Sometimes life throws curve balls at us. No one knows this better than Valrico resident Alvaro Mejia. Years ago, while sitting at the kitchen table, he embarked on a life-changing conversation with his son, Danny.
“Dad, I’m gay,” Danny told his father. Mejia did not handle this news well.
“My relationship with my child plummeted when Danny told me he was gay,” said Mejia. “I disowned him.”
Today, Mejia is on a mission to help others learn from his mistake. “I would like to share my story. My example offers many people a chance to mend what might be broken and give hope to those who feel hopeless,” he said.
“I still tremble, filled with shame and remorse. How can a loving father reject a son that adores you? This irrational rejection is totally unacceptable,” said Mejia.
Mejia found out later that Danny attempted suicide. Heartbroken by the recollection, Mejia continued, “I didn’t understand that Danny’s sexuality was not one of choice.”
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the second-leading cause of teenage death. Teenage suicide is often attempted because parents reject their own children, and gay children are rejected at a very high rate.
Recently, Mejia launched a business that aims to spread the message of reconciliation, hope and love. Speaking in front of small and large crowds, Mejia is determined to stop teenage suicide. Mejia advocates that parents make an effort to listen with empathy and understanding.
“This is a mistake that I wish to change by helping others understand that bigotry has no place in families.”
It took three years for Danny to break through his father’s defenses.
Fortunately, Danny continued to use patience and persistence to educate his father.
“I lost three years of my life with Danny because of my stubbornness,” said Mejia. “My son taught me so much more than my limited mind could fathom. He taught me how to accept people who are different than me.”
A few short years later in March 2011, Danny was diagnosed with a brief illness that took his young life.
“If I knew our time together would not continue forever, I would have made different decisions. I don’t want anyone else to suffer as I do now,” Mejia said regretfully.
He continues to tell his story in hopes it resonates with other families. He has spoken to groups around the country as well as internationally, telling his story of hope and reconciliation. For more information about a public speaking engagement, contact Mejia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 813-444-9575. You can also find him on Facebook by searching ‘Alvaro Mejia Valrico.’