Kat (2)

Kat looking at camera

Kat looking at camera


“My mom is my hero and one of the most fascinating people I know. She’s always educating herself and always learning more. I was 11, was when my father left us, so my mom told us from very young that we had to work hard to buy our own school supplies. My biological father was quite a character. He was mentally ill and a pathological liar and a lot of different things, so no one really surprises me because some of my earlier experiences were really shocking and surprising.

When people show great kindness and compassion, when people remind me that they are capable of those things, I think it’s more uplifting now. Looking back, I’m grateful now that it was all part of my experience. It wasn’t going to be any other way. I’m more discerning about connections. I will filter out and keep people at a distance that have that energy about them. I’m not easily taken in. It really makes you appreciate the connections that you have that are really authentic and really genuine even more.

I’m incredibly passionate about helping people come through trauma. I’m going into social work and I want to go into private practice and go into therapy and I also want to publish. I want to help people create a framework where people are more empathetic with one another, where they can more naturally step into another person’s shoes. Neither one of us arrived at our belief system nor who we are today in an instant. We arrived here through all of our cumulative experiences. And I think that there’s got to be an easier way to help people to be able to step into that empathy and say, ‘I may not like a thing about you, but I get why you are the way you are.’

I have a lot of theories about empathy in general and how we can use that and I think that we can do better in schools, in governments and just better across the board. Someone like Brené Brown is really inspirational to be me because I believe that stories and conversations are so important because it lights things on fire and it arms us all with a common language where we can talk about vulnerability and we can talk about these themes that are really, really important. I don’t know what form that’s going to take, but that’s what’s next for me. I want to see where social work takes me. I want to help people through traumas caused by sexual and domestic violence and the only way out is through.”


Davis looking at camera

This is Davis Hammet. When I spoke to him he had been awake for 32 hours straight, working. Davis was the Director of Operations for Planting Peace. He co-created and lived in the Equality House for five years and is the founder of Loud Light, an organization that seeks to empower underrepresented communities in Kansas and promote youth civic participation.

Davis looking at camera


“Being attracted to more than one gender added some difficulties growing up. I didn’t come out to my parents until the week I was driving up here to create the Equality House. I didn’t want my parents to learn that I was bi on CNN, but I had always put it off because I thought, ‘Well, what if I marry a woman? Why would I go through all those difficulties?’ When I was younger, even as early as elementary school, whenever I would get same sex attraction, I would hate myself for it. Around fourth or fifth grade I attempted suicide a couple of times. I now understand that I didn’t want to die. I had these feelings that I was attracted to someone who was the same gender as me and I hated those feelings and I wanted that to die.

I was born in the 1990s, so there weren’t that many icons telling me that this was okay or safe. I’m also the youngest of five kids, almost all boys and male culture is very homophobic and so even growing up around guys everyone was making queer jokes. I don’t hold it against anyone because everyone was doing it. I believe that to some degree everyone is racist, sexist, homophobic, is sick with prejudice and it’s everyone’s struggle to challenge that prejudice every day. Everyone wants to say, ‘Well, I’m not racist, I’m not sexist,’ but the thing is that I was once so homophobic that I tried to kill someone for same sex attraction and that person was me. That was what my suicide attempt was; it was homophobia.

I’m lucky enough to have a really amazing family that when I was beginning to attempt suicide I remembered constantly thinking, ‘I can’t do this to my parents.’ I wanted to kill myself, but it would be so unfair to my parents who had given me so much. There’s no note I could write, there’s nothing I could do. If a child commits suicide, the parents struggle with that forevermore. I kept all that completely hidden, buried in for a long time. First I came out to my mom and she cried, but she hugged me and said, ‘I don’t understand this at all, but I’m going to figure it out and I love you so much.’ The dream situation of coming out to a parent, right? Then I went to tell my dad and he just started laughing and he just goes, ‘Well, you’re such a people person.’ That was his response. It was so unfazed. Some people come out to their parents and they’re like ‘We always knew,’ but my parents were shocked. Still, my mom said she was going to figure it out and my dad just laughed and they still love me and this didn’t change anything. It was such a blessing.

Having to be in the closet about anything is such a burden. Being in the closet about something fundamental to yourself causes so much harm. And then I came out to the whole world. After I lived in the rainbow house for five years there’s no closet big enough in this world that I can go back into at this point.”