Brave Gay Youth

john ragan David and Goliath, meet 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard and Tennessee GOP Representative John Ragan.

Marcel recalls, “During my first year in middle school, I experienced severe bullying. I was called terrible names. At that time, I had just realized that I’m gay…” And, as his mother remembers, “…despite our support, he contemplated taking his own life.”

During a 2012 legislative session, Tennessee lawmakers were unable to pass a measure, authored by Ragan, banning elementary and middle school teachers from discussing sexual activity that was not “related to natural human reproduction,” i.e., the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Score one for David and other gay students.

Then, in 2013, Ragan’s bill was “born again” adding even more injurious provisions: School officials were required to inform parents if they suspected their child might be gay. This bill also died in committee.

Score: David 2, Goliath 0.

However, that didn’t satisfy Marcel. He picked-up his slingshot, a Moveon.org petition, and began pressuring StudentsFirst, a national education group, to rescind it’s “Reformer of the Year Award” which it had given to Ragan.

On June 5, with over 50,000 signatures, it was Marcel’s Moveon.org petition, accompanied by a video and an essay, that moved StudentsFirst to announce it “Stands with Marcel,” rescinding it’s award to Ragan. StudentsFirst went even further announcing it’s support for federal anti-bullying legislation.

mormon boy scoutsScore: David 3, Goliath 0. Three strikes ‘n’ yer out!

“People keep calling me brave, but it seemed like something I just wanted to do,” said Marcel. “I was bullied and I’m going to let those bullies win. It’s giving up to them. It’s giving up to myself.”

And then there’s 18-year-old Eagle Scout Kenji Mikesell of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been struggling with the issue of allowing gay youth to be openly enrolled in the scouts. But last month, over 61% of the BSA’s National Council voted in favor of admitting openly gay scouts. The new policy starts on January 1, 2014.

So far, so good.

But, then, Kenji and several others wanted to walk in Salt Lake’s June 2 Gay Pride Parade wearing their scout uniforms. Before the parade, Kenji told NBC, “It just feels like the right thing to do.” His hopes are that his actions would “encourage others to join scouting without the fear of being judged.”

Rick Barnes, chief scout executive of the Great Salt Lake Council, reacted, “We do not, as Boy Scouts, show support for any social or political position. We’re neutral.” Hmmm? Really, Rick? Aren’t you guys still not allowing gay men to serve as leaders? That sounds pretty social and political to me.

cutest coupleAnd Rick, obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points. The 10th point is “A Scout is brave.” I think Kenji deserves a Merit Badge for bravery!

And finally, according to Carmel High School Principal Kevin Carroll in New York, “Kids aren’t hiding anymore.” Referring to two male students Dylan Meehan and Brad Taylor who, as a couple, were just voted ‘Cutest Couple’ of their senior class!

After the votes were tallied from 300 seniors, Meehan and Taylor were declared the winners. “First time in my school’s history a same sex couple has even been able to run for this category, not to mention winning it. So proud of them, and my school,” wrote Chelsea Blaney, a good friend of the couple and the person responsible for the national attention their winning the award has generated. Chelsea also posted a photo of the couple with the caption, “Two of my best friends won ‘Cutest Couple’ of our senior class.”

“This whole thing has been a bit surreal for us because we have been raised to believe that love is love,” Dylan and Brad wrote. “We never realized that our happiness and openness would inspire so many individuals. The support we have received from our family, friends, and even strangers has led us to believe that our affection for each other is normal…”

carl matthesPPrincipal Carroll told Newsday.” They feel free, and they feel safe in the school — that’s the way it is.”

Change is happening in America and this time it’s far from the urban settings of most gay communities and activities. And that change is coming, in some instances, from well-nourished, well-supported and young grassroots.

The LGBT community has much to be proud of during this year’s June Pride Month.

Carl Matthes

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on June 9, 2013
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About Carl Matthes

Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for 45 years. He is the current president of UGLA, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a grassroots organization in Northeast Los Angeles which provides a support system for gay men and lesbians and education for individuals and the community-at-large on the true nature of homosexuality. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America, which is owned and published by his sister, Ella. He was editor of the GLAAD/LA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter, a former GLAAD National Board member and served as a GLAAD/LA representative on the LGBT/LAPD Advisory Board. Carl has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

In July, 2008, Carl was legally married to Carl Johnson, his partner of 45 years, by Los Angels City Councilmember Jose Huizar. It was a unique gay/lesbian double ceremony as Carl's sister Ella and her partner Gladi were also married by Jose.