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 5
April 17, 1997 (posted late)
I just read your online story about your son. How sad I am to know that a young person was made to feel so bad about him/herself that they end up committing suicide. What your son went through was more than any person should have to deal with. In his 17 short years, he was forced to endure much more than his share.
On March 24, 1995, just 13 days before Bill's attack, I was attacked by a group of 5-8 teenagers in San Diego, Ca. Since I was 34 at the time, I believe I was better prepared for the mental torture it puts on a person much better than a 17 year old. But also in San Diego, on December 13, 1991, a young man also of 17 years, was brutally killed by someone calling him names dealing with sexuality. And this young man wasn't even gay. Both he and your son should still be here with their families.
I tried to leave an entry in your online guestbook but I don't know if it got entered or not so I wanted to write you this e-mail. If there is ever anything I can do for you, in any respect, please do not hesitate to contact me. I do live in Southern California but, again, please contact me if I can be of ANY assistance.
Thank you for having Bill's Story online for the world to see.
Gilbert March (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 17, 1997
I just wanted to drop to note and tell you that I have added a tribute to your son and that my admiration for your loss and work, is overwhelming.
I lost my brother to HIV almost two years ago and if the truth be told, I think he was in effect suffered the same fate as your son at the age of 14. It was a German man, many years older than himself and I do believe that at Steven's age, at the time, that he was unable to stop what was happening to him, or perhaps, in opening up his life, he was exploited. I also believe that it was this man, that ultimately contributed to his death.
Please come over and visit my Tribute to my brother, perhaps it will touch your heart and your story has touched mine.
if this page is down, please go to
With wishes for much strength in your work.
June 26, 1997
Hello. I found your page about your son, Bill, from Steve's page. I hope you don't mind, but I am going to place a link to this page from my personal homepage because as a former homophobic, I feel this story is something a lot of people should read. Thanks :)
There's nothing there yet, but soon there will be :)
Rebecca Flaugh (email@example.com)
June 30, 1997
Thank you for having the courage and willingness to be so open. I am truly sorry about what what happened. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Do the boys who committed the assault realize the consequences of their actions?
I am a gay father in Vancouver with two sons, 10 and 14. As a result I feel I understand this tragedy, if only a little, from both your son and your own perspective. You need to know your willingness to be so open has had an impact and will continue to do so. Again, thank you.
July 1, 1997
Dear Mrs. Clayton,
I am 15 years old and until I read your son's story, I was beginning to lose faith in my own ideas and ethics. I live in an ultra conservative neighborhood where anything beyond the norm is condemned. During the past year, I've discovered just how deep my town's hate can run.
In August of 1996, I was attempting to get used to high school - the new people, cliques, trends, etc. Unfortunately, within my first month of attendence I fell in with a crowd that I never should have associated with. As a result of my relationship with them, I lost my old true friends, and I began to detest what I was doing with my life. For the first time, I
felt totally alone.
One day, I chose not to go down to lunch. I confess that I was actually avoiding faces I didn't want to see rather than the cafeteria food. Instead of eating I chose to explore my arts department's music rooms. At that point, music was my only comfort.
One of the music rooms contained a beautiful grand piano that I'd wanted to play from the moment I saw it. I walked into the room only to find someone else already sitting on the piano bench. It was a boy I knew from the show choir I had been accepted into. He'd continually initiated conversations with me, but I always had a lot on my mind.
I was just about to leave when he motioned for me to sit on a stool next to him. I had originally wanted to be alone, but instead I sat. I was amazed when he began to play and sing a song that had been my favorite since I was just a kid. As he sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" I realized that he had the most beautiful voice. For some reason, I started to cry. I couldn't stop, but he didn't say anything. He just gave me a hug. From that moment on, we were inseperable.
My friend helped me put together my life. I had been near my own breaking point. I cried alone in my room, I got upset at little things. It was terrible. My new friend helped me see things in perspective. I fixed things with old friends, and I stopped seeing my so called new buds.
As expected, I started to fall for my friend. He'd saved me, and at first I thought it was just
overgrown gratitude, but inside I knew it was more. We spent hours of each and everyday together. Some people thought I was nuts for giving so much attention to him. He was tall and skinny and most people considered him totally unappealing. I thought he was almost perfect.
A few months ago, my friend started to grow closer to a new boy at school. Everyone wanted to be the new kid's friend because he really was beautiful, fun, and intelligent. I started to lose my best friend.
One night my friend told me that he wanted to put our burgeoning relationship on the backburner. He wanted to work on his friendship with the new boy. I was hurt at first, but then I realized our friendship ment more than anything to me. I saw him grow closer and closer to someone I had no ability to compete with.
I saw my closest friend change right in front of me. His relationship with the new boy began to run much deeper than just friendship. I just pretended not to see it, but I knew that nothing was ever going to be the same.
A few weeks later, trouble began to brew. When I walked down the hallways, I heard malicious voices saying, "There she goes. That's the girl who hangs with the artsy fags." To my surprise it really hurt. I was still in denial that my best friend was gay, and to be forced to confront the possiblity frightened me.
Somehow, my friend's mother got wind of the growing relationship between the two boys. I refuse to condemn anyone for having their own opinions, but I cannot help but despise ignorance. She began to threaten to remove my friend from school unless he stopped associating with the new boy. She said she would isolate him from everyone and everything.
I remember getting late night phone calls from him. He had no one else to turn to he told me.
He didn't want to leave school. He didn't want to leave the other boy. Then, he told me that he didn't want to leave me. I remember weeping with him, desperately praying to God to change my friend's mother's mind.
When I went to school the next day, I found out that the new boy had started to tell everyone that my best friend was gay and that my friend had forced him into sexual acts. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I knew my friend would be crushed to be so betrayed.
I skipped out of most of my classes to search for my friend. Just as I was about to give up, I found him huddled into a corner of the old costume room. When I saw how he was curled into a ball and how he was so vulnerable, I wanted to kill the new boy. For the rest of the day, I just held him, and tried to comfort him.
We both new his mom would hear the lies, and probably believe them. His mom wasn't a bad person, she was just ignorant. She believed that by separating him for his peers she was doing God's work. It was a sure thing that she'd follow through with her threats.
Before we both left the school that day, he gave me a hug and said goodbye. That was the last time I saw him.
The following weeks were terrible. People I didn't even know were coming up to me and telling me that God would punish me for having friendships with gays. I defended my friend through it all, only hoping that someone would understand. No one did. I was threatened, picked on, and even beaten up. Despite everything I never lost hope in my friend. I still loved him and cared for him. All the more I defended his right to choose his own path.
Recently, things had gotten even worse. I was beginning to lose faith in myself. I wasn't sure if I was fighting for the right thing or not. Then, thank God, I found your page and your son's story. I know now, that I have to fight in order to help those others who might have similar problems.
Thank-you for the story, and thank-you for saving my faith.
July 1, 1997
Thanks for Bill's story and the letter you sent to
Last Sunday was the Gay Pride Parade here in Chicago. I was impressed. When the PFLAG contingent came along tears started to run all over my face. A friend of mine joined the parade and hugged many of the parents that where there, one of them even gave her a candy! :-)
Thank you so much.
Miguelito -- Miguel Barrio (firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 6, 1997
I just read the story about your son, Bill, and his tragic death.
Right around the time Bill died (two days after Mother's day in 1995), I was hospitalized for an overdose on various medications. The suicide attempt was due to issues surrounding my sexuality, although I hadn't gone through nearly the stress Bill had. I spent a few days in intensive care, and then twenty or so days in a psychiatric hospital. I was 15 years old at the time.
My suicide attempt was not successful (obviously), but it still broke my parents' hearts. They said they loved me so much, and couldn't stand to see me in any pain so great that I would want to take my own life. I told them about a month later (June 15, 1995) that I was gay, and they've been great. My parents are truly wonderful people; probably a lot like you and your husband.
Reading your essay, I was struck by the callousness of people and how cruel life as a young gay or bisexual person can be. I too had an experience with the discriminatory practices of health organizations...this year my high school had a blood drive. I filled out all of the necessary paperwork, had parent signatures, and was about ready to have my blood taken when they went through a checklist. Since I was gay, they would not allow me to give blood.
Blood iteslf isn't a big deal...to have a place like the Lions not take parts of your son's body that could do so much good for so many people, though, seems like such a huge waste. Not only are they continuing bigotry and stereotypes as gay and bisexual individuals being infectious, they are denying other people organs that are desperately needed.
Anyway, I should get to the point. I noticed that you are involved with P-FLAG and I'm guessing that you probably work with other organizations, as well. I would like to volunteer some time with organizations dedicated to helping prevent suicide of gay/bi/les youth, or work with helping to end hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.
I would appreciate any tips or suggestions you could give me. I am also truly sorry about Bill; he sounded like a wonderful person.
Kevin Carter (email@example.com)
July 11, 1997
Dear Ms. Clayton,
I came across "Bill's Story" through another website and, after reading through it myself, decided to share it with my companion of three years and the man from whom we rent. (he's kinda family really. We all live in his trailer in a park. We're supposedly saving
money. Ha!) While xxx worked on the a/c unit and -x- recuperated from helping, I read aloud to them, struggling to maintain composure and not become too emotional. It was good that I had read the story prior; otherwise, I wouldn't have known where to slow down and take a breath.
xxx made a few rude comments as usual. I think he enjoys playing devil's advocate too much. Supposedly he finds it incredible that anyone wouldn't enjoy sex under any circumstances. I patiently -- I hope -- expressed my view that forced sex is never enjoyable for the victim. Later on he commented that suicide is a selfish act and Bill was being
incredibly selfish to take his own life. I tried to express my views -- this time not so patiently -- that mental impairment can prevent people from acting rationally and responsibly and that depression can be the cause of a chemical imbalance causing mental instability.
I had a friend commit suicide. I was very angry at him for giving up and I was angry at God for allowing it and not intervening. But as his uncle said at his funeral, for which I was privileged to be a pallbearer, he is a casualty of battle fatigue but he will be a victor
when the war is won. He was a very spiritual person, who couldn't reconcile his Christianity with his homosexuality.
I vowed never to make that mistake, and as a result turned my back on mainstream churches who had in effect turned their collective back on me and "my kind". I accepted my orientation as a 32-year old gay man, and jumped feet first into the bar scene. I'd never touched alcohol before but quickly learned how to drink to get drunk -- to loosen my inhibitions, I told myself -- all the while trying to maintain some sense of moral responsibility.
Hard to do that summer of '90, since I stopped attending church -- after making Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night services ever since high school. (I had a pastor who threw his hands up during our last counseling session: "I just don't understand how an obviously spiritual man with great understanding of the Bible continues to have a
problem with homosexuality!")
I felt I had to choose: Christ and His Church or gayness and my sanity.
Well, it wasn't too long before I found a Metropolitan Community Church in a town nearby. Although I had turned my back on Christ, it seemed He hadn't turned His back on me.
Yet this denomination and this church in particular was no help or support to in maintaining morality. My sexual activity slowed down and my drinking ceased, but Scripture, which is not held to a very high regard by the UFMCC, was ignored, not explained or reconciled, but
instead was dismissed as archaic, myth. The pastor, at first supporting my "let's get back to some kind of morals without becoming judgmental" stance, reversed her position and said if she were single and wanted to have sex on the first date and the other person agreed, there was nothing wrong with that whether the relationship continued or not. (Little did I know at the time that she would leave her partner and the church to be with another woman in less than a year of that statement.)
As a strong believer in the Word of God when taught in context, I was confused about how someone could proclaim loyalty to Christ yet treat the words that pointed to Him as insignificant, claim that sexual behavior is merely game-playing no more significant than eating -- just play/eat safely! Because of its very nature I believed that sex was more than sharing gamepieces, it was a physical symbol of deeper commitment and intimacy.
Just as I finally decided to return to the mores and principles I had previously applied to heterosexuality -- just as I decided that gays and straights should play by the same sexual rules of responsibility and respect (meaning one partner in a committed relationship unless both partners agree on including others: reference polygamy in King David's time and teachings of the New Testament and Proverbs on the dangers of sexual promisicuity) -- just as I was able to cut off a sexual (totally sexual) relationship with a long-term "buddy" (a little over a year) -- I tested positive for HIV.
I felt that I had played with fire and I had been burned by fire. I was suffering the consequences of my actions and could blame no one and nothing else.
Yet I also felt let down by the Church for not providing role models for my sexual orientation and acceptance for my condition. (I can really appreciate Bill's pink triangle with the words: "This is not my choice. This is not forced upon me. This just is." I later discovered a wonderful book by Daniel A. Helminiak entitled __What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality__.)
I felt let down by the gay community for not providing what I consider an appropriate spiritual response. (I later discovered a congregation that had left the MCC because of differences on how the Bible and its teachings should be treated.)
I felt relieved that I wouldn't have to live long in a world filled with hate and confusion. (On the other hand, no one knows how or when death will come. I remained asymptomatic for four years.)
I felt privileged to travel such a path and hoped to rise to the occasion.
Naturally I didn't feel all those feelings at once.
Why have I written so much...?
Where was I going with this letter to you?
I really just wanted to express my appreciation for your homepage. I was going to read all the responses to "Bill's Story" but no matter how many breaks I take the tears flow too freely. I will have to bookmark your website and come back to the responses later.
As a teacher (music in elementary) for fifteen years, I am not looking forward to this next year. I tried applying at another district that offers prescription benefits, but wasn't hired. So I stopped taking one of my meds until next year when I may be in a better position to afford
the cocktail -- over a $1,000.00 a month is difficult on a teacher's salary, but without a car payment next year, I might be able to swing it. I'll just have to probably give up on paying down my credit card any time soon. (I had saved $1,000.00 in my checking account this past year. So much for that. When I started the protease inhibitors, one month took care of that. And I had gotten my credit card debt down to $6,000.00! Until I had to start charging my meds.) I think if I wait a year, maybe something new will come out, or the dosage (and
therefore side effects) will be decreased, and I will be in a better position financially to afford the fight.
Well, I've rattled on far too much. God bless your efforts. You have a great heart!
July 11, 1997
I was pointed to your Website by on friend on a BBS conference when we were discussing how wrong it is if certain religious faiths to condemn gay people.
You and your family have been forced to endure the horrid things and I just wanted to send my sympathies. Whilst I am not gay I see no reason to see gays as anything other than normal people who have a right to live their lives just as any "straight" have.
I am not sure if my mail means anything but I just wanted to say this after visiting your web page.
Hopefully you have a long life and will still get to experience a more tolerent world.
All the best.
Mike Hesse (firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 15, 1997
I've just stumbled onto your beautiful page. I've just recently watched the film, "Six degrees of separation" and can't help but feel that finding your website is testimony to it. I'm currently doing some research into gay youth suicide, and after reading your page I find myself reminded by why I began this research. If I could be a little indulgent, I'd like to share
some of my story.
Where do I start ? Well maybe a little about myself might be in order. My name is Paul Walton, I'm a 24 year old gay man. I live in Brisbane, Australia and currently work as an education officer at the Queensland AIDS Council (our state's peak organisation responsible for leading a response to the HIV crisis). I'm also the convenor of a group called "Toehold ",
which is a gay youth support group for young non-heterosexual men.
Back to the beginning ....
Well I'm here at work now, typing this letter, fighting back the tears, not only because of your son Bill's story, but for the fact that I can really relate so much to it. I've felt that pain too...the pain that becomes unbearable - where the world seems to dissolve and you're left in this cage of self-doubt and self-hatred. Where you really feel "evil, unnatural and disgusting", not because it's true, but because people keep saying it is. I had a similar experience at school where I was hassled for about 18 months by about three boys. It culminated one afternoon, where I left the school grounds and there they were waiting for me. I remember going home that afternoon, bloodied and bruised. My parents asked me what happened. I lied to them saying I had fallen over in cross-country practice. I think they knew that wasn't the real reason, but maybe were to afraid to ask the truth. You see, I had been bashed, not because I was gay, but because I was "thought" to be. It was the fact I was different. I knew about that
difference in me, but had not yet been able to label that difference. Well anyways, needless to say, they were right.
After that time, my self-esteem hit an all time low. I was severely depressed. I became a hermit....my room was my life. You see, I was safe there. No one could hurt me while I was in my bed, with my pillow over my head. There came a point where I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I started to cut myself with knives, broken glass. It was almost like, if I could draw blood then it was like some big achievement. I can't explain it, but each successive attempt had to go further than the last. It's a vicious cycle...I still can't believe that I was there. Finally, I tried to overdose with pills. The only ones available were my parent's
blood pressure tablets. Needless to say ( and I can look back at this moment with some humour now), all they did were make me a zombie for a couple of days. I survived.
After coming out to my parents, I eventually told them of my attempt (I had hidden it from them for 2 years - they never knew). I saw the incredible anguish in their eyes. They couldn't understand why. I had only seen my father cry once before this time, and it was when I came out to him. That day was though, to bring us closer then we had ever been. I told them everything. They had incredible guilt, feeling that they had been sub-standard parents. I comforted them with telling them that when I do public speaking events or talk about coming out to other people, I use them as an example of how parents can accept and love their child
unconditionally. So many tears were shed that day, and it was the start of my healing process.
Where I am today ....
I've done a lot of healing since then. My volunteer and community work has been my therapy, my medication. It's a passion of mine now. It's incredible ...to think four years ago, that I would be now, working in a job that I only could dream about, and actually be in charge of a gay youth group, where "I" am responsible for helping others who may be in similar
situations to what I was. It hasn't been all smooth sailing though. Two of my friends in the last 2 years have taken their own lives. People often say things like ...I can't understand why anyone would do that. You know the scary thing? I can...I've been there...and so have so many other young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. So many young guys come to my group where their self-esteem is shot to pieces and they are so scared. Over half the group at any time have probably contemplated suicide. And I often think about those young people in rural and isolated areas...how must they be coping ?
So now, one of my interests is researching the area, because it's a personal issue to me, and also for the fact that sexuality is often ignored in suicide studies as a key factor. It has only been during the last 18 months here in Australia that governments are recognising the need for more research and funded programs that target the issue.
Finally..I would like to say a few words in closing. Thank you so much for sharing your family's story. It's touched me ever so dearly. Your son sounds like he was a very compassionate, loving person. And he obviously loved you very much. I can only thank you for supporting him and loving him through his difficult time. You'll probably never know how much that meant to him, but I can tell you it was vital. And the love that you show by sharing his story to other's is so important. I would like to share his story to my youth group in the future, I think they would get so much from it. Please feel free to include this letter to your responses page, if it helps someone out there, then that's all I can ask.
I'd like to leave a quote from a Kate Bush song, entitled "Cloudbusting". It's often the source of my inspiration:
"....I just know that something good is going to happen...and just saying
it could even it make it happen"
All my love and heart-felt gratitude,
Queensland AIDS Council
July 24, 1997
I just wanted to thank you for all that you have taught me. Though I found your web page by pure accident I could not stop reading I had to get to the end I wanted to see what you had to say next. I must admit that when I first saw it I was going to just skip past but I saw your sons
picture and for some reason it called out to me. I am a 26yr old blk female who lives in Ohio Im not gay and I wasnt looking for gay material, for some odd reason I ended up there it must have been fate that brought me to you I have always had no problems with gays but I never really stood up for them either but I have a different out look now after reading your sweet words about your son, and all that he had to endure. I would like to know how and where would I begin to help out in my area? Im very new to all of this and you might even say that Im dumb when it comes to this type of issues. I have a small son(9) and if he decides that he is gay I want there to be some help out there for my son and myself I want to be the proud mother and active mother who is willing to go to bat for her child whatever the cause maybe. you have sparked that light deep inside my soul and that is where I will keep your son's story thank you very much..
July 30, 1997
Bill's memorial web site took me three years back in time. On new year's day my classmate (at the Finnish equivalent of college) commited suicide. Nobody saw it coming. He left a note stating if he couldn't talk about the cause of all this when he was alive why should he do so now. As we (me and my friends) discussed about this all later we couldn't find any other reason than Mauri must have realized he was gay (or bi) and couln't live with it. But of course we will never know. I decided to come out right there and then and told my friends I'm gay. I was very lucky, no-one rejected me (some told me later it took about a week of soul searching to really understand nothing had changed - that I still was the same person they all had known for years).
I didn't cry then, not even at his funeral - I just couldn't - but I did later and I'm weeping at the meaningless death of Mauri and your son as I write this. You have my deepest respect for the work you do, what a brave and strong woman you are! I'd like to say so much more but my english lets me down. With your permission I'd like to put a link to Bill's memorial site
on my home page.
July 31, 1997
Dear Gabi and Family,
The story about Bill is very sad.
You have my sympathy and a wish you steadfastness and peace for your survive.
Pleace excuse me for my bad english, what a pity, i can´t understand the complete story of Bill, I´m sad.
I wish you all luck.
Bernhard Eis (email@example.com)
from Berlin, Germany
-------------------- and then:
August 1, 1997
today I found a
translation from Bill´s story. Only now can i understand the complete tragedy.
I´m 12 age, a men seduce me too and I have vain wait, these to forget. I´m 14 age, I have notice, I´m too bisexuell, I like boys and girls. till now have I me no outet, I whitish my colleague and my little Friends can´t understand my and my bisexualität. Today I have see Televisor and I see a documentation from USA, above Homosexualität and their opposition.
Men´s go to demonstration towards homosexuälität and Tv-Preacher, as "Jerry Forwell" and "Franklin Gram" preach toword homosex. and think, the Bibel accept homosex. not and forbid it. it get long time continue, till these mens wake up and accept the homosexualität.
P.s. You have Bill give a very, very wonderful burial. Hi was definite exceedingly fortunate and touch over the great sympathy and the great burial.
Pleace greet your husband and Noel from my
Bernhard Eis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
August 1, 1997
Subject: Dear Gabi, It's Jonathan here ...and I finally got to Bill's Story...
and I can't find any more tears... I have been meaning to "meet your son" Bill for quite some time now, but I've been too emotionally distressed by my own parents to have the
strength to read through his pain and suffering. You must know more people are seeing through Bill's eyes the suffering they cause when they make these hate filled comments. I pray this gets some of the fundamentalists feeling guilty, unfortunately they rarely see themselves reflected.
Fortunately, I've never experienced the hate of strangers or former friends. I led a rather carefree life until my parents found out seven years ago I am Gay. I was 28 at the time although I had always known I was gay I was never sure they would understand. How I wish they were more like you. While I never experienced what Bill went through... Mom and Dad have made up for that lack of despair in spades. They've avoided this topic like the plague and still want to deny that I am Gay. I look to you and others like you for the support I'll never get from my biological parents, thanks so much for being there.
Thank you for letting the world "meet Bill", hopefully it will be a better place for his having been here and having the luck to have had a wonderfully loving family like yours.
All my love,
Jonathan Carver (email@example.com)
August 6, 1997
By the time I finished reading `Bill's Story', I was in tears. It breaks my heart to see someone like Bill, so full of life - then, with head down and spirit broken by the cruel conformity-enforcing machine we are pleased to call a society, exiting this world for the next far too
I'm 15 years old, and I'm bisexual. however, I don't dare come out; semi-rural Mississippi is not the place to be if you aren't a rigidly straight, Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christian maniac spouting fire and brimstone(almost all of the `Bible Belt' religious stereotypes are
well-grounded, in fact). It saddens me to realize that the homophobia that is endemic here is not exclusive to this part of America. My mother is one target of same: after my parents' 1989 divorce, she was unable to get custody of me due to a judge's ruling her "an unfit parent"... based(I later learned) on then-unfounded allegations of her (quote from my father)"lesbian affairs". I have to deal with the same thing, though to a lesser extent, from people at my high school, and more than once I've been evangelized by members of my father's Baptist church(altho it's my stepmother who's the more religious of the two). There've been times when I sat on my bed with a razor blade held to my wrist, trying to decide whether or not to draw it across. Other times(especially at the Catholic school I went to for a year) I've just been suddenly overwhelmed and broken down in tears.
Last year I started reading soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi. The people there, so unlike the cold, closed, hating minds of my peers, were warm and friendly and loving to people they'd never seen and probably never would.
To the people on that newsgroup, I owe my life.
Thus I come to the point(such that it is) of my message, despite the chance to pour my heart out to someone who won't hate me for the word I use to describe my sexual orientation. A pointer to the group on your webpage might save someone else's life when they're in their darkest hour. Again, the group is news:soc.support.youth.gay-lesbian-bi (this may or may not be a link, I'm not sure I got the html right.)
Thanks for your time and the shoulder.
I just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for what you are doing. I personally am a gay teen suicide survivor and what you are doing by sharing Bill's story is wonderful and courageous. By sharing your story you've doubtlessly softened the hearts and educated the minds of many people. We cannot afford to forget lives like Bill's or the fact that every 4 hours and 45 minutes a gay teen ends his life.
You are a very courageous lady, I know I could never deal with that much pain. I'm sure words cannot even begin to express what what I'm trying to say here, but my heart goes out to you and your family. God bless you,
-Xaiver Neptus -- Pronounced: Zay'-ve-er Nep'-tus (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note from Gabi -- when I wrote back, Xaiver sent me this note:
I have started a new pet web project which is still in the construction phase. The White Ribbon Gay-Teen Suicide awareness campaign. If you're interested in being a part of it the address for the support page is
August 7, 1997
I can't tell you how much your story on Bill touched me. I am a 63 yr old gay man who has been gay all my life. I felt the same things Bill did in High School but hid all my feelings and was very fortunate in not haveing to deal with homophobiia. After my first true love affair at
19, I told my mother (she raised me by herself) and she fainted. I was sent to a Doctor who gave me male hormones which only added to my desires. I am now very happily settled for the last 27 years in a wonderful monogomous relationship. We have a wonderful life together
and lie mainly in an open environment even thugh most of our close friends are straight. They accept us as a couple, not a gay couple or straight couple. Just a couple. '
I can't tell you how tight my chest felt after reading your story. I wish that I or someone like I would have had the opportunity to talk to Bill and show him and assure him that this lifestyle can be beautiful, but it is hard work. I firmly believe that no matter what our lifestye, we must first learn to accept and respect ourselves first before we can ask for the acceptance and respect of others.
What a wonderful thing your tribute is doing by keeping Bill alive. He hasn't died, he just is not with us anymore. But his memory is alive and you are helping hi to grow with your dedication.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to know you. ( even if it is through a web page). If will think of you often and re-read your page often. You make me swell with pride that there are people like you.
Howard & John (email@example.com)
August 8, 1997
Dear Gabi Clayton,
I just finished reading the web page detailing the story of your son Bill. Needless to say, it was an intensely emotional experience. My tears have not stopped, even as I write this.
There are a few parallels in Bill's and my story with the exception that I am still alive at age 42. As a young child I was very happy, wide-eyed, and innocent. At age thirteen I was raped by a Catholic priest who was my spiritual advisor at prep school where I was living. This was supplemented by a very homophobic father who was determined to "straighten" me out by being extremely harsh with me, emotionally and physically.
The effect of this had a devastating effect on my life, pervasive into all aspects of my personality and social function. For years I had difficulty staying in school, holding down a job, or managing any type of relationship. And I struggled with intense suicidal depression as a constant, even to this day.
I have spent years in the social service system as a patient, but even those relationships were unstable and fleeting. I have not been able to tolerate any of the bevy of medications that have been prescribed at different times. In spite of being very intellegent, I landed in the world of welfare and state supported care. Last year, I was awarded Social Security Disability, which finally enabled me to eek out some sort of financial stability.
I only describe my background to lend to a greater identification of who I am. At present, I live alone, and do not leave my home. I no longer engage in any therapeutic relationships and not in any treatment of any kind. This is due to the nightmarish experiences in the past. I know I have been diagnosed with a myriad of pychological disorders, but I am the most at peace when I am alone.
And alone, I am. My family is dettached from my life; they are Charismatic Catholics and are staunchly opposed to homosexuality. They are confused by my behaviors and were never willing to participate in any treatment resolutions. For a while, I survived in the gay community because of my looks and body, which I took great pains to care for and develop. But now I am aging, and am acutely aware that my desirability on a superficial level in the gay world is vastly diminishing.
Almost nightly, now, I am experiencing nightmares, reliving my early adolescent years. My desire to die is incredible, at times, but yet I go on, as I have for all of my life. The loneliness is so severe, but the fear of the consequences of social contact is even more frightening.
When I stumbled upon the page detailing your son's life experience, something happened inside of me. I relived the pain and desperation of an innocent child unjustly punished by a brutally cold and hateful aspect of this society. I know this pain.
My life at present been has without purpose or goal. But reading that page has sparked something inside of me. I want to help people like Bill offset the suffocating weight of injustice and abuse.
Your love and compassion is apparent. Bill, I am sure, shared these attributes, which deepened his pain. I grieve for your loss. But I accept Bill's memory into my ironclast retreat, and embrace it as motivation to utilize my intellect to again make contact, armed with a purpose of giving meaning to the impact of the world losing such a valuable presence.
Wish me luck. Thank you.
August 13, 1997
Please excuse this email intrusion -- I just saw your site in a list of 'progressive' sites, plunked in the URL.... and had to write.
I was surfing around in my 'august capacity' as the web-geek for a Canadian student paper cooperative called Canadian University Press. I'm coding CUP's first web site as I write, and today I'm doing the section devoted to student/alternative journalists. After seeing your site, I'm adding it to the 'queer resources' page, as a 'featured/recommended' site.
I've not had the chance to browse your completely, but I'm looking forward to it. Although I'm an 'award-winning' web-designer (meaning I spend too much time in front of my Mac, running PhotoShop for ugly corporate clients) your site is, in my humble opinion, why the net is such a wondergful medium for communication: it allows people to tell their own stories, in their own words, without the interference of journalists, spin doctors....
So thank you for making the site, and sharing what must be a very painful story with the rest of us -- and I'm sure the rest of the student journalists in my cooperative will be thankful, too.
August 15, 1997
Subject: PFLAG/HATE CRIMES (Note: this refers to my article on GayPlace -- Gabi)
Dear Mz Clayton: I'm not sure how long ago your article was written, but I just found it this date. I forgot this one bastion in my severe depression. I was so sorry to read about your son. Every time I read about such hatred carried to the extreme, I feel even more distress and hopelessness. I once said that even if we had a law against hating us purple people, it wouldn't stop people from hating.
I have been married more than 32 years. I didn't discover my emerging homosexuality until seven years after we married at age l9. I get hell from both sides. Gays for not realizing my sexuality and "doing something about it." And from straights for not "just rising above it, or praying hard enough."
At age 35, after achieving two degrees and gaining a commission in the USAF, I was forcefully discharged for being Homosexual. Not a crime. Just a sexuality.
For the last l7 years I have suffered greatly from severe depression. No wonder. I have been diagnosed with Type II manic depression , Attention Deficit Disorder, left temporal lobe seizures. All this with about every complication of diabetes that there is. Yes, I do get to feeling very sorry for myself, and often blame God for it and the homosexuality. I have tried suicide twice, so I can relate to your son's feelings, and your feelings of loss at the same time.
After discharge from the Air Force, I went to nursing school, specialized as an emergency and trauma nurse. Two years ago I had to retire due to my progressing diabetes, etc.
I wanted to find someplace on line to chat, for when I am especially down, but most of the places seem to be porn.
At any and all rates, we have a PFLAG in Valdosta, GA. Think I'll be giving them a try after discovering your article. Good luck and God bless you for writing.
Robert King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
August 17, 1997
My name is Ray Hunter and I sit on the board of directors of the Vancouver Pride Society. We are the organizational body for the Gay Pride Parade here in Vancouver BC. For 1997 we decided to focus on youth and education and this was reflected in our choice of 2 youth activists a teacher and a mother who are actively opposing the bigotted banning of gay oriented teaching aids in a Vancouver suburb.
We thought very hard on which issues to address with the choice of our parade marshals this year. After reading about your son I can say with conviction we made a very GOOD decision.
My experiences going through school were not as severe as your son's. I did, however, get taunted quite regularly.
Hopefully through pages like your's and actions like the Vancouver Pride Societies and all the other activists in the areas of youth and education some young life will be touched and perhaps some young life will be saved.
Young people are so fragile.
They need our help.
Ray Hunter The Vancouver Pride Society (email@example.com)
August 20, 1997
I want to express my thanks for sharing your story about Bill. It really moved me and helped me put a lot of things in perspective.
I am now 29 years old, but came out 4 months ago. I waited an unnecessarily long time to do this because of fear, but Bill confronted this at an early age. He was much braver than I was at that age! I
admire him for his strength, and I actually feel a loss, for now I will never get to know this obviously special person!
If you could, please accept this line of advice: tell everyone to not wait! It is much harder to face as you get older. Bill had a hard time at 14, and it is much much harder to do at 28 (now 29).
I intend to print this story out to show my parents, whom I have not told yet, to let them know how difficult this really is! They won't understand, but maybe this perspective on how it could have been for me may put their fears and biases in another light!
I would very much like to hear from you. I have many stories and insight into this subject which I would like to share with the proper audience.
Again, thank you VERY much! You can't possibly understand how special this was for me to read!
Dave Burgess (CherryHead@webtv.net)
August 24, 1997
Firstly I will just introduce myself. My name is Adam, and I am a 24 year old gay male living in Australia. Not many web sites inspire me to write, but yours certainly has.
Thank you for sharing Bill's story to the world. It is a sombre reminder of what gay teens and youth face all over the world. I know I grew up with the same hatred, and was bashed at school from people just assuming that I was gay. I wasn't out . My escape was drugs . I had a boy friend at the time, and we both ended up using that as an escape mechanism for a world that openly hated us. I buried Joshua in 1990 after he overdosed on herion. I tried to commit suicide that night, and luckily failed, due to getting my stomach pumped very soon after I had passed out. I spent along time after that in denial, well 6 year of it , untill I was 23 . Now I am piecing my life back together again, and finally comforatble where I am.
Your story had me in tears, and I am so happy that you have made this available for everyone to read. I will be happy when there is a day, when a gay teenager can grow up in a more positive environment, and not allowing there innocence and childhood be taken away.
August 30, 1997
My name is Jon Snell, I am a 25yr old GWM, I live in connecticut. I recently read your story about your son Bill and let me tell you I was truely touched. I have been working on a book for gay teens, and have a website dedicated to them also. I must say your story is going to be my inspiration to keep up the fight. Your story brought tears to my eyes, and I think we need to do all that we can to educate people, together we can all make a difference in ending homophobia, and teen suicide!
I would like your permission to put a link to your story from my website, and also to include it in my book. I am now listed as a supporter in the white ribbon campaign, and have asked the owner if I can do more with it.
Thank You for your time.
Jon Snell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
© 1997 by Gabi Clayton and the amazing people who contributed to this page.