Mike Lalli: Why I Volunteer
August 2, 2012
Like many of you, I am not from Denver and moved here from many, many miles away. I did so in part because I knew being so far removed from my small Massachusetts hometown would make it easier to be honest with myself and with those who mattered most to me about this secret I was hiding. For fear of their reactions, I didn’t come out to my family or friends until I moved to Colorado; having an eight-state buffer afforded me an easy way to escape if things didn’t go well, or to simply avoid those I didn’t want to have the conversation with.
Fortunately for me, once I did finally come out, the process ended up being relatively painless, but reflecting back on those gut-wrenching conversations with my family and friends, and the years that preceded them, I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly cheated. Why did I have to go through years and years of internal torment, speculating what my parents’, siblings’ and friends’ reactions would be when, in the end, they were hardly anything but positive? What in my mind made me think that revealing this huge piece of my life was going to matter to any degree in the relationships I had with those closest to me? Why did I have wait 24 years and move 2,000 miles away from home before I could utter the words “I’m gay” to anyone but myself? There was something that had been driven into me that said, “I need to be afraid of this. It will not be okay.”
That is why I volunteer with HRC: because I firmly believe no one should have to live in fear or hiding for who they are; no one should have to think, “it will not be okay.” I wish I could go back in time to tell 12-year old Mike Lalli that he needn’t suffer unnecessary depression and anxiety, that he would have support from friends and family, and that he would one day fall in love.
Being a part of HRC means that I am part of an organization that is helping to change the world to be safer and more welcoming for people struggling with the same identity crises I did years ago; an organization that reaches out to young people and assures them that they are not alone. Knowing that there is even one less teenager in the closet, or one less young adult that needed to move away from home before coming out, or one less person that feels they need a double life thanks to the resources or support HRC has provided them, makes all the time I spend volunteering completely worth it.