Billy was from Greenburg Indiana, Seth lived in Tehachapi California, Tyler just started school at Rutgers in New Jersey, Raymond was in school in Providence Rhode Island and Asher lived with his parents in Houston Texas. I didn't know them, but I know their story, because it's my story.
At Seth's memorial, his 11 year old brother Shawn said "Seth was the best big brother in the world, no, the galaxy." Wearing a yellow plaid shirt, Seth's favorite color, Shawn then, without mentioning the word, made a heartbreaking reference to bullying. "I always wanted to protect him," as sobs broke out in the church. "I just wish people could have been nice to him like my Mom taught me."
Tyler Clementi's parents said that they hope their son's death "will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity. The outpouring of emotion and support from our friends, community and family and from people across the country has been humbling and deeply moving, we thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts."
Please wear shorts, flip flops and t-shirts to Asher's memorial, "that is the way he would have liked it."
Raymond, Tyler, Seth, Billy, and Asher had dreams. Billy loved fashion, Tyler played the violin. The only thing they had in common was they were bullied because other kids thought they were gay and they killed themselves.
Their story is my story. Growing up gay in America means coming to terms with the fact that you are different from other members in your family. In my community there is great shame attached to being different.
I remember praying to God asking him to change me. I would do anything he wanted, if he would make me straight. The shame I felt about being gay was something that I was unequipped to handle, I was too scared to talk to my friends I felt completely alone.
Luckily there was a Gay Community Center (GCC). This was before the term LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender). I remember walking past the door several times before I found the courage to walk in. Through the Center I made new friends, I joined a support group and I discovered that I was not alone.
Even with all this support, I didn't come out to my parents until I was 21. By then I had a boyfriend (the president of my fraternity), a new life with new friends, but they were all a secret. Coming out to my parents was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Even though I was just telling the truth about who I was and who I loved.
Dan Savage started a great campaign called It Gets Better. Go to this site and record a message, share it with your friends, and learn how you can make a difference. In addition to telling our stories, tell us what you did to make it better.
- Went to my LGBT community center
- Joined a support group
- Found a mentor
We need to give real solutions to help our children find their way home. Some are lost and need hope and options. Why is the Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council writing on this topic? Next week I will do a piece that will discuss the connection to HIV/AIDS. This week I just want to be a gay man who is concerned about our community's children.
Yours in the struggle,