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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.


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PFLAG helps support kids who dare to stand up


By INA HUGHS, hughs@knews.com
October 12, 2004

When Taylor Caldwell of Alpharetta, Ga., was in high school, his parents confiscated his car, his cell phone and computer. They went through every drawer in his bedroom, every file in his computer. His mom went into a depression and "slept all day;" his father was so disappointed in his son that he wrote, "I want to die," on Post-It notes and left them around the house for Taylor to read.

In Mandan, N.D., Thomas Ingalls endured constant teasing from other students and had his car and other personal property vandalized.

Travis Wagoner of Gainesville, Fla., was kicked out of his parents' house at 16 and spent the next several years supporting himself with a full-time job and, with no help from his family, not only finished high school but is now in college at the University of South Florida.

Taylor, Thomas and Travis are gay.

And this month they are among the 25 recipients of a scholarship from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national organization that advocates for homosexual youngsters and their families and friends.

The current issue of PFLAGpole features a photograph and short biography of each student being honored. Some are straight kids who have endured ridicule and reprimands from school authorities for their support of gay and lesbian peers. Others, like Travis, Taylor and Thomas, have stood tall against embarrassing cruelty and violence inflicted on them because of their sexual orientation. It is haunting and deeply disturbing that
many of these young people suffered most at the hands of fundamental, conservative Christians:

"Discovering you are gay in the Bible Belt can be an interesting experience," says Mark Kharas of Tulsa, Okla., whose scholarship sent him to Swarthmore College. Being in school with mostly fundamental Christians, says Brent Wimmer of Sand Springs, Okla., left him an outcast. His car was vandalized, and he was physically attacked by classmates.

It is amazing that none of these kids seems bitter. Kelsey Hamilton, of Carlsbad, Calif., put it this way: "Twenty percent of your life is what happens to you, and eighty percent is how you react to it. I don't want to go through life hating everyone who opposes me."

Some of the kids have happier stories to tell. "My family is amazing," says Jeff Manassero, a California student at Berkley. He and his parents are closer than ever before as a result of their mutual love and support.


Unbelievably sad and cruel was the treatment Clinton McQueen got after a picture of him at an anti-hate crime rally appeared in the local newspaper. At the time he was a month away from receiving his Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank in Boy Scouts of America: "They informed me that I was no longer welcome unless my declaration of being a homosexual was 'only a youthful effort to stand out from the crowd,' " he said.

The Greater Knoxville Chapter of PFLAG was started in the mid-1980s and has about 20 "dues-paying" members. At the August meeting, a local high school principal discussed the difficulties faced by students who are gay or are perceived to be gay. The chapter is working on ways to assist kids and their families who are dealing with various sexual issues. To learn more, call 865-980-5985.

Ina Hughs may be reached at 865-342-6268 or (hughs@ knews.com)

 

 

 

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