When I was a 13, during the month of January 1968 I wrote a paper for my 8th grade English class on why Dr. Martin Luther King was my hero. No big deal one would think except I was a white kid in an all white school. As any one who reads my blog with any regularity will tell you my grammar is awful and so it was no surprise I got an A for content but a D for grammar. With that paper my life became complicated. I was now known as a n***** lover. There was no end to the jokes and nasty notes left at my locker or in my schoolbooks.
It should also be noted at about the same time I had gone through a sudden growth spurt. So by the time the school year had ended I was 5’9” and 120 pounds. I was kind of geeky looking to say the least.
At the same time I was apart of a family who included a father who had a very strict definition of what it was to be a “man” and a mother who insisted on me having “school clothes” and “play clothes”. The problem with this you might ask? Nothing except when I went to school I was dressed in a freshly ironed shirt, a pair of dress pants and polished shoes, and a Princeton haircut. Dressed this way amongst kids in blue jeans, tennis shoes and long hair I stood out as not being particularly “manly”.
For the record it should also noted at the age of 9 I had figured out that I was not same as everyone else when it came to issues of sexuality. I had more than a passing interest in men. I couldn't understand why I felt about men the same way other guys were feeling about girls.
My grandparents at this time had a foster child who was 14 and would later become their adopted son, my step uncle.
Starting at the age of 10 while visiting my grandparents I would sleep in my step uncles room. I woke up one night and caught him masturbating. Long story short I figured out in that time I was a homosexual. This probably would not have been a bad thing except for my step uncle taking advantage of my curiosity and literally raping me until I was 13 and he left for the army.
At one point he took me to a place no young person should ever have to go physically. The whole time he did this to me, he told me I was nothing but a fagot and if I ever told anyone I would be thrown out of the family for being a queer. I threw out bloody underwear that summer out fear of being found out.
There was no one to tell and no place to go for support or to get help.
The only positive thing to come out of this experience was that I learned I would never make a person do something sexual for which they did not want to do.
So fast forward back to the end of 8th grade school year. A friend of mine showed up to my house one day with some of his father’s naked girl magazines and a jar of Vaseline. We experimented that day. Compared to what I had already been through this was great and I had my first official crush. That is until he told his friends. The bullies came out in mass numbers. Much like vultures circling that prey which is about to die.
Now, I was a marked kid…called a homo, fagot, pushed into lockers and cornered in the locker room. I was followed home with kids calling me names. Eggs were thrown at our house.
We would get phone calls at our house asking for me because they wanted a blowjob. This went on the entire 4 years of high school almost daily.
So my days in high school were spent in complete torment and fear that in the end no matter what I wanted to do or did I was a loser. I was a n***** lover and a fag.
Those days of high school were hard for me. There was no place to go for support or understanding of what I was feeling, who I was or any kind of acceptance. To many I was just at minimum weird and at worst a pervert. I later found out that my struggles and experiences caused untold grief for my family and especially my sister.
Ironic isn’t it, my sister was bullied because of her brother. While most sisters get to look up to their older brothers, mine probably spent most of her high school days wishing I never existed.
Those times made it difficult for my friends too. For the mention of my name brought laughter and jokes. I have often wished there could have been a different way, a better way.
So why am I sharing this tonight? Because tonight when I signed into facebook I saw yet another story of a young man whom saw no other way and has taken his life out of this world.
“Terrel Williams, a 17-year-old native of Beverly Hills, CA, took his life on October 13, just hours after being attacked by five other high school students, and pushed and thrown into a brick wall at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, WA.
Terrel’s mother, Cheryl Williams, found her son in their Lakewood home — he had hanged himself in his bedroom closet. Terrel left a suicide note:
“I’m sorry to my immediate loved ones, but I feel suicide is the only way out. I felt coming out, and being happy with Daric, was the best thing I could’ve ever done. But I didn’t think it would lead to my death at an early age.
“Today, was the record worst day of my life, some kids at school stole some of my stuff that I got from people I really cared about, and that really pushed me over the top, next to being shoved into a wall, and my ribs being broken.”
Tonight, my heart is yet again broken by society’s inability to support the diversity of creation, to see the beauty of that diversity and to understand our real strength comes in that diversity.
How did I get through it? I really don’t know. I do not see myself as particularly strong or smart.
I do know what it is to feel totally alone, unsupported and mocked. Funny even today I can still feel that way.
Maybe I got through this and lived to tell about because when I was at my lowest there was a United Methodist Pastor by the name of Rev. George Groh, who when he heard I was in trouble and seriously in the process of putting a bullet into my head dropped what he was doing and came to me. 20 miles he drove at 7 in the morning.
He came to me and in the midst of my hurt, anger and isolation held me in his arms and cried with me and in the end assured me I was God’s child and I was no mistake. As he held me, he listens to all my shortcomings and confessions. He cried as he listens to my entire story of the rape. He is angry with me as I tell him of the days of high school. He holds me tighter as I cried about being a failure to God and my family and again through his tears assured me I was God’s child and I was no mistake.
Then he pulls out his little pocket bible and reads to me the 22nd Psalm, the whole Psalm not just the part we hear read on Good Friday in church:
“1-2 God, God...my God! Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.
3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
they cried for your help and you gave it;
they trusted and lived a good life.
6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
"Let's see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!"
9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother's breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
since the moment of birth you've been my God.
Then you moved far away
and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.
12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
like a herd of buffalo on the move.
14-15 I'm a bucket kicked over and spilled,
every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I'm dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
in the dirt.
16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.
19-21 You, God—don't put off my rescue!
Hurry and help me!
Don't let them cut my throat;
don't let those mongrels devour me.
If you don't show up soon,
I'm done for—gored by the bulls,
meat for the lions.
22-24 Here's the story I'll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.
25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I'll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God's table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
"Live it up, from head to toe.
Don't ever quit!"
27-28 From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
29 All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together
30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.
So, this is why I write tonight. To stand witness for our young people and say to them you can get through this. To say to them you are not alone and the bullies are just that bullies, they pick on you because they can’t be honest and content with themselves.
I write this in the hope a message will go out loudly and clearly from other pastors and spiritual leaders who will walk the path of the Reverend George Groh, and hold these kids and look them in the eye and say to them; “You are God’s child and you are not a mistake!”
I write this because despite how it might feel right now, “tomorrow will be better”, I know because I have been there.