Just this past month a young boy in New York killed himself. Biting comments, hateful verbal attacks, and criminal suggestions that he kill himself were hurled at him by his classmates, just because he was different from them. Just because he was gay. My little brother Jared was gay. We talked many times as adults about how he felt growing up knowing he was different. I cringe even now, as I think about how he must have felt to hear the way I spoke about faggots, homos, and queers. Jared must have felt afraid to tell me the truth. He must have felt alone. He must have felt like killing himself. I was just following the crowd, mimicking my peers at school, listening to my teachers at church, and believing the words of adults that I respected, but that is no excuse. I have my own heart, my own mind. I could have defied the tide of hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.
But I didn't. Not for many years, until tensions over Jared (and another brother of mine as well) being gay brought me to a pivot point. I had a decision to make. I could change from within, or continue to tow the line and punish my little brother for something none of us can ever understand in this life yet condemn just the same, because a poorly translated black book supposedly tells us to. Odd thing is, that same black book speaks more about love than anything else, and yet so many who profess to live by it choose to hate. In the end, I decided that the decision had been made for me; I had been told to love over anything else. And so I changed. I loved my little brother.
Not well enough, of course, and far too late. He still took his life a few years later, and while I know it wasn't my "fault," it still seems to me that I could have, should have, and had I known what I know now, would have done more to help him.
But Jared is dead. I can't help him. So I am going to run, because I can't run away. And I am asking all of you for a pledge, but not a monetary pledge. Money cannot stop hate. It can't put an end to intolerance. It won't slow the bullet train of ignorance.
I am asking you all to make a pledge.
It sounds corny, I know.
It even sounds kinda, well, gay.
But it isn't.