Sunday, October 3, 2010

Podcast 22: note, passed to matthew shepard

As my last blog post stated, there have been many horrific and sad stories of young men taking their own lives because of antigay bullying in the last two weeks. These events have been on my mind a great deal. My last post dealt with the "It Gets Better" campaign, and how it's a fine start, but, to me, not enough.

I've also been thinking a lot about how the media works in these situations. Suddenly, everyone is talking about gay teen suicide, when this is anything but a new issue. I'm not complaining because this issue needs serious attention, but it also needs to be recognized as a product of our society that has been going on for quite some time.

In just nine days it will be the 12th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard. His story seems important to be reminded of and think about in connection to these recent events. Shepard did not take his own life, but died at the hands of homophobia and ignorance. We are breeding a culture of hate and people, somehow, still seem surprised. We are electing officials who stand on TV and say gay people are a bigger threat than terrorists. We have minsters across this country blaming the "gay agenda" for anything and everything. We have celebrities, like 50 Cent, who encourage gay violence and still make millions of dollars. I like to think these aren't the majority opinions of the people in this country, yet not enough people are ever willing to stand up and say this is wrong.

Shepard's murder rocked this country for a bit and still weighs heavily on the minds of gays and lesbians. But his story is just one of many, just like these boys this past week. For each one of these stories that gets national attention, there are hundreds of others that don't. Shepard's story has also found its way into lots of gay literature, which brings me to my poetry podcast for today. This is a reading of my poem "note, passed to matthew shepard." I wrote this poem probably four or five years ago and have revised it many times since. It was a difficult poem to write, but one that I felt so compelled to get out of me. The title is a reference to the famous Lucille Clifton poem "note, passed to superman."

I felt this poem was appropriate for the moment. If you want to read the poem as well as listen to it, you can. The poem was published in Velvet Mafia last October. You can read it here: It is the second poem on the page, so you have to scroll down (though I encourage you to read both poems). Just a word of warning, Velvet Mafia is not safe for work.

I'm still trying to get my head around the events of recent times and how we can proceed as a community. Poetry is one of my methods of pushing social change and getting people to think. While my audience might be small, I do hope that by being open and putting myself and my life out there, someone does feel hope and connection. At the same time, I know that face to face interaction has more impact. As I mentioned in my last post, Orlando is lucky to have a strong youth organization for GLBT kids, but many places don't. My hope is that we don't forget these boys who have died and we strive to always stand up not just for tolerance (I don't particularly like that word), but for acceptance and respect for all people.

-Stephen (Not Forgetting)

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