One of the most important and most vivid memories of taking a stand or lack there of, was when I around eleven or twelve. We had moved (again) into the middle of nowhere in West Texas, and I had to change schools. I had to ride the bus to and from school, and the other kids were not nice. I was a scrawny gangly kid, who wore glasses until I was thirteen. My main goal at that point of my life was to slide under the radar, to try not to be noticed by all of the bullies. I tried to be invisible. I tried to get good grades, but not too hard. I refused to raise my hand to keep the attention off of myself. The country school I attended was grade K-12. The high-school was in a separate building next to the elementary, but all ages of students rode buses together.
There was a young man, in high school, who rode my bus. His hair was was the lightest shade of blond, like snow with a tinge of yellow. His eyes were pink, and his skin a translucent white, showing the blue road map of veins snaking beneath his papery skin. The other kids shouted at him, threw food, shot spit-wads at him. Spit-soaked paper tangled in his platinum hair, as he stared out of the rectangular windows. His main objective was to stay in the center of the ridicule to protect his little sister, Marla. She was tiny for her age, although I can't remember how old she was. She had bottle-cap glasses, and if not for her brother would have been the brunt of the jokes. Because her brother was different, more different than her, he was the target. She had a chance, thanks to her brother.
I sat on the bouncing seats, for a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon, watching him. Every day, I told myself I would be more like that beautiful boy on the bus. I would take a stand, for him. I would stand up and tell those other kids to STOP!!!! And every day, I held my voice. I knew what would happen if I spoke up. I knew that all of those mean kids would turn their hatred toward me.
I remember one day in particular, the kids were really mean to him. He endured them calling him a faggot, an ugly albino, and a freak. He sat in that brittle green seat, accepting what his peers put him through. I still believe he did it for her, for Marla. He stood and walked off the bus, with spit clinging in his hair, behind his little sister.
When I got home that day, I sobbed in my mother's arms, for that beautiful, heroic boy. I was disappointed in myself for not taking a stand for him. That was the first time I learned what the word, faggot meant. I learned, from my mother, about homosexuality. Before I had my first period, I learned of how cruel people could be. I don't know if he really was gay or if those kids just assumed. What I do know is he was Marla's hero, and he was MY hero. I watched him every day for at least a year, and every day I vowed to stand up for him. There were so many things about me for the kids to make fun of and I couldn't do it.
I still think of that pink-eyed boy. I still wish I could have been his hero. Now when I see someone struggling, I stand up. I do everything I can to help.
One of my very favorite people, over a span of 39 years, is Richard Peters.
I will never forget meeting him for the first time. Richard was tall, and his personality was larger than life. I remember looking at him and just smiling. He taught me that I was beautiful. He was there for me when others were not. Richard is a performer, and he has THE voice. His songs can bring you to tears with raw power and emotion. Richard is honest. He is brutally honest. If no one else will tell you the truth, he will. One of my favorite things about him is that he can see the good in everyone, even when they don't deserve it. Someone could bad-mouth him and he would come to their defense. Richard loves God and tries every day to help others. He deserves to be happy.
This dear friend is homosexual. He has the gumption to stand up for who he is, for who he has always been. He is a beautiful human being, who would do anything in his power for someone else, even those who turn their backs on him.
This man, this beautiful loving man deserves to have the same rights that I am entitled. He deserves to marry the person he loves, if he chooses to marry. This issue is not about God. This issue is about equality. Richard can not change who he is any more than we can change the color of our skin or the color of our eyes.Even if you disagree with this due to religion, I feel it is purely about equality. Everyone should have the same rights, regardless of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, and any other reason people invent to oppress others.
I know that this is a raw subject for some people, especially religious people. Neither of these men have ever purposefully hurt another person. Why would God send them to hell for loving another human being? Why do they not deserve to have the same rights that I have? It makes no sense to me. There was a time when women weren't allowed to vote, when people with a different color of skin were segregated. Allowing rights for some and not others is not fair, regardless of your personal reasons. We all deserve to have the same rights. Period. It is about equality.
I found the following on a chat forum, written at the end of 2012:
"Should gays/trans use the same bathroom as Heteros?"Someone actually had the thought that we should give homosexuals SEPARATE BATHROOMS! This really upsets and disgusts me. The responses were equally disturbing. We are teaching our children to judge others. We are teaching our children to hate. Whether it is based on religion or not, it is WRONG. Look at Charlie Sheen, who lived with two women at once. Look at that Kardashian woman, who was married for days...these are the people who do not take marriage seriously. I am teaching my daughters to respect the beliefs and opinions of others, regardless of whether or not they agree, and that everyone deserves equal rights.
I am so very proud of my president and the first lady for taking a stand. I will stand proudly for my sweet friends judged by their sexual orientation, for everyone who is slighted for their appearance, for every person who is ridiculed for the color of their skin, for a stutter, for being short, for being ugly, for being harshly critiqued for the choices they make, for being promiscuous, for being different.
I choose to treat people as I want to be treated. I choose to not purposefully cause another person pain. I am taking a stand for equality, even if only with my voice.
Photo of me and Richard below by, Matt Spilker and Lyndsay Rupe, Spilker Portraits