Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cardinal Spirit - circa 2011... Wow.

I came across this  Video  on Facebook today.  It is  a mass  "lip dub"  done by the students  Sun Prairie Senior High School in  Sun Prairie Wisconsin.   The  American High School that  I  graduated from in  198... something  or other...  Watching this  video   I was struck  by some  amazing  differences and changes that have taken place  there  over the past  quarter century.  

The first and most noticeable  the new  School building,  which  makes the old hallowed halls look like something  out of  bad  80's  after school special.   But even more  striking is  the  the diversity of the  Student  population.   When I  attended  SPHS there were  three students of color , that's it.   SPHS  today  makes  a Benetton ad look monochrome.

Then  there is  the  just the fact that  so many  students  came together   to make this.   I will  confess,  I don't think I could ever  imagine  my own  classmates  coming  together to do anything  even remotely similar.   Well,  maybe,  but  highly  doubtful..   It seems that  times  do change, and  change for better.

Wow...  Well done  SPHS!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Right To Love... An American Family

Trailer to a  fantastic  documentary  about  one American family's  journey  towards  equality.   I  have such deep admiration for  Jay and Bryan  and the magnificent  family  they have  in Northern California.

If you have not  done so already  you  really should  check out their amazing blog  and their  YouTube  channel.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Remembering Matthew Shepard.

Wednesday October 7th, 1998 was a fairly ordinary day in Chicago. I was working for a small consulting firm in the near West suburb of Oak Park, and had spent the day in a series of fairly productive meetings. So I felt pretty good when I got home from work. I was puttering around my apartment making dinner when I picked up the remote control for the TV and turned on CNN. The lead story was a brutal attack of a young man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been beaten into a coma and left tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was a young gay man and was not expected to survive.

I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

I walked into the 7-11 there on the corner and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry, others sad, but we all knew that something in our own community had changed as a result of what had happened,  hundreds of miles away in field outside Laramie.

In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process,  and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.

On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical.  What's more, those cosequences now  had a face, and a name.

As I walked home, my thoughts turned to Matthew Shepard’s parents. What must they be thinking and feeling? Had they known Matt was gay? Did it really matter? Years later I would have the great honor of meeting Judy Shepard,  and hear her tell her own powerful story .

Thirteen years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day,  that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed,  on that October night in 1998.

Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.

People with a vested interest in keeping LGBT people as the one group it is still safe to hate. People who seek to profit, personally, politically and even economically from fomenting deadly hatred and fear of others. Bigots whose actions and beliefs are the farthest thing from being Christian, yet claim to have a monopoly on what they claim God thinks and who they claim "God hates".

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to say it’s important to remember Matthew and so many others like him who have died as a result of hatred and bigotry. If you want to get involved, here are a few great places to start...

The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The Trevor Project:

The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation:

The We Give a Damn Campaign: