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|Kicked out of home over prom, gay Ga. teen launches Project LifeVEST to help others|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|July 12, 2010 15:24|
In April, Derrick Martin, a gay teen from Cochran, Ga., was asked to leave home after publicity surrounding his decision to take his boyfriend to the high school prom. Today, Martin launched Project LifeVEST to help other LGBT people in similar situations.
States the new group's website: "Our mission is simple: 'To be a helping hand, a life vest, to as many LGBTQ teens and adults as possible. We will carry out this mission through the establishment of safe places in as many cities as possible; through opening a call center with a qualified and well-educated and experienced team of counselors who can give advice and guidance where needed; through finding qualified and screened families who can, if the need arises, host rejected teens while they finish schooling or find a new place.'"
Martin is founder and president of the new organization. The website lists as its board of directors Aaron Fricke, Arturo Beeche, Dave Higdon, Don Martin-Nielson, Leesa Nixon and Russell Phillip.
The group has a Facebook page here.
In a personal statement on the website, Martin reflects on the trauma that came from his decision to take his boyfriend to prom in the small Georgia town and the ensuing international media attention.
"When I first decided to go to prom with my boyfriend, I had no idea concerning the turmoil that would engulf in my life. One day I was living with my parents; the next I had no home. I found myself without much in terms of material possessions and comfort. I had a car; a low paying job with the school; and a few trash bags filled with my clothes and scarce belongings," Martin says.
He recounts how a good friend let him stay with her, and how the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — a national LGBT media group — was a "life vest" when staff stepped in to help act as his public relations representative.
"I have a very unique opportunity that I feel I cannot pass up. I have the spotlight needed to establish a name in activism. I possess a unique viewpoint from which I can help others in the LGBT community; people like myself who are disadvantaged because of discrimination, hate, or ignorance. That is why I have decided to form an organization dedicated to helping people like me, who are going through hard times because of discrimination," Martin writes.
"As I said before, all I wanted those first nine days was a life vest. GLAAD was my life vest, and I plan to be a life vest to many others like myself. I only want others who are like me to know that they are not alone, for everyone has the right to love regardless of sexual orientation," he says.
Edric Floyd serves as co-president of PFLAG Macon, one of the organizations that helped support Martin. In an email, Floyd encouraged LGBT and allied organizations, including PFLAG chapters — "especially those of us close to where Derrick Martin will be based while attending college in Statesboro, Ga." — to help support Project LifeVEST.
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