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Jadin Bell, 15: Bullied for Sexuality Leads to Suicide

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By now, Jadin Bell’s name isn’t news to anyone.  The story began to circulate even before he had taken his last breath.  Days before that, one of his relatives who is also a member of the facebook blog page had told about this tragic turn of events.  We knew this day was coming.jadin-bell-21680Jadin Bell was just 15.  He was vibrant.  He was a cheerleader.  He was bullied, “viciously”, both at school and online, because of his sexuality.  Jadin’s suicide is particularly troubling for me on a few levels:

  • It has a “hit’s home” feel because his relative had been talking to me about even before the Internet media machine picked up on the story.  His relative has been a part of the facebook blog page for quite some time.  Family;
  • It shows that for all of the historic and marvelous gains the LGBT community has made just over the past year, we still have so very far to go.
  • It, at once, saddens and angers me that, in 2013, we’re still dealing with bullying and intolerance to a point where young people feel no other way out but to end their lives.

The question is asked regularly:  “When will this end?”  It’s often accompanied by “What can I do to help make this stop?”  They are two very powerful questions, questions that must be answered before we can expect to see any real changes in this landscape of bullying, intolerance, sexual identification discrimination, and teen suicides.  Of course, there are more factors that must be dealt with, as well.  The point is clear:  more must be done!

“When will this end?”  “This” will end when more people become fed up with seeing these young people feel that the only option they have to end the pain and struggle they’re dealing with is to end their lives.  “This” will end when we, as a society, stop tip-toeing around the scoundrel named bullying and tackle it head-on.  “This” will end when can finally come together on what is the best way to address the issue of bullying and bully-related teen suicides.  We’re still miles apart on that part of the equation!

There is something inherently wrong with the way we’re teaching our young when middle-schoolers believe that bullies are the cool kids!!!  Yet, an article I read just today reports a study that says exactly that!  Surely, tackling the bullying issue in middle school will continue to be difficult, at best, as long as the students there believe that the bullies are the cool ones.

“What can I do to help…”  Get involved!!  Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  There is a Jacob Rogers right there under your nose who just needs someone to let him know that he really does matter, that he’s not invisible, that there really is someone who will stand beside him as he tries to get his footing in life.  There is a Jadin Bell right there in your backyard that needs someone to let him know that he’s perfect just as he is, that he has a lot to offer the world, that the bullying he’s enduring right now will end.  

See, this isn’t rocket science!  What’s needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!  Is your son or daughter a bully?  How do you know?  “Because they said they’re not!”  Really?  How do you know?  You need to know in order to prevent it.  Is your child being cyberbullied?  Then, why on Earth is (s)he still online!?  Simple things.  What is needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!jadin cheerleading
Jadin was a cheerleader.  He was loved by his friends and, obviously, family.  One friend said of Jadin:

Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time.

A friend of the family had this to say about him:

He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones. If someone was down and out he would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift.

“He just had a gift”, a gift that the world has been robbed of.  Enough really is enough.  This really does have to end.  The time really has come for us, as a society, to dig in, roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and bring this torturous chapter to a screeching halt.

So sorry you felt no other way out, Jadin.  Rest in peace.

******************SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION!!  TALK TO SOMEONE…PLEASE!!!!******************

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Dillion Burns, 18, Death by Suicide

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The New Year holiday wasn’t happy for everyone.  On New Year’s Eve, 18 year old Dillion Burns ended his life after, allegedly, being bullied because of his sexuality. dillion burns2At this point, Pennsylvania appears to be running away with the dubious distinction of being the teen suicide capital of the 2012-2013 school year.  It’s a distinction no one should be comfortable with having.

Apparently, one of the contributing factors in Dillion’s suicide was a facebook page designated to bullying people in the Erie area of Pennsylvania:  “Erie on Blast”.  From the information I was able to gather, there was at least one other teen suicide attributed to the activities on that page with at least one other attempted suicide.  The page has since been removed.

Of course, as has become the norm, the local law enforcement are stating that there’s “no evidence” of “criminal activity”, meaning there was no bullying involved.  And, granted, it would be highly unlikely that whatever occurred on “Erie on Blast” was the sole reason for Dillion’s fateful decision.  That said, this event once again reveals a total failure in our society to deal with the bullying, cyberbullying, and related teen suicides.

As adults, we’re failing miserably to get a handle on what’s going on, both in this country and around the world, insofar as these incidences are concerned.  It’s almost as if it’s not being taken seriously at all.  Or, at the very least, it isn’t being given the gravity it so obviously needs.  If that were not the case, if bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicides were being treated as the epidemic they represent, we’d be seeing dramatic declines in all three activities.  That’s not the case.

Young people are failing to get the message that their actions are costing lives.  Or, they just don’t care.  Maybe it’s a combination of the two.  In either case, this fails back on the adults.  Teen suicide has been a fairly prominent topic for the past few years.  Bullying and cyberbullying have both become a national dinner table topics.  There is zero probability that these young people don’t know that their words and actions are causing their peers to end their lives.  Therefore, the only plausible answer has to be that they flat-out just don’t care.  And, that’s a problem of catastrophic proportions.

One necessary solution to this problem is to rid ourselves, as a society, of the cloak of secrecy that surrounds these events.  Keeping these teen suicides and bully-related teen suicides secret is not helping anything.  Granted, it’s the families right to privacy, and grieving the sudden and incredibly traumatic loss of a young loved one to suicide can be devastating.  I get it.  At the same time, the more these events are kept in the shadows, the more pervasive the problem becomes.  As long as no one knows the true impact this is having, the perception will remain that “it’s really not as bad as some people are making it sound”.  In fact, it’s that bad, and even worse.  I’ve stopped counting for this school year, but I know that I have written about more than 40 teen suicides since the beginning of the school year.  FORTY!!!!  And, rest assured, there has been many more than the 40 or so that I know about.  Therein lies the problem…or, at least part of the problem.  Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.dillion burnsAccording to unidentified sources, Dillion had been bullied because of his bisexuality.  Here’s a cold, hard fact:  It’s pure folly for us to even begin to entertain the possibility of young people being more tolerant and accepting of ALL people, regardless of their race or sexual orientation as long as they continue to see adults in their lives be intolerant and bigoted.  Simple fact.  And, the reality is that they need look no further than their televisions, their computers, or (in some cases) their own dinner table.  The negative role models are everywhere.  They young people are being taught that their actions are normal, acceptable, and, in some cases, even expected.

Dillion Thomas Burns didn’t even get a chance to ring in the new year.  To think that he ended his life at least in part because of someone else’s callousness, coldness, and general disrespect for human life is, to me, beyond reprehension.  This isn’t going to end on its own, and talking about “it must end” is proving to be futile.  Like the young man who created the facebook page, Get Rid of Erie on Blast, in response to Dillion’s tragic suicide, we need more and more people to step up and get involved.  It’s the only way we’re going to make a difference.

Rest in peace, Dillion.

********************SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!!********************

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Joshua David Pacheco, 17: Bullied Because of Being Gay

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Tuesday, November 27th, I received this from the creator of Wipe Out Homophobia.  It was sent to him from one of his members:

Today my friend’s good friend, a seventeen year old boy by the name of Josh, killed himself after being continuously bullied for being gay. Josh had his whole life ahead of him, but the ignorant and hateful words of others caused that to be taken away from him. How many people need to die before this world realizes that something is wrong with the way we are treating people?! The constitution states that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Josh was as human as any of the rest of us, yet he was stripped of all of those rights. This needs to change. No matter gay, straight, or anything else, we all are human, and therefore must all stand up for equal human rights. Please, think before you speak, and make an effort to stand up for those around you. Together we can put a stop to this. Rest in peace, Josh. ♥♥josh pachecoJosh was a junior at Linden High School.  His mother describes him as:

“…very sensitive, to others’ needs and feelings but also to his own,” He gave his whole self fully to any person he could.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough as boys from his school constantly and severely bullied Josh until he couldn’t take it anymore.  In talking to the person who originally alerted me about this tragedy, Rachelle, I was able to learn from one of his close friends, through Rachelle, some of the horrors he had to endure.

All I know is that he was bullied in our theatre class by three boys. He felt very uncomfortable. One even went as far as to tell him he spent a lot of time on his knees. He wouldn’t tell everyone who all of them were.josh pacheco2

“That, in and of itself, does constitute bullying although it doesn’t really seem as though it would be enough to push Josh, or anyone over the edge”, is what some would probably say to those charges.  And, on one level, I guess it would make sense.  However, when you add that to other direct information, coming from one of Josh’s friends, it’s a lot easier to understand why he felt he had no other choice:

[members of] the Linden football team pushed him around, [urinated] on him and taped him to his locker.

That action is reprehensible and repulsive.  More to the point, there are obviously people – or, at least one person! – who knows about this.  It is incumbent upon that person, or those people, to come forward with any and all information they have pertaining to this.  Those boys who did this need to be held accountable.  Their actions caused another human being to end his life.  It’s not enough to say that their karma will take care of it.  They need to be dealt with in the here and now.  Anything less is unacceptable.

“Josh would never give us names. He was so intimidated by these kids who picked on him,” Josh’s father, said. “If he would have given me or the school details, we would have handled it. Don’t be afraid to speak out. You need to tell people what’s going on.”

This has gone on far too long!  We’re all aware of the devastating effects bullying can have on people, especially teens!  The “STOP BULLYING!” conversation has been going on long enough, and in enough different forums, that I’m fully, 100% convinced that a.) it’s impossible for any human being with a shred of intelligence to not know what’s going on and what it’s causing; and, b.) those who continue to engage in these actions are simply, and clearly, saying that they just don’t give a rat’s ass about the potential outcome.  And, with that being the case, and seeing the death toll continue to mount, explain to me, slowly so that I can understand it, why these people are not being held accountable?

“He told me he felt like he wasn’t good enough. He said if he lost weight he would be happy,” Joshua’s mother said. “But he wasn’t. Then, he said if he came out [as a homosexual], he would be happy. Then, it was if the kids at school stopped teasing him. He came to me and said he still didn’t feel happy. I realized then it wasn’t something, being a mom, that I could fix.”

These “kids” are being allowed to engage in actions that are completely devastating lives.  Not only are their actions leading to suicides, there are countless families and friends whose lives are being decimated.  How is it fair that they are continuously given a free pass?  In this case, where there is at least one person who knows for certain who was doing this to Joshua Pacheco, it is imperative to bring that information to the light.  Knowing that someone taped another human to their locker and urinated on them is simply not something to be kept secret, especially now that we know what those actions have led to.

What we’re seeing today is a generation of young people who simply don’t care about people around them or, in some cases, human life in general.  Certainly not the entire generation, but enough to have an impact.  And, we’re seeing the drastic consequences on a near-daily basis.  One of my treasured associates had this to say, just moments ago as a comment on yet another post about yet another teen who had been bullied to the point of ending his life:

The several known kids who bullied Jamey Rodemeyer, who died 9/18/2011, were subjects of a criminal investigation. The result: five-day suspensions from school. They had hard evidence of online posts telling him to kill himself, AND, the kids were still bullying him after his death. His sister went to a school dance not too long after Jamey’s death, and when Jamey’s favorite song came on, the bullies began chanting “You’re better off dead! We’re glad you’re dead!” This whole situation has long since reached the point of being unbelievably horrible. Yet this country is like the proverbial frog in a pot of heating water–we’ve gradually gotten so used to the deadly situation that we don’t even notice death.

You know we’ve become a desensitized society when the youth of our society have no problem committing acts that they know can lead to another person’s death yet continue doing it.  Often times even after their victim has ended their life.  How is it that we’re okay with this being who we’ve become as a people?

So sorry this had to happen to you, Josh.  Rest in peace.joshua pacheco

For World AIDS Day, A Troubling Report

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I heard this report yesterday on the all-news radio station in my area, and it caught my attention.  With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st, some sobering statistics were announced that I think we need to take heed to.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was this:

“More than half of young people infected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. DON’T know they’re infected.”

Young people, between 13-24, account for more than 1/4 of all new infections.  If there are 50,000 new infections per year, which is what they’re reporting, that means that roughly 12,500 of those new cases are young males between the ages of 13-24.  That’s not a good statistic.  That means that we’re failing in educating young people on HIV/AIDS prevention.  How can that even be possible with a disease that has been around since the early 1980s?

According to Julie Steenhuysen, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, that figure of 1/4 being young males stems from high infection rates amongst LGBT young people, African-American, and, Latino males.  What makes this problematic is that a lot of these young people report that they “Haven’t really learned much about how to protect [themselves] against infection.”  And, again, the question, “how is this even possible?”, comes into play.

And, of course, there are some who report being subjected to a lot of shame because of their sexuality and the stigma attached to being LGBT.  Now, the picture becomes a bit clearer.  Shame and stigma.  That goes back to a huge cultural problem we’re facing in today’s society as it pertains to the LGBT community.  This is the year 2012.  There is no way we should still be dealing with prejudices and bigotry when it comes to something as intrinsic to our being as our sexuality.  Worse, here’s more evidence of the life-threatening harm that it’s causing.

When asked what she thought needed to be done to reverse this trend, Julie Steenhuysen added this:

Communicating to the community how important it is to support young people, no matter where they are [with their sexuality] so that they can at least stay safe. That could mean…to train leaders who are not LGBT, perhaps in the faith community and entertainers to be more sensitive to stigma, and help establish a healthy environment for these young men in which to grow and to learn about their own sexuality.

I was a young, gay man when the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded on the scene back in the early 1980s.  Worse, I lived in San Francisco during that time.  “Worse” because a.) I literally watched a least one friend die from this epidemic on a daily basis; and, b.) it was easily the most frightening time of my life.  Being a young, virile gay man, myself, at the time, of course I was sexually active as I searched for my Mr. Right.  And, at one point, I even resigned myself to the “reality” of “well, if all of my friends are infected, I must obviously be infected as well.”  By the grace of God, that was not the case.  And, once I got myself tested and learned that I’d been spared of this devastating disease, I changed everything about how I lived my life.  I educated myself.  Educating oneself was very easy then, pre-Internet days; it’s much easier today because of the Internet.  And, education is 100% effective.

Gone are the days when we can feel invincible and just do everything, sexually, we want to do.  That half of these young people didn’t even know they were infected is all the proof you need.  The only foolproof way of avoiding infection is protection.  Yes, I know that there will be fundamentalists who will argue that abstinence is the only true foolproof way of avoiding infection.  But, perhaps, being more in tune with the reality that these young people are going to have sex, protection is key.  Education has to be a key component in protecting oneself from contracting HIV/AIDS.  It’s that simple.  It’s 2012.  There’s no way there should be anyone, anyone!, who doesn’t have access to all of the education necessary to prevent numbers like this report reveals from happening.

December 1st, as we remember those who have already died from this epidemic, we must also re-energize our efforts to prevent it from continuing to spread.  That’s going to take acceptance.  That’s going to take communication.  That’s going to take education.

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The Mallory Owens Story: Surprising Developments

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One of the major stories around the social media globe over the past 24 hours has been the savage beating of Mallory Owens on Thanksgiving Day at the hands of her girlfriend’s 18-year-old brother, Travis Hawkins, Jr.  As the world called for his head on a silver platter, subplots began to emerge:Mallory is now out of the hospital and recuperating, as seen here, with her girlfriend and other members of her family, sans Travis, of course.  There’s more to it than just that, though.  Naturally.  Mallory, herself, has stated publicly that she doesn’t believe that Travis’ actions on Thanksgiving, the assault that left her hospitalized and bleeding from the brain, was a hate crime.  That, despite an earlier comment that Travis never liked either Mallory or, his own sister, Ally.

As more light is shed on this unfortunate situation, one thing that is emerging is that Travis Hawkins, Jr. is a very troubled young man.  His troubled didn’t just start on Thanksgiving Day.  A read through the comment thread of the above picture of Mallory’s return from the hospital will reveal an angry public grilling Travis Hawkins, Sr., the father of the attacker, with questions about the incident and why more wasn’t done to prevent it.  In truth, the senior Travis Hawkins did an admirable job of fielding the questions presented to him.  In fact, some would say that he went “above and beyond” in his effort to dispel some of the rumors and/or misinformation that has been circulating surrounding the attack.  Indeed, his response shines a whole different light on the situation.

In an amazing show of concern and compassion, it appears that donors from around the globe rose to the occasion and sent in excess of $100,000 to Mallory for what amounts to a “hate crime” defense fund.  With the hate crime element seemingly moot, according to Mallory, herself, that will possibly raise another question:  “what to do with the monies that were sent specifically to defend a “hate crime”.  However, that’s for Mallory and the donors to figure out and shouldn’t be open to discussion or speculation here.

What is crystal clear is that Travis Jr. is a very troubled young man.  On his now deleted facebook page, he showed off a tattoo on his arm that simply said “Condemned Man”.  The comment thread, now deleted, revealed a mother’s desperate attempt to convince her troubled son that he was not a “condemned man”.  That was before Thanksgiving Day’s attack on Mallory Owens.  Now, he will be, indeed, a condemned man.  Even with a second-degree assault charge, for which he is currently out on bail, he’s looking at substantial incarceration time.  Travis will certainly be punished for his actions, but is that where it ends?  This is obviously a young man, still a teenager, who is clearly in need of help.  Sadly, without intense psychological help while incarcerated, an already angry young man will someday be released, after years of being incarcerated, even more angry and, possibly, volatile.  A ticking time bomb.  Is that what we want?  Is that in anyone’s best interest?  What he did Thanksgiving Day was horrendous, no doubt about it.  And, there has to be payment for his actions, of course.  However, he’s only 18.  He will be released at some point in his life.  And, without help while he’s away, the man who returns to society could very well return as more of a danger than he is right now.  That will serve no one.

As for Mallory, the road to recovery has begun.  In the above photo, she appears to be happy and in good spirits.  However, it is said that she will require plastic surgery in the aftermath of the beating she absorbed at the hands of Travis Hawkins, Jr.  It goes without saying that there is still much to be revealed about this unfortunate event.  In the coming days, weeks, and months, I’m sure we’ll learn more about why Travis viciously attacked Mallory.  In the meantime, let’s just be happy with the fact that the recovery process has begun.  If Travis Sr. hadn’t intervened when he did, one shudders to think of what the outcome would’ve been.

 

Mallory Owens: a Hate Crime in Alabama

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Any man who beats up on a woman has a special place in Hell awaiting him.  Any man who brutally beats a woman nearly to death because of her sexuality not only holds a reservation in Hell but also a warm spot at a penitentiary.  Hopefully, for a long time.

On Thanksgiving, Mallory Owens went to celebrate the holiday with dinner with her girlfriend, Ally Hawkins, at her girlfriend’s family’s home.  Travis Hawkins Jr., Ally’s brother, viciously attacked Mallory, reportedly as the family looked on.  Travis Hawkins, Jr. is just 18-years-old!A man who does this to a woman is no man whatsoever.  According to Mallory’s sister, this isn’t even the first time this woman-beater attacked Mallory, stating that “…he never liked Mallory and Ally to begin with.”  I don’t necessarily like my sister, either, but I’d never raise a hand to hurt her and wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it, either.

There are a few issues involved in this troubling case that makes it even more disturbing.  First of all, how is it that the family “stood around and watched” as this attack took place?  Why aren’t there charges being filed against every one of them who “stood around and watched” as this young woman was being pulverized by a deranged teenager?  If no one intervened during the obvious commission of a crime but remains a witness to it, shouldn’t that make them guilty of “accessory to…” the crime being committed?

Secondly, this attack occurred on Thanksgiving day.  That was Thursday.  Four days ago!  No local Mobile, Alabama picked up the story until this very day, November 26th, four days after the horrendous attack.  In fact, the only reason they were “pushed” into “breaking” the story is because it had begun to circulate and go viral on the social media giant, facebook. Several prominent pages, including Wipe Out Homophobia, STOP Teenage Suicide, and Enough is Enough: the blog page, began to publish the story late morning.  By mid-afternoon, it had gone viral.  It was then that the local stations saw an urgency to push the story.  How can that be?  Why wasn’t this first-page news immediately after it happened.  A 23-year-old lesbian was beaten within inches of her life, and that’s not newsworthy?  Or, was that another “boys will be boys” incident that didn’t require any media attention.  The editors of all of the local Mobile, Alabama media outlets should be ashamed of themselves for failing to bring this story to light.  It shouldn’t have taken a facebook effort to shine light on this travesty.

Thirdly, and most egregious, is what young Travis Hawkins, Jr. is charged with.  For the crime of beating a 23-year-old woman nearly to death, Travis is charged with second degree assault.  Second degree assault!  I know that in the state where I live, second degree assault carries very little time.  The crime Travis Hawkins, Jr. committed on Thanksgiving Day, against Mallory Owens, is attempted murder.  Period.  Further, he should be charged with a hate crime.  Alas, his charge is a simple second degree assault charge for beating a woman so badly, she now has metal plates under each eye socket.  She now has bleeding on the brain.  Her life will never be the same.  Second degree assault.  At the very least, he should’ve been charged with first degree assault.  

In addition to the facebook pages that are responsible for bringing this story the national attention it deserves, there is now a  facebook page dedicated to getting justice for Mallory:  Justice Today – For Mallory.  There is also a petition, that needs signatures!, that is designed to compel the Alabama judicial branch to charge Travis Hawkins, Jr. with what he should’ve been charged with from the beginning:  attempted murder and a hate crime. (at LEAST a first degree assault charge)  Please sign the petition, then pass it on so that others can sign it, as well.

Shame on Travis for beating on a woman; shame on the Mobile, Alabama media for not picking up this story before today; and, shame on the Alabama State’s Attorney’s Office for charging this young thug with a mere second degree assault in the brutal attack.  We demand justice for Mallory, and we won’t rest until we see it.

SIGN THIS PETITION TO BRING TRAVIS HAWKINS, JR. TO JUSTICE:

http://www.change.org/petitions/mobile-county-alabama-prosecutor-bring-travis-hawkins-jr-to-justice

 

Following the Elections, Racism and Intolerance Takes Center Stage in the U.S.

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With Election 2012 now in our rear-view mirror, President Obama re-established as our leader for the next 4 years, and equality winning huge around the country, the hate mongers are coming out of the woodwork!  From National Organization for Marriage’s leader, Tony Perkins, all the way down to high school kids, the level of sheer hatred and intolerance is deeply disturbing.

Because equality won big, and it did, because the United States’ first black President, Barack Obama, won big, and he did, bigots from coast-to-coast and border-to-border are screaming hate at the top of their lungs to a point where, just days after the General Elections, it’s easy to see that this will be a frightening four years.

Immediately following the elections Tuesday night, many, many people, Donald Trump, included, took to the twitterverse with vile, menacing, racist, and even threatening tweets.  Perhaps most troubling were the tweets that came from the high school students.  Teenagers.  Their level of disrespect, hatred, and intolerance was frightening.  It clearly illustrated the depth of the problems we face as we work hard to eliminate bullying in the schools.  What this also clearly shows is that whatever efforts we’re putting forth right now is not NEARLY enough!!  We’re not even scratching the surface of just how troubled today’s youth are.  And, as the adage “hatred and intolerance are taught to young people” goes, these high school students have had hatred scholars as teachers.

Tuesday’s election results sent such a shockwave across our country, there have even been people fired from their jobs because of things they tweeted once we knew for sure Obama had won.  Their disgust at the idea of another 4 years of a Black president is now being worn on their sleeves, expressed in cyberspace.The attack on equality and race wasn’t, by any means, restricted to high school students or ice cream store employees.  From Donald Trump, to Brian Brown, to Tony Perkins, people – white people – were letting their disgust get the better of them.  Perkins, the head of designated hate group Family Research Council (SPLC),   went on record as saying that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, it could lead to a revolution.

“I think if the court steps in at this moment and says, ‘We’re redefining marriage, same-sex marriage will be the law in every land,’ I’ll tell you what, I think you will create a firestorm of opposition,”  And, “”When you look at a nation that is so divided along these moral and cultural issues, that you could have, I hate to use the word, but a revolt, a revolution.”

A revolution!?  Why?  Because people want the right to love who they love?  Because people want to have the right to marry who they love?  What, exactly, is it about Mr. Perkins that prevents him from understanding that whom someone else loves is absolutely none of his business?  Is granting everyone the right to marry the person they love really worth a revolution?  According to Tony Perkins, the answer is an emphatic “yes”.  That’s dangerous.Brian S. Brown.  The very mention of that name is to pour salt into wounds within the LGBT community.  Brian S. Brown, director of the National Organization of Marriage, whose sole mission and reason for existence is to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, went into a frenzy following Tuesday night’s stunning defeats.  Rather than understanding and accepting that voters nationwide voted against hatred, Brown vowed to dig in and fight even harder.  Rather than accept and understand that the world, and America, is finally evolving from its Ozzie and Harriet mentality and becoming a true reflection of the world as it exists in 2012, Brown blamed being outspent, which is highly unlikely, and even presidential candidate Mitt Romney for the sweeping defeats.  Rather than accept and understand that the voters, the people of this country, sent him a clear message that hatred and intolerance is finally becoming yesterday’s news, Brown vows to keep fighting.  Now, he wants to direct his venom towards corporations that support same-sex marriage, in particular Starbuck’s:

According to an article in The Advocate:

…Brown promised to keep up the fight against same-sex marriage and asked his followers for more money. The group is also going after corporations like Starbucks which publicly advocate for marriage equality. NOM’s plan is to garner support in the Middle East, an area hostile to same-sex marriage and an area the coffee chain is interested in expanding in.

“[Starbucks’s] international outreach is where we can have the most effect,” Brown said. “So for example, in Qatar, in the Middle East, we’ve begun working to make sure that there’s some price to be paid for this. These are not countries that look kindly on same-sex marriage. And this is where Starbucks wants to expand, as well as India. So we have done some of this; we’ve got to do a lot more.”

STOP!!!!  Enough of the hatred!!  Brian Brown’s hate group is planning actions that they know full well could lead to the death of innocent members of the LGBT community in Qatar as well as the Starbuck’s employees, themselves.  They are so bitter in their hatred, so determined to impose their hateful views on the world, they’re perfectly fine with the idea that innocent people could, and probably would!, be killed.

If you want to be hateful, spiteful, and intolerant in your own personal and private life, that’s your right.  We, The People, however, the voters, told you loudly and clearly that we don’t want any part of your bigotry.  That, however unfortunate, does not register with those who are filled with hatred and intolerance.  And, it doesn’t seem to deter Brian S. Brown.  And, because of that reality, it is incumbent upon us to continue the fight that has gotten us to the point we are today.  There is now a petition that aims to prevent the National Organization of Marriage from derailing Starbuck’s.  Hopefully, every reader will sign and share it.  We can’t afford to rest on the laurels of our victories Tuesday night.

In the real world, Tuesday night, November 6th, the American voter sent a very clear message.  The victories were decisive.  We, The People, aren’t about hatred and intolerance.  We, The People, are about acceptance and inclusion.  The world is ever-evolving.  This is not the same America as it was during the Ozzie and Harriet years.  We’re much more diverse than we were in the 1950’s.  Accept it.

Reaching the Boiling Point

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“It’s going to get worse before it begins to get better”.  As the struggle for Equal Rights continues, as predicted, the battle is becoming much more heated.  And, bitter.  And, dangerous.  In just the past 72 hours alone, there’s been a major escalation in the verbal and physical attacks on the LGBT community, as well as their supporters.  Sadly, there’s been one death.

Anyone with access to the Internet, and particularly those who have facebook accounts, are aware of the furor that was caused recently when the makers of the iconic Oreo cookie showed their support for the LGBT community.  In response, the lunatic fringe, LGBT-hating extremists went into full attack mode.  Some of the venomous things they posted as comments brings full light to the dangerous climate members of the LGBT community are facing today.  If you think for a minute that the hatred and intolerance these adults routinely show doesn’t have a major impact on the bullying and LGBT teen suicide rate or the level of violence against members of the LGBT community, you’re wrong.

Over the weekend, Cory Oden, an LGBT man, was brutally attacked simply because of who he is.  For the simple “crime” of being a gay man in America – the country that’s supposedly the “land of the free” – Cory endured a brutal attack that could’ve very easily claimed his life. Just because he’s a gay man in America.  If you get the time, and are so inclined, please do go show Cory some love and support.  Here’s his facebook page.  I was reading some of his wall posts moments ago.  This has been a life-changing event for him, obviously.

As I lay here on my porch swing looking at the sky, sorting all the jumble in my brain. I can’t stop thinking about all the people in the world suffering. Maybe it be acts of hatred, maybe it be dying loved ones, maybe even just as simple as you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent and survive in what seems to be a cold hard world. I’ve got quite the battle approaching. Everyone knows its a tough one to rise above and conquer. We have to remember to keep the faith and love flowing through our veins. Whatever struggles you are facing, whatever the outcome may be, just remember to always let your voice be heard and make some noise!!! You never know who just may be listening ♥

In Portland, Texas, a lesbian, teenaged couple was found shot in the head.  Nineteen-year-old Mollie Olgin succumbed to her injuries.  It hasn’t “officially” been classified a hate crime at the time of this writing.   Of course, that’s not to say that it wasn’t.

So, there you have it.  In just under 72 hours, one dead, one in critical condition, one in serious condition.  What’s my point?  If you go back to the insanity of the attack on the Oreo’s ad on facebook, and read the comments, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the LGBT community is under attack…that “they” have declared war on members of the LGBT community and its supporters.

Here’s the point:  what we’re starting to see is a culture that’s reaching its boiling point.  The religious fanatics and the homophobic extremists are multiplying rapidly, just as we are on this side of the battle line.  For all of their holiness and deep-rooted “Christian” faith, they’re leading us into, essentially, a war right here on our own soil.  Their verbal assaults have been dialed up to fever pitch.  Violence against members of the LGBT community is rising in both frequency and severity.  And, people are losing their lives.

Of course, this mentality isn’t anything new in this country.  They killed blacks for sport as they fought for their rights.  Isn’t it ironic that these people who profess to be good, “God-fearing Christians” are so comfortable with hatred, intolerance and, worse, the death of those they oppose?  Perhaps, for them, fearing God is in their best interest, after all.

Same-Sex Marriage: A Fight to the Death

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My most recent blog entry has, so far, gone largely unnoticed.  I find that frighteningly sad because of it’s extreme importance.  In it, I gave reasons why this year’s election is so vitally important.  It’s an article that I really think every single person needs to read.  It’s that important.

Only if a person lives in a bubble or under a rock would they not know that we are, as a society, in the midst of a very brutal cultural war.  This fight for equality hasn’t even begun to seriously heat up, yet we’re seeing and hearing some of the most amazingly mean-spirited, hate-laced rhetoric coming from the opponents camp that you could ever imagine.  I was too young to remember whether or not things became this bitter during the Civil Rights struggle of the 60s.  Smart money would say that it did.  Bigots are bigots are bigots.  Their logic is almost always “pretzel logic”; their rhetoric is always bitter and hateful; their fear is always change.

The more I read and hear from these people, the more I realize that this battle hasn’t even really begun…that it’s going to get much worse than what we’re seeing today.  You think that’s not possible?  Let me remind you of some of “their” tactics:

  • Think back, not too long ago, to when murdering abortion doctors was a phenomena.  Do you remember who was (and, still is) leading the charge against abortion?
  • Think back to just a month or so ago when an LGBT headquarters in Washington, D.C. had a bomb threat
  • Think back to just two weeks ago when a gay bar in Chicago was set ablaze
  • And, if you need another example, think back to the days of the Civil Rights fight of the 60s.  They were killing blacks seemingly at will.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will remember my own, personal story of a middle-aged white man who tried to plunge a 12″ knife into the back of this then-6 year old black boy!

Forget the Christianity argument!  Their actions clearly states that they are anythingbut Christ-like.  They’re hellbent in their ways, they’re terrified of change, they’re insistent on everyone living life as they see fit, they’re narrow-minded, and hateful.  Most alarming, they have no problem resorting to violence if it means protecting their views.

To wit, Jim Garlow spoke to a group of right-wingers, speaking out against same-sex marriage.  He closed out his speech by…

…likening those opposing marriage equality today to Revolutionary War pastors who fought the British because, just like them, these Religious Right activists are are willing declare “if necessary, here we die!”

As I’ve been trying to get across, in their minds they are at war.  Anyone not getting this is not paying attention.

So, who is this Jim Garlow, you ask?  Well, he’s Senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego; he’s the co-author of “Cracking the Di Vinci Code”.  He’s an accomplished man with wealth and, obviously, some clout.  And, his rhetoric is very, very dangerous.  In a different interview:

Garlow weighed in, declaring  that religious liberty and “the radical homosexual agenda” were on course for a head-on collision in America because “they cannot both exist in the same nation at the same time.” As such, Garlow warned that advances in marriage equality will eventually force the Christian church underground because the gay agenda is all about “coercion, and crushing, and taking away our liberties and freedoms.” But nonetheless, Garlow said, Christians must be willing to stand up and speak out in opposition even though “we are coming into an era where it could cost us everything, including our lives”:

This is serious business.  We’ve already seen several preachers suggest death for members of the LGBT community.  We’ve got politicians, as recently as just yesterday!, trying to push through legislation that would essentially give people free reign to discriminate against members of the LGBT community under the guise of doing it in respect of their religious beliefs.

It’s as if Bobby Griffith’s story holds no value to them.  For those who are unfamiliar with his story, google it.  His mother was “one of them”, to a point where it drove him to suicide.  It wasn’t until after his death that she understood how very wrong she was and how much damage she did to her son.  That same damage is being done to every single LGBT youth today, either directly or indirectly.  If you don’t think that this constant bombardment of broad-stroked hatred for them isn’t helping to propel the already-accelerated LGBT teen suicide rate, think again.  If you don’t think that their incessant nastiness isn’t feeding the ones who seek out and attack members of the LGBT community, think again.  If you don’t think that many of the schoolyard bullies aren’t heavily influenced by what they’re seeing and hearing from these people, think again!!  They have waged war against the LGBT community.  It can’t be put any more simply than that.  We’ve all agreed that the major component to ending the bullying and teen suicides is changing the mindset of the adults.  Understanding that these people have no problem with LGBT teens being bullied and/or committing suicide is absolutely essential if we are to see any measurable change in those arenas.

So, again I ask, why IS this November’s election so important?  If I have to tell you, you’re not paying attention.  Or, as my mother would tell me “you’re flying down the highway and not paying attention to any of the signs”.  That’s how crashes occur.

Why November’s Election is SO Important

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I’ve been trying to get this thought out, now, for almost a month.  One thing after another has gotten in the way of its completion.  Yet, I feel it’s vitally important for me to get it out.  Then, last Wednesday following the Scott Walker recall election, I was presented with just the catalyst I needed to see it through.

While out playing music, which is what I do, this local homeless Viet Nam vet came up to me and pushed my button!  “Well, those stupid fucking Democrats really took it up the ass yesterday!”  Now, I’m use to his vitriolic statements.  He’s still at war.  I get that.  I’ve known him for quite some time.  And, his conversations are usually right along that same line.  And, typically, I just listen to his rhetoric, smile, nod, and go on about my day.  It usually works.  Not today.  Today, he pushed my buttons.  He pushed my buttons because he reminded me, up close and person, of exactly why it is of extreme importance for Obama to win in November.

This isn’t about politics, really.  This is about loving and caring.  This is about tolerance.   This is more about right and wrong.  And, it’s about survival.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m no professional political analyst.  Not even close.  In fact, the only thing I am, as a professional, is a musician.  I’m a single, gay, black male.  I’m an older black male who was around, albeit as a young boy, when blacks were fighting for their own right to exist.

Our country is entrenched in a cultural war.  That should be no secret to anyone with a pulse.  We’re seeing a second-coming of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s as the LGBT community fight, essentially for their right to even exist.  Just as blacks did in the 50s and 60s.  The parallels are undeniable.

Of course, there are many who would vehemently disagree with me.  Over and over again, I’ve read this older black leader or another protest the notion that today fight for equal rights by the LGBT community is an extension of the Civil Rights battle of the 60s.  I can state as a black man who lived during those times as a young black boy in the South that it is, indeed, the same fight.  In truth, despite their efforts to distance themselves from today’s struggle, it is the same fight being fought against the same establishment.  The same hateful, mean-spirited, bigoted people who wanted to keep Blacks “in their place” 50-60 years ago now want to do the same with the LGBT community.  Well, of course not the same people.  That was a half-century ago.  However, it IS, in fact, the same establishment.  Now, before I get called out on this for not knowing my history, I’m very well aware that there were Democrats and Republicans, alike, who were fighting against Civil Rights back then, whereas today’s war is being waged solely by the ultra right-wing, Christian fundamentalists.  In that day, the political lines were a bit more blurred than they are today.  Today, there is an unmistakable gulf of a line drawn between the two parties.  And, that division has permeated our entire society.  We’re very much a “them and us” culture.  And, therein lies the problem.

Listen, I’m a Democrat, myself.  However, I can readily acknowledge that there’s a lot that Obama has not done during his current presidency.  He’s left a lot to be desired.  I get it.  At the same time, I was realistic enough from the beginning to know that he WOULDN’T be able to do but so much.  Why?  There was no way “they” were going to let a smooth-talking black President show but so much accomplishment.  The Civil Rights struggle of the 60s may have been won in theory, but in reality there are still struggles on the racial front, as well.

Today’s Civil Rights struggle is being fought by the LGBT community, making this the second Civil Rights struggle that I will be directly affected by.  As with the Blacks in the 50s and 60s, all we’re seeking is equality.  That’s it.  Simple equality.  We want to be able to marry the person we love.  Legally.  We want to be protected against discrimination in the workplace and in the housing market.  We want the hate crime laws to protect every single America, which include us.  We want to see an end to the incessant bullying of our LGBT youth, sanctioned legally in some states!, which is leading far-too-many of them to end their lives.  In short, we just want the right to live our lives, as who we are, just as freely as our heterosexual counterparts.  That’s really not asking too much, and it certainly isn’t asking for “special rights” as they try to make you believe

Why IS is so incredibly important that the current President of the United States win the election this year? The answer is quite simple, actually.  The short answer is if Obama fails to retain the White House, our culture will be doomed back to the days, and ways, of Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav.  It’s that simple.  That’s the utopian world they envision.  That’s the simple answer.  A deeper look reveals a much more disturbing picture.  Failure by Obama to win the White House in November will ensure:

  1. Every single hard-fought gain the LGBT community has made will be erased.  The few states that do have marriage equality?  Gone.  Anti-discrimination policies that protects the LGBT community?  Forget about it.
  2. The death rate amongst LGBT teens will continue to soar.  It’s as simple as that.  Look, let’s take off the blinders.  The ultra-conservative, far-right wing, Christian faction hates us.  Period.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Christians hating.  Yet, we’ve heard preachers tell their congregation that we should die.  These are Christians.  These are leaders.  These people are the driving force behind the Republican Party today.
  3. Today’s Republican Party is being spearheaded by some of the most narrow-minded, evil-spirited “politicians” I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.  That there are Republican senators working feverishly to pass legislation that will, in effect, sanction the bullying of LGBT teens should tell you all that you need to know.  And, that’s just a small fraction of the threat they pose to the LGBT community.

I’m not naive. I understand that there will always be narrow-minded, bigoted people in the world and in our society. However, at this specific point in time, they’ve risen to positions of power. With that, they’ve seemingly made it their life’s mission to all but do away with anything gay. Indeed, there has been right-wing political and religious leaders calling for the death of LGBT people. They’re flexing their political/religious muscle, spewing extraordinarily hateful and intolerant rhetoric to their followers. In doing so, they are creating a very dangerous environment for members of the LGBT community. To wit:

  • Just last week, a landmark gay bar was set ablaze in Chicago.
  • The LGBT Headquarters in Washington, DC recently endured a bomb threat.
  • Schoolyard bullies are more empowered than ever in their attacks against those they perceive to be LGBT schoolmates, driving many to commit suicide.
  • In the news just today, an ultra-conservative mayor in Michigan added fuel to the already-raging firestorm directed towards her by way of a recall vote with yet another ridiculous statement about the LGBT community.

Indeed, Obama losing the election in November would be catastrophic for the LGBT community. Not just because he’s gone public in his support for marriage equality. It would be catastrophic because it would put in power the absolute meanest, most narrow-minded collection of “leaders” I’ve ever witnessed. Giving power to this group of people would take the LGBT community back to pre-Stonewall days. At least! Giving power to them would absolutely assure an escalation in the already-alarming suicide rate amongst LGBT teens. Why? Because they don’t care about you if you’re LGBT. In their eyes, we shouldn’t exist. And, quite frankly, people with this mentality have absolutely no business whatsoever in positions of power.

Honestly, this really isn’t about politics, per se.  It’s more about right and wrong.  It’s wrong for people to use positions of power to systematically destroy a group of people.  To call for the death of a group of people is called genocide.  How is that even legal?  Maybe within the next four years, they’ll get some people in their party who actually care about ALL people, including people in the LGBT community.  Maybe that’s asking too much.  Well, at the very least, we can hope for a group of people who aren’t as mean-spirited as this collection is.  Until then, I think we need to do everything in our power to make sure they don’t succeed in November.