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| Friday, December 12, 2008

If you're looking for a good book to read over the weekend or perhaps a stocking stuffer let me suggest Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing The Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.

I know the title doesn't come across as the perfect warm and fuzzy holiday book, but neither is the reality for many gay and lesbian young people in America.

What is it like to be called an abomination by your religious leaders? To live in fear losing your family's love? To be afraid to go to school because of the torment that awaits you? To lie to everyone whom you love?

Crisis editor Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker asked forty gay Americans to share their very personal answers to these difficult questions. Well known LGBT figures such as Billy Bean(Professional athlete), Rev. Gene Robinson(first openly gay elected Episcopal Bishop), Ari Gold(openly gay singer), and Nate Berkus(Interior Designer )contribute to the stories of rejection, acceptance, and triumph.

Crisis also includes the coming of age and coming out stories of four prominent gay and lesbians of color; professional athlete John Amaechi, theologian and writer Rev. Irene Monroe, actor Alec Mapa, and Executive Director of The National Black Justice Coalition H. Alexander Robinson.

Below are excerpts from their stories within Crisis:

John Amaechi

"People say professional sports are particularly homophobic. But it's an excuse for a society with a horrible blemish to assign blame to one segment that's both small and notorious for being stupid. Sports does not inform society. Society informs sports. Athletes live up to the expectations we have of them.

In this country, images of gay people have been limited for so long. And while I do not for a second think that Jack from Will & Grace is not a legitimate gay role model, if people only think of Jack, that's damaging. In 2007, I was speaking to a group of people in New York, and a woman came up to me afterwards and said, "Thank you for doing this because before I met you I didn't realize black people could be gay". Now that's a tragedy."

Rev. Irene Monroe

"In this era of dominance by the Christian Right, I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against gay people. And because homophobia, like other prejudices, is a hatred of the "other", and usually acted upon in the name of religion, my writing allows me to highlight how intolerance and fundamentalism not only hurt the gay community but also perpetuate other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism, and anti-Semitism. And in the process, prejudice and intolerance in the name of religion also shatter the goals of American democracy: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every citizen."

H. Alexander Robinson

"When my parents found out, my mother began wailing and fell to the ground. My father said, "Look what you've done to your mother. She's going to have a heart attack and die." It would almost have been funny if it hadn't been so grim.

My mom kept asking, "How could you do this to me?" Finally, I said, "This is not about you." My biggest fear of losing my mother-had been faced. From that moment on I was out to everybody.

All my years of lying have taken their toll. There's the outside world and people's perception of who I am, and then there's who I know I am.

To stand up and come out and talk openly about being gay-first to my parents, and then to others-was a big deal. For me, it was not just about sexual orientation-it was totally new to reveal anything about what was going on in my head. Living that way is very lonely. But that's what the closet does."

Alec Mapa

"The only way I have survived as a gay man is by embracing everything I was taught to hate about myself. It takes enormous strength to be vulnerable and open in a world that rewards toughness and cruelty.

In this age of conformity, I wonder how many of today's gay youth feel safe to be exactly who they are. Are they being respected? Celebrated? Encouraged to be their genuine selves? Would it even be safe for them to do so? In a perfect world the answer would be yes. Wouldn't that be the most wonderful world you could ever hear?

Order your copy of Crisis here.

Many thanks to TJ Dietderich of Planned Television Arts