A lot of you readers know me as a lesbian fiction novelist. I am that, but I am also much more. I am a daughter, a wife, and a mother. I am also a lesbian. I have faced some discrimination in my life. Not as much as most LGBT people, mainly because I surround myself with enlightened people. It hurts when I am discriminated against for being a lesbian. But you know what hurts worse? When somebody discriminates against my child. Or any child. But that’s exactly what happened last week.
My daughter has been a member of the First United Methodist Church youth group in Tahlequah, Oklahoma for fifteen years. Last week, she went on a youth group mission trip to Kansas City to help feed the homeless. She has been on several mission trips before and it has been a wonderful, educational experience. However, this trip was different.
There are several LGBT youth in the FUMC youth group. During their week in Kansas City, these kids naturally congregated together. There are several Lesbians, Gays, and at least one Transgender teen in the group. The Trans teen took a photo of the LGBT kids and posted it on their FB timeline. The caption said, “LGBT youth of the Methodist Church.”
Fearing for their jobs, two of the youth leaders began to discuss this post. Do they tell the Trans teen to take down the photo? Do they ask them to change the caption? Overhearing this conversation was a 12 year-old gay boy.
The boy left the room in tears. He took off his article of rainbow clothing and said he wasn’t going to wear it ever again. He said he was ashamed of being gay. He said he wished he’d never been born gay. Overwhelmed by the shame of being gay, he cried for a long time.
After caring for the boy, The Trans teen told one of the leaders that they took down the caption on their FB photo. The leader and the Trans teen argued. These words were said to the Trans teen: “You don’t have to go around acting gay all the time. I don’t go around acting straight. I don’t say, ‘I like men’ all the time. None of this would’ve happened if you hadn’t acted so gay.”
EXCUSE ME?! Does this woman not know that every breath I take, every word I utter, every beat of my heart is Gay? Because that’s who I am! I’m a gay woman. I don’t act gay. I am gay. Did she ask the straight youth not to go around acting all straight? How about the black kid? Do they have to act so black?
I realize I may be preaching to the choir here, but just let me say that it’s this type of thing that causes suicide among our gay youth. The insensitivity and the shaming. It’s hard enough being a teenager, but it’s much, much harder being an LGBT* teenager. There’s shunning, name-calling, emotional abuse, physical abuse. . . But when this comes at the hands of adults who are entrusted to the care for our children. . . I have no words. I’m angry, hurt, ashamed. . .
Since my posting on Facebook about this incident, I have received several messages, texts, PMs and emails from members of the First United Methodist Church of Tahlequah. They have expressed their love for Emma, myself, and the other youth involved. I know that the words uttered by the youth leaders are not what many members of the church feel or think. I am touched by their love. I really am. It’s people like them and my daughter who are going to change this world for the better.
However, the Methodist church as a whole uses Christianity and religion to divide and segregate people. They may have signs on their doors that proclaim, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors,” but their actions and words are saying the opposite.
I want to use this opportunity to school people. I want to teach all people, regardless of church affiliation, that our youth, gay or straight, is our most valuable resource. They will be the leaders of tomorrow. If we want this world to be a better place, we have to nurture and educate our children in a loving, supportive environment.
Tahlequah PFLAG (Parents and Friend of Gays and Lesbians) is just getting its feet off the ground. It’s next meeting is at 6:30 on June 7th at the Unitarian Universalist Church. If you want to help, they would love to have you show up at this meeting. My family will be there – acting all gay, of course.
Tahlequah is having its third annual gay pride festival June 11th at Norris Park.( It’s called Tahlequality and has a FB page if you want to check it out.) Saxon and I will be there selling our books!
Remember, you don’t have to be gay to be a gay supporter. But acting gay helps. (Just kidding.)
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