Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last night: Standing on Mr. Jefferson's steps, remembering our LGBT children who have taken their own lives

Last night, I stood with friends and a few hundred people in the autumn chill with candles next to the statute of Thomas Jefferson on the steps of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. We stood at a place built as a monument to all forms of freedom, including freedom from fear and hatred.

We were in the right place last night.

We listened to heart-wrenching stories of so many young people who recently took their own lives because they were bullied for being gay or thought to be gay. One after another, UVA students came to the microphone and told stories that cry out to be heard:

The story of Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roomate secretly videoed him having relations with a man. He was 19 years old.

The story of Billy Lucas, who was bullied on Facebook. He was 15 years old.

The story of Asher Brown who was relentlessly picked on. He shot himself in his family's kitchen. He was 13 years old.

Our own Sean Bugg, one of our Canterbury students, talked of how he had been physically attacked on the street near our church recently. He read poetry, and he implored us to do better, to honor human life, all human life.

I saw tears last night.

I also heard determination to say enough, to end the bullying, to stand up to hate and fear-mongering, to work for a gentler world. I didn't hear an ounce of politics.

One of the speakers asked "Where are the churches marching?"

Some of the churches were there marching. A group of Charlottesville clergy stood together on the steps and we each introduced ourselves. There weren't many of us, and I wish more had come, but there were enough.

I read a brief statement on behalf of our gathering of clergy:
"We are united tonight in showing our support for our children, our friends, brothers, sisters, and parents who are lesbian/gay/transgendered.

We are here to listen, to shed our tears, and to seek forgiveness for falling short of creating a kinder compassionate world where no one feels alone, or abandoned or ostracized. We ask forgiveness for the bigotry created or condoned by our religious institutions.
Tonight we stand with you with open hearts, and pledge to do better, to work for a world where no one feels they have to take their own life, as God gives us the strength."
Photos by the Rev. Peter Carey

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