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Everybody Has a Pulse

Last year, I chose to return to undergrad for the upteenth time in order to pursue my Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication. I can now say with excitement that I am just four courses away from graduation. Last week, I turned in my final project for my Media Writing class. The project was a “feature story” that would be published in a magazine. I chose to write about the Pulse Nightclub and coming out. To memorialize the lives that were lost and directly impacted one month ago today, I have chosen to post my final project at the approximate time it all began with little editing (that’s why my citations are in APA style).

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On June 12, 2016, hundreds of people filled the Pulse Nightclub, a bar that catered to the LGBTQ community. The patrons checked their worries and stressors at the door. They were there to let loose, to be among friends, and to dance the night away. Most importantly, they were there to live. Pulse wasn’t any ordinary nightclub. It was a place of empowerment, solidarity, and it was a refuge for so many people that felt the world didn’t understand them. In the early hours of that Sunday, a gunman entered Pulse armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and opened fire inside. Pulse Nightclub was the latest location of the mass shooting epidemic that has plagued the United States for the last couple of decades. 49 people would ultimately perish, with 53 more injured, becoming the deadliest shooting in American history, and the worst attack against the LGBTQ community in the United States. As the names, ages, pictures and stories of the victims began to be released, many people were drawn to the heartbreaking story of Juan Guerrero and his partner Christopher Leinonen. They were planning their dream wedding together. Ultimately, their lives were cut short, but their families knew the undying love they had for one another. Instead of the dream wedding, their families were planning a joint funeral (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016). As everyone was reeling in the pain and sadness of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub, those within the LGBTQ community were having a harder time coping with the tragedy. Juan’s story resonated with so many that identify as LGBTQ. He came out of the closet to his family in recent years. He feared they wouldn’t accept him; a fear many LGBTQ individuals face everyday.

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At 22 years old, Juan Guerrero had been with his partner, Christopher Leinonen, 32, for three years. Guerrero worked as a telemarketer, but had recently started taking college courses at Central Florida University. He had only recently come out to his family, fearing he wouldn’t be accepted. Not only did Juan’s family accept him, but they also revered Christopher Leinonen as a family member (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016).

The fears of coming out that Juan Guerrero had were common. Sexual orientation encompasses a person’s sense of identity, which is referred to as being how an individual feels, what they call themselves, and whom they want to share their life with and have an intimate relationship (Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 467-468). The Human Rights Campaign notes that 26 percent of LGBT youth state their biggest problems include the feeling of not being accepted by their families, trouble at school and bullying, and a fear to be out and open (HRC, 2016). Heatherington and Lavner (2008) state that when a gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual person chooses to come out to family members, it is an important psychological decision and is a major obstacle in the mind of people that identify as LGBTQ. They often fear the negative consequences that can come from coming out to family, including being kicked out, or losing financial or emotional support from their families, and take those issues into consideration prior to and during the coming out process (as cited in Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 468). Many of the victims at Pulse on June 12 lived with those fears.

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There was a report about one victim that had not been claimed by his family. A father was so ashamed of his son’s homosexuality that he refused to claim his body. He lost his life in an unfathomable way, but his father was still too ashamed to say “He is mine,” (Keneally & Lantz, 2016). Another story that gripped national headlines was about Brenda McCool, a mother of 11 that loved to dance, especially with her gay son that she was so proud of. In an effort to save her son’s life, she shielded him from the gunfire. Brenda was a hero, and stood up to the gunmen to symbolically proclaim that “He is mine” (Summers, 2016, para 20).

 

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Whether you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, have a family member, or a friend that identifies as such, know that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nor does anything change. The lives that were lost that night are no less a person’s child than before they were brutally murdered. The coming out process isn’t a cookie cutter. While the process isn’t unique, each situation and story is unique. Coming out experiences can fall into several different categories from planned discussions to spontaneity. Coming out stories aren’t limited to the list provided here, but in part, Manning (2015) classifies coming out as “the pre-planned conversations,” “emergent conversations,” and “confrontational conversations,” (p 127 & 131). The pre-planned conversation, which is likely the most common way of coming out of the closet for an LGBTQ individual, is the conversation in which the person has made a previous conscious decision to reveal their sexual orientation. Juan Guerrero likely used this method to come out to his family. Emergent conversations occur when the topic of homosexuality come up during the natural flow of conversation, and the closeted LGBTQ individual reveals their sexuality during the evolution of this discussion. It’s common for parents to sift through their child’s belongings. Parents may feel it’s necessary to do this in order to ensure their children are not endangering themselves through the people they hang around with, that they are involved in drugs, or engaging in other illegal activity. During this process, parents may discover their children may be gay. The parents discover this through reading notes and letters, or overhearing phone conversations. In these situations, parents describe themselves as being angry, while their children feel betrayed, scared and confused (Manning, 2015, p 127 & 131). Since there are a multitude of scenarios, LGBTQ people, their friends and family experience and deal with the process in many different ways. When dealing with the realities of being LGBTQ, or having someone in your life that is, love the person, embrace them, and dance the night away with them, just as Juan and Christopher did, and just like Brenda McCool did. It’s important that their deaths are not in vain, but instead are springboards to create dialogue, and better assessments of what love, commitment and compassion truly mean.

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In the end, people in the LGBTQ community only want to be accepted for who they are. Only then can lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and those they deeply love begin to cope with the realities that nothing is different. In fact, the lives of Juan Guerrero, Christopher Leinonen, Brenda McCool and the countless lives that were directly impacted by this mass shooting encapsulate that notion. The sonnet that was passionately and eloquently drafted, and spoken by Lin-Manuel Miranda during the 2016 Tony Awards reminds people that “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside,” (Miranda, 2016). Love conquers hate, and no matter how hard people try, that is a constant that will never change. Love one another, embrace each other, and accept each other, because when the dust settles, that’s one of the only things that everyone truly wants.

HRC (2016). “Growing up LGBT in America,” Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from:

http://www.hrc.org/youth-report/view-and-share-statistics#.V31BmZMrLeQ

 

Keneally, M. & Lantz, D. (2016, June 13). “Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes

Emotional Plea,” ABC News Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/mother-man-missing-orlando-club-shooting-breaks-awaits/story?id=39794076

 

Manning, J. (2015). “Communicating sexual identities: a typology of coming out,” Sexuality and

Culture 19(1). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8b5e899c-a41e-4ee9-aeac-c5f0b5660941%40sessionmgr107&vid=4&hid=104

 

Merchant, N., Johnson, C.K., & Webber, T. (2016, June 15). “Victim Vignettes: All remembered

for joy, love they brought,” AP The Big Story. Retrieved from: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5fb45f7bd2564c769ff6f3692c305c44/victim-vignettes-all-described-kind-loving-full-joy

 

Miranda, L. M.[Entertainment Tonight] (2016, June 12) “Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Emotional

Tonys Acceptance Speech: ‘Love is Love’.” [Video File] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUffUHGqYco.

 

Perrin-Wallqvist, R. & Lindblom, J. (2015). “Coming out as gay: a phenomenological study

about adolescents disclosing their homosexuality to their parents,” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 43(3). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ea33bbe5-b183-436c-a921-9107fa13a5c2%40sessionmgr102&vid=3&hid=104

 

Reynolds, D. (2016). “A Father Refused to Claim Body of Pulse Victim,” The Advocate.

Retrieved from: http://www.advocate.com/families/2016/6/24/father-refused-claim-body-pulse-victim

 

Summers, C. (2016, June 21). “’She was the mom everybody wanted’: Orlando massacre survivor

breaks down in tears at funeral for his hero mother who shielded him with her body and saved his life,” Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3652052/Orlando-massacre-survivor-breaks-tears-funeral-hero-mother-shielded-body-saved-life.html

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A Place of Solidarity, Empowerment and a Place to Live

In times of hardships, tragedies and even triumphs, I find myself picking up a notepad, a drafting pencil or a paint brush to allow my creativity to flow. It’s in these moments when I find my motivation, peace and serenity. Often times, I don’t have a difficult time finding the words to say. After many tragedies, I had no shortage of words to write, but in the face of yet another national tragedy, I’ve found myself at a loss for words.

It’s been four weeks, and it is still incomprehensible to think about what happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The worst mass shooting in American history where 49 people died, and 53 others were injured. The spot was chosen because of its popularity, and its LGBTQ clientele.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.President Barack Obama (June 12, 2016).

I’ve been working on what to write in the wake of the massacre, but at times I’ve been overcome with grief, sadness, and unable to conceptualize my feelings into words. I’ve wanted to write something that expresses my own feelings, advocates for awareness, and most importantly honors the victims. 

Eight years ago, my friend invited me to her 21st birthday celebration at Martha’s Vineyard, a gay bar in Springfield, Missouri. I had never been to the bar, but I had always been interested in going… as a “straight” guy, of course. While I was eager to go to Martha’s, by the time I got in there, I felt awkward, uncomfortable and out of place. Deep down inside myself, I knew the truth; I was gay, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. As the night progressed, I loosened up, and began enjoying myself. When we were getting ready to leave, my friend’s friend, who is an openly gay man, came up to me. He put his sweaty arms on my shoulders and said “I know you’re straight, but I just want you to know that you’re adorable.” I don’t know what it was in that moment; maybe he whispered a subliminal message to me – it’s OK to be yourself. I found myself at a crossroad in my life. I could wallow in my self-pity and continue lying to myself, but I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I was sick of the battle, and I wanted to be true to myself, and the world.

Over time, going to Martha’s became somewhat of a weekly ritual for my friends and me. We went to watch drag shows, we went to drink, to dance, to have a good time, and most importantly to be with friends. One of my greatest memories at Martha’s Vineyard was New Years Eve, 2008. The year was being capped off surrounded by friends that just a year ago, I didn’t know. As the clock struck midnight, drag kings and queens got on stage as we all sang “Seasons of Love,” from Rent. In that moment, I was excited for the path my life was headed on. Everything felt right. As I look back upon my experiences at Martha’s Vineyard, I remember how comfortable I felt there. I could be myself without fear of being harassed; I met like minded people and developed a supportive network of friends.

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“Seasons of Love” at Martha’s Vineyard – New Years Eve, 2008

My personal experiences and feelings aren’t unique.  In fact, they are on par with the norm. As I asked my own friends about their experiences at gay bars their descriptions were strikingly similar to my own. They expressed that they felt at “home” and like they were among “family.” Gay bars, diners, resorts, and other establishments that cater to the LGBTQ community are seen as safe havens. We don’t have to fear the harassment, discrimination, bigotry or hatred that people in the LGBTQ community are all too often faced with. Martha’s Vineyard was my respite from a world, and more importantly, a town that didn’t understand. British comedian, David Morgan said:

People have been asking why the media and our politicians keep referring to Pulse Nightclub as a gay establishment, rather than just calling it a nightclub. Pulse is not just a nightclub, and to refer to it as such would be both disingenuous and misleading. The nightclub was not targeted simply because it was a popular bar, but because it was a popular gay bar. Whether the gunman targeted that specific location because of his religious ideologies, or his hatred for the LGBTQ community, the location was chosen because the patrons were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight allies.

The sobering facts that LGBTQ youth represent approximately seven percent of the youth population, but account for 40 percent of homelessness among all teenagers, and LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide, while questioning youth are three times more likely when compared to their straight counterparts are troubling, but the troubling facts do not end there. In circumstances in which LGBTQ youth are physically or verbally harassed or abused, it is reported that they are two and a half times more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors. Additionally, youth that come from unsupportive families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide when compared to LGBTQ youth that report little to no family rejection.

The raw emotions those of us in the LGBTQ community are feeling understand the struggles the people at Pulse went through in everyday life. We faced the discrimination, the bigotry and the intolerance first hand, just as they did. We know the stories of the “medical experiments,” torture and death those suspected of being gay were subjected to in the concentration camps during the Holocaust that history books tend to forget. We understand the first pride march was a riot – the Stonewall Riots in 1969. We understand the arson of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans that killed 32 in 1973, and was the largest mass killing of LGBTQ individuals in the US prior to Pulse, was motivated by hatred. We understand that Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die, because he was gay. We understand that Lawrence King was murdered because he professed his love to a male classmate, and his educators ignored the warning signs and pointed blame at Lawrence, rather than his perpetrator. We understand that our transgender brothers and sisters are being discriminated against, abused and killed at even greater alarming rates than lesbians, gays and bisexuals, and our politicians seem preoccupied with legislating what restrooms people should use, rather than creating meaningful legislation. We understand that we couldn’t openly serve in the military until 2011, June 30, 2016 if you’re trans, or get married in all 50 states until last year and we understand the “religious freedom” laws for what they truly are. We also hear loud and clear some of the rhetoric being preached in the wake of the Orlando tragedy in the name of “God.”

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While this attack has affected anyone that values freedom and human life, regardless of their sexual orientation, it’s important to realize this tragedy impacts all of us in different ways, and we mourn in different ways. We respond differently, and even have different connections to the victims and location of the attack. You might be mourning the loss of innocent lives, broken dreams, and families and friends that have to deal with the emptiness their lives now have. You may be heartbroken over the carnage that was spilled on June 12 because of hatred, intolerance and bigotry. You have every right to feel the way you do, because the people that died and the people that are dealing with the injuries and scars are ultimately a part of all of us.

As I wrote this, I felt it was important to capture voices from the LGBTQ community and beyond. I asked a couple of my straight friends for their thoughts on the attack, and this is what they had to say:

“It bothers me that a heavily armed man went into a nightclub and shot a lot of people. Those people were someone’s son or daughter. An act of hate took them away from their families. As a straight mother, I keep thinking that there are parents mourning the loss of their sons or daughters, brothers and sisters. I have a five-year-old daughter, and it scares me that she could be in the wrong place at the wrong time someday because of a hateful person with a weapon.” – Jodi

 

“It’s hard to really put into words what I’m feeling. No one deserves what happened in Orlando.I would be considered by many to be very conservative… Perhaps even a “right wing-nut” to some, but that doesn’t mean I lack compassion. I have been praying for the families of the victims, just as I do for any national tragedy. We can all unite and agree that what happened was absolutely terrible. It especially hit me when I heard he had scouted out Disney World. If he had chosen that as his target, it likely would have been the week I was there for my first Disney trip, as I was there during the Disney “Gay Days.” To think I could have been that close to a national tragedy is hard to fathom, and makes things hit a little closer to home. I have friends in the LGBT community, and to think that they could be targeted for their sexual orientation is just as tragic as Christian persecution in the Middle East*.” – Allison

While we understand and still endure the discrimination, hatred, bigotry and tragedies we have faced over the decades in the LGBTQ community, there’s still reasons to be optimistic. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for equality, especially for our transgender brother and sisters. We’re still going to face the bigotry and hatred that has plagued us, but we’re in a far better place today than we were even just 10 years ago. The Stonewall Inn was just designated a national historic site by President Obama and just last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the transgender ban in the military. We may still be reeling in the pain of Orlando, and that will take time to heal, but I have hope for a better tomorrow.

“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. […] And you, and you, and you, you have to give people hope.” – Harvey Milk (1978).

In November, I will cap off an epic expedition to Berlin, Barcelona, the Canary Islands, and Puerto Rico in Orlando. I planned to go to Pulse Nightclub prior to June 12, and that plan has not changed. Barbara Poma initially opened Pulse to keep her gay brother, John Poma’s heartbeat alive after he died. She and co-owner Ron Legler vow to reopen Pulse with a stronger heartbeat than ever before; a pulse strong enough to memorialize 50 lives (49 victims that died, and her brother). A good friend of mine that I met through LGBTQ advocacy often calls us a family of choice. While talking about the reopening of Pulse, Poma reiterated that when she said:

“We just welcome those families into our families. and we just have to move forward and find a way to keep our hearts beating and keep our spirit alive; and we’re not going to let somebody take this away from us.” – TODAY Interview (6/14/16)

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If Pulse is reopened by November, I will go there and dance the night away. Otherwise, I will pay my respects in another way. As Barbara Poma said:

“It’s important to never let hate win.”Today Interview (6/14/16)

Love conquers hate, because:

“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers 
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love 
is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside”Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Awards (6/12/16)

 

*- I don’t want to take away from the sentiments of this comment, because it’s important, however I feel it is also important to point out that many groups of people from many different cultural groups are persecuted in unfathomable ways in parts of the Middle East.

Posted in current events, discrimination, lgbt, LGBT RIGHTS, marriage, marriage equality, news, politics, Uncategorized

Words of Wisdom for the Anti-Gay Republican Party

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If there has ever been a time to enshrine discrimination into our Constitution, the time is now. As the United States Supreme Court has now ruled that Article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and the defendants in the Proposition 8 case didn’t have standing to bring their case to the federal level, marriage equality sweeping across the United States is all but inevitable. Republicans are now in a frenzy to drum up support for a Constitutional amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. They’re already coming out in droves announcing a slippery slope into legalized polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia.

During the midterm elections next year, and in the 2016 United States Presidential election we are going to see a wedge between the two main political parties that will be polar opposites. The top tier Democrat candidates will support full marriage equality while the top tier Republicans will support a federal marriage amendment defining “traditional marriage.” If the Republican Party wants to remain a viable party at the federal level, they are going to have to redefine the way they handle the issue of marriage equality.

Anti-Gay Kansas Republican Senator Tim Huelskamp
Anti-Gay Kansas Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp (District 1)

The latest attempt at enshrining discrimination into the United States Constitution comes from United States Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who recently introduced the dead on arrival Marriage Protection Amendment. The bill seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. While there is no chance of this bill gaining much steam, it shows Republicans are still determined  to deny LGBT couples the same rights given to straight people under the law.

The problem with neo-conservative politicians continuing to adopt the stance of a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage is that it’s becoming an out-of-touch view. It’s no secret by now that people are changing their attitude towards marriage equality. While several years ago a majority of Americans supported amendments banning same-sex marriage, that view is quickly changing. Today, polls show a majority of Americans support marriage equality. In order for Republicans to continue to be viable political candidates, they must adopt a different attitude towards marriage equality.

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Former Senator Rick Santorum

In 2012, there were varying platforms represented on the stage of Republican presidential debates. The majority of the candidates supported a marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann ran almost exclusively on the anti-gay platform. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry both supported an anti-gay marriage amendment, but were less outspoken about the issue when compared to the other two candidates. Jon Huntsman, who is likely the most balanced candidate to run for president in recent history supported civil unions and domestic partnerships. Ron Paul didn’t believe the federal government should be in the business of marriage at all. Gary Johnson, who ended up dropping out of the Republican primary race to secure the Libertarian presidential nomination (and my vote for president) as well as little known candidate who was the first openly gay Republican candidate for president, Fred Karger both supported full marriage equality.

We’re likely to see a reemergence of Rick Santorum in 2016 along with several other candidates that, while not as outspoken on the issue of gay rights as Santorum will share the same sentiment. Democrats will bring candidates to their stage proclaiming their absolute support for marriage equality.

Prop 8 Plaintiffs Paul Katami's and Jeff Zarrillo's wedding - June 28, 2013
Prop 8 Plaintiffs Paul Katami’s and Jeff Zarrillo’s wedding – June 28, 2013

The clearest examples to illustrate the need for the Republican party to reexamine their stance on gay rights comes from four major ballot initiatives from 2012. Four states – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington all had some sort of gay marriage initiative on the ballot, such as the legalization of marriage equality, upholding marriage equality or a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In each state the people voted on the side of marriage equality – an unprecedented pattern breaking the long line of people voting to ban same-sex marriage. People are slowly warming up to equality, and if the Republican party continues to be on the side of discrimination, the Republican party will be on the losing end of the race for the White House and many House, Senate and Governorships throughout the United States over the next few years.

The answer to the Republican’s gay marriage problem is quite simple. We’re never going to get 100% Republican support for marriage equality. Some Republican senators such as Mark Kirk of Illinois, Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski and the senator from Ohio, Rob Portman have come out in support of marriage equality, but there will always only be a small minority of Republicans supporting gay marriage. In order for the Republican party to remain a powerful source, they must distance themselves from dealing with marriage equality at all by the federal government. I have advocated this for many years. While I believe gay rights must be dealt with by the federal government, the Republican party ought to adopt one of the pillars of the Republican party; leave it up to the states. In order for the Republican party to continue to be a relevant political party in America, they must adopt a federal laissez-faire attitude towards marriage equality. They must believe in leaving the issue of marriage equality up to each individual state. In this manner, they can stick to their ignorant principles while not looking too extreme to the more moderate voters.

I don’t expect to see my advice for the Republican Party to go anywhere beyond this blog, but my advice is one of the most important ideas the Republican party can adopt to increase their chances of maintaining or gaining seats in the House and Senate in 2014 and 2016 as well as reclaiming the White House in 2016.

Posted in Basketball, christianity, discrimination, Florida, Football, gay, homophobia, lgbt, NBA, NFL, Sports, Uncategorized

The Tim Tebow Effect

“Christianity of the sort that Tebow preaches is the reason people like Collins have such a hard time coming out. Tebow hasn’t said anything disparaging about Collins, but evangelical Christians have no doubt acted like they’re being oppressed by the “gay agenda” while at the same time being the oppressors.” – Hemant Mehta

Recently, NBA free agent center, Jason Collins announced he is gay. Collins because the first openly gay athlete in the four major sports in the United States. The gay community heralded him as an inspiration and a hero. While I was looking up news on his coming out, I came across a woman’s tweet that said it was a sad day when people were heralding Jason Collins as a hero for his openness about his homosexuality and a football player that is outspoken on his Christian faith can’t find a job in the NFL. At that time, Tim Tebow had been released by the New York Jets. It was recently announced that Tim Tebow will become a quarterback for the New England Patriots.

Tim Tebow was brought to national prominence after leading the Florida Gators to two BCS National Championships in 2006 and 2008 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007. He was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He has been known for his conservative views on faith before he came on the national stage. Tim Tebow is probably most famous for writing Bible verses on his black eye strips during his college years. He actually inspired the NCAA to ban such a practice. The new rule was dubbed the “Tebow Rule.”He and his mom were spotlighted in a Focus on the Family anti-abortion commercial that was ran during the 2010 Super Bowl. Focus on the Family is run by James Dobson, one of the most prominent anti-gay figures and a leader in the ex-gay movement.

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Tebow is known for touring the country, going to churches and sharing his religious testimony. I don’t hold Tebow’s passion for his faith against him and I actually commend him for standing up for what he believes in. It seems as though some Christians are trying to use Tim Tebow as a martyr for their perceived inequalities about Christianity. As pointed out in the tweet by a woman I mentioned above, and the political cartoon I posted earlier, people are claiming Tebow is being discriminated against by the NFL while everyone is embracing Jason Collins. They ignore the fact that ignorance and intolerance about homosexuality are widespread throughout sports.

So, is Tim Tebow really being discriminated against because of his outspokenness about his faith, or is he just not that great of a quarterback? I have to believe its the latter. There is more evidence to support that Tebow is a subpar quarterback that underperforms in the NFL. Former NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship in 2000 and a Super Bowl appearance for the Rams the following year in 2001 and as the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. I lived in St. Louis during the Ram’s heydays and it was a very well known fact that Kurt Warner was a very religious individual. He was outspoken about his faith and was often seen in Christian commercials. His religiousness never held him back from being a player on a team.

There is actually more proof arguing that people that support gay rights are being discriminated against in the NFL. Brendon Ayanbadejo, former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens become a national icon for marriage equality during the 2012 NFL season. He is not gay, but a straight ally that used his team’s appearance in the Super Bowl to bring attention to marriage equality. A couple months ago, the Ravens released him. They stated it was not because he was outspoken about his support for gay rights, but one could argue that it is a reason. The Baltimore Ravens had actually pressured him to pipe down about his outspokenness about equality while he was a member of the team. Former kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, Chris Kluwe was also recently released by his team after he spoke up in support for marriage equality. The Vikings deny that’s the reason he was released from the team. Two weeks later, Kluwe signed with the Oakland Raiders. Both Ayanbadejo and Kluwe jointly wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting marriage equality. I want to be clear in stating that I am not arguing these are the reasons Brendon and Chris were released by their teams, but it is important to point out for the purpose of this entry.

Chris Kluwe and Brandon Ayanbadejo at the 2013 GLAAD Awards
Chris Kluwe and Brandon Ayanbadejo at the 2013 GLAAD Awards

We know the culture within sports is tense between homosexuality and athletes. Many athletes speak against homosexuality on the air and have negative attitudes about having a gay teammate. Others are open and supportive to the idea of homosexuality in sports. The most damning evidence against the argument that Tim Tebow is the fact that he really is not that great of an NFL quarterback. He thrived in college, because the Gators were built around his type of offense and it was easier for him to run the ball in college than in the NFL. Most NFL teams are not going to build an offense around him. They would have a difficult time signing wide receivers, because they’d know they wouldn’t get to see the ball as often as other teams. Tebow’s stats in the NFL are subpar and not in line with some of the more commanding quarterbacks that teams want.

I find it rather ironic that those who tell gay people to keep their sexuality to his or her self, are now attempting to cry foul and say the media and LGBT community are telling Tim Tebow to keep his faith to himself. Hemant Mehta summarizes it best in the quote I posted above. The fact of the matter is that Tebow wasn’t being shunned by football teams because of his faith, but because he isn’t a strong quarterback. Athletic statistics don’t lie. With the help of Tom Brady and the Patriots staff, Tebow may be able to become a talented NFL QB. Maybe they can train him to play in another position where he will succeed. Time will tell if he will become a better player in the NFL, but his Christianity has nothing to do with how he performs in the NFL. It is ignorant to believe it does.

**The NHL and many other sports teams and athletes have teamed up with the “You Can Play Project,” which is an organization to bring awareness to ignorance about homosexuality in sports. It’s a phenomenal organization and if you haven’t already, I suggest you check them out!**

Posted in crime, discrimination, gay, Harvey Milk, lesbian, lgbt, Milk, murder, San Francisco

Dedication to Harvey Milk: Happy 83rd Birthday

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I wasn’t familiar with the man, Supervisor Harvey Milk until Sean Penn portrayed him in the 2008 blockbuster, Milk. When the movie first came out, I didn’t quite understand what it was about and had no interest in seeing it. As a guy that had been recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, I thought the movie was about the dairy industry. Some friends of mine convinced me otherwise and a group of us went to see it in the theaters. At the time the movie came out, I had just finally accepted myself and had just recently come out to most of my friends.

For those unfamiliar with Harvey Milk, he was a city supervisor for the city of San Francisco. He is believed to have been the first openly gay elected official in a major city. Milk worked tirelessly for the gay rights movement, cosponsoring a bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the city of San Francisco. He became the face of the opposition to Prop 6 (The Briggs Initiative), a movement to ban gay teachers, suspected gay teachers and any faculty member protecting those gay teachers from holding a position as an educator in the state of California. When he took on the role of the voice for anti-Prop 6 supporters, the bill was favored to pass by a 2-1 margin in the upcoming elections. Harvey Milk traveled the state garnering support for his cause by having public debates with the sponsor of Prop 6, State Senator John Briggs. The initiative failed in 1978 in a relatively close race.

Harvey Milk along with Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco were brutally assassinated by the former city supervisor Dan White after Moscone refused to give Mr. White his job back after he had resigned from that position.

This past Wednesday would have been Harvey Milk’s 83rd birthday. As I trek along on my own path into the political field, Harvey Milk has become an inspiration and hero for me. He stood for what he believed in and never backed down. He educated Californians on homosexuality and how we are not sick. He encouraged young gay people and advocated for people to come out of the closet. He said if people around us realized they knew someone that was gay, it could help open their hearts to the LGBT community and vote no on the Briggs Initiative. His strategy must’ve worked as Prop 6 failed by a margin of 58.4% to 41.6%.

I often wonder how different this country would be if Harvey Milk’s life hasn’t been cut short. He had successfully lobbied for equality and change on the city level in San Francisco and accomplished a significant amount during his 11 months in office. With Prop 8 now before the United States Supreme Court, I wonder if the outcome for the ballot initiative would have been the same if Harvey Milk had still been around, or even if he had more time in the political arena.

Those are always going to be questions I ponder but will never know the answer. The legacy of Harvey Milk should be required knowledge for anyone who happens to be gay, and even for those who are not. His legacy should be a reminder to all of us that change can happen. Equality can happen and that we’ve got to have hope. Harvey Milk is an inspiration to all.

As I think about my own career path and my own life, I often find myself pausing and asking, what would Harvey Milk do? I don’t want to be a politician. I want to work on campaigns whether they be for politicians or initiatives I believe in. I want to lobby for equality, tolerance and acceptance. I want to work tirelessly and be as passionate as Harvey Milk was to pass sweeping reform in San Francisco and to bring down a bigoted and misguided proposition. I want people to know whether you’re gay or straight, bisexual or asexual, no matter what you are, you are no less than any other person in this world. On that same token, you’re no better than anyone else either.

Whether you’ve been out for 50 years, just came out, thinking of coming out or you’re deep in the closet, know that you are not alone. You are unique and bring a special quality to this universe. You have a large family of LGBT and allies that support you and love you for who you are.

If you are still in the closet, I encourage you to come out, but only do it when you’re ready. I’m only about 95% of the way out of the closet. The other 5% will come in time. I cherish the relationships I have with the 5% that don’t know too much to possibly destroy those relationships. It’s primarily to keep my grandparents out of the loop. Once they are gone, I will come out to the remaining family members, unless something happens that forces me out, such as a ballot initiative in Pennsylvania about gay rights.

Harvey Milk is an inspiration to us all and we will continue to carry on his legacy of equality as we fight to be treated the same as our straight counterparts.