a short autobiography
1999 Speech at the Indiana State Capitol
A friend's witness
Nov. 1996 letter for the Chrysler Campaign
|On Mon, 15 Dec 1997
Rhea Murray <firstname.lastname@example.org>
wrote to the pflag-talk email list:
My friends, I am a mother of a 19 year old gay son. We live in southern Indiana. He came out to me a month before his 14th birthday. I had encouraged him to come out to me by handing him an article about an Indiana Gay Youth group in a community that is an an hour plus away from where we live. I told him when I handed him the article, "I think it is a great idea that they have a youth group for gay teens. If you know anybody who would benefit from this information, you should let them know." It was my not too clever attempt to let him know he could talk to me. For I had noticed how deeply depressed he was and I believed that this was the issue he was struggling with so desperately. I was so glad that I let my love for my child overrule my fear of facing the unknown, because I was saturated to the core with homophobia. But my love for my child ran deeper than my ignorance. Thank God, thank God it did, because at the time unbeknownst to me, my precious child was weighing which would cause his parents the least amount of pain . . . his death or revealing the fact that he was gay. At the time I handed him the article, he had decided that his death would cause us the least amount of pain. He was contemplating his suicide.
To make a long story short, my homophobia died in my bathroom, when I encountered the lady in the mirror and I heard a still small whisper rise in my soul. " You are hurting because you are trying to put the negative stereotypes that you have of gays on your son. Instead, you need to put the face of your beloved son on the gay community." From that holy moment on, I have never shed another tear because my son is gay. I feel truly blessed to have a gay child and truly believe every parent should be honored with at least one. And I have been a staunch advocate ever since I had been set free from the bondage of my prejudice.
But I have shed many tears, many tears of how my son is treated by an intolerant society because he is gay. I had to remove him from school because of the escalating hostility and violence, especially after our minister speculated to many in the community that my 14 year old son was gay.
Now tonight, I shed new tears. We had appeared on the Leeza Gibbons show, dealing with the issue how difficult it is to be a gay teen in our society After it aired, he was fired from his job. Then he was blessed to be given a better job with a new clothing store as a floor supervisor. One young man immediately quit because he said he was not going to work for no fucking fag! My son's car windshield was busted out a few nights later. This same man who never had a conversation with my son Bruce reported that he had sexually harassed him to the corporate office. Fortunately, management did not believe the charge.
Today his boss called him and told him that they wanted him to come in three hours later than scheduled. She was lovingly trying to protect him. For you see, the store had been horribly trashed and faggot was painted on all the walls. They wanted to paint all the walls before he arrived to save him the humiliation of seeing the hatred of him so graphically on display.
Yes, I cry many tears, many tears for how my beautiful, gentle and loving son is treated. I grow weary of hate reaching out with his icy, cold finger and touching my heart who is my child.
I come to you humbly seeking the warm touch of love. For tonight my aching soul needs that balance so desperately.
love, Rhea Murray
. . . of fear, sorrow and JOY!
Thank you, my dear friends, for my holding my hand last night, while I sat here waiting for my son Bruce to come home from work. They had security escort him to his car. His boss has given him the day off today and has reworked his schedule so he would not be closing the store alone this week. But that can only be a temporary solution.
As for Bruce, he just released a heavy sigh and said, "Mom, it is no big deal. This has been part of my life for so long. I am almost use to it." And that realization only makes me want to cry, not only tears of fear but hot tears of anger. He was more emotionally stirred by the great lengths that his boss went to to protect him. She is an African American woman in her mid twenties. She would know first hand about dealing with the negative fallout from prejudice in southern Indiana.
Ed, please do not feel responsible for our appearance on the Leeza show. For this may have happened anyway. As a matter of fact, I did a speech Sunday morning at a Unitarian Church and Bruce's store was vandalized that very night. So my speech may have been the catalyst. But then Bruce has such a feminine softness to his physical built and face. He is not handsome, he is pretty. And that is enough to make him a target. Many times when he can't accept a return on merchandise because it had obviously been worn or not purchased from his store, the customers' parting biting remarks always include the word "fag." And this comes from people from all social strata, all ages and all genders.
Bruce, my beautiful son, is amazingly strong and resilient. And I hate the fact that he has to be and at the same time I feel very grateful that he possess those qualities. Funny, when the hostility is aimed at him, I freak. When it is aimed at me, he freaks.
But there is always a constancy in our lives that helps us through the chaos and that is our love and faith in each other. And we all believe in what we are doing and will continue to do. For as long as this is an ugly reality for any soul anywhere, we have to speak and live our truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others feel. My family has solidarity not only in heart, but in purpose.
Sometimes when one is dealing with night terrors and hearing the clock tick slowly while wondering about the safety of your loved one, you need the reassuring hand of an angel. Last night I reached out for that hand and I was surrounded by angels, who gently whispered words of comfort, love and encouragement. They helped me to remember who I am, even in the darkest of nights. I am not fear. I am love. Thank you.
Blessed be you, my angels.
my love and gratitude always,
Rhea and Bruce,
If the old saw, that which doesn't kill us can only make us stronger has any truth whatsoever to it, then our precious babies should be made of steel. Every day to wonder, "Is this the day I get bashed beyond verbal assaults? Is this the day they spray paint me instead of walls?" But, instead of steel they are flesh and blood, smiles and tears, sass and sadness. I read what you write and my heart literally skips beating for a moment. The cruelty in this world at times is quite simply stunning. Who raises these bullies? Who gives them sustenance in their homes? Why should they be allowed to wreck havoc in other people's lives? Why should someone as dear and sweet as Bruce be made to suffer? Doesn't make much sense, does it?
But, you know what Rhea? Bruce has something that all the bullies in the world don't have. He has you. He has a family that would cheerfully lay down and die for him, who love him and accept him for who he is every minute of every day. Not only that, you *celebrate* him, Rhea. What a gift you give. Now, look in that same mirror that you looked into so long ago and encounter the face of an angel. How many sons can look upon their Mother, like I've seen Bruce look upon you, with such pride and joy and deep affection? And, I know that the reverse is also true. I think I told you that when I saw you on the "Leeza Show" one of the things that struck me was how palpable your love for each other was. It was right up there on the television screen. Draw strength from it. I know you will. It's a gift that you give each other every day of your lives. Bullies don't get that. That's why they're bullies.
I adore you both, Nancy
Rhea Murray can be reached by email at email@example.com.