Saturday, October 2, 2010

Memories stirring. . . . ------> Re-membering. . . . . . October 6, 1988 - October 2, 2010

Dear Sisters and Brothers  ALL:
A LOT is going on in my heart and mind, tied in with my just-posted Memory Board of Matt Shepard and our prayer vigil here last night.  I want to try to tie some of this together for myself and share it with you. . .with anyone who may read this in the next few days. . . .

Our prayer vigil last evening for Peace and Reconciliation remembering Tyler Clementi and all the other gay students who recently were so bullied and violated that they were driven to suicide, was a big event here on campus. I am so proud of the students in my Intro Psych classes who originated, planned and carried out the Vigil.

It was well attended on a Friday evening . . . I am not good with numbers. . by at least 200 hundred students, maybe more.  One of the surprises came when the entire football team and their coaches walked in. . ."to show solidarity"..!

There was music, a couple readings, prayer of course, times of silence, and sacred space for sharing personal thoughts.  My students wanted me to speak, so I did at the end, summing things up, thanking my students and all who participated, and I ended with the challenge that our being there last night was "beautiful, just, important. . .but only a beginning.  If we do not carry on with what we are doing here tonight, if we do not change our thinking, our hearts, our space in which we live and breathe and hope and love and work, we've really missed it. . . .We are our sisters' and brothers' keepers by what we do and say. . .and fail to do. . . The violence cannot go on. . . .and the change must begin in me.  I invite you, tonight, to make it happen. . .to make a vow to yourself, to God as you understand God, and to Tyler and the other kids who died because of the fear, bullying, ignorance. . . that we will no longer remain silent and will confront the fear, the ignorance, the bullying so that all can live free from fear. . . ."

Later I called my parents and told  them how the vigil was. . . and then I asked them about memories which all of this has stirred up in me. . . and by comments which J and Gary made about Matt Shepard. . .and the whole maelstrom of feelings I was having.  . . . . .

I asked them if they remembered the night twelve years ago. . .I was 10 years old. . .and the news was on as I came into the den. . .they were watching special reports about the beating of Matt on October 6, 1998 outside the town of Laramie, Wyoming. . .and then Matt's death a few days later. . . .How I had asked them what all of this was really about, what it meant "to be GAY". . .and the like.  

I remember I was deeply moved by all of this, it touched off something deep within me.  Of course, they remembered. . .very well, Mom and Dad both said.

They told me that during those days and after they talked about this, about me, quite seriously, seeing how deeply I was affected.  Then they reminded me about when I was 15 and told them I was gay. . .how they had said "We know, honey,  we know.  We've been wondering if and when you'd tell us!"

All of this has fallen more into place. . . .it's all connected. . ..Matthew's beating and death, our conversations, their loving concern and acceptance and continued support of me, their gay son. . . . ., then these horrendous events emerging this past week about Tyler at Rutgers, and the four [or more?] similar suicides of gay kids around the country in recent months. . . 

In the remembering them we re-member, , ,put back together again various parts of our lives,  ourselves.

I just wanted to tell you about this. . . from me. . . .with love. . .Justin


Jabacue said...

Very powerful stuff Justin and you did a great job!!! It almost brought me to tears because I could feel your pain. Hearing all this and with your very supportive parents and classmates, I can see that YES INDEED we have come a long way. And yes we have a way to go. And will always have to deal with bigots and the like. But it has to be exposed and you are certainly putting it out there. Thanks so much.

JustinO'Shea said...

Thanks, JIM. . my pleasure to do my part. I think my make-up is such I could not 'not-speak out'. . .. hahaha I cant shut up. . .LOL

We ALL have our part to play. I've been put in positions where I can and do and must speak. SO, , yada yada yada doubbie doobie doooo. . .LOL

THANKS for your kind sharings.


Stew said...

We have come a long way in the past twelve years. It almost surprises me that the bullying remains. But, it does. So we must continue on this path.

I remember the start of the news reports and the comments from my own family that drowned out the details. The negative comments and the hatred that came from my own family was enough to keep me in the closet. I'm happy to say that most of them have seen the light and are supportive of me. This is why I contend that we have to let ourselves be known. No more hiding. If people know that they know someone that is gay, they become a little more understanding.

For those that have not been to a pride festival, GO! There is so much there. So many resources and every kind of person you can imagine. Of course there are those flamboyants that get the attention. But, I'll be there too. And proud of it.

People hate us because they don't know us.

J said...

Right on, brother. There's a great show that ABC puts on, hosted by John Quinones, that has actors recreate a very abusive scene in a public place to see how many people "do the right thing" and intervene. The encouraging news is that more people are sticking their necks out these days.
People don't have to physically intervene to help. Sometimes all it takes to stop hatred is to lead by example. Here's a great one from history: After the American Civil War, with all its bloodshed and bitterness, the South was shattered and filled with a silent hatred. One communion Sunday in Richmond, at historic St. John's Episcopal Church, the congregation was shocked when, after the priest called his parisoners to the communion rail, the first to approach was an elderly black man. This had never happened before. He kneeled, and the atmosphere was silent, motionless and electric. After a long pause, an old man with white hair and beard rose up from the rear of the church and joined the black man at the rail. It was Robert E. Lee. Once the general kneeled next to the black man, the priest began the service of communion and the congregation came forward. That is the kind of leadership that will make a nation moral and just.
And by the leadership you have exhibited in this cause, Justin, you have joined their company.

Gary Kelly said...

Sisters and brothers and uncles. Don't forget the uncles.

Good on you, JustinO. Keep reminding those perpetrators of hate and bigotry that it is they who are most reviled and despised by society, and not the Matt Shepards.

jimm said...

Justin, terrific speech, quite moving. And the football team? Goes to show mindsets are changing. I can't say enough about your parents. How many stories have we heard about teens being abandoned after coming out to mom and dad?

J, interesting history about R.E.Lee.

JustinO'Shea said...

Thanks, JIMM. . .for your kind words, thoughts.

And to ALL your others for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated!

I too like the story of Gen Lee's example. Thanks J.

J said...

Correction--It was St. Paul's church. St. John's was another Episcopal church in Richmond.

Gary Kelly said...

It's cool when gay people support each other, but even better when a straight high school teacher (who also happens to be a tough, no-nonsense biker) supports his gay students. Here's part of an email I received this morning:

The hardest over those years was knowing how to listen and give support to gay lads. One 15 year old was suicidal as he was relentlessly bullied. I had to become more than his mentor - the only way I could help him through was to become a friend to his parents and help to share their stress. That lad is 40 years old now and settled with a gay partner - I'm just happy to see he lived long enough to make a life for himself.

But there were also the defeats when the bullies won and a couple of great lads left school without finishing their education and losing all self-confidence and ambition. One is now 23 years old and I'm helping him to restart studying and rediscover that fine brain and an ambition for life.

I think that teacher has something in common with the football team that attented your prayer vigil, JustinO. We need more straights like them.

JustinO'Shea said...

GARY, that teacher friend of yours is a great man! So good to read stories like that. . .to hear thr willingness of people who care.

I am amazed at the attention TYLER's and the other buys last month is getting in the media. . .AND the speaking up and out that is occuring.

Of course there are the few low-life peeps who can only trash gay people and efforts being made.

Maybe it is wishful thinking, but it seems a lot more people are speaking out in support than ever before. Do you have this impression?

Thanks, Gary. . .for all your support!


Gary Kelly said...

POSITION VACANT: A vacancy exists for a qualified proof-reader at Justin Dunes blog. Remuneration will be three Hail Marys per hour to successful applicant.

JustinO'Shea said...

Sorry about that, Gary. . .will you overlook? As long as you understand what I am trying to communicate. . .

Je ferai mon possible. . . .Amen.


Gary Kelly said...

I was inspired to write this just now:

It takes no courage to be normal
No courage to be straight
It takes no courage to be a bully
Or a bigot filled with hate.

It takes no courage to be average
No courage to belong
It takes no courage to raise your voice
And join the loudest song.

It takes no courage to shame a boy
Into wishing he were finished
No courage to embarrass him
All self-esteem diminished.

Tyler Clementi killed himself
In a fit of painful torment
His gayness broadcast to the world
Without his due consent.

It's time to stop the bullying
Time to stop the hate
It's time to stop the bigotry
No longer must we wait.

It takes no courage to be normal
No courage to be straight
It takes no courage to be a bully
Or a bigot filled with hate.

It takes courage to be different
Courage to be strong
If only Tyler was with us now
To sing a different song.

J said...

One line of rubies,
One of diamonds
Move across the bridge at night.
And in the stillness below
(where everything is washed
and forgotten)there is no song.
Yet we will hear it, even when
it floats as subtly as a cobweb
on the ceiling.

Coop said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JustinO'Shea said...

APOLOGIES. . . When I was approving COOP's comments to post on blog we had an electrical freakout, of some sort. Anyway, his comments were not correctly posted. This is what was posted to the blog.
Sorry, COOPs! justin

Coop said...

This missive is late and I apologize :)

I don't remember noticing Matthew Sheppard's tragic death. I was a teenager at the time. Maybe it's because my thoughts were centered on myself and M.S.'s death happened "out there". Maybe I wasn't that sensitive because I had feelings for girls as well as guys in that point of my life. I wasn't fully "Gay".

I still can't get past the antics of Tyler's roommate. Tyler asked for "Privacy". So what does the idiot roomie do? Turn on his webcam. Even if roomie posted footage of Tyler watching TV and ripping farts, that still would've been wrong!

It is terrible that Tyler felt he had to choose suicide. His fear of the hatred that comes from bigoted people, "churches", and even his own family. The only good news in this whole thing is that is serves as another wake-up call to the world.
Ironically, everyone is on Tyler's side now.

I think of (pray for ;-) ) Tyler and of everyone in his position.
It is sad. I pray for those who take their lives seeking solitude.

Carry on and... to all those out there... You ARE loved.

-To work, Coop.
October 4, 2010 12:00 PM

Coop said...

I believed, for a long time, that people who choose suicide to escape their pain were not thinking correctly. Unfortunately, the poor souls thought that taking their own lives was the only way out.
And their choice should never be held against them. They deserved peace and tranquility at last.

Guess what? Psychology backs me up! I just learned from psychology that no one in his or her right mind would commit suicide. Pain, physical or emotional, blocks the instinct for self preservation.
Tyler did not freely choose to take his own life.

Tyler FELT that he had to do it. He likely thought that taking his life was his ONLY option. I pray that he, and all the other lives we lost recently, finally found the peace that we were looking for.

I lived "in the closet" for a looong time. In 2002, I made the decision to tell two of my closest friends in college. The first one I "came out" to told me to tell the other one. I remember how painful (for me) that was. And 'knowing' how the second guy would react didn't make it any easier.
Truthfully, and don't ask me why, I used to wonder why I did that.

My first thought after watching the Ellen clip was to thank GOD for 'M' and 'B'. I don't regret coming out to them in 2002 anymore. Cause I've never been "alone".

JustinO'Shea said...

Awesome story, COOPS. . . thanks.

See, we never know how someone will react until we tell them. . .and then find out.

Lucky you trusted your 2 "besties"..LOL


Coop said...


"I pray that he, and all the other lives we lost recently, finally found the peace that They were looking for."