By Rob Watson
A few weeks ago, I told the story of a teen named Corey who was driven from his birth home when his parents found out he was gay, and into the arms of a loving home that rescued him. His unique story was read widely and shared by tens of thousands of people. Sadly, the thing that made Corey’s story unique was not that it happened, but that it happened and he got rescued. Many other teens are expelled from their homes and quickly fall into drug abuse and prostitution.
A lucky few of them find help through homeless services and by a growing awareness that they exist and need help. Outside of the United States, rejection of such teens can produce a much harsher reality.
Meet Hakim. Hakim is every bit as engaging and fine a young man as Corey. Hakim is barely out of his teens. I am a dad, and I can’t help but feel he is one of my kids, our kids. As Harvey Milk told us, “hope will never be silent.” I am speaking up. I will be speaking up.
Hakim is the third eldest son in his family, and was raised in a major city. Hakim knew he was gay from a very young age, “Thoughts came through my mind, that am cursed, maybe I wasn’t meant to be a human,” he told me. At different times in his adolescence, he attempted to poison himself. He never confessed his orientation to his family, instead, three things happened that prevented him from keeping his secret. The first, he fell in love. The second, he fell in love in Uganda. The third, he wrapped himself in the arms of the man he loved while staying at his parent’s house.
His aunt discovered the lovers. She immediately alerted his parents. Shocked and furious, the family meeting that ensued was not civil. His parents raged with shame and demanded he leave immediately, “That was the day I will never forget in my all life because it was the day I started suffering in this world up to now. Because my parents they were so angry with me, disappointed and they abandoned me and chased me away from home. I left with nothing and I had no choice.” His family had no concern for his safety or welfare, they simply wanted him removed from their sight. He was just 18 years old.
Hakim traveled to an uncle who, at least temporarily, was willing to look the other way on news that his nephew had same sex relations. Superstition was the demon that raised its head this time, as a series of bad events befell Hakim’s uncle, and he decided that the true source of the misfortune was having protected Hakim.
Hakim’s uncle was not satisfied in simply exorcising Hakim from his house. To him, in order to do it properly, he had to have Hakim arrested for the crime of homosexuality. Hakim recalls, “They took me into the jail for two months and they tortured me to a severe extent. They asked me to reveal other groups of gays and give them names. But I didn’t tell, and they continued the torture every day. They tortured me every after my first day there and they took one to two days without giving me food. They beat me and beat me to every part on my body, in fingers, on the ankles, while asking me the other gay groups. The next month they took me to the court because they were expected my uncle to come and give out the proof that I was gay.”
Fortunately, Hakim’s uncle did not show up in court. With their sole testimony against him gone, the authorities had to let Hakim go. He went to the streets.
His life since has been to survive in the slums, constantly on the run with other secretly gay and HIV positive individuals. “In this place I met gays who had suffered more than me and some even died of AIDS because of poor standards of living they were staying in. I really reached an extent of seeing that I had paid more than enough for being gay. Support groups came in and we reached out to them. They learned that most of our members lacked proper medication but these organizations little did they help us. They only came to us to make their documentation, reports to their donors, and making accountability reports as well,” he recalls.
As Hakim worked with the other gay people on the streets, he came in contact with several journalists. He found that many who came into Uganda to study the situation, or to write about it, left without giving any real help or comfort to the people suffering. The first were from France. They interviewed him and promised help in exchange for his story. One day, however, they returned to France, and Hakim never heard from them again. The next journalist with whom he came into contact was even worse. He shadowed Hakim and worked with him as he met with people in need on the street. His purpose was not as he stated however.
He did not write a story about the plight of gay people in the slums of Uganda—he instead allegedly constructed a list of “gays” and published them in the paper as part of a notorious “red list”. Hakim’s name was prominent on that list.
The Ugandan authorities are now seeking Hakim, as a “known gay”. He is one official confrontation away from going to jail, where through legal means or not, he is likely to be killed.
Hakim has not asked, but Gavin of the Facebook page “Gavin’s Gay Friendly Group” is trying to find means to get him to safety. Those means are not readily apparent however. Different activists are working on unique strategies to help, but each of those is limited and in most cases, targeted towards a few already identified individuals. There seems to be no significant asylum program underway through the Obama administration or the state department.
Hakim was one of the people who were at the Makerere University Walter Reed Project in the Ugandan capital of Kampala when it was raided. Fortunately, he escaped. Hakim later got a message that it was not safe for patrons to go there. “How will so many get their medicine,” he asked. “We are going to die.”
For many progressive people, we are at a loss as what to do, and how to help. A blogger friend of mine from Nigeria, who wishes to stay anonymous, recently wrote a piece called “Jail the Devils” and shared the perceptions he encountered outside of Africa. “I of course made friends with several gay people in several European cities, … a recurring theme amongst them has always been …why is it that of all the multitude of issues plaguing most parts of your continent, your governments devote so much time and energy in pursuing homophobic and discriminatory agendas? …Coming from the sort of open and progressive backgrounds they do, it is extremely hard for them to understand. They do not live in a society where the leadership seeks to make scapegoats of gays as a means of scoring cheap political points while diverting the attentions of the populace from more pressing issues. They do not live in societies where the clergy is allowed unfettered liberty to propagate hatred and bigotry and to manipulate a clueless congregation as they see fit.”
This inability to understand the absurd ignorance of Nigerian and Ugandan leadership has lead many in the United States and Europe to just ignore the problem all together.
I do not attribute the avoidance of the subject to apathy, however, but to helplessness. There are no courts to appeal to, no election initiatives to form. We who want to affect change in these nations have absolutely no leverage, so many move on to issues in which they feel they can have impact. The U.S. Embassy in Kampala is shockingly devoid of any mention of the LGBT abuse going on in Uganda. The most recent notices in fact are concerned with assuring Ugandans that the US will not cut funding on healthcare, and celebrating that 50 Ugandan business people were attending the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. The grotesque human rights violations against LGBT people in Uganda are completely and totally ignored.
Our government also needs to restrict the visas and assets of Ugandan and Nigerian officials. They enjoy travel and freedoms they would deny their LGBT citizens.
Meanwhile Hakim communicates with me by borrowed cell phones. My friend Gavin has been trying to get him small amounts of cash so that he can eat. Because the police confiscated his passport, Hakim cannot show ID, and relies on others to retrieve the small amounts of wired cash.
I keep searching for more that can be done. We need to be demanding an asylum system through our state department. Short of that, we need to stay vocal and engaged with those who need us. We need for our embassy there to step up.
Our greatest contribution to our LGBT Ugandan and Nigerian brethren right now is caring. We need to communicate, we need to listen, and most importantly, we need to let them know we are here trying to figure something out. For many of us, the issues we fight are to be able to love freely as we want in our lives. For Hakim, loving is a luxury. Currently, he is simply fighting to survive.
I got a text late one night from Hakim. “To be sincere i don’t know how other gays survive, because even me I don’t know how I survive, the bigger problem I have all the gay friends I had here they no longer want to associate with me because they fear to see them with me since most people knew that am gay so I have like ten friends here. Of course police can easily find me and I fear every situation I am in here but I have nothing to do, my friend. What gives me hope and promising? What I can say, the only thing which gives me hope is talking to people like you and Mr. Gavin, without you, I have no hope,” and he added:
“Don’t forget me please, please.”
If you wish to contribute to a fund to help Hakim get out of Uganda, please click here:
(Disclaimer: The author or this blog are unrelated to the fund and receive absolutely no compensation in any way.)
She may not be gay, but Beyonce’s music has a powerful grip on the LGBT community which is why she will be gracing the cover of the OUT Magazine in May.
Through an email interview with OUT Editor-in-Chief Aaron Hicklin, Beyonce said she works hard as a feminist to get through this male-focused society. By doing so, she speaks to all minorities.
“Being that I am a woman in a male-dominated society, the feminist mentality rang true to me and became a way to personalize that struggle…But what I am really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man,” Beyonce said. “So I’m very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority…We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love.”
Beyonce released her fifth album last December which OUT called her “most sexually liberated project.” She spoke about the double standard between men and women regarding sexuality.
“There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality. There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality that still persists,” she said. “Men are free and women are not. That is crazy. The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. Women are so much more than that. You can be a businesswoman, a mother, and artist, and a feminist – whatever you want to be – and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”
Whether her music speaks to men, women, gay or straight, Beyonce said she worked hard to make sure her album was honest.
“While I am definitely conscious of all the different types of people who listen to my music, I really set out to make the most personal, honest and best album I could make,” she said. “I needed to free myself from the pressures and expectations of what I thought I should say or be, and just speak from the heart.”
This is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
‘I’m not sure there’s a name for what I am,’ says Dillon, a college hockey player. Welcome to the world of the mostly straights.
Dillon, a college varsity hockey goalie, is an eager volunteer for our interview. In fact, he so loves telling his story that he stays beyond the 90 minutes he believes it will take, and offers to come back for the chance to talk some more. When we reschedule, he’s thrilled, and shakes my hand and thanks me four times in the process of leaving.
Besides being remarkably polite, Dillon is talkative, self-aware, and reflective, with an engaging smile and an at-ease quality. Nothing he says feels rehearsed. It’s as if each topic brings forth another triumph, as if he’s discovering his life as he reflects on the questions.
When eventually asked about his sexuality, Dillon isn’t fazed. Though he wants to “fuck lots of girls” before graduation, he’s not entirely heterosexual. “I’m not sure there’s a name for what I am,” he says. He wants this process, this interview, to help him figure it out.
By his own admission, Dillon says he resides in the “Sexual Netherlands” (his words), a place that exists between heterosexuality and bisexuality. In previous generations, such individuals might have been described as “straight but not narrow,” “bending a little,” and “heteroflexible.”
Dillon is part of a growing trend of young men who are secure in their heterosexuality and yet remain aware of their potential to experience far more—sexual attractions, sexual interactions, crushes, and, ocassionally romantic relationships with other guys. Dillon lives these contradictions—seemingly hetero guys who now reject that label, sexual description, and identity.
And he is not alone. National surveys in the U.S. and Canada show that 3 to 4 percent of male teenagers, when given the choice to select a term that best describes their sexual feelings, desires, and behaviors, opt not for heterosexual, bisexual, or gay, but for “mostly” or “predominantly” heterosexual.
An even higher percentage of post-high-school young-adult men in the U.S. and in a handful of other countries (including New Zealand and Norway) make the same choice. There are now more young men who feel they are “mostly straight” than who say they are bisexual or gay.
To the uninitiated, “mostly straight” is a paradox. These young men fracture the heterosexual agenda—or do we call it a lifestyle? If a guy is not exclusively into girls, he can’t be totally straight. Aren’t you supposed to pick a side?
If a guy is not straight, not bisexual, and not gay—and yet still falls in love and gets an erection—what the hell is he?
It’s a common misconception that the “mostly straight” phenomenon is nothing more than an adolescent foray into sexual experimentation, possibly due to excessive hormones and sexual confusion.
Sizable numbers of young men maintain their “mostly straight” status—not just as adolescents or college students, but as adults. Of the 160 guys we interviewed for a study in 2008 and 2009, nearly one in eight reported same-sex attractions, fantasies, and crushes. The majority had these feelings since high school; a few others developed them more recently. And in a national sample of young men whose average age was 22, the “mostly straight” proportion increased when they completed the same survey six years later.
These men aren’t bisexuals in disguise. They’re not closeted gay men seeking the privileges afforded to heterosexuals in society. They’re not simply tired of sex with women. With the words “mostly straight,” they’re describing a unique sexual identity, their complete romantic self.
Among the “mostly straights” we surveyed, a few subtypes stood out.
First is the guy whose progressive political leanings lead him to feel constrained by traditional heterosexuality and masculinity, an outdated and unnecessary burden. “I might have been gay if I’d been raised differently,” one said. “Aren’t we all born bisexual and culture pushes us one way or another?” He challenges homophobic customs and assumptions. One such young man sings in a gay chorus; another marches in pride parades as an ally; a third intends to “come out” as mostly straight in the military to test the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He wants to know, how gay does one have to be to count?
Second is the guy who finds guys physically attractive. One interviewee pleaded, “I mean, come on, tell me some guys aren’t hot!” If he finds himself staring at men in the gym, on the sports field, around the neighborhood, and in Details, Instinct, and Vman, then how can he say to himself that he is totally straight? He notices guys in the buff and who are buff, visually appealing, and pleasurable to be around. He wonders if he only desires the toned body, stylistic appearance, and athletic facility—and not the sexuality.
A third guy may admit that he’s a little sexually attracted to guys. It may not be his top priority, but he’ll acknowledge that men occasionally pop up in his masturbatory fantasies. He doesn’t expect to have sex with a man, but he isn’t ruling it out; he has a willingness to experiment. He’s into sexual pleasure without strings, without meaning. Anything is possible, given the right circumstances with the right person. (Well, almost anything: most interviewees drew the line at actual male-male intercourse.)
A fourth guy is a guy like Dillon: he grants that he’s not totally straight, and that his feelings for guys are more than just sexual—they’re romantic. He can imagine experiencing emotional, intimate relationships with other young men. It just seems natural. He’s into cuddling without the pressure of sex, and he could spend countless hours with “special buddies.” He’s been infatuated with best friends, teammates, and videogame partners.
All four guys have one thing in common: unlike their totally straight brothers, they’re not averse to sexual or romantic feelings, encounters, or relationships with other males.
It’s unlikely that mostly straight youth are limited to just four types. As additional young men recognize and reveal their sexual breadth, they assist all of us to understand previously unrecognized sexual and romantic possibilities. How many of us have these feelings and are clamoring to “come out” as mostly straight?
Indeed, throughout his life, Dillon has had boy chums, boy crushes, and boy infatuations with teammates and best friends. He makes lingering, intense, frequent references to his core group of high-school buddies and to the male companionship he habitually seeks. He readily hugs and even cuddles with male friends while watching a movie and eating popcorn, especially if they are “on the same wavelength.”
Dillon could see himself meeting a guy and together developing a “partnership.” They wouldn’t act on it sexually, but they’d be physically affectionate. Dillon imagines that their relationship would be difficult for others to understand. They’d think it was a gay relationship because of the time he and his partner spent together, the secrets they shared, and the knowing glances, nods, and code words they exchanged. This is the “homosexual thing” that most interests him.
Far more than we realize, young males wait to be released from their heterosexual straightjackets.
Dillon might just show us the way.
This article was originally published on The Good Men Project
– photo courtesy Greg Clements
Early April 2013 a story on social media started immediately “going viral”. 72,000 people shared a story called, “PARENTS PUT 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER UP FOR ADOPTION AFTER LEARNING SHE IS GAY”. Almost as suddenly as the story had taken off, it halted. Blushing page administrators started removing it quickly as details, such as the family living in “Southern Carolina” pointed to a growing understanding. The story was fake. It was, in fact, a satire from the site Deacon Tyson Bowers III.
The story was not far fetched. Writer and LGBT youth advocate Cathy Kristofferson states, “Youth who come out to their parents are rejected by those parents at a rate of 50%, with 26% immediately thrown out of the house to become instantly homeless and many following soon after as a result of the physical and verbal abuse … Empowered by the gains in equality and acceptance with the heightened visibility the adult gay community has welcomed of late, youth are emboldened to come out at ever-younger ages while still reliant on parents who are a flip of the coin away from rejecting them.”
For a teenager named Corey, the story not only could have been true, it WAS true for him. It happened two years earlier than the social media fraud.
Corey did not have an easy life. He was a popular jock guy in high school, but by the age of 15, he had been handed more than his share of abuse. His parents were conservative, religious, on welfare and on prescription narcotics. According to Corey, his birth father beat him at times, and neglected him at others. Corey was raised with a belief that gay people were not only sinners, they were sin itself. His birth father made sure that Corey was aware that gay people all were killed at some point before they reached old age.
Corey had been meticulous about keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He was athletic and he was popular as a “ladies man”. “It was all to keep everyone from knowing,” he told me. Finally he started telling some of his extended family. This left him feeling exposed and vulnerable at home. If the subject were to come up, he was no longer in a position to deflect and hide as he had been before. Whatever security he had felt before was gone, and his self doubt and self loathing were at all time highs.
One evening, the issue of sexual orientation came up, in a big way. As Corey prepared for an evening at a family relations’ house, a news story about gay rights came on the television. Corey reacted with a subtle positive endorsement. His birth father exploded, “If any fag lived in this house, I would shoot them in the head with a shotgun” he screamed. Corey bolted from the house immediately. He was feeling feverish, scared and sickened. Did his father know? Was that a threat for him, or just a reminder that he lived in a den of hatred?
At the party, Corey got drunk, and physically sicker. He ended back at home and as fever raged, his despair imploded into his gut. His parents, suspicious, ignored him. Several days later, at 2 am in the morning, he was up, unable to sleep, delirious and suicidal.
Across town, a woman named Mindy was closing up her household. Husband Dale was sound asleep, as were her two sons. Only her daughter Aubrey had the late night candle burning. As she strolled by Aubrey, who was diligently typing on the computer, Mindy opened her mouth to scoot her daughter off to bed. Suddenly she saw something chilling on the computer screen over her daughter’s shoulder. Written in the chat box was the statement, “I am desperate. Things here are so bad, I want to slit my wrists. I am not kidding.”
Mindy dove in head first. “Who IS that?” she asked Aubrey. Aubrey told her that it was Corey. Mindy had met him when he had taken Aubrey to the homecoming dance. Aubrey explained that he was sick, but his parents were ignoring him. Much to Aubrey’s shock, Mindy declared, “We are going to get him.”
Some mama-grizzley instinct took Mindy over. “It was like I was possessed by someone else. I knew I needed to act, and to do something, but everything I did was against my nature and not how I usually act as a person.”
Forty minutes later, Mindy and Aubrey were at the trailer in which Corey lived with his family. He came out and got in their van. His father wandered out and demanded to know what Mindy was doing. The normally honest to a fault Mindy heard herself telling a lie. In a casual nonchalant demeanor, especially one for almost three in the morning, she heard herself say, “Oh hi! Sorry to disturb. We had invited Corey to go to the mountains with us. We thought an early start would be best.” Corey’s birthfather turned flirty and asked Mindy when she was going to come take HIM to the mountains. Mindy laughed coyly, played the part and flirted right back. After a few minutes, the van was on its way, with Corey in it.
When they returned home, Mindy was in for the biggest shock of the night. When Corey walked into the light, she could see he was almost blue, he had pneumonia, and she knew that without her intervention, he would have likely died. For Dale, he was just mystified. “I came downstairs in the morning to cook breakfast and there is this kid sleeping on my couch. He wasn’t there when I went to bed!”
For the next few weeks, Corey’s birth parents did not inquire as to where he was. Finally, nursed back to health, he returned home and the growing awareness of his homosexuality again became the unspoken issue. Finally, he decided to confide in his mother. He figured that she was oppressed and passive, and likely to keep it to herself.
That was not the case. She called Corey’s birth father who stormed home and broke into the house railing at the top of his lungs. “He was yelling and screaming about how a fag was living in his home and he can’t believe the devil was in his presence. I locked myself in my room when my brother came home. The first thing my father did was tell him about how his brother was nothing but a worthless fag,” Corey recalled. All three family members rattled on his bedroom door for hours. Later they retreated, and Corey escaped to the bathroom with a much stronger door and lock. He sat in a corner of the bathroom with his possessions in a paper bag, afraid for his life. In the wee hours of the morning, when the three had passed out, he escaped the house–never to return.
He went back to his friend Aubrey’s house. This time, it was not just Aubrey and Mindy to his rescue. Dad Dale, and brothers Andrew and Mason all stepped up as they had during his illness. The family had come to love him. For them, he belonged. He was home. They did not know at first that he was gay. They just understood that he needed them. When they did find out that he was gay and had been driven from his former home because of it, it did not matter, not even to conservative dad, Dale. They already loved him, and for some unapparent reason, they seemed to need him too.
The family met together so that each person could have his or her say. It was unanimous; every single member wanted Corey to stay permanently. Dale described what happened next, “Initially we set Corey’s bedroom up in our basement. We gathered what we could since he didn’t bring anything with him. His first bedroom in our home was made of walls with moving blankets tacked to the ceiling. There was a bed, a nightstand, an old dresser and a box fan. That kid was so freaking happy. I think that moment really made Aubrey, Andrew and Mason appreciate what they have. Made me cry to see Corey with next to nothing and be happy about it.”
The next year was a challenge for all involved. At first the birth family created noise. The small community also backlashed against Corey’s new family. Andrew and Aubrey were both taunted at school for going after a gay brother, and some of Mindy and Dale’s family and friends out and out rejected them.
Corey stood strong, and it inspired his new family to do so as well. Dale stated, “I had issues growing up and I wish I had been as strong as Corey to stand up for myself when I was a teenager. Corey has taught me a lot.”
The family got a court date. They were extremely nervous and had documented all the events leading up to the adoption. They watched the door of the courtroom waiting for their adversaries to arrive. They waited and watched. Time passed.
Corey’s birth family did not show up. They had no apparent argument to contest the adoption-like legal guradianship, no concern. Their offspring was gay and they signaled that they were perfectly willing to adopt him out as a consequence.
For Corey, Mindy, Dale, Aubrey, Andrew and Mason, the day became known as “Gotcha” day. A family got Corey, and he got them. Aubrey, Andrew and Mason became tireless advocates for Corey and LGBT rights in general. Eleven year old Mason, who previously had been disinterested in things outside of a little boy’s world made a rainbow freedom art project that he dedicated to his new big brother.
Mindy describe the events of the past three years. “I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being. I want them to know that any pain we went through or will go through is worth it. Why is it worth it, because love is the most powerful force. I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. First and foremost Corey is a loving, genuine, caring, intelligent human being. Who he is attracted to and who he marries is of little significance. I’m certain his partner will be as kind and loving as himself. Isn’t that what this world needs? I want the world to know that standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves is vital to our survival. Standing up for what is right is not always easy, but it is always right. Our family fell in love with Corey for Corey…his sexuality did not change who he was. I also want the world to know that we are a family. I want people to understand that genetics are just science. Families are built from unconditional love. ”
For Dale, it is a little simpler. He told me that he still sees Corey’s birth father around their small town. “He knows how to put on a front,” Dale commented. “He smiles and acts like nothing is a big deal. He says, ‘thanks, appreciate what you are doing for my boy.”
In those encounters, Dale does not say much. He turns and walks away. Quietly, inaudibly, he whispers, “I have news for you. He is not your boy.
He’s my son.”
If you are interested in giving a home to an LGBT youth like Corey, please email: email@example.com
Post script When the above blog piece broke and went viral, Corey’s birth family came forth on Facebook and berated his version of events. Here is a sample of their comments. Judge the story from both sides for yourself:
Corey’s birth brother: “For all you that read my brothers little pity story on here, it’s a joke and I’m honestly in shock someone has enough nerve to lie about shit like that. Yes some is true but the major key points are false. If anyone has a problem come to me my brother is a fake and a coward. He has the power to manipulate a person better then anyone I know.”
Corey’s cousin’s reply:”They knew exactly what they were doing. Funny how Corey’s “story” was published the day after gay marriage becomes legal in some parts of MI.”
Corey’s birth brother : “Exactly fucking homos. You know why every homo is successful. Because they our selfish and all they care about is themselves.”
Corey’s birth mother: “I cant believe it myself, we never kicked corey out, he left. he was in no danger from his dad, he would never hurt corey, he just don’t believe in gays he don’t support it, he has his beliefs.”
Corey’s birth brother concludes: Karma is a bitch and it’s coming his way.
As the original blog author, with 45 pages of notes on the story corroborated by five independent individuals, I know what Corey’s adoptive family told me was true, and the birth family’s protests do more to convince me of that than to dissuade me. Meanwhile, over 100 families have contacted Raise-a-child with interest in taking in a homeless rejected LGBT youth.
|Academy Award winning actress Sally Field writes an open letter about her gay son after hearing about the shocking “License to Discriminate” bills, which would make it legal to discriminate against a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person on the grounds of “religious freedom,” have been appearing across the country. Here is the letter in full.|
|The three things I’m most proud of in my life are my sons, Peter, Eli and Sam. They are kind, loving and productive people. Each with their own list of talents and accomplishments.Sam is my youngest son, by 18 years, and he’s gay.To that, I say:So what?Growing up, Sam wanted desperately to just be like his older brothers – athletic, rambunctious and even a little bit macho. He wanted to beat Eli at tennis, trounce Peter at computer football and learn everything about every basketball player on the court.But Sam was different. And his journey to allow himself to be what nature intended him to be was not an easy one. When I saw him struggling, I wanted to jump in. But his older brothers held me back. They told me I couldn’t travel that road for Sam. It was his to travel, not mine. I had to wait for him to own himself in his own time. I could make it easier only by standing visibly to the side, clearly loving him, always being there and always letting him know.
Finally, at 20, long after he beat his brothers at tennis and computer games and knew as much as anyone about basketball, Sam was able to stand up proudly and say, “I am a gay man.”
As his mother, I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have been allowed to be a part of Sam’s journey and I’ve tried to be careful to never make his voice my voice, but with his approval, I’ve decided to get involved in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality by joining the Human Rights Campaign.
Sam knows that if he ever marries, he’ll have my full support. After all, I like to believe I raised him with the good sense to choose a great partner.But there are people out there – organizations and politicians, strangers who have never even met Sam – who would rather devote themselves to denying his happiness.Why would anyone want to prevent my son – or anyone’s son or daughter – from having basic legal safeguards like family medical leave, Social Security survivors benefits, or health insurance?It doesn’t make any sense – but it won’t change until people speak out.
I’m proud to stand with HRC to add my voice. Will you join me?Whether you are LGBT yourself, a parent or grandparent of an LGBT child, or just a great person with strong convictions about what’s fair and right, I hope I’ve convinced you to stand with HRC for equality. You’ll be glad you did!
By Rob Watson
I wrote Fred Phelps a requiem. It was widely read on the day of his death, and I have spoken on air several times as a de-facto Fred Phelps “expert”. (Please, no one put THAT distinction on my resume!) In one of the on air conversations, the host asked the son of a friend of mine what he thought about Fred Phelp’s death. The young man, who is also gay, answered without any vitriol, “I’m glad he is gone.”
I agree. He is gone, and it is time to let go of our need to focus on him. I have been fighting for LGBT rights for a long, long time. Fred Phelps was not always in that fight, but it feels like he was. It feels like he has always been and always will be anti-gay hatred personified.
He emerged after an event occurred that was so graphic and raw, that it tore not only at the heart of the LGBT community. It caught the attention of the mass population in a way that hundreds of thousands of deaths of gay men had not.
A young man named Matthew Shepherd was beaten and found crucified on a Wyoming fence.
The shock and horror of Matthew’s demise was magnified with what, or more to the point, who, came next: Fred Phelps.
Phelps and his Westboro Church were opportunistic. The high profile of the Matthew Shepherd case was the perfect chance for them to grab the notoriety they craved. While the nation reeled in shock, they picketed Matthew’s funeral and proclaimed that the young victim would burn in hell. We had not seen such bold insensitivity on the part of the homophobic voice before and it offended not only those who disagreed with it, but also those who shared its sentiments.
The Phelps clan’s appearance at the funeral began a very long and notorious career of protesting at as many visible AIDS victim and LGBT funerals as they could find. They also targeted Pride events and celebrations. They became the lightning rod of hatred towards gay people. When after time, they felt they were not getting enough attention for that hatred from an apathetic American public, they morphed their protests to include fallen American service people. They could barely rationalize this activity and were naked seeking to incite by picking targets of people whom the public revered.
I do not respect Fred Phelps, nor do I forgive the pain he inflicted, but I value him. I value what he contributed to the struggle for LGBT equality. I am grateful that because of his presence, millions woke up to understand homophobia better and to confront it. I am also glad he is gone, just like my young friend. I do not want him imprinted on the consciousness of our children.
His activity had a dramatic and unintended consequence. He and his family became the mirror that many Americans had to face about their own attitudes about LGBT people. They did not like what they saw. Others who did not harbor such negativity themselves were made aware that such oppression existed. My blogger friend Ono Kono was one, she wrote, “Two decades ago, I was unaware of the struggle of LGBT people. Back then, I was a busy working Mom, juggling career and family. I cared about others, but I was asleep when it came to their plight…I thank you Phelps clan for opening my heart to love, in spite of your hatred for my LGBT brothers and sisters. I saw the cruelty in your eyes, echoed by the pain in others who watched you. I don’t know what brought you down your path to hatred. I can only say, I thank you for being so open about it, but only because you helped me wake up to the horrid truth that people who hate still exist.”
Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church believe what many who are homophobic out of “religious” principles espouse. Their anti-gay stance is based on a poorly thought out, superficial reading of the colloquially translated Bible. “The Bible says that being gay is a sin”, is the popular notion.
The Bible does not actually say that. What it actually represents is specific writings from ancient times, addressing situations in those times and places that have nothing to do with modern LGBT people. In order to make it apply to our current life, its proponents have to take passages out of historical or cultural context and demand only a calculated literal understanding of them. Fred Phelps has been their undoing.
Fred Phelps has been consistent. There is no way to approach Biblical interpretation, stay true to it, and not conclude that God does not only hate gay people, but that He wishes us dead, stoned, specifically. The Westboro Church has simply expressed the extreme but logical extension of the “Christian Principles” other anti-gay people also state and claim to support.
Phelps held a mirror up to the homophobic Christians as to what their “principles” looked like. They did not like what they saw. They saw hatred, but did not feel like haters. It forced many to take a more educated look at scripture and found their original uneducated comprehension was lacking. They found there were many ancient mandates there that did not apply to modern life, and they found that the passages they had ascribed to gay people both did not apply, nor did they feel the ramifications reflected the bigger core principles of love that they valued.
Fred Phelps became the example that no self respecting Christian wanted to become. Many actively readdressed their values and public tolerance of LGBT rights began to surge.
One of my blogs about my family got on the Phelps’s radar about a year ago. It inspired this tweet from Fred’s daughter, “Fag marriage is not about ideology or who’s “nice”. It’s about obeying God as a Nation!” My sincere response to her was: “Thanks Margie. Your family has done more to propel gay rights forward than mine ever could. Congrats.”
That is my requiem to Fred Phelps. He was a man with a mission. His failure to succeed is his triumph.
He achieved the most epic fail in modern history. Not only did he not inspire a single person to his point of view, he drove millions away in revulsion. For everything he lost in personal credibility and respect, he helped fortify the well being of those he sought to destroy.
His contribution is iconic for that very reason. It is a lesson that today’s fundamentalist Christians who seek to discriminate under the banner of “religious freedom” need to absorb. My hope is that at the death of Mr. Phelps, they take a sober look at his legacy, and seek not to emulate it. He is their current and present wake up call.
My hope that in my sons’ lifetime, they will not know a “Fred Phelps”. He is gone, and needs to stay that way.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. I know this does not mean a lot to most of you, nor should it.
You have been able to take for granted that you could be who you are, and you have been able to take that for granted your entire life. Sure, you have had secrets and have revealed or kept them, some of them big harsh secrets. The majority of you have not had the world tell you to take the core of your dreams, your hopes, your every truly romantic feeling and your real vision of family and hide it away. You have been allowed, and more than that – encouraged, to be yourself and be the best of you that you can be. That is how it should be
That is not how it has been for almost any of the gay people you know.
So today is National Coming Out Day. Here is my suggestion, and request. Take fifteen minutes and think on your marriages, your relationships, your most tender romance, your social life, the looks on your friends and families faces when you announced your engagement. Think of that moment when you realized you were in love and the person loved you back. Now ponder what it would feel like to be asked to make all of that a deathly secret, hide it away, and cloak it in shame. If you do, you may have a sense of what the closet is like, and how it is less “a closet” and more a “dungeon” that some do not survive.
A few months ago, I wrote a public letter to my sons. The point of that letter was the wish that they would never have to “come out” about who they are. I want for those who still have to come out in order to be who they are fully the safety to do so, and to have the potential for the best life possible when they do.
What can you do today? Be open. Be open, so closet doors of others can open and you can lend an outstretched hand to those within. If you live in Maine, Washington, Maryland or Minnesota, you can be even more open and support Marriage Equality in those states so that others can achieve the same level of family responsibility that you can.
Those who vote against Marriage Equality are afraid. I get that. They are afraid that by letting others live fully, they will somehow be threatened, be less valued or be diminished. That is not true. Heterosexual people are not limited resources with finite compassion to share in doled out amounts. You are a spiritual force. The principle of Love is that the more you give away, the more of it you have.
Give. On this day, give. Your acceptance is a boom-a-rang that will not only touch someone else’s world, it will make yours even better.
By: Juan LuqueGrowing up with the wrong beliefs took me into a path of challenging relationships and the ultimate misconception about parenthood.
I grew up listening to people’s stories, many of those stories were telling me I would never be able to be a father, to dig even further, some of those stories made me believe I would never be able to love or be loved.In one of those memories I was about 12 years old, I played these sexually charged games with a cousin of the same age, regardless of being so young and having little understanding of feelings, for me that was a relationship. I felt a deep, passioned, love for him. One day we were talking, away from the adults, having our own serious conversation. He said, “You know Juan, because you are this way (gay) you will never have anybody to love you. But me… on the other hand (he never considered himself gay even if he always started to play those games), I will get married, I will find the woman of my dreams and one day I will marry her. We will be at church getting married and you will be sitting in the last row, crying for me, because you love me, but I don’t love you”
I believed him.
I believed my cousin because I loved him, I trusted him and I admired him. What he was saying was painful, but I chose to believe not only because he was right, I was in love with him and he was not, but because his prediction was also supported for many other stories that I was told about been gay and been a sinner.
I made an emotional agreement with myself, that I believed I was not worthy of love.That twelve-year agreement that I made had a great impact on my emotional and psychological life. At that age, after my sexual discovery and the conflictive Catholic believe system that was imposed by my parents; which undoubtedly determined I was a lost soul and I was going to hell, I was ignited to a whole new way to cope with life. The strong belief that I was condemned even when I was the best student at catechism school vs. the strong desire to be a good person and to make my parents proud of who I would become. The conflict, between who I thought I was and who I wanted to be, became so strong and tangible that I started to play the role of the person that everyone wanted me to be, keeping my secret life separate.
I learned to lie.
At one point my facade didn’t work any longer. Teenagers were getting stronger and successful at soccer and I was this rachitic, weak, big teeth kind of kid. My years of high school were hell. I learned to hate my bullies and to build a wall around me to keep everybody away.
I was bitter.
When I left the small town for college I became a time bomb. I wanted to experience everything. I leaned about existentialism and for the first time I didn’t feel alone, there were other people like me. The darkness was a place in which I could survive after all. My desire to please those who considered me less than human were gone. It was the 80’s baby and I was ready to learn how to party. I felt so free, scared but free. Why bother trying to be a good person? I was going to hell anyway. Why even consider finding a nice guy for a relationship if I would never be able to be loved?
I was determined to live my life at the edge. Chasing for pleasure and danger–anything that make me feel something.
I was super intelligent, creative, charismatic and talented yet my cousin’s voice was always in the back of my mind whispering to me that I would never be loved.
My path of auto-destruction lasted for about 30 years, I wouldn’t attribute all of it to this childhood conversation, which only represented my first love lesson. Others’ wicked beliefs added compiled along the way, well organized and purified to the core were a big part of my ever growing shield as well.
At one point in my life my mother told me: when are you going to give me a grandchild? She said that with shyness and almost jokingly, I looked at her and said, “why should I bring a child to an overpopulated world? No way. That answer probably reminded her of a conversation we had few years earlier when I was a kid.
She hung clothes in the backyard as I , frustrated, after trying to play a complicated game I just invented with my 4 siblings, who were younger than me said to her, “why did you have so many kids? We don’t have enough toys, we will never have good opportunities in life, we are stuck…”
She just kept hanging her laundry.
For me,my short answer,as I would come to understand a few years later, was to cover my unequivocal belief that I wasn’t good enough to be a father, I was unable to have any relationship and mostly, because I was gay and I would never change.
When my partner proposed to have children 25 years later, my very first and visceral answer was NO. No, no and no! Besides, what a selfish idea. Bring children that are never going to have a mother. That’s plain wrong. A mom is everything, they take care of us, they nurture us, they don’t answer us when we talk shit, they hang our clothes. A mom is irreplaceable!
Then my partner said, there are different kinds of families, some families don’t have a mom, but if there is love, there is a family. He didn’t try to be pushy with me, but he planted a bug in my mind. The bug grew quickly because of its simple architecture. Any time I prayed or meditated that simple idea, the bug, was always there, intact, impeccable and pure.
Okay, I thought, a kid may not require a mom in order to be happy, since it would be impossible to miss one if he never knew what it was to have a mom. In my book, my mom mainly provided love, and I have love to provide. Now. She is a female… well, I never loved my mom for her gender, I love her for the love she gave me. But could I provide that quality of love? That infinite unconditional love I felt from her? Am I even able to provide any kind of love? I was ready to accept the proposition but there were something missing. I wanted to be sure I was equipped with good knowledge and the right values to form my future son into an emotionally balanced, happy person.
In one of my meditations I had this very loud image. Do you really think human kind depends on their parents’ abilities only? Do you really think kids are the takers and fathers are the givers? Well, think again. Yes, you have to physically protect and feed those children but during the process of raising them, who teaches more? Who provides more in the feeling department?
I had an aha moment.
For the first time I have considered that children are not only here to receive, they are here also to help us to grow and to provide us with a new set of feelings and strengths we would never have without them.
Then I was ready to be a father.
Those old wrong ideas, and lies about myself were gone after I discovered how much passion I had for my children and family. All those sleepless nights and hard work with my partner had endure our relationship. I remained teachable and open to receive what today are the greatest loves of my life. They teach me I am a strong person, I am nurturing and unconditionally loving.
When I talked to my mother about how wonderful was to be a father she said, in a very calm manner: Everybody deserve to feel what it is to be a parent.
A few months ago I received a message from my cousin’s sister, asking me about how we had our children, because his brother, my cousin, the guy that was supposed to be forever happy, and his wife of 16 years are still unsuccessfully trying to be parents. I thought how ironic.
I found so much gratitude from the end of this story. I smiled to myself knowing that the lies about me and the agreement was finally buried forever.
In Tennessee, gay couples can’t adopt, right? Well, it’s not that simple. The process for GLBT couples is often long, with extra and often invisible hurdles. While a heterosexual couple can adopt as a couple, one member of a same-sex couple must adopt as a single parent. A second legal process secures guardianship for the second parent. Further, many adoption agencies are religious, with doctrinal commitments that leave same-sex couples with few options.
Matthew Smith and Trey Darnell are like any other couple who want kids. “We both wanted to be fathers before we met each other,” Matt said. “I always wanted to have kids and surrogacy just cost so much money and I put it out of sight, out of mind.” As a couple, given the adoption roadblocks, their focus initially centered on surrogacy, often prohibitively expensive. In the end, however, research showed Matt and Trey that even “in conservative northeast Tennessee, adoption was possible.”
But possible is one thing, realistic is quite another. As they moved to the first stage of the process, a home study, they faced cold facts. “No local social workers would even do the home study, not even from Knoxville,” Matt recalled. In the end, a social worker from Nashville agreed to make the 4-hour (each way) trek.
When they had an approved home study in hand, Trey and Matt finally revealed to family and friends their journey toward parenthood. “Our moms were so excited,” Matt said. “Both of them worried we’d never have kids, and Trey is an only child, so his mom thought she might never have grandkids.”
Concern for what lay ahead, clouded that excitement. This was, after all, just the beginning.
Matt and Trey needed an agency, and many refused to work with gay couples, while others refused to promote them actively to birthparents. In effect, as Trey put it, “They were willing to take our money, but not to work actively to place a child with us.” Then came a rejection that spoke to every fear and internalized barrier: “birthparents looking to make an adoption plan for their child through Bethany are overwhelmingly looking for more traditional, married couples to place with.”
Disheartened, Matt and Trey traveled to Atlanta for an information session with the Independent Adoption Center (IAC), an agency recommended by the Human Rights Campaign. That weekend coincided with Atlanta Pride, and the discovery that IAC had a booth at Pride was a boost they both sorely needed. IAC represents nearly as many same-sex couples as heterosexual couples and would “promote [Matt and Trey] as a couple alongside others.”
This helped Matt and Trey realize that they had done exactly what those social barriers promoted. “We were being harder on ourselves than we needed to be. We accepted the stereotype that it would be harder for us and that no family would choose us.” Once they got past this internal block, Matt said, “Our experience showed us that there is a right birth family for every adopting family and reality wasn’t nearly as hard on us as our own self-image. We came to terms with the fact that you don’t have to be a traditional family to be the right family.”
The couple proceeded to IAC’s weekend intensive program about adoption and the legal hurdles, and then IAC helped them develop a “Dear Birth Mother” introducing themselves as a prospective family. Approval of this letter by IAC, a few months later, meant that Matt and Trey “went live,” were put through matching processes and submitted for consideration by birth mothers.
During the waiting game, the couple opened up about their path to adoption in the Johnson City Press. Though nervous about possible responses, the article led a local lesbian couple in the area who had already been through the process to contact them. They introduced Matt and Trey to a local attorney who would handle their case. Perhaps more importantly, they shared their experiences with adoption and parenthood with the young couple, and continued to be a source of support along the way.
Their path to adoption has been winding and expensive as many programs that help with the costs of adoption simply don’t help same-sex couples. Tennessee’s legal barriers make adoption harder for same-sex couples. Increasingly, however, national and local groups advocate for and work with same-sex couples in Tennessee.
Currently, there is at least one local agency, Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, that will help same-sex couples through both the initial adoption process and the legal proceeding legalizing the second parent’s status. JFS provides adoption services to Jewish and non-Jewish couples.
Matt and Trey remain positive in reflecting on their experience. “We want people to know that it may be hard, but if you want it bad enough and work hard, there are ways to adopt. It may not be fair, but having to work this hard shows how much we want to be parents, and what we’re willing to put into raising a child.” Most of all, they want to share that, even in Tennessee, where the barriers are so high, if you put yourself out there and work for it, “you’ll be amazed by the support you get, the positives outweigh the negatives and keep you going.” If things are ever going to change in Tennessee, Matt believes we have to “keep spreading the positives about same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption: it’s a good thing and it’s attainable.”
All that positivity and hard work hasn’t been for nothing: if all goes well, Matt and Trey will be welcoming Baby T-Rex (it’s a nickname, we promise) home in the next couple of weeks!
Congrats to Matt and Trey on the addition to their family. This is an article that was written about them by Out and About Nashville . We look forward to your upcoming blogs.
By: Rob Watson
Last September, actor Rupert Everett shocked those of us in the gay dad world when he declared to a British paper, ” “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.”
Wow. It had only been six years previous when Rupert and I shared several car rides from the bay area to upper lake county. I listened intently as he told me of his early life, his struggles in Hollywood, and those irritating meetings with Madonna.
Ok, ok, ok. So Rupert was not ACTUALLY in the car with me. His voice was. And it was coming out of the car stereo from the book on tape where he was reading his autobiography.
I did not initially have a crush on Rupert. Years ago when I watched him in the movie Another Country, I was barely out about my sexuality. I did not feel attraction for him but rather identified with his character. Both of us though, it seemed, were VERY much enamored of a young Cary Elwes..
I do not really know Rupert Everett. I can say I know of him, and his hanging around in West Hollywood and the gay scene there. But, I don’t know him, not a thing about him, really.
This I do know, and I can say this with absolute certainty. My ignorance of him is NOTHING compared to his ignorance of me. I am well assured that he is quite unaware of my existence, let alone my personality, skills, talents, manner and ability to love.
Yet, with complete and total unawareness of me on the planet, and of many others who do what I do, he feels competent to tell a reporter that there could be “nothing worse” than gay dads.
I do not claim to be perfect in my life and in the things I do… but I can tell you that the one area that I am most focused to be the best I can be, is parenthood. I have been told by many that I am a “great Dad” and I accept those words because I aspire to be that.
Both my sons were born to practicing drug addicts. My eldest son was born six weeks before his due date, weighed four pounds and had heroin in his system. My partner and I needed to alter the nipples on his bottles so that he got exactly 16oz in each feeding so that his brain would develop properly.
My younger son, who we got at a year old, had never had a bath in his life. His mother had only wiped him down with diaper wipes. It was not her fault, she was doing the best she could. She shook so much from the drugs she feared that if she attempted to bathe him in water, she would drown him.
Do I think I am the “worst” alternative? No.
Like anyone else, Mr. Everett has a right to his opinion. I am not sure why that opinion should be given any more merit than if it had come from any other person with anti-gay bias. Because he presumably knows how to make love to a man, he is held up in the public and the media as if he should be an expert on all gay people. He is not.
I confess, when I saw Mr. Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding, … my heart fluttered. I really fell for his charisma, his wit, his charm. I did want to know him personally.
The reality is, I don’t know him personally, and he does not know me.
After his comments last September, as far as I am concerned, it is just fine for it to stay that way.