Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Teen Suicide That Wasn't

I was trying to go to bed, actually.  I had finished up what I had to do for the night and was tired.  I rarely ever use my twitter.  For whatever reason, last night I did decide to check it to see what was going on there.  And, right before my eyes, trending at the moment was RIPMatt.  Another apparent teen suicide.  Suddenly, I was wide awake again.

I'm reading every tweet that comes along.  One after the other after another, they were wishing Matt a fond farewell.  And, they were voicing their anger at yet another teen suicide from bullying.  Another bullycide.  So, the natural thing for me to do is to start digging for more information.  I'm following links; I'm asking questions; I'm googling...anything that would shed some light on what was going on.  Nothing.  No news anywhere.  However, I know from past experiences that that doesn't necessarily mean anything.  Often times, the actual news story comes later.  There was one instance earlier in the year where my blog entry was the breaking news on a teen suicide.  Finally, I gave in to my leadened eyelids and called it a night, figuring that I'd exhausted every avenue I could think of.  "There's bound to be more information about it when I wake up" was my thought process.  And, there was.

As it turns out, Matt is alive and well.  There's no telling how the rumor started or what made it, at one point, the 4th highest trending story on twitter.  I didn't ask.  What mattered most was that another teen wasn't lost to suicide.  The page that was a RIP page when I went to bed had been converted to a community page designed the help combat bullying.  The creator of the page figured that since there were already a substantial number of people there, initially to "pay tribute" to someone they thought was gone, they may as well keep the page and turn it into a a community for helping.  There are great people out there.  Now, we wish them well on their quest.  They're the newest members of an ever-growing army and obviously great people.

Once the dust settled and we realized that young Matt was, indeed, still very much alive and well, I took a moment (or, two) to reflect back upon what had just occurred.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from this:
  1. Spreading news about a suicide is never a good thing unless there are facts.  I don't know how this one got started, and it doesn't matter.  However, it's apparent that somebody, somewhere, posted something they shouldn't have posted.  And, it mushroomed around the globe quickly.  People were upset.  People were crying.  What happens if some young person is right there at their own breaking point when they hear something like this?  News of yet another bullycide could be just enough to push them over the edge.
  2. Whereas it's a great thing that so many people, and from all over the world, are now aware of the great harm that bullying causes and its devastating effects, it's also important to know that not every teen suicide is due to bullying.  Every single tweet last night was either denouncing the bullying Matt "endured" or speaking out angrily about bullying in general.  While it's a great thing that so many people are now in tune with the dilemma and are willing to speak up about it, again it's just as important to know that bullying isn't always the cause.  Jamie Hubley didn't commit suicide because he was bullied, although he had been a couple times.  He committed suicide because he suffered from depression.  So, having the facts right is important.  One guy even went as far as to name the "bully". 
  3. I must have read over 1,000 tweets last night.  The vast majority of them were issuing both mandates and pleas for the bullying to stop.  "No one deserves to be bullied like he was".  If nothing else I say makes sense, I want this point to be crystal clear.  Talking about stopping the bullying means nothing at all without action.  I'll never know the exact number of tweets that were sent throughout the night.  I can tell you that it was well into the thousands.  Now, ask yourself: "what would this world be like if just the people who were part of the trending last night were to each do something, just one thing!, every single day to help prevent the bullying and end the suicides?  
Let your imagination run with that one for a while.  Then, realize that that's exactly the type of effort we need to combat this.  The bright news is that out of the rubble of last night's false alarm has come another, new battalion in the army that's ever-forming in an effort to, indeed, stop the bullying and end the teen suicides.  Roll up your sleeves.  We've got a lot of work to do.

Monday, January 30, 2012

EricJames Borges' Final Words

He was a very gifted young man.  His talent for filmmaking was made evident in the short film he made not long before his death.  People who knew him well said that EricJames had just barely scratched the surface of what would've been a terrific career and very rewarding life.  Scorned, demonized, abused both physically and emotionally by his parents, EricJames was left with scars from his coming out process that he couldn't recover from.  In a perfect world, EricJames' parents would be charged with homicide for his death.  This isn't a perfect world, and that will never happen.  No more so than the school administrators and State officials will be held culpable in the suicides of Phillip Parker or Jacob Rogers.

Memorial services were held for EricJames this past weekend.  Hundreds attended.  They went to remember.  They went to mourn.  And, they went to celebrate a gifted young life that's tragically, and needlessly, gone too soon.  It's noteworthy that his parents, the two people who gave him life only to take it away, didn't show up to the memorial services.  They were invited.

EricJames' last words, in a copyrighted suicide note that I'm not privy to, spoke lovingly to the ones who would become his de facto family in the end:  the ones who really cared and loved him.  He spoke of Lady Gaga, leaving money to her Born This Way Foundation which benefits LGBT youth.  He also left money to several other LGBT organizations that would help LGBT teens.  As was shown in his "It Gets Better" video, recorded a month before his suicide, and in death, EricJames was passionate about helping other LGBT teens so they wouldn't have to experience the sheer hell he was put through.

It is critical that we understand that the work that needs to be done before we can end teen-on-teen bullying pales in comparison to the work that needs to be done dealing with the adults in our society.  The kids are a mere reflection of what they're learning from the adults.  That a parent could inflict the type of pain EricJames' parents inflicted upon him is reprehensible, if not criminal.  No child should ever have to endure that, especially from the ones who gave him life.  Yet, it happens.  EricJames is not an isolated case.  That lawmakers can even dream of passing the type of damaging laws that a Michele Bachmann, a Stacey Campfield, or a John Ragan not only dream of but sign into law is reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous.  I've said it many times before, but it bears saying many more times:  the war against bullying has to start with the adults.  There's no way around it.

"My pain is not caused because I'm gay.  My pain was caused by the way I was treated because I am gay."  Pause to absorb that for a moment.  It can't get more to the point than that.  Those were the words EricJames wrote to end his suicide note.

I hope you're at peace now, EricJames.  Your family misses you.  Your real family.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meet Brett: He Wants to Make a Difference

I saw this video posted on my wall (actually, it was the Jamie Hubley wall, but that IS "my" home wall), and it didn't really grab my attention.  Since the Jonah Mowry phenomena, there's been a plethora of people, young and not-so-young alike, posting their videos, flash cards at the ready, in response to Jonah's original video posted in the first week of December.  I'd grown weary of them, to be honest.  So, I overlooked this one. 

However, Brett won out.  I gave in and watched.  And, I was moved.  Done in "Jonah Mowry" style, with flash cards, it really isn't in response to Jonah, after all.  Rather, Brett decided to reach out to other LGBT teens who may be struggling with...whatever.  What a novel idea!!  I watched the video from beginning to end...twice!  The message is positive and very powerful. 

Brett is gay, himself, but not yet openly so.  He's been through what most gay teens have to endure:  the insecurities of the "what ifs"; the rejection; and, possibly even some bullying.  Luckily, though, he was accepted and loved just for who he is by his family and close friends.  That makes such a huge difference in a young LGBT life.  So, as a way of paying it forward, he's reaching out to other LGBT teens to show them the same love and support he's receiving.  You can't beat that!

What I would love to see happen would be for his positive-message video to go viral in the same what that Jonah's initial cry-for-help video did in early December.  That video has been viewed over 9 million times since I saw it for the first time.  Brett's message is no less powerful.  And, just as the world responded to Jonah, so should they respond to Brett's invitation to other struggling teens.  His message and open-armed invitation could help save some lives.

The Stacey Campfield Camp Responds!!!

I woke up this morning to the surprise of my journalistic life:  a direct response from the Stacey Campfield camp.  Actually, the unmoderated comment that was left is supposedly directly from Stacey, himself.  However, upon further inspection, and after checking the links provided, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he, himself, did NOT send me the response.  On the other hand, regardless as to who, in fact, sent it, it's frightening to know that these are the "facts" these people espouse.  Worse, it's detrimental that they seek to impose their terribly misguided "factual" beliefs on the public-at-large and, in particular, the LGBT community.  Allow me to dissect.

The responder started of for acknowledging my passion:  "While I apriciate (sic) your passion, here are some cold hard facts..."  Then, the fun begins.

On the issue of gay men having a decidedly shorter lifespan, this link was offered as their "proof".  Their "documentation" turned out to be a far right-wing propaganda piece chock-full of the same old diatribe we've been hearing for decades.  In the first paragraph, it's noted that "...evidence shows homosexuality to be a compulsion and lethal addiction, not 'mainstream America'".  It's also noted that even without AIDS, "...homosexual persons will probably not live past their 40s..."  I can't make this stuff up!  Read it for yourself.

As I suspected, and as I stated in the original article, At The Root of the Tennessee Madness, they are taking outdated information, in some cases from as far back as the late 70s!, and presenting it as today's facts and reality.  How dangerous is that?  First of all, things that held true in 1978 obviously don't hold the same validity in 2012.  But, more importantly, how dangerous is it to attempt to govern in today's world using 1978 survey information?


Study after study reveals that homosexuality, whether male or female, can take anywhere from 10, 20 to 30 years off of someone's lifespan. With all the attention on smoking, which the National Cancer Institute says takes from 7 to 10 years off someone's life, why not the same human outcry on homosexuality? Here's a behavior that's killing people 2 to 3 times the rate of smoking, yet nobody seems to care. In fact, we are encouraging and affirming individuals into the "gay" lifestyle. If you truly love someone, you would steer them away from self-destructive behaviors, rather than towards them, shouldn't you? Homosexuals need our tough love, not blind love, the kind of love that is going to love them no matter what they say and do. We must extend that helping hand and say " I think your worth saving, let's work on it together."
 All of that, and I'm still only on the first link "he" provided.

So, where does his information supporting getting AIDS through "normal" heterosexual vaginal sex come from?  What's his "scientific" proof?  Cecil Adams, touted as the world's smartest human.  The world's genius was asked, in December 1988, his opinion of how risky heterosexual sex was.  In 1988, the whole world was still trying to get a grip on what was really going on with the virus.  I know.  I was there.  I was in San Francisco during those days, watching my own friends die on a daily basis from a disease that we still hadn't fully come to understand.  But, again, that was 1988.

So, to make sure this is very clear:  A State Senator is taking someone's opinion and presenting it to his constituents as "scientific fact".  Worse, he's using someone else's opinions, masked as knowledge, in order to propagate his own bigotry and hatred towards the LGBT community, young and old.  Can I say again:  this is an ELECTED official!  I'm convinced that today's elected officials have completely lost sight of the fact that, by virtue of our votes, we hired them to work for us.  They've got it reversed.  And, that needs to be re-examined.

And, finally, an attempt was made to justify his bill "Don't Say Gay", which forbids school administrators to say the word "gay" or even acknowledge their LGBT students as such.  The bill that, if not already implemented, could've potentially saved Phillip Parker's life.
As for the reason for the interview (My bill on parental responsibility of teaching sexuality to very young children) Here are some points of view for you to consider.

-It is a parents responsibility to decide when a child is ready to grasp such a complex issue as sexuality and what they want to tell the child about that complex subject. Not a teachers.

- All children develop mentally at different rates. I do not feel a teacher with an agenda (Be it pro or con) is the appropriate person to decide “Now is the time” for an entire class of children just because they may think one way or another on an issue and want to espouse it.

-A teacher is not a trained child psychologist or psychiatrist and could do as much harm as good to a sexually confused child.

-I doubt many on the other side would want a teacher who said “Homosexuality is evil, dirty and wrong” just because they felt that it was what is appropriate, that it is what they thought the children needed to and were ready to hear. This bill ensures neutrality from teachers.

-Physically threatening behavior is what is and needs to remain covered for all groups. Not the sexuality of the victim. We already have anti bullying legislation passed in Tennessee (In fact I co sponsored it 2 or 3 years ago when it passed) so all children are protected from bullying in our schools. [this is in reference to the bill that would allow for bullying of LGBT students if done for "religious, political, or philosophical reasons".  And, they still don't get it!  No one is looking for SPECIAL protection.  And, we certainly don't present ourselves as a "special class" of people.  Equality means we're equal to every other person, not special.  In fact, THEY are making us that "special class" of people by singling us out to be victimized by discrimination in the job and housing markets and, frightfully, in the schools!]

-We do not need an un equal justice system that creates special separate classes of protected people that gets special protection under the law.

-Nor do we need to silence the first amendment rights of religious free speech of those in our schools whose family may hold different beliefs (as long as those beliefs are not physically threatening). [note to you, Rep. Campfield:  not only is it physically threatening to the LGBT students, it's costing lives.]

-While there is a scientific and educational need to mention the basics of heterosexuality when teaching the basics of reproduction (XY chromosomes, etc.) there is no scientific need to mention homosexuality as homosexuals do not naturally reproduce.

-We are falling behind the rest of the world in math, science, and English amongst other things. Tennessee ranks about 46th in most areas. Social engineering is just one less issue teachers should have to worry about teaching as part of their curricula.
That someone from the Stacey Campfield camp thought enough of what I said to take time to respond is encouraging.  That they have this view of reality is mind-boggling.  That they are passing their myopic, unfounded, and outmoded views on the people of an entire state is very dangerous.  So, again, I strongly urge signing the petitions.  Too much is at stake to wait for "someone else" to do it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bill Clinton Responsible for Oral Sex-Related Cancers!!!!

Sigh.  There's no real purpose for posting such an incredibly foolish story other than to allow every breathing human being with even a shred of intelligence the opportunity to see for themselves the kind of mindset we're up against in our fight for equality.  It's important for everyone to understand the shear insanity that being spewed from so-called leaders.  And, it's being spewed with absolute conviction.  I don't know what's scarier:  the fact that there really are people out there who believe and, worse, promote the nonsense that comes from their mouths, or the fact that there are REAL PEOPLE who accept their misguided words as gospel.

I'm reminded that "anybody can say, or write, anything they want, and there's always going to be someone who believes it."

From the man who brought us the breaking news last week that AIDS was primarily a homosexual disease, caused by gay sex and poppers!, and that rarely if ever will you find a case of AIDS where people are having "normal" heterosexual sex now comes the revelation that Bill Clinton is to blame for the recent spike in the number of mouth cancers.

I can't make this stuff up.

According to Bryan Fischer (remember him?), because of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky back in the 90's, young people were influenced by his actions.  Using Bill's now infamous (and, I'd bet, regrettable on his part) "it wasn't sex" response, young people took his "advice".  Oral sex increased, according to Mr. Fischer.  And, with it came an increase in the number of cases of mouth cancers.

So, what makes this important?  To my thinking, it's important for all of us to know, and be constantly reminded of, exactly the type of insanity that we're up against.  It's equally important to understand that all of this opposition is coming from a very small faction in our country.  However, they're in positions of power and persuasion.  And, they are quite boisterous in their fight against us.  Misguided, but boisterous.  However, for every person who follows them and their teachings of hatred, ignorance, and intolerance, there's a hundred people who are against what they preach.

We need to continue to grow, daily, in numbers.  We need to continue to make our voices heard, very loudly and very clearly.  We need to be precise and concise with our message:  We will no longer accept intolerance against the LGBT community!  Lives are being lost daily because of it.  Zero tolerance means just that.  It's time to stop saying it and start making sure it's being carried out.

Friday, January 27, 2012

At The Root of the Tennesse Madness

A couple things really bother me here.  First of all, how is it possible that one person as completely ignorant and out of step with the real world could be elected into a political position!?  Every single thing Stacey Campfield breathes about the LGBT community would be laughable if it wasn't for the fact that it's damaging so many lives.

Rep. Campfield is the author of the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the bill that doesn't even allow for the recognition of the word gay.  His logic and reasoning behind that predates Anita Bryant.  It might even predate the neanderthals.  Certainly, it's not in step with 2012 and the real world.  He's clinging feverishly to an old, outmoded myth about homosexuality.  Now, it's fine if he has those views and strongly believe in them.  That's his choice and, under our Constitution, he has that right.  The line, though, needs to be drawn decisively at the front door of his home.  As a politician, as a human being, and as an adult, he should not be allowed to let his bias, his archaic views of reality influence and harm other people.  In this case, particularly, the lives of young LGBT people are in the balance.  Tennessee has had two gay-teen suicides within the last 2 months.  How many more lives must be lost before Stacey Campfield is put in check?  Don't lose track of the fact that it was also Stacey Campfield who authored the bill that allows for the bullying of LGBT youth as long as it's done for "...religious, political, or philosophical reasons."  Your son gets bashed in the face at school.  The attacker yells "Praise the Lord", goes to the office and collects his get-out-of-jail-free card. 

Mr. Campfield is a bonafide threat to the well-being of every LGBT person in the state of Tennessee.  From his "Don't Say Gay" policy to his policy of allowing realtors and businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, Stacey Campfield is truly a danger to the community.

His latest diatribe, though, was at least humorous.  He enlightened the world with his revelation that AIDS is an exclusively gay disease.  According to Stacey Campfield, it is "virtually impossible" to contract AIDS through "normal", heterosexual sex.  Again, the question:  "how on EARTH was this man elected!?"  I'm not even going to comment on just how insane that series of statements are.  You can read it for yourself.  It's great humor.  Well, not really.  It's actually rather scary.  Never forget that this man is in a position of power.  He's a shot-caller.  And, he's amazingly ignorant.  Bad combination.

Returning to my "power in numbers" mantra, if you haven't signed any of the three petitions calling for changes in the Tennessee laws, here there are again:
Our army is growing by leaps and bounds daily.  Now, we need to put those numbers to work.  Talking about change is one thing; being proactive in helping to bring about that change is a whole different animal.

    Power in Numbers

    Since I posted the link, "Help LGBT Students Get Their Voices Heard", the petition has picked up over 125 new signatures.  Awesome!  If you're reading this and haven't signed, or don't even know what it's about, I encourage you to sign it.  And, if you don't know what it's about, read my previous entry of the same name.

    At this point in time, it's urgent that we, the people who care and are passionate to see change in the way of equality for all, continue to pull together and be heard.  "The Other Side" is lashing out like never before!!!  Just today, I read of two MORE states attempting to implement their own version of a bill that will make it okay to bully LGBT teens if it's done for religious, political, or philosophical reasons.  That's absurd.  And, very dangerous.

    Also today, pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church spoke out against his state's push to legalize gay marriages.  His remarks were, indeed, remarkable:
    “Do they believe that if they change the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, what is going to stop two men one woman, two women one man, one man against a horse, one man with a boy, one man with anything,”
    I can't even comment on that.

    One of the two states that want to give a free pass to bullying if it's for religious, political, or philosophical reason is Michele Bachmann's Minnesota.  More specifically, it's the very district that she represents.  Bachmannites.

    See, these people are determined to impose their narrow-minded beliefs and destructive bigotry on the entire country.  It's totally ok if they are against homosexuality, gay marriages, or sanity.  That's their constitutional right.  For them to attempt to force their opinions, their intolerance, their hatred down the throats of an entire nation is morally wrong.  Beyond that, it adds to the feeling of despair felt by millions of vulnerable LGBT youth from sea to shining sea.  And, that is one of the factors driving the increase in gay teen suicides.  The good news is that it's a factor that can be minimized.  There is power in numbers.

    People are joining together in record numbers, all in support of the same cause:  to end inequality and hatred towards the LGBT community.  Straights and gays alike are letting their voices be heard:  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  "Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook" is approaching 300,000 members;  "STOP Teenage Suicide" has more than 25,000 people involved;  "ABC: Anti-Bullying Coalition" and "The Equality Mantra" are both over 12,000; you get the point.  We need the numbers to continue to increase.  But, it can't stop there!  We need people to stay plugged in and involved.  The ONLY way we're going to create the change we're seeking is to continuously, and loudly!, let our voice be heard, our presence felt.  Our voices must be loud enough to drown out the boisterous rants of a Michele Bachmann, a Rev. Ken Hutcherson, and the Tennessee lawmakers.  It is the people of this ilk who would rather see the LGBT population dead than become equal.  By extension, they couldn't care less about the LGBT teen who commits suicide!  Our presence must be made known.  There truly is power in numbers.  It doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, or asexual; black, white, or Venusian.  We all have the same goal:  equality.  That's the big umbrella that will help protect our LGBT teens from the storm of hatred we're witnessing today from our so-called leaders.

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Help LGBT Students Get Their Voices Heard

    This is a prime example of the emotional abuse LGBT students are forced to endure from adults.  The Gwinnett County, Georgia school system has banned LGBT students from accessing LGBT-friendly websites.  "It Gets Better"?  Forget about it.  "Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook"?  Not on your life.  Instead, the "lgbt" websites that are made available to them are sites that promise to "turn [them] straight".  There should be a site where the administrators can go to turn themselves smart.

    What they are saying is that it's ok to batter the self-esteem and confidence of a young LGBT person, but it's not ok for them to be able to go to sites that will help make them feel better about themselves or like they belong.  That's bullying on an adult level.  On a deeper level, this tells them that they are defective, that their feelings are not authentic, that they can be "fixed" with the right therapy or information.  I'm guessing they didn't catch the news that "ex-gay therapy" was a fraud.  A 30-year lie, led by an "ex-gay" who's now a married (with children) man who openly admits that he still finds himself attracted to men and "still has urges".  Surprising, huh?

    The ACLU has taken Gwinnett County to task over this issue.  Early last year, the ACLU fought the federal government for the right of LGBT students to have access to gay-friendly websites, such as GLSEN.  And, they won.  Apparently, Georgia is exempt from federal rulings.  At this moment in time, I don't know what the outcome is of their battle against Gwinnett County.  What I do know is that there isn't time to wait for that decision.  Too many lives are at stake.

    There's a petition on change.org, "Help LGBT Students Get Their Voices Heard".  It needs to be signed by the thousands.  Gwinnett County needs to understand that they cannot bully our LGBT students.  Like every other student in their care, the LGBT students are to be educated, nurtured, and protected.  Right now, like the LGBT students in Tennessee, they're being fed to the lions.  We, the concerned citizens, can and must make a difference.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    The L Project

    Everything isn't always doom and gloom.  Don't get me wrong:  there is so much of it going on all around us that it's sometimes hard to keep up with it all.  It's good, though, every once in a while to point out some of the good and positive things that are going on within the LGBT community.  And, within the community, there truly are a lot of good people doing some great things.  I can't say enough about "Kel", the founder of Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook and the work he's done and continues to do, just to name one.

    In the U.K., there's currently a project going on that will help save some young, LGBT lives.  It's called The L Project.  What they're doing is bringing together the best of the best lesbian musicians to record a record to be released February 11th.  Now, stop reading for a minute so you can go write that date on your calendar......  Done?  Ok, the single, "It Does Get Better", sends the positive message to LGBT teens that, for as dark and bleak as things may seem now, things truly do and will get better.  That's a message that sorely needs to be heard by our LGBT youth at this point in time. 

    The goal for Georgey Payne and The L Project is to raise awareness while also raising money for charities that work to prevent bullying against LGBT teens.  The best part of this is everyone is donating their time, their energy, and most of all, their talents.  All the monies earned by this single will go to those charities that will benefit LGBT teens!  That's terrific! 

    Now, we all have to do our part.  That means that everyone needs to check out The L Project and, on February 11th, buy their single, "It Does Get Better".  Let's all band together and show our LGBT youth that they have an army of support behind them, that things really will get better for them if they just hold on.  But, they need something to hold on to.  That something is hope. 

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Petitions to STOP Tennessee Lawmakers from Victimizing the LGBT Community

    I read yet another heartbreaking article about Phillip Parker and the abuse he endured.  I cried.  It went as far as the church, a pastor, telling him to pray the demons out of him so that he could be straight.  Yes.  In Tennessee, being gay is demonic.  How many more lives will be lost to this sickness that's being passed off as Tennessee law?  How many more LGBT teens will be cornered into suicide as the bigoted, myopic lawmakers continue to endorse and pass legislation that sanctions their abuse, prevents teachers to intervene in the abuse, and completely demonize their existence?

    There are petitions already in place to force their hands.  There is power in numbers.  Here are three petitions that NEED to be signed and then massively circulated.  There needs to be an overwhelming number of names on these petitions so that we can show them that we will no longer tolerate their intolerance.  Reversing, or stopping, these bills will work towards providing protection for the LGBT youth of Tennessee as well as stripping away the power to freely discriminate against the LGBT community, in general.

    This petition is to force the Tennessee lawmakers to eliminate the language in the anti-bullying bill that would allow for the bullying of LGBT citizens, teens in particular, as long as it's done for religious, philosophical, or political beliefs.  This is a very crucial petition.  Sign and share.  And, share.

    This petition strips away the insanely myopic and bigoted "Don't Say Gay" bill.  Without that bill in place, Phillip Parker may still be alive today.  The teachers who wanted to help would've been able to do so without breaking the law.  Understand:  it is illegal for teachers to intervene if an LGBT teen is being abused; it's illegal for counselors to counsel them!  Sign and share.  And, share.  And, encourage others to share.

    This petition  is to help protect other LGBT teens in Cheatham County, where Jacob Rogers committed suicide in December.  The rules MUST be changed; the laws MUST be reversed.  There has to be stronger policies in place to protect the LGBT teens going to school in Tennessee.  And, it's up to all of us, concerned citizens, to push for change.  The lawmakers there have already shown that they'd rather see them kill themselves off.  Zero tolerance!

    Phillip Parker and the Tennessee Legislation

    The more I read about Phillip Parker, the 14-year-old LGBT youth who commited suicide in Tennessee Friday, the angrier I get.  According to several different stories, the bullying had been going on for a long period of time.  His family was overwhelmed with information about the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse he endured over the weekend when it was, sadly, too late.  However, the report is that several of his friends did, in fact, go to teachers at Gordonsville High School to tell what was happening to him, and no one did anything.  No interventions.  No calls to the family.  Nothing.  No one did anything!!!!  Heads need to roll.  Teachers, the principle, the whole school system needs to be held accountable.  This is criminal neglect if nothing else.  The ones responsible for the abuse also need to be sought out and punished severely.  There are people there who know exactly who's responsible for it.  They have already gone forward with it to the school staff.  They need to go public with it, as in to the police.  Of course, none of it will help the Parker family or Phillips friends at this point.  But, it could go a long way to preventing another family in Tennessee from having to go through this.

    Or, will it?

    It seems that Tennessee, and more specifically it's legislatures, have a problem with the LGBT community.  Tennessee has a "Don't Say Gay" statute in place that prohibits teachers, basically, from acknowledging that gays and lesbians even exist.  Does that mean, then, that they can't intervene if a LGBT student is being bullied, like Phillip was.  Like Jacob Rogers was?  Do they, by law, have to pretend that it's not happening, look the other way when it involves an LGBT student?

    In Tennessee, same-sex marriages are illegal.

    In Tennessee, LGBT people are not protected from housing and employment discrimination.

    In Tennessee, they are trying to pass that bill where bullying against members of the LGBT community will be sanctioned as long as it's done for political, philosophical, or religious beliefs.  That's a free pass to emotionally, psychologically, and physically abuse LGBT teens!  All they have to do is claim it was done because of their beliefs, and they get a get-out-of-jail-free card. 

    There needs to be outrage.  There needs to be petition after petition after petition.  Concerned parents need to be voicing their concerns.  Loudly!  It is mind-boggling that the citizens of Tennessee are allowing this to happen in their state. 

    Tennessee is apparently the nation's hotbed for homophobia.  Comedian Tracy Morgan went on a homophobic rant at a Nashville comedy club, going as far as to say that he'd stab his son to death if said son was to come out as gay.  The significance of this is that it was met with a "thunderous applause".    He said he'd kill his son if he turned out gay, and people applauded!?  How is this being allowed to happen in this country in 2012!?

    Meanwhile, family and friends of Phillip Parker are searching for answers.  And, justice.  Unfortunately, they won't find much justice in a state that passed a law that forbids teachers to even say the word "gay" in their classes.  They won't find justice in a state that, just recently!, made it ok to discriminate against LGBT people in the housing and job markets.  They won't find justice in a state that wants to sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  Is there any wonder why teens like Phillip, and Jacob, felt such a sense of hopelessness that they ended their lives? 

    There's a girl named Alissa.  She was Phillip's best friend..."like brother and sister".  Like his family, she's in an awful lot of pain right now.  Another friend started a facebook page to honor the memory of Phillip.  Alissa has made painful posts there.  Please go and offer her words of encouragement.  She, along with the Parker family, needs to be surrounded by love right now.  Do it for Phillip.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Another Gay Teen Lost to Bullycide: Rest in Peace, Phillip Parker, 14

    Every time we lose another LGBT teen to bullycide, we suffer another setback in our efforts to end this malignancy plaguing the LGBT community.  Phillip Parker, 14, ended his young life last week after enduring bullying over a period of time at his Gordonsville, Tennessee high school.  Tennessee is also the state where Jacob Rogers succumbed to bullycide in early December and the same state that I wrote about, here, earlier in the month.  You may recall that Tennessee lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that will allow bullying as long as it is for religious, philosophical, or political beliefs.  We're not going to let that happen.  A petition needs to be up within the next 24 hours to present to the Tennessee legislation letting them know that we will no accept them sanctioning bullying against LGBT teens.

    According to the news report, Phillip's family had gone to the school administrators numerous times to report that he was being bullied.  Nothing changed.  No, I'm wrong.  Things DID change.  Things actually got worse for him.  The bullying increased.  Finally, he'd had enough.

    Knowing about these tragedies isn't nearly enough.  What's needed is a continued concerted effort of many people, loudly and strongly stating the message that "We're mad as Hell, and we're NOT gonna take it anymore!"  Every state legislature needs to be heavily petitioned until there are very strongly-worded laws on the books that will protect EVERY teen from the horrors of bullying.  The penalties for bullying needs to be harsh.  After all, the penalties against the families and friends of those who take their own lives because of bullying are as harsh as it gets.  Further, school systems need to be penalized heavily for failure to a.)  provide each student with a safe learning environment; and, b.)  act upon complaints of bullying.  No way should they be allowed a free pass when a family losses their loved ones.

    It goes without saying that our deepest sympathies and heart-felt prayers go out to the family and friends of 14-year-old Phillip Parker.  May you find peace in Paradise.

    Online Support Groups: "You've Gotta Give 'Em Hope"

    All over the World Wide Web and, in particular, within the 800,000,000+ community of facebook, there are people banding together like never before in an effort to exact change in our society.  More specifically, these people, groups, and communities, are working feverishly to build a better world for the LGBT community.  From working towards equality for all people, gay or straight, black or white, to dealing with the issue of bullying, to helping people young and not-so-young come out of the closet, we’re witnessing a lot of great things unfold right before our eyes. 

    There are some groups, led by some dynamic and driven people, that are leading the way for all of us.  At the head of that class would have to be Kevin O’Neil’s creation, Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook.  I became part of that community in October of last year, right as it was in the middle of “going viral”.  From the membership of slightly under 100,000 when I joined, it has burgeoned to close to 300,000.  In less than 3 months!  That says that something really good is going on there.  Says Kevin, or “Kel” as we know him, many of the people who post comments in the community wall thanks him, and Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, for “giving me strength to go on”.  People, young and old, growing from the support of knowing that such a positive and powerful group of people, gay and straight alike, from all over the world is there for them, giving them strength.  And, the community is constantly growing by large numbers!  

    The Equality Mantra is a group that was started with the mission of glorifying "...the marvelous diversity of humanity while believing, fundamentally, that we're all the same."  There, they share stories, pictures, valuable information.  Most of all, they share love.

    ABC:  Anti-Bullying Coalition is one of my personal favorites.  That's because bullying is a subject that's very critical to me.  In their own words:

    We are passionate about implementing pro-active anti-bullying solutions into our school system and as far around the world as we can grow! We have found such need in our community to advocate for families as well as help change the belief that "kids will be kids" and "it makes them stronger" with the knowledge that even one bullying episode can have life long negative effects. And although our program is currently focused on school time bullying, we hope to spread the word; bullying is a personality and it spans all ages and crosses all boundaries; race, religion, size, gender, socioeconomic status, educational level, sexual orientation and does not stop in High School but continues on to the workplace, retirement homes, private clubs, organizations, it's everywhere. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support! Share the word!
     They've got the right message.  Their work is helping many people.

    I recently did an entry on Charity Smith and her brilliant creation, Project:  OUT.  This is a project that is helping so many LGBT people, young and not-so-young, with their coming out process.  For those who don't already know, the coming out process can be quite traumatic.  We've lost too many teens to traumatic coming out processes, with the latest being 19-year-old- EricJames Borges.  Here, they can do so anonymously which can be extremely therapeutic.

    And, then there's Lyndsay Winegarden's gem of a group, STOP Teenage Suicide.  I love this one so much.  I did an entry on Lyndsay and her page, as well.  She's a remarkable, very courageous lady who is doing great work in the area of trying to bring an end to teen suicide.  That's my mission, as well.

    That's just a handful of online resources that are paving the way to a much brighter, healthier, and safer world, not only for the LGBT community exclusively, but for all people.  As the great people at The Equality Mantra put it:
    "We all bleed red when pricked. We all cry salty tears. We are all the same. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

    "If you "like" marriage equality...if you're encouraged by the six states that have passed marriage equality, and hope the other 44 will SOON follow suit...if you long for equality across the colors to be a reality...if you dream of the day when what we look like, how we worship, where we come from, and who we love are issues that no longer have a seat at the table...if you model love and compassion, and hope to make the world a little bit better by caring and sharing, rather than by denigrating and tearing down...please join [us], and suggest that your friends join. Share your stories, your pictures. Share yourselves. Share the love."
    That's the general theme of all of us as we band together to make a difference.  The great news is there's always room for more dedicated people. 

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    The True Meaning of Family: The Stories of Two Zac(h)s

    My mother had six children from four different men.  Of the six, I only knew two.  Of those two, one was given away when I was five years old because she couldn't afford to take care of all three of us.  I met the man who provided the seed which produced me one time, when I was 16, for five minutes.  My mother, throughout my adolescent and teen years, paraded several different men into our lives.  Eventually, she married one.  And, he was a career inmate.  This was a Christian family.  This was an extraordinarily dysfunctional family. From my mid-teen into early adulthood, I would latch onto one family or another and kinda insinuate myself into their functional family structure.  I was a child screaming at the top of his lungs for normalcy, for a real family structure, for functionality.

    In the U.S., every state in the U.S. permits gay adoption in one form or another.  Yet, there's still a stigma attached to the process.  The rhetoric is road-weary, so I won't even bother repeating it.  Last year, Zach Wahls went in front of the Iowa lawmakers in defense gay adoption.  Zach was raised by two lesbians:  his mothers.  Powerfully delivered, the youtube video of it has gone viral, TWICE.  His message resonates.  Throw away the garbage and hate-filled hyperbole you hear from the anti-gay advocates in regards to gay adoptions.  "They" don't matter.  "They" are speaking purely from their own fears and ignorance.  Watch the video over and again.  Check around and listen to other young people who have been or are being raised by LGBT parents.  They'll give you the real deal about what it's like to have a real, loving family.  Ask Zac about how he feels about his two dads:

    I read about Zac earlier this week.  His "letter" is heartwarming and heartwrenching all at once.  This letter, again found on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, is much too powerful for me to try and paraphrase.  I'd rather you read it for yourself.

    A Letter from a 15 Year-Old Boy to His Gay, Adoptive Dads

    Patrick Wallace posted this over at HuffPost, and it needs to be shared far and wide. A little backstory: this is a kid who was taken from his frankly unfit, drug-abusing mother at age eight, thrown around the foster system, and then adopted several years later by a gay couple. As with many kids adopted that age, Zac had a lot of problems. Very often, it’s gay couples who are willing to take the kids that nobody else wants. Here is the letter that Zac, now 15, read to his family this past Christmas:

    To my Family,

    This is the first Christmas letter that I have ever written. I feel like since I am getting older, I should start writing a letter to the family or just talk about how I thought the family’s year has gone until Christmas.

    Ever since I ended up in this family people have told me that I was lucky. I have always known that I am lucky, especially when I have two dads that love me so much as Dad and Dadio. My family is very special to me. Even when we fight and even when we argue, I know they will always love me. Yes I am a lucky boy to have ended up here after spending so many years in foster care and not knowing if I would ever have a family.

    I didn’t grow with a dad. My birthmom had many boyfriends and she did a lot of drugs and partying. My sisters and me were taken from her on my eighth birthday. It was not fun to have police in my room on that day. It made me sad and this sadness I carried for many years and it got me in a lot of trouble. Then I landed in a great foster home after having lived in 12 different homes in three years. It was when I lived there that both my foster mom and social worker told me there was a family that wanted me. There was a catch: it was two dads!

    Honestly, it didn’t matter to me. I told them, “well, I never had a dad, now I get to have two!”

    The start was tough and rough, and I put them through hell and back. I did awful and nasty things to them both. I stole their credit card and spent thousands of dollars online. When we went on my first vacation out of the country, I stole stuff from a souvenir stand – they found out and made me go back to the shop to return the souvenirs and made me pay the lady who owned the shop for the stolen property which then I had to give to a local kid. I didn’t get it and thought they were being mean.

    When I stole their American Express and maxed it buying stuff online I was only 12 years old. They were very upset, but Dad made sure I got the message of how serious this was. He took me to our local police station and reported me to the police captain for having stolen again. I was taken to an interrogation room and talked to by three police officers. All the time there I only wanted my Dad to come in and bring me home. I wanted to turn time back to before my stealing so I would not be there and I would not have hurt my parents so much. I learned my lesson and NEVER stole again!

    But Dad and Dadio brought not just me into this family. They also added my brother Derrick. What I can say about Derrick is that he is really cool, he is funny, he is an awesome gay guy, he is a one of a kind guy, he is my bro. Next they added Nick. Nick can get on my nerves sometimes, but in the end he is pretty cool. He is a fast leaner when it comes to math and multiplying numbers. And with that said, I will go to the roots of the family.

    Dad and Dadio. They are my parents and they are always here when I need them.

    When it is dark they are the light,
    When I feel frightened and chill’s,
    They are the warmth I feel.
    When I am hungry they cook my meals.

    I did not put a lot of time into the poem, but in the poem you see my parents. The people that show me the light. The people that warm my heart when it gets dark. The people that cook my meals. If I could only ask for anything for Christmas I would only ask for my family.

    By Zac
    Today, I've got a wonderful family.  However, not one person in my family shares my bloodline.  They're loving and supportive.  They're accepting, and they take me just as I am, flaws and all.  We, Zac, Zach, and I, understand the true meaning of family.  And, I'm 100% certain that there are other in this world who also "get it".  As for "those guys", the ones who keep trying to disqualify us, let them keep watching their reruns of Ozzie and Harriet.  They don't understand the real world, anyway.

    MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH: AIDS is Caused by Poppers!!!

    Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and one of the leaders or the anti-gay movement said something astonishing.  According to him, AIDS is NOT caused by HIV.  Rather, it's caused by "rampant promiscuity" and the use of poppers.  According to this sage, "the average homosexual has hundreds, sometimes over 1,000 sexual partners in his/her lifetime."  I'm reminded of an old saying:  "It's better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."  You know, this is so preposterous, I wasn't even going to respond to it; however, it's so dangerous yet humorous, I now feel I must.

    Humor first:  If anyone knows this idiot's address, please mail him a calendar.  The "poppers" theory is so 1984.  As I recall, that goes back to the day where they didn't have a clue as to what was killing off our community and called it "the gay cancer".  And, the only commonality they could possibly find was the little brown bottles we used to buy at the clubs.  Nineteen eighty four.  And, if the average homosexual has between 500 and 1,000 sexual partners in their lifetime, I feel severely cheated!

    Why is this dangerous?  Do I really have to answer that?  This is the rhetoric that's contributing heavily to the volatile environment we see today.  The environment that's leading the children of idiots like this and their followers to think that it's alright to degrade, torment, and bully LGBT teens.  It's dangerous because certainly amongst the followers of maniacs like Mr. Fischer, and trust that there are many, there are some LGBT teens listening daily as mommy and daddy preach these words of hatred and intolerance in their presence not knowing that they are raising an LGBT teen.  As an extension, OTHER LGBT teens are hearing this type of purely ignorant but powerfully-delivered rhetoric.  And, that is one of the driving forces that leaves our LGBT teens with low self-esteem.  And, worse, it plays heavily into the escalation of the teen suicides we're seeing right now.

    There are a lot of people doing a lot of very good people doing a myriad of great things towards working for a solution to the problem of hatred and intolerance towards our LGBT teens, towards stemming this tide of bullying and bullycide.  Bryan Fischer proves beyond doubt that there's still plenty of work that needs to be done.  I've said it many times before:  in order to begin to see a change in our social climate, we need a complete re-education of our society as a whole.  And, the place to start the re-education process is with the ADULTS!  The teens responsible for the bullying are merely a reflection of what they're learning from the adults.  From the politicians who use their power and influence to denounce the validity of our love for another human to the preacher who leads his "congregation" to the funerals of gays with signs of hatred to the parents who disregard, derogate or, worse, simply disown their LBGT children, the re-education will have to start with the adults.  Somebody email Bryan Fischer and tell him that class is in session.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Bullycide's "Other" Victims

    By now, we all know of bullycide and its victims.  It's become a lexicon as it pertains to the recent escalation of teen suicides.  Bullycide has claimed far too many victims this year alone.  We now hear regularly of another teen who was bullied relentlessly until they reached their breaking point and ended their life.  But, there are other victims of bullycide.

    Surely, the families and friends of these teens who gave up too soon, who couldn't take another day of the torment are unintended victims, themselves.  And, unlike the teen who is no longer suffering, these people are left with a lifetime of unfathomable pain and struggle.  In fact, the pain is unrelenting.  In many cases, the families of these targeted victims have turned their pain into positive action.  While allowing themselves time and space to grieve their loss, they've also immersed themselves in activities and causes in attempt to prevent another family from having to deal with what they're going through.

    Sometimes, their positive energies and actions aren't enough to save them from the inner pain they deal with on an everyday basis.  Even the strongest steel breaks under too much pressure.  In November, it was Roger Crouch, father of Dominic who had succumbed to bullycide the previous year.  Roger turned the pain from Dominic's suicide into a massive and effective effort to not only bring worldwide awareness to the problem, but to also reach out to other families who were walking the same walk.  Then, the steel broke.  November 28, 2011, Roger ended his pain.

    Kameron Jacobsen was 14 years old when he lost his life to bullycide January 18, 2011.  And, from that tragedy, Kevin and Wanda Jacobsen set out on a mission, not unlike Roger Crouse's, to make a difference, to do their best effort to save even just one family from suffering through what they were going through.  They created KAM, "Kindness Above Malice".  In Kameron's honor, and to help alleviate their own pain, they set out to reach out to other teens, both the bullied and the bully, in an effort to help bring this madness to an end.  Saturday, January 7th, Kevin Jacobsen took his own life.  The steel broke once again.

    As witnessed by the brutal beating witnessed by tens of thousands earlier this week of a Chicago teen, we have a very, very long way to go before we can begin to celebrate victory.  And now, with the loss of Kevin Jacobsen, as well as Roger Crouch before him, we're seeing that bullying has a crippling ripple effect.  So, the battle continues...and, intensifies.

    To Kevin Jacobsen, may you rest in peace with your son, Kameron.  Thank you for your efforts in the fight to end bullying and bullycide.  And, to Wanda Jacobsen, our prayers and condolences are with you.  May you find peace.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    The Gay Rights Movement

    Despite the constant bombardment of doom and gloom, bullying, bullycides, and teen suicides, we are truly living in exciting times as members of the LGBT community.  As it was with the Civil Rights battle of the 60s, it's a hard-fought battle.  However, we're gaining momentum.  We're winning legal battles from shore-to-shore, small and large alike.  And, slowly and perhaps reluctantly, we're gaining acceptance.  That news is greatest for the younger members of the LGBT community.  Collectively, we're paving the way for a much brighter future for today's LBGT youth.  That's huge!! 

    This video showed up on my facebook wall today.  In my humble opinion, it's a must-see video for every person, gay or straight.  It shows where we've come from.  It moved me to tears. 

    See, as an older black man, and having spent my childhood years in the South, I clearly remember the days of fierce segregation.  I remember the "whites only" and "coloreds only" bathrooms and doctor's offices.  I CLEARLY, and I mean vividly, remember the middle-aged white man who tried his damnedest to put a 12" blade through my 7-year-old back simply because I was a little nigger boy.  I can describe his car in detail.  I remember the struggles, the fight for equality.  I remember clearly the day Dr. King was assassinated.  And, I remember the destructive aftermath.  But, the generations ahead of my own continued to fight and fight hard for a world that would accept me in spite of my skin tone.  Eventually, and gradually, things changed.  They're still changing.  Today, the playing field is a lot more even.  Don't mistake my words.  Racism still lives and breathes today.  To be sure, it will never completely go away.  At least not in my lifetime.  But, it's gotten better, much better!, for people of color.

    As an older gay man, I can remember the day when holding your lover's hand in public could get you arrested.  In some places, it could get you killed.  I remember my 5th grade teacher "outing" me and my boyfriend and the negative reaction it received.  I remember Anita Bryant.  I remember being a young boy when Stonewall was in the news but knowing instinctively that this was something significant.  Oddly to me at the time, I felt a sense of pride in what was going on, and I secretly followed it as much as I could.  I remember the reports of how homos were deviants or worse!  Fast forward to today.  Same fight.  Same struggles for acceptance and equality.  And, they're being fought against the same establishment. And, as with the Civil Rights struggle of the 60s, we're slowly but steadily making gains.  We're winning battles of equality, large and small, all over the world.  And, somewhere in the world, there's that young boy who, like me and Stonewall, is watching this unfold and instinctively knowing that this fight is for him.  And, he's stronger for it.

    How to Watch Your Brother Die

    I started this blog in November in direct response to Jamie Hubley's suicide in October.  Those of you who have been reading it for a while are aware as I mention him frequently.  So, I wanted to take time out to say how honored I am to have a member of his family join in as one of the blogs' followers today.  You know who you are.  Thank you for following.

    If you haven't already "liked" Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, go do it now!  You don't have to be gay to be a part of the most positive, informative page facebook has to offer.  The only prerequisite is that you have a burning desire to see equality for every human being and to be a part of an army of people "enlisted" to work towards that end.

    I read today something from Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook that I had to share with everyone.  If you go to the page, you can find it and other very moving reads in the "notes" section.  This letter moved me:

    How To Watch Your Brother Die

    When the call comes, be calm.
    Say to your wife, “My brother is dying. I have to fly to California.”
    Try not to be shocked that he already looks like a cadaver.
    Say to the young man sitting by your brother’s side, “I’m his brother,”
    Try not to be shocked when the young man says,
    “I’m his lover. Thanks for coming.”

    Listen to the doctor with a steel face on.
    Sign the necessary forms.
    Tell the doctor you will take care of everything.
    Wonder why doctors are so remote.

    Watch the lover’s eyes as they stare into your brother’s eyes as they stare into space.
    Wonder what they see there.
    Remember the time he was jealous and opened your eyebrow with a sharp stick.
    Forgive him out loud even if he can’t understand you.
    Realize the scar will be all that’s left of him.

    Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria say to the lover, “You’re an extremely good-looking young man.”
    Hear him say,
    “I never thought I was good looking enough to deserve your brother.”
    Watch the tears well up in his eyes. Say,
    “I’m sorry. I don’t know what it means to be the lover of another man.”
    Hear him say,
    “It’s just like a wife, only the commitment is deeper because the odds against you are so much greater.”
    Say nothing, but take his hand like a brother’s.

    Drive to Mexico for unproven drugs that might help him live longer.
    Explain what they are to the border guard.
    Fill with rage when he informs you,
    “You can’t bring those across.”
    Begin to grow loud.
    Feel the lover’s hand on your arm, restraining you. See in the guard’s eye how much a man can hate another man.
    Say to the lover, “How can you stand it?”
    Hear him say, “You get used to it.”
    Think of one of your children getting used to another man’s hatred.

    Call your wife on the telephone. Tell her,
    “He hasn’t much time.
    I’ll be home soon.” Before you hang up say,
    “How could anyone’s commitment be deeper than a husband and wife?” hear her say,
    “Please, I don’t want to know all the details.”

    When he slips into an irrevocable coma, hold his lover in your arms while he sobs, no longer strong. Wonder how much longer you will be able to be strong.
    Feel how it feels to hold a man in your arms whose arms are used to holding men.
    Offer God anything to bring your brother back.
    Know you have nothing God could possibly want.
    Curse God, but do not abandon Him.

    Stare at the face of the funeral director when he tells you he will not embalm the body for fear of contamination. Let him see in your eyes how much a man can hate another man.
    Stand beside a casket covered in flowers, white flowers.
    Say, “Thank you for coming” to each of several hundred men who file past in tears, some of them holding hands.
    Know that your brother’s life was not what you imagined.
    Overhear two mourners say, “I wonder who’ll be next.”

    Arrange to take an early flight home.
    His lover will drive you to the airport.
    When your flight is announced say, awkwardly, “If I can do anything, please let me know.”
    Do not flinch when he says,
    “Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him after he told you. He did.”
    Stop and let it soak in. Say,
    “He forgave me, or he knew himself?”
    “Both”, the lover will say, not knowing what else to do. Hold him like a brother while he kisses you on the cheek. Think that you haven’t been kissed by a man since your father died. Think,

    “This is no moment not to be strong.” Fly first class and drink scotch. Stroke your split eyebrow with a finger and think of your brother alive.
    Smile at the memory and think how your children will feel in your arms, warm and friendly and without challenge.

    ~Michael Lassell.
    Before it's too late, while you can still do it, if you know someone who is LGBT, whether it's a family member, friend, or co-worker, let them know that it's okay to be gay.  Let them know that you accept them completely just for who they are.  Let them know that they are beautiful human beings just as they are.  The world is changing.  Be a part of that change.


    Sparked, perhaps, by the inundation of public outcry, and aided by the girlfriend of one of the attackers giving up their names, the Chicago police have arrested the people they believe are responsible for Sunday afternoon's mauling of a Bridgeport, Chicago high school senior.  One of the attackers is being charged as an adult.  One of the attackers was a girl.

    This case is developing more bizarre twists than an old Alfred Hitchcock movie.  The girlfriend of "the main attacker" posted two videos attempting to justify the horrific attack.  At 4:00 deep into the first video, she "reasons" "...in a way, think about it...if you were attacked by 20 people, with you and your sibling alone, how would you feel?  And, in a way, wouldn't you want to get revenge?  Even if it's just on one of them?"  Mob mentality at its best.

    She speaks often, particularly in the second video, of "another side" of the story, a side where apparently the victim in this attack was allegedly a part of an Asian gang who had earlier carried out an attack on the very ones who attacked him.  It's mind-boggling to me that we've reached this point as a nation.  I don't understand that gang culture.  I never will. 

    In some states, videotaping an attack such as the one witnessed here and not doing anything to intervene makes you an accessory to the crime.  Apparently, that's not the case in Illinois.  Whomever the young man is who did the videotaping should be charged as well, in my opinion.

    At the root of this senseless violence, and brutal attack, is racial hatred.  Either way you look at it, it comes back to that.  If the victim WASN'T part of an Asian gang who allegedly carried out an earlier attack on members of the attacking group seen in the video, then it's purely a racial attack and therefore a hate crime.  Even if he WAS part of this gang, there are still race issues that needs to be addressed.  Quickly.  If it's all true, then Chicago has a serious race problem on their hands. (or, am I late on that?)  Latinos vs. Asians?  Blacks vs. Whites?  What happened to equality?  How can the girl on camera talk so flippantly about the "FOBS", or "fresh off the boat", when she is off foreign decent, herself?  And, while I'm shaking that tree, how can ANY of us living in this country talk about immigrants, legal or illegal, unless we're of Native American decent?  Other than that group of people, everyone in this country is an immigrant or descendent thereof.

    Regardless of what she says in her two "justification" videos, I stand by what I said initially:  this was a very brutal attack, a hate crime, and it should be handled as such.  All of the ones involved, including the camera holder, should be prosecuted to the absolute fullest extent of the law.  One of those kicks to the head, absorbed by the victim, taken at the wrong or a slightly different angle could've killed him.  ZERO TOLERANCE. 


    I first saw a video clip of this earlier in the day, I guess when it first broke.  The video clip was bad enough.  It left me shaking my head.  Livid!!!  However, now I've seen the entire video (WARNING!!!  This video is extremely graphic.  DO NOT watch it if you're at all squeamish) of this brutal, senseless attack on this young man.  Now, I'm beyond livid! 

    There are videos, and video responses, all over youtube right now.  The video, itself, has been viewed almost 35,000 times.  Even the Mayor has spoken out about it.  And, NONE OF IT MEANS A DAMNED THING!!  The only thing that matters right now is that those 7 thugs are caught and punished to the absolute fullest extent of the law.  I don't really give a rat's ass that they're juveniles:  they need to be sent to an adult prison for many years.  In the state where I reside, their action is called first-degree assault.  And, when you listen to the language their using as they brutalize this young man, it becomes obvious that this is also a hate crime.  Hate crimes are punishable by federal law.  Every single one of the 30,000+ people who have viewed that video, every breathing soul who has watched the story on the news, needs to make sure that their voices are heard loudly and clearly:  THIS ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BE TOLERATED!!!

    I looked for a petition online but couldn't find one.  Hopefully, someone from Chicago will post one on change.org.  When and if they do, I will certain pass that information along so that everyone, EVERYONE!, can go there and sign it.  There absolutely has to be justice done in this case.  Swift.  Definitive.  And, with severe consequences.  More than ever, the cry of ZERO TOLERANCE must apply here.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    New Jersey Takes the Torch

    Let's give New Jersey a huge standing ovation for leading the nation by passing the first-ever suicide prevention law!!  As an added bonus, three Rupublicans led the way with this bill.  Fantastic!

    Essentially, what the bill will do is consolidate and co-ordinate state resources and raise awareness to the issue.  Small step, maybe, but certainly a step in the right direction.  It's believed that Tyler Clementi's suicide in September of 2010 pushed them to action.  Whatever it takes.

    What is needed, now, is for the other 49 states to follow New Jersey's lead.  It's time.  We're living in a time where suicide is the third leading cause of death of those between the ages of 15-24.  That's ridiculous. 

    The danger here, of course, is that people will become complacent once again, with the thinking that "everything is going to be fine..." now that a law is in place.  Not the case!  The law will help.  However, we all need to continue what has become a very strong, dedicated effort to reverse this alarming trend.  As a person who's been trying to bring attention to this situation for well over a decade, I can tell you that what's going on right now is genuinely heartwarming.  Around the globe, ordinary people are making extraordinary efforts to make a difference.  Slowly, but surely, it's paying off.  Now, we all just have to keep doing what we're doing.  Relentlessly.  Until there are no more families force to bear the burden of wondering what they could've done differently to save their loved one.

    Thank you, New Jersey, for your leadership.

    Gay Rights = Civil Rights: Remembering Bayard Rustin

    I heard this story on "In the Life" maybe 10 years ago.  Then, it was placed right back on a hanger and put back in the closet.  It couldn't have resurfaced at a more significant time.  For as far as we've come, we do still have work to do.  More importantly, it's crucial, in this day of rampant LGBT teen suicides, for the young people to understand that they truly ARE part of the fabric of this world, that their contributions have the potential of being significant.

    Bayard Rustin is a name to remember. (even though I'd forgotten the name for the past 10 years, I always remembered the story)  For as much as Dr. Martin Luther King was the face of the 60s civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin was the architect who made it all come together...and, work.  It was Dr. King's vehicle, but it was Bayard Rustin's well-designed road it traveled on its way to prominence.

    Stories of Rustin's homosexuality began to surface in 1960 forcing King and the Civil Rights movement to part ways with him.  To their thinking, exposure would certainly derail their uber-important efforts.  Unfortunately, they were probably right.  But, by 1963, Rustin had resurfaced with the Civil Rights movement, albeit more behind the scene, and went on to architect what we now know as the 1963 Freedom March on Washington which gave birth to the timeless "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. King.

    Why is this important?  Well, for one, I believe that it is crucial for young LGBT teens to understand that we DO have a voice, that we ARE important, and that their own lives ARE definitely worth living.  Seeing the accomplishments of Bayard Rustin, and the universal importance of his efforts should inspire anyone, especially a confused and questioning LGBT teen.  Without Bayard Rustin, Dr. King's rise to legendary leader of peace may have never happened.

    Of equal importance to me at least, as an older black and gay man, is the realization that the Civil Rights movement of yesterday and the Gay Rights movement of today are one and the same.  Intertwined.  I recently read a comment saying, basically, that the black community had taken issue with people linking the two together.  Quickly, I responded.  Paraphrased, I told them that they are absolutely the same fight.  More to the point, it's the same fight against the same establishment.  What this means is that, for all of our gains we've experienced over the past decade (and, certainly, over the past 18-24 months), we still have a ton of work to do.  The battle is not won.  Not yet.  Then again, neither is the one for racial equality, proving that we must continue to press forward and fight those who would delight in seeing us all locked back in the closet.  That way, they can go back to pretending that we don't exist.

    I guess the message here is that we all, whether we're straight, LGBT, black, white, green, or Venusian, have a voice and a contribution to make to the well-being of our society.  Bayard Rustin's contributions will resonate forever.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Bullycide Struck New Year's Morning: Rest In Peace Jeffrey Patrick Fehr

    It's painful having to document so many teen suicides.  However, unless we're constantly confronted with the shear enormity of the situation, the fear is that people will again become complacent.  We can not afford to let that happen.  Not now.  Not ever.

    In the wee hours of New Year's morning, when folks were winding down from their New Year's Eve celebration of whatever form it was, 18-year-old Jeffrey Patrick Fehr ended his life of turmoil.  According to his family, Jeffrey had been bullied since the sixth grade because of his sexuality.  It only got worse in high school as Jeffrey excelled on the school's cheerleading squad.

    Off to college, and out-of-the-closet, Jeffrey met a young affair of the heart who lived some distance away.  He apparently went to spend the holiday with his new heartthrob, but that ended in a breakup.  Alone, he drove back to Granite Bay.  While others were preparing their celebrations, Jeffrey was plotting his last moments.

    Left unanswered forever, of course, is what was Jeffrey's breaking point?  Was it the breakup?  Was it the years of taunting and bullying?  Those questions will haunt his family and friends for many years to come.

    Here's what IS known:  the LGBT community has lost yet another rising star.  Jeffrey's friends have lost one of their own, as well.  And, his family is now carrying the heavy burden of picking up the pieces of his suicide while trying to make sense of it all.  No family should have to do that.  It's been said here, as well as many other places, too many times already; however, it bears repeating again and again and again until we begin to see a noticeable change.  A change in this mean-spirited culture which breeds a climate that makes it ok, even acceptable, for people to taunt, berate, and attack other who they perceive as different.  A change in the verbiage of our leaders, from the schools to local government to the state level, and all the way up to the national players.  Their hatred and intolerance breeds the ignorance that fosters a climate that allows this type of behavior to flourish.  And, from that ignorance, we're losing young life after young life to the mournful fate of suicide.  Bullycide.  And, here's my point:  it will begin to end when enough of us make enough noise to enough people and make it crystal clear that this is absolutely no longer acceptable.  There truly is power in numbers.  With effort, every single one of us can make the difference that is needed to end this black mark on our society.

    Rest in peace, Jeffrey Patrick Fehr.  So sorry to see you go.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!!!

    I've always said that the world would be a better place if every single gay, bi, lesbian, and transgender person in the world would just come out.  En masse, if necessary.  That way, there would be no remaining doubt that we truly are everywhere.  We're your sons and daughters; we're your teachers and preachers; we're the beat cop and the sentencing judge; we're your doctor, your lawyer, your boss.  Imagine the difference it would make for the LGBT teen struggling with his or her identity, trying to figure out if they'll be ok or all alone in this cruel ol' world.  Of course, that day may never come and for a myriad reasons.

    One of the biggest obstacles, as we all know, is fear.  That's a hard one to overcome.  The "what if" pill is a very hard one to swallow?  "What if" I come out and lose all of my patients?  "What if" I come out and they void my Major League contract? (ask Glenn Burke about that one)  "What if" I come out and get ridiculed at school.  "What if" my family rejects me if I come out?  Well, what if you could come out anonymously?  What if you could write a letter to dear ol' Dad, or the guy who plays baseball on your team, or to your students and tell them your innermost feelings WITHOUT identifying who you are?  Imagine the healing and growth that would come from that.  The simple act of getting it out of your system and committing it to paper is therapeutic in itself.  Add the shield of anonymity, and it's a wonderful tool.

    Meet Charity Smith.  Charity is, in her words, a 30-year-old, half-queer lady living in Frederick, MD.  Charity's vision was to create a page where any and everyone could go and come out anonymously.  And, it's catching on.  Sometimes, coming out is a very hard traumatic thing to do.  It's not always easy to sit across the dinner table and tell the family that you're as queer as a three dollar bill.  Telling the wide-receiver that you've been throwing to for the past three years that you think he's really hot and that you'd love to go out with him would be right next to impossible to do.  Unless you were able to do it anonymously.

    Project:  OUT, Charity's creation, is exactly that anonymous coming out project.  It encourages members of the LGBT community to share their stories safely by mailing anonymous letters to  whomever it is one would feel the need to come out to.  By keeping it anonymous, the writer is able to be completely open, completely honest about their feelings with the safety net of knowing that no one will ever know who wrote it.  Brilliant idea.

    From my perspective, it is my hope that every single struggling LGBT teen will find this page and begin to utilize the unique therapy that Charity has provided.  Imagine the weight off of their shoulders as they begin to open up and pour their thoughts and feelings onto paper!  It is my hope that this will be a catalyst to ending the current plague of LGBT teen suicides.  Time will tell.  Project:  OUT certainly has the potential for making that difference.

    Charity's mission is to provide a clear-cut platform for those who are truly closeted to come out, even if anonymously.  At the time of this writing, nearly 7,000 people apparently like the idea enough to have "liked" the page, thus becoming members of the Project:  OUT community.  Now, it's time to see those number grow.  I know that there are a lot of people who can, and will, benefit from Charity's vision.  In a community that's burgeoning with people committed to making a difference, to making the world a better place for everyone, Charity Smith is a rising star!

    Keep the letters coming!

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    More on EricJames Borges

    If I could, I'd give $1,000,000 to the first person who could explain to me how being an "extreme Christian" is any different that being a neo-Nazi.  Their hatred is destructive, not to mention very UN-Christ-like.  "Disgusting"?  "Damned to Hell"?  Those sound like two pretty good descriptions, to me, of some of these hate-mongers who hide behind the cloak of God and religion.  If "zero tolerance" on bullying is our goal, if we're seeking to increase the penalties levied on those who bully, EricJames' "parents" should be right there on the front cover of the Zero Tolerance manifesto.

    When the story of young EricJames first hit yesterday, the details were still being formulated.  Now that there is more information, his suicide becomes all the more heartbreaking.  Demoralizing.  And, for me at least, maddening.  EricJames was a rising superstar with a beautiful soul.  He would've been a difference maker.  A game breaker.  His talents and his passion for helping others would have affected many, many people.

    As an intern with The Trevor Project, he worked to prevent teen suicide in the LGBT community.  He created his own "It Gets Better" video a month to the day before his suicide.  The video is well made and very well scripted.  In viewing it, however, I'm not convinced that HE was convinced that the words he were saying held validity.  Who could blame him, given his circumstances?

    And, the parents.  I am serious with my contention that they need to be brought up on charges like any other person who bullies a person to death.  As we see the wave of support, nationwide, continue to swell in favor of punishing people guilty of bullycide, these people should absolutely be held accountable for EricJames' death.  His mother performed an exorcism on him!  Are you serious!?  Then, to further trample his self-esteem, they called him very UNGodly names and, for the knock out blow, kick him out of the house...effectively banishing him from the family.

    So, here he is:  19-years-old, just coming out of the closet, starting college, and condemned and abandoned by his family.  Stop for a second and just imagine the inner pain and turmoil he was going through.  Now, multiply what you just imagined ten-fold. 

    The coming out process is supposed to be liberating, not a death sentence.  Your first year of college is supposed to be an adventure, a new beginning, a coming of age, not a horrific continuation of the bullying and harassment endured in middle and high school.  Family is supposed to be your foundation, the people you can always turn to when times are overwhelming, real or imagined.  I can speak from experience when I say that that's a myth that truly needs to be abolished.  However, even with the shithole of a family that I was saddled with, I can say that they were never abusive.  They weren't nasty, mean-spirited, or evil about it.  They just shut the door on me.  In EricJames case, they may as well have held a to his temple and pulled the trigger themselves.

    Like so many of the young suicide victims, in particular LGBT teens, I steadfastly believe that EricJames was merely trying to convince himself that it really is possible for a young LGBT person to find real love in a world that exhibits such hatred and intolerance.  Surely, his parents showed him that he was not lovable.  The ones who bullied him throughout his life taught him that he was not acceptable.  For me, the saddest memory of EricJames' life will be the short film he created and produced.  In the film, you can see him in the throes of love and passion.  It wasn't enough to sustain him.  The unspoken subtext to the film is obvious, but I love his words. 
    Love is universal.  It has the strength to decimate the threshold of all prejudice, all inequity.  Human relationships, and those who come into our lives, have the ability to ultimately shape who we are.  There is importance in loving each other the way each of us truly deserves....
    Makes me cry every time.  You're at peace now, EricJames.