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An in-depth Interview with Hate-Crime Survivor now Influencer Dennis Schleicher

You credit the traumatic event you experienced in high school as a turning point for you personally. Can you explain how it facilitated your personal growth in this way?

During my time in high school, I was subject to extended gay-bashing, culminating at the age of 17. The abuse I suffered became nationally and internationally recognized after being invited to appear on both Larry King Live and the Sally Jessy Raphael Show.

Since then, I’ve continued to share my experiences with the world through many radio shows, including Rick Dayton from KDKA and Cory Hepola from News Talk Radio.

Can you tell me a little about what success means to you? 

For me, success is defined by oneself. It is the creation and continued maintenance of a life you are proud to be leading. Success should be determined on your terms – achieved according to your own rules to build a life you find fulfilling and rewarding.

I have characterized accomplishment according to my preferences, as everyone should. I aim to realize these goals in compliance with my code and assemble an everyday routine you’re glad to experience.

You are the author of a book about your conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ. Was there anything you set out to achieve with this undertaking?

After my appearance on Larry King at age seventeen, I entered a turning point in my life which led to my decision to become a crisis counselor. From here, I began sharing my experience on many radio shows, including Rick Dayton from KDKA and News Talk Radio with Cory Hepola.

I shared my experience of hating my life and how I overcame this feeling, and how others can use it to help themselves. In releasing this book, I hoped to collate all these experiences I had discussed on these talk shows into one resource that could be quickly and easily referred to.

Additionally, I set out for this book to discuss the Catholic Church’s latest comments on homosexuality. While not going so far as condoning it, the Church called for members of the gay community to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” by Catholics. Finally, I also discuss the seemingly complicated puzzle of how I reconcile my sexuality with my religion.

Can you elaborate any further on your motivation for your current endeavors?

Having survived the hate crime I experienced in high school because of my ‘different’ appearance and sexuality, I can relate closely to other victims of violence and bullying. As a result, I am an ardent supporter of always treating others with kindness and never judging a book by its cover.

I would credit these beliefs to the accusatory stance my parents took towards me, refusing to accept me. Because of this, I am passionate about treating younger people in a way I wish I had been in my youth, showing compassion and kindness so that they will never feel ashamed of who they are.

Image Credit: Dennis Schleicher

Could you describe how your career has steered you towards the profession you are working in currently?

Of course! So I joined the Connecticut Authors & Publishers Association in 2006, releasing several best-selling books after this. I later became its President in 2019, and because of my work with the Connecticut authors, I was recruited to work as a literary agent for Talcott Notch Literary.

Since then, due to my accreditations, beliefs, and background, I have been asked to speak publicly to a plethora of groups from various settings to provide much-needed mentorship to young members of the LGBTQ community. I believe this education is of particular importance in faith-based communities, where understanding of the LGBTQ is at its lowest.

What are some of the best ways people can engage with you?

I primarily use Youtube and Instagram as a stage from which to spread this awareness about being comfortable with yourself and not judging others. Those would probably be the best ways to connect with me.

I am also the President of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association and a public speaker who has lectured at BYU and UVU. These are two more great ways to engage with me.

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