Looking through my current notebook I discovered a Derren Brown quote I wrote down.

A Derren Brown quote: “Having a big thing you can put up in front of you and say, ‘That’s me’ is a very handy tool.”

“Having a big thing you can put up in front of you and say, ‘That’s me,’ is a very handy tool,” Brown said in an Adam Green New Yorker profile of Brown, a mentalist, from Oct. 2019.

Brown’s talking about a role model, of sorts, someone to whom you can look up. Brown, who’s gay, didn’t have that person when it came to understanding his sexuality.

It’s a common challenge for LGBTQ people, particularly teenagers and young adults. Maybe it’s a little better now than it was when I was growing up. There’s less stigma with being gay, and there are more out celebrities.

But I suspect many LGBTQ youths still feel they don’t have an adult in their life whose life they can model. Hopefully, these young people have patient, loving adults who can guide and be a resource for them.

Representation matters. Derren Brown’s quote, and his personal experience, highlights why.

Growing up gay without someone in whom you can see yourself can limit your personal and professional development. You might struggle to come out and make destructive choices.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I attended five colleges in three states before earning my undergraduate degree. It took me eight years to graduate.

There are many reasons why I went to so many schools over such a long period. That I was identifying and coming to terms with being gay is at the top of the list. I like to think had my coming-of-age years included at least one openly gay person, I might have reduced the years I spent reconciling my sexuality. And perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled as much as I did.

As Derren Brown said, having something you can look at and see yourself is “a very handy tool.

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