H4PJ calls on Dallas City Council to support LGBT-inclusive bullying policy for DISD

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, is slated to address the Dallas City Council this morning and ask the council to pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District “to do everything in their power to prevent bullying,” according to David Plunkett, a spokesman for H4PJ.

In the wake of last month’s gay teen suicide crisis, H4PJ has been circulating a petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures, calling for DISD to adopt fully inclusive anti-bullying guidelines that provide specific protections for LGBT students. DISD’s board of trustees is  considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, the proposed policy doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity. DISD trustee Lew Blackburn told Dallas Voice this week he plans to introduce a substitute policy that does include sexual orientation and gender identity. Blackburn, along with LGBT advocates, have urged people in the community to contact the other trustees and urge them to support Blackburn’s proposal. DISD’s new anti-bullying policy could be up for a final vote as early as next week.

Courtesy of Plunkett, here’s the text of Piazza’s remarks:

I am here to present a petition signed by 1,000 people requesting that the Dallas City Council pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District to do everything in their power to prevent the bullying that has led to far too many suicides of young people. Just down I-45, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his life in September. Then, earlier this month, just north on I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma, 19-year-old Zach Herrington took his life following a toxic debate at a city council meeting.  We are asking you to encourage DISD to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

I could speak to you today as someone who was a pastor in this city for 22 years at the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender church. I could speak to you as the President of Hope for Peace & Justice whose petitions I present. However, I’d like to use my two minutes to appeal to you as a parent. I have two teenage girls. One is a junior at the School for the Talented and Gifted, and the other is a senior at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

My partner and I might have sent our daughters to private schools, but it was very important to us that they attend public schools where most of the children in this city receive their education. It hasn’t always been easy for them.

My oldest daughter was in Harry Stone Middle School when the state of Texas passed a constitutional amendment that denied marriage equality to her parents. Next month my partner and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. So, you can imagine my daughter’s surprise when her language arts teacher told her students, during class, to be sure their parents voted in favor of the constitutional amendment because, and I quote, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Fortunately, my daughter was secure enough to raise her hand and ask, “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, but then who did create Adam and Steve?”

Her teacher said, “I guess you must know some of those people,” to which Jerica replied, “Only just about everyone in my life who loves me.”

Jerica knew how to handle herself, but imagine for just a moment if you had been a small boy struggling with your sexuality and heard that teacher’s words. Imagine if you had been a child who had been abused at home and so filled with rage that you were looking for someone to bully. That DISD teacher, at one of our best magnet schools, just gave you all the justification you needed.

As a father, I beg you. Make a statement that this is not who we are in Dallas and that we know our children are not our own, but they are ALL — gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — children of God. Thank you .

—  John Wright

2nd Dallas vigil for gay teen suicide victims planned Wednesday on Cedar Springs

If you missed last week’s vigil on Cedar Springs to honor gay teen suicide victims, there’s some good news. You’ll get another chance to break out your glowsticks and candles on Wednesday night.

A Peace March and Vigil in Memoriam will begin at  6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the paid Caven parking lot behind Zini’s and Skivvie’s near the Cedar Springs strip, according to co-organizer Steve Weir.

The vigil will be one of many similar events across the country on Spirit Day, Oct. 20, when we’re all supposed to wear purple.

“We’re expecting about 200,” Weir said. “I think after the Joel Burns thing, people started to say, maybe I could take a minute and go do this. Hopefully we’ll have a pretty good turnout and some people who are actually moved.”

Weir said he doesn’t think a lot of people knew about the previous vigil hosted by the DFW Sisters on Sunday, Oct. 8. Besides, who’s to say we shouldn’t have another?

Weir said Beaux Wellborn and a representative from Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats are slated to speak, before a march down Cedar Springs Road to the Legacy of Love Monument.

UPDATE: Here’s more on the vigil from co-organizer Ivan Watson:

Hello to all of you! I am so overwhelmed by the positive response this event has generated! I hope that it can educate, inform, inspire and empower all of the participants, as well as show the community that we care about each other. Can’t wait to see you there, just wanted to give you a run-down of what to expect. I am asking everyone to gather in Caven’s pay lot tomorrow at 6:30, the actual short program will not start until 7. We will have three speakers, who will speak briefly about the purpose of the rally, some ways to get involved and help those who are victims of bullying, or for the younger attendees, how perhaps you can get help in your own life, and also we will talk about some legislation that we need to support to get some things changed. After the short program it should be pretty close to dark, and we can light candles and have a silent march down Cedar Springs to the Legacy of Love monument where we will conclude there with a 10 minute candlelight vigil, a minute to remember each teen who took their life during the month of September due to anti-gay bullying and harrassment. Once again, I can’t say thank you enough to all of the help and assistance that I have received in planning this event, especially Steve Weir, thank you, and I hope it all goes well! If you have any questions, please ask!

Thanks,
Ivan Watson

—  John Wright

DGLA hosts rally for safe schools in Oak Cliff

About 50 people gathered around a pavilion in Lake Cliff Park in Dallas on Friday evening for a safe schools rally organized by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

The crowd, which included several local TV news crews and about a dozen youth, listened as a series of speakers talked about what can be done to stop bullying, mentor children and quell the national gay teen suicide crisis.

Jesse Garcia, president of Dallas’ gay LULAC council, choked up as he recounted his own struggle to overcome bullying.

“We’re here for you,” Garcia said. “We care about you. You are our children. Don’t give up.”

Larry Duncan, president of Dallas County Schools, which provides transportation and other services for local school districts, told the crowd it was unfortunate Friday’s rally was even necessary.

“It isn’t about why we’re here, it’s about why the other people in our city and county aren’t here,” Duncan said. “The fact that we have to be here is a shame.”

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, vowed to push safe schools legislation that includes LGBT youth in next year’s legislative session.

Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso said she’ll encourage the Dallas Independent School District to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a proposed new anti-bullying policy the district is considering.

“Just know you are not alone,” Jasso said. “There are lots of us on the City Council, myself included, who are here to help you. We cannot afford to lose any more teens to suicide.”

As currently written, DISD’s proposed new anti-bullying policy doesn’t include specific protections for LGBT youth. But Lee Taft, associate executive director at Resource Center Dallas, said DISD’s board of trustees agreed to delay discussion of the new policy this week in response to a request from his organization.

Taft, who lost his partner to suicide in the 1980s, said the community must focus on prevention instead of “post-vention.” He also said the media needs to strike a balance to avoid glamorizing suicide and fueling a copycat phenomenon.

“Let’s make sure that we don’t make martyrs and don’t empower bullies,” Taft said.

Patti Fink, president of DGLA, said the bullying children endure in school wouldn’t be tolerated in any other part of society, including the workplace or even people’s own neighborhoods.

“It’s a travesty that our children are experiencing brutality in our schools every day that prevents them from learning,” Fink said, issuing a call to action. “This is the time, this is the date, this is the energy we need to go forward.”

—  John Wright

Local leaders turn focus on bullying

Rally set Friday in Dallas to promote legislation, promote awareness of bullying in schools, teen suicide

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

RALLYING FOR SAFE SCHOOLS  |  Rep. Roberto Alonzo, a Dallas Democrat, right, speaks to a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Higher Education during the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature. Alonzo is among those who will speak at a rally Friday to promote awareness of the problems of bullying in schools and teen suicide.
RALLYING FOR SAFE SCHOOLS | Rep. Roberto Alonzo, a Dallas Democrat, right, speaks to a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Higher Education during the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature. Alonzo is among those who will speak at a rally Friday to promote awareness of the problems of bullying in schools and teen suicide.

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance will hold a rally in Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff on Friday, Oct. 15 to draw attention to the problem of gay teen suicide and to opportunities in the next session of the legislature to end school bullying.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo is among the speakers. In the last session he coauthored a safe schools bill with Rep. Mark Strama of Austin. The legislation did not pass.

Larry Duncan, president of Dallas County Schools, is also scheduled to appear. Dallas County Schools is providing shuttle bus service from 8th & Corinth Station on the Red and Blue lines to Lake Cliff Park. The park is located at E. Colorado and Zang boulevards.

“The rally is important because we need a safe schools law that empowers teachers, administrators and staff to stop bullying when they see it,” said DGLA President Patti Fink. “No kid can focus on algebra when they’re fearing for their safety. Kids are losing their lives over this issue. It’s got to stop.”

Most states, including Texas, do have some form of anti-bullying laws.

Only five states — Hawaii, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana — remain without any student protection.

In 2005, the Texas legislature passed Chapter 37 of the Education code that requires school districts to adopt student codes of conduct that proscribe bullying and harassment.

The law does not specify groups that are often the targets and doesn’t enumerate what must happen when school staff observes bullying behavior.

Laws that are not specific have proven to be ineffective in preventing bullying of LGBT students, according to advocates.

The current Dallas Independent School District regulations list groups protected from harassment. Among those is the unclear “gender orientation,” sort of a combination and confusion of gender identity and sexual orientation, which are not listed.

Four representatives from the LGBT community attended a DISD board of trustees meeting on Thursday, Oct. 14. The board is considering a new anti-bullying policy. The proposed policy, as currently written, doesn’t specifically protect LGBT students.

Gregory Pynes, vice chair of the board for Resource Center Dallas, spoke during public comments and commended the trustees for wanting to strengthen their anti-bullying policy.

But he urged them to amend the proposed policy by listing protected categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pynes invited trustees to work with Resource Center on the policy, which is expected to come up for a final vote later this month.

Others from the LGBT community who attended the DISD meeting were Chastity Kirven of Get Equal Now, David Plunkett of Hope for Peace and Justice and Pamela Curry of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Earlier this year, Fort Worth ISD ran a district-wide poster campaign called “It’s Not Okay” to bully one’s fellow students or to allow others to be victimized. The district sponsored parent workshops throughout the district to combat bullying.

Sexual orientation is included in the Fort Worth school district’s bullying policy under its code of conduct. Gender identity is not.

Other large school districts in the area —  including Plano, Richardson and Arlington ISDs — do not specify groups that are covered by anti-bullying policies.

One of Tarrant County’s largest school districts, Birdville ISD, does not list covered groups. Earlier this year, Haltom City parents called police about bullying incidents at a BISD school and brought their complaints about bullying including assaults to CBS 11.

At this week’s city council meeting, Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns gave an emotional speech about having been bullied in school and considering suicide. He showed pictures of six teens who recently committed suicide after having been bullied and told their stories.

“This bullying and harassment in our schools must stop,” he said.

His 10-minute speech received a standing ovation from other council members and from citizens attending the meeting.

Equality Texas Deputy Director Chuck Smith said that stronger safe schools legislation will be the top priority of the upcoming legislative session. He said that electing legislators who will support an anti-bullying law is important. Several bills will be introduced in the House.

The law that Smith was most excited about is one being crafted by Rep. Mark Strama of Austin. Strama has introduced safe schools legislation each session since he was elected in 2004. Local representatives Alonzo and Raphael Anchia of Dallas, Paula Pierson of

Arlington and Lon Burnham of Fort Worth co-authored the bill in the last session.

Burnham’s legislative director in Austin reaffirmed Burnham’s commitment to the issue.

“He certainly supports and is concerned with the issue,” he said.

Smith said next session’s proposed law is different from previous versions. The exact language of the new bill is still being written.

However, Strama’s proposed legislation will specify what does and does not constitute bullying and what school personnel must do when they see bullying occur or when it is reported.

In defining the problem, schoolyard fights, for example, are not considered bullying.

Bullying refers to verbal or physical acts committed by a student to harass, intimidate or cause harm to another student. The more recent problem of cyber-bullying includes threats, harassment and intimidation on line as well as in texting or through other electronic means.

Locally, support for anti-bullying legislation appears strong although some representatives would not commit to supporting a particular bill until they saw final wording. Specifying gay, lesbian or transgender students has been the reason some withhold support of anti-bullying legislation in the past.

Rep. Eric Johnson represents part of Oak Lawn and campaigned on the issue of safe schools. His wife serves on the board of Resource Center Dallas.

“We must provide all Texas schoolchildren with an atmosphere in which they feel, and in fact are, safe while learning,” said Johnson.

“Our very future depends on it. I will support comprehensive legislation in the Texas House to address the issue of bullying directly so that all of our children have the opportunity to make the most of their education and their lives.”

Calls to other area legislative offices showed general consensus that schools need to be made safer for students.

Republican Rep. Linda Harper-Brown’s office said, “Of course. She’s against any bullying in schools.”

Harper-Brown’s district is in Irving. Her opponent is in the upcoming election is Loretta Haldenwang. Her campaign manager, Kirk McPike, also indicated support.

Multiple calls to other area Representatives’ local, Austin and campaign offices were not returned. Many of those legislators did support the Strama bill in the current session.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

The hate continues: 3 teens arrested for assaulting gay classmate

This week, we here in the LGBT community in DFW are celebrating the courage of two members of our community: Trans teen Andy Moreno who chose to stand and fight when her high school principal told her she couldn’t run for homecoming queen, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, whose impassioned and powerful speech on teen suicide and his own struggle as a teen is reaching people around the world.

But elsewhere, the same hatred and bullying and harassment that played a role in a number of highly-publicized teen suicides over the past month was rearing its ugly head once again.

Nassau County police this week arrested three Long Island teenagers for allegedly assaulting a classmate for being gay — not once, but twice, and both times on a school bus, according to reports at WPix.com.

Police have charged 18-year-old David Spencer of North Valley Stream, 16-year-old Chase Morrison of Lakeview both with second-degree aggravated harrassment and third-degree assault, and they have charged 14-year-old Roy Wilson of Baldwin with third-degree assault.

According to reports, the three assailants attacked their 14-year-old classmate on the bus Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 12, as it left Nassau BOCES Career Preparatory High School in Hicksville, kicking and stomping him while hurling anti-gay epithets at him. The next morning, Wednesday, Oct. 13, when the unnamed victim boarded the bus  to go to school, the three attacked him again, using anti-gay insults as they slapped him in the face and head.

The three were arrested later Wednesday afternoon.

—  admin

Elliott’s story: How 1 teen survived bullying, suicide attempt

When classmates beat him up for being gay, this Ennis teen and his mom reported it. But the principal told Elliott he brought it on himself

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

IN MEMORY OF ASHER  |  Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)
IN MEMORY OF ASHER | Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)

The suicides of as many as six LGBT youth over the past month have focused a spotlight on the issue of anti-LGBT bullying in schools and online, and the correlation between bullying and teen suicide.

According to a 2003 study by the National Crime Prevention Council, six out of 10 teens witness some form of bullying at least once a day. And much of that bullying is directed at teens who are — or who are perceived to be — LGBT.

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network has reported that students hear anti-LGBT epithets an average of 25 times a day, and that in 97 percent of the cases, teachers fail to respond to the comments.

Various studies have shown that LGBT teens are two to four times as likely as their non-LGBT counterparts to attempt suicide, and according to a report to the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, 30 percent of all completed youth suicides are related to sexual identity.

And GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey reported that more than 64 percent of LGBT students say they feel unsafe at their schools because of their sexual orientation.

The statistics are overwhelming. But for one North Texas gay teen, anti-gay bullying and suicide attempts are far more than just statistics.

Elliott, who lives in Ennis, is 17 now. But he almost did not live that long after enduring bullying that started, he said, when he was in first grade. After years of enduring the abuse, Elliott said, he tried to commit suicide at age 15.

“I live in a small town,” he said. “I’m a ballet dancer. I stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Elliott said he was on the only one in his school being bullied, a fact that left him feeling totally alone.

And the bullying didn’t stop at words. When he was a freshman, Elliott said, a classmate followed him into the restroom at school and beat him up.

Elliott told his mother what happened. She went to the school and spoke to the principal, who told her he would do something about it.

What the principal did was tell Elliott that he had brought it upon himself.

The bullying wasn’t just at school: “I was dealing with a lot of problems,” Elliott said.

His older brother was having drug problems and tormented him at home. He had an abusive stepfather who let his own two children get away with things that he grounded Elliott for.

“He’d ridicule me for being gay,” Elliott said of his stepfather, “and it turned out he was bi.”

So Elliott started cutting himself on his ankles and his wrists. He was never hospitalized, but a nurse noticed the cuts. He told her he injured himself when he fell out of a tree.

Elliott took what he called a “safe overdose,” of a prescription drug, but recovered. He said that was the last time he tried or even considered suicide. But he said he understands how the young suicide victims that have been in the news felt. And it scares him that he came close to meeting the same fate.

Elliott said things began to get better at home for him by the end of his freshman year. His mother finished her degree, started teaching and divorced his stepfather.

His older brother very recently became sober.

For his sophomore year, Elliott transferred to arts magnet Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. That’s where he first learned about Youth First Texas.

“I took a DART bus over [to Youth First] and I loved it,” he said, adding that for the first time in his life, he was with other people like him.

“It made me feel amazing,” he said. “Whenever I’m not in Ennis, I’m at Youth First Texas.”

Elliott joined a survivors group at Youth First in which LGBT youth discuss how they feel during times of distress. He worked with the fundraising committee and became a member of the Youth Board. He entertained with a YFT group at the Creating Change conference in February and the Gayla Prom in June.

Elliott also modeled in the annual YFT fashion show at the Rose Room and was a runway model for DIFFA.
Elliott began his activist career in April when he participated in Day of Silence in school and Breaking the Silence at Rosa Parks Square in Downtown Dallas. This summer he attended Activist Youth Camp at University of North Texas. An ACLU representative told him that had he reported the principal’s comment about bringing the beating on himself, they would have investigated.

“Just knowing I can do that is important,” he said. “I didn’t know I could do anything about it.”

His mother has become an active volunteer with YFT as well. He called her his biggest supporter.

“A lot of the others are neglected by their parents,” he said. “She acts as a mom to everyone. She gives everyone hugs. She talks to everyone and is there for everyone.”

He said he’d like to see more LGBT community involvement from other organizations.

For his senior year, Elliott is back at Ennis High School. He said the environment is different now, although it’s still difficult to walk down the halls and see other students who tormented him for years.

For protection in school, he said, “I’m starting to repopulate my girl-posse.”

Activist camp left Elliott feeling empowered and safer in school. He said he is not afraid to face the principal who told him he brought on his own beating.

Elliott said he has no personal life in Ennis, although he does teach ballet at a dance studio in town. His students are 6-to 8-year old girls.

“It intrigues them that there’s a male teacher,” he said.

A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader owns the studio. He said she’s proud to have a male teacher on staff. Now when he goes to into a store and sees one of his students, he said, they call out, “Hi Mr. Elliott!”

After graduation, Elliott plans to attend Navarro County Community College to take his basic courses. Then he’d like to transfer to a school in Dallas to study dance and continue to be involved at YFT.

He said the recent suicides have affected him terribly. “I printed out the headlines,” he said. “It really bugs me.”

Elliott has advice for other teens who have considered suicide: “Whatever you’re going through, it just makes you a stronger person,” he said. “Whatever you go through makes you capable of doing things others can’t.”

And he wants school staff to know how much bullying hurts.

“Everything you say affects someone,” Elliott said. “I want teachers and staff to know it really hurts. Everything you say affects someone. Teachers and principals are ignorant to that. If you ignore it, it will fester.”

……………………………………………

Where to get help

• Youth First Texas
3918 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, Texas
214-879-0400
YouthFirstTexas.org

• The Trevor Project
866-488-7386
TheTrevorProject.org

• The Promise House
224 W. Page Ave.
Dallas, Texas
214-941-8578
or 214-941-8670
PromiseHouse.org

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK
SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

• Suicide Prevention Help
SuicidePreventionHelp.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Yet another gay teen suicide?

Alec Henriksen

Another teen who may have been gay has taken his own life — and this time he was from Utah, where a Mormon apostle just a few days ago called same-sex attraction “unnatural” and “impure” and said it can be changed.

We’ve long been saying on this blog that those in positions of power who spew homophobia have the blood of gay teen suicide victims on their hands — and we can only hope the reality of this will finally take hold in the mainstream.

PrideInUtah.com reports that 18-year-old Alec Henriksen, a Utah native who was a student at Earlham College in Indiana, was found dead on Sept. 30:

Alec Henriksen was a brilliant young computer programmer. And while suicide is always a terrible idea, I want to use his death as a call-to-action for anyone who cares for these young people. Please, help them. Love them for who they are. Put them in touch with the Trevor Project if possible.

PrideInUtah.com adds that the website from which it obtained the information about Henriksen’s suicide — and presumably about his sexual orientation — has since been taken down.

However, Instant Tea found this statement on the Earlham College website confirming Henriksen’s death. The statement says his body was found on property belonging to Earlham Cemetery, and that no foul play is suspected. We also found Henriksen’s obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune.

If it turns out that Henriksen was not gay, our point remains. And if he was gay but someone is trying to cover it up, it would be typical of how Mormon culture deals with gay teen suicide — which is a big problem in Utah.

If Henriksen was gay, his death would bring to at least six the number of gay teen suicides that have been reported nationwide in recent weeks. Of course, it’s safe to say the real number is considerably higher.

—  John Wright

Brandon Hilton on gay teen suicide

Brandon Hilton

It might seem easy to write off gay Dallas-based musician and YouTuber Brandon Hilton as a joke. After all, Hilton’s first several posts on Twitter today consisted mainly of skin care tips (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But then Hilton fired off the below piece about gay teen suicide, letting us know he’s more than just “an attention whore and failed MySpace celebrity,” as one closeted homophobic critic claims. Now then, with his permission, here’s the full text of Hilton’s extended Tweet:

It breaks my heart to hear about all the recent suicides! 4 boys dead in 3 weeks!

Life is not always sunshine and roses… for anyone. not even for me! we all have dark moments, and we all have pasts that we may or may not ever want to talk about. I was planning to save mine for a biography one day, but that was a selfish publicity idea for later on in my career when the glam died down. I think the need to share my story comes now at a crucial time when kids are confused and lonely, and knowing that one of MY FANS could take his/her own life because they feel alone simply breaks my heart. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

You may not be gay, you may not know if you are gay, you may not even know anyone gay, but if you suspect someone you know is, dont attack them. please talk to them, especially kids! you have a reason and a purpose in life, and you are FABULOUS!

In elementary school I was never the popular kid, I had a few friends who stuck by me, and still do to this day. It was rough being short and different and shy. I hung out with girls more than guys, and I didnt really identify with anyone else around me. I knew I was different. In middle school a name emerged, the boys started calling me GAY. so I started researching to find out what it was, sure enough the name fit and I owned it, I didnt tell them they were right about me, I kept it hidden until high school, then they came up with a new word for me…. FAGGOT, I hated that word, it pissed me off just to hear it. It was such a hard road through high school, my 10th grade year I decided that I was going to come out and tell everyone who I really was, so I did. It got worse and almost everyone turned on me, I didnt know what to do, so I had a genius idea to threaten them all. this idea got me expelled from high school for the entire year my 10th grade year of school. It was one of the lowest points of my life.

After the news broke my friends slimmed down to pretty much 2 people. only 2 that I felt I could trust, connect with and tell anything to. about a week after being expelled, I realized how bad I had fucked up my life and I felt hopeless. I had family I could talk to and I had 2 friends I could talk to, but I didnt feel like I could talk to them. I decided that my life wasnt worth living if I couldnt be like everyone else and be normal, so I tried to kill myself. and again, and once again, over the course of 2 months. this landed me in a psychiatric hospital under 24 hour surveillance for 2 weeks. It saved my life. In the hospital I met people who were like me, and who identified as gay and who were ok with it. the counselors helped me understand that I was normal and no different from anyone else except for being slightly more fabulous.

I left that hospital with a will to live, and a will to survive and change the minds of everyone who ever put me down. Its been a long road since then, but I can honestly say looking back, and seeing now that I more than achieved my goal, I developed a drive to succeed and ambition, and though my dreams were high, I’m achieving them.

I went back to high school the next year with a new look and a new way of living, words rolled off me like water resistant couches and new friends came in droves, I’m not saying that anyone should go through any of this to find themselves, but I think finding yourself is the biggest way you can change your life. not everyone is born to be an actor, or a singer, or a model, let alone all three. but EVERYONE is born with a purpose in life, and your goal is to find it and fucking rock it!

Being openly gay has been the biggest restriction on my career, and has kept me from already coming out on top of my goals, but I found ways around the doors that closed in front of me, I climbed in through the windows. I’ve accomplished so much in my life in only 23 years that most people will never do or see or have the opportunity to do. I’m thankful that my life was spared and I was able to do the things I have, and I want to give back that inspiration and that wisdom to others to spare them, YOU CAN DO GREAT THINGS, you can do so much more than you’ll ever think you’re capable of, you just have to go for it. every dream, goal or wish is achievable no matter how insane people may think it is. if you fall, pick yourself up and try again. you cant fall forever!

My family didnt always support me, they thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to do all the things I’m doing now, but that didnt stop me. I went out on my own and I kicked down the doors and the barriers and I fought and worked my ass off to make this dream a reality. just imagine what you can do when you believe. I believe in all of you, I believe in everyone. gay, straight, bisexual, black, white and yellow, you have a purpose and a meaning in life.

I havent lived the peachy perfect life that people seem to think I did, I have an extremely rocky and rough past, but all of it molded me into the amazing person I am today. I dont say that in a cocky way, I say it in a confident way. everyone is amazing in their own way, you have to find your beauty and you have to rock it! because EVERYONE is beautiful!

I believe in you!

BH

—  John Wright

Rolling in for Pride

Girdano’s bike trek ends with reception, parade

PEDAL TO THE METTLE | Girdano will arrive back in Dallas just in time to roll in for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. (Photo courtesy Michael Jackson)

Not every journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step — sometimes, there’s pedaling involved.

That’s how Danielle Girdano is finding her way to Dallas Pride: Atop two wheels and a lot of guts.

Girdano set out with her Ride the Arc tour earlier this summer to raise awareness about (and money for) teen suicide, especially among gay youth. Her mission: A 1,200-mile bicycle ride from the Midwest, ending in Dallas just in time for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Her mammoth trek ends Saturday, as she rides down Cedar Springs Road, alighting at the finish line between the Round-Up Saloon and TMC at 5 p.m.

“We are planning a huge street reception,” says Alan Pierce, co-owner of the Round-Up. “Gay Bingo is that same night, so we are going to divert the waiting line to get into bingo to keep them on the street a few minutes longer. [We want] a show of unity of the [gay] community for what Danielle has accomplished.”

Squeezing the brakes won’t be the end of Girdano’s feat by any means. On Saturday night, she’ll be welcomed at two after-parties (one for 21-and-under at Buli, one for 21-and-up at the Round-Up); then on Saturday, she will help inaugurate the parade by re-crossing the finish line in front of the judges’ stand.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens