When I was five years old, I had a dream that I wanted to grow up and become a police officer. If you had asked me then, or if you ask me now, I would tell you it's simply because I want to help people. This dream remained with me for many years.
Growing up, I lived in a broken home. My father was a "high functioning alcoholic, I had a terrible stepmother and I was horrifically introverted. My stepmother believed that "kids don't belong upstairs" and made me stay in the basement. It was four cement walls, a cement floor, no Internet or fancy electronics -- just a small black and white TV Already being terribly shy, being limited to the basement did not help. I had no one to talk to, confide in or support me. I was alone.
Going to school was equally as bad. Being so shy made me the target of many youth. They discovered that all they had to do was call me a couple of bad names and I would break down crying. When I say crying, I mean a river from my eyes, shoulders shaking, unable to breathe and certainly not able to communicate.
I went through this unbearable isolation both at home, and at school, from the age of six through 17. I felt depressed, alone, and at times, thought of suicide. I felt that no one liked me, no one wanted to be my friend.
I took each day one at a time until I was 17 when the stepmother was screaming at me. Something inside of me had enough and I walked out of the house with only the clothes on my back. I ran away. I have lived on my own since.
At the age of 33, I finally decided to apply to the RCMP. I was accepted and am truly living my dream in Surrey, B.C. I am a very proud Mountie.
On Oct. 17, 2011, I read a story about a 15-year-old boy named Jamie Hubley who killed himself. He bullied relentlessly for years because he was a figure skater, and later openly gay.
I was paralyzed in my bed. I remembered my dream to be a police officer because I wanted to help people and here was this inspirational young man, who wanted nothing more than to be accepted for who he was, taking his own life. I decided that I was going to be more than someone reading headlines, hoping the world around me became a better place. I decided to go out there and make a difference myself.
I connected with Hubley's father who gave me his blessing to share his son's story with the world. I created my own website for Bullying Ends Here and then decided to start speaking to local youth on my days off and at my own expense. I really thought this would be a very small initiative one or two days per month. But what happened is that one teacher told another who told another.
In just a few weeks, the media picked up on what I was doing. The RCMP also recognized that this was getting big and they quickly became my biggest supporter. I was offered an opportunity to work on this initiative full-time to see where it might lead.
At each presentation I share the details of my private life and growing up. I then tell Hubley's story as though he is still with us. When I reveal that he committed suicide because of the bullying for being "unique," this is where I share that I too am gay.
I challenge the youth to reflect on themselves and see if something inside of them just changed for the negative towards me. If so, they have some serious work to do. I tell them about how I created this entire project for them. I tell them that I have been gay the entire time speaking to that point and that I like them no matter their thoughts on me are.
I accept them for who they are and I will help them when needed whether they like me or not. They can't take that away from me. I challenge them to look in the mirror and ask themselves: "Was I the very best person I could have been today" and then challenge themselves to be better tomorrow.
I also challenge them to help those who won't speak for themselves -- the victims. I tell them to stand up to the bully or, in the very least, tell an adult. Be the voice for the victim. Be someone's hero!
In only five months, I have travelled across Canada and spoken to over 15,000 youth. I have received four emails from students stating that I saved their lives.
I remember what it is like to feel alone, depressed and suicidal. I know what it's like to have addictions in the family, to have a crappy home life and to not feel loved. I remember what it is like to be young which is why I am so passionate about this.