Name: Danielle “DJ” Johnson
Hometown: Merced, CA
When I was younger, I moved from place-to-place a lot and was forced to learn how people discriminate against things that they do not understand. The first time I remember dealing with racism, I was eleven in Santa Barbra, visiting the university there. I was waiting at a bus stop with my mother to head back to San Jose. An elderly woman scowled as I approached the bench, but I thought nothing of it. She then began to spew vulgar slurs at me and told me to “Get outta America! This is our country!” Luckily, my mother came to my rescue and told the woman off. I had learned that my various school textbooks lied; racism remains in America.
A few years later, while living with my grandparents and aunt, I was forced to attend church where I learned about God from the Christian perspective. After a few meetings, I began to enjoy it and eventually signed up for the church’s MIT program so I could teach other youth about God’s wonderful message. I was happy, gained high praise from the youth pastor, and eventually became the MIT-of-the-Year at church camp. But before that event, things had changed. We had a sermon a few weeks before from a guest speaker. He spoke about the immoral behavior of “Catholics and homosexuals”. I was livid, yet I did not say anything. I thought, from what my youth pastor had said before, that God loves everyone, but this man who was invited to our service condemned a group of individuals who do nothing wrong. I felt scared because at the time I was starting to notice my own attraction to people of the same gender. Feeling ashamed, I lost my will to go to church because I felt that I was not allowed to grace the presence of the church. I eventually severed my contacts and to this day, have not seen or heard from anyone from my old youth group.
After that, things were not better for me. While I was “Out and Proud” as people would say, I was not truly happy, and used painkillers as a way to feel what I felt was missing. During the summer before my junior year of high school, I attended the So Cal Activist Camp hosted by the GSA Network. I was surprised to find an out youth that was also religious (which can be rare in the LGBT social circles I run in). Furthermore, he was unashamed. I knew that I was being lead by a force that was greater than me to learn the lesson that just because you’re not straight does not make you any further from God than anyone else. It was like what my old youth pastor said–we are all created people.
Having learned this and reaccepted my faith, I am aware that some people do not know this. They attend various schools where same-gender affection is not allowed, so they hide who they are and are forced to struggle and suffer in silence. That is why I am proud to become a member of the Soulforce Equality Ride team for 2010, so that I can travel to campuses and tell the people who are hiding in closets to not be ashamed. There are people who accept them and care for them, and God cares for them as well, and they should not feel as though they are unworthy of his love.
DJ has been sponsored a total amount of $.