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Steven's Speech, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin
"Leave No Child Behind"

1/27/02

1. I'm very honored to be here today to speak to you, at this Unitarian Universalist Church Celebration. I'm speaking to you as an Eagle Scout, representing Scouting for All and my high school's GSA, Gay Straight Alliance.

I'm dedicating my presentation in the memory of my grandpa who died a year ago tomorrow. He was a very loving person. I miss him very much.

When George Bush was talking about his education plan for America's children, he said, "We will leave no child behind". We should ask President Bush to stand true to his words by supporting and embracing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. He's right, "we should not leave any child behind".

President Bush should resign as the Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America until the BSA STOPS its practice of discrimination against gay and atheist youth and adults!!! If he means what he says he should support having Gay Straight Alliance Clubs in every high school in America.

I also want to acknowledge and thank the Unitarian Universalist Church for its courageous stand against the Boy Scouts of America a few years ago, when the BSA denied the church's religious scouting emblem because it wouldn't reject the gay people in their church. The Boy Scouts of America is getting pretty self- righteous when it tells a church how it should believe and to reject some of its own congregation if it wanted to remain in scouting.

You know if you believe in God, you believe that God created all the life on this earth. Some people who say they are religious, say that their god rejects people who are gay. How could God create a life and then reject it. That doesn't make sense. God loves all that God created. I think some people who say they are religious just use the name of god, the bible and Jesus Christ to express their own bigotry, hatred, and fear and show a lot of ignorance. God doesn't discriminate, people do. I'm sure there are many people in the bible including Saints who where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, and maybe even some heterosexuals.

2. I'd like to begin my talk by reading a poem titled "Remember Me" written by Robbie Kirkland, a 15 year old gay kid who killed himself because he felt rejected. He felt like he didn't belong.

Poems by Robbie Kirkland
"Remember Me" I may be gone, but I hope I'm not forgotten.
Remember me. (9-1-94)
"I'm Dying and No One Cares" I try to stand and walk I fall to the hard cold ground.
It feels as if to life I'm no longer bound.
The others look and laugh at my plight.
Blood pours from my nose, I am not a pretty sight.
I try to stand and again but fall
To the others I call
But they don't care
The pain is unbearable
The world is not fair
I'm lost and cold I wish one would lend a hand to hold My tears mix with my blood
The end of my life It nears I'm Dying and no one cares.
The pain.
The pain.
THE PAIN!
I scream in pain!
My body shakes in violent spasms I cry out in pain again!
I scream My blood pours like a stream I'm Dying and no one cares I scream in pain one last time and then it's over.
I am Dead and no one cares.

Robbie was born on February 22, 1982. He killed himself on January 2, 1997 when he was 15. A time in his life he should have been dreaming about becoming whoever he wanted to be. Instead he was struggling with the bigotry of homophobia. It was homophobia that killed Robbie.

I've dedicated our effort in Scouting for All in the memory of Robin Reed a 15 year old student from the high school I go to, Petaluma High School and to all gay youth who have taken their lives because they felt like they didn't belong. Robin Reed was also a gay kid. He killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1995. Five years later my sister, a friend and I started Petaluma High School's first GSA Gay Straight Alliance. IfPetaluma High School had a GSA in 1995 Robin Reed might be alive today, standing here in my place sharing with you how it is to grow up gay with the support of groups like Gay Straight Alliances. So the next time you hear someone making fun of someone else at your school. Think about Robin Reed and Robbie Kirkland. Think about how it hurts to be rejected and made fun of. And most important don't turn your back and walk the other way.

   3. I am proud to be representing Scouting For All. Scouting for All is an organization my dad, Dave Rice and I founded in our stand against the discrimination of the Boy Scouts of America against gay youth and adults and atheists. When I found out the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against my gay friends I couldn't believe it. I became very ashamed of being a scout. I couldn't stay in scouting if I didn't try and do something to change the policy. The BSA was just teaching scouts to discriminate. They didn't practice their own scout oath and law when they discriminated against my gay friends. I had a Christian camp counselor named Robert Espindola, he taught morals and family values and about God. And you know something he is gay. I couldn't believe that my friend Robert would not be allowed to be in scouting simply because he was gay. I allowed myself to feel their pain and decided to do something. to change the policy. I wrote to govet:nment officials and then decided to write a letter to the editor about the scout law and how the Boy Scouts of America was not following their own scout law when they discriminated. I was afraid of how the kids at school would act towards me. Some made fun of me but eventually most of them thought what I was doing was ok. When some would call me fag or gay. I'd just say what's wrong with being gay? Being gay is normal. I got death threats but they just made me more determined to continue to try and change the policy because they just told me there are ignorant people out there that need to be educated about what being gay is and that being gay is normal. The support of my sister, mom, and dad and my friends have kept me going. And also knowing that gay kids were being hurt by the rejection of the BSA kept me going.

4. Now, I think its important to talk about all of us. How "you" as an individual and how "we" as a group can make a difference against the bigotry, discrimination, homophobia gay youth face every day of their lives.

But before we do that its important that we allow ourselves to feel the pain those that are discriminated against experience. Put yourselves in their shoes. Ask yourself how would it feel as a heterosexual to not have the same rights as are afforded to all other people in our society. How would it feel for example not to be able to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America or not be able to be legally married or be able to adopt children? Ask yourself how would that feel. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and are experiencing those social injustices don't by into the homophobic messages presented to you every day.

I think as a people, we tend to believe something is "normal," "OK," or "healthy" if society accepts it. Some things we take for granted because institutions and laws may say it's ok. We may even believe in something that is discriminatory against us because we were taught it is ok.

Slavery at one time was accepted in this country as "normal," "OK," "healthy." Even some of the slaves accepted slavery as their purpose in life. Because that was what they were taught. Women not having the right to vote, African Americans not having civil rights until the 60s and being segregated, not being able to eat in the same restaurants or drink from the same drinking fountains as whites, and Native Americans weren't allowed to be citizens until 1928 and they were here first!

Even some of those who were discriminated against believed it was ok. It was "normal." Because our laws and institutions said, it was.

Things didn't change until individuals in our society found the courage too began to question these laws and institutions. Things didn't change until people began to come together to stand against these social injustices.

That is what we have to do.
Let us not buy into the messages today that we are no good if we are gay,
that we are no good if we are lesbian,
that we are no good if we are bisexual,
that we are no good if we are transgender.
Lets not buy into the message that if we love someone as a gay or lesbian that we don't have the right to marry,
or have the right to have employee benefits for our partners.
Or have the right to adopt
or have the rights that are given to all others in our society

Let's not buy into the message that you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth don't exist, don't count.

We must stand together and speak out loud against these laws, against those institutions that discriminate against us, whether we are gay or not. Weare all human beings and we should stand together to defend our rights as human beings. When the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against my gay friends, they discriminate against me. They discriminate against all of us as human beings. We must not turn our backs on any human being experiencing social injustice!

The message that I want to leave with all of you here today is that EVERY PERSON here is important, is of value, is special in this life!

As Martin Luther King said:

"We must not allow any force to make us feel like we don't count. Maintain a sense of dignity and respect!"
As young people we owe it to our future and the future of this earth that we stand together for human rights and that we embrace our diversity and cherish our differences.

Lets stand together!

I thank you very much. "

Applause,

Standing ovation

Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout



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