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Priscilla Pledges that “It Gets Better” in New PSA

21 Feb

After our chat last week about Broadway’s upcoming musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and their lack of any boys in dresses in their ad campaign, we’re happy to share the cast’s It Gets Better message.

Priscilla cast members Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon for It Gets Better

According to the New York Times, The marketing team for “Priscilla” proposed the idea of the public service announcement to CBS and the It Gets Better Project, which writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began last year amid a spate of suicides by gay students who had faced bullying or harassment at school.

While actors and crew members in many Broadway shows have appeared in videos for the project, the “Priscilla” segment is the first public service announcement for It Gets Better, Mr. Savage said in a statement.

“We’ve been honored and humbled by the theater community’s commitment to standing up for tolerance and lending their voices to this vital cause,” he said. “The show ‘Priscilla’ could not be a better fit, thematically, with the message of the It Gets Better Project.”

The video leads you to the Priscilla website where you can sign up with It Gets Better and take the It Gets Better Pledge:

Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”

Last week we posted about some concerns over the current marketing campaign which has failed to prominently feature any of the men in drag that the show is about. Instead, the campaign has put up billboards, sent out mailers and put out commercials, primarily focusing on “the Muses,” a kind of Greek Chorus/Narrator for the show – which is made up of three beautiful young women. There has been chatter about the possibility that the producers may be a little shy about featuring the men in the ad campaign roll-out.

TAE was happily assured that PQD would be doing additional work and partnering with the It Gets Better Project, The Trevor Project and GLSEN on other events as well. It’s excellent to see people not only telling kids that it gets better, but taking positive actions to make it better as well.

Prayers for Equality: An Interview with Sigourney Weaver

13 Feb

Ryan Kelley and Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby"

In our struggle for equality, we are so often met with the question “Can people really change?” We so frequently run up against the wall of having a conversation with someone who seems unmoveable. And sometimes, the sad truth of the matter is that some people are indeed unmoveable. In the case of Mary Griffith, it wasn’t until her young gay son took his own life that she saw the repercussions of her ignorance.

Mary’s story “Prayers for Bobby” by Leroy Aarons, tells the story of life with her son, Bobby. And most importantly, it tells the story of how someone can change when presented with irrational fears of what they don’t understand. The book was made into a film last year by the Lifetime Network and it garnered several recognitions including Emmy nominations for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Leading Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, for Sigourney Weaver. The film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Miniseries or TV Movie and Sigourney took home a Trevor Life Award from the Trevor Project for her portrayal of Mary Griffith.

On the occasion of the DVD release, Sigourney took a few moments to chat with Talk About Equality about the film, on playing Mary Griffith and how things can get better.

Talk About Equality is devoted to telling our stories and we believe that these stories are what will help us win our equality. In your travels, have you had the opportunity to see or hear about the impact your telling of Mary’s story has had on someone?

Mary Griffith

A young person had confided in her mother a few days before that she was gay and her mother had freaked out and taken her phone away and grounded her. Then they saw the movie together and the mother started the process of being able to talk about it with her child and it went from impossible to…let’s start this dialogue. And it was such an immediate heartening result from watching the movie together. It [the movie] takes you through people coming out with such disasterous results.

I thought my friends surely didn’t have that big a problem but the four people I talked to had such terrible stories to share with me. One of them, who goes out in drag quite a bit – his grandmother actually helps him get ready, but they’ve never discussed it..it defies logic..so there’s a real need for more stories like this to be told.

The transition Mary had after the loss of Bobby is one that so many kids fantasize will happen with their own intolerant parents. Speaking as a parent, what would you tell these intolerant parents and how did you personally handle Mary’s transition from intolerance to pride?

 

Sigourney Weaver and Ryan Kelley in a scene from "Prayers for Bobby"

The main thing to remember is that you love your child and we as parents must love and respect our children and listen to them. I think the one thing I feel was so tragic about what Mary did was not her belief or her ignorance, but that she refused to listen to Bobby. She just refused to, and that actually is what cost him his life. If she’d been able to listen, if she had been able to keep that door open, then things might have worked out differently.

As a parent we all have a tendency to want our children to lead very safe regular lives. Lives that are protected somehow- Its really a fallacy. Its not what any of us did and we have to be brave enough as parents to trust our children and encourage them to be who they are and all that they are. It takes such incredible courage to be gay in this society, in this world right now and your child really needs your support – really needs you to be there for him or her. It’s the most important way you can  express your love to your child – by listening and supporting.
You’re an actor who never shies away from a challenge when it comes to the roles you choose – from the big commercial hits like Avatar or Aliens to smaller releases like Prayers for Bobby or Snow Cake – and each of these characters I’m sure brought something new to your life. Did you have a “seeing the world with new eyes” moment with this character and movie?

Bobby Griffith

I definitely did. When I read the script I was a little horrified by Mary – I thought there was this huge chasm between myself and her. My immediate thought was she must live in this kind of place that’s far away from a metropolis-where there might be a big gay community. And then of course when I visited her – she’s about 30 minutes away from downtown San Francisco. I realized that we can be closed-minded wherever we are-even in a big city. I think I had used that geographical idea to sort of marginalize Mary and once I realized that she was in a city and I met her – mother to mother – I realized how much she loved Bobby, how much she loved all her children.

Her house is filled with things he made – his dolls, his drawings, his little attic room is just as he left it. We just met as mothers. She is so courageous and so honest and so candid about who she was then and what the repercussions had been of her prejudice and ignorance. And after a day with Mary, I felt-  ya know -that I get fearful for my daughter when I think of her doing things and I found the Mary in myself. We are parents who want to protect our children from things we don’t understand, things that frighten us.

I stopped being the East Coast judger. This can happen to any of us. It creeps up on us because we love our children and we think by loving them, we should keep them from being who they are. If I just say no, they can change their minds. The more you talk to Mary – she thought he was making a lifestyle choice. It took her forever to understand that this was part of God’s plan for Bobby. And that’s what the story is, of the terrible mistakes she made and that he was perfect as he was. She just couldn’t see it. She didn’t have any help or support until she reached out to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG saved her and made it possible for her to share her story with all the rest of us.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, designed to reach out to LGBT kids who may be contemplating suicide. In that vein, if you could, if things were different, is there anything you would want to say to Bobby Griffith?

Wow…I would say…Dear Bobby, give your mother [a chance…]…these are all things he did do because he loved his family so much. He tried so hard to give them the time to embrace him as who he was. So it’s very hard for me to know what to say to Bobby except – we’re going to do everything we can to make sure kids don’t feel that way.

It’s so hard to say ‘go live your life’ and eventually your family will come around and you will find out that you can be this magnificent gay man with so much to offer, with a community and with a family you can have – a family of your own and eventually your family will hopefully meet you halfway. And if not, you’ll have your own family and your own community and it will get better. What could be more painful than what you’re going through now? So just hang in there. And know there are people who love you and care about you and value you and you should be around, because you’re a terrific young person.

For Bobby, everything hinged on the approval of his family. I think there wasn’t The Trevor Project or all these other places where he could have maybe had more people reaching out to him. Where he could finally get the message. It was a message he felt he didn’t have the right to accept.  He couldn’t allow himself to love someone and be loved if his family didn’t love him first. That’s the lesson from this story really – it’s really hard for someone to love themselves without ever learning how to from their family.

Many thanks to Sigourney for taking the time out to speak with us about this incredible film.

If you have not seen it, please order the DVD by clicking here. And if you have seen it, go buy a few copies of the DVD to give to friends and family who might be able to use it.

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.

Were You Born This Way?

6 Feb

A brand new blog is taking off and it’s all about us!

The Born This Way Blog is a place for people to submit a photo of themselves from when they were 2-12 years old, and a story about when the photo was taken and who you are today. The page’s introduction is simple. It reads:

“A photo/essay project for gay adults (male and female) to submit pictures from their childhood (roughly ages 2 to 12) – with snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate LGBT selves. It’s OUR nature, our TRUTH!”

The blog has received some wonderful write-ups from around the web and in under one month, is fast approaching 1 million views. Paul V., the creator of the blog notes:

So, some of the pix here feature gay boys with feminine traits, and some gay girls with masculine traits. And even more gay kids with NONE of those traits. Just like real life, these gay kids come in all shades and layers of masculine and feminine.

As you’ll see – time after time – their sexual orientation was simply NOT a choice. Exactly the same way straight kids can’t choose their sexual orientation either. So for all those religious and political leaders still blathering that “chosen lifestyle” nonsense?  S T F U !

And the sooner we teach all children that being gay is as normal (and biological) as being straight, then maybe it really WILL get better, and we can save some young lives in the process. That’s my biggest goal with featuring your pictures and stories: That struggling gays kids of today can see themselves in the faces & stories of the gay kids of yesterday, to LIVE to create their own memories.

It got me to wondering if I had any photos of myself that may have foretold who I’d become. I mean, other than doing musicals from the age of 8 and the fact that I had an unnatural fascination with He-Man, could anyone really tell? And upon looking through some photos, I discovered that yes…yes one could tell. I’m in the process of submitting my own story, and who knows – maybe one of these photos will soon have their story told on Born This Way Blog…feel free to vote for your favorite in the comments section!

nice bevel.

I believe I was singing "In the Navy."

My mother REALLY wanted a little girl. And she kinda got one.

Note the position of the ball. Note the position of my foot. Note the foot has passed the ball and the ball is clearly not in motion. Note the coach's shorts.

Is that a big beaded necklace? And a dress?

What Do a Playgirl Model, Miss New York and the Village People Have in Common?

2 Feb

Ronnie Kroell (photo by Melissa June Daniels)

Tonight, I was glad to be on the host committee for the birthday party of my supermodel, playgirl coverboy friend, Ronnie Kroell. Now…Talk About Equality is not here to chat about a birthday party – but when that birthday party is attended by Miss New York, Claire Buffie – the first Miss America contestant to choose LGBT equality as her platform, Village Person Randy Jones, Friends Project Founder David Raleigh and the whole thing benefits the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth – you can bet Talk About Equality had reason to go.

I had a wonderful conversation with Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center. He’s had a long year with lots of ups and downs. For several weeks, the center was in real trouble when Mayor Bloomberg announced enormous cuts to their budget, leaving LGBT homeless kids in the streets. Shortly after Bloomberg’s plans were announced, the Mayor released an “It Gets Better” video. Siciliano released a scathing response calling the Mayor out for his hypocritical message claiming New York is a wonderful place for LGBT kids to move to, while at the same time slashing the budget for the kids who move here without a home. The funds ended up being restored by Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council and in the meantime, a light has been cast on this important issue.

Ronnie Kroell, In Between Men and In Between Woman, Michelle Clunie

The party was also a reason to watch the new online series, In Between Men featuring TAE friend, Nick Mathews. The series is a sort of “Sex in the City” for white gay men. Sure sure…we already have that…and it’s called “Sex in the City,” but, according to the creator of the show, Quincy Morris, he was looking to bring characters to life that he related to. He wanted to bring to life some multi-dimensional gay characters who were more like the gay men he knew. Though a male actor of color would certainly be welcome in the hit online series – it was great to see the cast show up for this wonderful evening.

We hope to see more attention being paid to our homeless youth this year. As I discussed with Carl, it’s wonderful to teach LGBT kids that It Gets Better, but more needs to be done to reach out to educate parents. So many kids are kicked out of their homes upon coming out to their parents. Maybe that’s the next step – maybe we need an “It Gets Better: PFLAG Edition” to educate the parents and families of kids that are coming out.

A quick shout-out to MS Apothecary, who was selling products to benefit the Ali Forney Center – I’m excited to light my soy candle!

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

As delicious as they look, they are actually "Bath bombs" by MS Apothecary

Miss New York, Claire Buffie

Birthday Boy Ronnie Kroell

Randy Jones and In Between Men's Nick Mathews

Actor and Birthday Boyfriend, Taylor Proffitt

Ali Forney Center Executive Director, Carl Siciliano

The In Between Men and Village Person Randy Jones

Happy Birthday Ronnie!

Cartoons, Costumes and Equality

30 Jan

Something that many of my friends in the equality movement don’t know about me is that for 11 years now, I’ve had a really fun career. I moved to New York 12 years ago to be a musical theatre actor – and though I haven’t really pursued that in a number of years, I was able to fulfill those creative needs with producing Broadway concerts and events – and doing voices for cartoons.

Barry from Pokemon

I’ve been in a whole bunch of Japanese anime titles and a couple other things here and there – most notably, I can be heard on Yu-Gi-Oh!, Viva Pinata, and as “Barry” on Pokemon for the past few years. As a voice actor, I’m often invited to attend anime conventions around the country. I’m not going to lie – the first time I walked into one of these “cons,” I was a touch…intimidated – at all the people in costumes. People dressed up as characters I’d played, people who knew far more about the shows I was on than I did – it was a lot for me.

Over the years though, I’ve grown to love it. I’ve begun to revel in the awkwardness of the random 50 year-old running around in a Sailor Moon costume, the big girl wearing perhaps a bit less than society would expect her to be wearing, and the complete abandonment of any social norms that have ever been taught. This is a rag-tag group of kids and adults who have found a world that they know everything about.

Growing up gay, I had that need to find some little thing that was mine – something I could control and could be an expert on – for me, that was Broadway – so I found my own way to relate.

This weekend, I’ve been in Columbus, Ohio at Ohayocon, a pretty large convention at 10,000+ attendees. My friend and fellow openly gay voice actor Greg Ayres, texted me last week and asked if I wanted to do an “It Gets Better” panel with him and of course I jumped at the idea. I’d met a lot of gay kids at cons in the past and there seems to be an obsession among teen girls, with something called “Yaoi,” or man-on-man anime. So around here, gay is okay.

The panel was excellent and was far better-attended than I expected it to be. Greg and I spoke about our experiences and about the It Gets Better project, encouraging people to join in and make videos and find ways of fighting bullying in their own schools – and then we took questions. It became very clear, very quickly that these kids really needed to talk.

Kit & Neko of Neko-Jin Designs, catering to LGBT anime fans

Questions ranged from “How long is it going to take for equality to happen in the US?,” to “How do I tell my Conservative Christian parents I’m a lesbian?” While we didn’t have all the answers, we were able to direct everyone to a different resource that could help them. But what was most incredible to see was kids answering other kids’ questions. The support for one another was something unexpected to me – I’ve always known that this was a safe place for everyone, but the throngs of applause when a girl introduced her wife or a young man talked about having started his own Gay Straight Alliance at his school – it was encouraging to say the least.

A bag from Neko-Jin Designs

Though it had nothing to do with anime per se, being able to talk about equality with teens and young adults in the middle of Ohio gives me a great deal of hope for the next generation of LGBT kids. It seems they’re looking out for one another far more than I felt as a kid growing up gay. I frequently worry about the state of the “LGBT Community,” with our sometimes fractured issues, different priorities and separate tactics at winning equality. Now I have a little more hope that our younger brothers and sisters might reclaim that incredible community that we so need to win this fight.

Wings made by Saratonin Studios (www.SaratoninStudios.com)

Gay Providence Teen Sues to Bring Boyfriend to Prom

24 Jan

On this day in 1962, seven whole years before the Stonewall Uprising, in Providence, RI, Aaron Fricke was born.

Aaron & Paul attend prom

You may not know his name, but at the age of 17, Aaron asked his boyfriend Paul Guilbert to go to prom with him. Paul said yes and what happened next would go down in history as the first time someone sued to take someone of the same sex to their prom.

As would be expected, his high school refused to let Aaron bring Paul to prom. So Aaron filed suit in US District Court. For his actions, Aaron was bullied and beaten. He needed five stitches in his face and the kid who did it was suspended from school for nine days.

The presiding judge, Raymond J. Pettine ruled in Aaron’s favor, ordering the school to not only allow him and his partner to attend as a couple but also to provide enough security to ensure their safety.

That magical night is described in a 1983 essay by Aaron:

The crowd receded.  As I laid my head on Paul’s shoulder, I saw a few students start to stare at us.  I closed my eyes and listened to the music [Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got the Night”], my thoughts wandering over the events of the evening.  When the song ended, I opened my eyes.  A large crowd of students had formed a ring around us.  Probably most of them had never seen two happy men embracing in a slow dance.  For a moment I was uncomfortable.

Then I heard the sound that I knew so well as a B-52s fan.  One of my favorite songs was coming up: “Rock Lobster.”

Paul and I began dancing free-style.  Everyone else was still staring at us, but by the end of the first stanza, several couples had also begun dancing.  The song had a contagious enthusiasm to it, and with each bar, more dancers came onto the floor.

I doubt that any two people were dancing with the same movements: the dancing was an expression of our individuality, and no one felt bad about being different.  Everyone was free to be themselves.

I could see that everyone felt a sense of disorientation.  For six minutes and forty-nine seconds, the students on the dance floor had forgotten about their defenses, forgotten about their shells.  We just had fun.

This case set a precedent for other similar cases around the country and opened doors for other LGBT teens to enjoy their proms the way they should. It of course doesn’t mean that that every high school prom is free and clear of problems like Aaron & Paul had, but we’re grateful that the door was kicked open that fateful day in Providence, RI. The difficult thing to see is that the headline of this article could easily still be printed today, 31 years later.

Aaron went on to write a beautiful coming out novel, Reflections of a Rock Lobster: a Story About Growing Up Gay, and another book with his father Walter, Sudden Strangers: the Story of a Gay Son and his Father.

Happy Birthday Aaron!

Being Gay Is Not A Choice, But Your College Is…

21 Jan

When I was searching for Colleges factoring in relative Gay-friendliness never occurred to me. As I’ve written before I had a decidedly mixed collegiate experience after coming out. I can’t say I attended an incredibly gay friendly University, it being an Urban Catholic University in Pittsburgh, but there were definite pockets of support. We even had a GSA, though it caused a major controversy.

Now it seems an increasing number of young people are factoring in campus LGBT friendliness when deciding where to go to college. According to the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in 2009 9 out of 10 LGBT Middle and High School students said they faced harassment. Coming from that environment a growing amount of students want to be sure they are going to have positive experiences at the next level. Recent incidents of Collegiate harassment and prominent stories of student suicides are adding to the concerns of students and parents:

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students seeking a university that is “gay friendly” is increasing, driven by Web sites that rate schools on how supportive they are of gay students.“It’s definitely a phenomenon,” said Luigi Ferrer, the director of programs and grant development at Pridelines Youth Services, a Miami Shores, Fla., nonprofit where he works with Louis, a counselor. “Students are sometimes prioritizing [LGBT] resources even over the academic reputation of the school or the financial aid they can get.”

College still isn’t a guaranteed safe-haven, but some are better than others. Campus Pride has a ranking system, as does the Princeton Review, and it should be a factor in any young LGBT student’s search.  College can be a difficult and eye-opening experience, but it should be fun and give you the chance to grow and change.  It shouldn’t be harder because you are gay and colleges and universities have an important role to play in making sure that’s the case.  The ones that perform that function best for its students should be rewarded with our best and brightest young LGBT minds.

It’s all part of making sure this doesn’t happen anymore.

 

Gay Teen Athletes Reach Out to Change the World…and Meet Ellen.

20 Jan

Three kids. Three timezones. One mission. This is the banner that welcomes you to the new blog, Walk the Road.

After meeting last year on the website, The Gay Youth Corner, Brad, Robert and Ben decided they wanted to do more. Brad had the idea to start the blog and with a little help from Jim from OutSports.com, Brad called on Robert and Ben to kick things off. Brad Usselman, 16, is a runner from Washington state in the Pacific time zone. Ben Newcomer is a 16 year-old a soccer player from the Southeast in the Eastern time zone and Robert, 17  is a soccer player from the South in the Central time zone. Robert doesn’t use his last name due to his conservative surroundings, but his photo and writing is up for the world to see on the blog.

All three guys have different backgrounds and live on the west coast, east coast and midwest, providing some pretty different points of view on how life is in their respective parts of the country. What draws them together however, is the fact that they all love sports and they’re all gay.

Ben Newcomer

Combing the blog, you’ll find everything from normal teenage-angsty journal entries from Ben:

“I remember being a child, when the grass was green on both sides, when snow meant snowmen, when adults really had all the answers, and I didn’t care to know anything else. Now I’m swept up in self-acceptance, self-destruction, and self-everything-else-I’m-told-I-have-to-worry-about.”

Robert

To poetic introspection from Robert:

I’m a jock.
I’m a jock who likes guys.
I’m a jock who likes guys and cars.
I’m a jock who like guys and cars and poetry.
I’m a jock who likes guys and cars and poetry and is a dreamer.

 

 

 

 

Brad Usselman

To inspiring proclamations of pride from Brad:

“I know by coming out in the world of varsity high school sports that I put a target on my back every time I race because people do not want to be beaten by the “gay” kid. I accept that challenge. Now, if you are also an athlete on any sporting level will you accept the challenge as well? It has fueled my competitive drive to push myself every single day.”

Above all, the new blog is a window to the soul for some young kids growing up gay and bravely breaking stereotypes. The potential to inspire hundreds of other kids is incredible – This week, the guys took some time out of their busy schedules to chat with TalkAboutEquality.

TAE: When did you realize you were gay?

Robert: I knew from a pretty early age I liked guys, however I never accepted it until 5 – 6 weeks ago.

Brad: I realized I was gay in late elementary school, but i never fully accepted the fact that i was until late middle school. I always tried to deny the fact to myself.

Ben: When I was in eighth grade and in ninth and tenth and eleventh. I’m still realizing quite a bit, but it began in eighth grade.

TAE: Are you out of the closet at school and if so, what was the first reaction you got from your friends at school?

Ben: I’m out of the closet for the most part. My friends just don’t care. (Of course they care about my well-being and how being gay affects me). I think I would get a similar reaction if I told my friends that I had black ancestors. I’ve only told a few friends so I’ve only known a few reactions, but many more people know (I am in high school after all.)

Robert: I’m not out at school, but I’ve told one person (Biggest mistake – he turned out to be some creepy closet-case himself and threatened to out me, but when he realized that I didn’t care he couldn’t do much – that’s a different story though.)

Brad: I am not out of the cloest yet at school but i will be on February 9. My student government is doing an anti-bullying week and i am part of the video that is being shown on that wednesday. Most of  my friends do know though and the only thing they really did was smile and give me a hug.

TAE: When it was toughest, when you maybe thought there was no one to turn to, was there a person who inspired you and gave you the courage to be who you are?

Ben: I’m not sure I have a single “hero.”

Brad: I met a guy named Evan in the beginning of 2010 over the internet. He goes to Yale now but he has always been the person who has helped me through my hardest times. I always know he is there if i need to talk to someone. He is also gay.

Robert: Easy – Ben. I was texting him about what I should do; should I tell my mom, or should I stay where I was in my comfort zone? Prior to the day that I wrote my mom, I had thought of running my car off the side of the road, thinking it would end my problems, but I decided not to and for that I am a much happier person for that.

TAE: Why did you start your blog?

Robert: Brad came to me with the idea of starting a blog. Even though we didn’t have a specific direction we wanted to take it in, we were lucky enough to have the help of Jim from OutSports help us out quite a bit. It’s still a learning process and will continue to change as progress does. I personally want to have the feeling that I can be heard and at the same time, help someone – even if it’s only one person.

Ben: Brad asked me and I saw an opportunity to write, to voice my thoughts. Isn’t that a dream of every teenager?

Brad: I started the blog to make sure that the younger generation does not go through the same internal struggles that i went through. I want all LGBT athletes to know that there are other people like them. I hope this blog will provide a place for everyone though to come and feel comfortable as well as a place they can turn to if they need someone to talk to.

I hope the country realizes that the decisions they are making about marriage equality is effecting the younger generations and maybe even some of their children. Hopefully once we realize that everyone deserves the right to marry their loved one our country will help lead a path to were everyone in the world will be able to marry their loved one.

The boys have never all met, (aside from a quick handshake between Robert and Ben), but they have a dream that they might meet on the Ellen DeGeneres Show soon. In fact, someone even built them a facebook page to help try and make that happen. In a time when so many young people are reaching out for help, when their words are so frequently falling on deaf ears, I can’t think of something more inspiring than the work that is being done by these guys.

Great work! Hope to see you on Ellen soon!

UPDATE: Long Island Principal Refuses GSA, Called People “Faggot” as a Kid, So It’s OK.

20 Jan

Valley Stream South High School

Today at 3pm at Valley Stream South High School in Long Island, students and their supporters will be holding a rally to protest the decision by the High School’s principal to deny their request for a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

According to press notes, students from the school have been trying to form a GSA since October 2010. They have gone through the proper channels nd had numerous discussions with Principal Maureen Henry. After sharing their experiences of being bullied at the high school and being called “faggot,” Henry replied that she too called people “faggots” when she was young and didn’t mean anything bad by it. Using that as her excuse as to why the students didn’t need a GSA.

Senior Joseph Kofler, one of the organizers of today’s rally said, ““this school really needs a GSA and not because it’s a ‘gay club’. In fact it’s the opposite of our goals, which is to bring about understanding and acceptance for all of our students. And I want to feel safe coming to school everyday and this club will help toward reaching these goals” said the 17-year old.

The other organizer of today’s rally is Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY). “There are over 90 GSA’s that already exist in Long Island schools and by allowing a GSA for students to feel safer is not something revolutionary – in fact, the school is way behind the times and these brave students should be commended for trying to make a difference” said David Kilmnick, CEO of LIGALY.

On the High School’s website, Henry states:

“South High School is committed to a school environment that promotes personal growth, good citizenship and service to others.  South’s motto “small acts of kindness make a big difference” motivates all of the South community to share their time, talent and energy to provide service to others both here at South and in our community.”

Today’s rally will take place at 3:15pm outside the entrance of Valley Stream South High School, 135 Jedwood Place, Valley Stream, NY.

h/t: LezGetReal

UPDATE: According to the Long Island Herald, interim school Superintendent Dr. Richard Marsh announced today that the club has been approved and their first meeting is set for today.

While the club will have no funding or paid adviser for the remainder of this year (as budgets had already been set for the year), it will be part of the budget for following years.

The rally, which is still occurring after school today will hopefully continue to shed light on the bigoted earlier statement from Principal Henry.