To My Brother, Our Relatives,
and Our Mutual Friends:

Not long ago you received an e-mail forwarded by my brother (if you don't remember it I've included the text of that message at the end of this letter). I received that e-mail, too. I don't know if I received it in error (was I left on my brother's distribution list by mistake?) or if my brother intended to provoke me.

I've read plenty of denunciations of homosexuality. This one was neither original nor especially "convincing." Furthermore, I believe it is bogus; I can't imagine ABC Television responding in such a nonprofessional manner. But let me move from the abstract to the personal. I want you to put a face on homosexuality: my face. I'm gay.

I did not choose to be gay any more than I chose to contract polio as an infant. Both chose me. As a child I endured years of shame and self-hatred because I was a cripple. When I became a teenager I discovered another reason to be ashamed. I discovered I was gay. That's when I learned I was a homo, a faggot, a queer—all of them terrible labels, frightening categories.

During my adolescence, when I harbored that awful secret, I hoped I might outgrow my feelings, but I didn't. I believed that I was doomed to misery in this life and damnation in the next. I prayed to God, buy my prayers weren't answered. I was still gay and utterly alone. I had learned my biblical lessons well. Have any of you grown up thinking you should die because you were an abomination in the eyes of God and men?

At the age of nineteen I came close to ending my life one night by driving down the streets of my hometown at 90 mph, headed for a cliff. My desperate attempt to stop my pain ended with the realization that I was endangering other people's lives and by the knowledge that my parents would never understand why I killed myself. Do you know that gay teen suicide is two to three times that of the general teen population?

Have any of you had to justify your existence? Search your soul for redemption? Find a reason to live? I believe messages like the one my brother forwarded reinforce destructive self-loathing for some of us, while they teach others of us to be judgmental, then to be intolerant, and ultimately to hate. In that way we all lose.

I am convinced that hate speech bears concrete results. I believe that messages like the one my brother sent are responsible for me getting hit in the head and being called a communist at a Chicago Gay Pride Parade in the 1970s.

I believe messages like my brother's are responsible for something I witnessed one night in the 1980's, when I watched in horror and fear as three assailants hit a gay man repeatedly with a pipe in the head, neck, shoulders, and back; I tried to rescue him in my car but a passerby got to him first.

I believe messages like the one my brother sent are responsible for fueling the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998.

The kind of thinking behind that message is responsible for gay youth and adults being ejected from their families. It is responsible for gay people living half-lives within their families, the likes of which I've experienced. I've not been able to share with my family the joy of being in love. I've not been able to ask for consolation when love was lost. No one cared to inquire, no one wanted to know.

Why would anyone in his right mind choose to be gay in a society where the price is such heartache; to be rejected by family, friends, professional associates, social and legal institutions, to be an outcast in one's own life and in some cases face death, like Matthew Shepard?

Being a gay man with a disability has doubled my pain, yet I have no regrets about being gay. What I do regret is a world filled with so much intolerance and ignorance, a world ready to act on the hate it fosters. I want to live a life based on integrity, honor, compassion and love, just like you. All I've ever wanted was a loving family, loving friends, a man to love and a man to love me.

The next time you hear about a gay-bashing or read about the murder of a gay man, I want you to put my face on the victim. Will you feel, "Good, he got what he deserved"? Will you think, "Good, the world is a better place without him"?

Picture yourself hitting me with a pipe and breaking my nose.

The next time you hear a joke (or make one) about "limp-wrists," remember that it's my limp wrist you're talking about. Is it still so funny?

Twenty-three years ago my brother demanded I adhere to a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Because of his demands I allowed myself to be held hostage in tacit consent by the love and need I have for family. But he broke his own rule when he forwarded that e-mail to me. His message arrived like a brick through my window, but it has set me free. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has ended.

Why should it matter who I love? Isn't loving the important thing?

Your Friend and Your Brother


Here is the text of the message my brother forwarded to us.

ABC TVMUST READ. If more of us took a stand maybe we could have some decent TV programs. Jim Neugent is a coach in Childress, Texas.

Jim writes: My name is Jim Neugent. I wrote to ABC (on-line) concerning a program called "The Practice." In last night's episode, one of the lawyer's mothers decided she is gay and wanted her son to go to court and help her get a marriage license so she could marry her "partner" !

I sent the following letter to ABC yesterday and really did not expect a reply, but I did get one. My original message was: ABC is obsessed (or should I say abscessed) with the subject of homosexuality. I will no longer watch any of your attempts to convince the world that homosexuality is OK. "The Practice" can be a fairly good show, but last night's program was so typical of your agenda. You picked the "dufus" of the office to be the one who was against the idea of his mother being gay and made him look like a whiner because he had convictions.

This type of mentality calls people like me a "gay basher." Read the first chapter of Romans (that's in the Bible) and see what the apostle Paul had to say about it.... He, God, and Jesus were all 'gay bashers'. What if she'd fallen in love with her cocker spaniel? Is that an alternative lifestyle? (By the way, the Bible speaks against that, too.) -Jim Neugent

Here is ABC's reply from the ABC on-line webmaster: How about getting your nose out of the Bible (which is ONLY a book of stories compiled by MANY different writers hundreds of years ago) and read the Declaration of Independence (what our nation is built on), where it says "All men are created equal," and try treating them that way for a change!

Or better yet, try thinking for yourself and stop using an archaic book of stories as your lame crutch for your existence. You are in a minority in this country and your boycott will not affect us or our freedom of statement.

Jim Neugent's second response to ABC: Thanks for your reply. From your harsh reply, evidently I hit a nerve. I will share it with all with whom I come in contact. Hopefully, the Arkansas Democrat Newspaper will include it in one of their columns and I will be praying for you. --Jim Neugent

Note: Wouldn't Satan just love it if people stopped using the Bible for a crutch? Please re-send this to everyone in your mailbox. --Thanks, Jim Neugent. I wonder if the person from ABC considered how many people would read this e-mail! This is one we should definitely pass on.

© 2004 BENT on behalf of "A Brother"
"Cain and Abel," Gustave Doré. Illustration © 2004 Mark McBeth, IDEA | MONGER

Editor's Note: Although BENT is reluctant to publish unsigned pieces, the significance of this letter outweighed, in our opinion, any objections raised by its anonymity.



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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2004