Friday, March 30, 2012

Rest In Peace, Lennon Baldwin, 15: Suicide from Bullying (Updated)

Wednesday was a bad day.  In addition to the 12-year-old in West Virginia who ended his life due to bullying, Lennon Baldwin, 15, of New Jersey ended his young life as well.  Police in Morristown are investigating the suicide for the possibility of bullying.

By all accounts, Lennon was a very well-liked, happy young man with an infectious smile.  I've witnessed, as well, that he was a very gifted, blooming artist.  A friend of Lennon's posted this video as a tribute to his fallen friend.  A rising star now dimmed by suicide.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, the authorities in Morristown are on record as saying they are doing a "full investigation" into the suicide.  At this point, it is unclear whether bullying was the cause or not.

Teen suicide, whatever the reason, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an issue that absolutely has to be addressed with the same urgency as a recently reported "epidemic" of teen smoking.  If not moreso.  After all, we can get teens to stop smoking.  No one has figured out how to stop anyone from being dead.  Once the suicide attempt is successful, that's it.  A young life is senselessly and needlessly snuffed out.  Dreams are extinguished.  Families and friends are left with hearts ripped as they try to make sense of it all.

What is the solution?  I wish I could answer that.  Right now, no one can.  However, there are things we can do to put a serious dent in what's going on.

For starters, we can work as one in convincing the people who lead that teen suicide is a very serious issue in our culture, not only in our country but worldwide.  It is a plague that deserves the full-attention of every politician, every religious leader, every school administrator across the board. 

The scourge of bullying, which is at the root of far too many teen suicides needs to be met head-on and dealt with.  In some ways, that's easier said than done.  Why?  Because on one level, it's very easy for us all, including myself, to call for the heads of those who bully another human being to the point where they feel the only way to make it stop is to end their own life.  And, indeed, I do feel that those who continually and willfully bully a person should be held accountable if that person commits suicide because of their actions.  It's no different than the bully holding a gun to that same person's head and pulling the trigger.  They are just as dead either way.  The difference is, in this case, the one who pulled the trigger is obviously charged with murder.  So, why should bullying someone to the point where he or she feels the only way out is commit suicide be any different.  Why?  Because it's more complex than that.  See, on another level is the reality that we, as humans, are not born to hate.  We are not born intolerant.  The exact opposite it true.  That means that they are taught these emotions and behaviors.  And, unfortunately in this case, a young person's brain is a sponge.  They learn well.  So, to get at the root of bullying, it is imperative to start with the adults.  If Johnny constantly hears his dad, his religious leader, or political leaders constantly express their disdain, their intolerance and hatred of certain groups of people, whether it's different races or people of a different sexual orientation, he's learning from them that it's ok to treat these people like they don't belong.  It's ok to call them the most degrading names.  It's ok to bring physical harm to them.  No!!  It's NOT ok!!!  And, everyone, from the adults to the young ones, needs to understand that.  Every single life is precious.

Another big contributor to teen suicides is mental health issues.  Leading the way in this area is depression.  Knowing the symptoms of depression is a crucial first-step.  Knowing how to deal with teen depression can be life-saving. 

We can only hope for a speedy solution, one that will lead to a reduction and eventual end to the bullying/teen suicide epidemic.

Unfortunately, all of our efforts will be too late for the family and friends of Lennon Baldwin.  All we can do for them now is wrap our arms around them and support them as they struggle mightily to make sense of this.  We can go to the facebook page set up in Lennon's honor and leave our condolences.  And, we can pray that he now finds the peace he was denied while he was here with us.



Suicide Support 

STOP Teenage Suicide  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  


I erroneously stated earlier in this that Lennon was an artist "as seen in this video". The artist in the video is his friend, Andrew, who drew the picture of Lennon as a tribute.  Sorry for the confusion. 

Dalton Lee Walker, 12, Bullying Victim

On the day the movie "Bully" is released for the public to view comes the sad news out of Princeton, West Virginia of 12-year-old Dalton Lee Walker.  Dalton ended his life Wednesday, March 28th, because of being bullied.

Dalton's mother says that she had met with school officials on several occasions to discuss the problem of bullying as it pertained to her son.  According to his half-sister, Dalton had been teased regularly at school, and it just became too much for him to handle.

The issue of bullying has caught national, and even international, attention.  That's a good thing.  However, the problem isn't going away.  It's not as if I'm foolish enough to think that it will disappear overnight.  Of course it won't.  At the same time, I still don't see where it's being taken seriously enough by the people who can really make a difference for it to truly start making a difference.

In a day and age where children have instant access to the world 24/7, via Internet, bullying has become a 'round-the-clock phenomena.  Potentially, at least.  And, here's the most important part of that:  these young people are NOT just witnessing bullying on a personal level, from their attackers.  They're also seeing it from adults.  That's devastating on two levels:
  • the kids who bully see the politicians, religious leaders, and other heralded adults doing it, and doing it in a public forum.  It's like handing a 16-year-old his Driver's License.  He's now allowed to drive; they are, by virtue of what they are witnessing on a daily basis, allowed to bully.
  • when at-risk youngsters see these public figures essentially sanctioning bullying through their own actions, it sends them the message that no one is going to give a rat's ass about them being bullied.  Jacob Rogers voiced such concerns before ending his life in December.
What's going to make a difference, what's really going to save these incredibly young people from ending their lives, before their lives even truly had a chance to begin, is a change in the mindset of the adults.  That's nothing new.  It's been said here before.  It's been said in other places, as well.  The change is going to have to start with the adults.  Parents need to stay plugged in to what's going on with their children; school administrators need to step up their effort a few levels to prevent it, which will entail taking every case seriously; and, our nation's "leaders" need to either change their rhetoric as to not send the message that it's okay to hate and be intolerant, or they need to be removed from their positions.

Hatred, meanness, intolerance:  these are not things we're born with.  Our innate emotion is love...and, acceptance.  Beyond that, those who hate, those who are intolerant, are taught those emotions, either directly or indirectly.  And, most of the time, the "teacher" is an adult.

Dalton's bullies were not adults:  they were his peers.  Kids at Princeton Middle School who thought is was okay to tease and bully Dalton until he couldn't take it anymore.

I will note here that there was no reason given for Dalton's bullying; therefore, we cannot speculate.  It doesn't matter what he was bullied for.  What matters it that he was bullied, and now he's gone.   May you now find peace, Dalton.  And, to the family and friends of Dalton, we send our heartfelt condolences and love.



Suicide Support 

STOP Teenage Suicide  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Culture of Hate

It's been said many times that this "war" that's going on for equality, to end hate and intolerance, is nothing new.  We know from history that this is true.  History has provided us with instance after bloody instance of how hate permeates our culture.

As a reminder of some of the examples of extreme hatred and intolerance in recent history, it wasn't really that long ago that a man named Hitler set out to exterminate anybody who wasn't like himself.  It wasn't that long ago when blacks had to ride on the back of the bus, were lynched just for being black, or couldn't even vote.  I remember those days, actually.
I remember, as a very young boy, maybe 6, living in a small, backwards Virginia city called Portsmouth.  This was back in the early 60s, so racism was rampant there.  I was riding my bike farther away from home than I was allowed to, but I was a 6 year old boy.  Since when do THEY listen!?  As I went to ride across an intersection, this royal blue '64 Ford Galaxie with a white top attempted to make a left turn.  We both screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection.  The driver was a middle-aged white man with dark sunglasses.  We sat there in the middle of the intersection for what seemed like an hour, to a 6 year old boy, just staring at each other.  I was staring because I was 6 and didn't know any better.  In addition, he was staring at me, so I figured it was what I was supposed to do in return.  However, thank God I was born with good intuition because, even at that early age, my young gut told me that this guy was dangerous.  Eventually, he peeled off past me and on down the street and I continued on along my way.  I saw him hang a hard right at the next intersection, and my gut told me that was not a good thing.  Sure enough, as I neared the approaching corner, which had a gas station on it, there was that very same 64 royal blue Ford Galaxie 500 with the white top.  My heart raced.  Thank God for my young intuition!  As I approached the car for a second time, the man with the menacing stare from moments ago lept from his car and lunged towards my 6 year old back with what had to be a 12" dagger.  Already sensing that he was going to try and harm me, I was able to speed past him just ahead of the blade meant to tear into my back.  This man was willing to kill a 6 year old boy for no other reason than the fact that he was black!
Of course, there's a much longer list of instances of pure hatred and narrow-minded, fear-induced intolerance.

Today, we're in the midst of yet another struggle of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, love vs. hate.  The LGBT community's battle for equality and acceptance is, for sure, today's Civil Rights Movement.  And, just as the case with that small 6 year old black kid in southern, racist Portsmouth, VA, there are people one "the other side" of the battle who have so much hatred and intolerance in them, they would use extreme measures rather than see us achieve simple equality.  One only has to look at the level of violence against members of the LGBT community to get a sobering snapshot of just how intense this battle truly is.  Watching from the sidelines are tomorrow's LGBT community:  the LGBT teens.  Watching with the hope that we'll win this war so that they will be able to simply live their lives happily, safely, and with the one they fall in love with.  We can't let them down.

A regular reader contact me recently.  Inspired by the recent blog post about Daniel Zamudio, and himself a writer, he sent me a poem that needs to be shared.  It fits seamlessly with the emotion of the day and with the theme of this post:
If history had gone another way
Non-whites would be second class citizens
If history went another way
Jews would  still be in death camps
If history went another way
Gays would have been shot on sight
If history went another way
Hate and fear would control the hearts of leaders
So tell me now!
Tell me if you condone of such hate
Tell me now!
If you wish this upon others
Tell me now!
So I can sleep at last
Or lie in my bed  waiting for the nightmare of hate to become reality once more
If you so wish to kill or harm such a person 
For little more for their religion
Their race
Their love
So that I can have a clear path ahead of me
Tell me now
So that when the time comes
I know where to stand
Tell me now.
Because as I witness hate I shall not stand idle no more.                           Written by Devin Callan
We cannot afford to stand idle.  Not now.  No more.  Each voice needs to be heard.  Our message needs to be clear.  Hitler was defeated.  The Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s was won by the black community.  Today's Civil Rights Movement focuses on the LGBT community.  It's a battle that can, and must, be won.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Daniel Zamudio, 24, Beaten to Death Because of Sexuality

I was just asked, on my facebook blog page "why all the gay posts?"  The fact of the matter is that there can't be enough good news, "normalized" posts and stories about the LGBT community.  Not at this point in time.  There are far too many people, in this country and around the world, who would like nothing better than to see us disappear.  Some of them would even resort to violence to achieve their goal.  Such was the case with 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio of Chile.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 3rd, Daniel was brutally attacked by a group of neo-Nazis, ranging in age from 18-25, simply because of his sexual orientation.  He sustained serious and irreversible brain damage during the attack and lied in a drug-induced coma for 3 weeks.  Tuesday night, Daniel Zamudio, succumbed to his injuries.

Chilean police have the 4 men who are allegedly responsible for this heinous crime in custody.  The level of hatred directed at Daniel was astonishing.  Amongst other things, they carved swastikas into his flesh.  Just because he was gay!!

"Why all the gay posts?"  Because, madness like this must end!  Because, hating someone on such a deep level, simply because of their sexuality!, that you're willing to mutilate them is a symptom of a contagion that's affecting the entire globe.  Because, people who are LGBT deserve to live a rich, full, and happy life just as much as their non-LGBT counterparts.  With so many people standing at the ready to humiliate and shame them, to discriminate against and minimize their worth as a human being, to inflict emotional and/or physical harm on them, sometimes to the point where it costs them their lives, I'm going to be on the front line every single day letting them - US!!! - know that we are second-class citizens to no one!

Daniel Zamudio's life should not have ended the way it did.  NO human being should ever have to endure that level of hatred and intolerance.  Ever.  Gay, straight, black, Jewish, or whatever.  It is not okay with me to know that we live in a world where what I do in the privacy of my own home, with someone I love, can get me killed!  It shouldn't be okay with anyone.  Yet, it happens.  Worse, I live in a country where we have politicians working to pass laws that condones and encourages this level of brutality against the LGBT community.  And, it will continue to happen as long as people sit on the sidelines, shake their heads, and say their dutiful "that's terrible" or "this has to stop" rather than get involved, at some level!, in bringing about a difference.

Daniel, the world mourns you.  May you rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who IS NOM!!??

It's no coincidence that the nasty rhetoric and tactics are heating up as we get closer to Election Day in this country.  It's by design.  "Divide and conquer" is a strategy that works.  It's almost as effective as "Unite and Win".  After all, it is proven time and again that the "Power in Numbers" theory is very powerful, indeed.

Back to this "Values Bus Tour".  It's very much worth noting that one of the driving forces behind this enlightening tour is NOM, National Organization for Marriage.  Weren't they the driving force behind the attack on Ellen DeGeneres a little while back?  As with all of these far-right-wing extremist groups, they are very narrow-minded, un-Godly-like mean-spirited, and bulldog-stubborn in their determination to bully the rest of the country and, to be sure, world into adhering to their beliefs.  Or else!

To wit, this was brought to my attention today and, trust me on this, it's a must-read for every single reader of this blog post.  These diabolical "Christians" have a road map already laid out as to how to achieve their goal of, basically, sweeping every LGBT person deep into the closet.  And, then, locking that closet door so that we never escape again.  It's THAT serious. 

Here's one excerpt from their confidential manifesto:
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”
Well, that's happening now.  I've encountered, several times already, arguments from the Black community opposing my views that this is The New Civil Rights Movement, with them wanting to distance the black community from this fight.  However, as an older black man, myself, I assured them from my own personal experiences that this is, indeed, exactly the same battle that was fought back in the 60s and against the same establishment.  Their argument is moot.

Ever ask yourself why it's so important to them that same-sex marriage doesn't exist?  What exactly is the "sanctity of marriage"?  Is it the reality that heterosexual marriages have a divorce rate of over 50%?  Is that sanctimonious?  Is it one of our Republican presidential candidates openly admitting that he believes in "open" marriages and expecting his bedridden wife to be accepting of him going elsewhere for sex while she's unable to provide it for him?  Is that sanctimonious?  Or, is it Kim Kardasian's farce of a 72-hour "marriage".  THAT'S sanctimonious, for sure!!  Why, exactly, is it so important for them that they're willing to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into a movement to eradicate same-sex marriages? More importantly, how is it that our political leaders are involved with such a movement!?  Whatever happened to "...with liberty and justice for ALL"?  I think that the comment posted to the facebook blog page yesterday was so on-point, it bears printing here again:
...look at your country's history. "Enough of thinkin' everything that you've done is good", just saying (in Rufus Wainwright's words). Here in Germany, a politician who makes homophobic remarks would have to step down the next day. We have a gay Foreign Minister and Berlin has a gay mayor. In the US, homophobes can become governors and run for president.
To understand the true impact of this level of hatred and intolerance, one only has to realize that these teens who do the bullying, especially against their LGBT peers, real or perceived, are learning from adults like these that it's not only ok, it's expected.  Then, when you look at the level of LGBT teen suicides that are caused from the bullying, it should be easy to understand that we have a very real, deadly serious problem on our hands.  The way to address it, the way to win this hard-fought battle, is to continue to increase our numbers of people who are ready and willing to stand up, make their voices heard, and make sure these evil-minded people understand that their hatred and intolerance is not acceptable.  Period.

The Values Tour

Ok, this is going to seem as if I'm stepping from under the bullying/teen suicide umbrella.  However, in the grand scheme of things, it's really not.  It's actually bullying on a much grander scale, and it's sanctioned.  And, it's because of people like this that the LGBT teen suicide issue is on the front burner.

Pop quiz:  Who is Art Pope?
Art Pope is one of the most influential political money men in North Carolina and a close national ally of the billionaire Koch brothers.
Art Pope is a North Carolinian with lots of money.  And, he uses that money to fund Republican anti-gay groups around the country, including the two groups who are doing the grunt work for the North Carolina swing of this tour.  I do everything in my power to keep from getting political with this blog.  However, sometimes it's impossible to avoid.  First, let me say that I live with a Republican, devoutly Christian woman whom I've known since high school, and she is absolutely nothing like the mean-spirited, hate-filled, narrow-minded Republican "leaders" we have running for our country's top office today or their followers.  So, this is certainly not a condemnation or attack on all Republicans and/or Christians.  That said, this entire lot of "contenders" is a very dangerous group of people.  And, anyone who disagrees need look no further than this video.  I've said it here before that if any of these candidates were to happen into the White House, they would plunge our country back to the 1950s.  This trailer will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.

One candidate has boldly stated during his campaign that if he wins the presidency, he will make all existing same-sex marriages illegal.  Maybe it's just me, but I think there are many, many more important things for a candidate to be obsessed with besides who loves whom.  Imposing ones biased views on the nation is not part of the job description of President of the United States.  I'll stop there.  This topic gets me really heated!

There was a comment left on the facebook blog page today that, I thought, was quite telling:
...look at your country's history. "Enough of thinkin' everything that you've done is good", just saying (in Rufus Wainwright's words). Here in Germany a politician who makes homophobic remarks would have to step down the next day. We have a gay Foreign Minister and Berlin has a gay mayor. In the US homophobes can become governors and run for president.
Wait.  I thought we were supposed to be the "world leaders"!!!  Enough said.

Back to Art Pope.  Mr. Pope is funding what's called the "Values Bus Tour".  It's an anti-gay marriage campaign, really an anti-gay campaign, that started in October and is slated to go nationwide.  Ok, for those of you chomping at the bit to scream First Amendment right at me, save it.  I'm well aware of that.  I'm not going to suggest that he needs to be stopped.  His views are dead-wrong; however, He's entitled, under our Constitution, to his views.  And, whether I agree with them or not, he's also entitled, under our Constitution, to voice his opinion.  I get that.  However, under that same Constitution, I get to voice my opinion:
 These are extremely dangerous people.  In fact, they are extremists.  To be sure, one of the Republican presidential candidates is PART of this "Values Bus Tour".  AND, HE WANTS TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY!!!  It is my opinion that it's totally okay to have your differences.  However, for a person, or a group of people, to not only believe that their opinion is THE ONLY opinion that matters but try to shove THEIR opinions down a whole nation's throat is beyond reprehensible.  To spew hatred in the name of God will get you a ticket to Hell much faster than my being gay will get me there.  And, to that end, in accordance to the Bible that these maniacs love to wave in everyone's faces, only God can judge me.  Therefore, if by chance you're right that I'll go to Hell for being gay (and, you're NOT!), it's NOT your place to condemn me there.  That is between me and God.  Worry about your own eternity.  I'll stop there.
One of their members had this to say about LGBT teen suicide: teens kill themselves because they know that they're "abnormal".
Worse, he does "fundraising around the idea that gay kids are immoral and telling them otherwise is 'disgusting'."  Oh, and did I mention that they take their message of hate to Christian high schools?  What feeds the bullying that we're seeing in schools against LGBT, or even suspected LGBT teens?  Hatred and intolerance.  And, where are they learning that from?  Keep in mind that one of the members of this group of extremists is running for the Presidency of the United States!

My whole issue, and I point I've raised before, is that we need to a.) keep increasing in numbers...and conviction; and, b.) speak up and be heard.  Every single voice is important.  If you look at the comments on the blog about the "Values Bus Tour", it becomes obvious that there really ARE people in this country who agree with this type of backwards, narrow-minded thinking.  For the record, though, there were real people, back in the 60s, who vehemently opposed the Civil Rights movement, then, as well.  However, the people who opposed the oppression continued, undaunted by the oppressors.  It was a hard-fought battle.  Lives were lost.  But, in the end, it was worth it.  Well, the struggle continues.  The battle line is drawn.  To win this fight, and I wholeheartedly believe we will, we need voices, voices, and more voices.  We need people who are not afraid to stand up for what is right. 

Lastly, if there's any question as to how all of this connects to LGBT teen suicides, I'll simply say two words: Anoka-Hennepin.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Opposite of Love is Fear

When I wrote about Sophie Miriam Herold's hateful rantings yesterday, "Spreading Hate", the last thing I said was for everyone to send her an email " cheer her up."  You may remember that Sophie was the one who said that "homosexuality is abnormal and disgusting."  Well, how many of you sent her an email?  Were you kind and loving in your message?  Or, did "lay into her" in response to her amazing level of...whatever you want to call that rant?  Well, here's what I've learned about Sophie:
  • First of all, this isn't something new she's started doing.  One comment to another anti-gay rant of hers is from a year ago.  Therefore, it's safe to assume that she's been doing this for at least that long.
  • In reading what she posted, that received the response a year ago, I was reminded of an old truism I heard decades ago:  The opposite of love is fear.  This will come as a surprise to some people, but Sophie's "anger" is a manifestation of fear.  She's afraid of her own feelings.  See, Sophie denies herself her true feelings that she has for someone of the same sex.  Or, as we like to call it, lesbian.  
 Why do I think that Sophie is a lesbian?  She can say it better than I can, in her own words:
I know what I'm talking about, I have had feelings for the same sex a while ago. These feelings were different to anything I've ever felt before. When this person was around me, I felt safe, relaxed, comfortable.

I'm not sure if you know that feeling, it's…you're totally calm, you don't feel the need to prove yourself to the other person, you always find something to talk about and, most importantly, there is a sort of 'basic agreement' between
the two of you what means that you don't need many words to communicate with the other person, and when there is silence between the two of you, it's not an awkward silence, it's a feeling of being understood.

I could have done what you did: just go for my feelings for the same sex. But I didn't. I cut off contact to this person completely, I even moved to another city and denied all attempts of contacting me.

I mean it was hard, in fact I'm still thinking about this person, almost every day since six months, but I bear with it. You just have to do something in order to distract yourself, you know? Then it works. Not every day, but most the days.

This is an excerpt from one of her "anonymous" emails she sent to someone, apparently a year or so ago.  Reading the whole thing is very revealing, indeed.

What this says, in my opinion, in an attempt to suppress her own lesbianism and, worse, play her "gender role".  At 21, she's accepted that she has to "do what society expects..or suffer the consequences."  To me, that's sad.   Somewhere along the way, someone has beaten her self-esteem down so badly to a point where she doesn't feel she deserves to be happy, that she's put on this planet for one purpose, and one purpose only:  to perform her gender role as expected of her from society.  Personal happiness be damned.  Clearly, she'd found love, possibly even the love of her life.  And, to paraphrase her words, "all was right in the world."  However, she denied herself that happiness.  Her "gender role" is more important.  Now, rather than being happy with herself and with the girl her heart chose for her, she lives in fear.  She's fearful that she'll never find that true connection again.  Sure, she'll find some guy to perform her gender role for, and she might even force herself into believing that she loves him.  The truth will always be the truth, though.  And, the truth, her truth!, is that she's denying herself of the love every human soul craves.  She found it.  But, she moved away from it.  

Now, that fear has turned into anger.  Anger at herself for not being true to herself; anger at a society that imposes its beliefs on individual, personal lives; anger at the LGBT community for doing what she's, so far, been incapable of:  loving ourselves and embracing the real love we deserve.  And, that fear has now manifested itself as hatred.  Make no mistake, that's self-hatred we're reading.  Self-hatred that was born of fear.  Sophie writes:
What if all the people in this world just go for their feelings, for what makes them happy? The world would turn into chaos! You have no right to 'simplify' your life by being gay.
What if?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spreading Hate

I was working on a different story that's pretty important, itself.  Then, this story was presented to me.  Couldn't wait.

To understand the importance of why so many people are working so hard to change the cultural landscape of this country, and around the world!, when it comes to the LGBT community, one needs to look no further than this.  There is a 21-year-old undergrad student from Germany named Sophie Miriam Herold.  Remember that name.  She is not your friend!

Sophie's mission in life is not only to "out" every LGBT person she can.  She'd rather see us eliminated.  Reading her menacing ramblings on her tumblr account was nauseating at best.
I am not hiding. I’m not afraid of you gay people. I will fight you as long as I can.
I know that by putting me out there I will be harassed and threatened. That is the price I have to pay for telling the truth about gay people. But I am not afraid of being physically harmed or killed. You may break my bones, but you can’t change the facts: that homosexuality is abnormal and disgusting.You are what you are and have to deal with it, like everybody else. Stop trying to pretend to be “better” than others because you consider yourself “transsexual”. You have to play your gender role, you have to do what society expects from you. If you don’t, you have to suffer from the consequences.
"Better"?  I don't remember that ever being part of the dialogue, but you're welcome to correct me if I'm wrong.  No.  Rather than presenting ourselves as "better", we've simply, repeatedly and persistently, stated that we only want to be seen and treated as equal.  And, there's a very good reason for that:  we are, in fact, equal. 

Anyway, the sheer ignorance of her rantings goes on and on ad nauseum.  Rather than spend time repeating what she said, I think everyone needs to read it for themselves.

She's just terribly ignorant in her views, especially as an undergrad student, and it's a black-eye to her generation that someone as young as she would have such warped views.  Yet, there it is...right there in black and white for the world to read.

The bigger issue is that this bring to light the reality that there are a whole slew of "Sophies" in the world who have nothing better to do with their own life than to try their hardest to make other people miserable.  That's a problem.  That's the hurdle we must clear as we work towards acceptance and equality.  To an even greater extent, there are people who are far more influential than a 21-year-old hate monger who uses tumblr as her main forum to be concerned about.  We have a Presidential candidate promising to eliminate LGBT happiness, if elected, by reversing all same-sex marriages in this country.  We have lawmakers in several states working still to pass legislation that will essentially sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  You get the picture, though.  They're out there.  They're filled with hate.  And, they're out there in great numbers.

It goes without saying that hatred and intolerance were in play in the murder of young Trayvon Martin in Florida.

What's most important in our ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance is that we continue increasing in numbers of people who are willing and able to let their voices be heard.  Our voices need to be strong and confident.  Our message needs to be clear and consistent.  But, the one thing that we cannot waver on is continuing to show and spread love.  In the end, love will conquer hate.  It's the very reason I constantly spread messages of love on the facebook blog page.

Sophie is consumed with hatred.  And, she's not alone.

Now, let's send her an email to cheer her up.  Hey, she wants us to!!!  She put her email address right there in the madness she posted, in black-and-white.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Satire Mirrors Reality

I got caught up in the moment.  Guilty as charged.  Yesterday, someone posted a link to the facebook blog page that caused a whole lot of controversy.  It was titled Top Ten Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong.  Ok, I took the bait.  I read a little of it and became irate at what I was reading.  But, I shied away from writing about it because it didn't pertain to either teen suicide or bullying.  Then, I read the line that broke to camel's back.  THEN, I wrote about it.  And, then I found out that the whole thing was a satire.  A spoof.  And, upon closer examination, and with a much calmer mind, I was able to see the satirical angle to it. (I'm just happy that only 10 people read the blog post before I pulled it down!!) 

The question that begs to be answered, though, is what exactly was it about that piece of satire that triggered such ire and from so many people, including myself?  Well, the answer is easy.  The piece echoed the diabolical diatribe that we've been hearing for far too long from the very people the satire was directed against:  the "fundamentalist Christians".  And, it goes deeper than that.  It showed just how fed up we are, as a collective whole, of hearing their unbridled ignorance.  For me, personally, when I read the line "A normal child should be harassing and teasing gay kids and calling them "faggots", not trying to be friends with them or enable their lifestyle", my anger shifted into overdrive.  And, for good reason.  That mentality really IS pervasive amongst those who give true believers of God a bad name.

We must not lose sight of the fact that there really ARE so-called Christians who really do espouse that very same mentality.  There are politicians trying to pass laws that would sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  And, as we saw in Anoka-Hennepin, the combination of religious and political "leaders" who share the same narrow-minded, hate-filled intolerance towards the LGBT community has a devastating effect on LGBT teens.   

In hindsight, that piece of satire was actually brilliantly done.  It was almost TOO well done, actually.  Obviously, it struck a nerve.  It mirrored the reality that we face today in a society that still, in 2012, has people filled with hatred and intolerance.  Not only are they filled with hatred and intolerance, they are more than willing to spread their ignorance as "truth" in accordance to God.  When satire mirrors reality that closely, sparks fly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ignoring It Doesn't Make it Go Away

I read story after story, comment after comment about how some teen was bullied, they report the incident to the proper authorities, only to have it treated as it's a non-issue.  Too many suicides have resulted from this. 

In one high-profile case recently, a spokesman from the local Sheriff's department went on record as saying that despite media and online reports of the teen's suicide being a result of bullying, their "investigation" concluded that "that was not the case".  Yet, my own personal contact with someone very close to the family and the situation told me exactly the opposite.  And, of course, it was later made know that bullying was, indeed, at the root of the suicide.  This wasn't the first instance.  In the trailer for the controversial, and very necessary, movie, "Bully", a teacher foolishly goes on camera to say that she'd "ridden on that bus" where a young boy was allegedly bullied and the kids "...were as good as gold".  Ultimately, this boy committed suicide because of the bullying.

Sometimes, in some cases of bullying against LGBT teens, the victim is blamed for the bullying!!  In the case of one high-profile LGBT teen suicide from a couple years ago, the parents were told that if their son didn't act [gay], he wouldn't get bullied.  How is THAT acceptable?  That's not "not taking bullying seriously", that's turning a blind eye to what's going on.  Worse, that's essentially sanctioning the violence because this boy was simple being himself.  The sad end result was him taking matters into his own hands and ending his life.  

On my facebook blog page, read comment after comment from real-life people who were bullied, went to the authorities, and nothing was done about it. 
I was bullied in school for being "different","odd", and my school did nothing about it. Often, they ignored it cuz the kids who did bully me were kids of pta and parents who supported and gave alot of money to the school. My dad fought hard to get me help because other stuff was going on due to bullying, like my academics. I was not sent to a private charter school till I was a junior in high school, and that was due to case workers and an advocate, because i tried to commit suicide more then 3 times in less then 2 yrs. While being at that special school, they (the school) found out I have autism. Had the school I attended prior would have taken the time to listen to my father, I would of been put in the right classrooms and would have gotten the help I needed from day 1. Even when I was in 9th and 10th grade, people where horrible to me. I wonder, now that we are adults, how they would feel if they found out they bullied a girl with disabilities to the point of trying suicide.  I wonder how they would feel, especially if they had kids...bullying needs to stop on all levels.  I just wanted to share my story.
 That's one of the comments left recently on my facebook blog page.  This is but one example.  Unfortunately, there are more.
Problem with schools, I'm a senior in high school, and in all my years in middle school (6-8) I was bullied and fighting back each year leading me to get kicked off to a new school each year....kinda sucks how "they who purposely care" really don't.....well until until you're pushed too far.
"Until you're pushed too far" is 10 steps too late.  Bullying needs to be taken seriously, on all levels:  not only against LGBT teens, but against anyone who's perceived different, anyone who doesn't "fit in".  School officials, elected officials, adults in general!, all need to be re-educated.  And, part of that re-education process needs to be making them acutely aware that ignoring the bullying issue doesn't make it away.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Passing The Torch

In any war, the battle is essentially being fought for the generations to follow:  for our children.  And, their children.  Warriors lay their lives on the line so that their kids, their kids kids, can have a better, safer, happier life.  The "warriors" of Stonewall fought for their "kids", the generation of young LGBT kids coming behind them.  And, behind them.  I'm so glad they did.  See, I'm part of the generation they were fighting for.

I remember Stonewall being in the news.  I was 12.  I knew, instinctively, that what was going on in the newspaper (life before the Internet was vastly different!) was good.  By that time in my life, I was fully aware that I was a gay teen and had already had my first boyfriend.  Seeing them lay their lives on the line against an establishment that hated them touched me in an indescribable place.  I knew.

The war we're fighting today is for the liberty, justice, and equality for our LGBT youth of today.  We're fighting for their freedom to live happily without a government or religious body that sanctions their being attacked, both emotionally and physically.  We're fighting for their freedom to marry the one they love, just as their straight counterparts will do.  We're fighting for equality, for ourselves as well as for them.

And, we're passing the torch.

Because of the Internet, there's a "right-now-ness" that we didn't have in generations gone by.  We can, and do, connect with people all around this massive globe at the click of the "send" button.  And, as a result, there's a movement going on right now that is going to change the world as we know it.  A paradigm shift.  Yes, we the children of Stonewall are paving the way.  However, the torch is also being passed to some very strong, very dedicated young leaders.  And, they need to be recognized for the work they're doing:

  • Christi O'Connor contacted me about a month ago about the Monster March Against Bullying.  The goal is for at least 10,000 LGBT teens to march to the step of San Francisco's City Hall in an effort to compel their leaders that "It HAS TO Get Better".  The Rodemeyers will be there.  Jonah Mowry and his family will be there.  That's powerful stuff.  And, all of this was organized by TEENS!!  On her wall, Christi posted this: 
"Hi Everyone.The good news is we have more wonderful content, new partners and teens' videos we hadn't anticipated this week. The down news is it has delayed our launch of our site until MONDAY. We'll remind everyone to go to it Monday. So sorry for the delay. Big announcements coming on the site!
The official website goes up on Monday.  Looking forward to checking that out.  Looking forward even more to October and their Monster March!!
  • While not at teen, at 23, Mark Blane is still young enough to be considered part of the youth movement.  This very talented director/playwright/activist is putting his best effort into making a difference.  On June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the play, which Mark wrote and directed, "The Rock and The Ripe" will go into production in Chicago.  The play is about "the bullied and bruised Gay Youth of America".  There's also a book by the same title.  But, most importantly, Mark has a fundraiser page in place in an attempt to take this provocative and important play national.  This very compelling video makes you understand what's at stake.
  • And, then there's 18-year-old Brett Simpson.  I had seen this video response floating around for a while but, quite frankly, didn't watch it because I'd grown weary of the "flash-card messages".  Eventually, of course, I gave in and watched it. (it kept popping up here and there, so I figured there had to be something to it.  I was right.)  Watching that video changed my life.  Here was this handsome 18-year-old who, himself, had been badly bullied!, reaching out to other teens who were in crisis!  He opened his life to the world of LGBT teens, giving almost all of his personal information, and told them "I'm always here for you".  That, alone, made my eyes water.  Refusing to be "the victim", Brett instead stood strong and reached out.  And, the teens have been responding!!!  As an example, this message was just posted to his wall:  Zachary Smith: "Brett, this is amazing. I know you can do great things for the future of this country. It would be wonderful to meet you someday. Also, make sure you save this somewhere, because coming from someone who wrote something similar about a long battle with learning disabilities, personal written pieces such as this one are very appealing to higher learning institutions, if that's what you plan on doing in the future."  He has quite a following in his facebook community, Click "Like" if You Support the LGBT Questioning Community.  I've been so impressed with the work Brett's doing, I made him an administrator on my facebook blog page.  And, he's done great there, as well.
  • As a testimony to the impact Brett is having on the young, up-and-coming LGBT teens, this video was made by a 14-year-old LGBT youth named John.  The video is stunning, to say the least.  And, to think that a 14-year-old produced it just warms the heart.  The message is clear and, coming from someone who is in the age group most affected by the bullying against LGBT teens in this country, and around the world!, it's extremely powerful.  If the readers of this blog post click no other link herein, do check out this video.
Obviously, there are more teens around who are doing some great things, like Daria, Amber, and Alexis in Indiana who have their own anti-bullying page.  And, they're only in middle school!!!  I could probably dedicate an entire week, at least!, recognizing the efforts being undertaken by our youth, gay and straight alike, as they take matters into their own hands in attempt to make their world a better place.  This is just a few of them.

The world truly is changing, right before our eyes.  And, it's changing for the better.  Most importantly, the youth-led movement is really getting traction and making a difference.  It makes us older warriors feel good to know that the torch is being passed to such capable hands.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dharun Ravi Convicted of Hate Crime in Tyler Clementi's Death

This verdict is in:  Dharun Ravi, GUILTY of hate crime in the Tyler Clementi case.  This arrogant young man had a chance to plea out to a lesser charge, one that would've assured him no jail time, late last year but opted, instead, to take it to trial.  Foolish mistake.  Instead, Mr. Ravi was found guilty on all 15 charges against him.  Sentencing is to come, and he's looking at years.  Tyler Clementi's family was sentenced to life without him on September 22, 2010 because of Dharun Ravi's actions.  He gets off easy.

As 18-year-old first-year students at the prestigious Rutgers University, Ravi and Clementi ended up being roommates.  Tyler had just come out to his family as being gay before he left for college.  Once at school, and as Ravi's roommate, he met with a man with whom he'd apparently started becoming intimate with.  Dharun Ravi decided it would be cool to secretly set up a webcam and broadcast Tyler and his partner during their intimacy on his Twitter account.  As a result, Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.  The case made national, international!, headlines.  It was also one of a flurry of LGBT teen suicides in September 2010 that included Seth Walsh and Asher Brown.

Dharun Ravi, incredibly, was offered a plea bargain December of last year that would've all but set him free.  He would've received no jail time and would've been able to remain in this country.  He declined.  He wanted to argue his case.  He lost.  And, now, he's facing prison time as well as deportation.

In my own opinion, the question that isn't being explored is why was he offered a plea deal in the first place?  Why was the State of New Jersey willing to offer this man much lesser charges with no consequences when his actions led directly to the suicide death of Tyler Clementi?  To me, that's almost as troublesome as Ravi's actions.  Luckily, he had the misguided notion that he could win if only he was able to have his day in court to present "his side" of the story.

"His side" of the story is irrelevant.  A jury told him that today.  Tyler Clementi is gone forever because of Dharun's actions.  Let's hope that this very high-profile case of homophobic bullying, it's tragic results, and now the consequences for the perpetrator sends a message to those who think that bullying is cool or acceptable:  there will be consequences for your actions. 

The Clementis suffer the consequences of your actions every single day of their lives, Mr. Ravi.  Now, so will you.

The Rock & The Ripe

I just spent a couple hours going over this project.  Going over this project, familiarizing myself with it, caused me to go back and review some of the videos and stories about people like Phillip Parker, Jamey Rodemeyer, Ashlynn Conner, Seth Walsh, Jamie Hubley.  The list is sickeningly long.  Then, I cried.  With every different face I saw, I cried.  Then, I got mad.

I watched videos that reminded me just how important this all is because there are actually people, and I mean high-profile people, working just as hard to minimize or even eradicate everything we're doing.  To them, bullying isn't a problem; LGBT teens shouldn't have "special protection"; LGBT teens bring their problems on themselves by being out.  Thank the God of your understanding that we outnumber them.

I named this blog Enough is Enough for a very specific and obvious reason.  Our society has been plagued long enough by narrow-mindedness, ruled too long by a "moral majority" (which , by the way, they're neither) who feel that everyone should live by THEIR standards or be damned.  And, in the cross hairs are struggling, emotionally fragile LGBT teens.  And, the result is far too often...suicide.  Enough TRULY is enough.

In watching the video promoting The Rock & The Ripe, one segment stopped me in my tracks.  I watched it repeatedly.
So, don't be f*cking shocked and wonder where all these bullies are coming from that are torturing young kids and are driving them to kill themselves because they're different.  They learned it from watching you.
That's directed at every politician who continues to attempt to pass legislation that minimizes LGBT teens; that's directed at every teacher who turns a blind eye at the bullying of an LGBT teen; that's directed at every parent who speaks hatred and intolerance around their own children, ESPECIALLY if they have LGBT kids.

Watching those videos got me angry.

Mark Blane is 23-year-old gay man who was bullied unmerciful as a teen.  He is also a very talented director and playwright.  He is inspired and inspiring.  He's assembled, in his words, " incredible network of artists, actors, and activists..." in his effort to "...expose the secrets and real issues behind gay [teen] bullying in America."

"The Rock & The Ripe" the play, is set for production in Chicago June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Mark's ambition is to get the funding to take it nationwide.  He's going to need massive help in doing so.

"The Rock & The Ripe", the book, goes into deeper detail.
The book will be a dissection of how this process and project came to be, the atrocious facts and stories of anti-gay bullying from across the country, information commemorating the lives of 14-year-old Phillip Parker, 14-year-old Rafael Morelos, and many others. Direct quotes from phone-calls, in-person interviews in communities across the country that are affected by homophobia, ignorance, careless town officials, and unsympathetic and uneducated (ironically) school administrations. This book will be PACKED with photography, research, plus insight into the the minds of the actors/activists.
Enough really is enough.  Our numbers are growing around the world, and our voices are being heard.  People young and old, black and white, gay and straight, and everywhere in between, are standing up and saying enough is enough!!!  And, we are making a difference. The reality of it is we're going to have to create the change we're seeking.  The politicians won't do it.  The educators won't do it.  And, too many parents won't do it.  WE are the ones who will make the difference at the end of the day.  Mark is doing his part at trying to make a differnce.  He needs help getting his project up and running.

He's created a Kickstarter page for people to contribute as little as $5 towards getting his story out.  If you're unfamiliar with how Kickstarter works, it's an all-or-nothing proposition.  Anyone can contribute.  There's a set target amount.  Anything at or above that amount, Mark gets for his project.  However, if that number isn't met, he - and, the project - gets nothing.

It's a story that must get out!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Supporting Diversity Role Models

This is getting good.  Lately, there's been more "good news" stories to write about than the heavy alternate.  I like that.

In the U.K., there's an organization called Diversity Role Models.  Their mission is to do just that:  provide role models for LGBT teens in an effort to help combat bullying and avoid attempted suicides. 

The movement is growing worldwide!!  I wrote earlier about the Monster March Against Bullying that's set to occur here in the U.S. in October.  And, there's more coming all the time.  Power in numbers.  Our numbers are growing worldwide, and this is a prime example.

From June 29th through July 20th, Andrew Makin will bike through England, Wales, and Scotland - over 700 miles!! - to raise money for Diversity Role Models.  It's a cause everyone can get behind. 
"Why Does It Matter?":
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Two thirds of them suffer bullying at school. They often don't have an adult to talk to at home or at school. We all know bullied students can't focus on learning and achievement.

But it's not just LGB and T young people. Straight students are terrified of being called 'gay'. Girls drop out of sport and boys hide artistic talent to conform to gender roles and avoid being labelled gay or lesbian.

And what about the young people who have LGB or T family members? Do they feel safe talking about their loved ones openly?

This issue affects ALL young people. Someone needs to talk to them about diversity; it's a difficult topic. We accept this challenge.

Says Diversity Role Models:
Not only does Diversity Role Models help the young, it is changing the standing of all LGBT people for the better. By educating schoolchildren, and challenging the remnants of homophobia in popular culture, it breaks down barriers by showing LGBT individuals as real people.
We are all too familiar with the effects of homophobic bullying as it pertains to LGBT teens.  We are, sadly, also too familiar with the reality that "the other side" still doesn't get it and is more than willing to turn a blind eye or sweep it under the carpet.  Therefore, it is completely up to us, the LGBT community - both young and old - to take matter into our own hands and protect, and nurture, our LGBT teens. 

Andrew Makin is doing his fair share in June.  We can all be a part of it, though, from wherever we are in the world.  We can learn more about Diversity Role Models on their webpage; and, we can donate to his fundraiser page for this summer's bike ride across the U.K.

There are a lot of great causes out there today; however, being involved in turning the tide on homophobic bullying of LGBT teens, and homophobia in general!, and attacking the LGBT teen suicide rate ranks right at the top of the list for me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

100 Homophobes Tweet They'd KILL Their Gay Child!!!

Everytime it seems we're turning a corner on some of the madness we face, something comes along to remind us that there's still plenty of work that needs to be done.  And, this one ranks right near the top of the list of the worst things I've ever seen.

On Monday, March 12th, trending on storify was tweets to people's unborn children.  Tweets that vowed to KILL their unborn child if he or she turned out to be LGBT.  I don't think it gets any worse than that.  Luckily, these tweets were picked up on by someone, and these people are being put in the spotlight. 

Codie Sowders wrote:
#ToMyUnbornChild if you so much as think about being a homosexual I'll put a bullet in your damn skull
From Daborey  Burrell comes this:
#ToMyUnbornChild if you turn out gay, I will burn you alive.
Rob Grant wrote:
#ToMyUnbornChild if your gay or retarded I will kill you.
And, this tweet from Chris Woodie:
#ToMyUnbornChild If you think gay is an option,let me know because we'll abort you
Extremely graphic, I know.  However, I think it's urgent that we know, and fully realize that there truly ARE people out there who, by their own admission!, would kill their own child if he or she were gay.  Worse, they said it unabashedly, as if the murdering of unwanted LGBT children was just the norm.

My first thought was "I sure hope they don't have any other children!"  Any person who can even formulate such a thought about any human being at all, let alone their very own unborn child should, at the very least, be mandated to have every snip and tie done as to assure that they can never, ever reproduce.  This level of homophobia is reprehensible. 

Here's the danger:  this level of hatred, intolerance, and violence is precisely the accelerant that fuels the violence against the LGBT teens we're seeing today.  And, as we're being shown more and more every single day, the violence against LGBT teens, the bullying, is a learned behavior taught to them, in many if not most cases, by adults.  Directly or indirectly.  Imagine:  Codie Sowders has another child, or children!.  Wonderful parent in all aspects; however, the child or children knows Codie's intolerant feeling towards gays.  And, that level of hatred would be impossible to mask despite the best efforts.  Well, what do you think the odds would be of that child, or those children, growing up to become homophobes themselves?  And, thus, the vicious cycle continues.  The bullying continues.  The LGBT teen suicide rate remains the same.  And, frightfully, if an LGBT child is born to any one of these people, the murder rate will go up as well.  By their own admission.

I've got a real problem with this one.  Hopefully, a lot of people have a real problem with it.  Just reading these real tweets from real "people" should be enough to get your blood up to 210 degrees.  For that other 2 degrees needed to reach boiling point, realize that there are teachers, judges, police officers, definitely politicians. priests and preachers...people from every walk of life with this level of homophobia. 

It's getting better, yes.  We still have lots of work to do.

Glen Burnie Tells Westboro Baptist "Church" Thanks, But No Thanks

I found out about this just a little bit too late to make it there in time.  Glen Burnie is 40 minutes from where I live.  In fact, I once lived IN Glen Burnie.  Cozy little blue-collar city nestled between Baltimore and Annapolis.

For some reason, Fred and the gang thought that this would be a good place to bring their message of hate.  See, Glen Burnie High School's principal is a lesbian.  So, of course, their God sent them on a mission to come and attempt to traumatize the entire school in an effort to get her to step down.  That's their message:  "God Hates Fags!"  And, it's their duty to spread their message any and everywhere they possibly can.

Glen Burnie wasn't having it.

After learning about their planned protest last week, the city of Glen Burnie planned a counterattack.  A very effective counterattack.  Fred and his crew of haters, all 3 of them, were met with the surprise of their miserable lives.  Ordinary citizens, black, white, gay, straight, young, old, and everything in between showed up en masse to tell them that their message of hate is NOT welcome here in Maryland.  The school was surrounded by the counter protesters even before the prophets of hate made their appearance.  The County Police were there to form a barrier wall between the good guys and the evil ones.  Bikers showed up on their loud bikes specifically for the purpose of drowning out any nonsense Fred and company may spew from their mouths.  What an awesome display of complete rejection! 
“You cannot allow hate to come into your community without confronting it,” said Chris Panasuk, counter-protester.
Great quote, and even better point.  If enough communities would send them the same message, maybe they'd crawl back under the rock from which they came.  Then again, probably not.  Moot.  What's important is that, after a scant half-hour, The Hate Gang got the message, tucked their tails, and left town.

I could be wrong, but if God hates anything at all, it would be people who use His name to justify their own hatred and intolerance.  Apparently, their Bible doesn't include the first book of John.  Right there, 1 John 4:8, in plain black and white, it says "God is Love".  Maybe they just missed that part.

Awesome display of solidarity, Maryland.  Today made me proud to be a Marylander!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes

This is why I love Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook so much!  You don't get this kind of story just anywhere.  One of their 360,000+ members sent in a letter that was written as a speech.  The writer?  Her 11-year old daughter, Leehem.  Leyla Hillman Farrell sent them this letter:
Hi Everyone,

My 11 year old daughter was asked by her teacher to write a speech on a particular topic that she feels very strongly about. As a straight ally, I am very proud to say that she chose gay rights, as her topic. Here is her speech. I hope this serves as a comfort in knowing that the upcoming generation (as young as 11) understand!!
 It's the letter from her 11-year-old daughter that steals the show.

Now, I know there are people, like myself, who may have a hard time reading the original letter.  For you, here's the letter in plain text:
Gay Rights by Leehem Farrell

Our family has many gay friends. We even have a close gay friend who lives right next door. I think it's so unfair that gay people cant get married. Its because gay people don't have as many rights as straight people. If two people love each other then it shouldn't matter if they are a boy and a girl, or two boys, or two girls, they should still be allowed to get married!!!

Some kids get bullied in school because they were born gay. If my friend was bullied for being gay, I would stand up for them and tell the bully that they were being ignorant.

We are all people......they were "born this way ".
Keep in mind that she's 11-years-old.  SHE GETS IT!!!  She proves the point that hatred and intolerance are learned behaviors.  We may be "born this way", as far as our sexual orientation is concerned; however, no one is born to hate or to be intolerant.

Hatred, and its evil twin intolerance, are behaviors that are taught to young people from other adults.  Sadly, in a lot of cases, those adults are right there in the same household and go by the names of "Mom" and "Dad".  Or, maybe they're learning it from listening to some of the politicians.  There's no shortage of narrow-minded, hate-filled people calling themselves politicians these days.  OR, perhaps they even learned from Rev. Hatealot during their Sunday church services.  There's a lot of that going on these days.  They confuse me.  I was always taught that God is love. (says so right in that same Bible)  However, the "God" they talk about is mean and hateful.  Or, is it just them...using "God" as a smoke screen for their own hatred.  As I see it, teaching hate and intolerance takes effort; however, being loving, caring, understanding, and accepting is natural.  We're born that way.

The bright side of it is that Leehem is showing us something that I've been alluding to a lot:  the future is bright and in good hands.  The young ones know, as we all did at one point in our lives, that love is love.  Everybody has the equal right to love whomever he or she happens to fall in love with.  No laws to regulate it.  No Bible verse to condemn it.  No backwards, hillbilly, myopic-minded "pastor" bringing his protesting "congregation" around with handmade signs of ignorance.(sorry, Fred.  Couldn't resist.)  Just the freedom, the God-given freedom, to love whomever we love.  It's really just that simple.  We were born that way.

Great job, Leehem!  You're going to be a great leader someday.  And, AWESOME job raising your daughter, Leyla.  You are obviously a wonderful person full of love and compassion, yourself.  You were obviously born that way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Celebrating Acceptance: Dad gets "Born This Way" Tattoo!!

What a marvelous story of acceptance!!  At a time when we're grasping and struggling for acceptance, at a time when we're losing teen after teen after LGBT teen to suicide because of a lack thereof, we get this heartwarming story from Jessica Romani about her brother, Dylan.

Dylan, who is bisexual, went through all of the usual trials and tribulations that nearly all LGBT teens experience.  He knew at a very young age that he was "different".  He struggled with acceptance of himself!  And, of course, he was bullied.  Or, according to Jessica, he dealt with "extreme bullying".

In Dylan's own words, "...I was so scared of what he would do or think or say because he's a tough guy and i am his only son so I didn't want to be a disappointment or anything."  That sounds familiar.  What he found, instead, was the surprise of his life.  Fred Romani, the dad, in an amazing show of unconditional love and acceptance, got the Lady Gaga-inspired catch-phrase, "Born This Way" tattooed in Italian on his wrist.  Dylan already had it on his.  You have to watch the video to see the reaction to it.

When I read Jessica's and Dylan's description of their dad, the image comes to mind of the stereotypical testosterone-driven Italian male.  Sylvester Stallone.  Santino Corleone.  Fred Romani showed, however, that macho men also have a heart.  Especially when it comes to family.  Even moreso, I would say, when it comes to his only son!  It's that show of unconditional love and acceptance, even if he doesn't yet fully understand what his son is going through, that makes the most significant difference.  It's that acceptance that, say, EricJames Borges was looking for but got the opposite, instead.  And, we know where that led.  The mental and emotional health of young Dylan Romani grew exponentially by Fred's gesture of support.  That's what makes this story so important.  And, quite touching.

I first viewed this video, and story, yesterday on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, the social network super page that is helping so many people, LGBT and straight alike, and saving lives.  It's stories like this that makes us realize that love really is winning the war over hate.  For Fred, an old school Italian dad, to reach out to his young, struggling son with such a loving gesture, and then to see Dylan's caught-off-guard, stunned reaction speaks volumes to the power of love and acceptance.

The hope, of course, is that this video will catch on and go viral so that people all over the world can see with their own eyes the sheer power of unconditional love and acceptance.  Dylan's tears of joy say it all.  If more families showed their LGBT teens this type of support....  Well, you know.  Let's hope that this video is a harbinger of things to come.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bullying Claims Another: Rest in Peace Eden Wormer, Age 14

I was certain that the respite wouldn't last long.  It never does.  It's usually the quiet before the next storm.

Wednesday, March 8, 14-year-old Eden Wormer ended her life in Vancouver, WA.  According to her family, it was a direct result of bullying.  Bullying that had been going on for 2 years.  Says her older sister, Audri, Eden tried everything she could think of to get the girls to stop bullying her.  They wouldn't. 

Vancouver police say they have found no evidence to indicate the bullying rose to the level of a crime.  I read that twice to make sure I read it correctly.  So, to recap, a 14-year-old girl is dead as a direct result of being bullying; yet, the police say they found no evidence to indicate the bullying rose to the level of a crime.  No matter how many times I repeat that, it just sounds like I'm reading it wrong.  I can't imagine those words escaping someone's mouth.  Especially someone in authority.  Especially at a time when the family of the person who didn't have the crime committed against her is grieving her death.

Sorry, I'm a little irritated right now.

Incredibly, the reporting news outlet found out about Eden's suicide while talking to a 13-year-old boy from the same school who had allegedly been bullied.  Because of the bullying he endured, the same day that Eden ended her life, Izaya Hamilton ended up in the emergency room with a black eye, a bump on his head, and bruises on his shoulder.  More incredibly, the school officials "can't talk about specific cases" but did go on record as saying that they "...take bullying seriously."  Well, that's obvious!  Izaya had to go to the emergency room; Eden won't be coming back to school.  Or, going home to her loving family.

I wrote a post yesterday about a news story I'd just heard about the epidemic of teen smoking and how irate that made me become.  And, this is precisely why!  While teens are dying around the world on a daily basis, and at their own hands!, our officials are offering band-aids to a situation that calls for immediate and emergency action!!  Words are meaningless without action.

In my opinion, the first question that these officials, from school teachers and administrators straight through the police departments and on to the politicians!, is "why are you afraid to attack this issue!?"  They do the moonwalk around it seemingly every time.  In La Crescenta, the police reported there that 15-year-old Drew Ferraro "...hadn't been bullied" before he ended his life.  And, there's no doubt I could find more.  Does the uttering of those feeble words absolve them from any responsibilty?  If so, that has to change!

Words are meaningless without action.  It is totally unacceptable that on one day, one student from Cascade Middle School had to go to the emergency room because of injuries sustained from being bullied while another one surrendered her life.  They, as well as every other school administrator from shore-to-shore, from border-to-border, from one end of the globe to another, need to be put on notice:  WE are not going to tolerate this any longer.  And, then, WE need to take action!  WE need to hold their feet to the fire every single time it is revealed that a student is being bullied.  In the movie, Bully, a teacher goes on record saying "I've ridden that bus, and they're as good as gold".  Those words haunt me in my sleep!  Her image burned into my mind as she says it with such faux-conviction.  The boy who'd complained about being bullied on that bus is dead.  Suicide.

This issue...well, it would be redundant to tell you how real or how important it is.  They're concerned about teens smoking cigarettes, as well they should be, and calling it an epidemic.  They're watching teenager die, at their own hands, from being bullied, and reporting that "our investigation has found no evidence of bullying".  I can't be the only one who has a problem with this.

To Izaya Hamilton, give names.  Tell your teacher(s).  If that doesn't work, tell the principal.  No luck there, go over their heads!  Go to the media if you have to.  Most importantly, though, never ever ever give up.

To the family and friends of Eden Wormer, my heart is with you as you struggle through this unimaginable time. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Teen Suicide vs. Teens Smoking

I am livid!!!  Driving down the highway yesterday, on my way to work, I hear a story on the all-news channel in my area.  Apparently, some official medical institution sounded the alarm about teen smoking.  "We are currently in a teen smoking epidemic."  Wait.  Did I miss something? 

Since the time that I was a teen, and even pre-teen!, myself, there's been teens smoking.  Just plain fact.  That doesn't make it good.  That doesn't make it right.  Smoking is, in fact, detrimental to one's health.  Cigarettes are the only consumer product that, if used as intended, will kill you.  That speaks volumes of the dangers of smoking.  True enough.  And, teen smoking?  Well, that's surely an issue.  By no means do I want to minimize the issue of teens starting to smoke cigarettes.  It's not good and, if continued, it will eventually kill them.  Eventually.  And, the reverse side of that is if they successfully quit smoking at some point in their lives, the dangers of smoking the known carcinogen goes away.  Eventually, completely.

Teen suicides.  Well, suicide is permanent.  Suicide isn't a drawn-out process that takes years and, more likely, decades to become complete. (yes, there are some who will say that smoking cigarettes is, in fact, a form of suicide.  Just delayed.)  And, we're seeing teens die of suicide every single day of the year. (don't think for a second that just because we haven't heard of one lately that they aren't still occurring.  They are.)  So, where's the press release for that!!??  Where's the "crisis" announcement for the issue of teen suicide!!??  Why do they find it more important to go public with a story about an issue that has been around for as long as I can remember, even longer!, and present it as a right-now epidemic!!??

In my opinion, it speaks volumes to the importance our officials are putting on the true epidemic of teen, and LGBT teen, suicides.  And, that is an atrocity.  At least in my eyes.  Rather than devoted time, effort, and resources into an epidemic that is claiming lives right here in the here-and-now, they're rehashing information that's decades old and presenting it as some brand spanking new study and problem.  What sense does that make?  So, what do we say to the family of the next teen who commits suicide?  "Sorry for your loss, but at least he didn't smoke.  That would've made it worse.)  Is it me?  Or, is there a real problem here? 

Cigarette smoking is a real issue, don't get me wrong.  I know first-hand because I've been a smoker, myself, for almost 30 years.  And, it's always been my opinion that selling cigarettes, a product that is PROVEN will kill its users!!!, should be illegal.  That will never happen, though.  Political reasons. (for the fun of it, research how much money the tobacco industry gives BOTH major political parties.)  However, as stated previously, teens can quit smoking, thus reversing the deadly effects of the cigarettes.  Once a person has committed suicide, they're gone.  We can't reverse death. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From Newmarket to Melksham, One Person Can (and, does!) Make a Difference

Maybe I should just start using the wifi at home.  That way, I can keep my emotions private.  Reading this story brought tears.  Happy tears.  Sad tears.

Thank the God of your understanding for today's online social network.  It's saving lives!  Across the ocean, in a place called Melksham, in the United Kingdom, sat a forlorn 16-year-old named Luke.  Luke, seemingly, was ready to throw in the towel.  He told the world of his plans on his tumblr account.  Pills.  He had already taken a handful and was prepared to take more.  He wanted to die.

Incredibly, according to Luke, in response to his desperate cry for help, he received lots of "hate" comments and, worse, other teens encouraging him to "go ahead and do it".  Already clearly despondent, this only served to make matters worse.  Who's raising these kids!?  We just are not born with that level of hatred.  It's taught, and learned.  Luckily, however, one compassionate teen was struck by the plea and took action.  From over 3,000 miles and an ocean away!

Fourteen-year-old Paige Dayal, from Newmarket, Canada, was deeply troubled by what she had read and was moved to action.  I know from personal experience that attempting to reach out to someone in another country is cumbersome, at best.  Sometimes, it's downright maddening.  Paige persisted.  Running into roadblock after roadblock only strengthened her determination.  "What if he's really going to try and hurt himself" was her thought process.  And, that's the only thought process to have in a situation like this.

Eventually, she was able to contact a police department near where young Luke lived.  They arrived at his door in time, and the story had a happy ending.  Luke was taken to the hospital and is apparently doing fine now.  Once at the hospital, he pulled up his tumblr account once again, this time to "thank the girl in Canada" who potentially saved his life.

According to the news release I read, Paige has never been the victim of bullying.  However, like any person of compassion around the world, she realizes what going on today with the issue and how lives are being lost because of it.  Knowing that teen suicide is a real issue today, she understood that she had to take action on behalf of a boy she didn't know from a country over 3,000 miles, and a whole lot of water!, away.

With the exception of the incredibly insensitive, inhumane, cruelty he received as a response to his cry for help, it appears that bullying wasn't the issue with Luke, either.  It was depression.  A depression so deep that he wanted to die.  A depression that his own mother and father didn't even know was there.  They know about it now.  Luke is getting the help he desperately needs.  And, thankfully, all medications are now kept locked away.

What this shows concretely is that one person absolutely can make a difference.  One person caring about another human being, whether we know them or not, whether their in our circle of friends or an ocean away, can save a life.  We never know when we will run across that situation in our own lives.  But, chances are, if we all pay attention closely enough, at some point we all will.   Paige made a difference.  Luke's alive to thank her for it.  It doesn't get better than that.

So, instead of having to be the bearer of yet another heartbreaking story of one more teen who ended their life before it had a chance to develop, I get to write another happy-ending story.  I love those.

On second thought, I'll keep going to my local diner with the wifi hotspot.  People need to see how real this truly is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Historic Moment

While we're enjoying a moment of relative calm, and I'm knocking on wood as I say that, I figured this is a good time to do a little reflecting.  And, sharing.

We're in a time period right here and now that I've been dreaming about since I was a much younger man.  I've always said that the only way things were ever going to change would be for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangender person to come out of the closet and make themselves known.  That day is here.  We're coming out at the workplace; we're coming out in middle and high school.  And, our voices are resonating around the globe.  It's a beautiful day.

Of course, it isn't coming without resistance from "the other side".  That just means that we're doing something right!  We're standing up and telling the world that we are no less equal than anyone else.  And, it's scaring the hell out of "them".  That's fine.  Change scares people.

And, of course, there's still a lot of work to be done.  The issue of bullying and LGBT teen suicide is a black eye on the face of this, the new Civil Rights movement.  Slowly but surely, as more and more people are standing up to be counted, changes are being made even on that sore spot.  In some cases, sadly, the change isn't coming fast enough. 

We're at an exciting time in our history.  Not just LGBT history!  History, period!!  Within the next 10-15 years, marriage equality will be the norm.  The LGBT teen suicide will be next-to-nil because the changing environment will no longer tell them that they're freaks, sick, or damaged.  It will embrace them.  At the very least, it will accept them.  What a major boost to their collective self-esteem that will be.  We're on the forefront of that movement right here, right now.  And, years down the road, people will look back upon this time as the turning point, the point in time where we stood up and told the world ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, and made them listen.  And, there will be names that will stand out.

Kevin "Kel" O'Neil has created a monster of a facebook community, and website, that is truly changing and saving lives!

Lyndsay Winegarden created a safe haven for at-risk teens in her effort to STOP Teenage Suicide.  That's no small feat.

Charity Smith created a forum for people to come out anonymously.  How huge is that!?  That's a major step for many people.  

When Jamie Hubley committed suicide in October 2011, several tribute pages popped up on facebook in his honor.  One in particular, though, has morphed into the most loving and caring support community online.  People there know each other by name.  When people have struggles, there's always, always, always people there ready to rush to their assistance.  Amazing.

Young people are coming forward bravely and very effectively and reaching out to their peers in an effort to make a difference.  Brett Simpson created a video encouraging other teens to contact him personally if they needed someone to talk to or if they were struggling.  Not satisfied with that, he turned his personal social network page into a support community AND started a second one.  The response to both has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Jonah Mowry is part of a group of teens who have decided to take the matter of bullying, as well as their future as LGBT teens, into their own hands.  They are organizing what they're calling the Monster March Against Bullying, with the goal of having tens of thousands of teens from all over the country (world?) march with them to San Francisco's City Hall in October.  That's incredible stuff!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that it was Jamie Hubley's suicide that made me decide to roll up my sleeves and get involved in trying to make a difference.  This blog was created, and will always be written, in his honor.  He gave me my true voice.  And, since its inception on November 7th, I've been humbled by the response it has received.  It's being read by hundreds, and sometimes thousands, per day.  More importantly, it's making a difference in people's lives.  That wouldn't be happening, however, without every single one of you who are reading these words right now!  You read it; you respond to it by way of your comments and emails; and, you get involved when it's called upon you to do so.  So, it's actually YOU who are making the difference!! 

Together, we are changing history!!  I've dreamed of this historic moment forever.