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Man helping LGBTQ youth remembers how hard it was to come out as gay to his parents

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today we hear from Corey Harvard, who has dedicated his life to helping LGBTQ youth in Mobile, Ala. He grew up in a deeply religious family in the 1990s and struggled to come out to his parents. He came to StoryCorps with his mom, Lisa Harvard.

LISA HARVARD: We had no idea, we really didn't. So we were caught off guard, as you might say.

COREY HARVARD: But, Mom, the amount of stuff I was looking at online when I got the computer, that was just me trying to learn about what it meant to be gay. If y'all were snoopy parents, it would have taken no time to figure it out.

LISA HARVARD: I remember, in that very first conversation, I was looking directly across from you and you fell into your dad's arms. I know that I was numb in a lot of ways because a big part of it was feeling separated from you, and I didn't like that.

COREY HARVARD: Yeah, I remember feeling that distance. I think that with where all of us were, it was inevitable.

LISA HARVARD: And during those months and a couple of years there, you would come back, we would have more conversations. Of course, a lot of it we may not have understood, but it didn't leave us just reeling. We talked about those things as we were figuring out what this was going to look like for us. Sometimes I just go into your room. Even though we've remodeled, we made sure not to touch that room. And I sit on your bed, and I am really so hopeful that it was a good space because I wanted you to be a happy kid.

COREY HARVARD: The truth is, I felt so loved as a kid. But, I mean, there's a part of that journey that no one can join you on. A hard thing that I've always wanted to share with you, the beginning of my sophomore year, I was struggling the most. And it was this dark night of the soul where it's like, can I really accept this? Have I failed at life? And there was that one night that got really hard. I remember sitting on the windowsill and just contemplating it, like, what would it be like for this to all be over? And this feeling that I had is you, and it's like this invisible golden lasso. And I knew that even in this worst moment of my life that I can't fall. And the work that I do with these kids is how I took that golden lasso and I turned it into a net. And we just keep saving people with that love that you put in me.

LISA HARVARD: Sometimes I look at you and I just can't fathom the kind of love that I see you give. It's a humbling experience. You came into my life and changed me in so many ways. I'm so much better now than I ever would have been without you, and I am so grateful to be your mom.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: That's Corey Harvard and his mom Lisa Harvard in Mobile, Ala. In 2018, Corey co-founded Prism United, which helps LGBTQ youth and their families in southwest Alabama. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. And if you or someone you know may be in crisis or considering suicide, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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