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Lil Nas X receives “Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award”

Through his bold music Lil Nas X continues to fight for mainstream queer representation and elevate important issues around mental health

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Screenshot via Lil Nas X MONTERO Call Me By Your Name Official Video

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, honored Grammy Award-winning artist Lil Nas X this week with its inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award.

Lil Nas X has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting The Trevor Project’s mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people with his openness about struggling with his sexuality and suicidal ideation, his continued advocacy around mental health issues, and his unapologetic celebration of his queer identity.

The Trevor Project’s inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award marks the start of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the crucial work that needs to be done to end suicide among LGBTQ youth.

According to The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Due to higher rates of discrimination, rejection, and social isolation, LGBTQ young people are at increased risk for negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, seriously considering suicide, and more.

In accepting the award, Lil Nas X said: “Thank you so much to The Trevor Project for this award and for all they do for the LGBTQ community. Discrimination around sexuality and gender identity is still very real, and our community deserves to feel supported and totally free to be themselves. I often get messages from fans telling me about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and it made me realize that this was something bigger than myself. If using my voice and expressing myself in my music can help even one kid out there who feels alone, then it was all worth it.”

Amidst a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence against the LGBTQ community, The Trevor Project is highlighting the importance of queer representation in the media, and the powerful message of visibility and hope it sends to LGBTQ young people.

“The Trevor Project is thrilled to honor Lil Nas X with the Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director at The Trevor Project.

“His vulnerability in his journey to self acceptance and expression has created space for candid conversations around mental health and sexual identity, signaling to LGBTQ youth that they are not alone. The Trevor Project’s research shows that over 80% of LGBTQ youth say that LGBTQ celebrities positively influence how they feel about being LGBTQ, further affirming the cultural impact of Lil Nas X being proud of who he is and an ideal recipient of this inaugural award.”

Following his chart-topping, genre-defying debut “Old Town Road” in 2019, Lil Nas X quickly became a global LGBTQ icon recognized for his fearless effort in changing the status quo around what it means to be queer and Black in the mainstream music industry. Throughout his career, he has been an outspoken and unapologetic advocate for the LGBTQ community, using his platform to shed light on mental health issues many LGBTQ young people face.

In February, Lil Nas X shared a series of intimate TikTok videos documenting his life story, including his silent battle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation during his rise to fame. The following month, he penned a heartfelt letter to his 14-year-old self about coming out publicly to mark the release of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”

In the letter he states, “I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.” In May, he released the music video for his single “SUN GOES DOWN,” which depicts Lil Nas X uplifting a younger version of himself in high school when he was contemplating suicide and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.

Through his bold music videos, poignant song lyrics, and candor on social media, Lil Nas X continues to fight for mainstream queer representation and elevate important issues around mental health, igniting change and spotlighting the experiences of LGBTQ young people around the world. 

In news related to National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the California State Senate passed the LGBTQ Violent Death Data Collection Pilot Program (AB 1094) this week. The bill now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and co-sponsored by Senator Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), would equip coroners and medical examiners in six participating counties across California with the training necessary to identify and collect data on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) in cases of violent death, including homicide, suicide and the use of deadly force by police.

The number of LGBTQ youth who actually die by suicide (or other violent deaths) remains unknown due to the lack of SOGI data collected on a broad scale in the U.S. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10–24 nationwide — and according to the CDC, LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight/cisgender peers.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 

“The first of its kind in the nation, this bill marks an important milestone in the movement to protect and save LGBTQ lives,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director for The Trevor Project. “There is a critical need to track cases of suicide, homicide, and police brutality among the LGBTQ community, allowing us to better understand these crises, respond more effectively with solutions, and help prevent future tragedies. We thank all the sponsors and advocates for championing this historic bill in California and hope that decision-makers across the country take note of this pilot program to model it in their respective communities.”

“I believe AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths. Data may sound like a scientific subject, but, at its core, it leads us to better help and serve all our communities with compassion and empathy,” said Assemblymember Arambula. “We must have better data to understand the scope of what’s happening in our LGBTQ community – especially among the youth – when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. This information will be a crucial guidepost to prevention efforts and saving lives.”

AB 1094 would establish a three-year pilot program with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) where coroners and medical examiners would be trained in cultural competency and best practices on how to properly identify a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity before being required to do so. The bill explicitly requires respect for confidentiality — all personally identifiable information, including names, addresses, and dates of birth would be removed before being reported.

“Recognizing LGBTQ identity matters — in life and in death,” said Carrie Davis (she/her pronouns), Chief Community Officer for The Trevor Project. “Particular members of our LGBTQ community, such as transgender women and queer young people of color, face disproportionate rates of violence and suicide. Better data around the occurrence of these preventable deaths can help us create life-saving programs to protect our most marginalized community members.”

“AB 1094 will begin the work to bring dignity and visibility to those in the LGBTQ community who have been taken from us too soon,” said Senator Eggman. “I’m grateful for the broad support in the Senate today because this will allow us to craft better informed solutions to prevent this violence and save lives.”

This bill comes at a time with public support for the tracking of this type of data. According to polling conducted by The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, more than four in five adults (84%) feel it is important to include sexual orientation and gender identity when evaluating suicide and other violent death statistics, including 91% of Democrats, 80% of independents and 77% of Republicans.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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Out & About

Rayceen Pendarvis hosts District of Pride Showcase

Mayor’s Office celebrates resilience of D.C.’s LGBTQ community with night of entertainment

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Rayceen Pendarvis hosts District of Pride Showcase on June 30. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs will host “The District of Pride Showcase” on Thursday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Theatre.

This event is to celebrate the resilience of D.C.’s LGBTQ community with a night of entertainment and performances that will feature the diverse queer talent.

This event will be hosted by Rayceen Pendarvis, with announcer Krylios, featuring DJ Honey. There will also be a performance by “Real Housewives of Potomac” star Candiace. 

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

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Out & About

Mayor’s office to celebrate older LGBTQ individuals

District of Pride: Seniors Brunch on Monday

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The Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs will host “District of Pride: Seniors Brunch” on Monday, June 27 at 11 a.m. at Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Arts. 

This event is a celebration of Pride and a “thank you” to the District’s senior community members for their contributions to the LGBTQ+ community.

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

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Theater

Be prepared to clap for ‘Nollywood Dreams’ at Round House

Theatergoers asked to play audience of Nigerian chat show

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Joel Ashur (Wale Owusu) and Jacqueline Youm (Adenikeh) in ‘Nollywood Dreams’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Nollywood Dreams’
Through July 3
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$55-$78
Roundhousetheatre.org

If you see “Nollywood Dreams” at Round House Theatre, be prepared to clap a lot, whether you like it or not.  For almost a third of Jocelyn Bioh’s 100-minute-long comedy, theatergoers are asked to play the audience of an Oprahesque Nigerian chat show with a big personality host and large projected words (cheer, applause) prompting the house to make lots of noise. It’s tough not to comply. 

Set in ‘90s Nigeria, it’s all about Nollywood, the nickname for the Lagos-based film industry that ranks above Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood in the number of films produced annually. 

Decked out in fabulous traditional attire, the spirited finger-snapping TV host Adenikeh (Jacqueline Youm) leads with niceties before going in for the kill. Her big-name guests prove central to the story:  director Gbenga Ezie (Yao Dogbe) recently returned home from America and looking to make a Nollywood hit; gorgeous veteran star Fayola (Yetunde Felix-Ukwu), who’s counting on a comeback to revive a slipping career; and Wale Owusu, Nigeria’s “Sexiest Man Born,” played by the faultlessly cast Joel Ashur. 

Glued to the TV in the office of the family travel business, sisters Dede and Ayamma Okafor (played by Renea S. Brown and Ernaisja Curry, respectively) faithfully watch Adenikeh’s eponymous program, breathlessly taking in every Nollywood scoop and subsequent development. While elder sister Dede is content to swoon over male pulchritude, Ayamma has aspirations to be more than a fan, she wants to act. When director Gbenga holds an open casting call to find a fresh face for his new love triangle romance, “The Comfort Zone,” she grasps at the chance. 

A broad comedy broadly acted by an appealing cast, Bioh’s storyline is predictable, a Cinderella story without surprise. It’s a loud world seemingly inhabited by stock characters – the heartthrob, a shady film auteur, an aging film actress, squabbling sisters – but despite all, they aren’t without nuance. The characters prove dimensional and worthy of some investment.  

Also, along with the over-the-top comedy, Bioh’s work refreshingly shows an Africa that isn’t always presented on stage. People’s dreams, desires, and relationships are set against a bustling urban sprawl culturally glued together by the cult of celebrity.

The action plays out on Jonathan Dahm Robertson’s terrific revolving (sometimes dizzyingly so) set made up of three locales — the travel office, daytime TV set, and Gbenga’s well-appointed Nollywood Dreams Studio (with the outsized signage to prove it). It’s an energizing and memorable design. 

Brandee Mathies’s costumes are almost a show in themselves. Exuberantly colorful, they cleverly bring together traditional garb and western silhouettes with joyful flourishes of Nigerian flare. The showbiz folks are costumed, well, showier. It’s short skirts and glittery stilettos for fan favorite Fayola, long touted for her Tina Turner legs.

A Ghanian-American writer, playwright and actor, Bioh grew up on Nollywood flicks. In fact, “Beyonce: The President’s Daughter” (2006), one of her favorites, was an inspiration for “Nollywood Dreams.” Her debut work “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play,” an entertaining tale of teenage trials and tribulations set at a boarding school in provincial ‘80s Ghana was a great success for Round House in 2019.

And at the helm of Round House’s current offering is Theater Alliance’s producing artistic director Raymond O. Caldwell. As gay, Black, and Asian, Caldwell sometimes refers to himself as third culture. In this instance, the Helen Hayes-winning director has heartily plunged into Bioh’s vision and with relish and created a piece rife with fun and feeling.

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