Excerpted/republished from Warren Blumenfeld in Tikkun, the strongly recommended magazine of the Network of Spiritual Progressives:
“I’ve often heard of parents abusing and even disowning young people when they suspect or when a young person “comes out” to them as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*, though except for movies and television episodes, I have never actually witnessed this. That is, until this week when I watched a YouTube video titled “How not to react when your child tells you he is gay.”
The video depicts what looks like an “intervention” by both birth parents and step-mother of twenty-year-old Daniel Pierce who they suspect is gay. When called into the living room, Daniel placed his phone on the “record” mode. After Daniel confirmed his sexuality, his mother stated, “I have known since you were a young boy that you were gay,” But then she accused him of making “a choice” by deciding to be gay.
The two women invoked the name of God and scripture, which soon spun into the three “adults” collectively unloading a verbal tirade and then physically abusing Daniel. They eventually tell him he is no longer welcomed, and demand that he move out of the house as soon as possible.
I became speechless, mouth open with no sounds audible, upset, literally shaking, and tears pooling in my eyes. At the conclusion of the video, images of other youth appeared on the YouTube screen. The youth had apparently filmed their reactions. I clicked on one after the other, and as I watched, my depression and outrage softened by the remarkable peer community that immediately and passionately came to Daniel’s defense.
What I witnessed when Daniel’s family of chance failed him was his new peer family of choice stepped in to lift him over their shoulders high above the din and the cruelty. All responders showed true and honest empathy and imagined themselves walking in Daniel’s tattered shoes.
Some talked of their own coming out experiences and the range of support they received from parents and friends. Others replied that though they identified as heterosexual, they could imagine the emotions arising in them if ever having to suffer the rejection and abuse Daniel was forced to endure. Some offered Daniel and other young people coming out advice to garner support. And all committed their solidarity, their support, their compassion, and most of all, their love – values and emotions denied to Daniel by his birth parents and step mother.
His new cross-racial, cross-sexuality, cross-gender family included, as well, a cross section of religious commitments from devout Christians to atheists and agnostics. Some showed a deep understanding of scripture, others did not. For some, words came quickly. For others, the sheer surprise and shock of disbelief made it difficult to put feelings and thoughts into words. The deep emotions of outrage, disgust, identification, their cry, no, their demand for justice linked them to one another and to Daniel.
This forum clearly demonstrates the endless possibilities of social media to transform passive bystanders into active empowered upstanders. Daniel’s boyfriend also posted online soon after the incident:
Bros, my boyfriend got kicked out of his home and disowned yesterday. It’s been a really traumatic experience for him, and I feel so terrible and angry that this happened.
Fortunately, he’s living with a friend for now. Seems like he can be there long-term until he’s able to support himself….
UPDATE: Thanks everyone. I cannot believe how much response this has received…. We are in the debt of everyone on this sub – even before this incident. Daniel is going to be fine, I think. We’ve had numerous people reach out offering words of encouragement, a place to stay, donations, contacting news sources, and so much more. We are glad we could get the word out about this issue that many people will continue to struggle with. I’m sure we will have the opportunity of helping others the way we’ve been helped. 🙂
This peer family and others like it throughout the country has indeed inspired me because there is no going back to the desperately closed and terror-filled times of my youth. The current generation will not go back into those dank closets of fear and denial that stifles the spirit and ruins so many lives.
Yes, they will physically return to their schools and their homes. They will continue to study and play sports, to watch movies, listen to their iPods, text their friends, and write about their days on Facebook. Some will most likely continue to serve as community organizers, and some will go on to become parents, teachers, and political leaders once their school days are behind.
But, the place they will go to, though, is nowhere that can be seen. It is a place of consciousness that teaches those who have entered that everyone is diminished when any one of us is demeaned; that heterosexism, sexism, biphobia, cissexism (trans* oppression) as well as all the other forms of oppression have no place in a just society.
Young people have been and continue to be at the heart of progressive social change movements. Youth are transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity categorizations and hierarchies, but they are also making links in the various types of oppression, and they are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups.
They are dreaming their dreams, sharing their ideas and visions, and organizing to ensure a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression, and along their journey, they are inventing new ways of relating and being in the world. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across the gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by “religious” and social taboos of cultural norms related to gender and sexuality. It is a future in which all the disparate varieties of sexuality and gender expression will live and prosper in us all.
Their increased visibility and activism has had the effect of shaking up traditionally dichotomous notions of male/female and gay/straight. They are creating a vision of social transformation as opposed to mere reform by contesting and exploding conventional gender constructions, most notably the limiting and destructive binary conceptualizations and definitions of “masculinity” and “femininity.”