I've been following for the last few weeks the "It Gets Better" campaign launched by Dan Savage, aimed at offering hope in the wake of widely publicized suicides to LGBT youngsters in hostile environments. Some amazing stories have been told and some transcendently hopeful postings made. Most are accessible through the "It Gets Better" Web site, which is here.
A story from another online project, "I'm From Driftwood," caught my eye because it involves a young man from Perry, Iowa, now a senior in nuclear engineering at Kansas State University, Manhattan. The draconian approach taken by Sam Brinton's parents possibly are the exception, rather than the rule, in Iowa and elsewhere --- but such things do happen and are among the reasons for the "It Gets Better" project.
There are very few safe places, or safe people to talk to, in much of Iowa for LBGT kids, including Lucas County. I'm told we were considered "brave" at St. Andrew's a couple of weeks ago when we screened the pro-LGBT documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" and invited others in to watch it with us. That's amazing, but indicative.
Bullying and discrimination are not, of course, based exclusively on LGBT issues. The following "It Gets Better" posting from AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, although focused on LGBT issues, recalled his own experiences as a member of an ethnic minority working in Pennsylvania coal mines. That hits close to home in Lucas County, enriched (we've come to realize now) by mining families of many nationalities during the heydey (1880s through World War II) of the coal industry here.
I couldn't help but think, while watching it, of a first-cousin of my mother, descended from two of Lucas County's old, old farming families, who scandalized parts of those families by marrying the son of a mining family, immigrants from Scotland. It's hard to imagine anyone being scandalized in this day and age by anyone marrying a Scot, but it was the case then and the disconnect among descendants continues.
It never hurts to remember as well, that the Ku Klux Klan flourished here during mining's heyday, targeting in addition to black people, Roman Catholics and "those foreigners." Some of my relatives were involved in that, too. Hate, no matter at whom it is directed, including that now distilled and directed toward LGBT people, is an ugly thing.
Finally, and hopefully, an amazing performance of "True Colors" by the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles, recorded Oct. 24 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church there.