I remember the name of the tract was “Doom Town” and I read it in the basement of my church when I was in the fourth grade. I was too afraid to read it in front of anyone because it dealt with the topic of homosexuality. It explained (in the form of a comic strip) that homosexuals were perverts and child molesters that would eventually die of AIDS before being sent to eternal damnation for being abominations before the eyes of God.
I remember the fraternal cheers of my troop mates two years later when the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America could bar gays from their organization. We were sitting in the Mess Hall and the announcement came from a megaphone-wielding camp counselor who gleefully encouraged anyone that the ruling applied to “get up and leave now.”
I remember the scornful chatter from my family when Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell came out. I remember there were exactly eight teachers during high school that made disparaging remarks toward gay folk.
I cannot remember the number of students who did likewise. I remember when I was seven and went puzzle shopping at the flea market with my grandpa. I was praised for wanting a complicated 300-piecer but scolded when it was discovered that it was of Jason Priestley. I remember the faggot written in shaving cream on my pillow at church camp.
I remember Matthew Shepard.
When I was a senior in high school I was an Eagle Scout, a member of the National Honor Society, a Sunday school teacher and a recipient of a Teaching Fellows scholarship. I was very popular both with my peers and within my community. I spoke at commissioner meetings and was encouraged on a number of occasions to someday pursue elected office. I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.”
Despite all of this, during my last semester before graduation I attempted suicide. I simply couldn’t bear the truth: I was and am gay. I had cried myself to sleep for years. I tried to pray it away. I was so ashamed. I was afraid that if anyone else discovered this secret about me that it would all be over.
I would have rather been dead than be gay. Fortunately I wasn’t successful at my attempt to take my own life and after a week in the hospital I was free to go and have since struggled to find the pride and courage to live my life to its fullest.
But that feeling all those years ago wasn’t something that came to me naturally. It was constructed over years of memories.
I wasn’t and am not alone. Over the last few months there has been an epidemic of gay youth suicides. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of gay youth attempt suicide–four times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts.
Gay youth are more likely than any other demographic to suffer from depression, anxiety, alcoholism and take up smoking. There is a link between these mental health issues and the blatant discrimination that permeates our culture. Every homophobic clergyman, politician and parent who has aired their bigotry is in some way responsible for this reality.
Please stop this.
On May 8th voters will go to the polls to weigh in on Amendment One. Sometime around 9 PM or so, young gay men and women across this state will know–down to a hundredth of a percentage point–exactly how many people they should be wary of. Whether the amendment passes or fails, the statute on marriage in North Carolina will not change.
This amendment is not about marriage. Only the General Assembly can change the laws regarding who can get married. This amendment is a referendum about gay people and what we think of them.
Youngsters are watching. And they will remember what we have to say.
I wish that I could have had different memories. I wish that I could remember a community that accepted and encouraged me. I wish I hadn’t been made to feel afraid and worthless.
On May 8th you get to affect more than our state’s constitution–you get to determine the memories of the next generation.
BlueNC is dedicated to making North Carolina a more progressive and prosperous state. If your intention is to disrupt this effort, please find somewhere else to express your opinions.