Archive by Author

Ryan Miner: A Sincere Apology

17 Mar

I got this follow up message, via twitter, from Ryan Miner. I think it explains a lot. Reposted here in full.  In my humble opinion this is a great start.

A Lesson Learned But Never Forgotten:

If I could share only one lesson with college students ready to land that perfect job, remember the lesson of Ryan Miner. Who is Ryan Miner? Let’s do a Google search. Oh no. What was this guy thinking when he created that Facebook group and used the word subhuman to describe homosexual conduct? Who does this guy think he is? Does he still believe that homosexuals are subhuman? And good luck to him when he is trying to find a decent job.

My name is Ryan Miner. When I was a 19 year-old undergraduate student at Duquesne University I created a Facebook group in opposition to a proposal to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance to form on campus. I used the term subhuman to lament homosexuality. I could not have been more wrong. My words were unabashedly despicable and unambiguously insensitive. My actions were the antithesis of the same faith I used to defend myself, and it was an indelibly poor reflection on my personal character. I embarrassed my family, my friends, my hometown, and Duquesne University. I was in no position to cast such blatant judgment, and I pray that I can be forgiven and learn from this awful experience.

As a result of the media attention and the emerging technology of this decade, I am infinitely attached to my mistake in the annals of Google. The stories you read from the Google results paint a polar opposite picture of who I am today. However, actions inevitably and invariably have consequences, and the reckless comments I made at 19 continue to plague me in my professional career. I have been denied employment and was even terminated from a great opportunity as a result of the incident at Duquesne. I am now looking to expand my career, but each time I submit a new resume, a sense of bleak fear overcomes me, wondering whether or not a company will Google my name only to toss my resume in the trash and move to the next applicant. If only I could relay to a potential employer that my beliefs have changed and I would never engage in that type of behavior in the future. But you reap with you sow, and I will continue to deal with the consequences of my mistake.

Five years ago I was a different person. I saw life through a colorless lens. My heart was cold and my mind was closed, and the darkness I created consumed my life and those around me. I had to change. I had to open my heart and see the world and its people through a lens of love and compassion. So I decided to shut the door of darkness and walk towards the brightness of a new path. I may have been lost, but now I have found who I want to be. I want to be a better man.  The lessons that I learned at Duquesne and especially the lesson from President Obama’s speech to the nation in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Tucson are this: I can be better. We as a nation can be better. And if our nation can raise above the culture that has defined the dialogue of our differences, then we can find the courage to change the world and set the example for the rest of mankind

So to all the college students who are just beginning to figure out what life is all about, remember to be thoughtful and vigilant with your words and deeds. Think before you act and speak.  If you believe in a cause then take a stand, but use your character to set the terms of discussion.  We can reject the divisions that divide us to the abyss of cultural chaos if we begin to replenish our spirit in one another.  I know how frustrating this path will be, and at times it may be difficult to see past our differences, but we can tear down the wall that separates us, and we can channel our disagreements through respect and still articulate the wisdom of our own principles. It is within the threshold of our generation that we are able to renew the call for civility and unite in what Dr. King called, “the  fierce urgency of now.” We can defy the status quo. We can transcend above the poison that tears us down, and we can elude the inability to recognize ourselves in others if we close the growing deficit that infects our discourse. We can define this moment, and together, united as one, we will usher in the next great chapter in our American narrative.

-Ryan R. Miner

Good on Ryan for unequivocally denouncing his earlier statements.  My call for him to put his words into action still stands. Here is a list of some great organizations to get started:

The Trevor Project

SMYAL

GLAAD

Freedom To Marry

Equality Pennsylvania

Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania

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A Belated Apology. Should We Accept?

17 Mar

Coming out was easily one of the best times of my life. One simple action filled my life with unexpected and wonderful clarity and honesty.  For the first time I was truly being honest with myself and those around me. It was a fresh and invigorating time for me and was very nearly ruined by a fellow student: Ryan Miner.

The very week that I began telling my colleagues and friends, brave students at Duquesne University were attempting to start the first gay straight alliance on our Catholic campus and one student, Miner, stood in their way.  He took to facebook, a brand new platform at the time, and lead the charge against the GSA with characteristic arrogance, filled our community with anti-gay animus, and even went so far as to say that gays were subhuman.

Ryan Miner almost single-handedly created a hostile and disrespectful atmosphere on our campus. Though he eventually lost, his comments helped me understand the stakes for LGBT people and provided the motivation for me to get in the game.

Now he has again taken to the internet seeking absolution:

“I did not measure my words; I did not think clearly. I made a statement in haste and words can sincerely have hurtful consequences, and that’s the message to students or anyone who uses the Internet,” Miner told Channel 4 Action News reporter Shannon Perrine in a Skype interview.

He believes it’s important to tell others to stand up for what you believe in — but to be careful about the words you use to do it.

“You have to have some principles behind you, and at that time, I just didn’t have it. It was immaturity and I’m profoundly sorry,” Miner said.

What you write on the internet lasts forever. Ryan Miner didn’t get it at the time, but now he’s starting to learn the hard way.  After being fired from one job and having difficulty finding others he is finding himself in a Rick Santorum situation (just google it).

Only Ryan knows what’s in his heart now. If he has come around and now regrets his statements, not just how he posted them, then I, as someone most directly affected by his remarks, am willing to forgive him.

But absolution wont come that easy.  He’s still paying for his mistakes, and rightly so. I think a demonstration of his commitment to making it right is in order. Spending a few hours volunteering at an LGBT youth center, making an It Gets Better video, or issuing a public statement about school bullying.

That, more than a surface attempt to fix his Google problem, would go a long way to making it right.

The State Of The Gay UPDATED: H.U. Responds

2 Mar

Students at Harding University, an evangelical university in Arkansas affiliated with Churches of Christ, have banded together to start an ambitious and courageous LGBT student publication.

The H.U. Queer Press, as it is called, has issued a “State of the Gay” zine. In their own words:

We are here to share with you our struggle. We are here to be a voice for the voiceless who are quietly dying inside the walls of our campus. We want you to know us. We are your friends, co-workers, students, family members, fellow worshipers, professors, athletes, and scholars.[…] We are queer. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. While the rest of you fall in love with the opposite sex, we share our lives and beds with those of our own gender.

All is not well for us at Harding. Our voices are muted, our stories go unheard, and we are forced into hiding. We are threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion. We are told stories and lies that we are disgusting sinners who are damned to hell, that we are broken individuals and child abusers….We have felt the pain of the deep, dark closet, and we are here to announce that we will not stand for it any longer.

You see, at Harding University you can be suspended or kicked out for drinking, being gay, looking at porn, staying with a member of the opposite sex in a hotel, even if nobody actually observes you having sex, and for many other violations. Take a look at their student handbook and you will get a good idea of the climate in which these brave students are speaking out:

Harding UniversityHarding University holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to Godoutside the context of marriage. Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the University. Visiting in the residence of a single member of the opposite gender, even though others are present, without permission is prohibited.

Staying overnight in a motel, hotel or any such arrangement with a member of the opposite gender will result in suspension, although explicit sexual immorality may not have been observed.

Students are prohibited from possessing or displaying pornographic materials of any type. This includes the use of vulgarity, profanity, and any offensive language or offensive symbols.

Students are not allowed to social dance or go to dance clubs, bars, or other inappropriate places of entertainment.

The illegal, unauthorized use or abuse of Harding University’s telephone, computer or network system is prohibited.

Men and women are discouraged from excessive public displays of affection.

Check out their incredible website. There are some touching personal stories:

So I don’t remember ever choosing to like girls. It’s just how things always were. It’s what felt natural. It wasn’t until I was told it was wrong that I felt I should be different.

This publication is partly introspective, partly angry, partly sad, often hopeful and completely personal. They simply want their colleagues at the University to know who they are and when I read their words I can’t help but think that they represent the queer experience of a lot of youth in unfriendly parts of the country.

Hopefully many people will read this wonderful venture and come away more compassionate, understanding, and with more empathy.  This is how we change hearts and minds.

 

****UPDATE****

Harding University has responded with regards to its’ censoring of the anonymous students who published the H.U. Queer Press:

Harding University is a private Christian university whose mission and policies are rooted in biblical principles. All students are given a copy of the handbook and know about our mission and policies before their first day on campus. The student handbook states that the university holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and that sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university.

Based on that policy, university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies. In addition, the handbook states that any literature distributed on campus must be approved by the Office of Student Life and must state the name of the sponsoring organization. These pamphlets were both printed and distributed anonymously with no prior approval, and the website is an online version of that pamphlet.

Again, bravo to these brave young people for challenging archaic rules that can result in the long-term harm of their fellow students.

Turns Out I Know A Delegate In Maryland

2 Mar

Hi Ms. Healey,

You may or may not remember me. My name is Sean Carlson. I went to St. Jerome’s with your son Robert, and was a long time member of the church with you and your husband. My mom is still a lector there. I’m a life long Maryland resident and one of your constituents and neighbors.

I’m writing you today to talk about the Marriage Equality bill that you and your colleagues are about to debate. As your neighbor, and as a young gay man, I would very much like to count on your support for the bill.

I know that there is an enormous amount of pressure bearing down on each one of you to try and influence your vote. I’m sure this isn’t an easy decision for you as a Catholic and there are a number of outside groups pouring resources and misinformation into our state. I only hope that you will think of me and the very real consequences this vote will have for my life when it comes time to vote.

You see, my boyfriend and I do not want to change marriage, we don’t want to bring down the pillars of society, and we don’t want to influence anyone else’s marriage except to offer support and love as any other neighbor would do.

When you hear the debate on the floor, you will hear all of these accusations and more.  I would just hope that you will remember that this is no concept we are discussing here. This bill represents real people.  This bill represents me.

Thank you for your time,

Sean
Hyattsville, MD

I got not one, but TWO automatic phone calls from Brian Brown at my parent’s house this morning. They are not holding back in Maryland.

Today’s the day. Make all the calls you can, write an email, or call your Maryland friends and family and get them to do the same.

Oak For Court!

16 Feb

In September we wrote about Oak Reed, a Michigan teenager who was elected homecoming King at Mona Shores High only to have his candidacy invalidated on a technicality. The problem, for the administration, is that Oakleigh Marshall Reed used to be named Oakleigh Marie Reed.  So, despite the common belief that Oak earned the most votes, the school records still indicate that Oak is a girl. So no homecoming court for Oak.

Oak Reed for Homecoming King!After garnering national attention and outrage the same administration has made the laudable decision to remove King and Queen from its homecoming court in favor of gender neutral titles.  Thanks to broad support from Oak’s parents, friends, and fellow students an important step towards inclusivity has been taken.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, the school administration quickly began examining how they could be more gender neutral and met with student leaders to make some changes. Oak responded through a statement released by the ACLU:

I’m so glad that the rules have been changed. All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard. Now my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.

Indeed. By simply being himself Oak has succeeded in making real changes in his community. Now they can dance , focus on being young, and get through high school, which is hard enough as it is.

Hopefully we’ll get to see the happy prom photos.

A Tale Of Two Conventions

10 Feb

I’ve just come from an incredible week at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.  This was my first time there and I had heard mixed things about the gathering.  Not knowing what to expect I have to admit to approaching the conference with less than an open mind.  In the weeks leading up more than a few people told me what I would experience and I gave in to my sometimes cynical nature. I wasn’t expecting much.

To my delight, my negative assumptions, and the impressions of my friends, were turned on their head. Where I was expecting staid academia I discovered fresh ideas. Where I looked for the older generation to dominate the conversation I found a vibrant, youth-driven atmosphere. I braced myself for back slapping cronyism and I found a largely supportive and encouraging community.  I came in cynical and left energized and inspired.

I quickly realized how much the conference is geared toward encouraging and supporting new leaders. While it was great to see so many young people fired up about learning and growing it was even better to see them supported and provided a safe space to do this. The upbeat attitude and infusion of fresh faces gave the conference an edge I wasn’t expecting. Surrounded by my upbeat community and learning so much I let my guard down a bit. Which is probably why I tripped over and nearly spilled my friday morning coffee on a gaggle of Christian Youth in the Skyway.

Turns out there was another conference in town.  The Acquire the Fire Tour was just across the Skyway at the Convention Center. More than doubling our convention in size, the evangelical youth in attendance were hearing a different message, one of brokenness, shame, and permanent scars.

Apparently the Acquire The Fire leaders told their youth, who were on average much younger than the attendees at Creating Change, to practice spreading their particular brand of the teachings of Christ across the skyway at Creating Change. To them this apparently meant chanting homophobic epithets at queer passers-by and to harass and intimidate people as they passed. I personally witnessed a young woman upbraiding a local busking violinist just outside my hotel.  The differences in the two events could not have been more clear. One fueled by shame and judgement.  The other a sincere attempt to make the world a safer and more inclusive place for everyone.

Not content to surrender the safe space that we had created at the Hilton, a coalition of inclusive faith communities participating at CC11 put together an escort service for creating changers who had to walk alone.  Thanks to the responsible leadership of members of our own community the potential disaster of juxtaposition was avoided and, minus a few minor incidents, we were able to coexist.

The awful reality we still face is that outside of a few inspiring weekends here and there we still have a long way to go.  It’s a sobering reality that I have been facing all week. We are often outnumbered as we were this weekend. Creating the change we need is admittedly a lot harder than attending a conference, no matter how inspiring and encouraging it may be.  The young people attending Creating Change had to look no further than across the skyway to see the challenges they will be facing.

After Creating Change I have no doubt that they have the knowledge and talent to go out and face them.

A Simple Goodbye

9 Feb

A scholarship fund is being set up in memory of Eric Debusk, who would have been 36 this Friday, February 12th.  The fund has been set up by Eric’s partner of nearly 12 years David Ewing:

“He loved music. He loved performing. That was his big thing.”

Eric passed away last month from an unnamed illness which forced him out of performing as a cruise ship entertainer. The scholarship fund will fully fund the participation of five recipients in the Gay Mens Chorus of Miami, in which Eric performed for three years:

Chorus board president Keith Hart said “we’re very thankful that his partner has pledged to start the Eric DeBusk memorial fund.” Members must each pay $180 a year to cover chorus costs, fees and other expenses.

Hart said the chorus will dedicate its second annual choral festival — featuring eight different South Florida singing groups — to DeBusk. The festival will be held 7 p.m., Feb. 26, at Trinity Cathedral, 464 NE 16th St., Miami.

This story might seem unremarkable.  It isn’t. What touched me about this story is what’s missing; No controversy, no pickets, and seemingly no whitewashing of his life and love.  Since we are trying to bring about a world where this is even possible it’s important to highlight it and celebrate it whenever we can.

This is how a person should be loved and remembered.  Our hearts go out to David and Eric’s family.