A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Homophobia in the Family that Produced the Reigning Miss World 2015

Miss World evoleq

 

It is one of the great ironies. One family is capable of producing a member who becomes world renown for beauty. At the same time, it secretly houses another who excels at barbaric ugliness. It seems that is the legacy of the Lalaguna family of Spain.

December 19th is a day that pharmacy student Mireia Lalaguna will never forget. It was the night she was crowned Miss World 2015 and declared the most beautiful woman in the world.

Less than two weeks later, it would be a day that her fan Paul Skye Kahawaty would not forget either— albeit for very different reasons. He would run into the vile ugliness of her brother, Oriol.

For many of us, the standard of beauty is greater than just a pretty face. We idealists hope for excellence in humanity, integrity and grace to be of equal importance to any aesthetics. So far, those elements on Lalaguna’s reign have been a bit rocky. Already she has admitted that she “cheated a little” by presenting herself in a video playing the piano. The score of the video is a piano score that Ms. Lalaguna did not play and does not know how to play according to the Bangalore Mirror.

If cheating is at all unattractive, it pales in comparison to the homophobia in at least one of her family members however.

Paul Skye Kahawaty had not come from a beautiful life. By age 20, he had lost both his parents. He had experienced years of physical abuse from another relative. He sought healing through music, art, a love of animals and beauty pagents. “It is not external aspect of beauty pageants but the ethos of beauty pageants that I love.”

He was thrilled when Lalaguna won her crown. Miss Lebanon has been his first choice, but his Spanish blood could not help but be thrilled over that country’s historic win. No other Miss Spain had captured the Miss World crown before. “I can feel the sincerity of Miss Lalaguna and you can feel that she’s not being plastic. Her blue eyes are really eye catching.” As any fan would, he went online to find out all about his new celebrity. On Facebook he ran into Oriol’s profile and after a bit of research, determined that Oriol is Mireia’s brother.

He sent Oriol a note. “My intention was to congratulate and greet him, like I said convince myself that she’s from a virtous family,that she’ll live up to responsibility of being Miss World.”

Kahawaty wrote: “I can’t be mistaken you must be the brother of Miss World 2015 Mirea Lalaguna Royo. You must be proud of your sister, even though I never knew her at all, I can feel that she really wanted to (be) the voice of Beauty With a Purpose campaign of Miss World. Her response was so heart-warming and you can really feel her passion, actually my paternal grandfather is from there, so somehow I’m proud of her triumph, wherever my late dad is for sure he’s very happy that someone from Spain has already captured the Miss World Crown. Thanks so much, Regards to your entire family and god bless. Belated Merry Christmas.”

It seems upon receiving this bit of fan mail, Oriol Lalaguna Royo checked out Kahawaty’s Facebook page and determined his sexual orientation. This, alledgedly, was his reply:

“yes, and so what. And who cares. Are you stalking me, you’re just a fucking faggot. You bring nothing but diseases like AIDS. You gay people cause nothing but trouble, may your mother fucker die now.”

Kahawaty was devastated by the outright vitriol and hatred. His hurt was multiplied over the allusion to his mother who had died recently. He apologized:

“I’m sorry Mister Royo, I did not mean to irk you. But you, I was so offended by the “MF” word cause my mum past away almost 2 years ago and I still feel the void over her loss. Once again, I’m very, very sorry.”

Just as his sister had pushed forward in a showcase of beauty that few have hopes of attaining, Lalaguna Royo, allegedly, pushed with similar passion into the darkness of ugliness and homophobia.

His final response to the apology was to send Kahawaty a picture of a boy with half his face blown off, with this note: “So now she is in hell burning with other doomed souls. I hope you die before the new year comes, shame on you, you must die like this kid. MAY YOU ROT IN HELL BULLSHITBULLSHITBULLSHIT!!! “

See image of the exchange below (warning, the graphic is extreme — the graphic is so awful that it does not pass Facebook standards, and was removed from the Facebook page Stop-Homophobia where it first appeared.)

My note to Miss World:

Dear Miss World,

Congratulations on your win of such a prestigious title. My hope that this accomplishment iDear Miss World,s not the end of a road, but the beginning of one. We are in a world where there is horror and monstrosity daily. You have an opportunity to bring a ray of beauty and kindness in your new role, and I hope you can live up to that challenge.

It seems you may need to start at home.

The alleged abuse by your brother towards one of your fans is unfathomable. I sent a note to your agents and got no response. My hope is that you see this and build a bridge back to decency.

This is not just about an exchange between two young men. This is about homophobia, a plague of darkness that rips families apart, throws teens from their homes, while subjecting others to devastating bullying and leading still more to suicide.

We live in an age where we now know that physical harm, just like physical attractiveness, are not as lasting as destruction to the psyche or the depth of beauty in the soul to heal such devastation.

The ability to bring healing to others lives is the only passionate beauty, truly. I have experienced it in my own life, in many small ways. I have lived it fully however in being able to take two small infants in harms way from drug addiction and neglect, and raise them into two happy, well adjusted young teen boys.

My hope is that you can represent true beauty. My hope is that the sparkle in your eyes is not of a superficial babble, but indication that you wish to transmit love and dignity to all who admire you.

Please speak out against the vile hatred that has been expressed out of your own family tree.

You are Miss World the winner of beauty. Maybe a stronger accomplishment would be the miss who can bring healing and beauty to the world.

One of your fans has already been devastated by ugliness in the wake of your win. Please turn that around for the rest of your fans and be not only the beauty who won in a pretty world, but the one who brought beautiful healing to an ugly one.

That then would certainly be an accomplishment worthy of a crown.

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Below is the graphic image of the exchange described above, please do not look at it if you are disturbed by extreme images.

 

oriol lalaguna message

Note: We have received an email from Mr. Lalaguna Royo who claims the exchange to be a fraud. From everything that Mr. Kahawaty has shown indicates otherwise– but this is Mr. Lalaguna’s denial: “My name is Oriol, Miss World brother, and I have already reported 2 months ago to the local authorities the news you are spreading for a fake identity and finally the case had been closed, reporting all the guilty webs, but now I have seen this again and my obligation is to do it again. The capture of the fake conversation you are spreading was created using a photo editor and fake (facebook, twitter, etc) accounts, and you are helping that person to achieve his awful purpose. So please, erase that information you shared via social networks to start solving the problem. I have been brought up to be a respectful person. This kind of news destroy my reputation.”

Posted in Family, Hatred, News, Prejudice | Tagged | 8 Comments

A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Donald Trump and Mark Rubio’s War of Penises

Rubio evol

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

 

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate male physique and anatomy. That would define the “gay” part of being a “gay dad.”

I have a healthy appreciation. I don’t particularly like when male genitals are referred to as “junk”. I consider them anything but, and quite frankly, I find that label homophobic.

As I was growing up, I was told that penises were no big deal — that “every guy has one” and “they are all the same.” As a grown up, particularly one with great transgender friends and associates, I can tell you that neither of those statements is true.

I also know that many guys seem to like to talk about their penises. Over the course of the social media adventure, I have been a happy member, pardon the expression, of a number of online communities of men and dads. I’m on a couple of mostly straight guy communities, and another that is made up of gay dads. While the straight guy communities have frequent penis references, the gay dad group never does. And I mean NEVER. That is not to imply that all gay “community” sites are that way. There are obviously certain apps where people are more likely to represent themselves with an image of their intimate parts than they are of their face. In the gay dad group, private parts are not what we are about.

Ahhhh… “private parts”…. Remember when the penis was treated that way?

That is still the standard I have set with my sons, who are both 13 years old. I have raised them from birth and infancy after each was born to drug addicted parents. Throughout my goal has been to inspire self worth, self respect and a sense of self dignity in them. They understand that their bodies are private and worthy of protection. They also know to extend that respect and dignity to others.

It is a lesson that apparently several of the GOP candidates never got, or if they did, have chosen to ignore. Here is my letter to them.

Dear Mr. Rubio and Mr. Trump,

Gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, put your phallic allusions away. I cannot imagine what you each sought to gain by going to the genitals, but whatever it was, you are not getting the rise from it that you had hoped.

Mr. Rubio, I blame you for this. You started this conversation with a likely calculation that reality TV star Trump could not resist the invitation to follow you. Your strategy to literally sink below the belt is actually pretty fascinating.

Of all the candidates on the roster, you have been one of the most outspokenly homophobic. You have heralded people who would discriminate against LGBT people and expressed desire that they not be condemned for it. You unabashedly would love to see LGBT people stripped of our civil rights and ushered out of polite society.

At the same time, you are dodging those darn gay rumors about you. Most do not give them credibility. No man has claimed to have had sex with you. The rumors are based on reports that you allegedly were in some pretty raucous male erotic environments. Was it you, or a look alike? Those who reject the conjecture that you might be secretly bisexual cite the facts that you fathered children and you have built an anti-gay political career as proof. For many of us with experience in LGBT civil rights, we see both facts as typical covers for a closeted man with intense internalized homophobia.

In any case, here is a tip for you. If you are trying to skirt rumors that you may be secretly attracted to men sexually, it would be advised that you not signal that one of your main thoughts about a fellow candidate is how big his penis is, or is not.

So yes, Mr. Trump, you were goaded into the temptation to talk about your penis. Since you had previously speculated on being sexually attracted to your own daughter, anticipating you might jump on this was not a leap. It does not excuse your behavior.

You both make me embarassed. You make me ashamed of being an American. You make me ashamed of being a male. You make me ashamed of being a leader. Neither of you deserve to be in contention of representing me as any of those things.

I don’t agree with either one of you on your law and economics agendas, but those are not the only things I look to a President to be about. I look for a person who brings a sense of decorum, class and inspiration.

The women in this race seem to understand the concept. I cannot imagine Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina going on about each others body parts. (Full disclosure: Ms. Fiorina was caught on live microphone criticizing Barbara Boxer’s hair in their California Senator race. So, Mr. Rubio, you couldn’t have gone after the hair, such an easy target? No, you had to go for the penis.)

As my sons grow into the men that I hope they become, I do not want them influenced by public leaders with no sense of propriety. I want them to emulate men with heart, compassion and who embrace others, even their competitors with decorum and grace.

My dad was a Republican man. He embodied those qualities. I would be proud to have my sons emulate him, but not you, the men who see themselves as the ultimate Republican male of today.

I hope, they look to the gay dads of the world instead. The men who inspire are the ones who respect the physical being of others, strive towards compassion for their essence, and work to understand their principles even in the effort to refute them.

That does not describe either of you.

If we are what we think about, you two, are apparently a pair of…..

Well, I think you get the picture.

 

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Posted in Hatred, News, Politics, Prejudice, US Politics | Tagged | 7 Comments

A Gay Dad Letter to Matthew Shepard

matt s evol

 

Today Matthew Shepard, had he lived, would have been 39 years old. Instead, he forever will be remembered as a gentle looking young 21-year old who left for dead on a cold Wyoming plain, crucified for being gay.

I spoke recently to his friend Michele Jouse. Michele attended boarding school with Matthew when they were teens. Now, years later, after almost two decades of rage and grief, she gathered her emotions and was able to make a documentary film Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine. I interviewed her on my radio show, Out in Santa Cruz.

Many of us thought we knew Matthew. We didn’t. Not like those in his real life did.

Others today do not know him at all. As I talked about the interview to several straight people, the instant response I got was, shockingly to me, “Who is Matthew Shepard?”

My answer back: “Matthew Shepard was the young man who was crucified at the hands of homophobia. He died so I didn’t have to.”

Here is my letter to Matt. Happy birthday, young man, wherever you are.

Dear Matt,

It is your birthday. Yet, I am thinking of your death. I will never forget how that atrocity became seared into my psyche, and on the psyche of thousands.

For many, who had not given a single thought to LGBTQ rights at the time, you represented the “kid next door”, their neighbor, their own child. Your death rightly terrified them. The hatred and continued persecution, by the then less famous Westboro Baptist Church, further fed a new awareness as to the depths and horrors of homophobia.

We did not know the three dimensional Matt, however. At 21, you were already making your moves on activism, and filled with a desire to have a voice against prejudice. You were already battling demons in this world including HIV. These demons had gotten to you long before that fateful night in Laramie.

The worst was when you were visiting Morocco with friends, on leave from boarding school. You ventured out of the closet you had built and slipped into the night on your own, presumably to find the gay part of a strange town. I get that. When I was young, closeted, traveling with others, I did the same. As we put up the facade, we look for that time, later at night when we can find the space to breathe as ourselves. Your stepping out did not bring you relief . Instead, it had you fall prey to a group of six thugs who lay in wait for a gentle gay boy so they could rape him.

That is what they did to you. Foreshadowing a worse and more renown event to come, they not only abused your body, they threw you into a darkness that only the vilest of homophobia can create.

It was a darkness that you worked to escape in a return to home, to Wyoming, to the land of your innocence. As you were emerging from it, and finding your voice as an LGBTQ activist, homophobia found you again and this time, slaughtered you. I have been told that the activism spirit that we have witnessed in your mother Judy had not “fallen far from her tree.” The activist she became was the one you had intended to be yourself.

As you lay clinging to life, in a state that would have at best, left you barely functioning, your family was being asked if they wanted to remove life support. It was a choice they would never want to make. A family friend came in to talk to you, and in his talk, he told you that it was ok for you to let go of your life. He told you that all you personally set out to do, to become a voice and hero, had been done. You had lent fame to the issue and laid out homophobia in its stark bare evil for the world to see. He told you that you would be famous. That night, having heard him, your spirit departed, allowing the rest of your legacy to begin.

crossesA child of December, strung up on a cross, left to die on a lonely plain, who certainly had a final cry to God, “Why oh, why, hast thou forsaken me?” It is all too reminiscent for me as a Christian. Where the man who experienced it first died as a lightning rod for our sins, you died as a lightning rod for the scourge of homophobia. You inspired a change in consciousness in the mass public that allowed them to see the humanity of LGBTQ people, many seeing it so for the first time. You were of the ripple, that caused a wave, that came crashing through to an equality that most had not dreamed of achieving in our lifetimes.

I stop and wonder what your life would be like now. I think that you would be similar to me. You would have love in your life, and potentially be a gay dad, with kids who adore you. You would have years of being yourself and attracting people who loved you for it. Your ability to live equal, free an safe, however, would have been on the back of a public awareness and a popularity that allowed for it. It begs the question.

Could you have had the love of building your own family in equality if you, yourself had not died to become part of the spirit that made it possible?

We won’t know. All I can tell you is that you gave me a gift I can never repay. As I kiss my two boys goodnight and tuck them in, I reflect that it might not be, had you not made the impact that you did. So, I kiss them, and love them, and think of you. I think of the kisses of your mom and your dad that can never come again. It is a debt I cannot repay to you or to them, but one that I commit to pay forward.

My sons will know your name. Those who know me will know what you represent.

Matt Shepard, you were not a personal friend of mine. I would not be so presumptuous to claim that in respect for those, like Michele Jouse, to whom you were that full three dimensional person.

I will always wish that you had been, however, and I will always carry gratitude for you as if you were. Your value will not be squandered and your ultimate sacrifice will not be in vain.


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The SCOTUS Same Sex Marriage Case Plaintiffs Sound Off on the Mormon Church and Call for a Boycott

unmormon choir

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to the Mormon Church over its new change of policy. That policy not only compared the act of a loving commitment in a same sex marriage to the sin of murder, it specifically called out and ostracized our children. It was the first time a major religion targeted the children of LGBT families and treated them as pariahs.

The sting of that action has been felt far and wide by LDS members and non-members alike. One reaction to the attack was the development of a petition asking that conscientious singers and performers take a stand and decline invitations to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, probably the single most positive outreach into the secular world that the LDS Church deploys. The petition has been catching momentum, and now it has 15 more very prominent signatures.

They are those of a majority of the plaintiffs in the Obergefell case that prevailed at the Supreme Court brining widespread same sex marriage legalization to the United States.

They stood up against homophobia in equal legal protections, and now they stand against it in theological principles.

Here are their thoughts in their own voices: (From their November 24th press release.)

Obergefell plaintiffs have issued the following statements condemning the Mormon Church’s Nov 3, 2015 policy:

“The Mormon Church has chosen to discriminate against same-sex couples and their children in what I can only describe as a cold and cruel response to the SCOTUS ruling making same-sex marriage legal across the nation. As a Christian clergyman and SCOTUS plaintiff, I find this decision by the church to be highly abusive to the LGBT community and their children. I urge folk of good will and moral consciousness, to boycott Mormon Church sponsored events and pressure leadership to reconsider this destructive decision. Resist in love and never comply with religiously motivated bigotry and discrimination.”   Rev. Maurice Blanchard

“We encourage everyone to sign the petition at http://change.org/mormontabernaclechoir, asking the guest performers to cancel their appearance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, because with two small children of our own this policy disheartens us because it tears families apart. This feels like a direct attack of the family recognition that we fought for this summer as plaintiffs in the case that brought marriage equality to our country. “   Pamela & Nicole Yorksmith
“What the Mormon Church is doing is a perfect example of EVIL – especially when you have spiritual leaders condoning hate in the name of God. From the beginning of time people have used God to justify what is unjustifiable. Furthermore, Science is MUCH older than Religion – therefore the Talmas-Vitale family has a hard time believing anything that comes from modern religion – especially one that was founded in 1830!”   Joseph Vitale, Rob Talmas, Cooper Talmas-Vitale

“As named plaintiffs in the Kentucky Bourke vs. Beshear case that was joined with Obergefell vs. Hodges at SCOTUS we reiterate our support for the http://change.org/mormontabernaclechoir petition and what it seeks to achieve. Real people and real families are being torn apart by the LDS Church’s new and hateful policy that punishes innocent children. Please sign and help us spread the word asking the guest performers to cancel.” Greg Bourke, Michael De Leon, Isaiah Bourke De Leon, Isabella Bourke De Leon

“We have had the great privilege to have several devout Mormon friends and close family supporting us in our long struggle for marriage equality. Therefore we have much respect for the church and its devout people of faith. As such, we ask the Elders to please reconsider their recent exclusion of the children of whose parents may be in a same gender relationship. Please do not separate the children from the love of Christ because of the perceived sins of their parents. Remember the words of Christ in Matthew 19:14 ” Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”.   Timothy Love & Lawrence Ysunza-Love

“I’ve always fought for basic fairness for families to include my own. As a plaintiff in the recent Obergefell v. Hodges case that helped advance equality for all families, I am proud to support the http://change.org/mormontabernaclechoir petition, and I call on the guest performers to cancel their Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This latest action of the Mormon Church directly attacks families by forcing children to choose between their Faith or their own family. To place this burden on children is fundamentally unfair.”   Ijpe DeKoe shes innocent children. Please sign this petition and share with your friends to spread the word.”shes innocent children. Please sign this petition and share with your friends to spread the word.”

“We have children along with some of our co-plaintiffs and just thinking how horrible that would be. We do NOT support the church that sees this to be a bad thing having gay parents. Just having parents for so many wonderful kids who need families. We are great parents and it’s not just “gay” parents. We LOVE like all great parents, and to try and verso that up is unthinkable to us. We are equal and we LOVE equally, as though should ALL !!”   Tammy Boyd & Kim Franklin

Photo Courtesy of Scott K. Fausett, © Scott Fausett, all rights reserved

Petition

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Posted in Civil Rights, Marriage equality, Mixing religion and politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

What a Transphobic Texas Teacher Needs to Learn from an Amazing Transgender Five-Year Old

Ellie evol equals main pic

In Texas, the latest punch in the “religious freedom” strategy has been thrown. Previously, the anti-gay movement enlisted cake bakers, florists and a hapless county clerk, Kim Davis (you’ve heard of her, right?). The latest to step up to the victim mouthpiece is a teacher named Madeline Kirksey. Kirksey claims that her “religious freedom” has been violated because she has been asked to refer to a transgender child by the child’s chosen name and proper gender pronoun. Kirksey has refused to do so, and claims that she was fired as a result (the school denies that this is the case).

But it should be the case. Ms. Kirksey deserves to be fired.

Vanessa [last name withheld], a teacher in Washington D.C., points out why: “[This teacher] discriminated against the child. It is the job of a teacher not only to support our students, but also to value their diversity. It is our job to ensure students are safe, physically and emotionally. By misgendering the student and refusing the preferred name, the teacher is explicitly hurting the child…on purpose. The well-being of our children is directly linked to affirming families and communities. For children, school is where they spend most of their time. This type of direct discrimination and disrespect puts the child at higher risk of self-harm and suicide. A teacher wouldn’t bully a cis student and get away with it.”

Vanessa’s husband, Ron, concurs, “It’s shocking that people’s religious beliefs are so strong that they would not acknowledge a kid’s new name. Support and acceptance for transgender people have been substantially lacking, and my fear is how these kids will be accepted and kept safe.”

Vanessa and Ron have become de facto experts in how trans kids should be treated. Their almost five-year-old daughter, Ellie, is transgender. They are a family rooted in strong values. Vanessa’s parents lived the ultimate love story, meeting young and falling in love for a lifetime commitment. Ron’s parents were also in love, but the family had to deal with tragedy. When Ron was ten years old, his dad died of brain cancer. “The emotional scars were still deep, knowing my dad was no longer living. So, when I met Vanessa and thought about raising a family, I really wanted to ensure she and our kids were what I focused on—my role as a husband and dad. They came first,” he told me.

Their son, Ronnie, was born first. Ellie was due eighteen months later. “We had an amniocentesis and found out the ‘sex,’ but at the time we really didn’t think about sex and gender being different. We pretty immediately formed a family identity as ‘Vanessa and Ron with two small boys.’” The amnio did not tell the truth about Ellie, however. The packaging was misleading. As soon as she was able to speak, Ellie set about clarifying who she was to her parents. “I’m not a boy. I am a girl. I’m a girl in my heart and my brain. My penis is my only boy part. The whole rest of me is girl,” she would explain to them out of the blue, without prompting.

Vanessa was disturbed when she witnessed Ellie trying to fight her own inner truth. Ellie would lie in bed at night, unable to sleep, poking her chest and attempting to convince herself of something she was told but did not believe: “Boy, boy, boy! I have to be a boy! I have to like power rangers!”

Witnessing this struggle, Vanessa and Ron knew it was time for them to transition. Their daughter had spoken, and they had to listen. Ellie had already rejected the name she was given at birth. She had been okay with it until she realized people would see her as a boy if she used it. So she informed her parents that she was “Ellie.” The results of Vanessa and Ron’s full acceptance of Ellie was dramatic. “She blossomed, became happier and just seemed more herself. We have a happy, silly, strong-willed, outgoing daughter. Before her transition, she was mostly quiet, shy, sometimes angry and certainly not outgoing. At the forefront of parenting is ensuring the happiness and safety of your children. It was clear that by not listening to her, we’d be putting her at risk, and that is not something we were willing to do,” Vanessa says, emphatically.

Ron and Vanessa then did the incredible; not only did they not hide what was going on in their family, they built a new community consciousness around their child. Ron explains. “My concerns were about how society would view Ellie. Ellie is of two different races: Caucasian and African-American. This should not be an issue in modern society in America, but it still is, to a certain degree. Ellie is also a transgender girl, so now we have a really interesting kid and a dynamic on various levels. My concern stems from this convergence—her growing up as biracial and transgender—and what she will face as she gets older. Transgender females of color face the harshest treatment of any trans people. In the African-American community, support and acceptance for transgender people have been substantially lacking, and my concern is about how Ellie will be safe and secure. Society has come a long way, in certain regards, to accepting and supporting people with different gender identities, but there is a lot more that can be done to accept and treat them fairly.” Vanessa and Ron wrote a letter to hundreds of people in their community: Ellie’s teachers, the principal, and everyone who would touch her life. They explained her story in detail and provided eight different resources for people to turn to for further information. If a friend of Ellie’s asked a question, they answered it and then sent a copy of their letter to the child’s parents.

ellie 2Ellie’s school has been entirely supportive; the principal and assistant principal co-signed Vanessa and Ron’s letter. Vanessa says, “Reaction has all been positive. 100 percent…which is surprising. Now, it’s totally possible that it’s not 100 percent positive behind our backs, but all that really matters is that Ellie is respected, cared for, and that people use the right name and the right pronoun for her. We’ve been very surprised by the number of people who we were nervous to tell. We are realistic, and know that at some point she will confront the hate, the anger, and the misconceptions in the world, and we just hope that it can change fast enough for our daughter to lead her life as freely and proudly as she does today. She tells people she is transgender. We kept this specific word from her initially but in reading I Am Jazz, she heard it once and immediately took it on as her own. Our choice to share so publicly was right for our family, but we know that other families have reasons to remain more private. We are just grateful for the response and support we’ve received. Our dream is for Ellie to move forward in life as proud and safe as she is now.”

Ellie 3And, as for Vanessa and Ron’s response to people like Madeline Kirksey and others, who rant and disparage transgender kids? “It should be a nonissue. When adults make it an issue, they are not helping anyone; in fact, their views harm children. This happens everywhere. The fact that a six-year-old is threatening to adults is mind-blowing. A lot of it is fear-mongering. There is a lot wrapped up in sexuality. Children, especially those Ellie’s age, are not sexual people. Her gender identity has nothing to do with sex and won’t be related to sexuality for many years.”

I address Ms. Kirksey and others who share her point of view in the following letter:

Dear Ms. Kirksey,

In the Bible, the book of Proverbs advocates for using a rod on children in five different instances. In the book of Deuteronomy it mandates that rebellious sons who do not listen to their fathers or mothers be stoned to death. You may have a deep-seated religious conviction that everything the Bible says is true and literal, and you may feel a duty to follow it. But I can assure you that if you followed it to the letter with one of my children in your care, I would not stop at getting you fired. I would seek to have you arrested and put away for a long, long time.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that addresses modern kids and the transgender process. And yet you assert that your refusal to address a transgender child by the right name and pronoun somehow flies in the face of your biblical learning. You have flouted parental instruction as to the needs of their child. Instead, you have chosen to challenge the child’s identity on a daily basis. Behavior by adults like you toward transgender children has resulted in this: More than 50 percent of unsupported transgender youth will have made at least one suicide attempt by their twentieth birthday. By contrast, when adults respect the identity of transgender children, according to a study by Trans PULSE, the number of suicide attempts drops by 95 percent.

Your behavior is monstrous. You do not get to cane children with a rod. You do not get to stone them. And you do not get to destroy their self-worth and image. You do not get to do any of that for the sake of your own selfish belief system. There is something greater than dogmatic belief: a common and enlightened sense of dignity.

There is a fabulous little transgender girl named Ellie. Her name means “shining light.” Your name derives from Mary Magdalene, a woman who witnessed such a light and a resurrection. And now it’s time you witnessed a child’s resurrection into the life they need to live in order to thrive and grow.

Your choice is clear, Ms. Kirksey. You could be the teacher whose image a transgender person remembers on the night they decide to end it all just to get your incessant voice repeating the wrong name over and over out of their head. Or, you could be one of their safeguards, the one who told them they could be the best form of themselves. You can be part of what helps them die, or you can be part of what helps them change the world. Vanessa and Ron—as loving, caring parents—have made their choice, as did the parents of your transgender student. They have learned the lessons of listening and love.

The role of a teacher is to guide and inspire. A person who picks denying a child’s very identity, thus nudging them down the path of self-destruction, is not fit to teach.

It is you, Ms. Kirksey, who needs to be taught.

Meet the family in this video!

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Photos: ©Jill Promoli , all rights reserved, used by permission

Thanks to Rachel Hockett for her editing assistance!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Civil Rights, Family, Living, Mixing religion and politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Gay Dad Tells Off the Mormon Church: Leave Our Kids Alone

damned by mormons

It is not news that LGBT folks have suffered abuse and atrocities at the hands of organized religion. From independent Christian Churches who have literally threatened to kill or exile us, to the Catholic Church who for years declared us “intrinsically disordered”, we thought we had heard it all.

That was before the Mormon Church decided to go after our kids.

They have added this to their handbook:

“Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship, The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation…A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows: Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship. A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing. “ In order for that child to get an exception from that rule? The child must accept and commit “to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage. 2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”

I should not be surprised that the Mormon Church is vindictively damning my kids and those in all LGBT families and encouraging them to “disavow” their parents. The church has been one of the most publicly anti-gay forces in fighting against LGBT rights. Not only did they bankroll a huge portion of the Proposition 8 campaign in California, they encouraged their followers to take mortgage loans out on their homes and do the same. Even though the proposition won at the time, long term, it was a poor investment.

Karma is a bitch, and it seemed to play out when after the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8 and DOMA. Utah, the epicenter of the Mormon church, was one of the first states where a federal court ruled they had to accept same sex marriage post-DOMA. That had to be a bitter pill for the Latter Day Saints to swallow.

Many of the people in the Mormon fold did not react well. One writer notoriously threatened to starve himself to death if same sex marriage was not abolished. Another saw the LGBT agenda coming in all directions including as hidden messages in the movie Frozen. Some gay Mormons saw themselves as anti-LGBT rights prototypes who forced themselves into straight marriages so they could then declare that legalized same sex marriage somehow violated their choices.

As strange as all those arguments and actions were, none approached the naked vitriol of this current move.

Dear Mormon Church,

I cannot at this moment call you “saints” as your current move is very un-saintly.

It is one of the biggest ironies for LGBT people: for many years we were warned of the detriments our prospective children would face should we have them. We were told we were inadequate, incomplete, possibly depraved and that our children would be persecuted. Only that very last prediction is proving to be true.

It is proving to be true because the people who made the prediction are seeing to it that it will be true.

The Catholic Church had a theological opinion published in the 1990s who declared that parents like me were doing “violence” to our children simply be being their parents. That was completely offensive, and of course, a lie.

You have taken that hateful sentiment and moved it up a notch. You don’t accuse LGBT parents of committing violence against our kids, you have decided to commit the violence yourself.

You have let it be known that innocent children, too young to even know what a church is, are damned, nameless and unwelcome. You have set forth a rhetoric to inspire them to feel less than any other children and inviting them to self-harm and suicide. Your hope is to ultimately disrupt their family, have them reject the parents who have loved, nurtured and would do anything for them and their safety.

All so you can say you won.

For me, as a gay dad, I cannot describe the depths of anger I feel towards you. My sons, adopted from foster care and drug exposed in their birth mothers’ wombs, are the most precious things in my life. Being their dad is the most important thing I have ever done, or will do. I never realized that it was possible to love another human being so profoundly, let alone two of them. I would die for either one, if it came to that.

More importantly, I will fight for them. I am not Mormon, and will never be one. My kids are not likely to be either. You rejection and message extends to us, however. You have publicly declared my kids lack of value.

While I am not of your religion, I know many who are. There are Mormon LGBT families, who feel the same as I do. I am not unique.

Your attack is not traditional doctrine. There is no biblical reference that supports it (and many that refute it). There is no historical, moral or even ethical precedence for it. While other large denominations are seeking to release themselves from homophobia, you codify it.

You have put out a video claiming that this has been done with kindness. It is a hallow claim when what you have done has no empathy in its intent. All this action says is that you are bitter and vindictive. There is no holiness in that. You cannot excuse it away.

I respect your religious freedom, but you have crossed a line when you go after the children of loving families. I will do everything in my power to rebuke you, speaking out being the first thing. That is part of MY freedom as a dad.

From there, history has already shown how your homophobic intentions have blown up in your face. I don’t see this playing out any differently.

I hope to have compassion for you when it happens, more than you have had for our families and the love in our lives. The truth is, the backlash and consequences will have been earned. You wanted our children’s blood figuratively, and potentially literally, on your hands.

It will be mixed, figuratively, with your own.

Posted in Bible, Family, Gay Christians, Hatred, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , | 23 Comments

A Gay Dad Sounds Off About the Kansas Teacher Who is Getting Fired for Fighting Homophobia

kansas teacher evol equal

Tom Leahy, who teaches social studies at the Conway Springs Middle School in Kansas admits he made some mistakes. He showed teens a film depicting suicide. He showed teens a film that specifically called out the Catholic Church for criticism. He did not give them warning, a chance to opt out, and he did not have their parents’ permission to show the film.

He made some mistakes because he was deeply disturbed by the bullying and homophobic culture he saw evidenced by his eighth graders. As he sought to drive home the point, he cut some corners, which have now landed him in trouble.

Here is why he was so stressed to impact the point of view of his kids: a recent social studies exercise had gone horrifically wrong. He had split the students into groups and told them that they were each a fictional colony. They were to develop their own Bill of Rights, and lay out the principles on which to build their societies. He expected kindness and fairness.

What he got was homophobia. At least one of the colonies declared it would ostracize LGBT people and reject them from their world. Leahy saw some deep, hurt reactions from other students, and that motivated him to want to change attitudes immediately.

So he showed them all the viral video film “Love Is All You Need,” by Kim Rocco Shields, in which the world is reversed and it is heterosexuals who are the bullied and persecuted. The film is no holds barred in its depiction of the damage of bullying.

“I didn’t want just a dorky little film, I wanted something that was important, something that was serious. So that’s the one I came up with. I’m not saying what I did was very smart. It really wasn’t, but I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, and it seemed right at the time,” Leahy told the Witchita Eagle.

Now Leahy has been removed from the classroom, and awaits a school board meeting on November 9th, where he is being asked to offer his resignation. They are expected to take it. Here is my letter to him, and to the board, hoping those events don’t take place:

Dear Mr. Leahy and members of the Conway Springs School Board,

Mr. Leahy, you must not resign. Dear board members, you must not allow him to do so. Whatever problem you think you are fixing by taking this action is miniscule compared to the problem you are creating.

You are letting the bullies win.

No, I am not calling parents, who want to approve of graphic material before it is shown to their kids, “bullies.” They are due an apology, and a promise that such action will not take place again.

They were not the bullies that Mr. Leahy was fighting, however. He was going up against the principles of judgment, intolerance, ostracism and degradation. He was addressing a disease that is evidenced in your population of kids. While his choices were not well thought out, the harm he was seeking to prevent should be a much higher priority.

I am the gay dad of two seventh graders. The colony exercise that took place, in which a mob had declared they would reject their dad from the world, would have devastated and shamed them. They would have suffered in silence, but the harm would go deep.

So too, was the harm felt by a number of your LGBT students. They, in various stages of self awareness, are also likely hidden from you. That does not mean you are free to cease protecting them, it means you have even a greater responsibility to do so.

I am sure you found that the suicide of the lead character, in the film Mr. Leahy showed, disturbing. What is more disturbing is that the spirit of who she represents IS real, and in your population. She is my kid. She is the LGBT kid. She is every child that does not fit the mob mentality “norm.” By your inaction, and condemning of Mr. Leahy for his attempts to reach these kids and defend them, you are signaling for them to listen to their darker instincts. You are inspiring them to hide, to self-harm and even kill themselves.

Did you ask parental permission to do THAT?

Mr. Leahy, I don’t know what pressure you are under to resign, but you must resist it. What you did in showing the film at risk to yourself was heroic.

Your job is incomplete however. Your community has diverted the topic from homophobia to parental notification procedures. You need to right that course, the conversations need to be had, and rectification measures need to be taken. The real lesson still needs to be learned.

If not, the film you showed will not be just a conversation starter, it will be a prophesy. Your sacrifice will have been for nothing.

Sign the petition here.  Conway School District contacts are here.

UPDATE: Thanks to the strong support he has received, Tom Leahy this afternoon decided to NOT resign willingly. The action now will be up to the school board.

Photo: Flickr/CIMIC Center

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Posted in Family, Hatred, News, Prejudice | Tagged | 13 Comments