We have received thousands of incredible stories of bravery from our supporters. Some are heartwarming, others are tear jerking, and all of them are inspirational.
Read the stories, thoughts, and definitions of bravery from supporters all over the United States, and share them with your family and friends. Check back daily through January 4th for more.
Sebastian from Michigan
Bravery means standing up for what you believe in and what is right. Even standing up for others, bravery takes a lot of balls and courage. Bravery is something that I never thought I could have or could see in myself.
I used to be a very shy, reserved kid. I never stood up for myself or against others because I was too afraid. Even when it came to my sexuality, I hid for years due to fear of rejection and the thought of what my family and friends would do.
With the help of friends I eventually came out and was kicked out and on the streets because of it. But still I had not found bravery within myself. I was still somewhat of a pushover and was afraid of others and what they thought of me and how I would fit in as this new person who is gay.It took living off the generosity of others and paycheck to paycheck for awhile before I could find myself amidst chaos. My mother, who was my solid supporter, tried to understand what I was going through but before we could figure everything out she sadly passed away. Still, after that I had not found my bravery. It was a 3-year discovery but after many trials and tribulations I found my bravery within myself. I had to tell myself that I was worthwhile and I was not some freak because I am gay, and that is what I hope I can help others learn.
So many kids are ridiculed and bullied because they are different, but that, to me, makes them more special.
I also was bullied as a child and into my high school years for being too skinny or too "gay" and that pushed me further into the closet and made me afraid to speak my mind. I too thought of ending it all, but that is not the answer.
We need to stick together and be a network of support. That network can help others feel safe and not alone among the so called "haters."
So I hope that with writing this message and joining the fight for this foundation that I can help the people out there who deserve to know you are not alone. "Cuz Baby you were Born This Way!"
Rebeckah from California
Bravery means to stand up for yourself, AS WELL as others who need love, care and support. This is a dangerous age we live in, and having a good heart with the courage to stand up for what is right is very rare. I was sexually assaulted by a boy in my high school, and I decided it was right to report him because he hurt me, inside and out. Little did I know that he had assaulted at least 6 other girls in my school, and NONE of them reported him. He got away with it 6 times, maybe even more! I ended up being an inspiring figure to these girls and gave them the strength to come out and share their stories as well. It was a feeling like no other. I stood up for myself and those girls because I was born this way; no one, let alone one creepy guy, can tell me otherwise.
Tori from Washington
After pondering the classic meaning of "bravery," I must conclude that beyond standing up in the face of a dangerous situation, it is indeed more about standing up to yourself.
Being raised by parents with conservative traditional values, I was not able to admit (even to myself) that I am transgendered, but was very much aware of the fact that I was different than other kids around me. Reconciling my female self with my male body is the result of many years of torment and tears, and no one - even those closest to me - knew my pain. I was trapped between what my parents expected of a son, what "God" meant for me to do, and who I truly was. It took me over two decades of soul-searching and self-discovery to even get to the point where I could admit it to myself that I am a woman who nature played a cruel trick on by trapping her in a man's body.
I got to the point where I could be comfortable cross-dressing (even in public), but it really wasn't enough. When I heard Lady Gaga's song "Born This Way," she inspired me. I've loved her since I first heard her music, but this song became an anthem. I'm now actively pursuing my transition - to make my body finally match my soul. I've been living as a woman since March of 2011, and even my conservative mother calls me her daughter and is proud of me.
What is bravery?
Bravery is being true to oneself in the face of everything that opposes you. It's acting out in spite of whatever seeks to bring you down. Lady Gaga inspires this. She will always be my hero.
Derrick from Connecticut
Bravery means having a clear vision of what is out there in the world and attacking it head on, no matter how dangerous it may be. I don't consider myself brave, but I do brave things sometimes. The bravest thing I've done in life is coming out to my parents; even though it didn't turn out well, I did it.
Two years ago, I was in the closet, scared to be myself because I saw how people treated homosexuals, especially those in my culture. I am Jamaican, and as some of you may know, Jamaica is one of the most homophobic countries in the world. The punishment for being gay there is death. Being raised in a religious, Jamaican household was a challenge, but I managed to hide who I was until I was 16. By then I was sick of hiding who I was and sneaking around with my boyfriend at the time.
So on Easter, (yeah I know not the best time to come out to a bunch of religious family members) I sat my family down and told them the truth. And then all HELL broke loose. I got jumped by my brothers and father (the man who made me), my family kicked me out with nowhere to go and burned all my material belongings. I was disowned. Lost and hurt, I started cutting myself as a way to cope with my anger and soon I attempted suicide using drugs. I spent a year in the hospital; the drugs I took left me in a coma. When I finally woke up I met amazing people who allowed me to live in their home. They were so kind and non-judgmental. I began going to therapy and now I'm a college student. One day I will be a doctor, have a home, a husband and children and nothing will stop me. I promised myself this, I will always love my children no matter what. I was, you was, we were all born this way and nobody can change that :)
Corey from Oregon
I am a gay high school teen. Coming out to my father was a thought that frightened me, beyond belief. Coming out to my friends and classmates was far more frightening; the thought of my friends and classmates not accepting me was my biggest fear. As I grew more confident and started to value myself I started telling my friends. Not a single one of them was upset or shocked that I was gay. After everyone knew and I was okay with the thought of having a boyfriend, so I found one. We were happy. Every day that went by pushed me closer to when I had to tell my dad.
On May 18th 2009 I decided to tell my father. I was so scared. I sat down, looked at him, and told him, "Dad I'm gay." He looked at me and walked out of the room. The next day my stepmother was home and things got bad. She started to hit me. She bruised up my face and my chest. I was too scared to fight back. I was scared about what my dad would do if he were to find out I fought back, so I didn't. I sat there and took it like a man. My twin sister called my grandma and the family talked about what they were going to do. The next day my aunt and uncle took me in. They have raised me as their own son since the day I moved in.
Since I moved out, I have not once spoken to my dad. He feels like I need to apologize for what I am. I am who I am and there is no reason for me to apologize. I wake up every day and look into the bathroom mirror and I tell myself how beautiful, strong, brave and unique I am. I am not a mistake, I was born this way. I wear my makeup and my fancy clothes everyday. I hold my head high, walk with confidence and be who I am. I have people in my life that love me unconditionally. It gets better, I am beyond happy. It will get better!
Michael from Louisiana
Bravery, to me, is an internal choice to do the right thing. I realized changing the minds of others was not important. Arguing with people who disagreed with who I am did not make me feel better about myself, it only frustrated me. The second I decided not to spend my time on other people's opinion was the second I became a happier person.
I feel brave when I walk into a church that speaks against who I am, and I sit next to a person who speaks against who I am, but l love them anyway. I feel brave when I say "I am here for God, not you." I feel brave every time I think about overcoming rejection in my life. I feel brave when I talk to the person in the back of the bar that nobody is talking to. I feel brave when I stand up for the person everybody is talking about.
Some people may just call it a new-found confidence, to not worry about what others think or to go against what the others are doing. I feel like it's bravery. For 18 years, I denied who I really was. It is brave to look inside myself and know that I am truly a wonderful person, now. I am brave every single day that I wake up and acknowledge the negativity, and hear the hatred from others' mouths, but I chose to love myself anyway. Bravery means, to me, openly choosing to love every single person in this world, no matter who they are, or how they feel, or how they act. The second I see every, single person I make a conscious decision to love them as I want to be loved. And it's bravery to believe that everybody else is doing the same thing when they look at me.
David from Indiana
Bravery to me means:
Always showing love and kindness to your enemies.
Believing in the person that you were born to be even when society tells you that you're not a person at all.
Confronting your deepest, darkest and most troubling thoughts.
Loving your insecurities and misfortunes, because without them, you wouldn't be the person you are today.
Shouting to the world that you love Jesus even when the world tells you that Jesus hates you.
Getting my family to accept me being gay.
Not being afraid to tell everyone what I think about gay rights and gay marriage.
Telling my dad that he's wrong when he says the bible hates.
Going to high school everyday even though I barely had any friends.
Going back to my small hometown and not being afraid to blast my favorite music, LADY GAGA.
Kelly from California
To me, bravery is a woman who leaves an abusive relationship. Bravery is standing up to your friends when they do something that you don't like. Bravery is being able to be yourself regardless of what others think. Bravery means do what ever you want. Because if you are brave enough to be yourself, then you have fought the most terrifying battle. The battle of self and social hatred. And, don't worry. Bravery is a community. And we are more than willing to help. :) Love you.
Michael from Texas
Bravery means living the life you want to live and creating your own destiny despite the "moral codes" society and others set out for you. Bravery means taking a stance not just for yourself, but for others who do not know how to. Bravery is living a life of love, and celebrating every breath you have with others even in the face of adversity. Bravery exist in us all, you just have to dig deep to find it.
Alexander from Florida
In my own opinion, bravery means that you have the will power to do something that nobody has ever done before. Whether it be inspiring others to do something that has the potential to change things for the better or just fighting for what is truly right in this world. I've been faced with many obstacles throughout my entire existence. So I know what it feels like to be broken down and having to deal with the constant criticism.
I've been a victim of bullying. I've been called so many names that were just hurtful due to my sexuality as a teenager. As time went by I was in a state of depression and just felt worthless, like as if nothing was worth living for. My mother, who only knew what I was going through, took me in for psychotherapeutic sessions and that had only helped me out for a bit. Later on, I began to develop a liking for the visual arts. Whether it was taking photographs, drawing or even painting it all helped me express what I had gone through. Subtle hints were seen through my art and as soon as my family picked it up, they were there to comfort me through my troubles. If it weren't for my passion for the visual arts, my family and even my faith backing me up, I don't even know where I would have ended up.
Who knew that I would end up attending an art school to further my education in the visual arts, meet amazing, new people and live a much better life? All I can say is that I'm thankful for my family and the big man upstairs. One last thing, I feel that bravery can also be defined as finding something worth living for. You feel a sense of bravery once you've found that something, because you're the one that found a passion to your liking while others just sit there.
Sam from Georgia
After being diagnosed with depression at the age of fourteen, I went to three separate treatment centers over the course of two years. Finally coming home to my junior year in high school in May 2010, I knew I wanted to become a photographer. Using my past experiences of bullies, depression, my mother's alcoholism, and insecurities, with inspiring artists like Annie Leibovitz, Ai Wei Wei, and Lady Gaga, I knew I wanted to make dramatic and impacting photos. Naturally, with my risk-taking photos came along criticism. A middle aged woman once called me, "sick" and I am constantly putting my heartstrings on the line when I show people my work. But the overall achievement of portraying emotions in my photos is worth it all. I am 18 years old now and have received admission and possible scholarship from three art colleges. I am happy to say that being brave has paid off, and I promise it will for you, too!
Bita from California
Bravery is acceptance. Accepting the wonderful person that lives within you. Bravery is being yourself and loving who you are everyday. Bravery is believing in yourself even if no one else does. When you have faith in yourself, love yourself, and realize that you are a wonderful person, others will too. Don't let others bring you down. Love yourself and you're set. Be proud of who you are because you were Born That way.
Robin from Michigan
Bravery to me means to fight my fears. To say no, and stand up for others when they truly need it. Bravery also means that I should be strong and believe in myself. Respect my youth, my sexuality and community.
Haylan from Texas
Bravery, to me, means not losing sight of yourself; your true passions, morals. It means using your personal compass to the fullest, always trusting yourself and not letting others chink your armor. It's hard to describe, but that is what it's always felt like in my case. When I was little, the list of things people didn't like about me was lengthy. Going into my teen years it got even longer. You hear that it gets better as an adult, and as much as that's true, it's really because you have more opportunity to decide who you deal with rather than the forced social situations being underage gets you. I've learned over time that listening to yourself and, as cheesy as it sounds, believing in yourself and those who love you, is the only way to distinguish love in the world. Without getting it for yourself, from yourself, you can't offer it to anyone else. I was too skinny, I wasn't religious enough or I wasn't rich enough. Did I like boys? Did I like girls? It didn't matter, You and I, we will still be tormented for whatever the answer is.
The hate that is out there is never right, no matter the reason. If someone treats either of us like that, no matter our age and no matter what for, that person has lost their importance to us. We need to consider that if someone is going to treat us poorly or degrade us, bully us in any way, we do not need their attention; we do not need their friendship, their acquaintanceship, or anything at all from them. Bravery means many things, but it all centers around You, because You are the most important to all of us. I was stuffed in trash cans (sound familiar?), dragged, beaten and degraded at school and at home, but having a trust in myself let me grow up and control my own destiny and who I have around me.
I am a social worker now, I've worked helping people quit drugs, I've held benefits for a local Equality charity and volunteer in my community for causes dear to me. You can take the hate that's sent your direction, remain strong and turn it into something that blossoms both yourself and the world around you. You are never alone and you can always be brave while we are all brave with you.