João Neto shared his inspiring story on Twitter this week with a plea to spread the word about his work, and the internet came through.
Although modern society has come a long way in understanding and accepting members of the LGBTQIAP+ community, many still face rejection from their friends and family. Even today, young individuals struggle with coming out to their loved ones for fear of being pushed away and losing relationships they hold dear. João Neto's is one such story. The 21-year-old from Cuiabá, Brazil, was disowned by his father after he came out. Aside from losing that incredibly important familial bond, Neto was left struggling to pay his bills when his dad stopped supporting him financially.
Determined to survive against all odds, Neto taught himself how to draw to make a living and get through college. He slowly got better at it with practice and soon began painting beautiful custom murals on walls and furniture for clients in order to pay his bills. He shared his inspiring story on Twitter this week with a plea to spread the word about his work. The tweet which is in Portuguese when translated to English reads: My father stopped giving me financial support because I am gay and he abhors [me]. I managed to stay [in] college but everything else depends on me.
So I learned to draw and improved. I started to illustrate on walls and furniture and got here. Please, [I'm] just [asking] for help to publicize my [work], Neto added. People quickly came through, showering his tweet with over 274k likes so far and retweeting it more than 101k times. Many praised his artistic skills and determination to survive. As word of the young artist spread, he soon began receiving messages from those looking to buy his art, and Neto took to Twitter once again to thank everyone who'd made it possible. Here are some of his creations:
According to Dr. Caitlin Ryan, the director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, how a family reacts to a young individual coming out to them has significant implications for that child’s health and well-being. As OptionB.Org reports, young people who face severe rejection from their families are eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and over three times more likely to use drugs or have unsafe sex.
Dr. Ryan believes parents who find it difficult to accept their child's sexuality, often need to mourn the loss of what they expected and dreamt for their child. "It isn't all or nothing—you can find a balance between what you're comfortable with now and what your child needs," she said. "Some parents feel like they can never accept a child's LGBTQ identity. We show them how to start by supporting their child, such as requiring that other family members treat their child with respect as they do other family members, or standing up for their child when others mistreat them because of who they are. This helps validate their child and supports well-being without forcing parents to move faster than they feel ready to."
As for parents who weren't accepting of their child when they first came out, Dr. Ryan explains that it is never too late to make amends. "The most important thing you can do is to tell your child how much you love them. Your love reassures them that you are there for them and it creates space to talk honestly about each other’s feelings," she said. "This helps your family stay connected and grow together."
Here are some resources for suicide prevention, crisis support, as well as local resources for the LGBTQIAP+ community:
The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (online chat available)
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
The GLBT National Youth Talkline (youth serving youth through age 25): (800) 246-7743
The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)
The True Colors United: (212) 461-4401
Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)
Pride Institute: (800) 547-7433 24/7
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)