JJ Brewis is a Vancouver based writer and editor of all things music, pop culture, entertainment and art. He has worked for and contributed to such publications as Ion, The Capilano Courier, and The Strand. Recently, JJ co-founded Lords of Dogwood, a west-coast based music site with Melissa Dex Guzman, his long-time collaborator.
"Being bullied growing up in a small town I was really lucky to have a group of friends and family that were supportive. I wasnt out at the time but everyone knew and I was outed for the sake of it by bullies at school and they made my life hell. There were plenty of times that I didnt want to exist anymore and I wanted it to stop because it was really hard and I didnt know the resources that were available to be at the time. When I moved to Vancouuver from my hometown I was accepted a lot more because it was a big city and I urge others to move to a big city because it makes things a lot easier."
JJ heard about the It Gets Better campaign and felt compelled to make his own personal video."I wanted to say my part, even though I didn't know if I had anything to say that anybody else wouldn't," he said.
"But then I learned that it's not about one individual statement, but more about a collective coming together in hopes of helping even one person from doing something bad to themselves."
His video message was an eight-minute heartfelt story about his struggles with homosexuality as a youth in Trail, a city of less than 8,000 in the West Kootenays.
He said it wasn't easy growing up in a small rural town where he had no exposure to openly homosexual people, at least none who were socially accepted.
"I remember being really young and having crushes on my older sister's male friends and telling myself that it was wrong," he said.
"And people started to use words like 'fag' and stuff at school, and it led me to think negatively of something I thought I was."
So for a long time, Brewis suppressed his sexuality and pretended to be heterosexual.
"I put it off for so long that it actually stopped me from growing as a person," he said.
"But when it got to the point where I couldn't lie to myself and told myself that I didn't have a choice in the matter, it was hard - really hard."
Brewis didn't come out openly as gay until he left Trail and moved to Vancouver at age 19. He said it was simply impossible to do it in Trail. He thought of committing suicide on several occasions during his youth.
"I was told from every facet of my life - school, kids and friends - that this 'thing' was really wrong and evil," he said. "When you're young and you're told those things, and inside you know that it's who you are, it becomes a huge internal battle, and I definitely thought of some horrible things I should do to myself."
But he didn't, thanks to a supportive family, and now he's free to be who he is in Vancouver.
"Even though there were some really awful times, I'm happy I stuck around and am here to experience all the things I've been through and all the things I have to look forward to still," he said.
Brewis hopes this project will let youth know that there's always a better future.
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