Friday, August 28, 2009

Using Your Voice to Stop Hate

I often receive emails and posts with the question, "How can I help stop Hate," or "What creates Hatred."

In my opinon, most Hate simply comes from ignorance of the subject. Meaning, that it stems from people who don't try to open their minds to other people's feelings, thoughts, opinions, experiences and beliefs. They don't question differences or research them or wonder why? Instead they look down on different people as inferior. Some people have learned what to think from a young age by parents, older siblings and peers, or have already made up their minds, that, their way is the only way. The solution is quite simple, education.
However, it is very difficult to educate people about diversity if they refuse to at least try and put themselves in someone else's place and empathize. The great thing about the World, is, that we are all very different from each other, and those differences should be taught and celebrated, not belittled and discouraged.
I think the best way for you to help, is just to use your own voice. Stand up for those people who need help. Try to get the people you know, to stop using racial slurs, and hateful language to discourage or bring people down. Sayings like, "You're so gay," or "That's gay," "You're a fag," are all examples of hate speech, they may be used between groups of friends as 'jokes,' but are they jokes to the people who over hear those comments in the halls, on the street?
Those are the kind of things that need to stop. I have been approached several times by people in my life, saying that they never understood what those words did to people, even if they used them as jokes. They didn't understand that those words were created out of hatred to intimidate, stereotype and categorize an entire community of people. Those people have been able to cut such language out and have moved on to telling other people to cut it out of their daily vernacular. That's how it works, if you can get 1 person to stop, then they get 1 person to stop etc...
Help celebrate people's differences, can you imagine how boring this place would be if we were all the same. At the same time we also need to remind people, that gender, race, ethnicity, religion, gay or straight, are just a tiny portion of who people are, "the tip of the Iceberg." There is still 95% of that person you don't even know yet. There is more to a person than your first perception and you can only learn more about them by conversation and genuine interest in the people and the things that surround them.
Using your own voice and mind to stop hate is an enormous and invaluable tool. People shouldn't be afraid to come to school or live their own lives, those people who bully have no right to keep others down, under the U.S. Constitution, we are all created equal, no person is any better than the next. We are all different and our personal experiences with others will help shape who we become.
Like I have said before, the people in your life now at this moment will not always be there in the future. Your life will always be changing, adding and subtracting people, depending on your life's path. So those people who were bullied in school will grow up, those people who did the bullying, will grow up and sometimes their paths cross again. So you should always treat people with Respect, because later in life you may run into them again, and they could be your boss, or have the ability to help you out when you're down, but if you were rude and disrespectful to them in High School when you were 17, then it could come back to haunt you 10-20 years down the road.
Teach your children to be kind and to respect people early in life and they will be much more prepared for the world outside of your home and it will create a character later in life that people will want to meet and interact with and hire for that big job. If and when you have children, be conscious of the things you say, they are little sponges, and even if you don't mean what you say, the child could repeat it without even knowing what it means. What if it is your child who is on the receiving end of such learned language by peers who heard that 'stuff' from their parents, how would you react to that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

On January 20, 2009 I was fortunate enough to attend the Inauguration Ceremonies in Washington D.C. for our 44th and first African American President. I have never been to an Inauguration, nor did I think I ever would, but when the opportunity presented itself, there was no way I could turn it down, much like the thousands of people that showed up. In my lifetime, I have experienced events that shake you to your core, along with events that make life worth living. I have been lucky enough to touch people’s lives and I have been lucky enough to meet celebrities, I have even had a brief phone conversation with President Clinton and received a hand written letter, but I have never been speechless or completely in awe of someone like I was, when I was at the Parade trying to catch glimpses of Barrack Obama taking his first steps as the 44th President.

To say that it was emotionally overwhelming would be an understatement. It was an amazing event to be a part of and to witness. Seeing the hundreds of thousands and even millions of people gather and unite to witness an American History first, was a spectacular, breathtaking and an absolutely awe striking sight. Never has a President or a single Washington event received such attention.

There have been past events that will always be remembered as cornerstone speeches and gatherings, such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, or JFK’s Inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” Those speeches and history making events were mere paving stones and building blocks towards this momentous and culture-healing event.

People from every corner of the U.S. turned out in force. There were people who spent days driving, people who spent all of the money they had. People from every Ethnicity, Religion, and Sexual Orientation showed up in force, not only to be apart of history but to make the statement in one collective and powerful voice, that shouted “America is Changing!” America is ready to put differences aside and work together to rebuild and reaffirm our status as the single greatest and most powerful country in the world; Americans are ready to show our power, not with war but with building, by uniting rather than dividing. The American people are tired and weary of war. What good is it being the most powerful, if you only look to abuse that power and alienate this country from the rest of the world?

This was an event where being a part of it, you could almost feel and see the culture of America changing right before your eyes. It was a moment that shattered barriers and will change the U.S. forever. People all over the world witnessed this event, and immediately felt optimistic of the direction that America is headed. Never in my life have I been more proud to be an American and to be in the middle of it was incredible, every direction I looked, I could see tears of joy, people of all races hugging and cheering together, it was a sight and feeling that would give you chills and goose bumps. It was a moment of a nation healing, but it’s not over yet, there is still a long ways to go before our mistakes of the past can be corrected. I think the people of this country and around the world are ready to move past the turbulent last eight years and come together to fix and grow not as individual races but as one collective Human Race, with equality for all of its inhabitants.

To President Obama, and the legislation, I have faith that the “Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act”, will be passed this year to be an all-inclusive Bill that will protect all of America’s citizens. When it does, I look forward to meeting the people who made it possible and to those who dedicate their lives to serve and improve the lives of the American People.

So, in closing, to anyone out there who may be reading this, what I really have to say, is that the America of Old, is no longer. America is headed into a new and exciting direction that will break down racial, religious, gender and sexual orientation barriers to create a new “UNITED” States of America that includes and protects everyone of its citizens.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Birthday

Monday the 1st of December would have been the 32nd birthday of my brother, Matt.  It used to be a day that I would wake up in a good mood and happy and excited to call him and happy to hear his voice and hear about plans for his birthday.   We didn’t get as many chances to talk as we would’ve liked, cell phones weren’t yet available, and I was in a private school with limited time to use the phones, but this day was always one I could count on, to catch up with him and trade life stories.

He was killed 10 years ago before he would’ve turned 22 in 1998.  Everyone was worried for my well being after he was killed, they were worried that I would retreat into myself, but that never really happened until his birthday came around and it dawned on me that I would never be able to have a birthday talk with him again and never get to grow old or ask for advice or just tell him how my day was going.  From that day forward I knew it would be a difficult day for me in the future along with the second week of October. 

I never really thought it would affect me like that.  I thought I was stronger than I actually was.  It was that day that I believe, I began a 10-year construction project.  I did not know it at the time, but as days, weeks, and even months went by, I started to slowly realize that I was building a wall around myself.  I wasn’t sure what the implications or effects of what I was doing would be.  I started to toughen my mind on accident, by thinking about what had happened and replaying everything that I had seen at the funeral and in the media through my mind a 100 times a day it seemed like.  It was a never-ending stream of thoughts that a 17-18 year old should not have to think about, especially during a senior year.  Unfortunately, it was reality for me.  The people I knew probably didn’t notice, but those I didn’t know, I immediately didn’t trust and pushed them to the outside of my thoughts and basically ignored people.

When the time came for me to graduate, I had already built a wall that was so impenetrable that I wouldn’t even let my parents into my thoughts.  It was my way of defending myself against everything possible, which was not a healthy way to live, but it allowed me to survive my years in Laramie during the trials, during the protests at sports games, during class discussions which no one even knew who I was, yet we were discussing my family and my brother right in front of me.  This wall allowed me to get through some very tough years, and it may have even given strength to my friends and peers to see me handle it the way I did.  Thinking back though, it really handicapped me from getting to know more people and building better relationships, it turned me into a solitary person.

I would always trudge through the year and not think about anything anymore, just thinking about my next task and even if I didn’t realize that those days were just around the corner, subconsciously my mind was already at work preparing me and somehow changing my mentality into solid wall again.  For those few days a year I would be impossible to talk to, distrustful of everyone I met, it took a life of its own and eventually I distrusted everyone I didn’t know, always wondering if they knew who I was and taking pity on me, or if they were actually just trying to be friendly. 

Over the last 3 years I’ve been able to deconstruct a little bit and open myself back up to the world a little at a time.  I’ve been able to look back and realize that what I did wasn’t to protect me from the hurtful world around me.  I was actually trying to preserve my relationship with my brother and keep all of my memories and good times to myself for only me to know.  The whole world knew how he died, but I only know how he lived and that was mine for me and no one else.  It was those thoughts that actually helped me survive, but it was also the thought of losing them that built the wall.  I buried all of those good thoughts and memories underneath the bad ones trying to make sure they wouldn’t get out.  Well those memories started to escape and I didn’t realize it until recently.  Those memories are escaping because I’ve hidden them for the last 10 years and now I don’t know how to go back and find them, I’ve focused on so much bad in the world while trying to protect myself, that I was forgetting and pushing all of the good memories deeper and deeper until I had forgotten them. 

It has made me realize that I did what I needed to do in order to survive without my parents around to protect me.  I was forced to quickly mature and grow up in such a short time, that I didn’t know what I was doing.  It was the wrong way to go about it.  I should’ve blocked the bad things with my thoughts and memories that made me happy, I shouldn’t have built a wall, I should have let people into my world and my life and asked for support.  I never thought a birthday would affect me the way it did, but it’s those little things in life that you need to cherish, the family traditions you might think odd.  They may be odd, but it is something you do together.  Weekly phone calls, or lunch/dinner dates, holidays, birthdays, or yearly vacations, something you and your loved ones and friends do that is unique to your relationship.  Cherish them, because life is precious, life is short, and the unexpected can happen in the blink of an eye.  Talk about those memories; share those silly family quirks and traditions that make you laugh.  Don’t hold them in and don’t bury them or they may slip between the cracks and be lost forever.  Always be quick to solve conflicts, and use your family and friends for support, it’s a hard and long life to go through it alone.

The last time I was able to wish Matt a Happy Birthday was 11 years ago, but I would like to end this by saying Happy 32nd birthday, I love and miss you always.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Live free from hate" by Brooke Eades, Kelly Walsh High School

Live free from hate

Lessons from the lives of Logan and Matthew Shepard

By Brooke Eades – Kelly Kall Staff Writer

Kelly Walsh High School


“Hate has no place in this world.”

            As graduation approaches and seniors go off to conquer the world while their fellow classmates move up the high school ladder, those seven words are ones to be kept in mind. No matter where life leads or what path is taken it is important to remember that everyone deserves respect. This year is the tenth anniversary of the loss of Matthew Shepard and the brutal hate crime that took place within our state that led to his death. His brother Logan Shepard’s words above are just some advice he gives to the students at Kelly Walsh and around the country.

            Matthew Shepard was, as his brother described him, a “one of a kind individual” who had the gift of being able to strike up a conversation with anyone he met. He attended the University of Wyoming with an emphasis on political affairs and was a shinning student and a kind person to his fellow piers. Tragically, on October 12, 1998 Matthew passed away after being beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming for simply being gay.

The brutal hate crime was committed by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney when they encountered Matthew in Laramie’s Fireside Bar and offered him a ride. Once in the car Matthew was severely beaten by a pistol and driven outside of town where he was tied to a fence post, severely tortured, and left to die. He was discovered the next morning by a bicyclist who at first glance thought that Matthew was a scarecrow. Matthew was taken to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado where he remained in a coma with injuries too severe to operate. He passed away with his family at his bedside five days after the attack.

            Matthew’s story spread across the nation and the world like wildfire and the awareness towards hate crimes took center stage. Logan Shepard was only a senior in High School when his brother passed away. A time when students are looking forward to graduation, prom and the typical high school events. Logan’s senior year was sadly far from typical as he faced obstacles that are hard for any person to even imagine.

            “One day I was an everyday student and the next day we were on the news and the covers of magazines.  I had always pictured my senior year to be one of the best years of my life, then it all came crashing down around my head and I lost one of my best friends and biggest supporters,” Logan Shepard said. In a time when pain was unavoidable Logan stayed strong for his family and all those around him. “It was difficult to go back to school, but I did and I had to grow up faster in a year than I had ever imagined possible. I had to become an adult, I had to be strong for my family, I had to be able to stand up to those people who would come up and say awful things about my brother and my family.”

              There is no excuse for what happened to Matthew and for what his family was put through. Hate can create devastation and as high schoolers go off to face the world, we are the only ones who can stop it. The realities of our words and our actions can be far spread and bigger then anyone realizes. Showing respect towards others regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender or personality is essential. You don’t have to agree with them but you owe them the courtesy to be their own individual and live their life in peace the way that they choose to live it.

            The Matthew Shepard Foundation was put in place by Matthew’s mother Judy and has become a huge success throughout the country. They have created nation-wide attention to hate crimes and gathered support to stop them from happening. The foundation also introduced the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act that is still waiting to be passed.

            Logan Shepard had an immense amount of advice for Kelly Walsh students.  “The world is a much bigger and more diverse place than small town Wyoming. Life is going to change dramatically and the best advice I can give you is, treat people with respect. Treat people how you would like to be treated.  I know kids are tired of hearing it, but I was in school too and the lesson is; High School and Junior High do not last forever, and who you are now, will change once you enter into the real world.   Enter the world with an open mind. Learn about new cultures and religions, learn about the LBGT (Lesbian Bi-Sexual Gay Transgender) community, you may be surprised by what you learn and even more surprised to find out that we all have common interests and form great friendships.  We are all people, just trying to live our lives and trying to find our own love and happiness. Under no circumstance should anyone have to live in fear.”

            Keep Logan Shepard’s words in mind as each and every one of you go on with your lives. Always remember to consider before you speak, respect those whom are different and before you choose to hate- think of Matthew.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Social Internet Networks are they the greatest thing ever created or the biggest hassle of everyday life?

It seems that in today’s world everyone and their pet has some form of a social internet account, whether it is Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Connexions, Hi5 etc.  It doesn’t matter, a profile has been created somewhere by everyone who has touched a keyboard.

There are even grandparents and parents setting up accounts now.  Why not?  It is better than email, and as easy to use as a text message since most people have mobile alerts now.  It is such a huge part of everyday life, that even the names of those sites have become verbs and nouns used everyday.  For instance, “I’ll facebook you later,” or “I’ll post that on MySpace,” are phrases used almost daily, in my life.  It is a great way to stay connected with people from your past, but is being connected that easily too hundreds of people, safe and a great tool; or is it borderline addiction and dangerous?

When I was introduced to MySpace a few years ago I thought it was great!  I could sign on, send my friends pictures and e-mails, right from my own personal page, and then I started finding old classmates.  This was great too, since I moved around a lot, and spent my Jr. high years in a different country and then went to a private school, I had lost contact with many people, and it was fun to find them and catch up again.  When I’m really bored I’ll play games with my friends online, it is definitely a major part of my daily life.

However, there is always a down side to that as well.  With the addition of hundreds of friends, comes the massive amount of internet SPAM, and people hacking other accounts, and then there are the people that create fake accounts to cause harm and post hurtful things.  It is disappointing, people should have better things to do, than ruin and waste other people’s time. However, there is always a down side to that as well.  With the addition of hundreds of friends, comes the massive amount of internet SPAM, and people hacking other accounts, and then there are the people that create fake accounts to cause harm and post hurtful things.  It is disappointing, people should have better things to do, than ruin and waste other people’s time.

For new users out there, be careful with what you are posting on your own personal pages, for instance don’t post stuff that would disgrace your parents or your employer. Just because it’s on your account and password protected doesn’t mean that others can’t find a way to see your private things.  I have many friends that have even deleted accounts after college, in order to start their job search.  Once things are on the Internet it is hard to get away from them, and companies don’t want to be represented by party animals and weekend morons or by people who are writing slanderous things towards peers and posting particular slurs aimed at groups of people.  I think my biggest complaint about it, is how easy it is to set one up, people are using false names of others and then posting things without any consequences. 

The Internet is a fun and useful tool, but user be wary, if it is mistreated it will come back and bite you. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is the pressure to succeed in work or trying to make it to Hollywood and Professional Sports destroying family values and taking the place of religion

The topic of God, faith, and family values are issues that are, and always will be enormous topics of conversation and controversy.  I am not a very religious person, but I do have faith in something.  I do believe that there is some ‘thing’ guiding our lives along its current path.  I do enjoy the theology and origins behind each religion, and I take bits and pieces from each that I find helpful when it comes to my own set of morals and ethics.  I also had an excellent upbringing about manners and how people should be treated.

I bring this up, because I have often heard the argument, that the amount of “Godlessness” and our current way of life in this country may be foreshadowing our fall from power.  I actually believe that our way of life may be hurting us more than we realize. 

When I think of religion, I think of a code of ethics and rules and standards of being a good person.  I also think of families who practice together, and come together over a similar cause and reason.  I think of people going to Churches, Mosques, and Temples together, as families.  

This is where I think our culture today is hurting us.  Our society has moved away from family values and more towards the drive for success, we are a capitalist country and it appears to onlookers that we almost always look out for ourselves, before others.  In our drive for money and power, we often need to overwork or even move away from loved ones after college in order to make those dreams a reality.  People are working 40-60 hours a week, possibly more for single parents. 

Is this obsession with work and money stunting ethical and social growth among kids today?  This is a tough argument, because I feel the need to support the family is very important and the way our economy is right now means that a parent must be absent in order to put food on the table, and a roof over the heads of their children, so it is a double edged sword.  

Do they A: leave the kids to work extra 40-60 hours a week, in order to provide yourself and them a life with extra money and possibly leave them open to gangs, peer pressures and too much television and inactivity/lack of exercise, and hope you are not too tired to check their school work and try to connect with them on a personal level.

Or B: work enough to pay bills, and scrape by and hope that you are doing the right thing by at least giving them a person to look up too, even though you and the kids aren’t living the life you had pictured.

Without a constant driving force in children’s lives, like a parent or a religion to follow, how are they learning the basic human principles of treating people with respect and learning human nature's "Natural Laws."  (American Defense League definition)

There is less time being spent with adults, and more time being spent with peers at the same age and mental maturity, there is no one, or anything saying “don’t do that, or say that,” because their friends do not know any better either, so actions are going unpunished and unchecked.  Kids with no where to turn for role models, are looking to gangs for guidance and money, or they are looking at the television saying, “I want to be like that person and live like this and throw money around.”  So instead of spending more time on studies, kids are spending more time on athletics or changing themselves physically and mentally, hoping to be like the people they see on television. 

For a tiny percentage it works out, but where are all of the kids going to go after failing to make millions in the entertainment industry, they have no skill sets for the real world now, and some will be able to turn back to families, but others get lost in the obsession and end up in jail or fall into the drug lifestyle and never recover. 

If this way of life continues, I believe that the outsourcing of jobs and the fall of our economy will continue, unless we can find a way to revitalize our education systems and then provide more money for youth mentoring programs, and provide more tools to children and teens on every economic level.  

I’m not taking sides that a religion needs to be enforced daily, it is a “Free Country,” and you may practice how you like, but there are those out there who blame everything on not having a religion for guidance.  On the other side of the fence, there are those who are anti-religion, their reasoning is the chaos and the amount of pain, suffering and death that occurs during religious conflicts around the world.  Some also believe that religion is corruptive and greedy, which is safe to say, because in the past, major religions and major clergy have taken advantage of the poorer masses before, but there still needs to be something, or some kind of structure for kids to follow, or it could end in complete chaos.

What would you say is causing the breakdown of “Family Values” after hearing these other arguments?

Is it the American obsession with money and fame and the drive to succeed even if it means abandoning loved ones?  Or is it the lack of some sort of faith or religion and an absence of any thoughts of sinning?  Or is it a lack of a common goal, or a glue that holds or brings a society together.  Lastly is it the absence of parents and a strict upbringing full of lessons about life, taught to help and guide children and teens along a path of ethics, good will and mutual respect for everyone? 

Whether it be religious or monetarily related or even something family oriented, I believe that something needs to change in the way that this generation of children are being raised, because right now, they are being raised by television networks with celebrities and a money driven society backing it up, that say it is ok to act this way.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

High School Newspaper Interview

A few weeks ago, I answered some interview questions from, Brooke Eades, a writer for the High School paper, The Kelly Kall Student Newspaper.  The story will be out in May I believe so when it is finished I will post it as well.  For now I have taken one Q & A, to post that I thought was a appropriate since summer is fast approaching and school will be out which means Seniors are going to College and Juniors will be taking over as School leaders.  

What advice do you give high schoolers?

The world is a much bigger and more diverse place than the place you are living at right now, whether it is a small town, big city, with or without your parents. Life is going to change dramatically and the best advice I can give you is, treat people with respect.  Treat people how you would like to be treated.  I know kids are tired of hearing it, but I was in school too, and now I'm 27, and the lesson is; High School and Junior High do not last forever, and who you are now, will change once you enter into the real world.  Your friends now, may not be there for you later in life; but maybe those people that weren’t your close friends, but you were polite and respectful to, they may just rescue you one day.  Those people that you thought “odd or different or gay,” grow up too and one day they may be your friend, neighbor, co-worker or boss.  Enter the world with an open mind, if you are confused ask people questions.  There is no dumb question!  When my brother died, people made it awkward, because they wanted to ask questions, but were afraid of offending me.  I found it more offensive that they would rather be ignorant than ask an open-minded question.   Learn about new cultures and religions, learn about the LGBT(Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Transgender) community, you may be surprised by what you learn and even more surprised to find out that we all have common interests and may form some amazing friendships with people from all walks of life.  Don't take life for granted, because after High School life moves a lot faster than you'd like, so make everyday a learning opportunity.   We are all people, just trying to live our lives and trying to find our own love and happiness.  Under no circumstance should anyone have to live in fear.  Hate has no place in this world.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Media's Influence On the LGBT Movement

Earlier this week, I did my first “real” interview for the Washington Blade, for a profile article by Katherine Volin, see link:

At his brother’s ‘Place’

It got us thinking; does the media push away or pull in straight people who are not yet decided on the political views of the LGBTQ community?

I would like to try to open a discussion about both the positive and negative effects the media has on pushing the subject of LGBTQ rights. 

I would have to say to it has had a positive effect on straight people.  I think the media doest an excellent job of getting the facts out to the public while trying not to persuade people one way or another. 

I can, however, see how it might be a little redundant for some to be reading the same stories over and over though, but at least it is there for people to see everyday.  If does not appear daily, then it will be moved to the back burner and ignored until another tragedy occurs.  I believe it needs to be in the news very frequently in order to keep the facts fresh in people’s minds.  In the past, the LGBT stories were printed less frequently, which hurt.  It made the progress very slow, because people kept forgetting the facts, so in order to keep up to date they would have to re-read past articles, and writers would have to summarize the past events, in order to start a new story just to refresh the reader’s memory. 

Some people may think that LGBT stories are too numerous on a weekly or daily basis, but it is very important to keep it this way, because if people are annoyed with the story and tell others they are annoyed, then at least they are talking about the subject!  As long as people are talking about it, then it is 100% progress compared to years past when no one would even acknowledge the topic of Hate Crimes, Gay Marriage and LGBTQ rights in general. 

I have a biased opinion of course, because of my strong feelings and closeness to the subject, but I would like to hear from others on this topic, and on any topic, so please send any topics and questions to, or you can post comments on any of my blogs and I will try to address the comments and questions that I feel can start dialogues and discussions.  I would like to get discussions started where I can take opposing sides; I am all about trying to open people’s minds to every possible side of an argument.  Being tolerant also means, being able to open your mind and see all sides of an argument. 

It is called, Empathy: Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.  (Yahoo! Dictionary).

Even if you do not agree with someone else’s point of view, it needs to be understood where people are coming from and why, it can only add to your debate.  

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Erase Hate Campaign

Over the weekend, we had our annual Bear To Make a Difference Dinner and Gala.  During the event we unveiled our new campaign.  “Raise Yourself to the power of 10, ‘A Campaign to Erase Hate’.”  We are all very excited for what this may bring and do for the movement.  The campaign stresses what you can do in your everyday life to help erase and replace hate.  It can be as simple as not using the word “Hate,” or asking people not use slurs and tell hurtful jokes.  Let your voice be heard, stand up for what you believe in and vote for those people who believe that hate should have no place in today’s society.

Why has it taken so long for a campaign like this to surface?  It’s a shame that certain horrible events had to happen for this message to become heard, and it’s still not over, people are still being hurt by hate!  Why is hate so prevalent?  These people that are filled with hate take so much time to make sure people know it, how do they have time to do other things?  I have seen first hand how much effort it takes and you would think that there must be something better to do with their life than make sure other people are miserable.  Why does society allow them to put fear into other people?  Wasn’t this country founded on acceptance?  Didn’t people come here to escape religious and personal persecution?  Why, 500 years later, does it seem like it is just getting worse?  The parents of today’s generation need to teach their children to play nicely, cause no one should have to live their life in fear of being beaten or harassed on a daily basis to make someone else feel better about themselves. 

More people need to express the importance of diversity and the freedom to live their life, while following the American Dream and their Pursuit of Happiness.  Is it so hard to treat people how you would like to be treated?  Is it so hard to open a door for someone who has their hands full, is it so hard to smile and wave at your neighbors.  Doesn’t it make you feel good to do something nice for a stranger without being asked or expecting something in return? 

I’m a big believer in Karma, and I try to do something nice for people on a daily basis.  It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture, just something to make another person happy, thankful and leaves him or her, wanting to help someone else the way you helped out.  So as a society let’s not “try,” let’s “Do,” Erase Hate together.  Do something nice for another person without being asked or told and without expecting a reward for your effort.  Do it for your own personal Karma bank, and eventually something spectacular will happen to you.  You never know when a family member or someone close to you will be affected by Hate, so let’s Erase it for good!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Was the writer’s strike a blessing in disguise?

Was the writer’s strike a blessing in disguise?

As I sat down and looked through my depleted shows on my most coveted possession the “DVR,” I was wondering how I possibly made it through the winter season without new shows, and how I was going to make it through March with just the few shows that are left on the air.  I admit I had a tiny panic attack, but it was all okay, when I finally found the shows that have been saving me from complete boredom.  These shows are not glamorous and ritzy.  They don’t have huge stars appearing weekly.  Yet when I watch them I am completely engulfed and nothing can pull my attention away.  “What are they?”  You ask.  Well I’ll tell you.  They are programs on the Discovery networks, History Channels, National Geographic Channels, and even more surprising to me personally, is coverage of the Presidential Primaries.

Did the Writer’s Strike possibly save the Presidential Campaigns?  I believe in a way yes it did.  Without anything to watch on primetime, young people are tuning in and actually paying attention to what is going with their country.  It couldn’t have come a more pivotal time.  We are getting ready wave goodbye to president who seemed to have no handle on what was going on in the world, let alone his own country, and now we have a few extremely strong candidates who claim they can heal the nation with various stances on a wide variety of topics.  I think the young and old alike are more prepared and have more knowledge about their candidates and their views than ever before.  Even the celebrities figured out that, with the strike, the best way to get on television and on the front of magazines again is to support the only thing on, the elections.  Hopefully it will be a win/win situation for the future, the writer’s will be getting what they deserve for their hard work in entertaining us week in and week out, and more importantly the youth in this country will realize how important keeping up on world politics’ is and how important a single vote is for their future.  Like my mom always said, “If you don’t go out there and vote then you have no right to complain when something goes wrong!”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Diverse Office

For me and my highly talented co-workers coming to work is something a little different than most people go through, and by that I mean that it’s probably the only time of our day where, I, the straight ally, is the minority in the office.  I think it’s a great feeling, and it should be the case in many more places of work.  For me coming to work is a learning experience, and I think that everyone should get to experience being in a diverse environment, not only at work, but in everyday life.

Diversity is what makes this country great, and I don’t think we should allow a few people to ruin the experience for others.  People who do not understand other cultures and lifestyles create ignorance and hate, and instead of opening their mind, they close it off, and to me that is boring.  I would not be the person I am today, if I didn’t get the opportunity to live in Saudi Arabia and be the minority.  I learned an incredible amount about many many cultures and religions, that I otherwise would not have had a chance to experience and I am grateful for it.  Being back in the U.S. now, everyday life is pretty average, until I go to work, and I’m excited to get up everyday and have a change.  But do my co-workers feel the same?

For me once work is done, I go outside and life is back to normal, I’m a Caucasian, straight, male.  Where as my co-workers and many other people around the U.S. go outside and have to go back out and deal with ignorance and hate filled people.  Never knowing where a hateful comment may or may not come from, whether it is on the street, at a convenience store or even in their apartment complex.  It disappoints me that this great country can do so much in so many areas, and yet it struggles tremendously with being comfortable in a diverse population. 

     What is the cause of it? 

Is it because we are in this “Uber Politically Correct” era that creates an uncomfortable silence for fear of saying something that can be taken the wrong way?  I believe that it is the opening cause of it.  I think people are curious by nature, and would like nothing more that to learn about their peers and office mates, but the fear of saying or asking something ignorant freezes people’s mouths for fear of being called a bigot or a racist.  I think if we toned down the finger pointing a little, and let things roll off your back then people would be more open and more conversation would happen.  When something does offend you, stop and tell that person without embarrassing them, and then explain why it is offensive, and how to correct their mistake.  It is all about educating people about your differences and living in harmony, not separating yourselves because of them.  Open communication is the only way to educate the people around you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What is an ally?

When most people hear the word “ally” they often think of wartime, treaties and feuding countries.  That is not always the case.  An ally is a term that can be used in everyday life.  In my opinion an ally is a person who attaches their name and beliefs to a movement, which stands up for people and will help advance the rights of those less fortunate against a much larger force or power.  It is a way to protect and ensure that those being oppressed have a chance to make the best out of the opportunities given to them. 

Locally, people most often hear it attached to the LGBT movement towards equal rights for marriage, and protection against hate crimes.  A person can be an ally to anything and everything from animal cruelty to better health care coverage to civil rights movements.  As long as the person believes that it will further the well being of the community around them and a worthy cause to put their reputations on the line; and in worst case scenarios their physical and mental well being, cause not everyone will react the same way to new ideas as history has proven in the past.

As long as it is a movement you truly believe in; then you are an ally of that cause.  Allies are important, because they are not fighting for themselves; they are fighting for others and the advancement of the oppressed.  They fight because they believe it will make the community as a whole a better place to live.  These allies often face more ridicule and just as many dangers as the people they fight for and with.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is it more important that gays and allies stand together unified without feeling compelled to say "I'm straight, but...", or is it a stronger message to say "You don’t have to be gay to support gay rights"? -- Australia Scott.


I think either way is effective.  During the African American civil rights movements, I think it created powerful messages to see people of different races standing together to support each other.  I was not around obviously, but I can imagine it must have been very energizing and amazing to see such powerful figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy’s standing together, it must have been inspiring to people of all races.  I think that in order to make people understand, you need people of different backgrounds to come together for one cause that both sides believe will enhance the value of the community. 

I think things have changed a little in the case of the LGBT and Straight Allies.  I believe that some people feel the need to let others know that they are straight for several reasons.  For some, it is simply because it makes them feel comfortable.  You have to understand, that a lot of these allies are new.  They are in the movement because they have close friends or family in the LGBT and they want to fight for those they love.  Since it is their first time in anything of this sort, most feel awkward, so identifying themselves might help get them past this stage and allow them to communicate openly.  Most are not very knowledgeable about the community and they just want to help.  So the first few meetings are an eye opening experience for them, and it takes a while to learn the different language and allow themselves to open up and take it all in.  The important thing is that they are actually there to help out in any way possible. 

There are also those who believe that allies shouldn’t identify themselves either.  Some believe it is a powerful message to just show up with an anonymous persona and help out with a cause.  It is like a random act of kindness, and they want to help, but they also want to remain unknown.

In my opinion it does not really matter which approach people take, because in the end they are all there to do the same thing, help out in any way.  Even a little help from someone goes a long way, no matter if or how they identify themselves 

Monday, February 25, 2008

For 10 years I’ve quietly watched the LGBT Community and Judy Shepard struggle to receive equal rights and protection from hate crimes, following the painful death of her oldest son Matt.  It was an event that was life changing for many people of all walks of life.  If you do not know the story then here is a brief over view.

In 1998 Judy Shepard and her family were thrown into the media spotlight following the brutal murder of her oldest son Matt.  It is a case that has brought sexual orientation and hate crimes to the fore front of political, personal and religious arguments around the world.  Letters of support came pouring into the Shepard family from all over the world.  They came from families who didn’t care about Matthew being gay, they just saw a family in need after an event that should never have happened in the 20th century.  People of the LGBT community and allies alike-formed candle light vigils and prayer services.  It was an event that made people talk and discuss the topic of homosexuality it doesn’t matter if people agreed or not.  It is a topic that has been ignored for centuries, and it took a tragic event in a tiny town in an under-populated state to bring it into classrooms, churches, places of work and politics.  Finally.

In 1998 I have to admit that I had no idea what the HRC, LGBT, GLAAD and any other organization that had an acronym for dealing with civil rights for people of a different sexual orientation or gender identity.  In all honesty it was a topic that wasn’t discussed and I didn’t know about because I myself was straight.  Well that’s not an acceptable excuse anymore.  Even if you are straight, the topics surrounding the LGBT and hate crimes legislation are a very important topic.  It is 2008, an election year, and we need to know that constitution is still as important as it was at the creation of the country, the reason our ancestors fled here from other countries is to be protected no matter their skin color, religion or who they loved.

In the last 10 years I have learned a lot about the LGBT community and met many new friends and many people who have influenced and opened my mind to new things and ideas.  I admit I have not learned as much as I had wanted, but nothing in life goes the way you want it.  That is why I have come to work for the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

I felt that as a straight ally I might have a voice that is new to the public and to other people that have always wanted to help but do not know how to contribute to the cause.  It is very important that allies step up support and let their voices be heard.  In this age of technology where knowledge is just a ‘click’ away I feel that there is no better time than now; in an election year to make sure that “Everyone” is protected from hate crimes and has the right to love whom they choose and live their life in happiness.  An attack of racism, bigotry, and homophobia does not just attack individuals it attacks communities.  Individuals create the whole and when individuals are attacked it hurts the entire community. 

 Most people have friends that are out of their race, religion, sexual orientation and the question to you is; what will do if your childhood friend, roommate, sibling, relative or even a polite neighbor down the hall that held the door open for you are beaten or killed for being “different”?  Will you stand by as an individual and be scared that it could happen to you or come together as a community and protect the rest of your loved ones and work to erasing hate and teaching love and tolerance, of those around you.  Hate is a learned emotion it is an infection that is spread by ignorance.  Even if you don’t agree with the views of those in your community, having an open mind and discussing important topics are a necessity in growing as a human being, even if in the end you say, “I don’t agree with that view.”  At least you listened and you are a better person for being empathetic.

I am here as a person of experience to try and tell people its ok to be an ally, it is ok to step up for what you believe in, it is ok to protect those people that you love.  Before jumping to conclusions about something or someone you know nothing about, ask them questions; it is better to ask dumb questions than be scared and ignorant of what you don’t know.  I think its time for a change and that’s why I’m finally here.  My name is Logan Shepard and Matt was my older brother.