Saturday, March 27, 2010

Courage and Sacrifice...LGBT Teens

To be out in high school...that to me at least, seems tantamount to smothering yourself in BBQ sauce and jumping into a tank full of starving Pihranna. The thought of dancing with a boyfriend at the prom is both wonderfull and terrifying at the same time. Having to fight to attend that prom against your school and resentfull classmates is a heroic act, unthinkable when many of us where in highschool. And coming out to my parents at that age....don't even get me started. However...lately the news has been filled with examples of courage and sacrifice on the part of LGBT teens. Some stories you may know...others you may not. but they paint a picture of extraordinary courage and the price we sometimes pay to be who we really are.

Jay and I are often astounded by the couragious actions of young gay men and women. Jay was so moved that he vlogged about the subject;

However, the sentiments expressed in that video don't go far enough, in my opinion. They don't tell the full story. Perhaps thats an impossible task. But I have come across some extraordinary individuals who, even though we see their actions as being somewhat heroic for their courage to be out ...they also show a very real price that many of us pay when we endeavor to begin to pursue a life of honesty and happiness...sometimes to ask anyone to pay.

Pams House Blend brought to light this song by the "Court Yard Hounds", who are the Dixie Chicks minus one. the lyrics perfectly fit todays topic and I will let them sing us into it...

Constance McMillen:

How is she a standout? Well...Constance wanted to bring her girlfriend to prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School, in Mississippi. The School took issue with that and banned Constance from attending. From a Queerty article:

Constance McMillen and her lesbian prom date hopeful are both Itawamba students, and McMillen planned on showing up in a tux. But administrators have banned same-sex dates in the past, and in early February circulated a memo (PDF) reminding students about "acceptable" dates — only after McMillen met with the assistant principal and the superintendent about her proposed evening. She was told she would not be allowed to arrive with her girlfriend, that she could not wear a tux to the prom, and her girlfriend could be thrown out of the April 2 event if any students reported they felt "uncomfortable" around them.

I'm so sorry they would feel uncomfortable around two must be tough to maintain that kind of focus while your heterosexual prom date is trying to get you drunk enough to shed the dress and express his undying love for you....horizontally... or whatever shape you can make in the backseat of the "love machine". Those pesky lesbians must be terribly distracting to such a rite of passage.

So Constance contacted the ACLU, who threatened to sue the school if they did not allow all students to attend...including Constance and her date. The schools response? equality of a sort, they canceled prom for everyone sighting that they are not legally bound to hold one at all. True enough...though terrible grinchy of them. I wonder, did the cancellation of prom make Constances schoolmates "uncomfortable"? You bet it did...and true to form they did not blame the school for being unreasonable...they blamed "The girl who ruined prom"...thats got to make going to school such an uplifting experience. If anything bad happened to Constance, as a result of the schools stance, I wonder if they would take responsibility for it.

But Constance pressed on in spite of the pressure...which already makes her as tough as nails in my book. The school, rather than be forced to include gays in their afterschool functions, encouraged parents to organize their own prom. which they did....a "no lesbians" one. So Constance is still out in the cold.

Meanwhile, the ACLU's suit progressed. The final rulling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson. It in he determined that the school had indeed violated Constance McMillen's constitutional rights....but....the school is also, not legally bound to hold a prom. Net effect?.... "we can't do anything to help you".

The upside of this whole event is the coverage that Constance recieved for sticking to her guns. she recieved an offer of internship, support from the online community in the form of a "Let Constance take her girlfriend to prom" facebook page with over 400k in fans, t.v. appearances, blog coverage galore,....ah...and lets not forget...a $30,000 scholarship check from Ellen DeGeneres. I do find myself wondering however, if her girlfriend recieved the same treatment? At any rate...Constance is not through and vows to continue the fight with the Iwatamba School District.

Derrick Martin:

Prom fever seemed to be in the air this year. Derrick Martin took a page from Constance McMillen's play book and lobby'd his school to allow him to bring another boy to prom as his date. Unlike Constance's story however, school officials in Cochran, Georgia...while at first against the idea..eventually came around on the topic and said yes to Martin bringing a boy to prom. In giving her reasons for the turn around of oppinion, Martin's School Principle had this to say:

You don’t have the right to say no,” principal Michelle Masters said. “As a principal, I don’t judge him. I’m taught not to judge. I have to push my own beliefs to the background.”

Derrick has been out since his sophomore year, but that does not mean that he does not expect some form of resistance on prom night. For being so courageous Martin has recieved lots of attention from gay activists who have offered to pay for the expenses of the night and have even sent flowers to the school.

Wahoo! Victory! Time to celebrate right?....not quite. As a consequence for bring so much media attention upon them, Derricks parents have kicked him out of the house.....wait what?...thats right, for being courageous and for asking to be treated the same as any other student you get kicked out?...apparently so. The parents give "too much media attention" as the excuse for kicking their child to the curb.

This is incredibly lame. We never know what we are going to get when we come out to our parents. sometimes we expect the worst and it never materializes...instead flumoxing us when the people we prepared to be rejected by, accept us tearfully. And then sometimes the worst does happen. We work up our courage to tell our family or friends the truth about ourselves...which is inherently and act of love...and we discover that those we love have limits on how they love us. Some are utterly disowned, some kicked out into homelessness, and others may be abused.

I don't know Derricks parents or what his relationship to them is like. But it seems an awfull high price to pay for the simple act of sticking up for yourself. Even if your son's actions bring you some social embarasment because you don't believe in what he's doing...cutting him off should never be an option.

But Derricks troubles are not done...predictably, he also has to contend with a portion of fellow students who appose his bringing a same-sex date to the prom and care enouch to protest it at town hall. Their completely B.S. excuse is that "We don't care that he's gay, just dont talk about it."...uh huh....right...

some quotes from the offended students:

“We knew Derrick was gay,” said Keith Bowman Jr., a high school senior who showed up at the rally. “They don’t want (Cochran) to be known as a pro gay town.”

No worries there bud....

and this one by the leader of the rally protesting Martin, who has also asked to have her prom ticket refunded rather than be seen dancing next to a gay:

“I don’t believe in going up there and dancing with gay guys like that,” she said. “It’s also not just him bringing a boy. It was bringing all this attention to it.”


Mike Manning and Tanner:

Yes, Mike Manning of the MTV's "The Real World D.C." the story here is not so much in Mike, who has been talked about incessently on every gay blog known to man...but his love interest, Tanner. Queerty put together a montage of clips from the showing their very touching on air reunion. The love between the two of them was palpable and the segment ends with Mike giving Tanner a promise ring before Tanner has to return home. Upon returning home, Tanner decides that now is the right time to come out to his parents about being gay...and about being in love with Mike. I'm a big broke my heart to watch what happened. In short, he indicated to his mother that he had something important to share with her and that he was in love with someone. To which she said, "please let it be a girl because that would be the only thing that would crush me and dissapoint me(loving a man) wouldn't matter who the girl is."

And their goes his belief in his mothers love in one fell swoop. I say that because I've been there...many of us have. The unconditional love that we grew up to believe was ours...wasn't. So, Tanner calls Mike to give him the tearfull news. He also tells Mike that his mom told his dad who said if he had a gay son he "couldn't go on living"....oh man, the drama. "My son is gay, let me kill myself now." Argh....pure emotional manipulation if ever it existed. Mike then goes on to give a tearfull and impassioned monologue about what kind of parent holds out unconditional love to their child all their life...just to remove it because they are gay.

Whether or not Tanner has been kicked out or disowned, as the video on queerty suggests, is unknown. Mike has tweeted that he and Tanner are "just friends for now". Which suggests Tanner is dealing with alot of heat right now. I wish I could share the video here but, alas, it seems to exist solely on Queerty for the time being.

As parents, we spend so much of our lives doing our best to raise our children to be responsible adults. One day they may carry a gun and fight for our country, we allow them to drive a car at 18 and get married. Why is it that they can't be trusted to have made a reasoned decision about who they love? And I know some people will take this badly, but no parents love should come with those kinds of strings attached. You don't have to like it, you don't have to approve....but when you throw your child out or threaten them with removal of your love as a parent, you show that that love always had limits. It makes me so mad everytime I hear it....and we get HUNDREDS of emails from teens coming to terms with their sexuality and afraid of losing their families if they tell the truth....I wish our viewer/readers could see that mountain those emails make....its an unimaginable tragedy and reality of life for many gay teens.

Whenever I judge someone...I always get confronted with a situation in which I am shown that I can do the same thing. But I can't help it, whether its my mom telling me I am bound for hell, or Jays father disowning him forever, or any of the three stories listed above....coming out has risks....and it makes me angry that one of those risks come from the people who are supposed to stand by us no matter what. Its no great wonder that so many LGBT teens commit suicide....or that we build our own families in order to find the love and support missing in the ones we were born should never be. But these are the steps that young LGBT people are willing to take...and all to often the price that is paid for their courage.




  1. Bryan:

    I probably should not be commenting on this particular blog as I have never had the experience of an LGBT child. I love children, all children, from birth on. Every day is a learning experience with a child, be it a child you have conceived or a child you adopted, they are your life!

    How does a parent "throw" a child out of their home, how does a parent "disown" a child? I know they do, per Jays's videos and the stories you cite in this blog, but, I don't know how anyone can do that. I admire anyone, regardless of their age, who comes out to their family, no matter the repercussions, and gets on with the business of living. Sadly, too many can't and I guess the only thing we can hope for is that those who need help outside their family, seek and find it.

    As for Constance and Derrick, living in the South is a whole different mind set, having spent most of my life as a liberal from New Jersey and moving to Florida and now Virginia, the education of our youth and the morals and values of parents leaves me speechless! I believe both Constance and Derrick will not only survive this terrible injustice, but will come out stronger and become leaders in the fight for marriage equality and equal rights for all.

    Please do not judge me for living in three of the worst marriage equality states in the country - really ashamed of my record on that.

    I applaud the courage of all LGBT teenagers,there are people out here who are on your side, keep looking, we are here for you!

    Relieved to see you blogging again, Bryan, and this is such an important blog today, thank you. This should be required reading for all LGBT people and their families. I believe Carina's spirit showed you the way today - Peace!


  2. If I had taken a guy to prom and danced with him, we would've been called names, attacked and thrown out. At least these people considered that they were in a good enough environment to take a gay date.

    Lately I've realized that when I come out to my friends, it's really not going to be the same as before. We're not going to be able to ride in a taxi with 5 people crammed in the backseat, we're not going to be able to go to the beach and change in the locker rooms, we're not going to be able to lie on my bed and listen to music while talking. A friendly pat on the back, a look in the eye, a smile, will become a sexual gesture. There are some prejudices that are too ingrained. And it fucking sucks.


  3. If I had taken a guy to prom and danced with him, we'd have been called names, attacked and thrown out. At least these people considered they were in a friendly enough situation to take a gay date.

    Lately I've realized that when I come out to my friends, even if they turn out to be gay friendly and "accept me", things won't be the same. We won't be able to ride crammed together in the back of a taxi. We won't be able to go to the beach together and change in the locker rooms. Or lie on my bed listening to music and talking. A friendly pat on the back, a smile, a look in the eye, will become a sexual advance. Some prejudices are just too ingrained in people. And it fucking sucks.

  4. damn I thought my first comment hadn't been posted so I re-wrote it lol

  5. These parts of the USA is in trouble if young people are saying homophobic things like that. Not just saying them as bravado but feel the are important enough to protest over.

    I was out at school and it was pretty much fine. I got bullied by a couple of nobs but not the institution.

  6. Also I would like to say that just about the worst thing I can think about doing is disowning your children.

    Surely the social shame you would get for doing that would be much worse than having a gay son.

  7. Hi

    I just came to think that, if my parents and friends would have kicked me out (but they didn't, though I am not allowed in some of my friends houses any more, my friends still keep in touch), I would turn to my church, for advise and support about anything. But there they say I will burn in hell for being a lesbian. And that is not a positvie experience.

    Any how, loved your post today Bryan. It's an important topic, and I will send the link to my last girlfiend who dumped me for the pressure. *thumbs up*

    Take Care, Sweden says Hello / Emmie

  8. we are taking the plunge next month. my boyfriend and i are gonna start living together.

  9. And you. When you came out it was also courageous. If you had not, the Mississippi and Georgia and everywhere else would not have their teens demanding respect. If not for you, and all the other men and women, then no one.

    So, yes, it is courageous for these people now days. But it is because it was courageous of people like you and your husband.

  10. @Mare....why would I judge you by where you live? sometimes we simply don't have a decision in that part of our you may be making a positive impact on those places just by existing. :)

    @Emmie....I'm sorry to hear that your girlfriend left for those reasons Emmie. Perhaps someday she will be comfortable enough with herself to come around. by then you will be too fabulous however. tell Sweden we said hello back :)

    @nuts....Congrats! not only because you are moving in with someone you love and get to build a life with...but also because your wardrobe just doubled!

    @Erv...thanks erv...we stand on alot of shoulders too.

    @Goblin with your sarcastic sense of humor I'm surprised anyone had the guts to bully you and not get verbally chopped off at the knees. O.o

  11. I was aware of Constance's story because it appeared on Yahoo's main page. What really upsets me is that by canceling the prom they want to further stigmatize her so she appears to be the "big bad witch" of the situation. It is very disappointing that a county school board, who is supposed to be made up of grown adults, and I imagine that educated, can make such an immature decision. But the message they want to send is clear: "Shut it & get back in that closet".

    Derrick & Tanner's stories are horrible. "The unconditional love that we grew up to believe was ours... wasn't" I experienced this. As I was growing up I heard the story of how I almost died at birth, and how happy my parents were when I survived. Well, when they found out I was gay my mother told me that it would have been better if I had died. I will never forget those words.

    @Matt/Matias: "it's really not going to be the same as before" "A friendly pat on the back, a smile, a look in the eye, will become a sexual advance" Yup, it sucks.

  12. What I don't understand besides parental love being conditional, is the legal system in this country. Until your child is 18 years of age, or is emancipated they are legally responsible for providing a home and upkeep for their children. So, in a case that has garnished so much media attention, Johnny Law has really dropped the ball on this one. The parents should be dragged into family court for not caring for their child. Do I want this boy back in their home? No, I dont think it would be safe for him. What I do want is for people to understand that children are not toys to be discarded when they are no longer interested in "playing" with them. And hauling these "parents" up in front of a judge might make others pause in doing so. A bad home is usually better than the streets.

  13. i've been reading your blog and watching your videos for just a little bit now, but i wanted to comment on this after seeing jay's shout out to young LGBT teens and your post, bryan.

    you guys really are inspirational. it's beautiful to see a gay family -- to see a family in general, really -- that's so functional and caring. i admire you a lot, and you do give me hope for my own future, not just as a lesbian teen but as a person who wants to have a healthy relationship and a family some day.

    i'm seventeen, out and comfortable. where i live the homophobia seems to be low-key, at least in the younger generation, and though my school can be uneducated in what they say, the kids are really more apathetic than anything else (which, in this case, tends to be a good thing) -- there's no real feeling of danger. so i can't relate to or fathom the experiences these young people you've mentioned (and so, so many others) have had to go through, but i want to say that i've seen hope. i have so many straight friends who have no issue with/support my orientation, i have a family with two gay children who love us unconditionally and have had no problem accepting us, and ever since my coming out a few years ago things have been peaceful. so here's a happy story to put a little drop of hope in with all the challenges the gay community faces.

    but the main reason i wanted to write this is to say that i really think you and jay are both such wonderful people, your children are in such a good home, and i wish you the best of the luck with the future - i know you'll be able to handle any challenges that come up. from the first time i watched one of your family's youtube videos i was captivated by how loving all of you are, and i have to believe that on some level that love gets through to everyone and can make them reconsider the stereotypes they've trapped in their thoughts, no matter who they are.

    thank you for putting yourself out there for the rest of the world to see. i speak for more than just myself when i say it means a lot. <3

    - kay

  14. I am 16 years old and I have not come out yet. I have been feeling lower than low latley because I am gay. I look to hook up with any boys that I can because I am so uncomfortable with my sexuality. I told one of my friends that i was closest to and she befriended me. I want to come out but I just know nothing will ever be the same.

  15. Of all the current Gay issues, surely this one must be the most important. What a piteous shame for gay teens to be four times more likely to attempt suicide, NINE times more likely if they come from a family that rejected them, than their straight counterparts. It is a black hypocrisy when some on the one hand attempt to champion the youth as our "most precious resource" whilst on the other hand contribute to society's stigma and reproach of homosexuality, thus driving those same precious resources to self-termination.

    Where I went to school, there was an atmosphere of prejudice that asphyxiated any talk about the matter. Out of sight, out of conversation, out of mind meant it didn't exist. It created such a feeling of isolation that I might as well have been the only gay person in the Universe.

    I never dreamed of coming out in Middle and High School, for the shroud of reprisal loomed ominously, but I did know of one poor girl who did. She was a part of a deeply religious Mormon family who for all practical purposes abandoned her to the more wantonly sexual and substance-saturated life she started to live. The Church, as Emmie mentioned, was not supportive either and excommunicated her as soon as the word came around. I remember avoiding her because I was too afraid to help...

    There is hope in the fact that those who survive these initial onslaughts are all the more resilient and strong for it, being "tough as nails." Like a diamond, the trials of blazing hatred and extreme outward social and cultural pressure can sometimes forge an unbreakable will. I believe it is the responsibility of these such people to work, whether taking to the streets with picket signs or even writing a blog, to better this terrible situation for the following generation. It is amazing to see such young people already clamoring for their rights.

    It is a long process one undertakes when attempting to change societal values, and there have been positive strides in the past. We just have to continue to post blogs and videos and anything else we can in order to show the gay youth that they're not alone and that it's ok to be who they are.

  16. I am 13 years old and I am doing a report on "The Red Badge of Courage" I typed in courage and google led me to this site. I would like to say that after reading this blog, that I am so sad that this world is so full of hate and ignorance. We all should be treated equally no matter race, sex, or sexual preference. To Constance I hope you succeed in suing that school and giving them what they deserve.You are all the perfect example of courage and I wish that one day everyone will stop being so ignorant.