Sending Russia a message

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
―     Edmund Burke

I have been alarmed by the recent reports about the increased abuses that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Russians are experiencing. Because of recent political actions in the country, citizens are acting as if they have unrestricted permission to abuse their neighbors in humiliating and violent manners.  While some may say that this is happening so far away in Russia, and we can’t do anything, I can’t help but think of the laws different U.S. states are proposing and passing could lead to similar things happening here in our own country.

While some states and countries are finally granting more freedoms and providing safer communities for our LGBT friends and neighbors, other places are becoming more dangerous. What can we do to help?

  • Speak up. Yes, some laws in various places are making it a little scary to speak up, but we need to be brave. I am proud to say I knew a man who risked his own security and spoke out against the atrocities being committed in Nazi-occupied Europe. He didn’t have to because the Nazi’s weren’t targeting his people, but he stood up for what was right. He also paid the price–losing friends and being sent to a prison camp. Too bad more people didn’t do the same. He is one of my heroes.
  • Sign this petition. I am amazed at the power behind online petitions. More than ever, we are able to send a message that we will not tolerate certain actions and attitudes. It’s unfortunate, but the strongest message we can send anyone is that we will not support you financially if you continue doing what you are doing. The threat of an Olympic boycott could lead to change here.
  • Get your friends involved. Mormons Building Bridges, PFLAG, and other organizations are reaching out to people. Let’s use our collective resources to send messages to our friends across the globe. Perhaps our Mormon’s Building Bridges friends could send a message out to their LDS friends in Russia to take action. Perhaps we all could reach out to our friends in places where our rights are being abused to provide encouragement and build a safety network.

As I write this, I can’t help but think of the many comments I have read and heard from good LDS people about gay rights. Too often they fear doing or saying anything because they don’t want others to think they condone “the gay lifestyle.”  Well, stop worrying about that and start thinking about the lives you could save. Lives are being lost, and our inability to stand up isn’t helping the situation.

Chapter 11 – I walk alone

I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. In fact, I knew early on that I would be the type of child that most had to tolerate instead of choosing to include me in their activities. I wasn’t the last one picked for teams, but I was usually near the end of the selections. The way we divided teams during sports activities always caused anxiety; I hated the rejection. By the time sixth grade arrived, however, I had gotten used to the process. I quietly accepted the rejection.

It was also in sixth grade when one of my classmates, Nick, had decided to increase my misery levels during school hours. I didn’t realize it then, but my reactions to his teasing during recess were exactly what he wanted. He knew I hid in the bathroom and cried after our recent recess incident, and he liked it. I was to become the targeted victim in a plan to increase his popularity at school.

It started subtly. Nick made sure I could hear him whispering to other boys in class. Here’s how it usually went:

“Hey, did you know that Colin is gay?” he would say.

“What?”

“Colin, he’s a homosexual.”

“What’s that?”

“It means he likes boys.”

“Huh?”

“He doesn’t like girls; he likes boys!”

“Oh… you mean he’s a faggot?”

At that point there would be some snickering, and then I would get hit by a ball of crumpled paper. Of course, this was all done while Mrs. Frandsen wasn’t watching.

Nick never mentioned my secret—so secret that I still didn’t know it was true—to any of the girls in class. His gossip-mongering, however, lasted an entire week until all 17 boys in my class were informed of my deviant sexual preferences. As far as I knew, none of them bothered to stand up for me, but the worst part was I let it all happen. Some part of my upbringing—I’m not blaming anyone, mind you—something had told me that if I ignored the bullies, it would all stop.

Boy, was I wrong! Finally, the day that Nick had been hoping for arrived. Mrs. Frandsen was called out of the classroom, so we were all there without adult supervision. Nick had just what he wanted—a captive audience of 35 kids and the opportunity to say whatever he wanted. He motioned for his friend Brock to stand at the door and watch for Mrs. Frandsen, walked to the chalkboard, and began pacing the width of the room.

“Attention class, I have a very important matter to discuss with you today,” he said in his best attempt to sound like an adult.

Most of the boys laughed, and so did some of the girls.

“Settle down, kids. This is serious.”

“Sit down, Nick,” Kathy said.

“This concerns you, Kathy, so you better listen carefully.”

“Shut up, and sit down, Nick,” Kathy insisted. She stood up.

“Oh you’d want me to do that because you don’t want everybody to hear what I have to say. We all know you have a big crush on Colin, don’t we?”

Boys and girls laughed and whispered to each other. Kathy looked around for some support, but there wasn’t any. She looked at me with her sad, brown eyes and sunk back into her chair.

“Well,” Nick continued, “there’s a problem with you having a crush on Colin. He’ll never love you back And you know why, don’t you?”

I felt the blood rushing to my face, looked back at Kathy, and watched her sink lower into her seat. Some of the girls were whispering questions, and the boys were laughing.

“You know Colin’s secret, don’t you, Kathy. Well, it’s time everybody knew. You see, class, Colin will never love any girls because he’s a ho-mo-sex-u-al.”

He really let that last word last for an uncomfortably long time. The boys started laughing more, and girls started whispering amongst each other. “Is that true?” “Poor Kathy.” “That’s gross.”

“Let me tell you about homosexuals,” Nick continued. He was getting confident in his public speaking abilities. “Homo means the same, and sexual, well–”

“Cool it, Nick,” Brock said from the classroom door. “Mrs. Frandsen is coming back.”

The two boys returned to their desks and everybody did their best to look like they were busy working on their school work. I could feel people staring at me, and even though they tried hard to stifle them, an occasional boy or girl would let a giggle escape from deep within their gut. I didn’t dare turn and look and see if Kathy was suffering a similar level of discomfort.

Nobody spoke to me for the rest of the day, and they all made sure there was plenty of empty space around me at the lunch table. There’s usually a lot of movement in my class, but the students made sure to go out of their way to avoid my desk. Finally, when 3:15 arrived, all students rushed out the door. I pretended to search for something in my desk while everyone left. Is was easier than seeing their disapproving looks and mean laughter.

Kathy would probably be waiting for me in the hall. I looked at the hook where she usually hung her jacket in the hall, but she wasn’t there. I waited for ten minutes outside the girls’ restroom, but she never came out. For the first time since kindergarten, I walked home alone. I walked alone the rest of the school year.

Ender’s Game Boycott is Misguided

News is spreading about a group calling for a boycott of Ender’s Game when it released in the theaters this November. The proposed boycott is in response to author Orson Scott Card‘s anti-gay comments and his participation on the board of the National Organization for Marriage. This boycott is misguided because it is not going to impact the target of their fury.

While I agree that a boycott is a great way to voice disapproval of comments or actions of an individual, this particular time it is misguided. This is an attempt to hit Mr. Card in his pocket book, but the author has already been paid for this film. If they had thought this out clearly before they made their announcement, the boycott organizers would have realized that film studios purchase the rights from the story’s author before they can even begin adapting the script and producing the film. Orson Scott Card was likely paid years ago.

Who, exactly, is this boycott going to harm, if it were successful? It’s not Mr. Card—unless he is concerned about the possible sequels to come from the other novels in his series. The studio backers—the people who have invested money into this film production—are the ones who would be affected by a successful boycott. Since we don’t have any public declarations about gay rights from any of them, this boycott is pretty pointless.

Some claim this proposed boycott is a message to the studios—don’t do business with a bigot. Well, it’s too late to send that message. They paid for the film rights to Ender’s Game, they have paid the actors, the filming is complete, and a release date has been set for November. I, for one, look forward to seeing the movie. The trailer looks amazing.

I already see a backlash starting because of this proposed boycott. Within the week, I foresee Mike Huckabee establishing a national “Let’s Go See Ender’s Game Day.” I am sure he will pull in Chik-fil-a as a sponsor, and they will sell popcorn chicken as refreshments. This proposed boycott has caused early interest in the film among people who weren’t previously aware of it.

I hope Mr. Card’s feelings about homosexuality are evolving, just like they are for many people as we come to better understand one another. One day he will hopefully realize that he has displayed intolerance similar to what his character DeAnne Fletcher in The Lost Boys despised. I have to paraphrase now, because I do not have a copy of the novel, but DeAnne recounts the intolerance many of her former neighbors displayed towards an African-American girl in her Utah community. She moves away with her family and hopes to never again live among people who could dislike somebody just because they were different in some way. For some reason, that little insignificant passage from the novel has lasted with me since the time I read it nearly 12 years ago.

Share the Spark

sparklersAs the state celebrates its pioneer heritage this month, many of Utah’s citizens are still treated as outsiders in our communities. We can’t help but think of the strong divisions that we have created within the state, and we want to do something to help break down those walls. These divisions—or walls—exist because of religious differences, race, gender and sexual identity, liquor laws, education, and politics. We have allowed these differences divide us for far too long.

On Friday, July 26, we would like to invite anyone who is tired to these cultural conflicts to come together and Share the Spark. Join us somewhere along the Jordan River Parkway at dusk, bring a package of sparklers, and enjoy the summer evening with others in your community who believe everyone should be treated with dignity.

This is a simple idea that a few of us hope will spread throughout the community. Share the Spark isn’t organized by any official group—just a few friends who are conducting an experiment in tolerance. There won’t be any speeches or political demonstrations. We hope to see you there.

**please be respectful of Utah fire codes and keep all sparklers on the paved trails. We want to Share the Spark, but we don’t want to start any dangerous fires.

All-American Boy

All-American Boy

I came across this video on Facebook today, and I was very impressed.  I am not sure people fully understand the loneliness and rejection that gay men and women fear when we come to terms with our sexuality. This portrays those emotions beautifully.

 

Warning: the video depicts characters drinking liquor and a brief shot of a bare backside skinny dipping scene.