Friday, November 25, 2011

Fear and Courage in Brownback's Kansas

Let me begin by saying that you have already taken everything from me. I have nothing left to lose. I once said, "Fear becomes only a shadow in the light of nothing left to lose." I can say that, because I have lived there.

When the mighty governor of the state of Kansas flexes his muscles against an 18-year-old high school student, you have seen the ultimate act of bullying.

I was recently speaking with two intelligent and well-spoken Topeka area students about the policies Kansas Equality Coalition of Topeka was instrumental in passing. The Topeka 501 School Board added protections for LGBT students and staff. I was informed by these students, in no uncertain terms, that the new policies won't help because nobody stands up to bullying.

In the light of that conversation, I see no alternative than to stand up to Brownback's bullying of the student who tweeted, "Brownback sucks." And his bullying of the residents of Kansas Neurological Institute. And his bullying of women. And his bullying of the poor. And his bullying of LGBT Kansans.

There are only two pathways here. The first is to stand up to oppression. The second is to live in oppression.

The first time I told my story, in the safe confines of a high school Gay Straight Alliance, a transgender student came up to me, and hugged me, and said that I had changed her life. But what also happened was that she had changed my life.

It was in this moment that I could see what it really means to lose everything. And what it really means to have nothing to lose. And what I began to understand, was that the freedom of the spirit is the most precious of all possible possessions.

I have spoken publicly about my journey far more than a hundred times. Dozens of times, someone has shared with me that their life has been changed. I will never again be the same.

I have spoken in front of state legislators and city councils and school boards. In front of Baptist ministers and at national conferences. With strangers in parking lots across the state of Kansas. Is it courage? No, it's not courage. It's just not fear.

So, if the adult people in the LGBT community believe that I am doing what I do for them, it is not so. Neither do I do it for me. I do it for the young people. That they might not find the same world I found. Face the same desperate future I faced.

And so it is, that I still have nothing to lose. Not because I have nothing. I have more than I knew it was possible to have. Because what I have, can not be taken away.

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