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Utah PrideFest 2002, January 17-26, Utah State University, Steven Representing S4A And His High School's GSA

Utah State University / Pride Fest 2002

1. I'm very honored to be here at the 3rd Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Fest 2002 Film Festival, Utah State University.

I am proud to be representing Scouting For All and the Petaluma High School Gay Straight Alliance.

We need to advocate in our schools across the country that we have a Gay Straight Alliance club in every high school in America. Gay Straight Alliance Clubs help save lives!

As an Eagle Scout I am ashamed of the Boy Scouts of America's bigoted policy against gay youth, adults and atheists. Through the efforts of Scouting For All, members of the Boy Scouts of America and others outside of Scouting we hope to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind their hurtful policy of discrimination. The Boy Scouts of America's policy of discrimination against gay youth and adults just fuels the flames of violence towards people who are gay. The problem is that the Boy Scouts of America's leadership in Irving, Texas doesn't allow themselves to feel the pain and hurt they have caused. It is not in the tradition of the Scout oath or Scout Law to hurt anyone. But that is exactly what the Boy Scouts of America is doing. They are hurting my gay friends. I'm now ashamed of a program I once loved. How can Scouts, adult leaders continue to go on outings and not do anything to change the policy? How can we live our lives ignoring the pain of others without reaching out to help? These are questions each of us should ask ourselves. As my dad has taught me, life is too short not to reach out.

2.I'm going to begin my 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 his future. Instead he was struggling with bigotry and homophobia. He was struggling with persons and organizations like the Boy Scouts of America who rejected him simple because of who he was born to be. It was homophobia that killed Robbie. The Boy Scouts of America's policy of discrimination hurts both our gay kids and straight kids. It just teaches scouts to discrimination against gay kids and adults, against my friends, your brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers. Yes, some of my friends have gay parents. As gay parents they should also be allowed to participate in scouting with their child.

I've dedicated our effort in Scouting for All in the memory of Robin Reed 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. If Petaluma 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 government 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. And this is where all of you come in as individuals and as a group.

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. We are 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! Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout

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