I’m From Driftwood aims to help LGBTQ people learn more about their community. By creating an apolitical forum for LGBTQ stories from every age, race, gender, background and culture, they increase empathy and empower individuals in our community.
Every Wednesday, I’m From Driftwood shares a video story on their site and YouTube, and this week’s narrative was super relatable for us.
When Philadelphia’s Matt Beierschmitt was 15, he met other gay men online — often in dangerous situations — because he wanted connection.
I’m 15. He’s probably in his thirties and no one knows my age – I’m telling them I’m older. This guy is very eager to meet me and very – just kinda gave me negative vibes but I’m desperate to meet somebody. I wanted to just have a connection with somebody. So I just have a really weird feeling about him, so before I go to meet him, I literally have to like sneak out of my parents’ house. I take a kitchen knife with me just to be safe. I thought I would like – it was one of the like 80s wood-handled kitchen knives that wouldn’t cut a carrot but I thought it would kill somebody.
After their awkward rendezvous, the guy messaged him again online with a surprise.
I don’t know if it was that night or the next night but I’m online again and I get an email from him saying, “It was nice to meet you. You seem like a nice guy. And you forgot your knife in my car.” I was mortified but I didn’t really care because I was petrified at the time and glad I brought it.
It wasn’t until Beierschmitt met his first gay friend that he realized the importance of gay friendship and safe spaces.
When I found Jeff, I was able to be myself, be honest, just be me. When I was 15, I had to find people online because in 1996, there wasn’t anything else. I think today, I think it’s important to have safe spaces where young queer youth can go meet other people like them, so they’re not putting themselves in these weird predicaments like I was, meeting a complete stranger, down by the river with a knife. It’s funny now to think about it, but it’s also really scary. I don’t want anybody to be in that position.
Beierschmitt ends his story with an important lesson, relating his story to why it’s so important to have queer spaces for LGBTQ youth.
I think anybody that’s young, in the closet, not even in the closet but still needs allies, they need to find safe spaces near them. You need people like you, going through the same thing as you so you can make mistakes with them, learn from their mistakes, and help each other out. It’s important.
This isn’t the first time Matt Beierschmitt has shared such a personal story in the spotlight. In 2002, he was featured on the GLAAD winning episode “I’m Coming Out” on MTV’s True Life reality series.
He graced the cover of The Advocate to promote the groundbreaking episode.