Growing up gay in a small conservative Texas town where gay role models were non-existent, Johnnie Mejia says having someone to look up to, to tell him that there was nothing bad about being gay, is something he wishes he had.
“I don’t remember any gay people growing up. I’m sure there were but I don’t remember. There were more cattle [in my town] than people, I always joke.” Mejia is also conscious of his “other labels” – Mexican, American, Southern, Catholic. “I’m a mosaic of all of those things, all of those experiences.”
But Meija, who works for BB&T Bank, is determined to provide today’s LGBT youth with something he never had at their age. “I’ve mentored youth and I think it’s important they see a confident LGBT person that is successful at making a difference. I think that’s very important.”
In many ways, he said, today’s LGBT youth are more fortunate than previous generations.
They didn’t live through the worst of the AIDS epidemic like Mejia’s generation and being LGBT doesn’t carry the same stigma as it did years ago.
Even with all the progress, Mejia said his generation needs to teach those that came after about previous struggles and ensure they are able to keep making progress.
“We still have a ways to go. I think we have big responsibility to keep progressing and not become complacent.”