Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reaching the Boiling Point

"It's going to get worse before it begins to get better".  As the struggle for Equal Rights continues, as predicted, the battle is becoming much more heated.  And, bitter.  And, dangerous.  In just the past 72 hours alone, there's been a major escalation in the verbal and physical attacks on the LGBT community, as well as their supporters.  Sadly, there's been one death.
Anyone with access to the Internet, and particularly those who have facebook accounts, are aware of the furor that was caused recently when the makers of the iconic Oreo cookie showed their support for the LGBT community.  In response, the lunatic fringe, LGBT-hating extremists went into full attack mode.  Some of the venomous things they posted as comments brings full light to the dangerous climate members of the LGBT community are facing today.  If you think for a minute that the hatred and intolerance these adults routinely show doesn't have a major impact on the bullying and LGBT teen suicide rate or the level of violence against members of the LGBT community, you're wrong.
Over the weekend, Cory Oden, an LGBT man, was brutally attacked simply because of who he is.  For the simple "crime" of being a gay man in America - the country that's supposedly the "land of the free" - Cory endured a brutal attack that could've very easily claimed his life. Just because he's a gay man in America.  If you get the time, and are so inclined, please do go show Cory some love and support.  Here's his facebook page.  I was reading some of his wall posts moments ago.  This has been a life-changing event for him, obviously.  
As I lay here on my porch swing looking at the sky, sorting all the jumble in my brain. I can't stop thinking about all the people in the world suffering. Maybe it be acts of hatred, maybe it be dying loved ones, maybe even just as simple as you don't know how you're going to pay your rent and survive in what seems to be a cold hard world. I've got quite the battle approaching. Everyone knows its a tough one to rise above and conquer. We have to remember to keep the faith and love flowing through our veins. Whatever struggles you are facing, whatever the outcome may be, just remember to always let your voice be heard and make some noise!!! You never know who just may be listening ♥
 In Portland, Texas, a lesbian, teenaged couple was found shot in the head.  Nineteen-year-old Mollie Olgin succumbed to her injuries.  It hasn't "officially" been classified a hate crime at the time of this writing.   Of course, that's not to say that it wasn't.

So, there you have it.  In just under 72 hours, one dead, one in critical condition, one in serious condition.  What's my point?  If you go back to the insanity of the attack on the Oreo's ad on facebook, and read the comments, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the LGBT community is under attack...that "they" have declared war on members of the LGBT community and its supporters.

Here's the point:  what we're starting to see is a culture that's reaching its boiling point.  The religious fanatics and the homophobic extremists are multiplying rapidly, just as we are on this side of the battle line.  For all of their holiness and deep-rooted "Christian" faith, they're leading us into, essentially, a war right here on our own soil.  Their verbal assaults have been dialed up to fever pitch.  Violence against members of the LGBT community is rising in both frequency and severity.  And, people are losing their lives.

Of course, this mentality isn't anything new in this country.  They killed blacks for sport as they fought for their rights.  Isn't it ironic that these people who profess to be good, "God-fearing Christians" are so comfortable with hatred, intolerance and, worse, the death of those they oppose?  Perhaps, for them, fearing God is in their best interest, after all.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Third Marine, The Fourth Brother

This story was sent to me from a regular reader of this blog.  I think it begs to be read by everyone.  This is the story of USMC Ryan Mire, told by a loving, grieving uncle.  
I admire sad and serious stories.  That is not to say that I don't enjoy a humorous story or a good laugh, because I certainly do.  It is that I find great meaning, message, and resolution through tears.  The following reflection is as true as my memory can muster . . . it articulates my thoughts and my memories of sad days for our family and me.  I wrote this not to entertain, but to challenge us from our place of comfort.
No 20-year old person is supposed to die!  Dying is meant for those who have spent their youth; used well their middle age; and fulfilled their elder years.  However, die he did.  He left behind a mother, father, grandfather, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, as well as comrades in arms.  I claim this to be his story, but likely it is mine.  Perhaps it is at least my simplistic attempt to squeeze something of value from his untimely and unnecessary death.
My father, himself a United State Marine Corps veteran from World War II and the Korean Conflict, weak from prolonged illness, replete in his Veterans of Foreign Wars' hat stood as much to attention as he could as a man of 80+ years.  I stood next to him, at least partially as a steadying presence, bare headed, sadness and loss clearly written across my face.  We stood nearby the gravesite, in Woodside Cemetery in Westminster, Massachusetts - less than a mile from the house where my five siblings and I grew up.  This is where my mother is buried alongside other family members including an uncle and one of my brothers-in-law.  This is the place where my father is buried now and hopefully where I will be buried one day.  This pre-revolutionary war graveyard has served its purpose well ever since Abner Moore became its first resident in 1742.
The three brothers, my nephews, two in and one out of uniform, Marine Corps uniforms to be specific, stood at uncomfortable attention.  There were also several other Marine Corps uniformed men and women nearby who had actually escorted him home to final rest.  They brought him home together with a folded flag; five sealed envelopes; a pre-recorded version of Taps, all together with words of appreciation from both a grateful nation and the Commander-In-Chief.
His mother and father, my sister Bette Jane and brother-in-law, Saul, of course were there.  They were barely able to stand, their grief nearly overwhelming.  My other sisters, brother, sister-in-law, and brothers-in-law, all of his aunts and uncles, his grandfather, along with cousins, nieces, nephews and family friends were there as well, all suffering near inconsolable sadness and loss -- our dear friends sharing in our family's grief.
I have always thought of my sister Bette Jane and her husband Saul as saints.  This is not because they are necessarily without sin or act particularly holy, but because their hearts and outreached helping hands could extend and did extend way beyond their physical reach to comfort, care for, and ease the pain and sadness of many persons - particularly of many children.  I know of no better examples of what my Lutheran friends so often say, "God's work, our hands."
Some years ago, Bette Jane and Saul adopted four boys . . . brothers who had been neglected by their alcohol addicted mother.  Social services had removed them from their neglectful home and placed them in various families as foster children.  They were later put up for adoption.  Better Jane and Saul, foster parents to two and then four ended up adopting all four of these boys.  This sudden family of six lived a happy life together, spending much of it in Southern New Hampshire, eventually seeing each of these four boys grow into fine human beings and good men.  Three of these four boys, hardly boys, by then grown men, were serving or had served in the United States Marine Corps.  I remember thinking how very handsome they all looked in their full dress blue uniforms with red and white accepts.  Their grandfather, my father, being the Marine veteran that he was, exuded pride every time he talked or thought about these three grandsons who chose to serve their country by becoming Marines.  Their father, himself a retired US Army veteran, shared in the pride that comes from watching your sons grow; become men; and serve their country as he himself had done throughout his entire adult life.  To tell the truth, all of us, veterans and non-veterans alike were proud of these fine men.
The youngest of the three Marines, 20-year old Ryan, actually the youngest in this family of six, died while on active duty in Okinawa, Japan.  He died not because of an act of war, not because of an accident, not because of friendly fire.  He died because of hatred, shame, ignorance, fear, and possibly self-loathing.  He died alone in an outbuilding at a remote section of the island-base after hanging himself.
Ryan chose to end his life rather than, in his mind, shame his family and the Marine Corp that he loved.  Shame caused by compromising photographs that someone had then published to the Internet.  Pictures that would likely broadcast him as a gay man.
I wonder if Ryan's death is the outcome some or perhaps even many people want for gay men and women.  I have often wondered if there were people somewhere celebrating Ryan's death on this very day; celebrating on the day of our family's deep sadness:  a day when we saw a life given up at such a young and promising age. I have ever dared wonder to myself, were some individuals actually rejoicing in the fact that there was one less of "them" around.  To us who stood in Woodside Cemetery on that cool early spring day, at uncomfortable attention, he was not one of 'them'; he was our loving son, our brother, our nephew, our cousin, our grandson, our neighbor, our friend, and our comrade - truly loved by all.  Ryan as a gay man, if that is what he was, deserved a chance as much as anyone else, to live a full and complete life of his choosing; his life to live in freedom and dignity.
As were stood there on that day at uncomfortable attention, we all thought about what we might have said to this dear young man to assuage his fear and eliminate the shame he felt.  Would he have listened if we told him, once again, that we loved him 'no matter what', or as some would say 'warts and all'?  Would he perhaps have taken a different path, had we been able to tell him that there is a fulfilling life available to all of us, yes, even to gay men and women?  I wonder, though, if he would have even believed us, even if we had been given the chance to say something to him before?  Truth is, as far as we know, he chose this path without conversation with anyone - after all, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
As nearly as we can determine, he left behind only the five handwritten letters sealed in five envelopes . . . each addressed to a different person . . . I do not know much detail of what was in them, I only know that they contained his last words.
When all was said, and all was done on that cool spring day, we left that pre-revolutionary war graveyard with memories in our minds, loss in our hearts, tears in our eyes, and a folded flag in our hands.
So, what lessons should or could we draw from this?  I would not be so presumptuous to suggest lessons for others.  For me, however, my lessons are few and simple:
  • to be outspoken in my support, respect, and love for all peoples;
  • to respect and value the differences among us;
  • to respect individuals for whom they are and for the decisions that they make to live fulfilling and meaningful lives in the ways that they choose;
  • to respect individuals' choices regarding who they love
  • to never remain silent or quiet when any human being is marginalized, or when any human being is denied rights that I take for granted

Sadly, there is nothing I can say nor anything that I can do to bring Ryan back to us.  However, if these words resonate for only one person, whose heart, upon hearing this story, grows "three sizes that day" . . . perhaps they will have earned their right to paper.
As I said at the beginning, for me, resolution, message, and meaning come through tears.  I hope you share my tears . . . that on that day, in that place, were shed for our dear Ryan, a 20-year old man; the third marine, the fourth brother.
I hope and trust that you're resting in peace, Ryan Mire.  Thank you for sharing his story with us, Bruce.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Marty has to get the credit for this one.  Like many people, I've been following the story of Karen Klein, the 68-year-old school bus monitor who was caught on video being severely and inhumanely bullied by a group of middle-schoolers.  And, like most people, I thought it was an outrage that these young menaces would do what they did to this sweet lady.  They were, indeed, beyond cruel.  Their behavior was reprehensible.  I was very happy, like I'm sure many of you were, that the action against these boys was swift, and it appears that it will be quite well it should be.
Marty saw the whole thing differently.  He called me, full of alarm, to ask if I'd seen the story.  Well, of course I had.  Half the world has seen it by now.  Hell, Karen's getting a vacation out of the whole deal, paid for by "everyday Joes" from around the world to the tune of $427,000+ and counting!!!  That's going to be some vacation. 

What alarmed Marty was the fact that the authorities did, in fact, react as swiftly and definitively against these young tormentors; however, when it comes to the bullying that's done to their peers, everyone drags their heels.  Worse, they fall into a very predictable pattern of complete denial. ("Those boys are good as gold"...Kim Lockwood)  Once he pointed that out, they whole story about Karen Klein became a whole different story for me.

I'm wondering how "they" would respond to that.  We know all too well about the intense bullying that goes on both in the schools and on the school buses.  For those of us who have seen the movie, "Bully", we've seen it up close and personal.  Some of you have been bullied yourselves or have kids who have been.  You know exactly what I'm talking about.
What Karen Klein endured from these young tyrants, no one should have to endure.  That includes their peers and classmates!!  We have a culture where kids, straight and LGBT, are ending their lives because of the very same thing that Karen endured.  The world saw the affect their mindless meanness had on her, and the world reacted.  Swiftly.  Effectively.  Where is that response when the kids who suffer that same level of abuse day in and day out?  What is it about our culture that relegates that behavior to a "boys will be boys" mentality when it comes to the young people being bullied but runs to the aid of a Karen Klein who only suffered the same mindless attacks that the schoolboys and girls suffer everyday?  Understand that these are questions that beg to be explored and answered.  It's a mindset.  It's a mindset that costing lives needlessly.

The members of the facebook blog page hold my feet to the fire on everything I write, and I love it.  It keeps me on my toes.  That said, let me clarify that I have no problem whatsoever with the outpouring of love and support that Karen has received from around the globe.  I think it's heartwarming to see everyone respond like that.  She certainly should have never had to go through this in the first place.  My issue, and Marty's issue, is simple:  where is this response when we know that this is happening day-in-and-day-out to school kids on school buses, in schoolyards, and in classrooms every single nearly every school across the country?  Where's the rush to action then?  Why are the authorities not responding to those incidences with the same fervor they responded to in Karen's ordeal?  These are questions that need to be scrutinized and answered before we can begin to see improvements.

It is my opinion that this case proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the ball is being dropped in the homes.  I'll come under attack for that statement.  But, allow me to state my case:  as the overwhelming majority of you fellow Baby Boomers will attest to, there was absolutely no way, when we were adolescents, that we would even dream of talking to our elders the way these boys talked to Karen.  NO WAY!!  Respect was instilled in us.  So, where was the ball dropped?  Isn't respect something that's supposed to be taught in the home?  How is it that these boys, and others like them, are so at ease with talking to an elderly adult in this manner?  See, if these boys have no respect for a 68-year-old grandmother, and clearly they didn't, there's no way in hell they can be expected to have any respect for their peers. 

The cold, hard truth is that we're not going to solve anything, insofar as bullying is concerned, by focusing solely on the youngsters.  It's becoming more and more clear by the day that the real work is needed from the top, down.  Look, these kids are being taught to be cruel, disrespectful, careless, and intolerant.  Whether the teaching is direct or indirect, the teacher(s) is the adults in their lives.

Karen Klein, I'm sorry you had to endure such insensitivity from these boys.  I hope you have a wonderful and memorable vacation.  As for Marty, well...what can I say?:  that's my boy!  As for everyone else, teach love.  Teach respect.  Teach acceptance.  It's the only way out of this mess.

As I was writing this, the story was released that two of the tormentors have since offered what seemed to be heartfelt apologies for their behavior.  That's good!  When interviewed by Anderson Cooper, one said:
"I feel really bad about what I did," Wesley, one of the boys in the video, said in a statement issued to the show by police. "I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at the people who did that to them."
while the other youngster stated:
"I am so sorry for the way I treated you," Josh, another one of the boys, said in a statement. "When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."
See, they aren't born to act that way!!  That repulsive, and dangerous!, behavior is taught.  Directly or indirectly, the lesson is still taught and learned.  I'm wondering what would happen if every case of bullying went viral like the Karen Klein incident did?  Forced to actually see their actions as the video goes viral, and sentenced to hearing the world respond to their spiteful, nasty behavior, I'm wondering if we'd start seeing some of these young bullies begin to turn away from their negative and cruel behavior?  One can always hope.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: A Fight to the Death

My most recent blog entry has, so far, gone largely unnoticed.  I find that frighteningly sad because of it's extreme importance.  In it, I gave reasons why this year's election is so vitally important.  It's an article that I really think every single person needs to read.  It's that important.

Only if a person lives in a bubble or under a rock would they not know that we are, as a society, in the midst of a very brutal cultural war.  This fight for equality hasn't even begun to seriously heat up, yet we're seeing and hearing some of the most amazingly mean-spirited, hate-laced rhetoric coming from the opponents camp that you could ever imagine.  I was too young to remember whether or not things became this bitter during the Civil Rights struggle of the 60s.  Smart money would say that it did.  Bigots are bigots are bigots.  Their logic is almost always "pretzel logic"; their rhetoric is always bitter and hateful; their fear is always change.

The more I read and hear from these people, the more I realize that this battle hasn't even really begun...that it's going to get much worse than what we're seeing today.  You think that's not possible?  Let me remind you of some of "their" tactics:

  • Think back, not too long ago, to when murdering abortion doctors was a phenomena.  Do you remember who was (and, still is) leading the charge against abortion?
  • Think back to just a month or so ago when an LGBT headquarters in Washington, D.C. had a bomb threat
  • Think back to just two weeks ago when a gay bar in Chicago was set ablaze
  • And, if you need another example, think back to the days of the Civil Rights fight of the 60s.  They were killing blacks seemingly at will.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will remember my own, personal story of a middle-aged white man who tried to plunge a 12" knife into the back of this then-6 year old black boy!
Forget the Christianity argument!  Their actions clearly states that they are anything but Christ-like.  They're hellbent in their ways, they're terrified of change, they're insistent on everyone living life as they see fit, they're narrow-minded, and hateful.  Most alarming, they have no problem resorting to violence if it means protecting their views.
To wit, Jim Garlow spoke to a group of right-wingers, speaking out against same-sex marriage.  He closed out his speech by...
...likening those opposing marriage equality today to Revolutionary War pastors who fought the British because, just like them, these Religious Right activists are are willing declare "if necessary, here we die!"
As I've been trying to get across, in their minds they are at war.  Anyone not getting this is not paying attention.

So, who is this Jim Garlow, you ask?  Well, he's Senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego; he's the co-author of "Cracking the Di Vinci Code".  He's an accomplished man with wealth and, obviously, some clout.  And, his rhetoric is very, very dangerous.  In a different interview:
Garlow weighed in, declaring  that religious liberty and "the radical homosexual agenda" were on course for a head-on collision in America because "they cannot both exist in the same nation at the same time." As such, Garlow warned that advances in marriage equality will eventually force the Christian church underground because the gay agenda is all about "coercion, and crushing, and taking away our liberties and freedoms." But nonetheless, Garlow said, Christians must be willing to stand up and speak out in opposition even though "we are coming into an era where it could cost us everything, including our lives": 
This is serious business.  We've already seen several preachers suggest death for members of the LGBT community.  We've got politicians, as recently as just yesterday!, trying to push through legislation that would essentially give people free reign to discriminate against members of the LGBT community under the guise of doing it in respect of their religious beliefs.

It's as if Bobby Griffith's story holds no value to them.  For those who are unfamiliar with his story, google it.  His mother was "one of them", to a point where it drove him to suicide.  It wasn't until after his death that she understood how very wrong she was and how much damage she did to her son.  That same damage is being done to every single LGBT youth today, either directly or indirectly.  If you don't think that this constant bombardment of broad-stroked hatred for them isn't helping to propel the already-accelerated LGBT teen suicide rate, think again.  If you don't think that their incessant nastiness isn't feeding the ones who seek out and attack members of the LGBT community, think again.  If you don't think that many of the schoolyard bullies aren't heavily influenced by what they're seeing and hearing from these people, think again!!  They have waged war against the LGBT community.  It can't be put any more simply than that.  We've all agreed that the major component to ending the bullying and teen suicides is changing the mindset of the adults.  Understanding that these people have no problem with LGBT teens being bullied and/or committing suicide is absolutely essential if we are to see any measurable change in those arenas.

So, again I ask, why IS this November's election so important?  If I have to tell you, you're not paying attention.  Or, as my mother would tell me "you're flying down the highway and not paying attention to any of the signs".  That's how crashes occur.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why November's Election is SO Important

I’ve been trying to get this thought out, now, for almost a month.  One thing after another has gotten in the way of its completion.  Yet, I feel it’s vitally important for me to get it out.  Then, last Wednesday following the Scott Walker recall election, I was presented with just the catalyst I needed to see it through.

While out playing music, which is what I do, this local homeless Viet Nam vet came up to me and pushed my button!  “Well, those stupid fucking Democrats really took it up the ass yesterday!”  Now, I’m use to his vitriolic statementsHe’s still at war.  I get that.  I’ve known him for quite some time.  And, his conversations are usually right along that same line.  And, typically, I just listen to his rhetoric, smile, nod, and go on about my day.  It usually works.  Not today.  Today, he pushed my buttons.  He pushed my buttons because he reminded me, up close and person, of exactly why it is of extreme importance for Obama to win in November.
This isn’t about politics, really.  This is about loving and caring.  This is about tolerance.   This is more about right and wrong.  And, it’s about survival.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m no professional political analyst.  Not even close.  In fact, the only thing I am, as a professional, is a musicianI’m a single, gay, black male.  I’m an older black male who was around, albeit as a young boy, when blacks were fighting for their own right to exist.

Our country is entrenched in a cultural war.  That should be no secret to anyone with a pulse.  We’re seeing a second-coming of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s as the LGBT community fight, essentially for their right to even exist.  Just as blacks did in the 50s and 60s.  The parallels are undeniable.
Of course, there are many who would vehemently disagree with me.  Over and over again, I’ve read this older black leader or another protest the notion that today fight for equal rights by the LGBT community is an extension of the Civil Rights battle of the 60s.  I can state as a black man who lived during those times as a young black boy in the South that it is, indeed, the same fight.  In truth, despite their efforts to distance themselves from today’s struggle, it is the same fight being fought against the same establishmentThe same hateful, mean-spirited, bigoted people who wanted to keep Blacks “in their place” 50-60 years ago now want to do the same with the LGBT community.  Well, of course not the same people.  That was a half-century ago.  However, it IS, in fact, the same establishment.  Now, before I get called out on this for not knowing my history, I’m very well aware that there were Democrats and Republicans, alike, who were fighting against Civil Rights back then, whereas today’s war is being waged solely by the ultra right-wing, Christian fundamentalists.  In that day, the political lines were a bit more blurred than they are today.  Today, there is an unmistakable gulf of a line drawn between the two partiesAnd, that division has permeated our entire societyWe’re very much a “them and us” cultureAnd, therein lies the problem.

Listen, I’m a Democrat, myself.  However, I can readily acknowledge that there’s a lot that Obama has not done during his current presidencyHe’s left a lot to be desired.  I get it.  At the same time, I was realistic enough from the beginning to know that he WOULDN’T be able to do but so much.  Why?  There was no way “they” were going to let a smooth-talking black President show but so much accomplishment.  The Civil Rights struggle of the 60s may have been won in theory, but in reality there are still struggles on the racial front, as well.

Today’s Civil Rights struggle is being fought by the LGBT community, making this the second Civil Rights struggle that I will be directly affected by.  As with the Blacks in the 50s and 60s, all we’re seeking is equality.  That’s it.  Simple equality.  We want to be able to marry the person we love.  Legally.  We want to be protected against discrimination in the workplace and in the housing market.  We want the hate crime laws to protect every single America, which include us.  We want to see an end to the incessant bullying of our LGBT youth, sanctioned legally in some states!, which is leading far-too-many of them to end their lives.  In short, we just want the right to live our lives, as who we are, just as freely as our heterosexual counterparts.  That’s really not asking too much, and it certainly isn’t asking for “special rights” as they try to make you believe

Why IS is so incredibly important that the current President of the United States win the election this year? The answer is quite simple, actually.  The short answer is if Obama fails to retain the White House, our culture will be doomed back to the days, and ways, of Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav.  It’s that simple.  That’s the utopian world they envision.  That’s the simple answer.  A deeper look reveals a much more disturbing picture.  Failure by Obama to win the White House in November will ensure:

  1. Every single hard-fought gain the LGBT community has made will be erased.  The few states that do have marriage equality?  Gone.  Anti-discrimination policies that protects the LGBT community?  Forget about it.
  2. The death rate amongst LGBT teens will continue to soar.  It’s as simple as that.  Look, let’s take off the blinders.  The ultra-conservative, far-right wing, Christian faction hates us.  Period.  Ironic, isn't it?  Christians hating.  Yet, we’ve heard preachers tell their congregation that we should die.  These are Christians.  These are leaders.  These people are the driving force behind the Republican Party today.
  3. Today's Republican Party is being spearheaded by some of the most narrow-minded, evil-spirited "politicians" I've ever seen in my lifetime.  That there are Republican senators working feverishly to pass legislation that will, in effect, sanction the bullying of LGBT teens should tell you all that you need to know.  And, that's just a small fraction of the threat they pose to the LGBT community.
I'm not naive. I understand that there will always be narrow-minded, bigoted people in the world and in our society. However, at this specific point in time, they've risen to positions of power. With that, they've seemingly made it their life's mission to all but do away with anything gay. Indeed, there has been right-wing political and religious leaders calling for the death of LGBT people. They're flexing their political/religious muscle, spewing extraordinarily hateful and intolerant rhetoric to their followers. In doing so, they are creating a very dangerous environment for members of the LGBT community. To wit:
  • Just last week, a landmark gay bar was set ablaze in Chicago.  
  • The LGBT Headquarters in Washington, DC recently endured a bomb threat.
  • Schoolyard bullies are more empowered than ever in their attacks against those they perceive to be LGBT schoolmates, driving many to commit suicide.
  • In the news just today, an ultra-conservative mayor in Michigan added fuel to the already-raging firestorm directed towards her by way of a recall vote with yet another ridiculous statement about the LGBT community.
Indeed, Obama losing the election in November would be catastrophic for the LGBT community. Not just because he's gone public in his support for marriage equality. It would be catastrophic because it would put in power the absolute meanest, most narrow-minded collection of "leaders" I've ever witnessed. Giving power to this group of people would take the LGBT community back to pre-Stonewall days. At least! Giving power to them would absolutely assure an escalation in the already-alarming suicide rate amongst LGBT teens. Why? Because they don't care about you if you're LGBT. In their eyes, we shouldn't exist. And, quite frankly, people with this mentality have absolutely no business whatsoever in positions of power.

Honestly, this really isn't about politics, per se.  It's more about right and wrong.  It's wrong for people to use positions of power to systematically destroy a group of people.  To call for the death of a group of people is called genocide.  How is that even legal?  Maybe within the next four years, they'll get some people in their party who actually care about ALL people, including people in the LGBT community.  Maybe that's asking too much.  Well, at the very least, we can hope for a group of people who aren't as mean-spirited as this collection is.  Until then, I think we need to do everything in our power to make sure they don't succeed in November.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Brandon Elizares, 16, Bullied to Suicide

The numbers just keep adding on.  On June 2nd, we lost yet another LGBT teen to suicide.  And, once again, it was to escape the bullying he had been enduring.
According to 16-year-old Brandon Elizares' mother, he had been bullied for the past two years because he didn't want to be in the closet.  Wanting to be who he was, with no apologies, cost him his life.  In a television interview, Zachalyn Elizares said:
“He got bullied simply for being gay,” Elizares said. “He’s been threatened to be stabbed. He’s been threatened to be set on fire.”
Elizares said the El Paso Independent school district did everything it could to help solve the problem.
“They’ve reprimanded several kids and they did everything that they could,” Elizares said.
Elizares said that Brandon’s friends told her that there was an incident on Friday at school where someone insulted her son and planned to fight him the next week.
How many more of these young lives will have to be lost before people finally stand up and say, "Enough is enough!!??  Brandon should be preparing for his summer vacation...maybe even a summer job.  Or, perhaps planning to event the 5-day long El Paso Pride festivities.  Instead, his family had to plan his funeral.  I don't know about you, but my blood boils now when I read, and write, about another teen suicide.

In just the past two weeks alone, we've seen instance after instance where prominent public figures have made it crystal clear that they have no desire to live on the same planet with someone who's from the LGBT community.  Much more often than not, their bigotry is rooted in religion.  Does their reckless, bigoted vitriol have an effect on young minds?  Of course it does.  I have a friend whose 15-year-old son spews anti-gay rhetoric, in accordance to the Bible, at her regularly and mocks her for her efforts in the fight for equality and anti-bullying campaign.  His views are shaped by a father who is, himself, a deep-rooted Bible thumper.  The world was introduced to Caiden Cowger last week and his ridiculous video about the President turning young people gay.  Caiden is 14.  Hatred and intolerance is NOT something we're born with.  It's a taught and learned behavior.  The ones who bully kids they perceive to be LGBT, real or imagined, learned that level of intolerance from somebody else.  Typically, they learn it from adults, but not exclusively.
“My son had every right to live his live the way that he wanted to, without having to fear that people would call him names or threaten to beat him up,” - Zachalyn Enizares
It's sad that in the year 2012, we're still seeing the type of mind-numbing hatred, intolerance, and bigotry that I saw when I was a young boy.  That was during the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.  It's sad that day after day after day, we're seeing these young people end their own lives because someone else decided that they weren't fit to exist.  To be sure, my aforementioned friend's son finds it humorous that LGBT teens are killing themselves.  How will a person justify that when their time comes to stand before God to be judged? It's sad that we, as a people, are not evolving.

Brandon Enizares should be preparing for his summer vacation.  He's not.  Two years of relentless bullying because of his sexuality was more than he could handle.  For all of our efforts to bring about changes in our culture, one that allows people to live happily just as they are, much more needs to be done.

It was reported that the school officials at Andres High School in El Paso, where Brandon was a student, took bullying very seriously and did everything they could to prevent it.  They are to be commended.  Still, more needs to be done.  More needs to be done in the homes.  More needs to be done in the religious sector.  More needs to be done in the political arena.  The time has come for dramatic changes in our collective consciousness.  We need more love and less hate.  We need more acceptance and less intolerance.  We need these changes firmly in place before we can start seeing the teen suicide rate begin to come down.  And, we need these changes to begin yesterday.

May you rest in peace, Brandon.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Importance of Gay Role Models

For as long as I can remember, I've strongly held that the world would benefit greatly from every LGBT person coming out of the closet.  Such an action would serve two very positive purposes:  1.)  it would show the world, a world that tends to minimize those of us who are LGBT, that we are solid, contributing citizens of our society who needs, and deserves, to be recognized as such; and, 2.) it could potentially save young lives by providing some of the struggling, young LGBT youth positive, strong, and gay role models.
This week, former NFL player Wade Davis announced he is gay.  Granted, Davis never played a single down on an NFL field.  That was because of injuries, not due to lack of talent.  And, certainly not from a lack of effort.  He tells a story of what it was like to be gay, open only to himself, in an NFL locker room.  Imagine the impact that an openly gay athlete would have on a growing-but-struggling LGBT teen boy.  The message that boy would get would be "you're fine just the way you are, you can do whatever it is in life you want to do, and I'm proof that it truly will get better."  That's potentially life-saving.  How many of these young LGBT teens have given up hope and taken their lives because of a sense of hopelessness?  Their vision of the world is tainted by the extreme bullying they received constantly because of who they are.  They're told, in one form or another, that their life is a non-factor.  Or, as one recent anti-gay group put it on their website, "It Gets Worse"!  Even more troubling, they don't have many role models to look to and say, "that's what I want to do when I grow up."
Imagine how many young, LGBT girls Ellen DeGeneres has positively impacted.  

We're living in a very unique time right now.  The march towards equality for the LGBT community may be slow, sometimes seemingly snail-paced, but it's steady.  Why else do you think we're witnessing unprecedented lashing out from the other side?  To them, they're fighting for their moral (?) lives.  And, they fully understand that the fight is much harder than they ever imagined it would be.  For us, the members of the LGBT community and our supporters, we're also fighting for our lives.  We're fighting for the right to just exist happily without having to deal with "them" imposing their misguided and often ridiculous "morality" on us.  

We're also fighting for our youth.  With 9 out of 10 LGBT teen reporting having been bullied at school, 90%!!!, and with the suicide rate amongst LGBT teens skyrocketing, we're fighting fiercely to end that trend.  We end that trend by making them realize that they do have a place in this world.  We end it by letting them know, not by mere words but by example as well, that it really, truly will get better.  We end it by showing them role models of people who, like them, grew up gay, knew it early on in life, dealt with the ridiculously mindnumbing abuse that we sometimes must endure, yet made it through and are now living happy, productive, and promising lives.  

To get to that point, however, we need more and more people, like Wade Davis, to step forward and be that example.  I'm not naive.  I fully understand that, in some cases, coming out of the closet would amount to professional suicide.  Imagine, a LeBron James coming out!  Or, a Bill O'Reilly.  Or...pick a name.  You get my point.  However, it's that very culture, that unforgiving mindset that we're working tirelessly to interrupt and, eventually, change.  It's going to take a lot more work.  It's going to take more people, like Wade Davis, stepping up and coming out as who they really are.  In some cases, I understand that that's a hard thing to do.  I get it.  But, it's so incredibly important.  Our LGBT youth are counting on us, the LGBT adults, our friends and families, and our supporters.  In too many cases, lives are depending on it.

I can't think of any better reason than that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paul Hauan, 13, Death by Suicide

It's troublesome to me when I can look at a picture and instinctively know that "he's the one they're talking about."  On May 22nd, I was notified about the suicide of a 13-year-old in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Immediately, I started looking for information about the event.  Somewhere along the way, I saw this picture and everything stopped.  My heart sank.  My gut told me, without a doubt, that this was the young man I had heard about.  
Thirteen-year-old Paul Hauan ended his young life on May 21st.  Of course, the cry "he'd been bullied" immediately came into play.  However, as the investigation continues, there's no official words to corroborate those claims.  Then again, recent history tells us what to expect as the "official" word:  "Our investigation shows no evidence of bullying in this case."  However, Paul's mother's account indicates otherwise.  While returning home with his mother, Paul received a text message that left him despondent.  Despondent enough to end his life.  Moments later, he was gone.

According to the mother, there had also been previous incidences of bullying that went unchecked.  Paul complained that some of the kids he went to school with were mean.  In an effort to protect her son, Lisa Noland went to the school to request that he be transferred to another school.  Request denied.

Paul was a straight-A student and a seemingly very happy and caring young man.  He also suffered from a condition, Alopecia areata, that was causing him to lose his hair.  Exactly what was the catalyst for the bullying is yet to be determined.  There's no indication that he was an LGBT teen.  Whatever the reason, the result is still the same.

What I'm having a problem with is the apparent, obvious?, lack of action that the schools repeatedly and routinely take in these instances of bullying.  To be sure, it's gone on for as long as I can remember.  "Boys will be boys".  Regularly, I have people on the facebook blog page tell me of cases of bullying that, when reported to school officials, went unattended to.  We read about it constantly in most of these cases of teen suicides.  The question that begs to be asked is "how are they being allowed to continue to sweep bullying under the carpet?".  Why aren't there more, and more!, people voicing their concerns about this and demanding immediate and pertinent policy changes?  

The 2011-2012 school year is all but over.  That's good news insofar as teen suicides are concerned.  Historically, there has been a 3-month summer respite from teen suicides.  That gives us a 3-month window of opportunity to compel the school systems around the country to change their policies in dealing with bullying and bullies.  Zero tolerance means exactly that.  There are schools today with zero tolerance policies in place already, but they are hollow.  That has to change.  We have three months to push for that change.  September will be here before we know it.

You can leave your condolences for the family and friends of Paul Hauan on the facebook memorial page that's been set up.  Rest in peace, Paul Hauan.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"It Gets Worse" and "The Gay Agenda"

When one is backed into a corner, the natural animalistic tendency is to attack. In such cases, it's perceived as a life-or-death situation on one level or another. We're seeing that now. And, they are swinging with everything they have. Make no mistake: this battle for equality and what's right will get much more heated before we start seeing solid changes. They're making it woefully obvious that they're not going down without a fight. To wit, in addition to some of the headlines we've been seeing in the past week alone, these are some of the other tactics they've been using:
  • Someone affiliated with the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle, perhaps good ol' Reverend himself, somehow had facebook take down the blog article I wrote earlier in the week about the 4-year-old boy singing the anti-gay song. Not only that, but people trying to share the link had been blocked from doing so. I find that odd considering the story was very well circulated by the time I posted my article. It has since been restored, but the point is still the same. 
  • Jett and Jahn Media has produced this page, "It Gets Worse", in their attempt to derail Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign and, of course, perpetuate their own fear-based propaganda aimed at LGBT teens. 
  • But, my "favorite" of these three is a blog I read today about "The Gay Agenda" "infecting" the Rochester school system.
The first thought that crossed my mind when I read this, and the Jett and Jahn piece as well, was "these people are seriously disturbed". Then, I realized that "these people" are rallying their troops for what is promising to be one hell of a fight for equality on all levels. At the same time, I found it not only important but imperative for the LGBT community and its supporters as a united whole to work quickly and diligently to dispel all of this garbage they're spewing out as truths.
As for the Jett and Jahn piece, in their effort to brainwash young LGBT people, they offer up this counter to Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign:
Scientific studies show:
They typically don’t have faithful, monogamous relationships
They are more likely to be abused by their partner
They have higher rates of STD’s (including HIV/AIDS)
They are physically unable to conceive children
If they do adopt, their child grows up without a mother or father
"They typically don't have faithful, monogamous relationships". Sigh. All I'll say to that is that the divorce rate amongst "traditional" marriages has hovered around 50% for as long as I can remember. That's fully half!! Half of all "traditional" marriages blow up!!  Every OTHER "traditional" marriage FAILS!!!  And, that doesn't even factor in how many "traditional" couple cheat on their spouses. Of course, they don't even want to open that pandora's box. And, according to one source I researched, the divorce rate amongst second marriages is over 70%!! That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for "the sanctity of marriage", is it?

"They are more likely to be abused by their partner". All I'll say to that is "O. J. Simpson".
Even more disturbing than Jett and Jahn's ridiculous diatribe is the blog "The Gay Agenda Infects Rochester Schools". If this person is presenting these amazingly falsified "facts" as truths, we have an enormous problem. It's precisely this kind of propaganda that fuels the bullying epidemic we're seeing in schools all across the country and around the world.

I'm not even going to spend valuable time attempting to repeat anything I read in this blog; however, I strongly suggest that every single person who reads THIS blog, Enough is Enough, click the link above and read THAT blog. If ever there was a "must-read", this is certainly it. You'll understand why once you've read it.

So, let's set the record straight right here and now:
  1. I have yet to hear anyone, or hear of anyone!, go around telling people, young or not-so-young "how great..." being gay is. Have you? In fact, in listening to my favorite sports talk radio station last week, one of the hosts put it as well as it could be put. The topic was gays and being gay. He said, "if my son or daughter were to turn out to be gay, I'd still love them every bit as much as I always have.  However, I'd be very sad.  Not sad that I've got a gay son or daughter, mind you. Sad because I know the type of abuse and discrimination they'll face just because of who they are.  It's heartbreaking that that still goes on today...". "How great being homosexual is"? Really? We have to deal with people of this mentality every single day of our lives!! What's so great about that!?
  2. If " Gay and torture-porn orgies are a daily staple for the developing eyes of many children in America today", that sounds to be more of a parenting issue than a "gay agenda" issue. There are parental controls that prevent that type of viewing for the "many children" who may be watching it. If the tools provided aren't being used, the only person to blame would be the parents of said "many children". Then again, we all know that this is more propaganda than a real issue. Scare tactics is one of "their" favorite weapons. 
  3. I take special offense to their assertion that this anti-bullying campaign is part of some sort of ridiculous "gay agenda". I, for one, put a lot of effort into ending ALL bullying. It doesn't matter if they're gay, straight, or Venusian. No one, no one!, should have to live with the fear of being attacked because of who they are. It's that simple.
I could go on and on. There's so much in this blog that screams to be addressed, addressed now, and addressed loudly. If they're going to start pulling out lies and propaganda in their effort to win this battle, then it is incumbent upon us to stand up, speak up, and let the world know a.) that they spew lies, plain and simple; and, b.) just exactly who we really are and what we're really about. Because, you see, at the end of the day, the reality is we're no different than anybody else. The Gay Agenda? Yeah, The Gay Agenda as I know it is to
  • Work without discrimination
  • Love without repudiation
  • Live without retaliation
History has taught us that the fight for equality can get ugly, even deadly, before we start seeing changes. Many, including Dr. Martin Luther King, lost their lives during the struggle. With rhetoric and unmitigated lies coming from the other side, you can bet that things are only beginning to heat up. In my opinion, the only way for them to win is for those of us who are fighting for equality, gay and straight alike, to remain silent!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Joel Morales, 12, Suicide Because of Bullying

It happened late Tuesday night in East Harlem, New York.  Twelve-year-old Joel Morales had told friends just hours earlier that he was "...sick of all this bullying".  Hours after making that declaration, he took matters into his own hands.  And, sadly, the bullying ended along with his young life.
Joel was reportedly a very intelligent boy, one of the things his tormentors "mercilessly" teased him about.  The bullying was so intense, says his mother, that she had to file a police report and get an order of protection taken out against his bullies.  She transferred him to another school to get him away from the boys who were taunting him.  That wasn't good enough since they lived in the same neighborhood.  She went to the New York Housing Authority in an effort to move her family to another housing project to get him away.  Her request was denied.  Joel's distraught mother tried everything a parent could try in order to protect her child.
Unbeknownst to Joel, his own father had committed suicide when Joel was 4-months-old.  It was the taunting about his dead father that proved to be the last straw.

According to reports, the young pack of bullies was consistently the same boys.  They bullied him because he was apparently small for his age.  They bullied him because he was smart.  They bullied him because his father was dead.  In the end, they bullied him to death.  They were relentless.
Angelica Babilonia, Joel's aunt, said that around December or January her nephew switched to PS 57 after four boys knocked on Joel’s door and threw sticks and a pipe at him when he opened it.  She added, "he said that a bunch of kids from his old school jumped him and chased him.  He would ignore them, but there were too many to fight back."
Joel's sister, Richeliss, and aunt Angelica

Once again, we're left to wonder when the matter of bullying is going to be taken for what it is.  How is it that when a mother takes all of the right actions to protect her bullied son, that child still continues to be tormented to the point of ending his life?  Here's a clear-cut case of known bullies, police-documented bullies, pushing a person, Joel Morales, so far that he felt his only way out was the permanent way out.  Because there was no way to stop the "boys being boys", the world will never know what contributions this "brainy" boy would've made.  Because of their actions, there's one more family who is devastated and will feel the effects of Tuesday night for the rest of their lives.  Because they were so relentless in their bullying, the young friends of Joel are left to try and make sense of why their friend is no longer with them.
Joel's best friend at a makeshift memorial

There is a solution for this.  It's incumbent upon us to find that solution.  This school year is almost over and, statistically, the summer months have proven to be incident-free, as it pertains to teen suicides.  That means we have a three-month window to find that solution and implement safeguards so that September 2012 will not be a repeat of September 2010.  Talking about it, raising awareness...that's all well and good.  Necessary, even.  However, what we need now is solid and effective action.  Anything short of that is merely an exercise in futility.  

Rest in peace, Joel Morales.