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My Cousin, My Hero: Why Coming Out Matters.

September 19, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Religion

shirleyBy the time I was 15 years old, I had already had my first boyfriend, kind of.  I had begun to accept that I was “gay,” but I had also experienced the sting of being a “fag.”  Society, it seemed, disapproved.  The disapproval was so great that I’d often be chased home by groups of boys on bicycles throwing rocks at me and calling me “fag.”

I remember walking home from school one day at 12 years old and coming across the one person in that small Arkansas town I thought I could call friend.  She was interracial; and like me, she was the “only one in the village.”  She was well accepted in a town that was overwhelmingly white and entirely protestant.  As her story was told to me, her mother had been raped by a black man, and decided, rather than succumb to the sin of baby murder, to have the child; this interracial child.  Because her mother wasn’t willing, the town’s people felt it was “o.k.” to allow a “negro” there.

One day, I walked up to her smiling and laughing about a recent experience in the classroom, she looked at me and screamed, “Get away from me, you faggot.”  That was society’s doing.  She was taught that I was worthless.  I was rejected even by those that were rejected.

I often think of that every time I hear someone say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  At 12 years old, I was a virgin, had never kissed another boy and certainly wasn’t ready to do so.  I had not sinned, but I was hated.

Go forward again to 15 after I’d escaped back to the “big city” of San Antonio, Texas and you’d find me sitting in my room talking on the phone with various girlfriends.  We’d usually be on a three-way call and sometimes four or five people would be on conference together using a pre-determined three-way calling chain.  I’d call Jen, who would call Jeremy, who would call Cathy and so forth and so on.  What the girls on the call didn’t know is that sometimes Jeremy and I would talk without them on the line.  We’d laugh and carry on, flirting mercilessly with one another.

My first “gay” kiss was with Jeremy.  He was 2 years my senior and so much wiser.  The result was that Jeremy was ready to come out, and decided to take me with him – unbeknownst to me.

Imagine my surprise the next morning at school when I found that my carefully planned disguise/girlfriend, Emily, was now fully aware that I had a “boyfriend.”  Imagine my horror to discover that many of my friends had been taught the same way as those in the small town of Arkansas and I was again, “fag.”  I cut all ties with Jeremy and hid myself away until finally, my mother advised we were moving.  God was smiling down to save me and back to the closet I went, safe from the torment.

I had a bit of a social shut down.  At my new school, I dared not attempt to make friends, they would find out.  Society hated me.  Society was my enemy.

I had been raised around a highly evangelical family.  God was invoked for nearly every situation.  Whatever it was, it was in his hands. But still, I hadn’t been told anything like, “being gay is a sin.”  I was wholly (or holy) unaware that God hated me as well.  I found solace in God and heaven and knew I could endure the torment some day, if I just had enough faith in God.  I was almost ready to tell the world again; to come out.  With Jesus as my companion, I would prevail.

Then I turned on the T.V. one day to see a televangelist smiling down his nose at me.  His words spoken, then flashed onto the screen, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.”  As the Bible reference appeared, I went running to my room, devastated. I read the words in Leviticus 18:22 from the perspective of a 15 year old boy whose only true friend was Jesus.  My friend, it seemed, had betrayed me.  There was no one left to love me because I was gay.

I could go on about the countless nights of tear-stained pillows, the chronic depression and suicidal thoughts carefully hidden away least someone find out why I was so depressed.  I could tell you about my prayers where I begged God/Jesus to let me die in my sleep.  I dared not commit the sin of taking my own life or live the sin of being a gay man, but that is not the point.

God, the supreme power, the one that we all are told we can turn to when life brings us down, was off-limits to me.  Society rejected me and God rejected me.  I was out of options — or so I had been taught.

Then I went to visit my extended family.  My cousin was a few years older than me and we’d always been fairly close growing up.  We went running around the town without a mission or purpose with her girlfriend.  I knew she was a lesbian thanks to rumors from the family, but she’d never told me herself.  That night she did tell me and I suddenly wasn’t alone.

That’s another one of the many reasons why Harvey Milk was right.  We have to come out.  We have to tell people.  We have to let kids that are in that dark place know that they aren’t alone, that not everyone hates them, that God has not abandoned them and that we will not abandon them.  We have to keep them safe.

Thank you, Shirley, for unwittingly saving my life.

LGBT Notable News Happenings (May 18, 2009 – May 23, 2009)

May 25, 2009 By: MJ Category: LGBT News

LGBT NewsRodger McFarlane LGBT Activist Mourned (May 23, 2009)

Rodger McFarlane was a gay activist who set up the first AIDS hotline in 1981, using his own home phone and an answering machine. He went on to establish many other organizations and services to help those with AIDS.  In addition to being an activist, Mr. McFarlane was a very lively man and made seven over-ice expeditions to the North Pole.  Mark Thompson, a Los Angeles author, said, “He was one of those fantastically energetic, self-possessed visionary people who knew what had to be done.”  In 2002 Mr. McFarlane broke his back in an Eco-Challenge race and his health had been deteriorating since then.

CA School Agrees to Settlement (May 18, 2009)

A high school in the Vallejo Unified School District has agreed to pay a former student named Rochelle $25,000, and adopt new policies regarding bullying and prohibiting discrimination.  Sadly, the worst of the anti-gay harassment toward her came from one of the teachers at the school who ridiculed her by saying, “… she did not know whether she (Rochelle) was a boy or a girl.”  Other teachers at the high school also refused to let her into the girl’s locker room.  Rochelle now attends another high school.

Schools Block LGBT Web Sites (May 20, 2009)

The ACLU had been truly hoping to avoid taking court action against the Knox County and Nashville school systems.  Web sites specifically falling into the category of LGBT have been completely blocked from student access, but websites which are anti-LGBT or which promote so called LGBT “cures” are fully accessible.  A system was set up whereby the teachers would have been able to unlock the access to an LGBT web site for a student, but the student(s) would have been forced to “come out” to the teacher in order to request the access.

Report on Harvey Milk Censored by Principal (May 19, 2009)

Sixth-grader Natalie Jones was inspired after seeing the movie “Milk” and decided to write a report about his life and death for her class.  Instead Natalie’s presentation was stopped and she was sent to the office of her principal Theresa Grace.  The Principal of Mt. Woodson Elementary School decided that the sixth-grader’s report would require letters to parents notifying them of a lesson dealing with sex.  These letters offered the parents the option to decline to allow their children to participate in a “sex education” lesson.   The ACLU has responded.

New Lawsuit Filed Against DOMA (May 21, 2009)

The Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged again, hopefully with better results for all concerned.  Dean Hara, a widower, was married legally to former out gay US Congressman Gerry Studds, who died of a blood clot to his lung in October 2006.  Mr. Hara is still fighting for survivor benefits – which would not be a problem in the same circumstances for a survivor of a heterosexual marriage.  Several other widowers and couples are also involved in the newly filed lawsuit.  According to Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor, “It’s far from a slam dunk, but it’s a powerful and plausible case.”  Mr. Tribe is not involved in the lawsuit.

Love Matters More for Former San Angelo, Texas Mayor (May 21, 2009)

They met and got to know each other locally and then it turned into a beautiful relationship.  J.W. Lown and his partner did discover some difficulties and then the newly re-elected fourth term now former Mayor, and his partner, decided it was time for both of them to return to Mexico.  His partner is a citizen of Mexico and Mr. Lown has citizenship in both the U.S. and Mexico.  This is a beautiful story of love and immigration and working hard to follow the law.  For J.W. Lown it was a difficult decision to leave San Angelo, but to him some things do matter more than even a successful political career.

Swastika Used in Hate Crime at Home in Merced, CA (May 22, 2009)

Frances Martin had moved into her new home only a few days ago.  She decided to move in order to take care of her eight year old granddaughter while her own daughter is deployed in Iraq.  Ms. Martin’s son had just mowed the lawn when she realized something didn’t look right.  When she waked out to the sidewalk she was surprised to see a swastika burned into her lawn.  Ms. Martin and her family are African American.  The swastika is a white supremacist symbol, and an emblem of the German Nazi Party, which has been used both hatefully and violently against the LGBT community, African Americans, the Jewish people and other minority groups.  Ms Martin was simply looking for a safer place for her granddaughter.

Much Needed LGBT Center Now at San Jose State U. (May 22,2009)

Seven months ago San Jose State University opened the first center for LGBT students on the campus.  Larry Arzie and David Stonesifer graduated from SJSU back in the 1960’s at a time when there was no center for LGBT students to gather.  Back then, “… students who were wrestling with sexual identity were counseled to undergo psychiatric counseling.”  Fortunately that is no longer the case.  The successful couple, who have been living in Los Gatos, recently gave a very generous bequest to the new LGBT Center at SJSU which is their Alma Mater.

CA Supreme Court Set to Announce Decision (May 23, 2009)

The LGBT community and our allies throughout California and many other locations have been waiting and waiting for this decision.  On this coming Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Pacific standard time the decision will be announced as well as posted on the web – the website link is included in the article.  Marc Solomon the marriage director of Equality California said, “We hope they rule the right way, but we are prepared to win marriage back at the ballot box.”