Would you believe me if I told you that right here within our community, there might be people hiding a killer secret? You might find that hard to believe, but it’s true.
It wasn’t that many years ago when HIV-positive individuals were scared to let anyone know about their diagnosis, so they suffered in silence. And it wasn’t that many years before that when even being gay, trans, or queer was taboo. So, people hid and suffered in silence.
Fast forward to today, when we live in a world of greater tolerance and acceptance than ever. Yet there are still those of us who are suffering, and hiding our suffering to the point where this hidden secret becomes deadly.
That killer secret is depression. And when the worthlessness and hopeless that go along with depression reach their lowest point, they can become suicidal thoughts—and then suicidal action. I know this truth firsthand.
My late husband, TJ, committed suicide in July of 2018, after struggling with depression and mental illness for his entire life. He tried really hard to manage it through self-care and physical activity but the one thing he refused to do was take medication. And that is the one thing that might have saved his life.
There I was, standing onstage at the Mr. International Leather Contest, already having won Mr. San Francisco, and I could feel my husband TJ’s spirit. I felt him right there with me. It really touched me to be speaking to a crowd of a thousand people about a man I loved so much, and knowing that through my words they were getting to know him a little bit. Sadly, there was so much that TJ himself hadn’t felt free to share with people—not even with me, his husband, the person who shared his home and his bed.
My husband was a flight attendant. On a flight from D.C. to San Francisco, our home, he had a mimosa—and when he got home, he was reported for it and put on administrative leave. Instead of being put on probation, he was fired. Being fired was devastating for him. He had unsuccessfully tried different career paths and was already carrying $150,000 in school loans. To lose the one job he felt sure would work out for him was more than he could take.
After the meeting at work where they told him he was being fired, TJ did not drive home. He headed straight for the Golden Gate Bridge. On his way there, he called to tell me that he loved me but felt like he was a loser, not good enough to live this life. And then he told me he was going to take his life.
I dialed 9-1-1. I kept going back and forth between the 9-1-1 operator and TJ. The problem was, TJ wouldn’t tell me where he was headed.
It wasn’t until he got to the Golden Gate Bridge and one of the cops monitoring the bridge intercepted TJ that I realized that the bridge was TJ’s destination—and his suicide plan. The cop took TJ’s phone and realized that I was on the line.
“Do you believe that he is suicidal?” the cop asked me. I said yes.
So, for TJ’s own safety, the cop arrested him and took him to the hospital. They held him for a few days for observation. When he got home, he seemed to be doing better. He seemed to have calmed down. So, the following day, I felt like it was safe to leave TJ at home while I went to work.
Unfortunately, when I went to work, TJ drove straight to the bridge—and this time there was no cop to intercept him. So, he jumped to his death.
Here is my message to you today: be kind to everyone. You never know what they may be going through. Even people who seem completely out and free with their emotions and their lifestyle can be hiding a killer secret.
In our community, we pride ourselves on being open, on owning our fetishes and our preferences, on speaking publicly and privately about what we do and don’t like. Yet, silently, there are things that never get talked about—and those things can be deadly!
During my marriage to TJ, I believed that I could help him with his struggle with depression and mental illness. And maybe there were times that I did help. But ultimately, in the end, he lost the battle. Because there are emotions that are so deep and so devastating, people find it hard to talk about them.
So, treat everyone with kindness, no matter what, because you just never know. Those who look the happiest on the outside may be hiding a killer secret. •
Jawn Marques is 1st Runner up IML 41, Mr San Francisco Leather 2019 and Mr Daddy’s Barbershop Leather 2019.