The health and well-being of our LGBTQ community depends on us all telling our stories.
It is important the new generation understands the past. It is important the mature generation never forgets. And it’s very important to share our stories of where we are today. The bad…and the good.
Last month I visited the University of Wyoming for the first time. I came with my big awareness project about sexual and domestic violence that I’ve taken on a cross country odyssey over the past four years.
I was cautioned by supporters and advocates around the nation to be careful on my journey for several reasons. I was traveling alone. I am gay. And I was coming to Laramie, Wyoming.
People reminded me of the Matthew Shepard story of tragedy and hate from 21 years ago in this city. I was further reminded that this is a conservative state.
Matthew was the college student who was taken away from a bar by two men to a rural area outside of Laramie. He was then tied to a fence post, beaten, and killed. All because he was gay.
On my journey to reach a symbolic goal I’ve given a TEDx talk and have spoken out in dozens of colleges and cities about my story of sexual and domestic violence so that I can find recovery while helping others find their healing too.
Part of that story involves me speaking out as a survivor who is not just a man…but a gay man.
But I did not let this history of hatred for gays stop me from coming to Laramie and the University of Wyoming. We can’t live our lives in fear or stay stuck in the past. Or we will never be able to live at all. So I went there anyway.
Sure I realize there are people who do not accept me or like me because I am gay. However, I didn’t experience hatred during my one day and overnight while in Laramie.
The students at UW and the residents of the city listened to my story of trauma into triumph. They offered their support for my efforts to get my project to the symbolic goal so I can help millions of survivors find esperanza in a unique way.
Stigmas take a long time to erase. The stigma about male survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The stigma about gay men. And the stigma about Laramie and the hate crime murder of UW student Matthew Shepard.
I appreciate that residents and students were warm and inviting to me on my recent visit to Laramie and the University of Wyoming. They treated me as more than a survivor. As more than a gay man. They all treated me as their brother. That is the story I will share with the world.
This article is brought to you by the letters LGBTQ. That Sesame Street guy who proudly authored this story is Ron Blake and you can let him know everything’s A-OK (or not) at email@example.com.