One small warning: Some of the responses to "Bill's Story" may contain words which are considered offensive to some people. The strong language comes from strong feelings, and in the context of what the writers are saying, I believe it is important. --- Gabi Clayton
Responses to "Bill's Story" - page 3
December 15, 1996
Your son's story touched me and I would like to thank you for putting it on the net. Information is power and we need to fight ignorance and the many forms of it that cause harm.
Mark Hogben (email@example.com)
December 15, 1996
Gabi: I read Bills Story, and wept. Having lost a child myself I know the grief and pain. My husband now of 2 yrs, has lost 3 children-2 to intentional suicides and one to an accidental overdose. The last one to die was in Aug. 96 and to watch and see them struggle with issues while attempting to swim upstream is very painful. Although Stevie was not gay or bisexual, he had his own cross to bear. You sound like a great mom and Bill was truly blessed. My best friend is gay. I have been there for her when she was being harassed and followed, by driving to pick her up in the middle of the night. I have had comments directed at me questioning my sexuality..which I learned to ignore. My friendship with her will last my lifetime, and to me it is important to focus on that. Her sexuality is not discussed between us, it is only understood. Recently, my 14 yr. old son asked me about it, and I was truthful with him. He has accepted this and I only hope that this will be a stepping stone for him in the future...to care for others and never be a part of judging others on issues such as religion, race or sexual orientation. He adores my friend and shares fond memories of her when they went away together ski-doing, boating and fishing.
Gabi, I admire you and the positive steps you are taking because of Bill. The world will only be a better place once educated and is capable of giving respect to others. I am sure you will make a difference.
God Bless you and your family,
Joanne Chuvalo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
December 22, 1996
This is just another note from someone who has come across a web site that goes a long way to vindicate those of us who "surf the net" to find constructive sites. I live in an area where tragic events are common--whether involving one sort of intolerance or another. I hope your site will be found by many in my area who are so insecure that they try to abuse others. As long as there is a site such as yours, ultimately their attempts to spread hate will not ultimately be successful. The Internet allows many cowards to foment hate. I'm glad to find proof that it also allows decent folks to spread love.
Dave McLallen (email@example.com)
This letter is from Catherine's neice...
December 22, 1996
Dear Gabi Love
I admit -- I just now got up the nerve to visit your page for Bill again. I haven't visited since I noticed Noel's picture had been put up. I knew that I would cry, and what do you know, I was right.
It is great to see such positive responses from everyone. I am currently working on a page for the Unity and Diversity League to aid in the fight. As I am sure you could have guessed a link to you will be there.
We have been getting mixed emotions from the people in Savannah and the fear in the community here is very justified. I truly don't understannd the hate... and not just against the gay, lesbian and transgender community... there is so much hate here it honestly makes my stomach turn at times. I feel blessed in the knowledge that I have such great people in my life like both you and my Aunt. I also have a big safety net that my friends have hung beneath me for my little low spells. Recently they have become fewer and farther between, but without the love that I feel from others, I fear that they would be more frequent.
I just thought that you should know that although we have not met face to face, you are indeed very important to me, as is your entire family.
All of my love
January 1, 1997
As I sit here trying to think of something to write, I draw a blank. Your courage and dedication is very inspirational. I am a 19 year old gay college student, 7 hours away from my family. Everytime I leave my mom to go back to school, she cries. I wouldn't want to think about what my death would do. My heart goes out to you. Your story touched my soul and I want to say thank you, and I am sorry.
I am the president of our college organization for gay/lesbian/bisexual students and I plan to share your story with our members. Your fight is our fight. If you ever need our organization's or my help, please contact me. Bless you Gabi Clayton and your son, Bill.
January 2, 1997
I finally just today read Bill's story today and was very touched. Even though I was in the office, I started crying.
If we all work together, we can end suffering such as his. I was brought up in the southern baptist church, thought of myself as evil and not worthy of living, and attempted suicide myself.
Ultimately, I found a very loving pastor who told me that even though he didn't think I was born that way (something we know doubt could still go rounds about today), I was a child of God and just as deserving of a spot in heaven as the next kid.
Not all of us are that lucky, I'm afraid.
Russ in VA
January 4, 1997
Subject: Struck Gold!
That is - I struck gold coming across your Web Page. Actually, I was pointed to Bill's story from some other site which I don't remember. I bookmarked it a few days ago and only now came back to it - and it is golden. You had a treasure in Bill and have not sqaundered it - but are sharing it with all of us who want so much more for our communities. I'm a middle school teacher in Central California who will be copying Bill's story and placing it into the boxes of each teacher. I'll give you some feedback on what work his story does here to alter the hearts, minds, and attitudes of people who are on the front lines of teaching love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Anthony Braxton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
January 5, 1997
I stumbled upon Bill's Story one day while surfing the net. I was deeply touched by the display of moral courage in the face of death. My respect goes to you in that you have been a great example of a mother to the world.
I am a chinese male from Singapore. I have concealed my sexual orientation for as long as I can remember. Singapore society is very close-minded and homophobic. There are some 450 Official AIDS cases reported in Singapore. In case you didn't know, Singapore is but a small island sitting near the tip of Malaysia, having a population of 3 million.
It has been reported that 70% of Aids patients here contracted the virus through heterosexual sex. The health ministry has been actively promoting safer sex practices, etc. but the general attitude of people here is "I won't get it, How can I get it?" The populations' acceptance of aids patients and people with different sexual orientation is in a word, TERRIBLE. Many perfectly fine people here masquerade themselves in order to avoid suspicion for fear of losing their jobs etc.
I'm thankful to God for having made a friend, if I may. You are welcome to write to me. I share with you your sorrow.
Matthew Zhang (email@example.com)
December 23, 1996
Dear Ms. Clayton:
Greetings from Reno, Nevada.
I have spent the whole last hour crying, learning of the pain and suffering you've endured.
Thank you so very much for taking the time and energy to place andmaintain such a fabulous tribute to your son.
Your effort reminds me that there is a positive aspect to human nature.
Should you ever need any assistance, please feel free to call upon me.
Kelly Patrick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
January 8, 1997
Gabi (Bill's Story),
The Awards Committee has honored your site with the Les Bois Award for web page Creativity. An editor's note is listed below the signature.
As you may know, our mission is to recognize gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendereds who have contributed to the GLBT community through excellence in content, design, creativity, presentation or overall concept of their homepage on the Web.
All of us connected with The Les Bois Award are very pleased to include you in this prestigious group of Web authors.
Again, all of us here at The Les Bois Award want to express our congratulations to you for producing such an excellent site, and we wish you the best of luck in the future.
Matt Leisure (email@example.com)
Les Bois Award Coordinator
Praxis Design -- Boise, ID
PS., editor's note:
This award is presented to you without being sent through the awards committee. I came upon your page while browsing through the web, and I have sat here crying, thinking how someone so beautiful, loved, and loving could be pushed to such a hate-filled end. I chose to give you this award, though scant as it might be, as my way of showing you my heart-felt appreciation for the beautiful tribute you have done for your son, and to help others that face hate and discrimination every day. I only wish there was more I could do. I wish I could return your son to this world, or make all the pain go away, or to stop all the hate in the world that brought such a tragic end... but I cannot, and it makes me feel so helpless... A feeling I am sure you, too, can relate to.
You have my love and prayers.
January 13, 1997
I have just read Bill's story. It was both the most beautiful and most tragic love story that I have had the privilage to read. I feel like you have allowed me to know at least a little of the wonderful person that Bill must have been and the wonderful people that you and your family are.
Having grown up a gay man in a loving and supporting family, I understand just how lucky your son was to have a family like yours. Having grown up in a so called Christian community, I also know what bigoted, discriminatory and hatefull behaviour can be thrown at a person just for being what they are. Isn't it sad, that those who profess to be Christians, are often those who have the worst predjudices. "God so loved the world" the bible says, not God so loved the white anglo-saxon catholic/protestant/any other religion world!
Please accept my heartfelt thanks for sharing a most private and painfull experience. Remember, if you touch one life with Bill's story, his memory is honoured. If you change one bigot, one homophobic persons view of how they see their fellow man, Bill's death was not in vain.
With all my love and care,
Robbie Eager (firstname.lastname@example.org)
January 12, 1997
I read Bill's story and it was just so powerful. He sounds like he was a wonderful boy. I was openly bisexual in high school myself and although I did have harrassment and problems because of it, it was never as hateful as what happened to your son. I really admire your family for being so wonderful about him. So many people would take his sexual preference as a personal insult or something hell-sent. I think the page you put up is great and I hope that many, many people will see it and do whatever they can to change things so this kind of thing won't happen.
January 16, 1997
For the past two hours, I have been engrossed in reading, first "Bill's Story" then the letters. I have to put off reading the rest until tonight and tomorrow. But I wanted to write you before I head off for work.
I'm 38 and gay. When I was your son's age, I was called fag, or queer, on a daily basis. I didn't even know then that I WAS gay. I hated myself. It took me nearly 20 years to realize that hate was misdirected. In fact, it took me twenty years to realize that hate, whether directed at myself, or at the world "out there" is wrong. I can't bring myself to hate the homophobes of this world, for hate destroys the hater as well as the hated. It becomes a horrible cycle.
As I read, I found myself in tears. I'm sure that is the case with most who read your incredible story. Bill's incredible story. I can not say that I envy Bill's life. But I envy him his supportive parents and brother and family. I regret not knowing Bill. And I regret all those years I hated myself and denied myself. Looking back, that inner self-loathing didn't shelter me from the storm like I thought it would.
I recently told my parents I was gay. It was a nightmare. It still IS a nightmare. I so wish they could understand as well as you did. And I so wish that telling my brothers would bring the support that Bill's brother gave him. It won't. My brothers would hate me. So I live my lie.
Soon after I came out, I was the victim of the bashers. I still carry, will always carry, the physical scars, as well as the emotional scars.
Reading Bill's story makes me sad. It also makes me mad. So very angry that the children of our community see only the hardships ahead. And too many become too tired, emotionally, to deal with it, so they take the only path they see open to them. My heart aches for all the Bill's in the world. And my heart aches for all the Gabi's in the world too.
But most especially, I ache for the loss that the entire Gay Community faces when they lose someone as special as Bill. And every Bill (and Mary) who commits suicide is special.
Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for Bill's story. IT is beautiful, and it is moving, and it is so very sad. And thank you for standing at the side of each and every one of us who has to fight this fight on a daily basis.
Eric Strom (email@example.com)
January 16, 1997
I am a 20 year old from Maine. I read the story of your son about 10 minutes ago, and can now respond. The story was not only moving for me, but brought me back into focus. The work that I do every waking moment is around helping gay youth overcome the pressures they face. I did not like what I went through and decided to help others. And even today I sat to question if I could go on doing this hard work in a state with so little response. My decision is YES...YES YES YES...how do you yell in email. People have to stop dying...AIDS is taking away enough of our community....lets keep our hearts. I miss your son, and I didnt even know him. Thank you for sharing your story....I am going to carry it everywhere. We just past New Years, and I did not make a resolution. I find them a set up for failure, but I found one promise I will keep. I WILL KEEP WORKING...
S. Erik Richard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
January 17, 1997
I'm SO sorry for what happened to your son. I wish that he could have seen some of the beauty in this world not just the hate!
My Grandmother lived threw WWII. She is the only one in her family to do so.
Maybe Bill's story will help someone to find the strength to carry on. Maybe it will help others to stand up for what is right.
God I wish I could tell you something that would ease your pain. But there is nothing. I just want you to know that Bill's story has touched me.
I wished that I would have known sooner so that I could have talked to him.
I'm so sorry for everything! Why do we have to be so cruel? Why does mankind do this to itself?
I just don't know what to say to you! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry for what happened!
January 19, 1997
Today, on the day I go down my long list of things I've been meaning to do for a long time but have never gotten around to doing, I visited your web page and then of course I went to the page devoted to Bill's story.
I am just sorry that I didn't visit your page sooner. What an inspiration you and your son and your family are. Gabi, remain strong and inspirational for us, and know that if you ever need to be lifted that there is support there to lift you.
Much love to you Gabi,
Jason Hungerford (jason@CritPath.Org)
January 21, 1997
Hi Gabi. I just read Bill's story and was so touched. I was impressed by your cander and strength, and found some of the photographs of Bill incredibly powerful. I'm not sure how best to describe my feelings. I just can't believe (I can I guess, I just don't want to) that there is so much hate in a world that is as technologically advanced as ours. I wonder when we will catch up socially. I never have understood how people can hate like that. It's encouraging to know that good people like you exist. I wish more people were as accepting.
I guess I should introduce myself. I am 25 and a student of art and chemistry. My parents don't know I am bisexual and I'm not prepared to tell them as I know they are not the most accepting people in the world. I am also pagan. My parents do know about that and so, they bought me a Bible for x-mas.
I've never been attacked physically, but have had plenty of verbal attacks. Mostly 9 years ago, not so much anymore but I'm not very open about my sexuality. I know things are supposed to be changing but I guess they're not changing fast enough. There are so many stereotypes, so much hate. Recently a lesbian friend of mine and her girlfriend were attacked outside a bar. They were celebrating my friend's birthday at a straight bar. They left right before closing time and were attacked by some men (which were never found because no one saw anything) in the parking lot. When my friend woke up from the coma, she wanted to know why.
I can't express how much your son's story touched me. My nose is a little sore from using so much tissue. I wish I had the strength to be as open with my life. I just can't seem to do it. The story just hit so close to home. I've been to therapy, diagnosed with PTSD, and was and still am being treated for depression. I've never been hospitalized, and thanks to medication I leave my apartment and attend school. I know how depression can leave you tired. Tired of fighting so hard to survive. Your son was so brave at such a young age. You must be a wondeful mother. Maybe you could write a book. You're words are powerful and I'm sure they could encourage others to keep fighting as they've encouraged me (and I'm sure many others). It would be great if people saw people instead of sexual orientation/religion/color. I still can't understand how someone can have so much hate for someone because of something like sexual orinetation/religion/color. I met a racist man a few weeks ago and wanted to know why he hated. When he couldn't come up with a reason he got very angry and started calling me a whore, a slut, a bitch, and a few other names. He said he wanted to fight me (though not in those words), I don't know what that would have proved. I'm a small, thin female he was a large male. I still didn't understand.
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm going to send your URL to everyone I know. Maybe it will make them think about what's important in life rather than worry about how other people live their lives.
January 23, 1997
Today would have been Bill's 19th birthday... and I have added a special page to honor that. Bill's Birthday --- Gabi
January 22, 1997
I was very touched by reading a reprint with permission of Bill's Story in OUTLOOK a magazine produced in a mid-size community in southern Ontario, Kitchener, with information on, for and about, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons.
I have a home page at: http://sentex.net/~larence and I was wondering if I could reprint, with permission and copyrights etc. Bill's Story as a link to my homepage.
The message is so clear and simple.
Cyberhugs for all the gerat work you are doing. I am always to appreciative and thankful for the people of PFLAG.
January 24, 1997
Hello Ms. Clayton:
My name is Rick and I am a survivor of gay bashing. I just visited your website dedicated in memory of your son Bill. His story is horrifying and brings forward memories of my own assault of over 10 years ago.
About 12 years ago I was living in Eastern Washington in Spokane and had been spending some time getting to know a man named James. We had been dating each other for several months when the incident occured.
James and I were walking in Riverfront Park in Spokane in the early evening when we were assaulted by a group of young men in there early 20s. We were beat with kicked, punched and beat with baseball bats. At one point in the attack, I tried to assist James by pulling off the attackers and that was when I received the worse of my injuries. Numerous broken and fractured ribs, internal bleeding, and a severe concussion to name a few.
I call myself a survivor. I may still have scars internally but I am alive and going on with my life.
I cannot say that for James. James did not make it to the hospital I am told. I lost consciousness and the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I was told the day after the assault that James had not survived the assault. He died there in the park and their was nothing I could do for him because of my own injuries and condition. James had
received the worst of the injuries.
I ask you if you would like to share this story with others that you do not include my full name. I am sending a copy of this to my friend Tom as well. He is the one that encouraged me to share it with you. I have only told a handful of people about this. It has taken me sometime to even partly recover.
Gabi here. I need to share part of what I wrote back to Rick with you all...
It took me a day to write back because I wanted to think about your letter.
I want you to know how very HONORED I am that you felt you could share what happened to you and James. And how much my heart broke as I read it. And how sad and ANGRY I was when I finished reading it.
Now, don't feel any guilt about making me feel those things - if anyone could read what happened to you and NOT feel them, then they are not alive. And that is exactly why "Bill's Story" is getting the response that it is.
Or they are numb - which I was for a long time after Bill died. I imagine that you may understand from your own experience.
So I am glad that I am able to respond to you and what happened with such strong feelings.
Again, thank you for your trust and your sharing. And I am so damn sorry about what happened to you, and that you lost James.
January 24, 1997
Dear Mrs. Clayton,
Thank you very much for sharing your son's story. I am a Catholic Priest. I was preparing my homily for this coming Sunday based on the account of Jonah and the call of the disciples. The theme of God's universal concern and our failure to realize this concern is the topic that I have chosen to develop. The account you wrote about your son has inspired me to proceed along this line. I hope and pray that my Christian community would take seriously Jesus' message that the reign of God and the good news of salvation are for all without exception.
I will offer a special prayer for you and your family in the liturgy that I will be presiding this coming Sunday.
May God bless you in your work and your outreach to young people who are coming to terms with their sexual orientation as well as to their parents who are struggling to come to an understanding and appreciation of their children as God's wonderful gift to them.
Father Mark Villanueva [email@example.com]
January 26, 1997
Hi there Gabi,
Did You Know?
I went back and read all new responses and the birthday page. It got me thinking about my first steady relationship. He died in a car accident in 1996. I wrote this poem about how I feel and I wanted to share it with you as I feel in some way it also relates to Bill and your relationship with him as a loving mother.
Did you know the way I felt
whenever I held your hand?
Did you know that my heart jumped
whenever I saw you smile?
Your touch was like a lightening bolt
out of a clear blue sky.
Your smile could make the darkest night
turn to brightest day.
I loved you more with each new day
that you were in my life.
And now you're gone a ray of light
has vanished into night.
I know you're out there watching me
somewhere in paradise.
I feel your warmth and love and care
in the stars above so bright.
You didn't say that you would go
I barely had the chance.
To tell you of the love I feel
and the loneliness now inside.
With all my love then to heaven
I send to you this note.
That tries explaining the way I felt
and how I feel right now.
Copyright - 1997 - Robert Eager
Robbie Eager (firstname.lastname@example.org]
January 20, 1997
I was very touched by your son's story and the love and support you and your family gave to him and continue to give to the world through this story. Thank you for sharing it.
January 26, 1997
Just read "Bill's Story" and couldn't read the last part for awhile through the tears.
I, too, know the value of respecting and cherishing our special children no matter what. The most beautiful gardens are those in which all flowers bloom. Two and a half years ago my sister-in-law lost her only child to AIDS and I went with her to the hospital to visit my nephew many times during his last few months. I had never seen anyone in the last stages of AIDS before and the devastation this awful disease caused was unbelievable.
My heart goes out to you on the loss of your child to senseless hate and bigotry.
Love, Joan Pedace
February 1, 1997
Dear Ms. Clayton,
As a bisexual man who suffers from depression, I can't honestly say that I knew what sort of pressures your son was under. But I _can_ honestly say that I understand -- without knowing his exact reasons -- why he chose to end his suffering. I, too, have considered such a solution many, many times. (Please don't worry: it is no longer a viable option for me.)
I also no that nothing I can say can ease any of your grief and pain. But I still had to write to tell you I read your account of his oh-so-brief life, and had tears in my eyes by the time I finished it.
Hatred exists; some people are evil. But with the outpouring of support you have received, and with your son's life and death as an example of what can happen as a result of hatred and evil, perhaps--just perhaps--some of that hatred and evil can be diminished. At the very least, perhaps someone else with hate in their heart -- and not much in their head -- will be prevented from acting upon that hate and ignorance.
And although it may not amount to very much, my heart does go out to you.
Robin Sheppard (email@example.com)
January 28, 1997
Dear Ms. Clayton,
I cannot express my sadness regarding this tragedy. My heart breaks at the thought of the suffering your family and your son endured, and continue to endure. I am not one who readily experiences deep pain, but your story has moved me deeply...
I admire you for your strength and for your willingness to share this tragic event with the world. It cannot have been easy, and even empathy is probably painful to read. I would not respond were I not so overwhelmed by the simple humanity of Bill's story, and so saddened by your loss.
I am certain that eventually you will reach some peace, but I know that the loss of a child, any child, is never fully accepted by the parents. It is death out of order.
I will not offer any platitudes, nor will I engage in any kind of advice. What I can and will do, is not forget your son and your family. And I will honor him in the sweat lodge ceremony, as well as your family.
As for the boys who caused this, and the man who molested him, the practice of compassion does not permit me to hate them or judge them. One of my favorite "wise men" had a similar thing happen to him: he was beaten so badly that his ribs were broken, and had to be in a body cast for six months, as well as having his spine fused. I asked if he was angry with his attackers, and he said no: two of them had run off, and the third was still beating him, when he realized what he was doing. He saw this fag as a human being, and then tried to help him. Howard (my friend) told me that he could see what the act had done to the boy: and instead of hatred, he felt compassion. When I said that must have been difficult, he said: "they destroyed my body, but only I can destroy my heart". He then said, "If you want to grow spiritually, learn to love the unlovable".
No one escapes the consequences of their actions, there is always a reckoning. But the simple way in which you tell the story, without rancor, elevates it into a message that this world badly needs.
If you wouldn't mind, I would like to write a musical composition honoring your son, which I will send to you. I need to think about the form, the instrumentation and the sections of the piece, and if it is a solo cantata or full choir with soloists. I can promise you this: it will be superb art, not throw away disposable sentimental schlock.
I hope that this would be ok with you: e-mail me and we can discuss it, if you like.
Thank you for your contribution, it cannot have been easy. And though this may be inappropriate, I send you love, and blessing, and grace. And I will hold your son in my heart, to honor him for his sacrifice, and to open the minds of those who swim in darkness.
My the blessings of Wakan Tanka be upon you and your family, and may your hearts be blessed and soothed by the spirit of the love you have known. Take good care.
Most sincerely grateful,
C. Hoffmeister (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note from Gabi:
On 2/11/97, I testified at a Washington State Senate Committee on Education hearing. If you would like to read the bill that hearing was about and what I have to say about it, check out SB-5167.
February 2, 1997
My deepest sympathies on the loss of your son. For any person to endure such a thing is tragic. "Bill's Story" was an inspiration to me and as I see by the responses to your story, it is an inspiration to many others as well. You are exceptional parents!
My name is Darrell, I live in Louisiana, and if you don't mind I'd liketo tell you a short story: I was was exposed to a lot of gay-positive activities in Austin, TX, while I was stationed a FT Hood, (this was around the time I came Out.) I was discharged in December of 1992, due to an ankle injury. I couldn't run anymore, so they didn't want me (no love lost.) I moved back to Louisiana, met up with some old "friends," and began the nightlife again.
One night a couple weeks later, I was at a welcome home party. By this time the story of me being a "faggot" had reached my my 'friends', some of them accepted me, but most hated me. I was on the porch visiting, when some guy I didn't know, blindsided me with an exceptional left hook. After the next few punches, I went unconsious and was knocked off the porch, crutches and all (at least that's what they told me!) and I woke up on the ground with five people trying to wake me and protect me from him.
We passed words after that, and I could see that the situation was escalating, so I decided to leave. (Please forgive me for this one, but the situation left no other choice-my life was being threatened.) I couldn't stay, and I couldn't trust anyone after what had happened, so I drove myself home...drunk! I buckled up, left the party, and began the drive home. I was in no condition to drive.
Only about two miles down the dark, gravel road I lost control of the car in the gravel, and rolled it over twice before stopping! My seat belt protected me and I escaped with no injuries, except the ones from his fists. I lived in a town where being a homosexual was not accepted, and did not press any charges against this guy. In retrospect I probably should have, but the publicity probably would have driven me insane. I guess I don't have the gut's that Bill did. Since then I have moved and I don't go out much anymore.
I would like to try to help you understand the dream you had on March 12, 1991.
I explained to my mother a few years ago that when I pass on, I will come back to her in a form of nature (Only she knows the whole story.) She said she would be expecting me. I believe that our being/soul/spirit/lifeforce remembers the place and person that holds our heart. In the dream, when you found him, he was "...sitting quiet, and tired, and wet. Just sitting...", maybe that was his way of telling you that one day, he would come back to the place that holds his heart, the place where you are. He chose to be the rain. Each time you see the rain fall, you should remember that he will always be here with us.
Just one more note to you -- in response to Nick A. Wyse's letters:
"BEING HOMOSEXUAL IS A CHOICE":
Why would I choose to be something that over half the world relates to a disease?
Why would I choose the reason one-third of teenagers kill themselves?
Why would I choose to be hated by half the country?
Why would I chose to have my family reject me?
Why would I choose to lose my good friends?
Gabi, I mean no offense by the second statement. I found these little epigrams at:
Thank you so much for your time.
Darrell Cooley (email@example.com)
February 4, 1997
I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this web site. I almost lost a good friend yesterday for some of the similar reasons. I'm glad I was there to answer the telephone and call 911 in time.
It is ashme that anybody can give and give more love, but that love cannot stop bad things happening to that person. I admire your courage to tell your story. I have listened with so much interest that I will pass on the web site to all my gay/gay positive friends. Maybe this will shed some light and make some difference somewhere.
Paul Menard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
February 16, 1997
Subject: I see bill in myself
I was on the web last night and I found a link to bill's story on a page. i began to read the story and I was ingulfed with emotion. My name is --- ,I'm currently 15 years old and live in a suburb of ---. When I was 2 or 3 I was diagnoced with cerebral Paulsy. I was fortunate in the fact that I can still ealk with thew aide of crutches and I was mentally intact. Throughout my life I allway had to fight battles and by the time I was 12 I knew I was bisexual. I was much the way you described bill in the sence that we both found shelter from our problems within our schoolwork. I mooved to --- a little more then a year ago and although I don't know what triggered it I fell in to a deep bout of depression. I was in a strange place and i was so different from everyone else I didn't know what to do and decided I didn't wanna live my life if it had to be that way and came to the conclusion that suaside was my only way out. I had written my suaside note and was just waiting for the oppertunity to present it's self. There were times when the emotional pain inside of me got so bad that the only thing from stopping me was not know how to physicly do it. No one ever knew anything about by wanting to die or even that I was bisexual but on the inside I was destroyed.
The reason I'm telling you all this is because I want you to know that I know how Bill felt before he died. I know what it's like to be ridiculed because you are different. I know what the pain is like and I know that at times it get's so bad someone will do anything to get away from it even take their own life. Then a few moth's ago I met someone who changed my life. For once I felt like I had a reason to live ,he was allways there two listen and to help me through those terrable low spots. I am certain that I am now slowly but surely turning my life around. I feel good ,I feel confident and I can't remember the last time I hit a low spot.
Bill sounded like ana amazing person and I'm sorry I never got the chance to meet him. The reason I told you my story was because I wan you to know that if you ever need someone to talk to I'lll be glad to listen. I think what your doing is great and i know I won't ever forget bill's story I'm sorry for Bill and all the pain he went through in his life and I'm sorry that I couldn't help him
Note from Gabi: This young man asked to stay anonymous, but I will be happy to forward e-mail to him.
February 15, 1997
I read the story about you son, and was very touched by it. It disgusts me that that kind of hatred is still lives today, and it gives me even more courage to become involved in helping all the other "Bills" out there. I guess I was lucky, my life wasnt as tragic as that.. I was sexual confused throught high school, but I was also shy and kept to myself. I didnt come
out untill after my senior year of high school. I lost touch with most of my friends from high school, I dont think many of them even know what I've become. My parents have been very accepting, except when it comes to telling the rest of the family.
Your tribute to your son is an inspiration to us all, as well as your courage throught the whole ordeal.. I respect you, and I'm sure Bill would be proud of you. I would like to make an offer to you. I am the co-director of a new place on the Internet, its called Project Safe Zone.
It is a enite website dedicated to gay, bi, lesbian, or questioning teens. We plan on having articles, comminjg out stories, and other monthly features, in addition to our links page, to web pages of other gay teens, and places to go for help. I would like to offer you an honary membership in Project Safezone. Simply go to http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/2179 and follow the online instructions... Also, if you'd like to write for us, we'd be honored to add that too.
What happened to your son is a tragedy, but sometines tragedy brings out the good in people... If we keep fighting, one day, things will get better.. Thank you for sharing your story...
--Bob Colon (email@example.com)
Project Safe Zone
February 16, 1997
I have just read your family's story on the net (after 'stumbling across it) and must just let you know how (strange as it seems) happy and sad I am at the same time. I'm happy that you have shared this story with us and the fact that you, your husband, and other son were so loving and understanding (this is brilliant in my books!!) towards Bill and his openess. I am sad that Bill couldn't quite make it through and that this pathetic and intolerant society caused such a beautiful person to end his life. I feel that he would have made such a difference to so many lives. I commend you again and would like to let you know that your story has inspired me to take the nect step towards coming out to the very special circle of friends and family around me.
Thank you again and I wish you all the best!
From all the way 'Down Under' (gee that term annoys me!?) - Melbourne Australia
February 18, 1997
Thank you so much for your incredibly moving story. I am also a bisexual and my husband (straight) and I extend our warmest sympathy for the loss of your son. Thank you for giving the world his story: so many people want to silence the truth of the frequency of violence and suicide that plague nonheterosexual lives.
You are blessing your son's memory by your activism and concern.
February 20, 1997
Dear Ms Clayton,
Well, I just don't know where to start. I got to your webpage from a mailing sent to me about the new bill in Washington. It directed me to the page at which is the story of your son.
I am an out gay teenager, currently attending Vassar College. I am the co-Chair of Vassar's Gay Straight Alliance, I am a queer-safe space intern and am the co-Director of Web Resources for BiGALA. I am only a freshman.
I haven't gone through your webpage in it's entirty... that would be a little stressful at this hour (plus I have to get up tomorrow to go to the library to do work all day long), but I will.
I have my own webpage, which I will link to yours IMMEDIATELY. I can't tell you how much parent's like you mean to kids like me. My parents are completely supportive. I love them dearly. Without them, I would be nothing. But sometimes, hanging out with my friends at the gay lesbian bisexual community center in the middle of Hartford, CT (when I am at home), it seems like there are no parents out there that are as cool as mine -- and now you.
I am sure that you get plenty of email saying the same thing to you. But, I wanted you to hear it from a gay teen completely across the country. Thank you. Imagine the biggest THANK YOU you can. Multiply it by four. Get your calculator, and keep hitting equals until I say stop.
I will go through your webpage. I will read every word of it. I will be prepared with a box of tissues. Understand me, I didn't cry at my grandmother's funeral. I did cry when I read that story of your son. His memory will live in me and will inspire me to fight until the battle has
been won -- whatever it takes.
Thank you again. I wish you all the strength in the world. If there is ANYTHING that I can do, I would be more than happy to and I have got a 120 person mailing list for Gay Straight Alliance that would be willing to listen too (cause they have to! ;)).
ps, I havent said stop yet.
"Radical feminism is working for the eradication of domination and elitism in all human relationships. This would make self-determination the ultimate good and require the downfall of society as we know it today."
greg r morisse (firstname.lastname@example.org)
February 28, 1997
I am a gay 27 year old man, and as I sat here and read your son's story, I wept. I understand your pain, to some extent. I have lost someone that I loved very deeply, to hate.
I met this man about 6 years ago and him and I fell in love. He was twenty at the time and I was twenty-one. We met and two months later moved in together... that is when the hate became an issue in our lives.
Let me tell you something of him. His name was Thad and he was (from a state in the US) going to school in (a different state in the US) where I lived and worked. He was from a family with strong christian values. His family were of the high society and was paying for his college education. He loved his family very much.
When we started dating and moved in together he decided to tell his parents that he was gay and living with someone that made him very happy. He thought that they wouldn't like it much but they would be happy for him if he was happy. Well, he was wrong. They went into a fit and told him that they hated him for being gay and that they wanted him to move out right now and go to church and do penance for his sins. That started his downward spiral. Everything was all right until they would call and tell him how much they hated him and I and the fact that we were committing sin. Then he would get depressed.
Well this went on for a year or so and then their attitudes started changing, or so we thought. They started talking to me on the phone, which they had never done so before. They started telling him that they loved him and that everything was ok with them. We thought that everything was going to be alright and that maybe we could actually go visit them. Thad so much wanted me to meet his family, because he did love them so much.
Well he decided to go home for summer break and I was going to visit just before the school year started again and I was going to help him move everything of his back here. After he got there he called me and was sounding happy to be home and everything. Then about two weeks later he started to complain about his parents pushing him to go on dates with women. He told them no and the fights started all over again. They became worse and worse and I asked if he wanted to come home early. I could fly out there and help him get his stuff and move back here. He said no that he wanted to stay there and try to get them to understand. The phone calls got worse and his mood became more and more depressed and he was considering coming home. Well then the last phone call I got he told me that they were coming around and they weren't fighting anymore. He said that he would call later in the week. He never did because after that phone call he went into his mother's bathroom and shot himself. His parents had pushed him too far and he couldn't take it anymore. He lied to me about their fighting to make sure that I wouldn't worry about him anymore.
The family never called me, until I got his letter with the reason he lied to me on the phone and he told me that he loved me, I never knew. His sister then called me and told me that she wanted to call me but her parents forbid it saying that I was the reason their son was Gay and that I recruited him into this lifestyle. His sister didn't believe that and had to wait until she was home alone to call me.
At this point in the story I applaud your strength in Bill's death. My world came crashing down and I became very depressed. It has taken five years for me to recover from this and only now am I living again.
I loved Thad very much and I was always happy around him. He was very alive and very dedicated to everything he did. He was sunshine in a rain storm. He was always cheerful. He was the type of person that every time he found a wounded creature he had to take it to the vet's and then nurse it back to health himself. He was like that with people also. I loved him very much and to this day I still do, even though it has been five years since he left this world. I some times cry when I think of him and other times I smile because he use to bring such joy into my life... so I sympathize with you in how hard it is to deal with this horrific tragedy. I know some of the pain you are going through and I know that it never goes away but in time it will get better and you will stop remembering the bad time and will remember the times that will bring a smile to your face.
Hold onto your love of Bill and Keep fighting for his memory. Bill was a special guy to you and his friends and remember that you are also a special family.
I hope that everything is okay with you Alex and Noel.
Thank you for Bill's story.
P.S. Sorry about the spelling of this letter, it is hard to type when you are crying.
February 28, 1997
I found time last night and read "Bills Story", it had me in tears towards the end. I truly offer all condolences for what has happened to you over the past few years. Being straight and knowing a lot of people who are gay, bisexual etc... it deeply saddens me that this prejudice behaviour of individuals still exists. to me we are all people and all live in the same sane world and that we should all have the choice or right to take on our own sexual orientations unbothered.
Being HIV+ for the majority of my life has opened my eyes up to the problems that exist for homosexuals. I must admit i feared to an extent that i would be called gay or ostricised because i am HIV+, it is a shame that these stigma's surround us all.
All I can really say it that Bill didn't die for nothing and that you are doing a great job by exposing his story. I just hope that one day the world will except people for who they are and i truly beliveve it will happen. Even today i think the world has changed, when I and many
people I know see gay people we think - so what it's just another person! And now when I look at how many people know i have AIDS and think back to the days when we had to be so secretive I truly see the changing world. It's built up by media etc.. when Aids came out and was associated with "bad" behaviour the stigma arose, and it's just the same with homosexuals, I mean for so long it's been associated with "bad" things to be gay.
I am respected by gays as being straight and I do no more than return that respect!
Luke Chipperfield (email@example.com]
March 3, 1997
Note: the young man's name was left off for his protection. Gabi
Dear Mrs. Clayton,
I just wanted to thank you for the efforts that you have put forward to help other teens in the same shoes as Bill was. I am an op in a Gay Support Channel called #gaybigbrothers, on Internet Relay Chat, on the Undernet Server. our goal is to provide support for teens, or any age group that matter that have problems or questions about being gay. On Saturday night i was online when a person came into the channel i was on and announced that he need to talk to someone, Several of us asked what the problem was, and he said "I want to die"
As you can imagine my heart sunk. As a gay man, to hear that someone would rather die than live life to the fullest no matter what the circumstances are, i was taken aback to say the least. So i started talking to him, and asking a few questions, finally he asked if he could
call me, and I agreed and gave him my phone number. This person's name is ---. He is a 16 year old teen who thinks that instead of disgracing his family and being true to himself, it would be better to die.
He told me about your website and your son's story, we talked until 4 in the morning, i kept him on the line until i was sure that he was okay for the time being.
Ive never had children, and i probably never will. But its not fair to the kids that are here today to have to feel alone and unloved because they dont fit into the norms of society. I would give anything to have a child to love, gay or straight or bisexual what ever the case maybe. One of the adoption policies should be that gay men and lesbian women be able to adopt teens that are placed in foster care because their parents dont want them, This way the teen will grow up in a loving home that will not be judgemental of them.
--- also told me he has talked with you and that you have been exchanging Emails I wanted to thank you for your efforts with him, the contract he said you made him sign may have saved his life. If he had not called me Saturday night he may have ended up a statistic that keeps growing. And i would never have had the chance to meet this remarkable young person.
You are an angel among the kaos in this world of hate and bigotry, please keep up your efforts, i dont want to lose --- too.
Thomas L. Rowden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
March 4, 1997
I am Noel Clayton. I am Bill's brother, and Gabi's son. What with my studies in full bore, I am often too busy to see what's going on with Mom's web site. In fact I have only seen it a couple of times. There is no possible way that I can express my feelings when I read Bill's Story, and there is no need for me to tell Mom about them. She knows. What I do want to talk about is the responses.
I am constantly overwhelmed by the flood of letters in response to this page. Unfortunately, I have only been able to read about half of the messages. A week ago I read through some of the most recent letters, and it is only now that I can bring myself to respond. The incredible outpouring of love and support I felt when reading these brought me to tears. This is something I have not let myself do for a long time, and I thank all of you for that.
Never in my life have I seen one story touch so many people and be so effective in making them think. Bill's death will haunt me for the rest of my life, and I would give anything to have him back with us. But if his story can make one more person get out there and work for a better tomorrow, if it can help one person to stop before calling someone a "faggot" or a "nigger," if it can teach one parent to love and accept their child no matter how different they are, then his life was not in vain.
Bill may be dead, but he is not gone. When I read these messages, I see him out there, the Bill I loved so much. I see the Bill who never gave up an argument, even when everyone said he was wrong, the Bill who had the courage to come out in a school where "no one was Gay," the Bill who stood up on that stage with scars on his face and arms to tell the world that he wasn't just going to disappear.
Again, thank you,
Noel Clayton (email@example.com)
© 1996, 1997 by Gabi Clayton and the amazing people who contributed to this page.