Originally published on the Inland Anti-Empire web log.
Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered can be difficult even a supportive environment.
In the highly conservative Inland Empire, it can be downright dangerous.
Not only do queer kids risk being disowned by their Compassionate Conservative Christian parents -- and possibly losing out on the ability to get an education -- but being non-hetero around here can get you murdered.
With the Bush administration ramping up the anti-gay rhetoric as an election year ploy to mobilize their bigoted base, things will only get worse. That's why it's so important for those of us on the side of love and acceptance to step forward and take a stand.
Some courageous students in Chaparral High in Temecula did that last month. On April 21, as part of the nationwide Day of Silence, over 30 young people participated in a day-long silent protest against the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered teens:
Junior Timia Crisp sat silent with two friends during lunch. One friend wore a sign around her neck, explaining her silence. Many of the students participating wore black to show solidarity.
When asked why she decided to take part, Timia wrote her answer.
"We are participating because we believe that no one, despite what you believe, should be discriminated against," she wrote. "Someone has to make the stand. Why not us?"
Students said they mostly received support during the day, but did hear negative comments.
"People call us gays and lesbians, but really we are just people that know what hate feels like," wrote Timia and her friend, junior Troy Thomas, when asked what reaction they were getting. "We think that the silence gives others a look into the lives of the discriminated. We shout and no one listens. Now we are silent and we are stared at. They notice ---- that's all that matters. Now that we have their attention, we can again shout for peace, love and acceptance."
That's the kind of stand that we need to see more of.
How can you help take a stand against discrimination and intolerance, if you're not a high school student like Timia Crisp? Glad you asked.
Jim Woodward of Temecula is organizing a local chapter of PFLAG -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons.
You don't have to be a parent or a family member to participate -- you can be a friend, too. The whole purpose is to provide an environment in which our young people are treated with respect and dignity no matter who they are.
"I am a 53 year-old gay man who grew up in terrified silence," Jim wrote in a letter about the new group. "Growing up in fear that disclosure of your sexual orientation may result in your classmates killing you is not healthy."
No, it's not. We, the community, have a responsibility to keep our young people safe as they discover who they are. The Temecula valley is overdue for a group like this. Together we can fight back hatred and show love and acceptance.
If you want to be part of the PFLAG chapter, there is an organizing meeting in Temecula on Sunday, May 16 at 3:00 p.m.. For directions and more information, please call Jim Woodward at (909) 693-4852.