A Religion Education Teacher Sounds Off : Stop Using the Book of Romans in the Bible to Gay Bash!



This is a guest blog by Joni Bosch, religious education teacher, and longtime LGBT ally.


I first “met” Rob Watson on Beliefnet.  We are the same age and, at that time, both married.  We were at very different places in our family lives, as he had just adopted two children who were toddlers at that time, and my children were graduating from high school.  Although homophobia still exists, it was far more open and widespread.  As we got to know each other it became clear that the only differences between our families, apart from the current ages of our children, was the number of men in bed at night.

Despite the similarities of our lives, my family and marriage was considered normal and blessed and his was the target of much invective, primarily on the part of Christians.

I was raised in a liberal Lutheran church, was a borderline Jesus freak in high school, went to a private Lutheran college, became Catholic when I married, taught Catholic religious education at my parish for 15 years and received a certificate in Catholic lay ministry.  Over this time, I read a lot about the history of Christianity and the Bible.  My life experience led me to view the message of Jesus as what he flatly stated it to be—a call to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. To treat others as we wished to be treated.  To care for the wounded, the hungry, the naked, the sick.  That everyone, even those we did not like, were our neighbors and to be treated as such.

This background and belief system led me to marvel, in a sad way, at how some people would use the Bible and the teachings of Jesus to harm others.

Romans 1 was used a lot in this context, especially: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 

The first problem with using Romans to bludgeon others is a common one—failure to look at context. Paul was writing to Christians in Rome between 55-60 CE.  Jewish and gentile Christians there were having problems working out their differences and doing so surrounded by a large pagan community with a different belief system both in religious and sexual matters. It was not a problem for men who were Roman citizens to have sexual relations with both men, particularly young men, and women. The primary moral caveat was not to use other Roman citizens sexually.  Use of slaves and prostitutes of either gender was neither considered to be unfaithfulness to a spouse nor immoral.  What mattered was not damaging the property or persons of other citizens.  This does not appear to be homosexuality as we understand it today—a romantic attachment. The Romans were also very patriarchal. A man should participate in anything that seemed womanly.  Being a recipient of anal penetration was problematic for a citizen because the man was ceding his dominant role.

Paul is supposing that pagans in their hearts really shared the Judeo-Christian belief system, that God’s presences in the world was so obvious that the pagans deliberately turned away from God as described above.

Clearly gay Christians are not those being described above.  Gay Christians are Christians. They have not turned away from God. They are not worshipping idols. They are not pagans. They clearly recognize the power of God in this world and continue to have a relationship with God.

Par of the problem here is that somehow those citing the earlier verses seemed to miss other verses in Romans 1 that can be applied to their own behavior: 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

Clearly murder has been done to those who are gay in the name of God.  Strife, deceit (especially in cherry picking the scriptures), and malice abound.  Gossip and slander certainly fit, as do arrogance and boasting. They do not understand, lack love, and lack mercy.

The sad irony is that Paul did not write with chapter and verse.  Those were later editions. The real point of these verses in Chapter 1 comes at the start of Romans 2: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

Paul is working his readers into a righteous frenzy against “them” in Romans 1, only to turn on the self-righteous in Romans 2 and nail them for judging others while being less than perfect themselves.  Indeed, his big point in Romans in general is that we are saved through faith, not the law, and that no mere human is sinless.

The very people who were using the Bible to attack Rob’s family were bringing judgment on themselves by their judgment of others.  Indeed pride seems to play a big role here, as exemplified by Fred Phelps and the Cranford family Rob has mentioned before.  They think that only they understand the Bible and that anyone who reads it differently has rejected God.

I was part of the discernment process when our parish decided to become open and affirming. We studied the Bible and commentaries, studied church teachings and history, and prayed.  The vast majority of us who attended these meetings were straight.  I can’t help thinking of Romans 2:1 when fundamentalist Christians attack other Christians who have spent time in prayer and study and come to a different interpretation.

It is pretty easy to cherry pick the Bible and find verses that can justify one’s own positions.  As Karen Armstrong and Margaret Nutting Ralph have noted, the Bible is neither a science book nor a history book.  It is a history of a people growing in faith. It is a whole library that contains myth, satire, music, love letters, history, catechism and letters about specific problems.  Our ability to find apparent contradictions is at least in part because faith grew and changed as it did so, and in part because we miss the context in which things were written, not to mention that we don’t even know for sure what some of the words meant.

Rob has noted how this misuse of the Bible has increased the risk of harm to his children (not to mention the harm to himself as he was figuring out who he was).  It is not just gay families that are targeted by those who believe their understanding is the only correct one.  An 8 year old girl was kicked out of a Christian school because she liked her hair short and liked sports. I am pretty sure the principal was thinking of Deut 22:5 saying a woman should not wear a man’s clothing.  Although I have not seen a photo of the principal who informed her parents that this school was not for her (too true, but not in the way he meant it), I would be willing to bet that his hair style was not Biblical as set forth in Leviticus—with beard and ear locks  (Lev 19:27).  I would also be willing to bet that he has worn clothing made of more than one kind of fabric (Lev 19:19).

Nolan Cranford is another child who has been damaged by the assumption of the adults in his life that nobody who disagrees with them on religious matters can possibly be Christian.

All too often I see an argument against someone—for being gay, for not being male or female enough, for being the wrong religion, or even the wrong kind of Christian, based on cherry picking the Bible, most often the Old Testament. However, when challenged on the ways in which those doing the condemning violate OT law themselves, such as eating ham on Easter or eating cheeseburgers, they cite Acts 11.  Oddly, though, Acts 11 only excuses their own failure to follow the OT—it never seems to excuse others failure to do so.

I do feel sorry for those whose relationship with God is so fraught with fear that they can only view the world in black in and white.  Yet I must feel even worse for those who are the victims of the intolerance their fear produces.  If they wish to be lights to the world, they should let their light shine. Crossing the line into arson and burning those they claim to wish to help, however, goes too far.


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Posted in Bible, Clobber Passages, Family, Gay Christians, Hatred, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How a Teen, Thrown From His Home for Being Gay, was Arrested and Tortured


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:  http://www.gofundme.com/7j5ors    (Disclaimer:  The author or this blog are unrelated to the fund and receive absolutely no compensation in any way.)


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Posted in Civil Rights, Family, Hatred, Living, Mixing religion and politics, News, Politics, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anonymous Writes a Secret Blog About Her Lesbian Friend

The following is a blog written by someone dear to me, and she asked that the authorship of this stay anonymous. 


There was this friend I once knew….

I used to know this woman, we were close for years. I look at her now and she’s nothing like I remember. I gaze at her and in every wrinkle, every scar and frown line there’s a story. Not always a pretty one either. 

For many years she spent her time advocating for Equality and against Bullying. She lived her days bringing awareness to discrimination, sharing stories of love and compassion. 
Nowadays she’s rarely seen in that circle. No longer answering her Advice column, or updating her Equality page and rarely responds to her email. 

I see the pain, sorrow, and loneliness in her face. The overwhelming toll it’s taken on her. She’s drowning in it every single day.

She once had a family but now her children are long grown and living their own lives. Her today family consists of herself, the beloved dogs and her wife. She buries her pain deep in the continuous repeat of the day-week-years before routine.

There was a time she had it all. A bright carefree smile, a heart full of love, hope for her future, a job that she loved, a car, family and friends and most of all- freedom.

Her smile long ago faded, hopes and dreams vanished, friends all abandoned. Her secrets haunt her every day.

You might see her at the Post Office, bank or store, online in text form but you won’t see the inner bruises, hear her silent cries and you’ll never see the tears she dare not let fall. What you will see is the painted on mask, a forced smile and her wife never far from her side. 

Oh sure, you might see the occasional bruise, ace bandage here and there. That one black eye that lasted the entire month of May. Through her son’s High School Graduation, Mother’s Day and including her very own Wedding Day. It was easily explained away with a tripping over the dog on the steps.  Clothing covers the hundreds of scars on her legs and arms- these particular wounds were self inflicted in a gross attempt to release her pain. Her shame.

There is this friend I once knew, she’s an abused woman with little means to help herself.

Her marriage, like thousands of others, has two sides: The public version and the private reality. Rarely does it become physical, the real torture -the very real violence is mental and emotional. Those are the scars you don’t see, the secrets she hides.  The ugly side to inequality is having no help. Her marriage is not legal.

Freedoms you and I have are forbidden. She’s isolated. No job, friends, lunch dates, a friendly call home to chat, no car. She can’t even enjoy a leisurely walk with her two dogs without her wife chaperoning her. Her social media monitored, and she’s ridiculed if someone posts on her wall. Every conversation followed.

Friends? They long ago left. Forced out because of her wife’s temper. They couldn’t deal with the jealous wife.  The awful truth of knowing people in her community know her secrets, is observing their blind eyes. They are afraid to get involved.

The explosive accusations of unfaithfulness- all false. Why not just leave? 
It’s not that simple. The local women’s shelters aren’t ‘equipped ‘ for battered gay women. Family can’t hide her from a jealous wife.

The only solace she feels she has is her home, her prison while the jealous wife is at work. That has been invaded now too. The jealous wife moved her best friend in.

Her quiet space is now constantly invaded. Every move, text, phone call is dutifully reported back.   No more privacy. No place to cry. No place to hide. No place to scream. She’s alone, trapped at home. She tries to work at her hobby. She has her dogs.  She has her addiction to alcohol. It’s there every day. She feels like it holds her hand, wipes her tears, lets her forget how lonely, sad, and hurt she is.

My friend is an abused woman feeling that she has little means to help herself, except to write this secret blog note.   I see her every morning when I look into the bathroom mirror.  My friend is me.



 Note from Rob to the author of this piece:  I love you and believe in you.  I want to freely give you voice here, and am pleased to do so.  Please recognize that by doing this, you are taking the first step in reaching out for help, and I want you to continue that process.  There are people to replace the alcohol, and they will step up, if you let them.  You are courageous, you are a warrior.  It doesn’t feel like it, but you are.  Hopefully people will suggest resources for you in the comment section and I am begging you to make use of them.  Do not let yourself get lost.  You are too valuable to all of us.


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A Gay Dad’s Requiem for a Little Boy Named Zachary, Killed Because He Might Become Gay

ImageWhen my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them.  Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them.  Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.

Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating.  As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves.  They were becoming their own people with personalities.

This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe.  On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine:  seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be.  I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.

I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them.  Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment.  I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.


Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler.  Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then.  Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.

Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender.  In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.

The “Focus on the Family” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.

One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro.  Her little boy Zachary was not reacting things in as masculine a way as she expected.  She thought he would become gay.  “He walks like it and talks like it.  Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him”.  They both worked on Zachary.  Until Zachary was dead.

Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman.  Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact.  The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred.  His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity.  Today, I write a requiem to Zachary.  He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic.  He was killed by hatred.  There is no pity in this message.  I am angry.

Dear Zachary,

Good bye.  We, the world, have failed you little one.  You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.

I am sorry.   I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily.  You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.

You were killed by homophobia, my child.  It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you.  It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it.  While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.

I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you.  No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a four year old child.

I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one.  Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love.  Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life.  Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.

I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas.    They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand.  Something they see in you, even in your innocence.

I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone.  I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.

A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago,  two years after you did.  He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic.  He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him.  Homophobia lost.  You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you.  Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.

I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset.  That mindset is not an opinion.  It is not a right to religious beliefs.  It is a deep and ever present danger that kills the innocent.  I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.

Nothing will replace the life we lost in you.  You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate.  You deserved so much better.

With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better.  We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder.  We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.

We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace.  You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them.  We owed it to you.  We will not fail again.


To listen to a podcast where the author delivers the requiem, please go to:http://outinsantacruz.com/firefox-cookies-and-zachary/

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Posted in Civil Rights, Family, Hatred, Living, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Rejected and Alone, A Gay Young Man Finds His Home with a Same Sex Couple

This is a guest blog by Shaun O.  Shaun and evolequals blogger Rob Watson co-host the radio show, along with Steph Taylor, Saturday evenings at 7 pm Pacific time.

From Shaun: “I dedicate this article to Corey, Mindy, and family. Without these courageous people, we would not have the strength to share this story. And special thanks to Rob Watson for connecting us together and sharing our stories with the world.”


In few social communities, can you walk into any town and find that the LGBTQ community hasn’t already decided on a designated night on the town, and for our hometown, that night is Thursday. Having expended most of those days in college, my husband and I aren’t late night people anymore; but once in a while, the urge to connect with the community that you call home eventually beacons. The summer of 2012 one of those nights became the start to  a new chapter in our lives. One of those nights, sitting around a table with friends, a slightly familiar face walked up and sat down with us. It was Weston, a young man we had recently been introduced to by a common friend. Because we had seen this face several times already, the usual questions flew by. “How old are you?”“Work or school?”“Where are you from?”Until one question didn’t produce an answer. “Where do you live?….”Weston circled around the answer several times until my insistence provided an unexpected answer. He confessed that he had been living in his car. Surely a couch was more comfortable than the back seat of a car, so we took a chance and offered him a place to stay the night. He was genuinely relieved and followed us home. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so excited to eat multiple meals in a single day. During the week, we really got to know this new young man in our lives.

Weston hails from a small mining town in Nevada, with a very religious Baptist upbringing, and a conservative family. When Weston was 6, his mother had a stroke and she forgot most of the memories of her son. His relationship with his mother seemed forced and unnatural. He was never the ultra masculine jock that his father had hoped for. That was yet another wedge in the divide that amplified over the years. His younger brother Justin fulfilled his father’s needs for an athletic son, and Weston faded into the background.

At 15, Weston was on the phone late at night with his crush from school. His mother spent most of the conversation outside of his door. Scrutinizing his every word, she deduced that his call was with another boy and again asked him about his sexual orientation. He had come to terms with his sexuality and he shared this with his mother. She spoke with his father, and they made an appointment with a therapist outside of town as to ensure that nobody would become suspect. Their journey to the therapist did not bring Weston’s parents the news they had hoped for. You see, they brought him there to be cured, instead, the therapist insisted that they were the ones who needed support. Unsatisfied by being unable to eradicate his son’s sexual orientation, Weston’s father told Weston that he would be killed if he ever spoke to his brother about it. Although Weston had some friends and an older cousin as his support system, his immediate family life was brutal. He had always been verbally abused by his father because he was not masculine enough for his taste; it’s as if Weston’s father would go out of his way to intentionally target young Weston’s self-esteem while his mother did nothing to defend him. Weston was well liked and had a positive social circle at school, but he learned what a bully was by being bullied by his own father.

A day before Weston turned 17, he was watching television with his parents and there was a same-sex couple on TV. Weston’s father said, “fucking faggots.”Weston boldly spoke up to his father and said that there was nothing wrong with their relationship. His father responded, “Are you a fucking faggot?.”As much as Weston was used to the insults from his own father, this one took a much larger hit; a hit directly to Weston’s heart. Weston took as much as he could and went to the neighbors house. The very next day, his parents showed up at his job and threatened to call the police if he didn’t go with them immediately. They took him home, forced him to quit his job, took away his phone, and internet. Isolated, he became a prisoner in his own home unable to see the world or talk about his identity.

In trying to claim a sliver of ownership of himself, Weston got a piercing. He had a verbal altercation with his mother about it and she hit him. Unable to withstand the hostile environment, he had to leave. He moved in temporarily with a friend, her 3 siblings, and single mother; although his friend’s family loved him dearly, they did not have enough money to support an additional mouth to feed. Opting to move in with several co-workers, again, Weston faced rejection when his depression escalated enough that he lost his job. His co-workers kicked him out.

Weston’s depression and self-worth were at an all time low. His grades were suffering and he didn’t care much about anything never mind school. He had built up several weeks of detention as he hadn’t been attending school regularly. He felt that there was no choice but to drop out and that he did.

The following years included rejection, abuse, unstable relationships, constant hits to Weston’s self-esteem, and a storm cloud of depression. Out of options, Weston had to try and make it work with his parents again. The prison had gotten even worse this time around: he was not allowed to have any friends and could only leave the house to go to school or work. He went to the local adult school and got his high school diploma within a month. Finding the imposed stipulations inflexible, Weston became a shell of his beloved younger self and his life had become devoid of love and life.

Finding himself for the first time truly emotionally alone, he set out to move back in with his friend’s family, one of the only healthy connections he possessed, but her abusive father had returned home. His original friend, the youngest child would vent to him about her feelings about her father. The father heard this and one day asked his daughter to step out for a moment. During that moment, the father threatened Weston’s life if he were to ever talk to his daughter about him again. Yet again, rejected and scared, Weston had to find another place to go. Weston’s further attempts to find a place he belonged got progressively worse. He moved in with an older man that sexually abused him. Unable to see another option, he moved in with a man he barely knew in Utah, several hours from “home.”The man in Utah turned out to be a physically abusive alcoholic. Weston probably stayed there longer than he should have, but he felt that being physically hit was honestly better than not being accepted. His reality matching what most homeless youth face, Weston made an emergency call and gave home another shot, but he didn’t belong. The time at home only served to remind him that he was a stranger to his own family. His time at home was devoid of love, connection, or support.

At the age of 21, Weston moved to Central California to get away from this place he had grown so distant from. He tried different jobs, apartments, couches, etc. Although he found his way from day to day, he didn’t have a support system to help him with long term goals. Spring of 2012, jobless and homeless. He spent his days in bars just drinking water while he talked to the bartenders and watched TV. His daily meal consisted of one or more items off of the dollar menu at McDonalds. After the bars closed, he went to his car where he spent the night. He did this until the night he met my husband and me. During that week, Weston and I went to the store to get him necessities and he offered to drive. I looked in the back seat and it was made into a bed. You could even see the indentation where his head was on the pillow.

We spent the next month getting him into the local community college. He was so excited to be going to school. He picked his classes and got his books! Weston was finally going places. Our relationship with Weston quickly turned into a family. He even labeled me as his dad and Mikey as his step-dad on his Facebook profile. Weston began to look up to us role models and seek advice from us. That summer, I mentioned to Weston that there is a process called “adult adoption.” The following March, we talked about it again late one night and he asked to be adopted. I told him to sleep on it and in the morning I asked him why he wanted to be adopted. He told me that he wanted to know what it was like to be part of a family that loved him unconditionally.

Several family members asked me what I received out of adopting Weston. That assumes that there was an internal debate weighing pros vs cons. There was no debate, but only a natural next step towards our new family. I researched and taught myself how to file the petition for adoption and all the paperwork required. May 10, 2013 was adoption day. We went to the courthouse as a family and nervously waited for our turn to sit with the Judge. They called our case and we entered the courtroom and sat at a table. The bailiff asked for my phone to take pictures. The judge read through the documents, explained them and asked if we all agreed. She asked me to raise my right hand and repeat after her:

“I, Shaun

Solemnly swear to treat Weston

In all respects as my natural child

I will share my life with him

Help to mold his mind

Nurture his body

And enrich his spirit

I will never betray his trust

Dampen his hopes or

Discourage his dreams

I will be patient and kind

I make this commitment willingly

I will cherish Weston

All the days of my life”

We returned home to a poster on our door from friends congratulating us on our new family. We received congratulatory cards, texts, calls, and emails. It was a remarkable day.

One of Weston’s favorite parts of life is “family time.” Whether it be spending time with my husband and me or visiting with extended family. He has a sense of belonging that he never knew could happen to him; so much so that my husband and I have to remind him that he can’t hang out with his lame dads every Friday night and kick him out of the house at times to hang out with his friends. He now looks forward to graduating college, finding a partner and a career, and forming a family with as much love as this one.

Mikey and I love Weston more than he could ever know. The only thing more that we could wish for him is closure. As this has been a really healing time for Weston, this seems to be an appropriate time to end this story with something that Mikey wrote so that Weston and those like him can find the strength to turn the next page.

“More than the influences of my uncle and husband in my life urging me to make peace with my inner demons confronting my childhood, whether it be fear of failure or my internalized image of my father becoming a role model has come with a steep learning curve and having you entrust your life in my hands is truly a gratifying experience. In guiding your growth, I too can see my growth as a father figure, a teacher, a peer. They say that the best way to learn a lesson is to teach it, and no where is this more true than life. Whereas I met you as a friend, life has asked me to take another role, and so it has begun. I now know what fatherhood asks of me. It asks to teach your son life skills and lessons, to teach him resilience by breaking him down and building him up again stronger than before, humility in admitting when you are wrong, discipline and drive, and far more. He is placed by sheer luck of the universe into your care to polish him until he shines so that one day, he comes home as your friend and peer. These are the wishes of fatherhood; however, the serendipity that brings a new soul into your life may be young or old.  He might be dented, scuffed, and mended in such a way that his wounds are still visible. These actions taken against him can never be undone and of the lessons that he has learned, I have no way of knowing which of those he has learned well, and those where his previous teacher faltered. And so a new mission arrived. A prerogative to shelter him, nourish him, mend him, and polish his soul. Much as sandpaper removes imperfections, the walls you have set up for yourself, I intend on helping you learn all there is to know by removing your emotional and mental self defenses to become open to the positive possibilities of life. But it is also my job, a tough one at that, to remind him that before such work can begin, the harm impinged upon him will never heal until acceptance is reached. For some, that means confronting your inner demons; for others, interacting with your biological family; and for others, this means keeping your story alive for others to share in hopes that you can save others like you. Much as life’s journey is never ending, neither is my job as your father, friend, and peer. May my happiness be a benchmark for you to strive to surpass. I have much faith.”

Are you interested in adopting an LGBTI youth rejected from his or her home? Email Raise A Child to connect with services across the USA.

Listen to a podcast radio interview with Corey and Mindy here. (Shaun, Rob and Weston are co-hosts)

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The Real True Story About How Parents Adopted Out Their Child When He Told Them He Was Gay

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 dabbled in narcotics.  His birth father beat Corey 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, whom she had met 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 tried to break into his bedroom 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, 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.”


Listen to a podcast radio interview with Corey and Mindy here.

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A Gay Dad’s Requiem on the Death of Fred Phelps

ImageI 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 was not a contributor to the hardest time of that fight which was not the recent battles for marriage equality.  It was during the escalation of the AIDS crisis.  While so many of my wonderful friends became instantly sick and dying, the public landscape was filled with squeaky clean looking politicians and evangelicals who casually ignored or demeaned us.  Our challenge as a community then was not to be embraced or given equality, it was to gain a modicum of dignity and respect.  He was inspired by that lack of respect and sought to capitalize on it.

The nineties arrived with progressive gains were in process, still painfully slow.  Then an event occurred that was so graphic and raw, that it tore not only at the heart of the LGBT community, but 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 Mathew 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 Mathew’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.

Now, Fred Phelps is dying.  Many will celebrate, and many will make comments about picketing his funeral in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation.  I will not be among them.

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.

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.


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