By: Donna Freydkin
Adam Shankman served as a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" for seven seasons. He choreographed the 2010 Oscars. And he directed and produced 2007's movie adaptation of the musical "Hairspray."
But one of his biggest and most important endeavors has nothing to do with the big or small screens. Shankman sits on the board of directors of The Trevor Project, which was founded in 1998 and is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. Its annual TrevorLIVE event takes place Monday in New York.
"Trevor offers a play for kids to get feel like they're part of the community and a sense of support, to not feel alone. It's a place to turn," says Shankman during an interview conducted, it should be noted, before the mass shooting at a Florida gay club that left 49 dead.
The cause hits home, says Shankman, who studied dance at Juilliard.
"It's very personal to me. I was a kid who had no one to talk to. Things ended up working out. I powered through it. I would have had an easier time handling adversity -- I had to learn that in ways that were sometimes pretty excruciating. Everybody in the world has problems. I don't want to pretend it's only the LGBTQ community. But discrimination doesn't build character," he says.
And sure, things do get better -- incrementally. But look at North Carolina's loudly derided "bathroom law," which dictates which bathroom individuals should use based on their gender. And look at the carnage in Florida.
"It's more relevant now than ever before, as we make progress a country and a culture, what we've seen with all the new laws being passed and trying to be passed, is that people who are going to suffer are the kids in this. Moving forward, there's huge amounts of backlash," says Shankman.
Trevor runs a suicide hotline that's immensely vital.
"Kids feel more disenfranchised then ever. Kids are in the process of discovering who they are and they're being told who they are is not acceptable by a large body of people. The feelings of wanting to commit suicide -- it starts to rear its head.," he says.