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Read this article today and felt the need to share. I’m so proud to call myself a member of an organization that fights back. For those who are unaware, there is a new non profit in Atlanta called the Saint Lost and Found. They cater to homeless queer youth and do an amazing job. This is the back story of their namesake…
17yo’s suicide – a message to be strong
By Michael Gorman
This article is for the teenagers in our community. OK, you old folks can listen in if you want – then hand this column to a kid you know. But this one is for you under-20 types.
Why should you gays listen to some old guy you haven’t even met? Good question. Maybe you shouldn’t. Of course you don’t have to believe a word I write, so what could it hurt? And old dudes can be cool to have around sometimes, my son assures me. When he needs to see some issue from a historic perspective, I’m as good as a history book and easier to access.
I share what I can of my experience and my scars with him because I want to make his path a little smoother than mine was.
I try to be honest about the world. Too many adults aren’t . I keep hoping he won’t get broadsided by stuff as much as I was. I love him. I love his generation. You guys. you’re so much cooler and more sophisticated than my generation was at your age. you’re more tolerant. You’re more honest. You’re braver. I’m looking forward to the things you’re going to give this tired world. That’s why I wanted to write to you.
See, there’s something that’s been on my mind lately. It all started with a 14-year-old guy named E.J. Byington.
I don’t know if you remember E.J. He was the guy who came out of the Capital Christian Center three Easters ago and joined the gay, lesbian and bi protesters gathered with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence out on the street. he got put on the news. As a result, the church rejected him, his cousin beat him, and his aunt kicked him out of the house. We found him in a foster home here in Sacramento, and he ended up coming out of the closet, thanks to the support of other teenagers at the Lambda Community Center.
When the state of Nebraska [they had legal guardianship over him] found out he was hanging out with gay friends, they took him back to Nebraska and put him in a military family. he ran away. Then they put him in a group home where he got beaten up for being gay. He ran away again, but they put him back in the home. he was beaten again. Finally they put him with his grandmother in Minneapolis, but when she found out he was gay she kicked him out too. He was beaten unconscious in an alley that night and “rescued” by a pimp. He ended up calling for help from a pay phone on the corner he was working.
Gay people have connections. With the help of this really cool, really butch straight lady activist in Minneapolis, we snatched him off the streets. The Sisters provided a plane ticket back to California. When E.J.’s homophobic social worker in Nebraska found out he was back in California, she almost had a cow, but none of us could remember [heh heh] where E.J. was staying, so we couldn’t help her get him back.
E.J. lived in San Francisco for almost two years. He had a gay foster dad who loved him. He was beginning to heal even though it wasn’t easy after all he’d been through. Last fall, Nebraska finally managed to take him back. he was 17. he was hurt. he was scared underneath it all. he was in despair about the idiot adult world that couldn’t even get its shit together enough to just let him grow up honestly and safely. he couldn’t see a way out. he couldn’t imagine how things could get any better. Last year, at his new foster home in Nebraska, he hung himself.
I’ve cried a lot of tears for E.J. I want to believe he’s in San Francisco somewhere making out with a cute guy. I want to know he’s where I can call him to tell him that things will maybe get better. But he’s not. He’s dead.
Some of the tears I cry are for myself; I miss him in the world. I want to believe the noise I keep making at protests and in print can make it better for the ones who come after me. For my son. For E.J. it was too little too late and that really pissed me off. At the world. At myself. I don’t know.
I’ve been remembering how it felt to be a gay kid in this ageist, homophobic world, having to watch every movie and TV show tell me I don’t fit in. You get bombarded every day by the message that you aren’t as important as adults, that your ideas don’t count, that your needs come second. you are taught your sexuality is bad, godless, sick. And if you develop a little bit of an attitude about the way you are treated, they harass you for being a troublemaker. Hell, if half the adults you deal with every day had to put up with the shit you do for only a single day, they’d be crawling to the loony bin.
I want to be able to tell you that it’s going to get better. I want to be able to tell you that the world will wake up and realize that you have a right to be respected, safe and unhassled. i want to be able to tell you that the world will wake up and realize that you have a right to be respected, safe and unhassled. i want to be able to tell you that there is a phone number you can call and someone will grant you a happy adolescence. I can’t. Damn it!
But there is one thing I can tell you. You won’t always be a teenager. One day you’ll wake up and be an adult, and there will be a measure of power that comes with that. If you make it through the crap that you face now, you will eventually be able to make more of the decisions for yourself. And you know what? As a gay or bisexual or gay-friendly person who survived the homophobia, you will have a deep well of strength that other people cannot even imagine. Some of us turn that power back on ourselves because we believed the lie that we aren’t as good as other people. If you can reject that for the bullshit it is and turn your strength outward, you will make an incredible impact on the world.
In the meantime, please make me a promise. Please make yourself a promise. Survive. hang in there. I know you can do it. I did, and I’m the most sensitive sissy I know. We need you. We need the beauty that is inside you, even if nobody realizes it yet. Our community has lost too many people, to AIDS, to cancer, to murder, to suicide. You are the ones who can give us a future. help us fight back by promising to be around.
There will be times when it will seem like the pain or the loneliness is too much, and living isn’t worth it. I wish I could protect you from those times, but I can’t. Nobody can. But you can wait them out if you make the decision to be a survivor. You really can.
I want all the gay boys and dyke and bi kids and the straight kids who love their gay friends and family to raise their right hands [middle finger extended if you like] and repeat after me: “I’m going to make it through this, goddammit! And then they’ll see!”
– Michael Gorman
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Dear Mom and Dad
When you held that little girl in your arms for the first time, this is not what you imagined. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you never really got to play house with your little girl. I’m sorry you never saw me marching through the house in heels too big for me. I’m sorry dress up always included Dad’s button down shirts and never Mom’s pretty dresses. I’m sorry that Sunday mornings were always a battle of wills: “Put on a dress for church! NO, I’m wearing pants!” I’m sorry you never got to shop for prom dresses. I’m sorry you will never get to walk me down the aisle Dad. Mom, I’m sorry we will never get to go shopping for that wedding dress. I’m sorry that I am so private about my personal life because I always assume you don’t want to hear about it. I’m sorry I don’t confide in you enough about things that are going on around me. I’m sorry I don’t feel I can always share with you the exciting things that are happening to me for fear of judgement. I’m sorry that I cut you out of parts of my life that are so very important to me when I know that you truly do care. I’m sorry that my “actions” condone that special look of revulsion when I trip up and tell you about my life.
On the flip side, thank you for always being there for me when I need you most. You are the most amazing parents anyone could hope to have. You love unconditionally and unabashedly even when you don’t always agree or understand. You’ve taught me to love and love fiercely. Your example throughout my life guides me to be a person that cares for others. Your willingness to go the extra mile for those you love and those who need help has entrenched itself in my psyche making me a better person for it. Your faith throughout my lifetime has inspired me and kept me afloat when otherwise it would have crumbled. It is because of you that I can claim (somewhat successfully) to be a competent, well adjusted individual of continually growing faith. All the while accepting and embracing being gay in such a small southern environment. It is because of you that I have an insatiable drive to read and learn. To gather all forms of knowledge whether religiously motivated or worldly. You have taught me to respect those around me but to also question effectively in order to make myself a better person. Because of you I strive day in and day out to be better, to grow, to learn, and to make you proud. I cannot say thank you enough. I am lucky to have you and our family is better off knowing that we have you in our corner. You can never be replaced. I love you, always and through everything.
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I shed tears over you for the first time today. I don’t know how I feel about that. Perhaps in a moment of weakness I admitted I missed you and entertained the idea of “us” again. It quickly faded, but at least I told you that you terrify me. That you feed my fear of giving myself to someone who will up and leave when the going gets tough, when life would be easier with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids. Loneliness crept close to show me that I may miss you, but I can never have you. You were never mine to have in the first place, well; at least you admitted it this time. Your heart was never truly mine; you’ve always belonged to some other man. You may not have known him but he’s always been there for you. Your safety net when you got tired of the difficulty of being with someone like me. Maybe it’s just finally all sinking in that I was a phase to you. My heart aches at the realization that what you thought was love was more than likely an infatuation with the abnormal and “dangerous”. I will readily admit that have a million faults, however, I gave you my whole heart. I let you in closer than I have let anyone in in a very long time. But here I am someone’s experiment. You know, the crazy thing is I’m not mad at you in the least. I’m furious with myself for having fallen and ignoring my gut about you. Then again, I’ve been burned before and I survived. As easy as it would be for me to become jaded because of what you and others have put me through I know that I never will be. It is my conscious effort to be available and open regardless of the outcome because I’ve seen what hurt and hate can turn people into and I refuse to become one of them. I refuse to go through life jaded and scarred by things beyond my control. I refuse to curtail the love I have to give because I’m afraid someone like you could take advantage of it. That kind of love will probably end up killing me, but at least I’ll go having given everything I could. Now, however, the hurt is creeping to the surface and for the first time I’m allowing it to. Every instinct I have is screaming at me to retreat to a solitary place and hurt alone. I’ve grown enough to know however, that I need people, even if I don’t want them right now. So I force myself to be social when inside I want to scream in a padded room and lose it all. I’ll get by and I’ll survive despite all I go through. I’ll care and I’ll love…you, despite myself, because it’s just who I am and how I function. Such is my God given blessing and curse.
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As I enter another day of living “out” in a small conservative town I find myself searching for the positives. Across parts of the country we are fighting for recognition of basic human rights. All that I read and see makes my stomach turn. While there are glimpses of grace and love there is so much hate; hate that transcends religious, political, and individual agendas. Surprisingly, it’s the Southern Baptist Convention that provides the bright spot in today’s search. Last week, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary made a huge statement at convention that enlisted those in the SBC to consider their homophobic remarks and actions. While he may not agree with our “lifestyle” he did urge convention goers to understand and love rather than hate. That is certainly a step in the right direction. The SBC president even went so far as to sit and have a civil discussion with GLBT protesters. From all that I have read and gathered he is now gathering heat from the far corners of fundamentalist evangelism, God give him the strength to continue to love. All that being said, it breaks my heart see, hear, and feel the disdain and judgment of the so many people. From the loud speaker of a political figure to the tiny look of my family, there’s nothing quite like realizing you are on the “wrong” side. It makes the moments spent with all those who see me only for who I am and who understand those looks all the more precious. Perhaps it’s living in a small conservative area that heightens my sensitivity to the more emotional side of my life. But it’s so refreshing to be in the presence of people who truly understand the fears, the hurt, but also the joy. It baffles my small mind how so many can disregard and act out against truly good people. I wonder if it would make any difference at all to see how much we give, how much we help. I wonder how my family’s reaction would change if they could see the good that we do for others, the charity we support, the love we give unabashedly. Because I’m not of an approved “lifestyle” does that make my Christ-like love less? You see what you want to see, what you’ve been programmed to see, what you’ve been taught to see. Here is what you won’t see, what you cannot bring yourself to open your heart and engage in…
You cannot see the thousands we help support when we put on ridiculous looking drag shows. You cannot bring yourself to see past your prejudice to see the love that is felt so deeply when I wrap my arms my friend who has hurt for so long he/she can barely love hirself. You don’t see the pain we hide so as not to make you uncomfortable. You don’t see the fear that is thick like fog when I walk into a place and every head turns and looks. Is this the day I get beat up? You can’t see the Christ-like love that shines when I give my last dollar and all my time to sit and just be with someone who hurts, who needs a friend, who needs to know that they are valued and loved regardless of what others have told them. Do you see the love that crosses gender, racial, and religious boundaries because I know exactly how it feels to be hated.
All you allow yourself to see is who I lay next to at night, even though that love is more unconditional than you could imagine.
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Having received my first bit of hate mail do to the name and statement of my first blog I feel the need to clarify things a bit. I was commented by what I assume would be a “vegan” and declared uneducated and judgmental because I poked fun at someone who loudly proclaimed their “vegan” status and then justified eating cheese by saying it was ethical. I am not hating on anyone who occasionally slips from whatever diet choice they may partake in. I understand that vegans/vegetarians often have no choice in the matter or for decorum sake sometimes ingest things they normally wouldn’t. I am, however, intolerant of those who berate their peers and anyone within speaking distance of the unethical nature of our own eating habits. The “new convert” syndrome that grabs all of us at some point or another can be overbearing to others around us, and yet we all learn to tolerate it.I am also not above agreeing with what many vegans/vegetarians believe in. That being said, no one likes to be preached at and given the opportunity, yes I will confront you when you excuse your slip from “grace” by declaring that it was “ethical”. The situation in which this blog title arose was not a forced one either. Our “vegan” entered a well known national “grill” known for all things meat. Not to mention the fact that said national chain is owned by a horribly unethical entity in itself. Had it been an occasion where the establishment was not of their own choice, yes, I would have shown sympathy. Had they simply stated “man I really wanted some cheese and even though it’s not vegan I made sure that it was ethical at least”, yes, I would have had sympathy. However, that was not the case, our “new convert” decided to condemn those around them, sit atop their pedestal, wave heroically claiming that all who do not follow shall perish in unethical animal killing hell, and yet still try and justify their hardcore vegan status by claiming “oh it was ethical”. Nope, not gonna fly. If you’re going to own it, own all of it. If you make a mistake, just say so. Be who you are without hesitation, but also be prepared to know exactly who you are and what you stand for before climbing atop your mountain of glory and claiming divine knowledge.
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– Just because you can press the keys on the piano does not give you the right to torture me with an hour of the intro to fur elise/lean on me/heart and soul/chop sticks.
-If you played that song at your 5th grade piano recital you’re not allowed to play it here.
-If you happen to have the ability to play something more advanced please pick more than two songs to play over and over again.
-Please do not wander aimlessly in front of the counter for fifteen minutes, sit down, and as soon as I leave to work on something else proceed back to the counter to order.
-I am here to serve you delicious and wonderful coffee. I am nice and friendly, that doesn’t mean I’m your bitch. So don’t get crazy!
-We are not a table waiting establishment, so if you walk away after you order your order will sit on the bar and wait for you to return.
-I promise I’m not flirting I just want your tip money.
-If you picked up an Atlas Pizza menu, looked around, and STILL tried to order pizza then you should know that the nut house is just around the corner and will be here momentarily to collect you.
-If you’re going to attempt to hand me your number through the tip jar it better be wrapped around something bigger than a $1…REALLY?!!
-If you’re a regular and I make the extra effort to make your drink so that you never have to wait and never have to order then you better tip me or I’ll start forgetting who you are.
-What the hell is a regular? When I ask you what size you want and you say regular You shall get in return whatever the hell I want to give you.
-On that note, I understand and comprehend Starbucks lingo. However, when you order a “tall” and I ask, to clarify, “tall as in small” don’t look at me like I’m retarded and say “uhhh noooo, large”…what line of logic are you basing your decision making on?!
-Even though I know you have a head injury and a memory problem I am not employed to be at your beck and call, especially when you’re being a….yeah.
-Just because I know you doesn’t mean you’re getting my discount.
-If you take my dishes outside to eat/drink in the pretty sunshine please bring them back, I’m not your mother.
-Do to the placement of the 48 trash cans in our lovely establishment please refrain from leaving your trash all over the place…once again, I am not your mother.
-If you do not receive a paycheck from this establishment please keep your janky self on the opposite side of my counter…there are 47 other trash cans that you may dispose of things in.
-If I fill your coffee cup too full, just let me know and I will be happy to pour some in the sink, but please do not pour it in the trashcan. I have to clean that out at the end of the night and that’s disgusting.
-Please refrain from asking me ridiculous questions when the answer is right in front of you. When you stare at the menu and ask me the difference between a mocha and a mocha bianca I want to slap you because there is a detailed explanation right in front of you.
-If you come in here and don’t know what you want don’t stare at me like I’m suppose to know. Put on your big kid underoos, gander at the menu and figure it out…I am not paid to be a mind reader.
-If you’re a regular and I don’t recognize you or haven’t seen you before please don’t stand there and stare at me like I’m suppose to know what you order. Tell me “Hello my name is Inigo Montoya. I am a regular and I would like to order a spectacular medium latte with cinnamon sprinkles. I will always order a spectacular medium latte with cinnamon sprinkles. Just so you know” At this point I will smile and make you a spectacular medium latte with cinnamon sprinkles. From then on I will know to say, “How ya doin Inigo, you want the usual?” Thanks.
-Merlin?….just say no
-If you come in with a giant group that takes up all of our tables…have the common courtesy to order something. I appreciate you wanting to use out place of business as a meeting place and will be happy to accommodate you and any of your needs, but come on…REALLY?!
-This is not glamor shots or lifetouch studios…unless you see a jcpenny sign out front please refrain from bringing in your high school senior and her “photographer” and setting up shop. That’s not what’s cool.
-It’s not in my job description to wait on you to finish your phone conversation before order as a long line of customers begins to pile up behind you. Either hang up or get out of line and finish your conversation you’re being rude!
-Please open your eyes and look around before asking me stupid questions like “do you have any napkins”…no sir we don’t but if you really feel like you might need one look right in front of you at the sign that says “NAPKINS”…oh and hit up lenscrafters on the way home for good measure.
-“do you have any creamer”…why yes we do ma’am, if you’ll look up on the ledge to your left its in the little refrigerator marked “creamer”. Why must everyone immediately look down and to the right and then proceed to rifle through the drawers and cabinets as if the creamer is the holy grail hidden away down the winding staircase, past the fire-breathing dragon, slay the hideous beast, leap the river of fire, cross the barely functioning rope bridge, (cue the hallelujah angels)….oh my god there it is!!!
-“sooo like, um, does, like the iced mocha have ice in it. Face palm, WTF!!…nah we just put that on there to mess with you.
-FYI – There’s a big ass mirror in front of me so I can see you checking out my ass as i pull your espresso shot…you’re not slick, just a creeper.
-“why hello there locally elderly artist, I would love to help you put your crappy art on the wall. Do I like it?…..um, yes yes I love repetitive paintings of barns/cows/something resembling flowers. Oh you’ve been taking art classes at the local senior center, that’s so nice.”
– Hi I’m not one to judge, but if your child climbs on the back of my couch and tries to swing from the light fixture one more time I’m gonna kill him.
-We strive to have a comfortable, chill vibe in our lovely store. Annnnd i can see we’ve gone above and beyond because your laying down with your shoes off reading while your children run a muck. We are not your living room, thanks.
-We encourage anyone and everyone to feel welcome. Smokers, we have provided you a cigarette bucket and 4,000 ashtrays, now please stop throwing your butts on our patio. I have to sweep up that disgusting mess and if it continues I will start putting them in your coffee. Have a nice day!
Well, that concludes this installment of how much i love working in a retail environment. Please feel free to add or edit as you see fit. Enjoy!
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So today was suppose to be day one for my fast, alas it is not. After having researched some more and looking at my upcoming schedule it isn’t meshing together very well. Don’t judge quite yet. According to the majority of the research that I’ve been looking at a prolonged fast should be attempted during a relative calm. Most prolonged fasts actually take place in a fasting center with no distractions and tons of sleep to let your body heal properly. The more energy you exert the longer the fast generally takes. I thought long and hard about what postponing this would do. I am actually really looking forward to fasting and want to do it properly. I can’t do that right now with my schedule as hectic as it is, and that’s ok. However, I do have a wonderful week of vacation coming up in May. A full seven days spent beach side with tons of books. The selfish part of me wants to eat tons of seafood and enjoy the home cooking that will take place with the whole family together. The “intelligent” side of me knows that this will be a perfect opportunity for a period of my time that will be conducive to a serious fast. As much as it may suck to be around all of my family while they partake in delicious food, I also know that getting away from everything and having some quiet time is essential to healing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. My hope is to take that vacation and experience a trans-formative change of my own doing. I want to be able to experience at least a short period of relative calm and quiet, relax and let my mind go, stare into nothingness and listen to all that is around me.