They told me I would go to He**
My male classmate cornered me, menacingly in the school hallway. Eyes flashing with anger and fear, he said, “My Dad says all Gays are going to burn in hell, and so are you.”
This was 13 years ago. I was 16 and living in small town Kansas, a VERY conservative and Catholic area.
So what had angered my classmate so deeply?
In the Spring of 1998, former residents of my town, a couple, wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Hays Daily News that bashed the Public Library’s decision to carry a children’s book called My Two Dads.
The couple insisted that children would read that book and “become gay” and experiment sexually with one other (like this doesn’t happen ALREADY).
They referred to homosexuality as a type of sexual Cult and called for the book to be removed from our library. I was triggered by this letter to say the least, and I knew I needed to take action.
Here was my response, printed in the Hays Daily News in March of 1998.
As a Hays teen, I was astounded by the letter from the couple living in North Carolina. I don’t know where they received their information on homosexuality, but it is time for them to take a quick step back into reality.
Homosexuality is not at all an obscene, perverse form of physical pleasure, it is the way many, many people form loving, committed relationships. The gay population is not a gigantic cult of sex-crazed maniacs, but a different sort of family with many famous and not so famous members.
Unless High Point, North Carolina, has a protective shield around it, the couple who wrote the letter has probably come into contact with many gay and lesbian people.
The most recent scientific research indicates that homosexuality is not a choice, but the God-given orientation of 20% of the population. It is a way of life and removing the book from the library would be depriving many children of a realistic educational experience. There are many children that live in similar situations and they deserve the support that the book provides.
As a member of this younger generation, I am hurt and angered that someone would want to hide any aspect of society from my eyes. Homosexuality is not contagious, fear is. Keep the book in the library, and I challenge every Hays citizen to take a giant step, and begin to FINALLY face the truth.
When I came home from school the day this was printed, there were about 15 messages on our answering machine. I was petrified to listen, so frightened that the messages would be filled with hate and anger.
However, a majority of the messages were parents, crying, thanking me, telling me their child is gay, and they thought they were alone in this town, but now they know they are supported.
I had multiple conversations with these parents, and as a result, a Gay/Straight Alliance was formed at the local Public High School. A few months later, Mathew Shepard was murdered for being gay, and the town of Hays, Kansas, held a candlelight vigil for him.
Back at my private Catholic school the next day, it was a somewhat different story. I received the lovely comment I mentioned earlier about my demise into the flames and there were many whispers and strange looks most of the day. I am very clear that my Cool Factor took a bit of a dive.
Yet, there were some magical moments as well. A priest in the school called me to his office. I walked in, terrified. He said, “Good job. I just want you to know that I am proud of you.”
And on this beautiful Sunday, 13 years later, on the day of the Gay Pride Parade, with tears in my eyes, I feel so much Unconditional Love and Acceptance and yes Pride welling up inside of me…
For the State Government of New York”s latest decision for Marriage Equality, for my sister, who married her partner three weeks ago, and most of all for the Gays, Lesbians, and Bi-sexuals who have been PIONEERS in a time and place where who they were born to be is not always accepted and even violently punished.
They are the true heroes in this story. They are the definition of COURAGE.
And yes, I am proud and inspired by that 16 year old, who even with the fear of not fitting in or the threat of being ostracized, stood in her Truth, and spoke from her Core.
And then observed, witnessed, her little town beginning to heal from the fear and anger of change and differences, surrendering more and more to the Unconditional Love and Acceptance that is within us all.
She watched her town grow wings.