A Gay Dad’s Letter to Gay Teen, Austin Wallis, and the High School That Rejected Him

austin willis evol eq

The world of teens and tweens can be a treacherous one. As the dad to two 12 year olds, I see it as a world where childhood cushions and play have fallen away and new, somewhat complex challenges have emerged. It is a world where peer relationships and socializations are paramount. Independence is practically a life force and hormones seem to be pumping through veins previously filled with sugar and spice. It is a world where kids discover themselves and those discoveries can range from the thrilling to crisis, and sometimes both at the same time.

Adults standing on the sidelines to this whirlwind try our best to lead, nurture and inspire. We try to guide our young charges to being their best, and set themselves up to capture a destiny worthy of the love we cloak them in.

Some adults do this except in the cases where the child in question is gay as Austin Willis, a high school student in Texas, discovered this week. Austin has been on an affirming journey over the past year. He not only has discovered who he is, he has introduced the real him to his personal social circles and the public at large through a YouTube channel.

His videos are fun, silly, charming, and his relationships with teachers and friends are warm and mutually supportive. Life has been good, even granting him a handsome boy friend.

From my perspective as a parent, seeing my child find himself so progressively would be life affirming. The principal at Lutheran North did not seem to share that view of young Austin’s development. He categorized it instead as the promotion of sexually immoral behavior. His answer was not to guide Austin Wallis’s development, but to shut it down all together.

We tell our kids to be true to themselves, to nurture self-respect and live with respect to others. Lutheran North did not encourage Austin in any of those initiatives. Instead, they asked Austin to hide who he is, pretend to be otherwise — or leave. He chose to leave.

I am choosing to write them, and him, a letter.

To Mr. Dallas Lusk, Head of School and Austin Willis, Former Student:

Gentlemen. As a father and a Christian, I wanted to weigh in on the current controversy in which you both are active participants. As a parent, I take a sincere interest in schools and their efforts to establish principles for their students, guide them into the world and create the new citizens who will lead us into the future. Whether or not my sons attend a particular school is irrelevant. Their peers, others who may be in their world, will have attended that school and will influence the world in which they live.

This has already happened at Lutheran North. Austin, you have already emerged as its product onto the world stage. You have made yourself known, from your joys to your recent challenges.

Yes. Mr. Lusk had a rule. That rule reads: “Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.”

I personally believe that “rules” are limited entities. They are based on bigger principles but address very specific situational elements. If the situation changes, the rule then does not have relevance. A city street might have a “rule” of 15 miles an hour due to high incidence of cross traffic. If all cross traffic is blocked, the “rule” needs to be adjusted and 40 miles and hour might be the appropriate limit to fulfill the bigger principle of public safety.

I am not necessarily saying that Mr. Lusk needs to throw out his rule, although its homophobia is evident, but I am suggesting that he needs to understand, support and advocate for the larger principle behind it. The fact is — there was a violation.

No worries, Austin. Neither the rule, nor its underlying principle were violated by you.

The rule states that students must not participate “in promoting, supporting or condoning pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity (emphasis mine).” It does not say that you cannot be gay.

In his videos, Austin, you were clear on your values. You stated that you did not intend to have sexual relations until after you were married. There was no advocacy for sexual activity of any kind, nor recommendations to view porn. You were demonstratively affectionate in the videos, but not sexual.

If the school somehow wants to take issue with the affection you share on camera with your boyfriend and classify that as “gay sex”, then they need to read their Bibles. Your level of physicality is reflected there. Here is the description of the affection between Jesus and St. John at the last supper: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John) Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?”

I am not implying that the affectionate cuddling on Jesus’s chest by John was participating in, or advocating for gay sex. Likewise, your school cannot and should not be implying the same of you.

So, no Austin, you did not violate the rule. You also did not violate its principle to “to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.” You have been a model for the “golden rule.”

Mr Lusk, you, however, failed this principle in several ways. First, you bore “false witness” against Austin by using a regulation about sexual activity, when in his public pronouncements he specifically stated he has had none. Your punishment of him was not reprimanding him for something he has done, it is reprimanding him for who he is. That is bigotry, not a “Christ-like” lifestyle. Christ was not a bigot.

Second, his social media activity reaches out to encourage and send love to others and to save them from harm. Your own social media activity has been dishonest and self-serving. His is to make fun love-filled videos, yours has been to interact with the review site Yelp and fraudulently portray yourself as a consumer of your school’s services. You then bolstered your school’s online review standing by rating it the maximum of five stars, designed to influence its average total score. (See image below.)

yelp luteran north

Rubbing salt in the proverbial wound of your dishonesty was the statement you made in your self-review of the school. You stated, “The kids really feel welcomed and loved…” By your own behavior, they are made to feel loved and welcomed, unless they are gay. Then they are devastated.

This leads me to my biggest issue with your point of view and actions. As a parent, I deal with the holistic range of my sons. They are not perfect, despite what I might tell you on a given day. There are very few issues that would put them into a zero-sum game emotionally and spiritually however. They may do things that are absolutely wrong, but I help them find ways to do those things better, to make an improved choice, even if they cannot make it to a perfect one. For straight kids in your school, you follow this model. You work with them to be the best of who they are, to help them be the best they can be.

You have demonstrated there is no such scale for a gay student. He is gone, seen as worthless automatically. He has no chance, in your eyes, to better himself as a person, to achieve self-improvement. To you, if he is himself, he is worthless — period. The rest of his behavior could be saintly, or he could be a charlatan, it would make no difference.

To me, that is a travesty, whether it was from a parent, from an educator and most certainly from a follower of Christ.

I don’t mean to be completely negative about your school, however. I have to acknowledge that it has produced a man who does live up to the heart of Christ, who lives honestly and who I would be thrilled for my sons to emulate.

He is the young man you forced to leave, Mr. Lusk.

Mr. Willis, that man is you.


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A Gay Dad’s Letter to the School Seeking to Censor a Mural of a Kiss

The mural evol equals

The kiss. For some reason, it, and the experience of giving and getting one, is a completely integrated aspect of the high school experience. While puckers may have been planted in earlier years, it is the high school ones that create the milestones to adulthood, the firsts we will remember our entire lives and in truth, the magic of our adolescence.

One depiction of such a kiss is not folding harmoniously into the tapestry of its school’s life however. It is causing controversy. Kaela Wilton is a 16-year-old student at Onoway Jr/Sr High School in Alberta Canada. As the subject of an art project, approved by her art teacher and the school principal, she depicted two young men in an affectionate kiss. After its unveiling and subsequent complaints, the school covered the mural and would not allow it to be seen.

They are now deliberating on what to do.

For me, I know what to do, I am writing them a letter.

Dear Onoway School Officials,

I am a gay dad, father of two twelve year old boys. Next year, they will be in a school such as yours. I dearly hope that in that school, there is a mural on the wall exactly like the one that Kaela Wilton has created for you.

I write that not as one who is wildly enthusiastic for public displays of affection, nor as one who is anxious to encourage potentially sexually inappropriate behavior amongst teens. I have set standards for my sons in both those areas, and my expectation is they will adhere to them.

Kaela’s mural is a gentle image of young affection and blossoming adulthood. While its depiction might make some feel it makes such gestures too visible, I would remind them that the audience observing it is participating in school dances, first dates, landmark crushes and unforgettable romantic moments on its own. The image from a purely sexual content level, stays appropriately underneath a PG-13 level.

The value of the image far outweighs any offense to even the most over reacting sensibilities.

When I was 17, I buried my instinctual longing for same sex affection deep inside myself. It was taboo to be gay, and even though my feelings told me that was exactly what I was, I consciously suppressed it. I suppressed it to the point where I reached a suicidal crisis point.

I will never forget first witnessing a same sex kiss. I was on a trip into Los Angeles to look at prospective colleges for the future, and parking on the streets of Hollywood. A man was saying goodbye to his partner, and without giving a second thought, gave him a quick affectionate kiss on the mouth.

My reaction? The reaction from a young closeted gay man? I laughed out loud.

It was not a laugh out of derision or condemnation. It was not a laugh because the kiss was funny. It was a laugh because it took me completely off guard, and even though my psyche was bombarded with same sex feelings, seeing it displayed was completely foreign, and I laughed in the shock of it.

The man shot me a look of disgust, and a sense of violation. He was right.

Years later, and on many streets with different relationships with men I wanted to kiss, I experienced karmic retribution for that laugh. As I wished to innocently reach out and kiss the person I was with, the homophobic world around me rose up and invaded my psyche. I could not give my innocent kiss because some would react badly around us, and many would react as I did, never seeing such a gesture before, with laughter. Or I could kiss my man anyway and make a statement, a bold move in the face of a disapproving public. As Panti Bliss pointed out in a recent TED talk, that option is fine for activism, but my desire to kiss was not to activate, it was to be romantic, and so even to take a bold move would ruin my intention. The romance would be gone.

The first kiss I shared with the man was not until I was 21. It was in a disco, hidden down a secret alley, and populated with only gay men. He was a lovely young british man with a perfect smile and a dancing glint in his eye. He put his arms around me, and gently kissed my lips, and no one around us made us feel ashamed. It was a beautiful experience that I deserved. It is an experience your gay students deserve, and they should not have to retreat to a secret and hidden enclave in which to experience it.

Whether they are LGBT or not, your students have been inundated with opposite sex kisses their entire lives. If not played out in front of them in person, such events are common place on all available media from commercials including children’s programming. They have likely not seen even a single same sex display of romantic expression.

This mural can change that. For your students who have same sex attractions boiling up within them, such an affirmation can be life saving. It gives them and others the opportunity to witness something warm, yet rare, as normal and accepted. It allows them to embrace the parts of themselves they have kept secret, and removes it as a dark excuse for self-harm.

For those who are shocked at the display, they can react to the unfeeling stone wall, so that in the future, when they are in front of real honest to goodness humans they can be un-shocked and react with appropriate support, or have rehearsed how to keep their disdain to themselves.

Ms. Wilton has created something of value, both in its intention and its execution. It should not be kept hidden, but unleashed to inspire hearts, love and acceptance. What could be more important than that?

My sons are on the brink of discovering who they are, and what deep instincts drive them. If they were going to your school and they were finding that their instincts were heterosexual, I am sure they could look around and see plenty of public displays of affection between other guys and their girl friends and feel, “oh yeah, that is me, and what I want.” If it turns out that one of them is actually gay, and he looks around and sees no one, I would hope that he could gaze upon a mural in one of your hallways and think, “Ok, there. There I am…” and walk on to class with hope in his heart, and a dream that a painting on the wall promised him was his to fulfill.


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A Gay Dad Sounds Off On “My Husband is Not Gay” Lies and Abuse

Lies and Abuse

Sunday night was a cornucopia of LGBT television. First came the Golden Globes with a full offering of heartwarming equality affirmations from wins for Transparent ,including a call out for Leelah Alcorn, to a win for Matt Bomer in which he again asserted his standing as a proud gay dad in the world, to the hint of a host-ship next year for LGBT icon Margaret Cho, who was hilarious as a North Korean journalist/general invading this years show. LGBT euphoria turned to LGBT dismay as, with a turn of the channel, I landed on The Learning Channel’s My Husband is Not Gay reality TV special.

My biggest question after watching that train wreck was, “What exactly are we supposed to learn from this Learning Channel?”

Reality TV is not an area in which I have much comfort. I don’t know what a Kardasian is, and I am not clear on the point of real housewives or bridezillas. There seems to be a pre-occupation in this “reality” world with the breadth of “traditional marriages” from Bachelor mating rituals, which are tacky at best, to extreme retro “traditional” with multiple wives or 19 kids. Again, I am not quite clear on what the learning curve is here. Possibly the point is that those who are screaming to only have “traditional” marriages allowed in society need to be careful for which they pray.

Judge Judy is my one “reality television” guilty pleasure. On the trials on her show “the cases are REAL, the people are REAL” and the viewer gets to watch as these participants come on and lie their pants off. Judge Judy suffers the fools only so far as she quizzes them on specifics while working her personal vendetta to determine the real truth. Once she is satisfied at finding it, she has no restraint in bending forward and screaming out to the disingenuous “YOU”RE A LIAR!” Some might find the judge’s loud candor abusive. I find it actually a bit refreshing.

JJudyThey needed Judge Judy on “My Husband’s Not Gay”, where some real dishonesty and psychological abuse is happening.

There has been much legitimate concern about the show and its ties to harmful “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy. Although undisclosed, most of the participants on the show have supported organizations behind such pseudo-“science” that all the major American and Canadian mental health organizations have condemned. The premise of the show, three gay, oh, I’m sorry, “same sex attracted” men are married to straight women and raising families. The show tries not to present this as a “gay men SHOULD do this” but it definitely tries to raise the question “CAN” gay men do this?

On the journey of this show, the men and their wives testify as to how their lives are wonderful, rewarding, desirable to them, even if they fall short of being perfectly ideal. Through out, at several junctures, I was dying for Judge Judy to come popping out screaming “YOU’RE A LIAR!”

The men on the show hold all the cards in the situation. They have constructed their lives in such a way that they get everything they want between being openly ga— sorry, same sex attracted, and living up to the rigid and specific family design of the Mormon Church. (The Mormon Church itself no longer recommends their choice, however. On its site, mormonsandgays.com , it states “Unlike in times past, the Church does not necessarily advise those with same-sex attraction to marry those of the opposite sex. “)

The men have laid down the terms of their lives, and found women who agree to support those terms. The concept of what is needed and required around “same sex attraction” has been taught by the men to their wives who then move forward with a sensitive “understanding.” Most of the “knowledge” and “ssa facts” are fabricated. It reminded me of a fictional story about vampires where the author has to craft all the “rules” for the beings’ survival. This ignorance is understandable given that the people involved come from a world in which one of their straight friends first observations when the same sex attraction topic comes up is, “ oh yeah, there is a big problem with SSA in Argentina.” Say what? Argentina? Cue Judge Judy. What these wives have been given as the foundation to their marriages is a crock.

The men have set the stage with the premise that while they each are very “same sex attracted” — it is described by one as “out of 10 attractions, 9 are men, 1 is a woman” to another saying that he is “super into dudes sometimes.,” that they are also attracted to the women in their lives. This is a claim made through out the show, and one that the women cling to fiercely. One wife has memorized a phrase for herself hinging on the idea, “He loves me so much, he picked me over all the other men AND the women.” She has repeated this not only on the show, but on other videos, seeming to hope that through repetition like the Coca Cola branding, that she will be convinced that it is “the real thing.”

It is not the real thing. That may be a ridiculously bold and inappropriate statement by me, a stranger, to make, but the fact is obviously true. If these men were truly “also” attracted to their women, they would be simply bisexual. Like real bisexuals, the concern about other people regardless of gender with whom they have attraction, would have no bearing on their primary relationship. I may be attracted to furry white men, and also to tall African American men, but when partnered with one of the other, I do not need a whole system to deal with my other attractions.

Hold off on Judge Judy, however. Are these men lying? They seem to be skating into a loop hole, ala Bill Clinton. Where Bill needed to dissect what the definition of “is” is, these men need to clarify what their definition of “attracted to” is. They never really do, but another couple, Mikeal and Mandi, who are in the same situation, have delved into a far clearer discussion of this. Their video is here. They describe an attraction that is functional and mechanical, but not the same as the intimate innate attraction most other couples experience.

Who they are attracted to, how they are attracted, and what happens with the objects of their attraction, rules the world of the men in “My Husband is Not Gay.” It appears to be a complete and total obsession of their lives. The word “object” is key. Their wives are objects—the women willing to sacrifice lovers who are truly passionate about them for best friends and a family structure; and the men they ogle constantly are sexual toys that they are permitted to gaze at, place it on a rating scale, but are not allowed to touch (or at least, touch certain parts of…the terms are unclear.) The core of their concern is their own perceived sacrifice and not being able to exercise the part of themselves that calls out frequently.

In my opinion, these men should not be the focus of whether or not this practice is harmful. Certainly, they are victims of the church, homophobia and fallacies as to how limited family roles need to be. I understand what they are trying to do. I was not Mormon, but I am one of these men. I remember the dilemma of realizing my instinctual self and the life I predetermined I must lead did not match. I listen to how they prayed, and the peace they got in the answer back “ to be themselves.” We only differed in how we moved forward. They molded them into the dogmatic system and have attempted to play by its rules. I stepped out and fought for the right to have an equal system that allowed me a spouse, a family and home, that fits who I am, rather than is forced to accommodate me.

I have a partner who is not made to feel like a life compromise. I have two magnificent sons that I adore. I am the dad I have always wanted to be. Like the men in this television show, I feel my life is the one destiny wanted me to have.

Their wives here are the real victims, in my opinion. The wives are vulnerable to what they are being told on all sides. They are told by the church that they will ultimately be rewarded for their sacrifices. They are told by their husbands that they must put up with behaviors that are mandated in their particular situation. Here is where I can hear Judge Judy swooping in, yet again, in the face of both the Church and the husbands declaring “You’re a LIAR!”

The men have somehow convinced their wives that it is completely appropriate for men in their type relationship to discuss their sexual attractions to others constantly. They have convinced their wives that it is a healthy thing to hang out only with other couples who have a spouse who similarly wants to display their outside interests. The wives have been placated to believe that their men going on overnight camping trips with the objects of such attraction is just a normal thing that should be accepted, otherwise trust will be called into question. I wonder how many straight women would support their husbands’ needs to go camping with a bunch of other women, so he can get “girl time.”

The women’s buy-in on this set up is so complete that when in a dinner party situation where a friend is trying to keep the topic of “same sex attraction” quiet, they cannot keep themselves away from the topic. It is the constant elephant in their living rooms.

Despite protestations to the contrary, each woman displays a sadness, a wound, in her eyes that is unavoidable. Mandi addresses the sadness in her video, but the women of “My Husband is Not Gay” do not. They do not bring up the fact that while their husband might have to give up the ideal sex life he desires, they are forced to live with THE man they desire and every day of their lives be reminded that he is not attracted to them, not really. It is this fact that gives their eyes this slightly hopeless sadness, the kind you might expect from a woman trapped in a home plagued by spousal abuse and cannot bring herself to leave.

I thought the most poignant, ironic moment of “My Husband is Not Gay” came at a dinner party as the group endeavored to match up “same sex attracted” Tom with a single young woman. Tom discussed his passion, musical theater, and specifically the play Les Miserables. She had never heard of it. “It is just this musical where a girl loves a guy and he doesn’t love her back.”

“Oh, that’s the WORST!” she exclaims.

An hour later, Tom is telling her that he is same sex attracted, but wants to see her again anyway. He is essentially offering her, what she had described earlier as “the worst.” He softens that offer with the fib, “But of course, I am attracted to YOU too.”

Cue Judge Judy.

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A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Leelah, the Matthew Shepard of Our Time

Leelah Requiem

I will never forget the stunning image of Matthew Shepard’s hate crime. A young beautiful human was beaten, tortured and left for dead in an unthinkable violation. It shocked me when I saw the images, and I was not alone. Matthew’s fate left and indelible impression that has become part of our collective culture to this day.

This week, another tragedy, another life destroyed, left a similar impression — the death of Leelah Alcorn.

One of the publishers I work with sent me a quick message on New Years Eve. “You might want to write one of your ‘Gay Dad’ letters to the parents of this teen.” It was Leelah’s story. She was known to her family as “Joshua,” and she had killed herself. A pre-published letter appeared online. In the letter she eloquently explained why she was going to end her life in more emotional detail. While certainly many other young people had ended their lives before her, Leelah’s account of what she had endured was unprecedented.

In doing so, Leelah transformed from the latest tragedy to one that emblazed into the consciousness of a mass audience. Her plead to “make her death matter” resonated.

Many progressive bloggers felt moved to write about her including John Pavlovitz, Kathy Baldock, Jillian Page and Susan Cottrell. The evangelical Christian world was starkly quiet, issuing no statements of condolence, responsibility or regret for the environment it inspired. The Christian Post offered no mention of Leelah’s death at all even though it had been broadcast across all major media outlets in the country. Charisma News offered a single article by Michael Brown that called the situation “tragic” but instead of addressing a situation exacerbated by shortsighted Christian dogma, called for “time and energy into looking for the root causes of transgenderism.”

Without a stark image of a cross like fence on a cold crystal Wyoming plain, Leelah made an impression comparable to the crucified Matthew Shepard. She had become the image of the victim of transphobia as he had the victim of homophobic hate. In this case, her own testimony was the cross, and instead of a mother who would become the forward bearer of the message, her mother was cast as the villain.

Her story, as transgender activist Miriam Nadler tweeted, is tragically shared by many. “Cis people: please understand that the death of #LeelahAlcorn is not a statistical outlier. This story is common, cruel, and preventable.”

Susan Cottrell observed, “Yet another destroyed life over people’s ignorance and cruelty.There are no words to express the collective grief over this poor girl’s death, and anger at her parents’ misguided actions that drove her to it. Leelah’s parents made several mistakes and didn’t know it – or didn’t care.”

Author Dan Savage was even more direct, “We know that parental hostility & rejection doubles a queer kid’s already quadrupled risk of suicide—rejecting your queer kid is abuse, Leelah Alcorn’s parents threw her in front of that truck. They should be ashamed—but 1st they need to be shamed.”

Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey disagreed stating, “If you think the best, most effective possible action you can take to advance transgender rights is to harass the grieving mother of a recently deceased child, you lack imagination, humanity, any experience with grief, or some combination of the three.”

For her part, Leelah’s mother, Carla Alcorn, claimed to be ignorant of her child’s struggles. She told CNN that the transgender challenge was in a single conversation and it was not until after her child had died that she had even heard the name “Leelah.” “We don’t support that, religiously “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy,” she added.

Leelah’s father Doug Alcorn wrote, “We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. … I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

Doug and Carla Alcorn plan to say goodbye to someone named Joshua. The rest of the world is mourning a vibrant young woman named Leelah.

For me, as a gay dad, I have complex feelings around this horror. Front of mind for me is that Leelah’s death, in all its devastation, not be held as an event to be emulated by other transgender teens in similar situations. We must collectively strive to shut down the bloodshed on all fronts. Second, I have written to, and about, worse parents. There are parents who have wished their children dead, violently attacked and killed them. The Alcorns are not one of those. As a dad, I cannot fathom the pain they must feel. I do not know how I could possibly survive the death of one of my children. It is a strength I don’t believe I possess.

The philosophy that Doug and Carla Alcorn labored under is culpable however. As my sons have approached their adolescence, guesswork on where their inner compasses are leading them has commenced. I strive to be there to support their emotional health as they find themselves through hormonal and social growth. I cannot imagine ignoring a deep-seated plea on their part due to my own allegiance to some set of dogmatic rules. Carla Alcorn did that, and still appears to be doing so.

A wave of concern has emerged over how Leelah will be buried, and what name and the gender will be used. Her family seems to be avoiding a memorial all together to avoid the inevitable protests of their actions.

From my perspective, the death of Leelah is bigger than a funeral. Her death is bigger than failed parenting. It is the result of both a religion-based culture that ignores science and a largely apathetic public on the issue of transgender dignity. She is the mark in the sand of our collective societal consciousness. Her death asks the question on human rights — at what point have we reached the breaking point in tolerating transphobic behavior that ruins young lives. Matthew Shepard’s death asked the same question about thousands of hate crimes that had preceded him.

The religious right has framed the conversation as one of “Religious Freedom”. Fear of infringing against their rhetoric, basic human rights violations have been quieted. We have reached the point where we have to ask whether some supposed adherence to these “religious freedoms” that allow for abuse needs to be compromised in order to achieve common human rights and respect for all.

Here is my requiem for Leelah:

To the lovely Leelah, and all the Leelahs in the shadows,

You feared that you could never be loved, and yet here we are. Your absence has broken our hearts. The love for you was in the world all along. It sat quiet, waiting.

In that regard, it failed you. You needed to know it was there, that it was possible. You needed to know that it was your legacy, and it was possible for it to come not from a million strangers mourning your loss, but right back in the gaze of a man, and loving friends who saw you as you were, and met the vision of you with adoration.

I know that was there for you. But you didn’t know it.

It was a love that said, Leelah, we are waiting for you to be you, your authentic self. Whether that self “passed” as a person who was born resembling a woman to your family, or as one who transitioned physically into one— it makes no difference. Beauty is not about cis-gendering, it is not about passing as someone else, it is about being the real person. You were that real person.

I have two 12 year old sons. I thrill as each becomes more and more who he is, every day. Should I falter in being there for them, if I screwed up my parenting and tried to shove them in some role or characterization, I would want the world to step in and correct me and make me allow them to be themselves. I wish someone had done so for your parents.

I am sad that we did not make you feel welcome. I am sad that we did not give you the hope to know your life could be wonderful. I am angry that we allowed the trepidation over infringing on someone’s dogmatic belief system kept us from reaching you and protecting the very basic human rights you demanded and deserved.

As you said goodbye to us, you let us know you had a voice. It was an important voice, and still is. It may have been the most important voice some of us had ever heard, and now, it is silenced.

You are right. Saying “it gets better” is not enough. We all need to be dedicated to making it better — now, and to cry that out. It will be better because we are insisting that changes be made. We cannot thrust our precious transgender brothers and sisters into the mercy of fate and a growing understanding. We need to bring that understanding to fruition as immediately as possible. We lost you while we warmed with the idea that equality was dawning, seemingly ignorant to the fact that pockets of hell still flourished in our patience.

You wanted your death to mean something. You wanted your death to be counted among the numbers of transgender casualties that are all too common.

I would deny you nothing, beautiful Leelah, except for these two requests. I cannot honor your death. It is an event that I wish with all my soul had not happened. I will not fold you into a horrific number that I want to see reduced, not increased.

It is your life that I will honor. It is your uniqueness and the uniqueness of all the others who today suffer as you did. I will fight that all those lives come out of the shadows and live and become powerful. You were not a number. They are not a number. You, they, are incredible and important human lives and I want to feel and experience your impact.

If another Leelah is reading these words, please know that I already respect you as one of the bravest on earth. I am in awe of the discovery you have made about yourself and offer my commitment to hold your hand as people understand who you are.

I am here to fight the hard fight—to make this world safe for you, worthwhile for you, available to you. I will not relinquish.

I will fight like hell. I need you, all the hidden Leelah’s to fight like hell too. We must end the option of transgender suicide. Get mad. Get vocal. Even get militant.

Don’t leave us. Your death stunned us. I can only imagine what your life would have done.


If you are a transgender person thinking about suicide, or if someone you know is, find worldwide resources at http://www.stop-homophobia.com/suicideprevention.htm . You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. LGBT youth thinking about suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline (ages 24 or younger) at 866-488-7386.

Thanks to Leap Audio for a reading of this piece.  Amazing job.            http://leapaudio.org/a-special-presentation/

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My Christmas Card to the Family with Two Dads Who Gave Up All Their Christmas Presents to a Group of LGBT Homeless Youth

xmas tree no presents

Years ago when my partner and I were deciding whether or not to have kids, we made two lists. The first was a “cons” list. On that list were all the pragmatic reasons why it would be difficult. I was in my forties—too old? There were college savings, education concerns. We would have four mouths to feed. Then we decided to make the “pros” list. My partner started out, “The looks on our children’s faces on Christmas morning.” The next sound was me ripping up the “cons” list. He closed the deal.

As my sons have grown, and are both now 12-year olds, it is no longer their looks of joy of which I am proud. It is their enthusiasm over what they are excited to give to others. They have been sneaky, and a tad dishonest lately, but it has all been to slyly slip into stores to spend their own allowance money on our different family members.

Recently, I met a family who has taken this spirit to a whole new level. Steve and his partner live in the midwest. They count as their family members Steve’s two grown daughters, one daughter’s husband, and his 13-year old son.

Steve has always believed in giving to others. Throughout his previous 15-year marriage, he was often a foster-dad, and gave home at different times to over 100 different children. This year he broached a philanthropic idea to his family: “Let’s be a substitute Santa for a homeless family in need.”

His son loved the idea, and his daughters were soon enthusiastically on board. The family began examining their budget and how much could be done. It was determined that they could reasonably put together big packages for two families. That was not enough for Steve’s kids. How could they reach more people, they asked dads Steve and his partner “T”. Steve speculated out loud, “The only way we could do more is if we pool ALL our Christmas gift money for each other, and do this instead.” The consensus from the entire family was a resounding “Let’s do it!”

Younger daughter “L” told me, “Donating my Christmas gifts was an easy decision this year. Growing up as a Christian, the story of the Good Samaritan was told many times. I try to follow this example and serve those I can, not only during the Christmas season but throughout the year. Several Christmas’ ago, our family was in need of some help during the Christmas season and some kind neighbors were able to help us out, so when it was suggested to help someone else in need it was an easy decision to return the favor.”

More family members came on board, specifically former foster children of Steve’s, and contributed. The targets of the gifts changed as they dug into local needs further. Steve found out about a program sponsored by the local Pride organization and two churches that fed homeless youth, mostly LGBT. The majority of the teens had been thrown out of their homes for coming out to their families. They were now not welcomed home. This was consistent with homeless teen populations nationwide. Of those, researcher Cathy Kristofferson in an important piece in which she shares:

Simple factors of 4 tell the story of parental rejection and its effect on queer youth homelessness:

  • 2 out of 4 will be rejected by their parents when they come out
  • 1 out of 4 will be kicked out by their parents when they come out
  • 3 out of 4 homeless queer youth will say parent objections to their orientation led to their homelessness

Youth homelessness is bad enough on its own but being queer further compounds the difficulties.  Devastating statistics like 62% of queer homeless youth attempt suicide only begin to tell the story of the additional hardship endured when compared with their heterosexual counterparts.  Queer youth experiencing homelessness are:

  • 3 times more likely to commit suicide, and 8 times more likely due to parental rejection
  • 3 times more likely to turn to prostitution and survival sex
  • 6 times higher incidents of mental health and substance abuse issues
  • 7 times more likely to experience sexual violence at a much higher risk of victimization by rape, robbery and assault”

In the urban area where Steve and family reside, the teens lived both on the street, and in secret camps up in the local canyons. They were scared, guarded and not trusting of strangers. There however would be a breakfast for them sponsored by the churches and many of the teens would be attending. When they did, Steve and family decided, gifts would be waiting for them.

10859395_868374713182767_1650450253_nWorking with a new non-profit called Humanity4Humanity, a packet could be put together for $48 each. Each packet contained: a drawstring backpack, beanie, gloves, scarf, neck gaiter, 5 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of hand warmers, 3 bottles of water, nutrition bars, a metal cup, a sketch pad, markers, a tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, deodorant, and chapstick. By foregoing their own Christmas, Steve’s family was able to put together over 18 packets to have ready at the breakfast.

10868283_868354616518110_8177675171234162095_n“The teens we gave them to had no idea what was happening,” Steve reports. “They all looked a bit despondent and withdrawn when they came in. The reactions changed dramatically as we gave out their gifts. One 17 year old boy, with a tough wise-guy exterior melted and openly wept. All he could manage to verbalize was ‘I…appreciate this…very much.’ Another raven haired young lady came in dark and sullen, her face lit up a thousand fold as she told us the tale of being tossed from home for being a lesbian.”

(For those wishing to do similar things, Humanity4Humanity can be contacted through Humanity4Humanity.net and donations can be made here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=W9FY57C37RVFA )

Steve’s son, “N” felt good about what they had done. “It is extremely rewarding to know that someone else will be happy during Christmas time even if I have to go without gifts that were all selfish anyways,” he stated.

There is a bittersweet aspect to this story however. As I tell it, I have not been able to use the full names of the family members. I have not been able to tell you exactly where they are. There is a reason. They, as a family, are in hiding.

Steve’s partner, “T” is the main bread winner. They live in a “red state” that now legally has same sex marriage by court mandate. “T”’s employers, however, have already let it be known that gay people will not be tolerated in their company. There is no state or federal statute preventing them from terminating him for that reason should he be outed. He cannot be seen as being the step-father to three fantastic kids, nor husband to their father, an incredibly generous man.

They are first-rate human beings and neighbors who are second class citizens. They live their family life in secret. Their kids want nothing more than to be “loved and provided for”, and “forget sometimes” that their parents are gay, but they cannot afford to be publicly seen for what they are: a loving, generous, giving family unit.

This is my Christmas card to them:

Dear Family,

Merry Christmas.

I wish “Merry Christmas” to many people, but in this instance it is a deep and abiding hope. I want for you to enjoy your holiday with a fully satisfied and joyous sense of contentment, one you richly deserve.

For you, I wish a wealth of things under your Christmas tree this year, but not replacement material items for the things you have given up. You don’t really care that those things are gone, and I have no desire to replace them for you.

What I wish for you is more meaningful. I wish for you to open a neatly wrapped gift of Equality. I wish for you to be seen and respected as you are, a full and vibrant family in your community.

I wish for you to experience the right of public affection, for two dads to grab each other’s hands as they walk down the street with their teen son, and for no one to really notice at all.

I wish for you the magical wedding day that you want but cannot imagine having. The day when your kids stand by and proudly beam publicly as you express your personal heartfelt love for each other in front of friends, relative and co-workers. I wish for your community to come together and be there for you in direct measure to how you have been there for them.

In short, because I cannot give you any of these things except to promise to keep fighting until you have them, I will instead leave the torn page from a children’s book. Under the tree, you will find, from me, this page from The Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?” the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” (Margery Williams)

With that page in hand, you will know that I know the truth. The people reading this know the truth. You have earned the love of your children. You have earned the love of children whose family would no longer care about them. You have earned our deepest respect.

You are now, right this minute, the REALEST family I know on earth.

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How a Sheltered Housewife Transformed Into the Foremost In-Your-Face Challenger of Homophobia in Christian Churches Today

joan of arc

My first interaction with Kathy Baldock, the founder and director of Canyon Walker Connections, was in 2012.  She had shared information on line about the newly formed Restored Hope Network and its new leader, Robert Gagnon. I had just completed some advocacy for California’s new law protecting minors from “reparative therapy” and was writing about this new and threatening group. I fought them from behind my keyboard. Kathy, on the other hand was arguing with them live in the same room with them.

We both, it appeared to me, to be seasoned advocates doing our part in the battle for equality. It was not until I picked up Kathy’s new bookWalking the Bridgeless Canyon, that I realized we had come to our current missions from very different places.

By 1988, I had lost over forty friends to AIDS. I had spoken at a dozen memorials of very close friends. I was only thirty one years old.  In Bridgeless Canyon,  Kathy shares where she was at that time: “My husband and I were walking into our home as the phone rang…I understood that one of his friends in New York City had died of the ‘gay cancer.’ My reaction was dispassionate… I distinctly recall formulating judgments: People who died from AIDS got it by having gay sex… the death was foreseeable and could and should have been avoided by not following lust-filled desires. I am not proud of my behavior.”

Kathy describes that her own life also did not fit her matter-of-fact conservative world view.  Beyond her expectations, she was soon facing unexpected betrayals and divorce. She told me, “My faith did not change, but life as it was supposed to be as a result of that faith, sure did.” Kathy started to walk, both physically and spiritually as a result of this personal upheaval. It was on one of these walks that a life-altering relationship happened.

Kathy regularly passed a woman who walked in the opposite direction on the canyon trail. She was a woman who reflected a whole different life experience than the one Kathy knew. Kathy sensed the woman was a lesbian. One day, Kathy heard herself call out to the other woman, “Can I turn around and walk with you?”

As they walked, Kathy was no longer in a place where she felt she needed to “save a soul,” she was in a place where she was willing to just be.  The walk ended, but it became a regular ritual with the two women.  Through her new friend Netto, Kathy met more LGBT community members, allowing her to see the human faces over her dogmatic beliefs. It wasn’t until she heard a Netto’s heartfelt admission that Kathy’s previous misconceptions hit a crisis point from which they would never recover. Netto admitted that she could not feel safe in the places where Kathy frequented, and with the people Kathy knew. “Look Kathy, you don’t understand. In this society, I’m the lowest of the low. I am a Native American. I am a woman of color. I have a Hispanic last name. I am lesbian. Not even God loves me.”

The words “not even God loves me” shot through Kathy like a lightening bolt. “My heart ached; I stopped on the trail stupefied, and cried.”  She had broken through the powerful truth that happens when regressive Christian dogma meets an actual living breathing LGBT person — the dogma falls apart.

bridgeless canyon book imageIn Bridgeless Canyon, Kathy shares many more stories of other Christians who were led to challenge prejudices after they got to know LGBT individuals in their lives. The purpose of the book, which took over a decade to write, was to compile the ultimate text book for such people from the history and culture of the LGBT movement, the religious/political evolutions, the scientific facts of homosexuality, and what the Bible really says about homosexuality, which, in reality, is virtually nothing at all.

The final portion of the book dives deep into the relationship of LGBT Christians and their allies. One of Kathy’s key objectives is to fling open the closed gates of Christianity and make it accessible to LGBT people who want it, and make it friendly to those who have endured its horrific abuses. She lays out key issues for Christians to be aware of in respecting their LGBT neighbors which include not recognizing that the person already HAS a “journey with Jesus”, not needing encouragement to get one, and the person needs their own testimony to be respected and heard, where today it is dismissed out of hand (“You couldn’t have been ‘born gay’— I don’t believe that…”).

“This is the book I wish had been available to me a decade ago,” she states.

Most Christians who are anti-gay will not likely change through biblical study alone, she admits. “I think I have only met one individual who has done that by simply reading the Bible without knowing a gay person or hearing real life testimony,” Kathy told me.

As a modern day pro-LGBT Joan of Arc, a majority of Kathy Baldock’s advocacy is not from behind a computer screen. It is in face to face meetings, and confrontations, with the most rabid anti-gay ministers in the American evangelical movement.  She has personally interacted with vehement anti-gays including Michael Brown, Robert Gagnon, Anne Paulk, and Scott Lively. She has sat with street preachers and shared with them her version of “the message.” She has attended “ex-gay” recruitment sessions. She has been stalked online and then gone to the church where her stalker worked in order to confront him.

Most recently, she smuggled a gay man into the church of the notorious Steven  “execute the gays” Anderson who weeks before declared that there would NEVER be a gay person in his church. Courtesy of Ms. Baldock, that resolve has been violated.  Posing as a couple, Kathy and her gay male friend attended a recent service.

Of her visit, she reports an anti-education, woman- suppressing environment. Most disturbing is her account of the church’s violent undertones. She states, “I’ve been to many, many churches, yet, before attending Faithful Word, I’ve never visited a church with such a high visibility of guns on hips. Anderson transformed a sermon on Psalm 23 into a call to husbands to keep their families secure with a gun, a shotgun, or, at minimum, a metal bat and good fighting skills until the man of the home could afford a good gun. Before Sunday, I had never been met at a church door by a greeter packing a gun or witnessed the pastor proudly flashing his gun underneath his suit jacket. It is an unsettling feeling to experience in a church, a place I equate with sanctuary.”

Kathy’s prognosis regarding the hold pastors like Anderson have on American Christianity is not a good one.  “Unfortunately the list of Christians with literal, fear-inspired theology seems endless. Aside from the ugly street screamers, I’ve personally experienced interaction/meeting many who, in their zeal, are convinced they are flawless in their biblical interpretations and speak for God while doing significant damage to the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of the LGBT community.”

This makes her book all the more important. This year, it should be a gift under the tree of thinking Christians everywhere. Where there is misinformation, the book brings knowledge and where LGBT people are invisible, it creates faces.

We cannot sit by and be complacent in this society, particularly one that is armed to the teeth. We cannot afford to be comfortable in our own sides of the canyon oblivious to all others. Kathy is courageous and right to walk it and create communication that inspires understanding, acceptance and common ground.

Kathy Baldock 1She is wrong about one thing, however.  The canyon is no longer bridgeless.

The bridge is her.


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Autographed copies of the book Walking the Bridgeless Canyon can be found here.    Kindle and hard copy on Amazon.com.


Posted in Bible, Civil Rights, Clobber Passages, Gay Christians, Hatred, Mixing religion and politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Harvey Milk’s Death, and the World AIDS Losses Brought Us Marriage and Family Equality

Harvey and W AIDS DAY

Harvey Milk was shot and killed on November 27, 1978. Almost a decade later, on December 1, 1988 the first World AIDS Day was enacted. The first was a dramatic local tragedy around several local politicians and the second was a health awareness initiative designed to promote education around a growing worldwide pandemic.

Now, in retrospect, both symbolize something so much more. They represent the enormous loss of human life loss sacrifices in the war for equality. They each represent profound deaths which lit a community’s fire of outrage, visibility and call for justice, that ultimately produced a phoenix of equality to rise and take hold of a society — at an acceleration unseen by any other civil rights movement.

The city councilman of a single city became an icon, and as hundreds of thousands of gay men died, they were inadvertently outed, ripping them from families and acquaintances who were forced to re-examine their preconceived notions on what it meant to be gay.

I heard the news about Harvey Milk the Monday after Thanksgiving in 1978. I was a junior at UCLA returning from a long weekend at my parents. The tragedy of the story hit me but I was completely oblivious to the political back story behind it.

Before he died, I, as a closeted gay man, had never heard of Harvey Milk.

I was unaware of the segregated battle in San Francisco from an emerging gay community and a conservative anti-gay faction, represented by Dan White, the assassin. It was only after Harvey Milk was killed that I heard his timeless quote that would frame the directive to bring the LGBT movement its ultimate successes:

“Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out to your parents. I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives. Come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors, to your fellow workers, to the people who work where you eat and shop. Come out only to the people you know, and who know you, not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths. Destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”

Over the next year after Harvey’s death, I started my own internal coming out process. As this political stranger left the planet, he loosened the lock on my own seal of denial within myself. I finally had to come out, to me.

Dustin Lance Black observed that “Harvey Milk was not myopic when it came to his equality. If he had been, he never would have been elected. Harvey was a pure populist. He worked hard for all people who have been made to feel “less than,” and all minorities whom the system wasn’t working for.” This truth sets up a strange paradox around his death. If Harvey had lived, and had become known as a populist politician, it is uncertain that he would have gotten the attention he did as our tragic fallen hero. He was like Marilyn Monroe, who if she had lived certainly would have aged into a solid serious “Lee Strasberg” actress, and likely diminishing a previous image of a potentially sex symbol icon. She died as a sexy image, and forever she will be one. Harvey Milk died as an LGBT pioneer and forever shall he be one.

Author Lincoln Mitchell observed several years ago, “While the forces of hate are still out there, and still winning some battles … because of the work of Harvey Milk and millions of other lesser known heroes, those same forces of hate will lose their war. Harvey Milk’s America will defeat Dan White’s America.” Our recent gains have indicated that Mitchell’s words are appearing to be true. Within each gain there seems to be either a key “coming out,” whether it is Ellen Degeneres in the television industry, Jason Collins and Michael Sams in sports or Tim Cook in high tech business or a sub-community, Harvey Milk’s inspiration seems to be evident in each one.

The LGBT grass roots movement knows this more than anyone. The Facebook and Twitter mega-page STOP-Homophobia.com cites him as a motivator behind their efforts, “Harvey taught us that hope will never be silent, and we all know that together out voices are louder.” Blogger Ken Jansen, and administrator for the mega-pages Equality Mantra and The Pink Panthers Movement agrees, “Harvey Milk stated that rights are won only by those who make their voices heard. To me, this is an activist’s mantra. It should be our first thought when we see injustice, hatred, intolerance. Nothing will change if we don’t raise our voices.”

If Harvey Milk’s mandate of coming out, broadcasted un-ignorably by his death, patterned our movement’s trajectory, then no other single factor could have made it more a reality that the horrific strickening of hundreds of thousands of gay men by AIDS. The publication SFGate observes, “When AIDS began devastating San Francisco’s gay community, it silenced what had been a giddy, almost boundless celebration of sexual freedom … the news that a strange disease was killing gay men threatened to erase gay political progress symbolized by the 1977 election of Harvey Milk.”

It did not erase that progress, however. It enhanced it. It magnified it for the reasons that Harvey Milk told us it would— it forced the process of coming out. PBS/KQED states in their report, “The tragic impact of AIDS had an unexpected positive impact … Even though AIDS and HIV encouraged a negative view of gay sex, the educational efforts to combat the disease, inadequate as they were, helped to demystify same-sex unions. As a result, public awareness of homosexuality is much greater now than it was before AIDS was first identified in 1981. One of the most dramatic consequences of AIDS is that a large number of men were catapulted out of the closet when their illness became obvious. Gay men “in the closet,” who were more likely to seek anonymous sexual contact, were at greater risk than those who were open about their sexual orientation. The tragic opening of many closet doors forced heterosexuals to become aware of homosexuality in a new way. The AIDS crisis mobilized the gay and lesbian community by concentrating its focus on a single threat, and by involving many people who had not been politically active before. Because of the general public’s indifference to this crisis, the greatest response came from the gay community itself. Community-based groups started support services such as ACT UP, Shanti, Project Open Hand and the Coming Home Hospice. AIDS, which had the potential to destroy the gay liberation movement, in fact brought the neighborhood closer than ever before. Another unexpected development was the new spirit of cooperation and solidarity between lesbians and gay men. AIDS also brought many new supporters to the gay cause: parents whose sons had died of the disease; heterosexuals in the medical profession; and people who were beginning to understand the problems and discrimination encountered by gay people.”

Cleve Jones helped integrate the outing due to AIDS, and the vision of Harvey Milk through the AIDS Memorial Quilt project.

When the very first World AIDS Day was celebrated in 1988, I was hardly aware of it. I was living in the world of AIDS on a daily basis. I had already buried five of my dearest friends, and I was highly active in AIDS care as well as the political activity around it. I saw countless families who were unaware that their children were gay mourn their loss, and express immediate unconditional acceptance of who their sons were. I was constantly regretful that my friends could not have seen how validated they would have been had they lived.

At the same time, I moved around in a Reagan-inspired heterosexual war. My family and work associates were completely oblivious to my activism, my mourning, my loss. I felt like a soldier in a war that only I could see while part of the world I lived in moved on in their day-to-day trivialities.

I was right, we had been at war. We had been fighting the war that earned us the right to dignity. As DADT fell, as DOMA fell as each gain for marriage equality is made, we come closer to accomplishment in winning that war.

Today, I am the very out, very vocal gay dad of two sons. My sons are being raised in a world where LGBT equality is a given. My sons hear about the incredible friends their dad had, and are inspired by the lives that ended too soon. My sons are touched by the principles of Harvey Milk by being given the freedom to be who they are so they will never have to “come out” about anything.

We are not done, however. LGBT people are demonized within religious strongholds around the world. Transgender people are under attack socially, legally and medically. We have limited employment and housing rights.

World AIDS Day, for me, is now a reminder of all the loving souls we have lost as the price for what we have gained. The assassination of Harvey Milk reminds me that there are those who would willingly shoot the concept of an LGBT safe America dead. The sacrifices in both cases must never be taken for granted.

We must insure that the spirit they inspired live on eternally. If we never forget, we will never go backward and there is too much paying forward yet to be done.

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