Twelve year-old Braeden Lange would hide in his room, crying himself to sleep on most nights after coming out as gay to his friends. Classmates bullied Braeden, one child going as far as saying he “should go to hell because being gay wasn’t in the Bible and it isn’t right.” Braeden considered suicide.
“He went from being cautiously optimistic, to Braeden was gone,” Braeden’s mom told ESPN during an interview which aired recently on the network’s SC Featured.
“Kids called him faggot and homo,” Braeden’s dad said. “He was about as withdrawn as a kid could get.”
“I would go to sleep and never want to wake up because I didn’t want to deal with it. I thought nothing would ever get better,” recalled Braeden.
Fearing his son would commit suicide, Braeden’s father went to work to figure out a way to help Braeden. He found a video on the internet. It was an old ESPN profile of lacrosse goalie Andrew Goldstein, the first openly gay male athlete to play in an American professional sport league. In the video, Andrew discusses coming out, saying, “I’m gay. This is me. I’m not going to hide it because you [other people] don’t like it.”
Andrew’s video gave Braeden hope. “If he [Andrew] could do it, I probably can too,” said Braeden.
Then Braeden’s father sent Andrew an e-mail telling him about Braeden. “It [the email] broke my heart,” explained Andrew. “I thought, I have to do something for this kid.”
Do something is exactly what Andrew did. First, he sent Braeden a personal video message telling him “he was the bravest kid he ever heard of.” He also sent Braeden the helmet he wore in the first game he played after coming out as gay. “I wanted Braeden to have something of mine that he could look at every day as a representation that somebody cared.” Andrew told Braeden, “The helmet belongs with you so you know I stand with you.”
Andrew’s inscription on the helmet read, “Dear Braeden, your courage inspires me. Keep your head up and live your dream.”
“I was shocked,” said Braeden, after watching Andrew’s video message and learning he would receive Andrew’s special helmet. “I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Braeden’s parents noticed a change in their son immediately. “After the video came, everything was different. Braeden was back to being Braeden. He had hope,” Braeden’s mom explained.
Soon, a friendship formed between the two lacrosse players. Eventually, Andrew decided to honor Braeden’s courage by holding a lacrosse contest in Philadelphia called the Courage Game. Andrew’s hope was the Courage Game would call attention to and support other gay youth who might be experiencing the same circumstances Braeden had suffered through.
The first Courage Game was a success, with nearly 100 lacrosse players coming out to support Braeden at the game. Afterwards, Braeden told ESPN he felt so confident. “I felt unstoppable. I had so many people standing with me and making me feel like I’m back to normal. I’m still the same person.”
In our ‘I Stand With You(th)’ section, ProudYouth covers the stories of people like Andrew who’ve stepped up, or spoken out in support of LGBT youth. If you wish to honor someone special in ‘I Stand With You(th),’ please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, explaining why this person should be honored.