty amazing that we’ve gotten so close and we’ve never met. I never thought that I would be helping someone out of a crisis situation like this.”

McCrory’s company has since made a $1,000 donation to Inside/Out Youth Services, which is being matched by the Gill Foundation, along with $100 from one of McCrory’s coworkers.

They worked together to get some Wal-Mart gift cards so A.J.could buy some clothes for himself.

“Plus, being gay, you know he will need some beauty products,” McCrory joked.

McCrory said that his involvement in helping A.J. has opened his eyes to how influential one person can be when they simply take the initiative to care.

Working with A.J. has furthered his inspiration to start a non-profit organization through Resource Center Dallas that features a 24/7 crisis center for teenagers who need help.

“It really blew my mind that there is a missing link in that chain, like you can get counseling over the phone, but you can’t get help after hours,” McCrory said incredulously.

“You can have a crisis as long as it’s within business hours.”

McCrory also said that had A.J. been underage, this whole thing could have ended up a lot worse. Due to the possible liabilities in dealing with a minor, most people don’t want to deal with them — and they can’t check into hotels alone. The only thing left to do would have been to call the cops and let Child Protective Services handle it, “which is kind of shocking,” McCrory said.

“I thought it was kind of an amazing story that select people think there’s nothing you can do,” McCrory said. “But it takes one small step of doing something that, as little as it may be, it could be the one thing that changes that one life, really.”

In the Dallas area, Promise House in Oak Cliff is a shelter for LGBT teens in crisis. They have a 24-hour crisis line that can be called at 1-866-941-8578. They are located on 224 W. Page Ave. and provide crisis intervention services along with case management, counseling, emergency and long-term shelter as well as advocacy and outreach.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Coleman introduces ‘Asher’s Law’

Asher Brown, left, and Rep. Garnet Coleman

Today as LGBT citizens from around the state converged on Austin to lobby lawmakers on LGBT issues, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat from Houston, introduced “Asher’s Law,” a bill that would “help protect our children before they are terrorized and traumatized both physically and mentally,” according to a press release from Coleman’s office.

Before this session of the Texas Legislature even began, Coleman had prefiled HB 1386. Asher’s Law — HB 2343 — is identical to that earlier legislation except that Coleman renamed it in honor of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from Houston who committed suicide last year after enduring relentless bullying from his classmates and peers.

Coleman said that he renamed the legislation with the permission of Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong. Coleman said, “The Truongs are acting with grace and courage. They are allowing a tremendous personal tragedy be a catalyst for change in state statute. We should honor them.”

Coleman said that Asher’s Law, if passed, would direct the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency to implement a program to recognize students at risk of emtoional trauma or committing suicide, intervene effectively and refer students to mental health services if necessary. The bill would require school districts to report incidents of harassment and bullying to the TEA annually and to train district employees on preventing bullying and harassment. It also addresses harassment and discrimination by school district employees toward students and other employees.

In addition, Asher’s Law gives school districts the option of transferring a bully, instead of current practice which is to transfer the student being bullied.

Coleman has filed similar bills in every legislative session since 2003. Prior to that year, he supported similar bills filed in each session by then state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, a Dallas Democrat.

—  admin

Garnet Coleman files suicide prevention bill that would ban anti-LGBT bullying, discrimination

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a bill that he says is designed to prevent future tragedies like the suicide of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Coleman’s HB 1386, filed today, calls on the state to develop a comprehensive suicide prevention program for middle, junior and high schools. The bill would also ban anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in public schools.

“This is a heartbreaking public health threat which we need to address,” Coleman said in a press release. “I’m sick of nothing happening. We need to protect our children before they are driven to suicide or become severely and emotionally ill.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that a school is a safe learning environment for all children,” Coleman added. “Our children should focus on their studies, not worry about verbal and physical threats from their peers.

“Too many young lives are being taken because of intimidation and countless more are at risk,” he said. “This tragic loss of life is completely preventable.

“Current policy unjustly continues to punish the victim. We need to change that.”

The bill is similar to one Coleman has filed in every legislative session since 2003.

To read the full text of HB 1386, go here. We’ve posted Coleman’s press release after the jump.

—  John Wright