The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 1

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"Seeing Yourself In A Whole New Way…"

THIS JOURNEY IS DEDICATED TO NICHOLAS WEST AND BENNY HOGAN

Nicholas

On November 30, 1993, Nicholas West, a young gay man in Tyler, Texas, was kidnapped by gay bashers, tortured and terrorized in a gravel pit. His abductors shot Nicholas so many times (and at such close range) that the coroner couldn’t distinguish entry and exit wounds.

As the newly arrived Dean of the Cathedral of Hope MCC in Dallas, I was asked to speak at Nick’s memorial service in the park from which he was kidnapped. Because Texas judges were tempted to let gay bashers off with a slap of the wrist, Diane Hardy-Garcia and I attended the killer’s two week trial in distant Kerrville.

As other terrorized gay men who had escaped these same captors told their stories, I sat in that almost empty courtroom and wept. One young man, a Wal-Mart clerk, had been kidnapped, held at gunpoint, and terrorized with repeated games of Russian Roulette. Before they could kill him, the naked boy managed to dive into a nearby, nearly frozen lake where he stayed for five hours with his tormentors shooting bullets into the darkness hoping to kill their prey.

In 1994 alone, we buried 12 gay Texans who were murdered by gay bashers who felt that were doing God’s business to eliminate our innocent brothers.

Benny

In July, 1994, Benny Hogan was picked up in a San Antonio Park during a "sting" by police and charged with "loitering." He was talking to other gay men on a park bench at the time of his arrest. The Christian Coalition in San Antonio took out an ad in the paper publishing the names of men picked up in that "sting" including Benny Hogan.

On Pride Sunday, feeling "ruined and shamed" by this public "outing", Benny hanged himself in his Grandmother’s garage. Benny’s brother asked me to conduct a memorial service for Benny on the steps of the newspaper that published his name.

Nicholas and Benny are just two of the uncounted millions of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders who face suffering every day of their lives.

Today, we begin this Journey Into Soulforce with a simple acknowledgement of that terrible suffering. Gandhi advises us that until we’ve experienced the suffering for ourselves we will never do anything to help end it.

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE SUFFERING?
Would you share with your Soulforce Partner a story from your own life (or the life of someone you know) that illustrates the suffering of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children?

TYPE OR WRITE YOUR STORY ON AN EXTRA SHEET OF PAPER
EXCHANGE STORIES WITH YOUR PARTNER/ DISCUSS TOGETHER

In 1859, Charles Dickens wrote these amazing words in his A Tale of Two Cities. Almost a century and a half later, they describe our own times perfectly.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

This is the irony. Thanks to our courageous activist pioneers we have made tremendous gains during the past century. Our local, state, and national lobby, activist, and service organizations are continuing our advance towards equality.

But with all the gains that have been achieved for us, the suffering goes on in North America and around the globe.

[To our sisters and brothers from 12 different countries who are taking this journey with us, compare your list of injustices to ours. Here’s hoping your country is far more – and not far less – enlightened than our own.]

The Suffering Continues
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans are still second-class-citizens in their own country.

  • denied the right to live and love openly by the SODOMY LAWS,
  • denied the estimated 1,047 rights and protections that go with MARRIAGE,
  • denied the right to serve openly in the MILITARY,
  • denied the right (in most states) to nondiscrimination in EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING,
  • denied the right (the current crisis) to ADOPT OR PROVIDE FOSTER CARE,
  • denied the right (a coming crisis) to retain CUSTODY of our own birth children,
  • denied the right to full membership, ordination, or marriage in our home CHURCHES,
  • denied the right to be a member or a leader in the BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA,
  • denied the right to be included in national HATE CRIME legislation, even though we are among the primary victims of a still-growing siege of violence across the nation.

As a result, we are ten times more likely to suffer from alcohol and/or drug ADDICTION. Our young people are seven times more likely to commit or attempt SUICIDE. And in every state we are among the primary victims of HARASSMENT and HATE.

With all the good news, the 80,000 LETTERS we’ve received from people who have read my autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian In America, indicate that most of our sisters and brothers still live in closets of loneliness, self-hatred, guilt, and fear. Here’s one sample of the suffering shared with us by mail.

"Reading about your life was like looking into a mirror and seeing myself. I have known every pain you write about. I have experienced every longing, felt every sense of guilt. My needs, however, remain unfilled. My guilt remains. My feeling of worthlessness remains. My fear of God’s condemnation remains. I can not tell you how many times I have cried myself to sleep aching with my entire being just to hold someone and to be held, to love and to feel loved. I find myself now, as you did, on the near edge of a complete breakdown. I hesitate to call it a nervous breakdown, because I feel it would be much more drastic than that: a spiritual breakdown as well. I feel like I am totally losing it. I continue to live a lie. Though I have not been sexually active, I have continued to hide my feelings and my orientation. Even friends with whom I was once very close I no longer see; because I had become so totally convinced that homosexuality was that abomination that [Jerry Falwell’s] Moral Majority say it is. I too have had my belief shaped by those six "proofs" of the Bible. Well, anyway, no need to continue. I have spent hours begging God to "heal me" of my illness. And I have asked him over and over to let me die…"

Read the following questions. Answer them briefly on paper and then discuss your answers with your Journey Partner.

  1. How serious is the suffering of sexual minorities in the U.S. or in your country?
  2. How is our current suffering different from the suffering of grandparents who may have been lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered?
  3. How is the suffering of those who live in closets different from the suffering of those who are out?
  4. Could the suffering get worse before it gets better? Will it? Why or why not?

GANDHI’S MOMENT OF TRUTH
Have you seen "GANDHI" the video yet? (Please rent and view it as soon as you can). Early in Part I a young lawyer, fresh from finishing his bar exams in London, arrives in South Africa. He takes his reserved seat in a first class railcar and is confronted, almost immediately, by an irate white traveler who demands he "take his place with the others of his kind" in second class.

When Gandhi defends his rights, he is dumped off the train and spends the long, cold night sitting on his suitcase beside the tracks. During those painful hours Gandhi experienced a "moment of truth." He had suffered with his people in South Africa and by morning had determined to do his part to help end the suffering.

You must share in the suffering
We begin our Journey into Soulforce with this simple and obvious assumption: God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children are suffering and until we experience, understand, acknowledge that terrible suffering, we will never take steps to help end it.

Here are some resources to consider as our Journey into Soulforce begins:

Consider reading the autobiographies of Gandhi and/or King. Take 30 minutes to scan (and collect) articles about them and about their commitment to nonviolence from encyclopedias or websites. Have you viewed "GANDHI" the video? If you enjoyed it, get "ROMERO" and view it next.

If you want daily, up-to-date information about the suffering of sexual minorities around the globesubscribe to an email news service like Fenceberry@aol.com or LelioRisen@aol.com.

To get background information on hate crimes against sexual minorities check these important websites regularly. (If you’re not on line yet, it is a lot harder.)

Once again, Gandhi and King would ask us: How convinced are we that our transgendered, bisexual, lesbian, and gay brothers and sisters are suffering?

How convinced are we that something must be done to end it?

Once we are convinced then we can continue our "Journey into Soulforce"

A reminder from the "Getting Ready" Memo
"My goal for these next eight weeks is to see if Soulforce (the way of nonviolence as taught by Gandhi and King) offers us a new/old way to end the tragic anti-homosexual campaign by religious leaders whose words and actions lead directly and indirectly to the suffering of sexual minorities."

More specifically, my goal is to see if we (through consensus) can apply that new/old way to the anti-homosexual rhetoric of Jerry Falwell."

Thanks for joining us on this Journey into Soulforce.
Mel

NEXT: Step 2

Mel White and Gary Nixon, Partners in Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652.
Fax: (949) 455-0959
Email: melwhite@soulforce.org

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