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It's Harder to Hate a Gay If He's Family

Aug 17, 2007
At this writing, 50 young "Equality Riders" from Soulforce are traveling on two buses headed for 32 Christian colleges with policies that silence or exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Their mission is to "open a dialogue about the painful consequences of discrimination and the religion-based prejudice that sustains it."

The first stop was at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, where "sexual activity with someone of the same gender" is possible grounds for "an employee's discharge or a student's dismissal."

The Riders knew they were opening themselves to abuse, and it came on the first night out. The bus full of young adults, including former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies, and gay evangelical Christians, arrived in Sioux Center in the early evening. On the night of March 7th, three vehicles circled the hotel where the Equality Riders were staying, harassing the young adults who were staying inside. In the morning, anti-gay slurs were found written on the side of the bus, along with a hate-filled message on a piece of cardboard: "God does not love feary f____."

Last year Equality Riders received a similar welcome in Cleveland, Tennessee. There community members wrote "fags-mobile" on the side of the bus. Katie Higgins, co-director of the Eastbound bus and a rider from last year commented, "This is the reality created by fear and misunderstanding. It saddens me that people have such hatred in their hearts, but this just demonstrates why we feel called to spread our message of the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings."

It's easy for many to look at strangers on a bus who publicly identify themselves as gay and make a harsh judgment. But when your own child or brother or sister or close friend says to you, "I'm gay," it's frequently a different story. They're not a stranger. They're a dear one. And often the most extraordinary steps are taken to protect this dear one from the hatred of society and often of religion, a hatred that can destroy them.

In No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, Tracy Duvalis Kriese, a deeply religious woman in Texas, writes of her loved gay son: "Eric had wanted to die. And oh, hadn't he died in a way? A thousand times, over and over, as the world told him he was not normal, as we told him that he could change,that he must fight to change,as he told himself that God did not love him. The killing of his spirit had been so nearly complete by the time he was fifteen that the death of his body seemed not far behind. There were the nights of sleeping outside his door, of taking turns with my husband staying awake through those dark hours when our son might take that desperate step he seemed to long for more and more. In the stillness of a house asleep,fitfully, finally asleep,I would lay down at his door and listen for him.... Haunting my thoughts were the whisperings of easy Sunday School lessons about heaven and hell, of memorized scripture references about sin and repentance, exaltation and damnation. Nothing was easy now. Nothing would ever be easy again."

Tracy's Eric survived,and thrived. He put away his thoughts of death and devoted himself to life. He became an activist too, not unlike the Equality Riders, fighting for the rights of gay students in the public schools. At Lake Travis High, he founded the school's Gay Straight Alliance. At nineteen, he was an experienced speaker at congressional hearings, at rallies and marches, with newspaper reporters and television interviewers.

His family, who kept watch outside his bedroom door, are still his greatest fans and friends. His mother says, "How grateful I am that we did not lose him to the death he once thought would be his only freedom. He is here, he is whole, he is my beautiful child to embrace in all his awesome creation."

Each of the 50 young Equality Riders also has a story, as does each person who bears pain.
About the Author
Don L. Wright is publisher of No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, available at http://www.nomoregoodbyes.com, containing fascinating and compassionate stories on the subject of gays, families, and religious issues.
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