In a video posted on YouTube in support of an outreach effort for gay teenagers who may be considering suicide, Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich talks about his own sexuality and the presence of bullies in his youth.
Describing himself as “an out and proud councilman elected by the people of Red Bank, New Jersey,” Zipprich recalls that as a teenager, he knew that “by being different, I wasn’t safe, especially when it came to kids who bullied.”
“It was very painful and very difficult to go to school every day in fear that somebody would find out who you really were,” he says in the video, which is featured on the It Gets Better website among those made by average joes and celebrities such as Keith Strickland of the B-52s and comedian Margaret Cho.
“I buried who I was. I knew that who I was wasn’t safe,” he says.
Zipprich tells redbankgreen that he volunteered to make the video after learning about a rash of bullying-related suicides among young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens, including that of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. His 21-year-old daughter’s roommate at college had a best friend who killed herself by setting herself on fire recently, he said.
“It’s my duty, I feel, as an elected official, especially an openly gay one, to step up and say to kids, ‘listen, there are people willing to listen to you and help you survive,'” he said.
On the video, recorded in early December at the River Road home he shares with partner J.P. Nicolaides, Zipprich says that after college, he fell in love with a woman, married and had a daughter, Mary Cate, “and all of that seemed perfectly normal.” He got divorced and became involved with another woman in a five-year relationship he describes as “tumultuous.”
Fifteen years ago, Zipprich says, he made a conscious decision to change his life, met a man he fell in love with, and now, “we’re living happily ever after.”
Zipprich says he and Nicolaides, who isn’t named in the video, “live in an a community where people love us, respect us and they know us as an openly gay, loving couple.”
“As an elected official, I change the way people look at me,” he says. “Even some of the bullies from high school now come to us for advice on how to raise their kids.”
The video ends with Zipprich giving a voiceover plug to the Trevor Project, a gay teen advocacy group.
Zipprich was elected to a three-year council term in 2008 after losing the prior year by 53 votes.