Too Late

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I had some strong impressions last week to do some writing for this blog. Over the past year, I had witnessed an increasing number of rants against LGBT people posted in my social media feeds. Whether I saw hateful memes or links to other angry blog posts about public restrooms, boycotting businesses or how confused and sick we are, I remained quiet. I fooled myself into believing that those authors of hate would stop if I choose not to join in the argument.

My urge to write again began last week when I saw several people repost a rant about our local Pride Festival. The author of the rant was upset about the rainbow flag flying higher than the U.S. flag at city hall. Although he was correct that this should not have happened, his rant was really a chance for him to go off on how we as LGBT people are ruining the nation. Every friend who passed on that verbal tirade silently confirmed that they do not consider me an equal.

I wanted to write something to respond, but I couldn’t find the right words. I wanted to let them know that every time they pass on an angry rant against any group of people, they are in an indirect way giving support to the lunatics who intentionally hurt those same people. When we say that we agree with somebody’s hateful ideas by posting them in our social media feeds, shouldn’t we think that we are also giving permission to somebody who sees those messages permission to physically harm others?

We suffered a national tragedy yesterday. My heart aches for the lives that have been lost and the many families who now mourn. I am not sure I can do much about this growing problem, but I know that I can influence my little part of the world. From now on, I will speak up whenever I see hateful messaged passed amongst my friends. I will stand up to the hate when I can. My silence didn’t help.

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.

My friend Noah

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1061350162/noah-clean-prison-or-dead

This is my friend Noah. He is coming to terms with substance abuse and searching for help to overcome his demons. He desperately wants to find a good set of gay friends who don’t turn to drugs for their escape or entertainment. I hope I can help.

When young gay men come to terms with their sexual orientation they search for others with whom they can relate.  Too often, the only people they can find that they feel are accepting also spend a lot of times drinking, smoking, and illicit drug use.  These young men feel like they have to choose between sticking with their church and feeling doomed to a lonely life or becoming an alcoholic, drug-using party animal. Too many pick the destructive option. Why do we leave them just the two choices?

I haven’t known Noah for long, but I do consider him my friend. I want to welcome him to my friend circles and help him find a healthy group of friends who aren’t on that destructive path too many go down. I may be setting myself up for heartbreak, but I can’t not reach out to him. After all, he wants those same healthy relationships that we call crave.

Free Speech vs. Human Dignity

Dozens and dozens of posts are coming through my Facebook account regarding yesterday’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day. I’ve read comments from “friends” stating things like “Another good reason to eat at Chick-fil-a,” “Yummy waffle fries,” “I’m not going to let anyone tell me where I can’t eat,” and “Take that you liberal idiots!”

It has been a very discouraging couple of days. I don’t think a lot of my friends can really imagine how it feels to know that they are supporting a cause that keeps me and thousands–actually millions–of brothers and sisters second class citizens. They say this isn’t about same-sex marriage, and I agree. Many of them said the issue was about free speech, and I believe in that American value just as much as anyone else. They say they are angry that a few–yes just a few–government officials said that the restaurant was no longer welcome in their jurisdictions, so they decided take a stand and eat at the restaurant in the name of free speech.

Well, I want everyone to think about the thousands of gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends that you threw under the bus yesterday in your support of free speech.  What about the young boys and girls who are terrified to go to school because they are bullied for being a “defect of nature?” What about the women and men who are brutally attacked for being different? Is free speech more important that treating people with dignity?

I know most of my friends would never outright say they hate homosexuals. Unfortunately, their actions yesterday say they side with those who do hate. Here are some comments on different websites to show who many of my friends and relatives sided with yesterday [note, I am not editing their comments in any way]:

“When I turn on the TV to watch the news and I see two men kissing my stomach turns.”

“The faggots just don’t get it. They are going to lose this one!”

“You want to be different, but at the same time you want to be treated the same.  PUT on your big person panties and lets get on with our lifes.”

“It seems GAYS want special rights..not Equal Rights. Don’t you remember that childhood song… Stick and Stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Quit being so thin skinned.”

“It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. They make me sick!”

How can we not take those words personally? I’ve heard similar and worse comments my whole life, and they tear at the soul. My LDS and friends get offended when their faith is attacked, so I guess I was hoping for more from them yesterday.

I want my good Christian and Mormon friends to think about what they thought about and discussed while waiting in line for your chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Did you say or laugh at any derogatory comments about “the gays.” Did you put a stop to hateful comments you may have heard?

Video campaigns were started to help gay and lesbian teens overcome depression and suicidal tendencies. They are told that it will get better, and that people will be kinder and more accepting as they get to know them. Unfortunately, I fear that many will not believe that after yesterday’s events. I fear that attacks against gays and lesbians could increase because of the crowds at Chick-fil-A yesterday.

I am grateful for a wise brother who invited me to have dinner with his family last night. His family bought a bucket of chicken from KFC, we watched the Olympics together, and we played a few board games with the kids. Nothing was mentioned about the Chick-fil-A controversy, but everyone there let me know that I am loved.

Go ahead and continue standing up for free speech, that’s your right. I, however, will choose to stand up for kindness, compassion, empathy, and love.  After all, isn’t love the greater commandment?