Skip to comments.Gays want acceptance, panel says
Posted on 01/07/2004 2:58:04 PM PST by Holly_P
'Laramie Project' examines attitudes in community
Daniel Gatlin was just a second-grader when he had his first crush.
He found himself fancying a third-grader. A boy.
Now 18 and a senior at Brewer High School in Morgan County, Gatlin knows what those feelings meant. He's gay.
Acknowledging to yourself that you're gay and discussing it in a church full of strangers require different levels of resolution, and Gatlin's managed both. To promote a play by Theatre Huntsville, he was part of the Tuesday night panel discussion "Prejudice, Hatred and Community Responsibility: What Can Huntsville Learn from 'The Laramie Project'?"
Some panel members were homosexuals, some were lesbians and some were straight. The common thread between them - be they social workers, law enforcement, media or ministers - was the wish for society's acceptance of all.
"The Laramie Project" is a play about how the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, affected Laramie, Wyo., where the beating took place. The script examines the guilt, homophobia, indifference and satisfaction the townspeople experienced.
Some Theatre Huntsville actors came to the panel discussion at Unitarian Universalist Church and performed scenes from the play. After each scene, panelists relayed how they were affected.
After a scene on how gays are targeted for violent or unkind treatment, WEUP-FM news director Tony Jordan said gays should be practical, especially when it involves their safety. He said behavior that flies in New York or San Francisco won't necessarily fly in Alabaster.
That response drew some criticism from other panelists who don't want gays and lesbians to hide who they are.
The Rev. Richard Barham, gay pastor of the largely gay Metropolitan Community Church in Huntsville, said one of the most unifying acts a gay person can make is to come out of the closet. The world needs to see that homosexuals "aren't creatures of the night," Barham said, and solidarity creates strength.
The minister referred to Billy Jack Gaither, a gay Sylacauga man who was beaten and burned atop a pile of tires in 1999 by two men who said he made sexual advances to them. Barham said Gaither hadn't come out of the closet, so he didn't have that solidarity behind him.
Whether that would have changed his life - and death - can't be known, but the minister suggested it might have.
Huntsville police Sgt. Mark Roberts defended Jordan's recommendation. He said although the city has fairly tolerant citizens who wouldn't abide the inhumane treatment Shepard suffered, gays and lesbians would be wise not to brandish their lifestyles in potentially dangerous places, such as bars where straight, boisterous people are drinking.
"Be smart," Roberts said. "Pick your battles and your places."
Gatlin said one of his classmates flaunts his homosexuality by talking about it constantly. Gatlin said many of the kids at school don't like him much.
But Gatlin said he's told some of his classmates about his sexual orientation, and it doesn't bother them. He said the difference comes in flaunting it or just treating it like a fact.
"I have straight guys who are my friends," he said, "but I don't go around hitting on them. If you flaunt it, you're much more likely to get beat up at school."
Barham said the prejudice and hatred gays often face would be abated if the public could see them as people - nothing more and nothing less.
"I sometimes think people think that being gay is all about sex," he said. "We have heterosexuals here. Is your life all about sex?"
The laughter in the crowd of about 100 people indicated it was not.
Even if anti-gay crimes haven't proved to be a large problem in the Huntsville area, it doesn't mean there are no anti-gay attitudes, panelists said. Gatlin said gay-bashing is the "popular, cool thing to do at school, something you do to be part of a group."
"The dorks are nice," he said.
Another question posed to the panel contemplated the community's responsibility in the treatment of gays and lesbians, be it criminal or simply unpleasant. Madison County District Attorney Tim Morgan said the obligation lay solely at citizens' feet.
"We as a community get the degree of lawlessness that we will tolerate," he said.
WEUP's Jordan followed up that with an assertion of hope.
"That tolerance is evolving."
For more information on the play, visit www.theatrehsv.org or call 536-0807. Performances start Friday, Jan. 16, and end Sat., Jan. 24.
Only that part between age 14 and 48.
Nope...but then we heterosexuals don't have "straight pride" marches, sue organizations capriciously if we get excluded for reasons other than our sexual orientation, etc...etc...etc...
I accept folks being gay, but I won't accept their attempts to legitimize their way of life by taking over the heterosexual union of marriage, child rearing* and so on.
* If anyone tries to make that into a sick pun, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
They are people. Immoral people. Like polygamists, prostituties, pornographers, strippers, adulterers, etc. Hate is being too generous. I just don't respect them at all.
If you are not free to judge someone by their behavior, then remind me again what it means to be free.
You said it all.
I am gay, I spit on your conventions, on your religion on your politics.
I am gay, you are a crude brutish breeder with no clothes sense.
I am gay, I reserve the right to appear or act in public in any way that I desire whether or not it may offend or disgust you.
I am gay, if you don't accept me you are a hater.
Yep, that about covers their logic.
That doesn't mean that some of them aren't dangerous - so are some straight people I know. Yes, there are gay men who prey on boys. And there are gay men who are disgusted by that and who try to stop it. It would be foolish and unfair to ignore either.
But, that view pretty much covers my view of everybody, regardless of their preference of genitalia. :-)
The problem is inside.
As they say in Philly, "F'daGays or is the UffDa ? . . .
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.