Eric James Borges, a 19-year-old aspiring filmmaker and an intern with the Trevor Project, committed suicide on Wednesday after a lifetime of struggling against homophobia and physical and verbal abuse from his family, his classmates and his peers.
The San Joaquin Valley resident, known as EricJames to his friends, was a vocal supporter of LGBTQ youth. One month before he died, he made an It Gets Better video for the Trevor Project. His last words to those struggling against the hate and fear were words of love and support, and the promise that things would change.
Trevor Project Intern Was Aspiring Filmmaker
No details have yet been released in the death of Eric Borges. Laura McGinnis, communications director at the Trevor Project, issue a statement to LGBTQ Nation expressing the organization's sadness at his suicide.
We are deeply saddened to hear about the tragic death of Eric James Borges, and our heart go out to his family and friends, and his community, McGinnis said. Our main concern right now is that those affected by his death feel supported and can get the case they need.
Many people, hearing news of what some sources are already calling another gay teen suicide, have already begun to speculate why Borges killed himself, and what message to take from his death.
But Eric James Borges already told his supporters, his enemies, and all the people he had never met, and would never meet, what message to take from his life.
He left an It Gets Better video chronicling his journey through a traumatic coming out experience and the beginning of a tentative self-acceptance. And he left his first short film, a stunning four-minute video called Invisible Creatures, that showed the beauty of love and acceptance in all its forms.
That's beautiful, Borges whispered in one of the outages from Invisible Creatures, when passing cars honked their horns in support.
This is his story.
'My name was not Eric, but f----t'
I was raised in an extremist Christian household, Borges began in his contribution to the It Gets Better campaign, filmed one month before his death.
His earliest recollection of being bullied for being gay was in kindergarten, and carried on through elementary school, middle school and high school.
I was physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally assaulted on a day to day basis for my perceived sexual orientation, he told viewers. I was stalked, spit upon, ostracized, and physically assaulted.
He paused. My name was not Eric, but f----t.
By the time he entered high school, EricJames had developed chronic migraines. He didn't feel safe anywhere and tried to avoid high school. He reached his limit halfway through, when he was physically assaulted in a classroom full of people. A teacher was also present.
He dropped out and went into independent studies, graduating early. But college was, if possible, even worse.
My freshman semester at college was a nightmare, Borges said. My mother knew I was gay, and performed an exorcism on me in an attempt to cure me.
Thoughts of self-loathing, despair and suicide became all-consuming. There was nowhere safe for him to go and no one he felt he could turn to who wouldn't respond with prejudice or hate.
I was being taught that the inherent, very essence of my being was unattainable and unacceptable.
'You will love, and be loved. And I love you'
EricJames came out officially as a sophomore in college. His parents told him he was disgusting, perverted, unnatural and damned to Hell. Three months before he died, and two months before he made the It Gets Better video, his family had kicked him out of their house and essentially severed all contact.
But Borges was there, on camera, to tell LGBTQ you that whether they were gay, lesbian, bi, transgender or queer, it would get better.
I came out in an attempt to educate others about the consequences of homophobia, and the adverse effects it had on my life, he said in the Trevor Project video.
Now, I am a supplemental instructor of sexuality, a freelance guest speaker, a published writer, and I work for the Trevor Project.
What he did not mention in the short was that he was also an amateur filmmaker. Instead, he turned his focus back on praising the loving and authentic people he'd met since he came out. Their support, he said, had surpassed all his expectations.
And as always, he focused on delivering a message of love and unconditional support to anyone watching.
Back when I was in the closet, I never dreamed that I would be able to express my sexuality and have a normal relationship, he said. I have, and you will, too.
You will date, fall in love, fall out of love, have your heart broken, just like the rest of us. You will love, and be loved. And I love you.
'Believe it, my friend, and it will happen'
EricJames appeared ready to end his It Get Better video about three minutes in. He told listeners never to give up, or to doubt for a second that they were not a valuable and beautiful contribution to this world.
But before signing off, he decided to share a letter written by one of his college professors, who would go on to become a close friend.
The professor urged Borges and others to stay strong, and to believe in their own self-worth.
Know that there are many other beautiful individuals just like you, that have struggled with marginalization from well-meaning folks whose minds are clouded by ignorance, he wrote.
One day, you will experience such a different system of support. You'll be staggered at the amount of sincere love and appreciation that floods your life from all sides.
The last thing the professor told Borges was for him alone.
I am proud of you, EricJames read aloud. You have a wonderful heart... the 19-year-old paused for a split-second, and swallowed hard. ... and intellect, and you will find peace in you future that may seem wholly foreign at this point. I know it.
Believe it, my friend, and it will happen, the letter ended.
And he was right, Eric James Borges said, looking straight into the camera lens. And the same applies to you. The video faded to black.
Eric James Borges' It Gets Better video is already beginning to explode on YouTube and social media sites.
But unlike young kids like Jamey Rodemeyer, the aspiring filmmaker was also able to leave behind a video that was completely his own: his short film Invisible Creatures.
Hope is Never Silent (Harvey Milk), the video's description reads. Silence is acceptance; SPEAK UP!
Below, watch the 19 year old's It Gets Better video, and the full film and outtakes from Invisible Creatures.
The Trevor Project: It Gets Better
Invisible Creatures: A Short Film
Invisible Creatures: Outtakes and Extras