a short autobiography
1999 Speech at the Indiana State Capitol
A friend's witness
Nov. 1996 letter for the Chrysler Campaign
|Rhea Murray's statement
at the pre-hearing press conference in Washington DC during the Hoekstra
hearings, Dec. 4, 1995.
I am a mother of a 17 year old gay son. We live in a community of 16,000 people in southern Indiana. I am not a public speaker but love for my son brings me to this press conference. When my son was a month from his 14th birthday, he was very depressed and suicidal. In my heart, I believed I knew why. Consequently, I found an article in the Indianapolis Star newspaper about a gay youth support group called the Indianapolis Youth Group. I cut the article out, handed it to my son, and said "Hey, did you know they have a support group for gay teens in Indianapolis? I think it is great idea! If you know of anyone who could benefit from this article, you should let them know about it." It was my non-too-clever way of letting him know that it was safe to talk to me about this issue.
Two days later my son, Bruce, came out to me. The thought of being around others who shared the same feelings as him prompted him to do so, but it was still a very scary, painful experience for him. I put my arms around him and told him I loved him and I would always be there for him. He wept a long time in my arms.
Then while he was in school, it was my time to begin weeping. I thought I had prepared myself before my son came out to me. However, I had only dealt with the situation intellectually, not emotionally. I was overwhelmed by the rawness of my pain. Days turned into weeks of crying secretly. I prayed incessantly for God to spare me this journey. Nonetheless, a crushing silence was my answer.
Then unexpectedly, God whispered to me, "Child, you are hurting because you are trying to put the negative images you have of gays on your beloved son. You need to put the face of your son on the gay community. After all, you know what a gay person is like. You have lived with a gay person for 13 years. He is the same child in whom you have always delighted."
From that moment on the pain was gone, and now today I am thankful that God did not spare me this journey. I was hoping he would "fix" my son but he knew who needed to be fixed . . . me.
However, our journey had only just begun. Rumors started circulating in our community, church, and school that Bruce was gay. Bruce was not open or out about being gay; however, some people, like my son, have glass closets. This had dire consequences for Bruce and my family. Life became a living hell for my son. Shortly, Bruce will tell you about some of these experiences in school. Bruce was harassed and tormented not only by students, but teachers as well. He was actually spat upon. Most teachers, unwilling to deal with this situation, would look the other way. I cannot find the words that would adequately express what that does to a mother's heart. The violence escalated to physical attacks and death threats. Inaction by the school forced us to enroll Bruce in correspondence school. Prejudice denied our son the right to a safe, public education. A right every child should be guaranteed in our nation, a right my husband fought for, when he served in Vietnam.
I understand that these hearings are called "Parents, Schools, and Values." Not every parent will have thier child come out to them, although a significant number of people do have gay, lesbian and bisexual children. However, I want to speak to all parents about values that we are teaching our children. Our Congress seems to be equally concerned about values; however, I don't think they a re talking about the value of tolerance. When my child is harassed and beaten up at school, in addition to Bruce, there are two other victims. One victim is the student who is the attacker. Feeling that behavior is condoned, he will grow comfortable in victimizing another, thereby, losing a piece of his/her own soul. In addition, another victim is society as a whole. We will no longer be a civilized nation, if we do not teach our children how to live peacefully in a world where there is a diversity of people, religions, and opinions.
The people of Seymour are good people. However, fear can bring out the very worse from the very best. They fear what they do not understand. Their fear is only intensified by the lies and myths told about our children. This hearing willl undoubtedly draw attention to programs that exist to make schools safe for gay and lesbian youth. Some special interest spokespeople would have Congress believe that parents oppose these programs because of their values. I, too, at one point might have agreed; but after seeing the pain of not only my child but many others, my values do not let me silently stand by and witness the harassment of any child. All children are precious and a gift from God. I can tell you about towns all across America where there is no information about homosexuality and no programs to address the violence directed against gay and lesbian students. What exists is fear, misinformation, and a deadly silence that grows into violence. My husband and I are simple, working-class people from the Hoosier heartland who simply love their son. And as any parent, we want him to have a chance to pursue his dreams, to realize his potential and to live with dignity. What parent wouldn't want this for their child? What justice-loving nation wouldn't want this for all its citizens? When I told the prinicipal of Bruce's school that my son was gay, he told me that many doors would be closed to my son because of his sexual orientation. I hope Congress will not be the one to close those doors.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 by Rhea Murray.
Rhea Murray can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.