Tag Archives: Gay

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

11 Oct

Me and my brothers, I’m on the far right. Note the bevel.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Coming Out in this country is something which has changed a great deal since I was a kid. For many young people today (though certainly not all), the process has become far less traumatic. The act of telling a friend or family member that you’re gay is now frequently met with a “so?” and a “cool, let’s go to a gay bar!”

While the reactions for some have changed, the process, the act of summoning the courage to say it, has remained the same. For me and for thousands of others, we spent years hiding – pretending to be something we  weren’t.

I dated girls in high school. Well, I hung out with girls in high school. At one point, one girl who was a good size larger than me, pushed me up against the band room lockers one afternoon. “I want you to go out with me.” she said. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll say yes.” Ever the pacifist, I reluctantly agreed. Nothing ever happened outside of her falling asleep on my lap at a few parties (an action she had in common with my fiancé). Every moment with her was filled with fear. I wasn’t just afraid of getting my ass kicked, I was afraid of something happening where she would find out who I really was. And tell everyone about it.

My first beard, Beth. Note my happiness.

Another girl I dated – to this day, one of the sweetest people I know, I had one date with. We went to see Shadowlands in the movie theater. The event was plagued by 3 different delays due to a faulty projector, so the already painfully-long film was met with two 30-minute intermissions. As if things weren’t awkward enough.
A card I received a few days later, professing her “love” for me…yes, she said “I love you”, caused me to end that very quickly.

So when I finally came out to my best friend John (as bisexual of course, cuz that’s the natural progression of things, right?), I expected shock and surprise. I mean, who would expect a 19 year old who’d never seriously dated a girl and dreamed of moving to New York City and starring on Broadway to be gay? Instead John offered to host a coming out party for me at his dorm and offered zero of the shock and awe I hoped for.

And of course, coming home from my first rennaisance faire with my Dad. And he claimed not to know.

In all seriousness though, when a person comes out to you, act surprised – even if you’re not. We work really hard to hide who we are in many cases and if upon coming out we’re met with a “Oh, I know. We all know,” what you’re saying to that person is “We’ve known forever, you’re bad at hiding and we’ve been talking about you behind your back for years.” Not exactly the most supportive message to send to someone in easily the most vulnerable place they’ve ever been in.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, be yourself. If you’re gay, tell someone who didn’t know before – maybe even someone who probably doesn’t care. Tell your taxi driver, your banker, the guy holding the door open at 7-11. In honor of all those who can’t come out for fear they’ll be kicked out of their homes, lose their livelihood, or worse – come out to someone new. And have a gay day.

 

 

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

Is it Christian to be Anti-Gay?

15 Aug

Between Chick-fil-A and today’s shooting at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) offices, there’s been a lot of discussion about something called a “Hate Group.”

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins

Groups such as FRC, the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Public Advocate, American Family Association and many others frequently refer to themselves as “Pro-Family,” “Pro-Marriage” and sometimes “Christian” organizations. And when asked, the leaders of these groups will be the first to tell you they hold nothing against the gay community. It’s their actions though, that you need to take a look at. As I’d mentioned in some discussions last week, Richard Nixon can say “I’m not a crook” all he wants, that doesn’t mean he’s not one.

While these groups may do some excellent work with Christian charities, their primary focus is on fighting to have the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people denied. But over the years, they’ve been able to frame what it is they do with those “Pro-family” and “Christian” modifiers. It’s a frustrating fight for those of us seeking nothing more than equal treatment under the law, when these incorrectly-identified groups can lie by claiming they are being attacked by people who are “Anti-Christian” or “Anti-family.” Even today’s attack, though details are still not complete – it’s become clear that the suspect was angered over FRC’s anti-gay policies. If it was an organization that was simply hosting soup kitchens, running orphanages and caring for the poor, I can almost guarantee he wouldn’t be driven to opening fire in their offices.

That’s where the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) comes in. According to their website, “SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.” One of the ways they do this is by exhaustively researching the work of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazis, racist skinheads,  black separatists and border vigilantes and identifying them as “hate groups.”

Identifying an anti-gay group as a “hate group” is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups. 

While identifying themselves as “pro-family” groups, they are actually fighting against more than 1 million American families with more than 2 million kids who are being raised by LGBT parents. Without marriage protections, some of these families are legal strangers to one another. Anti-gay adoption laws, which were lobbied for and won by these organizations keep kids from ever finding forever homes. And anti-gay marriage laws assure that these families will suffer from a crippling lack of legal protections. There is nothing “pro-family” or “Christian” about allowing families to be ripped apart or seeing children raised by a foster care system when there are thousands of loving couples ready to adopt.

In addition to the work of these groups in the U.S., some of them have been linked to anti-gay legislation in other countries. The Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill would penalize acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment or in “aggravated” cases, gay people could be put to death. While the US Congress was preparing to pass a condemnation of the Ugandan legislation, FRC spent $25,000 on lobbyists to stop them from denouncing the law. They claim that they were only trying to change the language of the denouncement, but in prior lobbying documents from FRC, they’d indicated they were attempting “to amend” legislation, whereas the tax documents for this action contained no such itemization of amendments.

National Organization for Marriage’s        Brian Brown

These groups have painted themselves with bright colors to make people think they are fighting for tradition, for family, for morality and for freedom. But the truth of the matter is they don’t fight for anything. They are only fighting against LGBT people so that we can’t experience the same freedoms they do. How else can you explain the National Organization for Marriage, whose mission statement is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it,” attacking things like bathrooms for transgender people, gender identity in children, or children being taught that gay people even exist. They’ve even worked to falsely link gay people to pedophilia. None of those things have anything to do with “protecting marriage,” so why are they fighting them? Because they are not pro-anything, they are anti-gay.

Folks, none of this is about marriage and none of this is about “protecting” anything. These groups have spent years weaving a myth shrouded in flowery and false “pro-Christian” memes. Today’s attack on FRC is something that was perpetrated by a man who was clearly out of his mind. And just as these groups’ motivations have very little to do with marriage, I don’t beleive the shooter’s motivations did either.

Despite Family Research Council’s lobbying against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, we believe that what happened today was a hate crime and should be investigated as such. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community understands all too well violence against people based on their political beliefs and personal lives.

And while nearly every group pro and anti-LGBT, took time today to condemn the shooting and call for sanity and non-violence in this debate, one group made the active decision to politicize the discussion. The National Organization for Marriage released statements and blog posts (long before anything was known about the shooter), to attack SPLC for identifying Family Research Council as a “hate group.” At a time when many people’s thoughts are with the victim of the shooting, NOM is once again spending their time on something other than marriage. If there was ever a question about their true motivations, that question has been answered.

These are the vocal organization who are out in the media every day claiming to represent Christians and Christian morality. If you are a Christian and know that what they are doing is decidedly against the things you’ve learned, it’s up to you to speak up. Tell them and tell your religious leaders that the bigotry being taught is not representative of you.

In closing, I wanted to share my own motivation in writing this. A comment from someone named Leslie McLafferty on my previous post about today’s shooting:

What if this whole thing wasn’t about Chick-fil-A at all?

8 Aug

Over the years, corporations have at times been vocal about social issues. It takes courage to take a stand that is sometimes unpopular, but once in a while, a company takes that brave first step.

But a couple weeks ago, something shifted. Something happened that caused all anti-gay hell to break loose. Chick-fil-A‘s CEO came out against marriage equality. For years now, individuals and companies have expressed their opinions and those of us in the equality movement have tried to make it known. JCPenney was boycotted by anti-gay groups when they hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson and published a catalog featuring a photo of lesbian moms and their kids. A few people noticed, but it didn’t become a national debate. A list of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 supporters came out. Some people got hysterical and started small boycotts of some companies, but again – it didn’t really wind up on the news.

Then CFA’s CEO Dan Cathy spoke up and told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'” And everyone heard it.

I’ve now waded through tens of thousands of comments on Facebook, talked to dozens of people in real life and one thing has become clear. For some reason, something happened that made people stand up and take notice.

For many people in our community, we have those in our lives who we know might not be the most supportive of equality. For years we’ve gently nudged them and some have even taken great strides. And then there are some who have just remained quiet while we’ve posted things on Facebook about different stories of discrimination – some violent and horrific. But for some reason, this Chick-fil-A thing happens and EVERYONE has an opinion – and not a small-voiced one either.

I made a meme that wound up on George Takei’s Facebook wall. It didn’t mention CFA directly but featured The Muppets’ Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married. The text read: Thank you Jim Henson’s Muppets, Standing Up for Non-Traditional Marriage since 1984. The meme was shared 38,000 times, liked 121,000 times and had more than 3,000 comments.

I’ve found most are from people who are misinformed. Most who stand with Chick-fil-A think this is an issue of “free speech” trying to be squashed. Clearly they don’t have an understanding that free speech happens in both directions. Anyone can say whatever the hell they want. And when they say that thing, they have to be willing to face the consequences. And then the other side has free speech as well – to do things like arrange boycotts if you like, or educate the public.

Many think people are just upset because Dan Cathy expressed his opinion on something and some didn’t like that opinion. Some of us have been working to get the message out there that this is not at all about his opinion on marriage equality, it’s about the millions of CFA dollars he’s spent on anti-gay hate groups. As outlined in an earlier post, he’s given over $5 million to groups that (among many other things) try to cure gay people and fight to have gay people put to death in Uganda.

But back to my original question. What is it about this particular moment in history and this particular story that has caused the masses to speak out?

I was talking to a friend earlier who is not terribly active in the LGBT community. He’s gay and married, but doesn’t frequently post things even slightly political on Facebook. He’s shocked at how many friends he’s seen with bigoted opinions. Some who even came to his wedding. I too have seen many comments on things whose opinion I never knew until now.

Even people like Broadway reality performer Bailey Hanks has taken a side. Normally you would think that someone who spends most of their time surrounded by gay people onstage, offstage, in the audience and more than likely cutting her paychecks, would be supportive. But Bailey posted an image to her personal Facebook page clearly coming out in favor of the bigoted fast food chain.

So what is it? Is this really about Chick-fil-A or did we hit a tipping point where those who’ve secretly hated gay people for years feel like their chicken sandwich is worth more than the lives of their gay friends?

UPDATE******

Just a little update on the status of Bailey Hanks. Shortly after we tweeted the story to her, she replied that she is a “Proud Christian.” I replied and when I looked for a response, I discovered she’d blocked her account. Bailey, if you’re reading this, we just want to know if you believe it is “Christian” for Chick-fil-A to support anti-gay hate groups and if you believe your co-workers deserve the same rights as you do. It’s all we want to know.

Upon a little further research, Bailey also tweeted her love of the anti-gay fast food chain on Chick-fil-A Appreciation day! I guess it wasn’t just about her “dear friend” who works at CFA.

Anderson Cooper: “The fact is, I’m gay.”

2 Jul

While it won’t be a surprise to many, Anderson Cooper has publicly acknowledged the fact that he’s a gay man.

As Entertainment Weekly pointed out last week, it’s becoming more and more of a non-issue for someone to come out. And it no longer needs to be something splashed on the front page of People Magazine. Look at Jim Parsons, who came out quietly and sincerely in an interview about his new Broadway show, Harvey.

There are people across the country who will be shocked by this. But the truth of the matter is that we have another happy, successful out gay man spending hours in living rooms around the US every day. Congratulations and thank you to Anderson for showing young people out there that they can love who they love and still live the lives they want to live.

In an email exchange with Andrew Sullivan, Anderson wrote:

Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.

But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.

I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly asked “the gay question,” which happens occasionally. I did not address my sexual orientation in the memoir I wrote several years ago because it was a book focused on war, disasters, loss and survival. I didn’t set out to write about other aspects of my life.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist.

Since my early days as a reporter, I have worked hard to accurately and fairly portray gay and lesbian people in the media – and to fairly and accurately portray those who for whatever reason disapprove of them. It is not part of my job to push an agenda, but rather to be relentlessly honest in everything I see, say and do. I’ve never wanted to be any kind of reporter other than a good one, and I do not desire to promote any cause other than the truth.

Being a journalist, traveling to remote places, trying to understand people from all walks of life, telling their stories, has been the greatest joy of my professional career, and I hope to continue doing it for a long time to come. But while I feel very blessed to have had so many opportunities as a journalist, I am also blessed far beyond having a great career.

I love, and I am loved.

In my opinion, the ability to love another person is one of God’s greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life. I appreciate your asking me to weigh in on this, and I would be happy for you to share my thoughts with your readers. I still consider myself a reserved person and I hope this doesn’t mean an end to a small amount of personal space. But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.

Anti-Gay Craigslister a Hoax

14 Jun

You may have read it here first two nights ago or perhaps you’ve seen the story from yesterday on Towleroad or JoeMyGod. Maybe you caught it on Fark.com or today on HuffingtonPost.

It seems that a parent was using Craigslist to sell their kid’s Macbook. In itself, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But in this instance, the parent was getting him a new Macbook because after getting caught in “homosexual acts,” he was “choosing to be straight.” The new Macbook was to be his reward.

While this sounds ridiculous at first glance, this kind of behavior from parents around the world is not unheard of. But as it turns out, this particular story is a fake.

I’ve now done a great deal of research and this story has now been posted on dozens of other sites so, here’s the story…

The response I received was from a Clarence M. and despite my efforts, there was never another reply from that address. So, I googled the full name in Culver City and came up short. Then I just searched his name to see what I could find. other than the random “find someone’s phone number for $19.99″ ads, one post jumped out at me.

It was a post someone made to GLAAD’s Facebook page in November, 2010:


The name was the same and the circumstances nearly identical. And lo and behold, one of the commenters to the GLAAD post has provided me with a screencap of the Las Vegas ad.


Having this new email address, I started another search – which wasn’t too hard. It seems Alex A. of Las Vegas, NV has been for some inconceivable reason, posting fake ads to Craigslist where he poses as the parent of a gay teenager, tells a story about catching his kid having gay sex and either decides to sell his kid’s things or reward him for “choosing to be straight.”

Judging from Alex’s Google+ and Twitter accounts, he’s a handsome young man. So I’m not sure why he sees the need to spend so much time trolling Craigslist with obnoxious, fake stories. I’m trying to figure out how one man’s life could be so boring that he feels the need to obsess over gay teenagers having sex?

And finally, I received a response after calling the poster out via email. It seems a young man named Daryl has been up to no good. Following our excerpts from some of our emails back and forth:

“Yes, I need to keep my aliases straight. It’s Daryl actually. I write horrible posts on Craigslist all over the country to see what issues make people angriest for a project I’m putting together. I’m sorry anyone that was offended.”

“It started out when I got my first computer, my friends and I put an ad on Craigslist saying we were selling Justin Bieber tickets. We made fun of the people that would write us. That gave me an idea to start putting up other things on Craigslist to see what people have passion about and to get reactions out of them. I want to write something about issues that people are most passionate about. I want to be a writer one day. I’m sorry about this all. I just don’t want this to affect me going to a good school one day. I’m sorry.”
I’ve now confirmed Daryl is who he says he is and I think he’s been significantly frightened away from pulling this kind of thing again. And finally, he asked me to tell you all this:
“I guess I just never understood how bad it was for most people. I have no problem with gay people at all. It seems so foreign that someone would hate gays. I’m sorry. I never understood. One of my friends I think is gay. We have been friends since we were little kids. If anyone said something to him I would be pissed. I didn’t understand how bad some people were treated. I’ll never do anything like this again. I’m having panic attacks like crazy right now. I would never be against gays, ever. I’m sorry.”

If you’re straight, I’ll get you a new Macbook.

12 Jun

A friend on Facebook notified me this evening of a troubling Craigslist ad he came across in Los Angeles.

In the ad, a mom or dad is selling their son’s computer because he wants to get the newest version of the Macbook. They go on to explain that they’re not spoiling their son with this new laptop, quite the contrary-because their son was caught engaging in “homosexual acts,” this was his reward for claiming he would choose to be straight.

I’ve written to the person who placed the ad and it’s quite possible that the ad is a hoax. But if for some reason, this young man’s mother finds me through the blog, I wanted to share two important facts and some helpful resources with her.

1. Being gay is not a choice.

2. 1 out of every 4 teen suicides is a gay teen. Among the leading causes of those suicides is a lack of family acceptance.

Family Acceptance Project will help you find ways to treat your son with the respect and love that he deserves.

Visit the Prayers for Bobby site and learn a little something about a Mom who felt the same way you did, and how she feels now that her son is gone.

Then again, it is the new Macbook…I’d probably tell my parents I was straight too if I was going to get a free Macbook. This also may indeed be a hoax, but having a career in knowing about social media trends, new media and how it’s used– the red flags about the danger a kid may be in outweighed the possible red flags of being embarrassed by a craigslist hoax.

UPDATE:

I did receive a response from the poster and have confirmed an address in the correct location. Their response stated:

“I regret to inform you that I will not be calling you. I don’t need for you or anyone else to have my number. Not after all the hatred and threats I’ve gotten.”

I replied with some helpful information, including some of what I have here in the blog post. I have yet to receive a response.

UPDATE 2:

I’ve now done a great deal of research and this story has now been posted on dozens of other sites so, here’s the story…

Anti-Gay Craigslister a Hoax

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