A COLLECTION OF “GIVE ‘EM HOPE” STORIES


GIVE ‘EM HOPE STORIES

Here you can find a diverse range of personal and incredibly inspirational stories which complement the Give ’em Hope Video Campaign.

ANYONE WHO PREFERS TO WRITE SOMETHING OR WHO IS UNABLE TO MAKE A VIDEO –

TITLE IT  “My Give ‘em Hope Story – NAME” and email to DavidWatters@nbiassociates.co.uk

There are many ways to bend and kiss the ground and there are many ways to stand up, speak out and give others HOPE.

About life….

by Shay Equality Chavez

Never take the word of another about what kind of person you are. You, and you alone determine who you are and who you will be.

Watch your back always, save some of your heart for yourself because even the most loved and trusted people in your life can turn on you without warning and those are the injuries that hurt most. It will be during those times that the portion of your heart you saved will actually save your life.

Depend on others for small things, depend fully upon yourself for all that matters. You will find in time that there is less disappointment when you take full responsibility for your needs and wants than to rely on others to provide them.

Other people will let you down from time to time but don’t let it hurt you or change who you are because you too, (even unintentionally) will hurt others.

Love another fully, fearlessly, with your whole heart so long as you love yourself as much.

Always strive to be the “better man” (or woman) but don’t be envious when another appears to have outdone you because he (or she) alone know the work and sacrifice they invested to get there. Be glad of their success and take from it only the knowledge that accomplishment is possible.

Think before you speak or take action. It is better to appear unresponsive than to be regarded as out of control.

Remember always to see with your eyes and mind and to feel with your heart and senses. Never let one get the better of the other. In doing so, your chances of gaining full comprehension are greater.

Don’t look at the world thru the eyes of another, listen closely, look even closer, and don’t be afraid to do research in forming your own opinions.

The world will not bend to fit you – it is up to you to where and how you will bend or stand strong  in order to live contentedly within this world.

Acceptance is key, tolerance is an option. Accept only truth, tolerate what you must and work toward understanding the difference between the two. If change is your heart’s desire, use the mind to guide your actions.

Never stop learning or growing. All of life is an education and a big part of living well is having the ability to utilize the many resources that are available to us. Take time to read, to research, to teach yourself and to learn from others. The more you know, the more self-sufficient you become and that greatly increases your quality of life. It is much easier to face any obstacle with knowledge on your side.

It’s alright to have bad days, to be in a bad mood, to feel down so long as you don’t let it become a way of life. Bad days, bad moods, depression are also a part of life. Without them, we wouldn’t recognize or appreciate good times, the good relationships, or the finer things in life.

For everything, there is a reason. It isn’t always clear, sometimes it never is, but nothing happens “just because.” Always hold to the faith that it happened because it was meant to be that way and move forward knowing that eventually, whatever it was will make sense.

There is no such thing as a person unloved because whether you realize it or not, several people love you all at the same time. You don’t have to know who they are, only that they are there.

There are times you will want to give up and not go on but those times serve a purpose too and to secede would be never to know the purpose they served. There are no instant answers. The best action you can take in those times is to continue breathing and when you wake in the morning, do it for me if for nothing else.

Amy Hewitt Bonin – Reaching out to YOU

Here are two of Amy’s recent contributions to making our world a better, happier, more inclusive place. Thank you Amy for your daily words of encouragement and for all that you are doing to lead by example through your own group and here at the Give ’em Hope Campaign. Much respect, love and admiration, David xo

‎”It does get better” – We all keep saying that, and from the standpoint of a person who is so depressed and thinks there is no hope, these 4 words are just a cliche. But I’m here to tell you, that those words are NOT a cliche, they are the TRUTH. I am living proof of this. If you read my story at Standing Up For Victims of Bullies (Child or Adult) you will see that I have been through a lot in my life. The one thing that kept me going, is my faith in myself, and I had a support system that told me NEVER GIVE UP! I may not know you personally…I know you behind a screen. But you know what? I still care, and I am reaching out to you.

There are people who are compassionate souls who are fighting this battle against suicide. If you are suicidal, PLEASE talk to someone. Call the crises hotlines, call your neighbor, talk to a counselor, talk to a long-lost cousin. It doesn’t matter whom you speak to, as long as you pick up that phone and dial a number.

There’s no shame in speaking up and saying that you are not ok. There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s the most unselfish thing you could do…and we are all here to help you through the struggle. Friends are here through the good times and the bad. We will never let you go.

Don’t you dare give up on yourself. We certainly won’t. ♥ Amy ♥

The bullycide statistics are staggering and it breaks our hearts. This means we need to be more aware of the warning signs of our children, friends and families, and we need to stand up. No more brushing off the ones who are depressed, thinking they will get over it. That’s like asking a person who has diabetes to stop whining about their insulin or sugar intake. It’s impossible. Quit being a bystander, quit complaining, and quit ignoring the signs (not you all…I know you all stand up and are fighting along with me). If you don’t know what the signs are, then ask someone who does. Look them up. Be PROACTIVE. Our motto here is, “Be proactive, not reactive” – which means we need to stop reacting to situations after they have already happened. We need to PREVENT them. My hope/wish, is that 2012, we will have decreased the number of suicides due to bullying (or ANY reason for suicide, to tell you the truth) and we bring about more awareness on mental health issues AND we help those who are being the bully. Prevention programs, and interventions. NOT reacting and being angry after someone has already hurt themselves. Do it NOW, not later. (I’ll get off my soapbox now ~Amy~)

Standing Up For Victims of Bullies (Child or Adult) can be found here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Standing-Up-For-Victims-of-Bullies-Child-or-Adult/177805808916667

My Coming Out Story By David K Blankenship

I wanted to share something a little more personal that hits my heart. A little background on me:

First off I was adopted when I was 2yo by my adopted mother and father, then when I was 5yo she remarried. My life was a challenge from the start at birth, because I couldn’t walk I had AFO’S, Yes I was the “real” FORREST GUMP”.  I ONLY weighed 1 pounds 7 oz, I was 3 months premature. Doctors told my mother that I would be retarded, and short, and stupid basically. I beat the odds!!!!! That’s why I am writing this, to inspire younger kids to be educated about being gay and how hard it was for me in the 90’s to come out. My mother Loved and cared for me no matter what! That love is what keeps me going  everyday. My mother faced her own challenges, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, and she passed away in 2007. She is my role model today and has been for the last 15 years as far back as I can remember.

My story begins when I was in middle school, I was picked on for being “different”.

Why? Well I didn’t find that answer right away.

Not until I was about 13yo. I noticed that I was attracted to boys more than girls.  My parents asked me when I came out 2 years later. They asked me “You still like girls don’t you”?

I replied “YES” because I was afraid of what my parents might think of me. Over the next few years I did what I always did, that was be me.

Except being who I am being gay is not a choice, I mean look at all of us, there are millions of gay men and woman, who want the same rights as everyone else. WHY DO WE PASS JUDGEMENT SO QUICKLY?

My Step-dad had A BIG problem with my sexuality, He picked on me growing up, Teasing me about girls and such, finally I said I had enough. We fought EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE. IT WAS MISERABLE.  I remember the last day in my home, I was 17yo, I had no outlet, no support, nothing, and now I had to leave my home, because my dad told me to “get out”. I remember my father yelling at me, saying ” I don’t know how you can be gay? WHY? Why do you like  guys? I replied ” Because I do”. He said to get my stuff and get out, by the time he got home, “I had better be out.” My mother on the fence with it, but married 25 years, its hard to do the right thing. So I went on WWW.gay.com and searched for “anyone” who would take me in. I finally found 2 guys that took me in and gave me shelter and food,

Time had passed since those 2 great guys, helped me, but if I met them again, I was hug them, and say “thank you”. I just wanted what everyone on this planet wants: Acceptance!

2 years have passed and now I am 19yo, I was living in Indiana at the time. My ex-Roommate got evicted from his apartment, so I had to move again.By this time I had already moved like 8 times. I had met a guy named Travis along the way. Me and Travis took care of one another, by means of finding food whether it be in the garbage can or asking someone for a dollar. We slept under a bridge for Hmm I would say 6 months, during this time I also found out I had AIDS. Which didn’t make being homeless and having no food any better. So I cried, and cried, about me having hiv then I got sick that’s where the AIDS comes in to play….. I went into the hospital Deaconess Hospital, which I owe them over $6,000 because at the time I had no insurance, well now I am 29, and on disability making 694$ a month. I Don’t have enough money now to even buy clothes. It’s Sad!  I haven’t seen or been in a mall in years, lol. The hospital went on a sued me just recently because they wanted their money, but with what I make I can’t ever pay them off!

I learned my counts were 152.. through my nurse that scary day.  I was NOT educated about aids from my parents. So I didn’t know much about the virus except that it was fatal and incurable. It was never talked about, not even STD’S. The pastor came in and spoke to me. He asked if i need anything? I said “yes please” “Call my dad and let him know the bad news”. So after like 1 hour he came back into the room and told me ‘your dad will call you soon”. He never did. I had to call him when I got out of the hospital. My sister called and said she would tell my dad to call, I waited and waited, that day, by the hospital phone. I thought I was going to die right there. I had nothing to live for, If god was going to take me then I was ready.

BTW, Anything below 200 is considered AIDS.  When I got out of the hospital I was still throwing up, had a fever, and I went from 132 pounds down to 94 pounds! What a difference!  Thus was Finally time for Travis and I to departed ways. That we did. He went his I went mine. I came back home to Florida, to be closer to my family, in hopes they would accept me for me, and not just who I fall in love with, or sleep with for that matter. People are ignorant because there not educated about “gays”. When I was 25 I was asked by someone ” how do you do it”?  “How do you have so much strength? I remember saying “I get mine from my mother and by praying everyday that god will send us an angel to fight for whats right in this world we live in today. So as I sit here and tell the world my story, For me life had more downs, than ups. I would like to make sure that no teen go unheard and that we take time to listen to our kids about the issues that are important to them.

I will continue to educate America ONE POST AT A TIME!!!

Follow me on Facebook: David K BLANKENSHIP (davidblankenship1982@gmail.com) OR YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/blankman123456781

Finally I just want to say to all the young gay youth, “Please talk about the issues if not with your parents, with someone you can trust. Having support will make a difference and I know one day this note will inspire someone to do great things. Keep your head up high and reach for the stars. After all aren’t we all Stars in our own way?

SO!!!!!!!!!!

I am living proof that ANYONE can make a difference. So I am sharing a little of my life with everyone. Stand up for what YOU believe in. And to fight for your rights!! GAY RIGHTS!  LOVE EVERYONE, AND STAY STRONG. LOVE YOU GUYS,

YOUR PERSONAL FRIEND DAVID BLANKENSHIP

My Mother Kicked Ass! or how I got my attitude on equality…

By Amelia Christnot

When we were growing up we lived in trailer parks because at that time trailers were little enough you could haul your house with you so if we were going to live off base (my father was in the United States Navy) it was easier to just shut the place up tight and take it to the next place my dad was stationed.

In one of the trailer parks in Arkansas there were these two men who lived in one of the trailers & we kids loved them! One of them rode a motorcycle and the other one had a really cute little convertible sports car. I was 7 so I’m not sure what kind of car it was but I think it was an MG. Anyway, they’d let the kids in the neighborhood play in their yard & in their car (as long as we didn’t get mud or dirt on the seats) so we were always careful. And the one with the motorcycle would take us for rides if our parents said it was OK (he made us wear a helmet).

Well when my friend Kelly’s dad found out what was going on he had a fit which none of us understood at the time. Kelly & her brothers were forbidden from playing in their yard or speaking to them anymore.

My sister & I asked each of our parents, who were separated at the time in the process of getting a divorce, about it individually. Our dad just said that some white people don’t believe what the Oglala Lakota do (my dad’s tribe).

My mother said that some people are idiots who think who a person loves is more important than how that person acts or how they treat people. She explained the two men loved each other & that Kelly’s father was one of those idiots, but we didn’t think like the idiots because who you sleep next to is such a small part of who you are that it shouldn’t matter. Plus unless you’re married to a person, who anyone else sleeps with is none of your damn business.

So again I say, MY MOTHER KICKED ASS!

Being Popular

By Amy Hewitt Bonin

I was inspired to write this, because an old high school friend of mine is having facebook issues with people she was friends with in high school.

In high school, she was popular.  She was in the crowd that everyone wanted to be in, and if you weren’t in that crowd, then you were pretty much a nobody.  At least that’s how I felt.  She and I were neighbors, and outside of school, we hung out, but NEVER during school because I was not the person that the clique wanted to associate with.  This was an unspoken rule between us, and neither of us fought it.  We just let it slide by and after school and in the summer, we were the best of friends.

We have befriended one another here, and we have learned a lot about each other.  I learned that being the popular kid wasn’t as easy as it seemed.  In order to be in that specific group, you had to adhere to their rules.  There were certain days you could wear jeans, make-up had to be worn, the girls would call each other and make sure they were color coordinated, if you spoke to someone out of the group, you would be outcast, and you had to behave in such a way as to not embarrass the clique as a whole.  I had no idea that this was going on within the group.

From an observer, all you saw were these happy care-free girls and boys who were ALL good-looking, into sports and everyone wanted to be like them.

She and I are friends here on facebook, and we have gotten reacquainted.  We have spoken about those rules, and the fact that she and I didn’t have a relationship within the school building.  She has apologized profusely, and things between us are just fine.  Bygones are bygones…why hold onto something that was over 20 years ago, and was so petty?

However, she is having issues with those same people, here on facebook.

They are talking about her behind her back, and she is having issues with it.  I believe (and I told her this on her public wall) that the reason this is happening, is because she is her own person now, and is not attached to any sort of order or rule.  She is acting differently than she acted in high school because she is acting as HERSELF with no restrictions.  They don’t seem to get it…and are criticising her for being “weird” or “goofy.” – what the hell is that all about???

I swear.  People can be so damned stupid. ignorant and petty and just plain selfish.  High school wasn’t that great, if you ask me.  There is life BEYOND the walls of a school building, you know. This friend of mine is beautiful, married and has a son.  She has a great life, but because she is not acting like they remembered her to act in high school, they are making fun of her?  Seriously?

Listen up.  To any of you who are still in high school, remember this.

Life is about the friendships you make, and the stamp you put on this world.  It’s not about how many friends you can make, and how popular you become.  Life isn’t about popularity at all.  I would rather have just a few amazing friends (ones whom I could really rely on, trust and have fun with), then a million acquaintances that wouldn’t give a damn if I got hit by a bus.

There’s a famous quote from the movie, “Never Been Kissed” – (One of my favorite movies) which I think pretty much sums it all up.

Let me tell you something, I don’t care about being your stupid prom queen. I’m 25 years old. I’m an undercover reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and I’ve been beating my brains out trying to impress you people. Let me tell you something Gibby, Kirsten, Kristin, you will spend your lives trying to keep others down because it makes you feel more important. Why her? Let me tell you about this girl she is unbelievable. I was new here and she befriended me no questions asked. But you, you were only my friend after my brother, Rob, posed as a student and told you to like me. All of you people, there is a big world out there… bigger than prom, bigger than high school and it won’t matter if you were the prom queen, the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.”

FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE, AND TRY NOT TO BE AFRAID OF IT.

So…my point is that I could care less if my true friends were; poor, rich, ugly, beautiful, skinny, fat, black, white, mixed, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, weird, silly, or anything from a whole plethora of adjectives.  I would only care if they were my friend, I trusted them, they trusted me, and we had a bond.

Why does any of that other stuff matter????  It doesn’t.  Figure that out, and you will be a lot happier within yourself.  Trust me.

Thanks for listening to the rant….

~Amy Hewitt Bonin~

My Give ‘em Hope Story – Robyn (The Unpaved Road)

or,

My Journey to Womanhood

“One is not born a woman, but becomes one.” –Simone de Beauvoir

Looking back on my life, I can see every step that brought me to where I am today. After all, hindsight is always 20-20, isn’t it? But at the time, nothing was this clear.

When I was born, and for many years afterwards, my parents believed that they had a son. After all, I had the requisite plumbing, so they raised me—nowadays we’d say socialized me—as a boy. They gave me a boy’s name—Robert—the whole nine yards. Boy clothes, boy toys, boy everything.

I hated the name Robert. At least they called me “Bobby” when I was younger, and that was a girl’s name, wasn’t it? Bobbie?

It wasn’t until I was about six or seven that I began to realize that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t anything in particular. There was no blinding flash of revelation, no epiphany, just the increasing feeling that I somehow didn’t quite fit, didn’t belong. And when I finally saw my first naked girl (my 6-year-old girl friend’s 4-year-old sister), I had my first clue. I looked at the nothing that she had where I had a something, and asked, “What happened to it?” The answer, of course, was that nothing had happened to it; that was just the way it was. More questions revealed the fact that all girls were that way.

But more than that, it showed me what I wanted. Not to be a boy.

Years passed. By now I was twelve, and had a new best friend, Ricky. We played together a lot. Did I say “a lot”? We were joined at the hip. One day, in his bedroom, he asked me if I squirted yet. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he showed me. My first hand-job. Later we progressed to mutual hand-jobs, then to oral and anal sex.

Finally, I met the girl who would set me free.

Esther was my other best friend. She was my age, and we had a few classes together in junior high. She didn’t seem to treat me any differently than any of her other girl friends. I mean, I saw how she acted with boys, and she was never like that with me.

One day we were playing in her room and she decided she didn’t like what she was wearing. So she changed into a party dress, right in front of me. I thought nothing of it; it wasn’t sexual. It was just a friend changing clothes. When she had it on, she asked me if I liked it. I told her not only did I like it, but I wished that I could wear something as pretty. Ten minutes later I was also wearing one of her party dresses. But not just the dress: socks, panties, everything. From the skin out, I was a girl.

What amazed—and frightened me at first—was that it just felt right.

This continued for a couple of years. Wearing her Esther’s clothes in her room, and being Ricky’s “girlfriend” in his. Later, when we had all parted company (growing up in a military family is destructive of long-term friendships), I had to go back to being a “boy” full-time. Bobby was hidden, and never got a chance to come out to play.

From time to time—especially when I started high school—the only comfort I got was from sneaking into my parents’ room when they were at work and trying on my mother’s clothes. Later, I found great comfort by simply sitting on the floor in her closet, surrounded by her dresses and skirts.

It’s easy, now, to see why I never told anyone about my shameful secrets. Although I was starting to realize that I would be happier as a girl, I also knew that what I was feeling was wrong, shameful, and unacceptable. I was raised in a very religious household, and there were strict rules about was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. From comments may father had made from time to time, I knew that if my secret ever came out, it would cause serious problems.

The truth of this was borne out decades later, now that I’ve finally come out to my family. Since that day almost two years ago, my father has cut all communication between us.

By the time I finished high school, I had buried Bobbie and all but forgotten about her. Still, I’d find myself watching girls at school and studying them. But not in a sexual way: I watched how they walked, how they behaved with others, how they dressed, and how they expressed themselves.

With hindsight, I can see now why none of my friendships, relationships or marriages lasted: everything was built on a lie.

And the lie was, in retrospect, quite simple. I was pretending I was something that I wasn’t, and no matter how hard I tried, could never be: a man. It just wasn’t in me. This first affected my college career path. I wanted to learn to act, but my performances were too wooden. Maybe it was because I was already acting, and trying to add an act to an act was too hard for me. It was difficult enough to pretend to be a man, but to pretend to be a man pretending to be another man?

My one salvation my first year of college was Bill. Bill was also a theater major, but he chose the behind-the-scenes stagecraft. He and his best friend, Linda, were the school’s only gay and lesbian students. I was comfortable with Bill, and I could relax and not try so hard to pretend. He treated me as if I were a younger sibling. Looking back on it, it was kind of silly, really: he must have been all of three years older than I was. We never discussed sexuality, but he was the first person I met who showed me, by who he was, that it was okay to be “different.”

But I still didn’t do anything about it. For one thing, I was still dependent on my parents for support. For another, I didn’t know if there was anything I could do. So my dreams of being a girl would have to remain just that: unfulfilled and unfulfillable dreams.

Things came to a head in 2007 when, after losing four jobs in five years, I had no place to live, no food, and a car that was on its last legs. I ended up moving to Seattle to stay with my daughter and her family. I registered for public assistance, and was required to see a therapist. I started seeing her twice a week, I was that fucked up. After about the first month, I walked into her office for my appointment, sat down, and burst into tears. I cried for ten minutes before I finally managed to get out, “All I ever wanted was to be a pretty girl.”

All of my frustrations, disappointments and unfulfilled dreams burst out of me. No longer could I hide, no longer could I suppress what I knew was the true inner me.

So that set the target of my therapy: helping me first to understand and then to accept who I was: a transgendered woman. The understanding was easy. I didn’t concern myself with the why or the how I came to be the way I am, I just accepted that there was some rational scientific explanation for it; I didn’t need to know the explanation in order to accept it.

My first step had already begun when I bought a plain cotton nightgown. I soon added secretly buying women’s panties and wearing them.

The following year and a half of therapy was the easy part. The hard part came when I decided to live who I was. I knew there would be major changes if and when I decided to embrace the new me and to grow into her publicly. There were family considerations (how do you tell your daughters not to call you “daddy” anymore?), employment and housing issues, and a long line of things that I wasn’t even aware of when I started.

But at the time, all I could think of were the positive things: finally becoming who I had been meant to be all along. I also knew I had absolutely no idea how to do this. Where was I supposed to go for information? Where could I find support of other women like me?

Fortunately, I was living in the greater Seattle area, which is the home of the third-largest LGBT community in the United States. Seattle is also sometimes called “the transgender capital of the United States” because of the size of the transgender population living there.

A quick search of Google led me to the Washington Gender Alliance (WGA), an information and support group for people of all gender, their families, and friends. They met once a week, and were less than a 20-minute drive from where I was living.

The first meeting I attended was exactly what I needed. The facilitator—Michelle—and I were the only ones there, so I had the privacy I needed to talk to someone else about what I had started referring to as “my condition.” It was funny, though: I had been talking with her for about 15 minutes before I realized that she was transgendered as well.

That meeting was the first of many that I—and later Stacey—were to attend until we left Washington.

Shortly thereafter I started a new job. On the first day of training, I met a woman—Stacey—I’d be training with. As our friendship developed, we had a couple of things in common. Our religion, for starters. Another thing was that she had just moved to Seattle from New York, whereas I had been born in New York City and by chance wound up in Seattle.

The more time we spent with each other, the more we liked each other. When several of us went out-of-town for a week on a job, she and I car-pooled, since we lived close to each other. She also brought her 14-year-old daughter with her, since she couldn’t leave her alone for a week.

After the job, Stacey flew back to New York to pick up her car and drive it back. While she was gone, I had a chance to do some thinking. I knew that we liked each other as friends, and I knew I wanted things to stay that way. But I also knew that the only chance I had of a lasting friendship was to be honest with her about who and what I was. I also knew that my revelation might very well be the end of our friendship, but I was willing to run the risk of losing her before we got too close. So when she got back, I invited her out for coffee.

I bared my soul to her. I told her that I was transgendered and what that meant, and that I was planning to start my transition from being a man to becoming a woman. When I was finished, she took a sip of her coffee, looked at me and said, “Well, we were wondering when you were going to tell us.”

(As I write this now, I look up from the keyboard and see my beloved Stacey working on her computer at the other end of the table. My eyes fill with tears of joy and love for this incredibly beautiful soul who is sharing my life.)

Somehow, my daughter Suzzanne got wind of me the WGA meetings. She and her husband gave me a week to find a new place to live. I mentioned it to Stacey, who said that the woman she and her daughter were renting a room from was going to rent out another room, and was I interested? Was I interested? I was desperate! I met with the landlady and agreed to move in.

Stacey then told her daughter (Jo) that they were going to have a new roommate. Jo was upset: “Oh, great! This means I have to wait even longer for a room of my own! Why don’t you just move into the other room with them, and let me have this room?” That, as it happens, was what we had planned from the start, but hadn’t figured out a way to tell Jo. So that problem solved itself. Within three days I had packed and moved my things from my daughter’s place into the new room.

Over the next few weeks, Stacey and I talked about our hopes and dreams for the future. I learned that she had just been through two very devastatingly abusive relationships, and wasn’t looking for another relationship yet.

I’d just come through a similar situation, and wasn’t yet ready to trust anyone else again, either. But I did know that one day, when she found the right man, she was open to the idea. I felt the same way: that someday my prince would come, too, and I’d finally be the bride I knew I had always wanted to be.

Isn’t it funny how things happen? The more time we spent together and the more we shared our hopes and our dreams, our tears and our fears, the closer we grew. By the time she flew back to New York to spend Thanksgiving with her family, I knew—and I had told her—that I was in love with her.

What got us through the days, I’m sure, was that we both had laptop computers with cameras, microphones, speakers, and videoconferencing software. All that, and high-speed internet connections, too. We visited every night, and that’s how I met her son and her parents.

The night before they were due to fly back, Stacey said, “If you want to ask me to marry you when I get back, I’ll say yes.” Wow! She proposed to me!

When I formally asked her to marry me, she said, “I’ll marry you for two reasons. The first is that I love you, and I want you in my life forever. The second is that I don’t want a husband, and I know that by marrying you I won’t be getting a husband.” (Yes, Stacey, I still cry whenever I remember that night.)

By now, Jo was the only other person besides Stacey who knew I was transgendered. When Stacey told her of our engagement, her reaction was, “But Mom, if Robyn’s a woman and you’re a woman, and you’re in love, what does that make you?”

All she could see was the label, and naturally reacted the way most teenage girls would react when they learned that their mother was a lesbian.

But in time, she overcame the label and realized that no matter what else, Mom was still Mom, and still loved her. The biggest obstacles at the beginning were caused by the fact that for practically Jo’s entire life, she had been an only child of a single parent, and now she had to share her mother with someone else. But she accepted me for who I was.

A short while later, Stacey accepted a new job as the assistant property manager to the sister apartment complex to the one we were living in. The job came with an apartment, so we moved in.

That was when I decided to come out publicly, gradually. This was in December. We were going to be married in April. I hadn’t come out yet to either my family or hers. We planned to wait until after—well after—the wedding to do that.

Unfortunately, I was outed to my daughter. Until that point, all she and her husband knew was that I was dealing with my gender issues. But when they found out what was going on, neither they nor my other daughter nor any of their relatives who we had invited to the  wedding—and who had said that they were coming—did in fact come.

The first we knew was when I called my niece ten minutes before the ceremony, only to have her tell me that no one was coming. I was too excited about getting married to be upset about it. Later, when I had a chance to think, I realized that I was both angry and disappointed. Angry because we had already paid for the meals based on the number of guests, and disappointed because I thought I had raised my daughters to be more considerate than that. But given the fact that neither they nor any other family members we had invited came, I suspect that the decision wasn’t theirs alone. Bear in mind that at this point, I hadn’t come out to anyone in my family yet.

Stacey’s parent’s flew out for the wedding and brought her son with them. Her sister also flew in, and returned home the next day. Stacey was, of course, a radiant bride. I wore a rented tux. But at least the vest and bow tie were pink! After we exchanged vows, I leaned over and whispered to Stacey, “I love you, Mrs. Sheppard.” To which she replied, “And I love you too, Mrs. Sheppard.”

It wasn’t until about two months after the wedding that we decided that the time was right to let her parents know the truth. I agonized for days over their possible reaction, but Stacey kept assuring me that so long as she was happy, they’d be okay with it. So I finally bit the bullet and called them. After a two-hour conversation in which the only questions they asked was if Stacey was happy, her mother said, “Well, thank God that’s all it was! When you said you had something serious to discuss with us, we were afraid you wanted to come home and live with us!”

I also decided that this was the right time to come out to my family, before they heard it from someone else. So I wrote an email explaining how I felt, what I was doing, and why. Both of my brothers responded favorably and assured me that they loved me. This was in May or June of 2009. To this date, my father hasn’t spoken to me or even acknowledged my existence.

June 2009 was also my 59th birthday. By now I had come out to all of our friends, and was living full-time as a woman. Stacey conspired with several of them to throw a combination coming out 59th/1st birthday party for me (my 59th chronologically, and my 1st as a woman).

It’s November 2010 as I write this; I’ve been on hormones for just over two years. There have been trade-offs, things I’ve had to get used to. As an example, I’ve lost a lot of my upper body strength. But I had expected this, and so it doesn’t bother me. After all, the softer skin I now have more than makes up for it!

Since I was well past puberty when I started hormones, I still have to shave my beard, until I can afford permanent removal. The trade-off (again, worth it) is that the bald spot on the back of my head is almost gone now.

The testosterone-blocker has helped with my high blood pressure, but it’s also raised my potassium levels, so my current doctor has halved the dosage. That’s not such a big deal, either; that drug serves two purposes. The first is to prevent unwanted erections, which I don’t have a problem with. Second, it does help the estrogen I’m on work better. So I’m still hoping my A-cup breasts will grow out to a B, in time.

Several incidents over the past few months have resulted in my starting to describe myself as a reluctant transgendered feminist activist; it’s a role I came to reluctantly, but I’m dealing with it. Stacey and I are happier than ever. Jo introduces me to her friends as her step-mom, and addressed my last birthday card to “Mommy Robyn.” I’ve gone back to college with an eye toward becoming a nurse.

I’ve always dreamed of the day when I can write my name as “Robyn Sheppard, R.N.”

But at the beginning, even though my friend Michelle Hall had warned me that transitioning would be the hardest thing I had ever do in my life, and even though she had said that I would always be in transition, it was the little things that were the most annoying.  As an example, after a lifelong habit of nail-biting I decided to do something about it. So a manicure and acrylic nails were in order. If nothing else, the $50 I spent would be good insurance against my biting them off. Besides, long painted nails would go a long way towards giving my hands a more feminine appearance.

Have you ever tried buttoning shirt buttons with long nails? Even worse, have you ever done it when all of a sudden the buttons are on the opposite side of the shirt than you’re used to? It took me weeks to get used to that change alone.

And then there was the brave new world of makeup. You GGs (genetic girls) grew up with it, so it’s easy for you now. At the age of 60, what did I know about foundation, powder, mascara, eye liner, lipstick and all of the hundreds of other tricks women use when we decide to (in my father’s words) “put on your war paint”? Again, Stacey was a blessing with that. I still wear little makeup: mascara and lipstick for school, and a few public outings. For more formal occasions, I’ll add foundation and powder.

But I’m not a big-on-makeup kind of girl.

I am, however, big on fingernails. Mine are weak and frequently split at the ends. For a long time I wore acrylic nails, and loved them. They were longer and stronger, and didn’t break. They were prettier, too. But right now our finances don’t allow for them.

Oh, but what about clothes? I had finally gotten used to buying my lingerie without being embarrassed. That breakthrough came when I realized that (1) nobody had the slightest inkling of who I was buying for and (2) nobody was even paying attention when I bought it. So that had stopped being a big deal.

Still, when you’re on a limited budget, it’s hard to replace your entire wardrobe. Stacey gave me my first skirt, and for the longest time I still wore jeans and t-shirts. Then we discovered a thrift shop in Capital Hill, Seattle’s gay district. They received so many donations of clothes that periodically they had to clear out their inventory. They did this by putting an ad on Craig’s List inviting people to stop by and pick up a few bags of free clothes. The only catch was that you had to take the bags without looking inside them.

On our first visit, we took home something like 24 30-gallon garbage sacks full of clothes. This gave me two or three new outfits, and the rest we dropped off at Goodwill. Over the months, three or four more trips gave me a dozen new outfits, plus several T-shirts and tank tops.

Finally, now that I had enough “girl clothes,” I felt safe in donating my own clothes to Goodwill. No more boy clothes! Well, except for a couple of coats and sweaters, but they’re unisex anyway.

Of course, there are still times when I don’t dress “en femme.” But does any woman, really? There are still times I want to “dress boy,” as it were. And there are still a few occasions when I don’t have any choice. When I do “dress boy,” I laughingly refer to it as “cross-dressing” and make light of it.

But I still wait and work for the day when I no longer have to hide for any reason at all.

There are still changes to consider, changes to make, questions still to answer.

For example, why do I consider myself transgendered? Why didn’t I “stay male” and be a gay man? For me, this question is a no-brainer. I didn’t “stay male” because I never was male to begin with. Well, technically, because of what’s between my legs, I’m male. But if you go by what’s between my ears, I am not and never could be a man.

And as for being a gay male, I’m not a male! And besides, gay men want other gay men for long-term relationships, not women pretending to be gay men, regardless of their plumbing.

Do I consider myself a lesbian? Not really. I am attracted to both sexes, which technically makes me bisexual. But the same thing applies: I have the wrong plumbing to attract a lesbian partner.

I believe what Simone De Beauvoir once said to be true: “In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.”

I identify as a woman, because this is who I am. As for sexuality, I am married to a woman because she is the person I happened to fall in love with. She accepts me for who I am, and she loves me. Had she been the same person in a male body, it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. She loves me for who I am, and I love her for who she is.

We both hate labels. They only serve to further divide society, group against group, people against people. The balkanization of society needs to stop.

Now the really big question, one I hesitate to discuss openly with most people unless I know them well. But since you’re wondering, I’ll be honest with you. Surgery. More specifically, what we refer to as “bottom surgery.” If money were no object, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t like what I have. It isn’t who I am. But at close to $75,000, it’s not high on my list of priorities.

Even if I could afford a down-payment, I’d choose facial feminization surgery. After all, what do you, the public, see? My face, yes? Whatever I have beneath my skirts really is none of your business. But it’s my face that you encounter every day, it’s my face (and to a lesser extent, my breasts and my clothes) that tell you who I am.

Speaking of breasts, I can’t expect full growth until I’ve been on hormones for two full years. So I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude towards “the girls.” Right now, as I said, they’re an A-cup. For now, especially since I have them at all, I’m happy with them.

My friend Michelle is of the opinion that you never stop transitioning. I’d put it in more general terms: man, woman, male, female, GG or transgendered, you never stop growing as the person you are. You change over time. When you stop changing, when you’re not growing—physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually—you may as well lay yourself down and die.

And even death is just another change.

As I write this paragraph, it is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’ve been thinking all day of all of the people—women, mostly—who have been murdered over the past few years just for being who they were. It’s a frightening thought, to know that I could just as easily have been one of them. It helps that I’m older and not dating. It helps that I am surrounded by family and friends who know and accept me.

Still, the possibility is there. I try not to think of it too often. But on this one day of the year, the idea that I could be just like that, a victim simply because of who I am, consumes me. It’s irrational, I know. I won’t leave the safety of my home today, and it will take me all of tomorrow to stop looking at strangers with suspicion in my mind and in my heart.

I’m not ready for the final change of death. I’ve finally discovered who I am, and am living who I am. I’m finally happy. I’m far too young to not want to spend my final years as the woman I was always meant to be.

My Give ‘em Hope Story – James Michael Hornik

To all Equality & Freedom Fighters,

My name is James M Hornik. I was denied the very rights afforded to us by the ever evolving document called the constitution and its many extensions and additions from the federal level all the way down to the state and local levels by officers of the LAPD on August 31st of 2009.

After being raped while unconscious, I awoke to find myself in need of police assistance, and after asking for help, I ended up being arrested and charged with grand theft by my attacker. Sadly the person who raped me was never charged with a crime and was allowed to walk away that day to fabricate a crime against me to cover his tracks. I was denied medical treatment and forensic rape kit collection on the basis that I’m a male, over 18, and more specifically because I’m gay. As one LAPD officer put it “A Gay Man CANT Be Raped”…………….

It was a terrible experience to be deprived of my rights and discriminated against by the very people put in place to protect and defend me. It was one of the darkest moments of my life as I watched justice fade into nothing, my hope and faith in humanity at that point was utterly shattered, much like my heart and soul, and honestly the most devastating thing of this entire life changing event is that I nearly succeeded in taking my own life while handcuffed in the back of the police cruiser.

I feel that now my calling is to fight for Equality4Everyone. Far too often we use labels as a way to point out what separates me from you, I think it’s time we all take a step back and remember the one thing we all have in common… WE, ARE HUMAN BEINGS.

After a long and arduous trial I won my case and all charges were dropped and dismissed in my favor. Now at this point in time I currently have a civil case filed in Federal Court hat will go to trial on May 12th 2012 against the LAPD, the City of Los Angeles, and the 4 LAPD officers involved.

The reason this Federal Civil Case is so important to everyone is due to the 3rd of the “key issues” in my Federal Civil Rights Case to be decided by a jury of our peers, and in my opinion goes far above and beyond any label such as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, this is an issue of HUMANITY.

This 3rd “key Issue” is worded as follows (Does Plaintiff’s claim regarding the alleged failure to obtain a “rape kit” rise to the level of a constitutional violation?) Please take a moment to ponder that line, simplistic in its wording, yet weighs heavily upon my very being. What’s being asked of the jury is to essentially decide if you, me and everyone else is entitled to forensic rape kit collection and thus treatment in the horrific event of a rape or sexual assault.

Please assist me in this epic battle. Alone I am powerless but together WE can overcome anything.

If a child or an animal can be protected from rape, then why can’t a man?

Kindest Regards,

James Michael Hornik

1(805) 861-7990

P.O. Box 23571

Ventura, California 93002

www.Facebook.com/Equality4Everyone.org

www.Equality4Everyone.org

http://www.facebook.com/Equality4Everyone.org

Rape & Homophobia goes Hand in Hand

This is my story:

I had been staying in Hollywood to work and hang with friends for much of the month of August, and all was well besides the typical drama one would find in such a big city where people never seem to sleep.

On the night of August 29th 2009 I decided to get a bed at the Orange street hostel right off of Hollywood blvd. I checked in and got my key, went to my room and met my roommate for the evening, a young slightly attractive Australian guy traveling California as he writes songs for an album he hopes to make one day. After the typical introductions our conversation quickly became sexual as he kept asking questions about my sexuality and bedroom preferences. I was really tired and totally not interested in sex, so I left to take a very long shower in the hops he would be asleep by the time I return. I took my usual sleeping pills and was quite clumsy by the time I got back to the room. I stumbled into the room and got into bed wearing some green adidas shorts, my favorite green T shirt, socks and of course some underwear. I hardly remember hitting the pillow after looking for my phone charger without luck, so I set my alarm for 9am since I needed to be up.

I woke up the next morning completely nude with only my underwear around one ankle, my shorts and shirt were missing, the blankets on my bed were gone and looked to be piled up on the bed of the Australian guy, and he was nowhere to be found.

I frantically jumped up still unsure how I had ended up naked and without any blankets, it was then I realized I had lube on my penis and between my butt cheeks; I was also bleeding a little bit. By then I was just absolutely in a total panic, yet sure I was going to wake up from this terrible nightmare any second. W.T.F. had happened last night, where’s my clothes, where’s my phone, and WHY do I have lube and blood on me. I’m now at the point of fighting back tears as I walk to the front desk to find out when my roommate had left and if I could get his name because at that point I realized I had been raped and needed to call 911.

I told the lady at the front desk I had been taken advantage of in my sleep, my phone and clothes I was wearing last night were missing and that I believe it was my roommate from room 10, she directed me to the pay phone to call 911. I called 911 and proceeded to wait. While I waited I sent out some emails to family and friends saying I needed help and that my phone was gone. At this point I hadn’t told anyone else about the rape. I was still trying to come to terms with it myself.

I waited for nearly 3 and a half hours, the police never showed up, so I reviewed the cameras with the lady at the front desk looking to see if the guy had anything in his hands as he walked out of our room. We couldn’t see much but she then pointed out he had left his bags right there next to the front desk and had left in a rush without paying for the room.

My mindset was that this guy knew he was in trouble and took my phone so I wouldn’t wake up, this way he could buy himself as much time as possible to get away. The lady at the front desk gave me his full name and even wrote it down on my receipt from the deposit I had paid on the room the night before. I let her know where I was going to be if he wanted his bag back. So I grabbed his suit case and walked out and waited at the address I said I would be at.

Another 3 hours passes and finally the cops walk up, and the lead investigative officer asked me if this is my bag. I immediately let them know I was holding the bag because this guy had taken my blackberry and sexually assaulted me in my sleep. It was all downhill from there. The cops couldn’t understand why I had shared a room with this guy and how the sex wasn’t consensual because we had shared a room. Despite me telling them time after time it’s a hostel and I don’t get to choose my roommates there. I don’t know this guy, never seen him before last night, and I had not chosen to have sex with him. Someone sitting at the same table as me spoke out in my defense and tried to explain to the officers how a hostel works, but they only threatened this person with arrest should they interfere with an ongoing investigation.

In cuffs the Australian guy and I were taken back to the hostel while they investigated things. Once the cop printed out a photo of me walking out with the bag from the hostels security system he didn’t care why I had taken it.

He flat-out told me “a gay man can’t be raped” It was at that point I lost it and started to cry, plead and argue with him, saying that had he taken sleeping pills, passed out, and I then undressed him and had sex with him that YES it would be rape because he wasn’t able to consent. He told me to shut up because I was going to jail for felony theft and he didn’t want to hear another word out of my mouth.

I then was placed in the cop car to await transport to jail. During this time I realized nothing was going happen to the guy who raped me last night and I was going to jail for theft, and all I had done was taken this guys bag to hold it and confront him. he got everything back but insisted I had taken a huge list of items from him totaling some $3,110.00

Handcuffed, crying for help while in total disbelief, as I sat in the back of the police car I took my sleeping pills out of my pocket and swallowed the whole bottle, the cops noticed once I started to pass out and saw some pills I had missed scattered around on the floor or the car. They called for an ambulance to take me to Cedar Sinai hospital. While there I told my story to everyone who would listen, but I was denied a rape kit by the staff there at the hospital after they pumped my stomach. I was handcuffed to my bed in the trauma room for almost 8 hours, and after telling 9 people thus far I had been raped nobody was willing to do anything for me.

2 new cops showed up to transport me and I told them my story also, they told me they didn’t care and was only there to transport me so I should be quiet and we will get along just fine. It was then I realized nobody wanted to help me because I was a 31 year old “gay” man by everyone’s perceptions and that this was happening to me because people were homophobic and really just didn’t care.

Even at the jail I told 3 more staff members, including the nurse and the psychologist yet nothing was done for me beyond a 800mg Motrin and a few puffs off my inhaler. I bled for 2 days while in jail and had to come to Ventura to get treatment, by then it was too late to collect evidence such as DNA to prove who had done this to me.

Now I’m facing the theft charges in the Hollywood Court system and this guy will return home to Australia on November 18th and nothing will ever happen to him for my rape or theft of my blackberry.

UPDATE………………………………………………………………….

I WON MY CRIMINAL TRIAL….

This trial took 2 plus months of my life, here’s how it broke down time wise…. 2 week-long mock trial to film the Australians side of the story, it was to be shown to the jury after he had left the country, 2 weeks’ worth of jury selection, 6 weeks’ worth of trial time, 3 and a half days of that I spent on the stand testifying, and then almost 4 days of jury deliberations.

The Jury of my peers came back as hopelessly deadlocked. All charges were dropped and dismissed in my favor, the judge was a really great guy and I think he as well as the jury could see that the police had violated police procedure on many levels, violated my civil and constitutional rights in many ways, and were doing nothing but trying to bury me with this trial because from moment one I had been highly outspoken about how they were violating my rights and couldn’t do this to me.

Now days I’m focused on fighting for the rights of people who like myself were not only the victims of a horrible and demeaning crime, but also quite possibly victims a second time around by being denied basic medical care, justice, liberty, and most importantly the right to EQUALITY!!!

So join me in this epic battle against the City of Los Angeles, The LAPD, and the 4 officers involved. Look up my Cause page on Face book, Equality4Everyone.org   Help spread the word about what happened to me, help me gain funding to fight these people in court at the Federal level.

The most important key issues that will be decided in my Federal Civil Rights Case that’s set for trial on 5/12/12 is as follows “Does plaintiff’s alleged claim of failure to obtain a rape kit amount to a constitutional violation”   THAT HUGE right there. It can and will affect many cases brought to the courts long after mine. So let’s take a stand and show that we DEMAND equality, we DEMAND equal protection from rape as an animal or person under the age of 18. We demand the right to treatment and forensic evidence collection; we DEMAND the right to JUSTICE!!!

My Note to Bullies – Amy Hewitt Bonin

It would be very easy for me to look at you, with my hands on my hips and say, “Just who do you think you are?”  I will not do that, however.  I get the feeling that you get that sort of reaction a lot, and all that really does, is pour more fuel onto the fire.  No, what I want to do, is sit down with you, give you a hug, and have an honest conversation.

To be brutally honest with you, it is said that people like you are generally not happy.  Something is going with you, in order for you to feel that you have to be mean to others.  Something is going on at home, or in your personal life where there is a lot of inner turmoil.  You don’t have the positive skills needed in order to resolve conflicts appropriately.  You are angry, or depressed, and rather than to admit those things about yourself, you turn the turmoil onto other people.

You are avoiding your own problems, and that makes you feel better about yourself.  If others are focused on the victim of your bullying, then they are certainly not focused on you.  That is extremely sad.

Do you have any idea what you are doing, and the consequences of your actions?  You don’t see what happens to the girl or boy you just teased or made fun of once they go home.  You don’t see that they cry themselves to sleep and beg their parents to let them stay home from school the next day.  You don’t realize that the issues you are focusing on in your bullying, are issues that they deal with everyday.

For example…You just teased the girl who is overweight, and stated to someone else that she should probably eat a salad.  What you don’t know about her, is that she has a medical problem, and cannot lose the weight so easily.  She struggles everyday with this.  Once you teased her, she goes home and she refuses to eat her supper, which in turn makes her very unhealthy.  She’s hungry, but she’s terrified to put anything in her mouth because it might make her gain more weight.  I bet you didn’t know that.

The boy you just made fun of because he wears dirty clothes to school, just went home and begged his parents to teach him how to use the washing machine.  What you may not know, is that his parents work long hours and don’t always have the time to wash his clothes.  Maybe his clothes aren’t designer clothes.  You think that’s funny because your parents spend a lot of money to make you look good.  What you may not know, is that his father just got laid off, and they struggle to pay the bills and provide the essentials for the family.  I bet you didn’t know that.

I bet you didn’t know that the boy you just shoved into the locker just because he’s not in your circle of friends, goes home and has to explain the bruises on his back.  He lies to his parents and tells them that he got hurt in gym class playing dodge ball.  He is ashamed to tell his parents that you have been abusing him, because his parents have always taught him to stand up for himself.  He’s scared though.  Everytime you approach him, he gets knots his stomach and he practically get sick.

If those examples weren’t bad enough, you then had to pick on the student who is gay.  You made fun of him because he was honest about his feelings and decided that he didn’t want to hide who he really is anymore.  You yelled out hateful things to him because you don’t understand his way of life.  So?  Why should his sexual preference (or anyone’s sexual preference for that matter) be of any concern of yours?

What you don’t know, is that he did not choose to be gay, or bisexual, or transgendered.  The young lady who is a lesbian didn’t choose that for herself, either.  Why would they choose a way of life where the community and other groups make fun of them?  Why would they choose a way of life where they do not receive equal rights that the rest of us take for granted?  Does that even make sense?

We live in a world where diversity is encouraged (or should be encouraged, I should say).  It doesn’t matter if we are black or white, asian or hispanic, gay or straight.  We are PEOPLE first.  It also shouldn’t matter that some people have a learning disability, a neurological disorder, or have a mental disorder.  We do not choose to have those things.  We are people first, who happen to be a little bit different.  I have depression, Mr. Bully.  It’s not who I am, but what I have. Does that make me any less of a person than you are?  No.  I happen to think I am a unique individual, and if you took the time to know me, you might just like me.

Do you know what happens to these victims of yours once you go home and laugh that you’ve had a good day?  They sometimes end up committing suicide.  Is it funny now?  Is it funny that you have hurt someone so deeply, that rather than to confront you about it, they go home and kill themselves?  If they don’t kill themselves, they are extremely depressed.  They don’t want to go to school.  They don’t want to be involved in any extra curricular activities, and sometimes they act out at home.  Their parents don’t understand what is going on with them, so out of desperation to gain control back in their own household, they punish them until their behavior improves.  Is that funny?

No…I bet if you were to think about it, you wouldn’t find any of this funny at all.  I bet if you took the time to get to know these classmates of yours, you would most likely be friends with them.  The problem is, you don’t think very highly of yourself, so you choose not to make those steps.

I am sorry that things are not going well for you.  I’m sorry that your grades are poor, so you are making up for your embarrassment by taking the focus off of yourself.  I’m sorry that your parents don’t listen to you, or spend enough time with you.  I’m sorry that your older brother bullied you at one point, so you think it’s perfectly natural to bully others.

I want to reach out to you.  I want your parents and the community to reach out to you.  I want to teach you the appropriate social skills that you need, and I want you to attend anger management classes.  I want you to learn positive coping skills for when you are angry, and I want you to like yourself.  You are actually a good kid.  You just make poor choices.

It’s not too late, you know.  You CAN turn this all around, and you can make amends for what you have done.  All you have to do is make that first step.

I know you can do it.  I have faith in you, and I am right here to help you when you are ready.

My Give ‘em Hope Story – Lenore

My day at Work

Today like any other day, I went to work with my regular work mates who I also consider my really close friends. We always discuss my homosexuality and people who are homophobic, they always give me support knowing that I’m a lesbian. I also live in a country that does not condone homosexuality. So I live a secret lifestyle and only close friends and family members knows that I’m a lesbian. But today while we were discussing me and my life, my friend turns to me and says, Lenore are you sure that you want to live like this? I got really defensive and told him yes, and it’s my choice to live my way, and it makes me happy. He told me that living my life may be easy now but in the future i will regret it. I felt it was a necessity to ask him why. so I said why do say this I always thought that I had your support. He answered and said yes I have his support but he thinks that it’s time for me to make a change. I asked what change should I make? He then answered me saying try to be NORMAL. I was in total shock. So I told him when you say normal you really mean that I should try being straight, he replied saying yes. So I told him well you should try being gay, and only then you will understand what I’m gong through. some other harsh words were exchanged but by the end of the day he understood and apologized for being rude to me. The reason why I’m sharing this is because I felt the need to. It’s not an inspiring story but it was the first time this happened to me. Although I may live in a society where being a lesbian or gay is not accepted. I think I mentioned this before This group gives me hope, this group has changed my way of thinking. I’m not scared anymore of what people think of me, I also promise myself that I will make an effort to come out and not stay hiding. Because of the members of this group and the admins I am proud to be who I am.

My Give ’em Hope Story – Paul D Leney

This would be one of the hardest stories I have had to ever tell but if you ever think “Can I go on” there is hope. I am a case in point.

Bare with me this is a long story but you will see where it all builds up to the denouement!

Growing up gay in a redneck part of the world, Alberta Canada, I kept being gay to myself and my head was down most of the time.

You would think going away to Uni would cure that but with controlling parents I always felt they were over my shoulder tut tutting away.

Eventually down the road, I did tell them, and it led to a slow and painful separation. It was not being unable to deal with the gay part but a deep disappointment in what I had become / fell down in their expectations for me.

To make the bills, Uni degree in history is useless other than for an academic career, I took what jobs I would get and asked for / was given money to make the bills.

Drank way too much, slept around a lot (never caught anything which amazes me) and generally gave up. This was around when I developed clinical depression and have been on meds ever since.

Loved my snogs and took up with whatever cute fella came my way. All fell away despite my ridiculous belief “he was the one”. Then I decided I had to try something more. Put up an ad and met the one.

First date and … well you know…. Was not a success. I had visions of a rich Jewish accountant to solve all my problems and take care of me…. He was no beauty queen.

We parted ways but was not happy so reinitiated contact. A few chats later and a snog or two after that…. I found myself at the hospital with him.

He suffered from kidney disease and had me come by to see his treatment. He threw up all over himself while I was there and he had to send me to his place to pick up clean clothes. Afterwards we went to his place and cuddled. I was hooked. Three months later we moved in together.

Parents disliked him for “taking me away” (long ass story but swear my family is as the Jim Jones cult and I would have had to drink Kool Aid to prove my loyalty). We eventually left town and told them nothing; where or even a phone # . They found out something. Still wonder to this day when / how.

Along the way I was in a fire and in the hospital with third degree burns after almost burning the apartment down. He stuck by me. In and out of a job or two until he helped teach me a lesson in office politics and correct behavior. Went bankrupt once and he saw me through that too. In return, and out of TOTAL LOVE… I sat with him on dialysis treatments , took him to appointments , did the shopping and cleaning. As his condition worsened I even cleaned up his messes in the bathroom / since multiple organ failure is a guarantee. His pain also became so bad that he took pain meds that were hallucinogenic. His mind was failing a bit but as someone who did accountancy at unit aged 13; he had a long way to fall. He hid it well from me!

Eventually landed a sweet ass job and in March 2009 we bought a new build house on a lease to own arrangement. Well he was in bad shape at this point…. Many bathroom cleanups came in the next three months and he pleaded to have me let him go / enter hospice. I knew he was going and was very determined to give him a comfy home / place to die in.

Well one night was BAD and after cleaning up in the bathroom I begged off work and we slept in. He was slurring his speech in the morning and was generally listless. Having been here before I knew he had a small heart attack in the night. BUT he didn’t come out of it. The final journey had begun. He had the final indignity of being taken down the stairs by the medics in a hammock as he couldn’t walk and wasn’t able to talk for himself much.

Soon as we got there he was almost completely incapacitated. Speaking through looks and hand squeezes he expressed his wish to try one more dialysis treatment to see if it would help. I went off for my supper break, we had a routine going had been there so many times with health scares, and came back to find he had a bowel movement in the bed and the hospital staff was cleaning him up and putting a diaper on him.

He was completely stroked out in the face by this point and not entirely responsive. Still wanted to try a dialysis treatment to see if it would help him. Took his long time doctor to say to me “you have been through so much together but, Paul, you aren’t going to bring him back from this” and I told the nurses to not proceed and back to the ER we went.

They took us to a private room where for the next two hours I sat there alone with him and had to listen to his intermittent laboured breathing. He did pass eventually and thankfully I had combed his hair with a grief counselor. Two friends came in to see him. Another came by and took me home after I saw he was delivered to the funeral home. Drove in the hearse. Couldn’t let him make that journey on his own.

Next day I picked out the basic casket (government sponsored burial was all we could afford). Then next day went by myself again and washed his body down. He was orthodox Jewish and his family had turned their back on him, cutting off the trust fund and refusing to speak with him. Found a synagogue who would let me say the Kaddish for him and was greeted with open arms by young and old alike.

Then three months after that I lost my job that got us in to the house ; OUR house. No work to be found at this point and after three months of mounting winter heating bills had to take a job on night shift at Wal-Mart ASDA to pay the bills. Three months on and I lost the house; they wouldn’t extend / revise the lease.

Got re-acquainted with Mum n Dad who helped me move physically to a basement flat in a 60 year old building. Had to take money from them to pay the bills on top of it. Still am. Yes haven’t found full time work two years on. Assignments sure but nothing permanent. Last insult was a week ago got fired from my first permanent job due to bad office politics. Oh and in amongst this after loosing the house three months later I had hernia surgery after suffering through attacks, and working through them, for 6 months.

So I sit can sit here with legitimacy and say YES you can carry on… you know what I mean. I even contemplated it myself at one point until a mate slapped me around a bit and got me government-funded counseling. Best part of that?….. I had a professional say I can’t believe you are still standing from the stress!

Do I still miss my fella of 8 years ; yes it is way too lonely and quite. But you can make a life for yourself and seek out a new partner because you ultimately do want to live. Surprising people will come up to help and point you in the right direction. Others will fade out who can’t deal with it all.

But you will GUARANTEED have more and more days of saying “heh I can do this”. And then the works “it will get better” won’t sound like empty clap trap so much (Sorry David Watters shooting from the hip here!) Before you know it you will be whole again and your own strong, independent self.

My Give ’em Hope Story – Christine McQueen

As I sit here typing this, I’m re-watching the movie “Milk” and getting angry all over again about the stupidity of people like Anita Bryant. I remember watching her speeches 30+ years ago and wondering what the hell was wrong with her. I just couldn’t understand why Ms Bryant and so many like her thought homosexuals were such a threat. And even then using their religious beliefs to push their agenda on us all. I had known one homosexual man, a substitute teacher in high school. He never tried to ‘recruit’ any of the boys in class. He simply taught the subject of whichever class he was substituting in. (Though we all suspected, he was still closeted in 1969 when I first knew him. It was confirmed a few years later when his sister lived in the same apartment building as my husband and I.)

In all actuality, I pretty much ignored what was happening, though I simmered silently and I made a point of letting those around me know that I wouldn’t put up with anti-gay talk in my presence. I wouldn’t put up with any kind of judgment against anyone. One of the very first things I learned in church as a child was that we were not to judge our fellow human beings, but only to love them as God loves us all. Those who claim to be Christian are dishonoring Christ when they make judgments about the lives of others.

It wasn’t until late 1998, after the death of my husband, that I became even peripherally involved, after I joined AOL and began using their message boards. It was a story on AOL that led me to the boards discussing ‘gay issues’ and I have to say that some of the nonsense some people were posting made me physically ill. One of the issues I remember most clearly was the Supreme Court decision that voided laws against ‘sodomy’ in all fifty states. It clearly effected gay men more than anyone because those were the laws most police agencies used to persecute gay men. I pointed out to one fellow that, as the SC said, it was an invasion of privacy. I also pointed out that those same laws, because of the way they were written, could be used to arrest a man and wife who occasionally enjoyed anal or oral sex. (That was when I learned that the oral sex my late husband and I had enjoyed was illegal in our state!) I asked one man how it would make him feel if the cops burst into his home while he was having sex with his wife. He said it couldn’t ever happen. Asked him what state he lived in, looked it up and told him that he COULD be arrested if he and his wife had oral sex because that was written into the law against ‘sodomy’ in his state. (Also provided him with a link where he could read it for himself.) I don’t think it changed his mind about homosexuality, but it sure made him pay more attention to exactly what laws were being passed in his state and in the country and the wording of them.

The ones who have always ticked me off are those who refuse to look at the evidence or refuse to believe said evidence. Those who still blame AIDS on homosexuality; those who make claims that somehow the gays in their cities (or even in remote cities) are somehow ‘to blame’ for their son or daughter (or nephew/niece or uncle/aunt or brother/sister) “becoming” gay. For some reason they just cannot accept that no one “becomes” gay; that a person either is or isn’t gay through no choice or action of their own or anyone else’s. Tell them that a gay man who lives to 100 as a virgin is still a gay man and they’ll argue with you. (Tell them I’ve not had sex since my husband died in 1998 and they’ll try to say I’m “no longer” a heterosexual!)

Another group that pisses me off are the ones who try to claim this is a “Christian nation”. Point out that there are only two mentions of religion in the Constitution and both of those are prohibitions, (Article VI states quite clearly that “….no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” and the 1st amendment which, by declaring freedom of religion, prohibits any national religion) and they’ll try to argue the way the date is recorded or jump to another document, claiming relevance of the wording of the Declaration of Independence or other documents as ’founding documents’. I’ve even read claims that the 1st Amendment means “freedom to choose any denomination of Christianity” but no other religion!

Then there are the ones who try to tell me I’m not Christian because my beliefs don’t march in lock-step with theirs. Ask them to define “Christian” and they’ll give you a litany of their beliefs, rather than stating the obvious: A Christian is one who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ask them what Jesus taught on just about any subject and they start quoting Old Testament verses, rather than the words in the Gospels that are His words and teachings. Point out His teaching that we are not to judge others and they’ll find verses from other books saying we are, completely misunderstanding that those books are talking about judging within their own church, not anyone and everyone.

In short, I guess my activism (mostly on-line in various forums, though I have occasionally confronted bigots in person) stems from my belief that no one has the right to tell another how to live, except in cases where actual harm can be caused. As I see no harm being caused by two gay men or two lesbians getting married or simply living their lives, or by a transsexual expressing his/her gender, I will not sit by and watch as others attempt to insult, degrade or persecute them. Just as I will not sit by and watch as anyone tries to insult, degrade or persecute another for not following any certain religion.

My Give ’em Hope Story – Brittany Nicole Shreves

I joined this group not because I am LBTG but because my whole life I’ve been stereotyped. One example of this was when I was still in High School…

I never dated anyone, never had any relationship of any kind and because my best friend was gay, they labeled me as such to. It hurt so much that people never got to know me and it hurt even more that people believed that person. No one ever asked me or got to know me after that, I was unpopular and people avoided me like the plague.

People to this day, even, though I am in a happy relationship with a very adorable and loving man, think that I am a closest Lesbian.

I have no problems with anyone who is gay, I think the ones who have come out in the group with their stories and the ones that will are the bravest and strongest people I’ve come in contact with.

The event that I said happened my freshmen year, I lived four years with people looking at me like I wasn’t human. It made me start to hate myself everything from how I looked, who I was, and how much I weighed to the fact that I wear glasses.

Though I have found confidence in who I am, the scares from these thoughts still haunt me and sometimes I still find myself thinking them.

Unlike then though I have people who have gotten to know me and understand me. They didn’t judge me, they walked up to me and got to know me…and now I don’t know what I’d do with out them.

I can’t submit a video because of my internet connection, but I can at least submit my story.

The following two pieces should be read together. The first is Aaron’s Story and the second is by his mother Claudia.

Aaron’s Story (This story was written in 1994 – Aaron is now 35)
Aaron at Age 18

All through jdeveloping sexuality, as well as my em. I didn’t feel that great about myself, so therefore, I was pretty quiet. I was an awkward, shy kid who didn’t have many friends. For the most part, I was alone. Because some of the kids at my Junior High School were mean a…nd because I was shy and weird, I was made fun of and called names on a regular basis. Some of the names that I was called happen to be things like “faggot” and “queer.”

Neither the people that called me those names nor I, at that point, knew how true those terms were. Granted, I remember having feelings for other guys my age, but I couldn’t really understand what was going on or why.
I became very ashamed of myself because I had these feelings. I could barely understand the concept of being gay, but the people at school were so negative and cruel when they used that word. This caused me to be really depressed and hard on myself. Living was an everyday challenge, but somehow I was able to blindly make it through. I continued on to high school, but I still had a low opinion of myself and I had no idea of where to go in life. I existed, but I didn’t really live because I wasn’t happy – not with myself nor anything else. 
During my freshman year of high school, I had my first crush. It was on another guy who was an important senior on the football team. I had strong feelings for him, but I didn’t call it a crush because I was still afraid to admit to myself that I might be gay. I was afraid to admit to myself that I might be gay. I was afraid to because so many people had made fun of that word and that concept and said it was wrong. At this point in my life, I didn’t know any better than to believe them.
Around the end of my sophomore year, I received a book as a sort of “coming of age” gift from my father. The book was called “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives.” It was like a dictionary for youth who had experienced or were experiencing puberty. It talked about a wide range of topics related to youth sexuality. Each section started with a definition of the subject and an explanation from a doctor or a mental health professional. Then, authors of the book had traveled the country, stopping at various schools and other youth serving organizations to discuss these topics with other youth for the purpose of gaining their ideas and input. The section that really caught my attention was the one on homosexuality. I read the definition, and then I read the comments from the youth that were gay whom the authors had interviewed, and I thought “hey, I can really identify with what they’re saying here. I have some of the same feelings that some of these people say they have. Maybe I really am gay after all.” I thought about how I had been having feelings for other guys ever since junior high. I knew how much a hell that it had been because I had been lying; trying to hide those feelings from myself and from everyone else. That was when I decided that I wasn’t going to put myself through that kind of torture anymore. I admitted to myself that I was gay. I instantly began to feel better because I had crossed a major bridge in my life. I felt better about myself because I didn’t have to lie to myself about who I was anymore.
However, I didn’t tell anyone about this for a long time. Even though I became used to the idea, I didn’t become comfortable enough with it to tell anyone else until later. It was around the middle of my junior year in high school when I met a girl named Leah, who was a friend of mine at school that I finally decided to come out to someone. Leah was really laid back and easy to talk to. One day, she told me about this place that she volunteered at. It was called Indianapolis Youth Group, or IYG for short, and she said it was a support agency for youth who felt that they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
I had never heard of this place before, but it sounded like exactly what I needed. Therefore, I talked Leah into taking me with her to the Thursday night educational and support group meetings. Slowly, I got to know people there and I made some friends. Through IYG, I began to learn that being gay wasn’t necessarily bad even though society had conditioned me to believe that it was. I also learned that everyone deserved to have dignity and respect, including myself, no matter what their sexual orientation was. Slowly, I began to develop some self-respect and a sense of self-worth. The person who helped me the most was a man named Chris Gonzalez who was the Founder and Executive Director of IYG at that time. He was always available when I needed someone to talk to and he was very easy to talk to because he was an excellent listener. 
I always felt better after talking to him. Chris helped me invaluably when I “came out” to my mom. He stood by me with support for me and also for my mother. When I first came out to my mom, she seemed really surprised and shocked, so I gave her IYG’s number so she could also have someone to talk to for help and emotional support. I explained to her what IYG was and how much help it had given me, and she eventually agreed to call there and talk to someone. The person that she talked to was Chris.
He was extremely helpful and provided her with a wealth of information that made it easier for her to accept me as her gay son. That was back in 1993 – today, IYG is still a big part of my life. I try to attend every Thursday night meeting and as many other IYG activities as I can. I am one of the two youth members on IYG’s Board of Directors and I am representing IYG on the Executive Committee of the National Youth Summit on HIV Prevention and Education.
My mom is involved with IYG now. She has been through volunteer training and is helping to start up the new Parent’s Group. Not a day goes by I don’t think of the significant, positive impact that IYG has had on my life and of those thousands of other youth like me. I owe a lot to IYG. http://www.indianayouthgroup.org/

Claudia’s Story – (This story was actually written in 1994 – I just now put it online)


(Aaron’s Mom)

The passing of time has blurred some of the memories and emotions of the moment (almost 2 ½ years ago) when my son, Aaron, came out to me. He was 16 years old at the time.
I was aware Aaron had acquaintances that were gay. It should have been a sign to me when he first expressed an interest in wor…king the Youth Hotline at the newly opening Indianapolis Youth Group …(IYG), which was a center supportive of gay/lesbian/bisexual youth. A requirement of working this hotline was that your sexual orientation falls into one of those categories. Aaron needed to select a volunteer project within the community, as a part of his involvement in the Learning Unlimited program at his high school. He indicated to me that he thought he could arrange this for himself at IYG.

Then came the night, a few weeks before Christmas, when he came home and blurted out to his sister and me (as we were sitting on the couch watching television) that he had gone to an IYG meeting instead of where he had said he would be. . . and that he thought he was bisexual or gay.

At first I was a little resentful that he dropped this bomb on us the way he did . . . in front of his sister. In retrospect, I realized that there may have been a reason for it happening this way. Aaron wanted both of us to know this about him, and it was probably easier to tell both of us at the same time.

The discussion between us that night seemed to evolve into a yelling match, even though I can’t remember now what we were yelling about. I do remember eventually asking Aaron to go into another room and leave me alone because I couldn’t talk about it anymore. Before I went to bed, I do remember writing him a note, which was hard to see through my tears, assuring him that he was my son and I loved him no matter what. I left this note where he could find it before he got on the school bus. I seem to remember that evening, as I tucked his 13 year old sister into bed, her saying to me that it “it didn’t matter that Aaron was gay, he was still her brother.”

I went through a short period where I wondered if we didn’t talk about it, that maybe . . . just maybe, Aaron would go to bed at night and upon waking in the morning, realize that he had changed his mind and decided he wasn’t gay after all. I floundered like this for a month, and then was spurred to call IYG and talk with Chris Gonzalez one day after a story appeared in the Indianapolis Star about him and IYG. This conversation was the beginning of my healing. I miss Chris and wish I could tell him what a difference he made in our lives. I came to understand that in reality, the only thing that had changed for us was my perception of my son and the life he might have. Aaron was still the same kind, loving, intelligent person that he’d always been and always would be. I wish I could’ve spared him the agony he must have gone through to gather his courage and divulge the secret of his homosexuality.

My uppermost fear was and is now, the prospect of bigotry and hatred that Aaron could encounter in his lifetime. I worry about gay-bashing. I feel that the world is my son’s oyster and he should have every opportunity to achieve his heart’s desire the same as everyone else. I don’t want him to be denied anything because of who he is. 

Another worry was how would family and friends react? How do you go about telling the people who mean the most to you something like this? You desire their love and acceptance, while at the same time, defying them to speak out against the child you love so deeply. I’ve felt that my responsibility is to tell them what I can about Aaron and it is up to them to deal with it the best they can, and hopefully keep their negative opinions to themselves.

In my opinion, the best way to get to know your gay, lesbian, or bisexual child is to immerse yourself in their world. Get involved at IYG, take part in the Indiana AIDS Walk held in the fall, attend World AIDS Day activities in December, etc. . . The more gay, lesbian, or bisexual people you meet, you’ll discover that they are no different than you or I, except in how they sexually identify themselves.

I refuse to live a life of fear. My most fervent prayer to a loving God is that He will give me the courage and strength to handle whatever comes my way, for I know that I cannot afford to be a closet mother.

JOIN THE “Give ’em Hope” GROUP ON FACEBOOK:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/226577107352368 OFFICIAL PAGE: http://www.nbiassociates.co.uk/Give–em-Hope-Campaign.html

About neverblendin

David Watters, a graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh, Trinity College of Music, London and the Institute of Education, University of London, has worked internationally within education and Educational Management for more than 20 years. He has taught extensively within many socially and culturally diverse settings; most recently as a Head of Performing Arts within Further Education. He is a personal and professional development associate with The Pacific Institute (www.pacificinstitute.co.uk), personal coach, freelance writer and founding member of NBI Associates. He is a writer on social equality issues, is a key player in the Equal Love Campaign UK and author of the forthcoming book, NEVER BLEND IN which features key voices from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and which aims to inspire and encourage those who may lack self-esteem or who question their validity. David is currently promoting a youtube campaign"Give 'em Hope"and is asking individuals, couples and groups to make and share videos telling about the benefits of living with personal authenticity. He has shared a platform with Stuart Milk and Peter Tatchell and is a supporter of 17-24-30, The Trevor Project, Schools Out, The Terrence Higgins Trust, The Albert Kennedy Trust and numerous others. His background in arts and education, combined with a solid understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Strategies, and his passion for Equality Advocacy drive every aspect of his work as a personal development facilitator, motivational speaker and writer. View all posts by neverblendin

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