October 11 is National Coming Out Day. For many LGBTQ+ people, coming out involves sharing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity for the first time. Young people in search of support in their identities can contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 or by texting START to 678678.
Dear Young Gio (circa 1997),
I know you’re starting to figure things out.
You’re only 12, but your mind is already asking questions no 12-year-old could possibly answer.
Questions that will take years to explore, embrace and understand.
Questions that may flip your whole world upside-down.
Your community sometimes uses tough language.
A beautiful Spanish accent doesn’t mask ugly words.
When you hear these words, you laugh, you deflect, you distract.
You don’t know any better.
You’re scared, and just doing the best you can.
The kids at school use the word “gay” as if it’s synonymous with “eww.”
They’re pointing their fingers directly at you.
They make fun of everything: your hair, your teeth, your skinny frame. But that word, “gay,” sticks the longest. It hurts.
After school, you escape it all with TV shows, books, and your own imagination.
Mom asks, “how was school?”
You always say it was great.
You’ll spend years trying to be more “manly.”
You’ll work out for hours each day, you’ll style your hair differently, you’ll get braces to fix those teeth, and you’ll date brilliant, beautiful girls.
Hiding the truth won’t stop you professionally either: a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship at a TV station in Miami helps you become a TV producer and then a local news reporter.
But the truth about who you are is still itching to get out.
I want to tell you: it will all be OK.
In fact, it’ll be more than OK. When you finally tell your mom your secret (at 24 years old) she will embrace you.
It takes her just 24 hours to understand what took you 24 years.
Though one friend warns, “you can’t be gay and successful in the media,” your colleagues will celebrate you.
What’s the big deal?, they’ll wonder, and send you on your next assignment.
And when ABC News calls to hire you, your colleagues there will celebrate you, too.
In fact, when you get engaged and ultimately marry your husband, your colleagues will show your photos and congratulate you on America’s No. 1 morning show, "Good Morning America."
You and your husband will be a trending topic on social media all around the world.
Kids struggling to understand themselves will write to you.
Their parents, transformed by the loving photos you share, will thank you.
Don’t rush it, kid.
You don’t need to reveal your secret just yet, if you don’t want to.
You’re only 12.
Just know that you’re special, and someday you’ll feel that too, and everything will be OK.
When you’re ready, start living your truth.
That’s when the magic happens.
With lots of love and tremendous pride,
-Gio (circa 2019)
Gio Benitez is ABC News' transportation correspondent based in New York. He reports for all ABC News programs and platforms including “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “Nightline” and “20/20.”
Editor's note: This was originally published on Oct. 11, 2019.