Jay | At Rainbow, There Are People Who Will Love You for Who You Are

“I am very thankful to Rainbow. They saved my life. I am very thankful.”

Jay Starling, 20, has loved to read and write for as long as he can remember. His story “The Sea Beckons, and I Respond,” which was recently accepted for publication in the fall of 2021 by Nature Held Me Close, A Zine about Gender Dysphoria and the Great Outdoors, vividly depicts a moment of transformation:

 

I become formless, the sea cradles me as I explore and watch the sun make the water glitter. The water on my skin makes me shine too, and for a few minutes, my dysphoria doesn’t exist. It is just me and the ocean. Soon there is no difference between the two of us. —Jay Starling

 

Jay found Rainbow last fall when he was going through a very difficult time and a friend who has long been a part of Rainbow referred him to Rasheedah Blake, Rainbow’s Youth Housing Program Director. “Growing up, I had no supportive communities whatsoever,” Jay says. “When the pandemic hit, everywhere I used to hide out—like the coffee shops and libraries—closed. Then my college campus closed. I just wasn’t sure where to go, especially because my hometown isn’t well known for supporting LGBTQ people.”

 

So Jay’s friend dialed Rasheedah and put Jay on the phone. “I told her about the transphobia and homophobia I was facing at home,” Jay says, “and she said ‘If you want we can get you into a hotel room tonight.’ I am very thankful to Rainbow. They saved my life. I am very thankful.”

 

After Rasheedah supported Jay in getting safely housed in a hotel, she connected him to Rainbow’s partner the Mary McGovern House, a transitional living program in Concord, where Jay moved after six weeks in the hotel.

 

“To have someone reach a hand out to you, and say ‘Hey, there’s a better life elsewhere’ was huge,” Jay says. “For Rainbow to be there for me during that dark time was really important.”

 

An English major at a local community college, Jay plans to transfer to the University of California next year. When he was just 12 years old, Jay participated in National Novel Writing Month, writing 25,000 words in a month. “I’d like to publish my own fantasy series some day,” Jay says.

 

He has just submitted an article pitch to the official Star Trek website about found families and chosen communities on starships. “It would be really nice to get paid for writing,” Jay says, “because I am trying to save for top surgery in November.”

 

While working and saving up for his upcoming medical expenses, Jay makes sure to donate to Rainbow when he can. “I owe them a lot,” he says. “I will always assist Rainbow any way I can.”

 

“Jay is a wonderful human being with a great spirit,” says Rasheedah. “He has been very inspiring to Rainbow.”

 

The support he receives from the Rainbow community has had a profoundly positive impact on Jay. “After being isolated so long,” he says, “it didn’t occur to me that there were resources out there. It’s not that I didn’t think there were people like me but I didn’t know how to begin researching resources.”

 

“At Rainbow, there are people who will love you for who you are,” Jay says. “There are people who will show you kindness you didn’t know people were capable of. There are people who are willing to lend a hand and help you become who you would like to be.”

 

This summer, in addition to working on his novel, Jay plans to devote a lot of time to building his found family. “That concept is very important to me,” he says. “Having a community of people you really trust and love and who keep each other safe. And I am building that both at Rainbow and Mary McGovern House.”

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