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 6


9/19/97

Dear Gabi -

I am always surprised when I find a site which contains such intense content as yours. As the internet grows and access becomes broadened, unfortunately, so too does the amount of nonesence and refuse grow.

It was my pleasure to find a place of honesty and real sharing. In its best form this is what the internet should be: a place of ideas and experiences. A place where one who reaches out doesnt pull back an empty hand.

I especially associate with Bills story as it is so similar to my own. I too grew up in the North West and was a victim of hate.

Either in the visible physical form of assault, as Bill had to suffer, or the pernicious and destructive subtle form: non-inclusion, name calling,etc.. it is a nightmare to survive and a horror of confusion in a time (youth) when confusion is already the norm.

Of course, as an adult now, a survivor of hospitalizations such as Bill's, crushing depressions which altered the life path I might have enjoyed rather than feared/dreaded, I have to say, I would not change the life I had to endure.

I have insight to suffering I would not have otherwise, I have a compasion that might have not been developed had I not needed to cultivate it forgive those who attacked me. Somedays it is easier than others.

I take strength from you and from the greatness of Bill's short life. Your gift to Bill and to us all is that you have allowed Bills potenial to grow and to touch people as it would had his life not ended so soon. He resonates still.

Thank you.
Tom (Moneywords@aol.com)


11/24/97

Subject: Bill's story, Steve S., and other thoughts.

Gabi,

I just found your website from a link on Steve S.'s Survival Site. I was deeply moved by your story and by Bill's story. Growing up as a closeted gay teen, I can hardly imagine the courage it took for Bill to come out to himself, much less his family, at 14. (And this is coming from a man whose mother was an out Lesbian at the time...and still is, of course. *grin*)

I do want to touch on one issue you raised in Bill's story, you were very upset (rightfully so) by the refusal of the doctors to accept Bill as an organ donor. As a gay man, as a man who has lost his lover to AIDS, as a man who has been refused the chance to be a blood donor because I am "high risk", as all of those things, I can understand your frustration and anger, I share it with you. However, as an organ recipient (kidney, October 1992), I can understand the medical justification for refusing the donation. A "clean" organ bank is vital to successful donation. As I'm sure you are aware, recipients are put on huge doses of immune suppressants, the mechanism of which are nearly identical to the mechanism by which HIV destroys the immune system. The very real fear of transplant professionals is that they will transplant an infected organ into an uninfected patient. Not only would doing so risk the success of the transplant, the patient (already immune compromised) would be in even greater danger by the presence of the HIV. (not to mention the ever present fear of lawsuits for having infected a patient, intentionally or not....) There is also the fear that if the general public perceives organ donation as unsuccessful due to high failure rates (death) of recipients, they will stop donating. I'm not sure how justified that last fear is, but it is something I have read in the literature directed at recipients and physicians.

I find myself in a quandary with this subject. On the one hand, it is not fair to catagorize all gay & bisexual men with the stigma of being "at risk" or "high risk", when for all the medical profession knows, the person had never even had sexual contact with another person. But, as a patient, and as someone who has seen with far to much frequency the battles someone with HIV goes through, I don't know that I would want to have the additional worry of "was my donor carrying HIV?".

I hope I haven't opened old wounds, that certainly was not my intention. I simply wanted to give you another viewpoint to consider. Certainly, that seems to me to be the strength of the WWW and the virtual communities we create. Mostly, I wanted to tell you how I was touched by your site, your story. I hope that the pain diminishes with time, I know it doesn't go away. The love with which you accepted your son, gives me hope for other teens coming out.

Thanks for listening,
David (Elf) Borad (dborad@tomcat.ns.net)

Note from Gabi -- I wrote David back and said:

No, you didn't open old wounds. I understand what you are concerned about. The point I was making is that with the organ donor stuff, it IS unfair to single out g/l/b/t people.

I think the truth is that we DO all have to worry about organs being infected with HIV. It is false security to say if we keep "these" people out it will be fine.

And he answered:

Your point about a false sense of security is well taken, and really I think we agree on the topic. I just wanted to add my 2 cents. (smile)


10/5/97

i accidently read Bill's story tonight..it was really helpful, thanks for sharing it to us all. i'm now 14 year-old, just decided to come out. but, i wouldnt tell my parents till i'm over 20, i think. this is hard for us all, and i'm going through. i've talked to many other gay adults, they encourged me but told me not to hurry. i dont know what would happen...this town i live in doesnt seem to like your place...anyway, all i wanna say is thank you. and i respect Bill.

loo (LOO3162689@aol.com)


10/8/97

Hello Gabi.

I am a 29 year old man of Philipino heritage. I live in Montreal, Canada and I work in the green/activist community as a photographer and graphic designer. I have just finished reading Bill's Story. I write this as I wipe the tears from my face. I am happy in the knowledge that Bill had such support from his family and loved ones in the too-short time he had to enjoy with them. I am also inspired by his struggle and his pride and acceptance of who he was. I have recently come to terms with my own bisexuality. I find it a difficult road. Learning to trust people, as well as always believing I have nothing to hide is sometimes exhausting.

I fear violence by people that would hate me before knowing who I am. I fear further discrimination based on ignorant assumptions. Most of all I fear that I will never be able to be completely honest to the people that love me the most, namely my parents.

This is not a fear that stays with me. Like my race, I feel as if my sexuality is who I am. Like my race, I forget that my sexuality make me different from the perceived majority.

Bill's Story broke my heart, but it also filled it.

Thank you.
areml@dsuper.net


10/12/97

Dear Gabi,

My name is Jim. I just wanted to thank you for publishing the web page about Bill. I never knew Bill, but I think about him every day. I am a 23 year old student at Iowa State University studying architecture. This semester is my last year and I am working on my diploma project. I have chosen to design a new facility for a GLB community center in Chicago called Horizons. This center provides counseling, education and support, youth services, an anti-violence program, and a 24 hour helpline. Every time I sit down at my drawing board to design, I look up at a picture of Bill that I printed from your web site for inspiration. I think of his life, his pain and sadness, his happiness and his innocence. I sometimes look at him and choke back my tears because I see myself. And I dont want anyone to ever feel the way that Bill did again. I dont know what affect my efforts with this project will ever have on anyone, but I want you to know that I'm trying. I am dedicating my efforts in memory of Bill.The brilliant light that shined in Bill has not died, it now shines within me and everyone else you have passed it onto. Thank you. Id also like to ask you a favor. I was wondering if you could share with me any thoughts that you might have on how a center like this might help all of us struggling with discrimination, hatred, violence, and fear. I know it's a big question. I also know that the answer does not exist within any architects plans. But architecture can help support solutions in many ways. Anyway, any insights you may have would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Jim Estrada-Hobein (jestradahobein@ames.net)


10/12/97

I was going to sign your guest book, however, I cannot stand the thought of receiving hate mail. I already receive my daily dose from everything from advertising, at work, to people on the street. Many would tell me that I need to be strong and fight. I am fighting, and I am strong, but even the strongest warrior needs some private space to heal.

Now that I've justified my existance...

I am sorry for your loss. My father committed suicide in 1992 while going through divorce proceedings with my mother. I was 24 at the time and "came out" to my mother in a moment of anger. She in turn told my father a week later, also out of anger. The next time that I saw my father was on Easter Sunday of that year. He drove to the city where I was living and we went to a local Unitarian church, which was strange because we were both agnostic. "The" subject didn't come up until later when we went to dinner at a restaurant. We were seated in a very open space in a room with a large party of people. My father was never an expressive man so you can imagine my horror when he suddenly grabbed my hand and told me that he loved me and that my being gay didn't change that. I was in total shock and just stared at him.

This turned out to be the last time I would ever see him. He killed himself with a .22 shotgun a few days later. He left no note.

I am just glad that while we were having that Easter dinner I managed to get over my pride and tell him that I loved him too.

It is obvious that you and your family loved your son very deeply. I'm sure that he knew that too, as my father did. Sometimes, even love can't heal our wounds.

But we go on and get stronger and we tell our stories so that other people can learn from them. Thank you for telling your story. You ARE making a difference.

Peace.
Ken


10/28/97

Dear Gabi, Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I can only imagine how painful it must be to read the cruel, hateful messages from so-called Christians; still, those posts have their purpose: to expose, through their words, the authors' base hypocrisy. (I wonder how many gay-positive posts can be found at www.godhatesfags.com.) Homophobia, like most irrational fears, is rooted in ignorance. I have seen firsthand the positive change that can result when people take the time to stop spouting slogans, catch-phrases, or scripture, and actually sit down and listen to one another for a while. It is a monumental task, considering how many people need to be enlightened, including officials of church and state. But one at a time, these frightened folks who cower behind their (selectively applied) Bibles and AIDS-phobic paranoia, CAN be brought into the light and see that we humans are all a lot more alike than we are different.

Sadly, many of us (gay, lesbian, bisexual) remain silent, fearing exposure, and our silence allows this kind of thinking to go unchallenged. Thank you for raising your children to believe in the importance of speaking up and being heard. And again, thank you for all you are doing to make this world a better place for all of us ('specially if we're "different")

I knew I was gay at 15. At that time, I didn't know even know what to call those feelings I had; just that it was "queer", and wrong. It would be two more years before Billy Crystal's character on "Soap" would show me that gays were not all psychopaths, or murderers, or molesters, as I had always seen them portrayed. I was 24 before I got up the courage to come out to any of my family or friends, 28 when I stopped trying to pretend to be heterosexual (turns out it was a phase I was going through) and at 37 I finally, finally, stopped actively hating myself for being gay. I reasoned that if I make it to 74, then 37 is halftime, and half my life is long enough to be miserable. That year I told the rest of my family and friends, came out at work, and went to my first gay pride parade.

I'm sorry, I hope mentioning my "chronology" did not upset you. . .the point I wanted to make is that I so admire the courageous young people who are coming out in their teens. It is sad that we,as a society, through the schools, and we, the gay community, are failing to provide the support and guidance and assurance and protection these young people so desperately need. Unfortunately, fear is often at the heart of this collective failure: the schools turn their backs, lest they be accused of 'condoning' or 'promoting' (like the Utah high school that cancelled ALL after-school clubs rather than allow a gay/bi/straight club); many gay adults who could be a positive role model are afraid of any involvement with adolescents lest they the tagged 'recruiters'; families throw their gay children to the streets rather than deal with the "stigma" of a gay son or daughter.

If you are secretly gay: Tell someone. Your real friends will not desert you. Be prepared for an incredible lift in your spirits when you ditch the "secret identity"

If your child is gay: Talk about it. Listen. Your kid could really use your support. Mend bridges. Go to a P-FLAG meeting.

If you are straight: Imagine living in a world where you could not walk down your street, holding your lover's hand, or kiss him/her goodbye for fear of beating, eviction, or losing your job.

If your clergyman/minister promotes hating any group of people: consider another church. What if you are in the next "okay-to-hate-them" group?

(feel free to trim this if it is too long to post - didn't mean to ramble on so - thanks )

ItsMiles@aol.com


October 9, 1997

maam i dont know you or you me. but i'm a 25 year old male who went through a lot of what bill did and never said anything to anyone,even till this day. i attempted sucide on january 2.1992. i choose that day because i did not want my parents, who are divorced, to have "bad feelings" at christmas time, but i couldnt wait any longer. i couldnt live with my self, unlike your son, i wasnt able or didnt feel comfortable telling my parents i had doubts or questions about my sexuality. i had no doubt in my mind that i was bisexual, but i had no one to share that with; no friend, no one. not having any gay friends, that i knew of, or any gay or bisexual people i could turn to i choose to remain silent. thank god my suicide attempt didnt turn out the way i intended. however, that time in the hospital i did my best to hide the real reason i attempted suicide, and i realize now, too good of a job. i would rather have told my parents or have had them told then to try and do it in todays world. wether i dont ever tell them and get married and have kids or stay single the rest of my life, the longer i wait, the harder it gets and will get.

i didnt mean to share my story with you, but my fingers started doing the walking and before i knew it i had typed what i felt and how i feel. i have never been able to do that,because of your son's story, your journal, maybe i can learn something, and maybe teach others something - whether i choose to "come out" or not.

i hope that you realize how many people you have impacted. you will never be able to have your son back, but you have chosen the high path in trying to educate others about your son and his life, for that i will be forever grateful. for no matter what choice i end up making in my life i will always be caring,understanding and try to pass that along to those around me.

thank you
drew (drew021@aol.com)


November 16, 1997

Wow. I just read Bill's Story and I am blown away. I find it amazing that anybody would dislike somebody for a reason like that. I know a little what it's like to be hated for no reason because I am Jewish and Wiccan, but nowhere near the extent that your son had to face .

I found your page because I have to do a "position paper" for Modern Social Problems, a class at my high school. There were a number of different choices of topics, but I chose "Gay Rights" because I have a friend over the internet who is gay, who I like very much. And now I'm very glad I did.

I used to fear the very idea of homosexuality - and, to my dismay, I add to that in my mind "who hasn't?" I'm a 16, a junior in HS, and until I met Steve, I really didn't understand anything about people with different sexual orientations. Somehow, I guess imagined them to be different from 'normal' people, I guess. Then I started talking to him and I realized that sexuality doesn't make a difference any more then religion does.

I have read so much this weekend that shocks me. I mean, I knew that discrimination happens, and harrassment, and assult, and everything else, but I didn't really understand the extent of the hate. I was reading some of the quotes on the "School Shouldn't Hurt: RI Safe School Report" page and I could barely believe it. But I know it's true.

I was chatting with a friend of mine, about religion. She's very Christian and, as I said, I'm Jewish and Wiccan. Well, I was raised Jewish but I've come to adobt some Wiccan beliefs. Anyway, she told me about how a friend of hers actually brought a bible to school to prove to her that gays would go to hell. Though she agreed with me that homosexuality is not (or at least not /completely/) volentary, when I asked her if she thought someone should go to hell for something s/he couldn't help, she blindly accepted that it was God's word and God's word is always right. I'm not saying that her beliefs are wrong. I couldn't do that! They're her beliefs and even if I don't agree (which I don't; I don't believe in Heavan or Hell) I have no right to judge hers.

It just startled me that somebody would agree that something is not volentary, yet not dispute that the person should be condemed.

I'm sorry I wrote that much. I didn't mean to when I started writing, but once I started I just kept going. Thank you for putting your son's story on the Web. I'm very glad I read it, though it made me terribly sad.

-Anna Nagelbush (annalorey@hotmail.com)


November 16, 1997

Ms. Clayton: I became aware of your son's story two years after the fact in the course of a paper I am writing for a college course in education law.

Please know that, although we have never met, I grieve with you and your husband for what happened to Bill, and I feel nothing but contempt and rage for those bastards who made his life a hell and are no better than the savage jungle-apes we are all descended from. I especially feel contempt for those who justify their bigotry and mindless hate with Bible quotations and references to their vengeful, patriarchal desert god (which I abandoned long ago for kinder, gentler philosophies such as Wicca and Buddhism -- although I don't really practice a religion, per se).

Your son's story, as well as the ongoing story of Mark Iversen in Kent, struck a chord in me because, at their age, I too went through an extended period during which I was harrassed, beaten and abused, with the tacet consent of the school administration. I was called "faggot," "queer," and a host of other delightful epithets, and suffered frequent beatings at the hands of other boys, both at school and away from it.

Ironically, I was NOT gay,or bisexual, nor have even been. My "crime," apparently, was simply being "different," not fitting their narrow image of young, virile masculinity. I suppose that's why I am writing to you, and what I would like everyone to know -- THIS SORT OF THING DOES NOT JUST HAPPEN TO GAYS, LESBIANS AND BISEXUALS. ANYONE who is percieved as not "FITTING IN" can be victimized like this.

I fear for all of us. Our already dysfunctional society is going down the same slippery slopes as did late 17th century Salem, Germany in the 1930's and our own country during the 1950's with that McCarthy fiasco.

I won't tell you what you already know -- that our only recourse is to cry out LOUD and LONG that THIS IS WRONG! I do wish you luck in your work -- and if you are in touch with young Mr. Iversen, please tell him that I hope he takes that damn school district "TO THE CLEANERS." I plan to be working in the public schools within the next year or so -- if their is ANYTHING I can do to help prevent this sort of thing from happening to any other youngsters (regardless of sexual orientation), or assist you with your work, please contact me.

Sincerely,
Kevin J. McElrath (bardman@televar.com)


November 17, 1997

Hello,
I have made a home page, in geocities, and I want to add a link to Bill's story on it.

I'm 19 y/o and I'm gay.I have a boyfriend, we're happy. But I can't stand the racism against gays, bisexuals or lesbians, or the bad jokes about it.And I try to explain to the other that a we can be normal people.

Thank you very much
Best regards
Frederic Waleffe (fred_82@hotmail.com)


November 18, 1997

Hi,

I just read about your son, and it is a truly moving story, and he sounded like a great kid, i am a second year student in the UK and i am in charge of the lgb group web pages, please may i use that story on our web site? we have problems with homophobia here and perhaps it just might stop someone else bullying someone else?

Well i wanted to say what everyone else has said you are truly a wonderfull person, and my thoughts are with you.

Love Phil Pearce (s9608538@chelt.ac.uk)


November 19, 1997

Hi!
I was touched and elated to see your page and read something of your work/s. I can relate to this, having been a victim of bullying and harassment at my school as a child. It was an expensive English, Private School and because I played with the girls and didn't like sports, I became a target of not only the boys (the girls were my peers) but of the staff as well. It seemed that they were prepared to stand back and let my life turn into hell - because I wasn't a 'team player' and was an embarrassment to the school. My mother understood who I really was - and sympathised - but was too afraid of my father to help.

At the age of eight, I nearly hung myself (frighteningly close) with a piece of clothesline. Looking back, I often think that a child's best parent is his/her Teddy bear or doll. They listen. Adults don't and if they do, they only hear what they want to.

It's only recently I've come 'out' and the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders was greater than I imagined. Oddly, or not, I have not lost any friends and life is a lot brighter. But the 'reconciliation' of self, should start as a child, in a loving home and in a warm and intelligent school.

My Own Case: Too many fathers, and I'll lay the blame with them, are so busy trying to prove their own 'machismo' that all male children are expected to jump on the band-wagon and God help you if you don't.

Sadly, Bible wielding paragons of moral virtue will back him up, so, in the school, at home and in society - our children, our gay children, look for that piece of clothesline - and he or she knows, that they are on their own. It has to end. This is probably one of the worst and yet most unknown cruelties that exist and yet, when it is recognized, it can quickly turn into 'The Elephant in the Living Room,' where everyone knows the thing's there, but everyone pretends it isn't. For God's sake - help those kids . . .

Kindest regards.

Aaron Kfir,
But I honestly prefer Angela Teal . . . She was buried alive too long . . .
Newfoundland, Canada.


Note from Gabi...
I answered and my words in this next letter are the ones in italics.

November 24, 1997

Hi Gabi,

Good to hear back from you.

I'm so glad you made it through your childhood and that things are better for you since you came out.
Thank-you. My only regret is all those wasted years.
Yes, school can be a horrible experience for gay kids --
Yes and sadly, as you say, much of the bullying and terrorising seems to be encouraged by the parents, who load their bigoted values onto their children.
with my work with the Safe Schools Coalition I am doing what I can to change that.
*big bunch of flowers and a box of fresh-warm-doughnuts* to you! And a *hug!* Note: Canadian Doughnuts are AWE-inspiring! :-) I've just lost 50 lbs since last Christmas and I DREAM of these damn things! *laughter*
And too many parents turn their backs or worse when they find out their child is gay. I can't understand that at all.
It's fear. My dad was obsessed with me 'being a MAN!' Fist fighting was a virtue on the same level as team sports. I hated both. He was afraid that I was gay. I was. Actually I was a girl that had been 'packaged' wrong. But at weekends staying with my closest friend Mary L_____, (we were about 13) involved me wearing her school dresses and one day, a party dress! I know, it's so damned cliche, but it was so very beautiful, rare and precious to me. I think Mom knew, but was afraid of dad. The worst thing that happened - was after one of these weekends in Dorset with Mary. She knew exactly 'what' I was and became a delightful collaborator and dear friend. One evening, as I was leaving to go back to London, she gave me one of her nightdresses, yes, I know that in the cold light of day this seems puerile and sad . . but not then. At that moment it had a wonderful significance - she was the only person in the world who knew and treated me as a girl. That night, in bed at home, in a Houdini'ish exercise, I wriggled into that silk garment and lay there in a fog of contentment and went to sleep - as a girl. The next morning, my ten year older brother charges into my room - and as was his habit - ripped the bedclothes off . . . All hell broke loose, Dad came in.

I leave it to your imagination what I felt and subsequently went through. I was hurting no one, I was happy . . . and no one could tell me exactly what I had done wrong - except that I was 'queer' etc. As I write I still feel the fear, shame and hurt. I'm trying to 'cure' myself of these burned-in feelings, but am not really sure how. At least I'm on the right path.

I'm babbling . . sorry *grin*

Would you like me to add your letter to the ones on the response pages? If you would, I need to know if I should include your name, e-mail address, and if you have a webpage I can link it too. Also, I have a small mailing list of people who have responses up that want to know when the new ones are added. Let me know if you want me to put you on the list for that too.
Yes please - add me to your list, if you wish use my letter/s - ALL details. I really am 'out' *grin*. No, I don't have a web-page yet. I am getting involved at the University (Memorial University of Newfoundland) with the Transgender section of:
LBGT-MUN(Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays, Transgenders at MUN)
Phone Number: 754-5896
E-Mail: lbgtmun@plato.ucs.mun.ca
and I'm writing for,
NGALE: Newfoundland Gays And Lesbians for Equality :::
ngale@geocities.com
P.O. Box 6221, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, A1C 6J9.
Telephone: (709) 753-4297 [753-GAYS]
World Wide Web Home Page: http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/4291

I came out on my own - unsupported and my life experiences coupled with this might help others who still hide in fear. It nearly killed me (an 'attempt') but now - I am complete and have both peace and happiness with myself. Hell of a journey though.

Take care -- and again, thank you.

No, it's "thank YOU." Maybe if we try and cure some of the hate in this world, the love will grow a little better?

Kindest of regards,

Angela

(do you mind me using my name?)
Rationale: Aaron suffered a great deal of pain for most of his life.
Angela is a happier place to be.


November 23, 1997

I am a 17 year old, heterosexual feamale. I live in Kentucky, the "Bible Belt". Here, where there is an overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists, homophobia is a very definate problem. What most people don't understand is that Gays are people. I have to sit in class day after day listening to people who are supposed to be "good Christians" judge and condem others. I don't like it. My English class last year had a huge discussion on homosexuality. Most of the people in there disagreed with my views in equality. One girl (who is known for having multiple sexual partners) preached to me about the sinfulness of homosexuality. I could not believe her hypocricy. I wrote a speech for that class about homophobia, one that made people cry. Your son's story was in it. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story with all the people online. Your family's courage has inspired me. I agree with you about the problem of society--and most of the problem is caused by people who call themselves Christian. I will join your crusade against homophobia. I'll send you my speech in hopes that you may know that there are others willing to fight with you. Thank you and God bless.


November 23, 1997

Dear Gabi,

Just stumbled into the page about your son. I cannot tell you how deeply moved I am and how much I admire you for telling this story and sharing it with millions of nameless people. I am a Dutch scholar, currently affiliated to the University of Chicago. I am here on a fellowship from the Social Science Research Council (New York) to do a comparative (Holland & the USA) study on perpetrators of anti gay violence. To tell you the truth, I cannot help to be baffled by the bigotry and downright hatred that emanate from some of the webpages or from the records I am studying. It offers little comfort that from interviews with gay bashers in Holland I know that they are a pathetic lot. That does not stop them from being dangerous. It is through the courage of people like you that enables us to believe in a better world.

Yours,
Theo van der Meer (Thamvdmeer@aol.com)


November 26, 1997

Dear Gabi,

It is late so this will be a brief response. I have tears and pain in my heart after reading your beloved Bill's story. You see I too have lost my beloved son, Robbie, to suicide.

Robbie knew that he was gay from the age of 10. Unfortunately, we did not learn it until 9 mos. before his second and final suicide attempt. He was in therapy for 9 mos. and on antidepressants for 2 wks. prior to his death. He suffered from his school peers who teased and harassed him because he was perceived as gay. He attended all Catholic schools and felt that his church and school rejected him. We raised him to accept the differences of others and I even had some gay friends. He knew how much our family loved and supported him, but it was not enough. He committed suicide on 1-2-97 with his father's FBI gun.

Since his death I have been active in PFLAG, and GLSEN. I have even been involved with our GLBT Center in their effort to present a program for safe schools in Cleveland. I want our schools to have safe programs so that others, who like Robbie, suffer in silence may be helped.

I am a reg. nurse, not a public speaker, but have found myself in the role, as uncomfortable as it is for me. All I know is that I must tell Robbie's story in order to reach out to the other youth. I had Robbie's story published in 3 local newspapers. I have received criticism from family, friends, and strangers for going public. Despite that I continue my efforts, feeling that Robbie and God are urging me on. Your story inspires me. I am so very sorry for your loss. God bless you, your family, and your wonderful efforts.

Warmly,
Leslie Sadasivan (Loving mother of Robbie Kirkland) (JAGATHY@aol.com)


November 28, 1997

Dear Gabi:

Thank you so much for sharing the story of your son. I lost my brother to suicide in 1990, so I understand some of the pain you are going through. I felt especially guilty about my brother's death because I made two suicide attempts -- one at 9 and another at 22 -- and thought about it frequently. Suicide is an all-to-frequent choice for people who struggle with their gender identity. My brother's death gave me the strength to finally accept myself as a transsexual, and make the necessary changes I would need to make in my life. Like your son, I, too, paid a great cost simply by being someone not valued by certain people in our society. I was raped at knifepoint at 10, fought off another attempted sexual assault at 13, faced frequent ostracism, emotional abuse, and occasional physical assault from my peers, and, when I finally came out at age 38, was discarded by my parents. My decision to accept -- and learn to love -- myself and move on with my life has paid great dividends, however. My brother and two sisters reached out to me, I have a large circle of supportive friends, and I have become quite comfortable after completing sexual reassignment and reestablished my life in a new gender role. I have seen too many transgendered people like myself choose to take their lives, however, rather than face a journey full of uncertainties and a strong likelihood of heartache. Hopefully, I can play a part in helping a few people find their way. I have volunteered and now work at a suicide and crisis center, and hope to devote my master's and doctoral level research to examining the problem of the extremely high rate of suicide among trangendered persons. Your beautifully written article about your son helped me release bottled-up emotions that have been plaguing me for some time. Hopefully, your words will help others release their pain, and choose life.

Sincerely,
Marsha 


December 5, 1997

On his webpage, Wei Lee writes "My Fight with Suicide Feelings" where he tells his heartbreaking story and then ends with:

All these things continued to grind away on me -- as well as an enzyme-caused depression. I just couldn't fight it. I wanted to die. In West Hollywood, I guess I hoped I'd go to sleep and never wake up. I took extremely stupid risks, and for some reason never contracted AIDS. (I have a test ever 12 weeks now, and am still negative.) But in 1997 I just couldn't seem to go on. Everyone who contacted me wanted something from me. It was like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I felt I was desirable only if somebody needed something from me, and then there were more convenient people to be with. I can't say I've overcome these feelings. I sure haven't beaten depression. But I had two friends that just wouldn't give up on me. They had never met me, but still wrote and pleaded for me to go on. And then I happened one day on "Bill's Story." Jerry and Daryl had shown me they cared about me even when I tried to push them away with increasingly gross stories of what I did. Bill seemed like a brother to me, for we had shared some of the same things together. I wanted to scream, "Bill, don't do it!" But that's what my friends were saying to me. It was a new light.

I still don't think I'm worth much. Read my poetry and you will see the things that eat at me. I suffer from the black bear of depression and it's cousin, loneliness. But I don't think I will go beyond thinking about suicide. I still have something to live for, and no matter how hard it is to fight against all the problems, something in me now drives me forward.

Maybe you'd like to take a look at "Bill's Story." You will be enormously drawn into it I think.

Wei Lee (wxygsh@ritvax.isc.rit.edu)


December 6, 1997

Gabi, Thank you so much for sharing your story with everyone. I don't really know what to say. I am truly moved by what I just read. It is very unusual for me to be moved about much of anything. I live in a town where any difference (perceived or real) is seen as just cause for torment. I seem different from the other people who go to my school so I have to listen to people saying things about (and to) me every day when I walk through the halls at my school. There have only been a few occasions of violence being threatened toward me but nothing has happened. I didn't sign the guestbook for fear of more problems. Being a bisexual youth in a small farming town I am afraid to stand up to this problem in a way that is anything like what you and bill have done. That is why I greatly admire you. I hope that whatever you do in life brings you happiness. Thank you again for sharing something that makes me (and doubtless many others) feel better as well as educating everyone about the only result of hate.

(fathead@musician.org)


December 21, 1997

Hello, I just read "Bill's Story," and put it on my list of favorite places on the web. I was very touched by the story, and very sad that something like this could be allowed to happen to someone who could easily be my brother, sister, or best friend. I am 17 years old and have been questioning my own sexuality for quite some time. It has been very difficult for me, and I am very afraid. I go to a small Catholic all-girls school, and even talking to someone about being, or coming out as a gay person could be very negative. I have no idea what the reactions would be, nor do I want to know. I am so glad that people like your son have the courage to realize who they really are, and I am sorry that his life ended so abruptly and unfairly. I am very confused and very frustrated about not knowing who I am, even though I have a strong feeling that I may be the person that some people fear the most. It would be so much less confusing if I had understanding people to talk to like your son did. He must have loved you very much - I know I would.

I wish you the best of luck, and I commend you on your fight for equality. Maybe some day I will be able to share myself with others, but very sadly, today is not the day.

Good Luck!
(PinkLeash@aol.com)


December 21, 1997

Hi Gabi,

I am a student in Australia completing my PhD in pharmacology. I am 24 and gay...I think. While reading Bill's story I was moved in a way that I cannot describe...I still have tears in my eyes :(

I wish I had a friend like Bill to talk with and share the all too rare happy times... I am yur average guy, I luv my parents and friends, and to them I appear happy. They don't see the pain and torment that I feel inside every single day of my life. I am closeted and don't think I will ever have the courage to come out... I wish it did not have to be that way...I pray for a time when people can be themselves and be loved regardless. I am slowly dying inside...I have no soul or spirit and life is meaningless for me. I am not alone, but I am lonely.

I keep busy with my studies...its the only way I know how to keep the feelings of emptiness and loneliness under control. I am currently taking a break cause I was burn't out, spending 7 days a week in the lab...now I have time to think and my depression is growing every day. I have become withdrawn, I spend most of the day in my bedroom, sleeping or lying on my bed crying and I don't speak very much to anyone anymore, not even my family :(.

I have contemplated and planned my death over and over again in my head for as long as I can remember... the only thing stopping me from ending it all is my mum, she would die if I killed myself and I couldn't bear to hurt her that much. In the meantime...my empty, lonely life continues on, and I roll along with it. The ups and countless downs...The ups will never negate the downs cause in the end, nuthin has really changed. Thats life I guess... it's the only way I have ever known... I don't know how much longer I will be on this earth...(maybe I will find happiness and fulfillment in my next life) and I know there are thousands of young people all over the world feeling the same way, and that makes me very sad :( No one should have to live like I do...

I hope u do write a book or do a documentary... If it helps change todays society into what I pray for, I know Bill will be Happy :) I wish I had met Bill, I would have been proud to call him my Buddy :)

Anyways, sorry for dribbling on... I don't really know why I wrote this email, I just found myself doing it...

My very Best Wishes :)
Dale (dalej24@hotmail.com)

***Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm***


December 22, 1997

Dear Ms. Clayton,

What a wonderful person you are! I often have all the right words handy to express my feelings--not now. Reading about your son Bill was an incredible emotional experience. There is no way I can fully explain how I relate to many of the events in his life (There, but for the grace of God......) . Growing up is so difficult--especially when you are part of a minority group. I know that I would not want to relive my jr. high and high school experience for anything in the world. I have often wondered how I got through those awful years.

I cannot imagine what I would do if I lost one of my children. I just don't want to think about that.

Your ancestry was one other thing that struck home. I often wonder if in some way being Jewish helped me cope. Not only were we Jewish, but--God forbid--we were Reform Jewish. That meant we were considered outsiders by many members of the general Jewish Community.

If you have time, please visit some of my personal pages. The main page is at:
http://members.wbs.net/homepages/a/v/r/avrum.html

The follow-up link with more information about me is:
http://members.wbs.net/homepages/m/a/r/marinatedherring.html

The above page has several special links at the bottom with personal themes.

My best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season,
Allan Avery (museum@tulsaport.com)


December 23, 1997

Hi Gabi (and Alec)

This morning when I was looking around on the web for more resources to add to my home page, I happened to discover your pages, and the story that you told of the tragic suicide of your son.

Firstly, my sincerest condolonces. I know that Bill died some time ago now but for a parent the grief never goes away.

Next, my thanks to you for putting the story of your family on the web. Some may feel that your site might add to the negativity that exists but I feel that it is exactly the opposite. It is a tragic, true story that tears the heart, but it also gives the strength to go on ... for you have had the strength to go on and keep fighting for the things that you knew your son held dear. Nothing could be so more encouraging than this, and I applaud your efforts, courage and determination.

Finally, I maintain a web page whose main purpose is to point to information for young gays, lesbians, bisexuals, etc., who are having difficulties coming out or are coming to terms with who they are.

I believe giving them a link to your web pages to show them that parents really do care (which as you would know is quite often a major concern) and that the struggle for equality and freedom from hate crimes is a struggle being born not just by themselves, would be quite valuable.

If you would like to check out my web pages to determine whether or not you feel it is appropriate for me to link to yours, you can find the URL below. The link will be added sometime in the next 24 hours.

With love and support,

-Preston Guise (preston@itntl.bhp.com.au)


December 24, 1997

I have spent a good portion of the last few days reading your loving tribute to your son. I am deeply moved, and wish to congratulate you on your courage, as well as that of your son. I have recently come out as bisexual, though I have not yet shared this with my family. I know that they will support me though, when i do.

I work in a university, the same school i went to, and the students here have made a wonderful environment for ALL sexualities. Tragically, this past fall, the leader of the school's GLBT group, Robert, committed suicide. He had suffered from depression for many years, and had tried all kinds of therapy. None of his close friends believe that his openly gay lifestyle was directly involved, but I can't help but think that someone who has spent years fighting the good fight, no matter how successful, could not be affected by the ignorance he encountered. Regardless, Robert is gone, and we all miss him so. He and Bill are the same age, and I can only hope that they are taking comfort in eachother. I know that I take comfort in knowing that their memories and lives go on.

Thank you for providing a safe place to mourn the both senseless and meaningful loss of such beautiful people.

(you can read about Robert at http://www.middlebury.edu/~acpquinn/robin)

Sue (scasey@DIN.CC.BRANDEIS.EDU)


December 30, 1997

Dear Mrs. Clayton,

My name is J and I live in ***. You don't know but the story of the son continues to touch me everytime I read it.

Whenever I read it, I burst out in tears. It kills me inside to know that this could happen, that people could be so cruel, hurtful and vengeful. I wish I had known your son. He sounds like he would be a best friend to anyone with whom he spoke. Like your son, I am bi-sexual. I am only 23 years old. I have know since I was 15 that I was 'different.' I use that word for lack of a better term even though I know I am as normal as anyone of this planet. I attend university and I am a lover of Shakespeare. I keep this quote with me to help me remind me that I am who I am and that I am no different than anyone else. "Prick us, do we not bleed? Tickle us, do we not laugh? Wrong us, do we not revenge?" It shows to me that no matter what we are all the same.

Unlike your son, I had not the courage to tell my mother (my dad died when I was 9). Although, I know she would love and respect me for who I am, it is others that I am worried about. I am not an individual who cares for what people think about me, but opinions make the world go round. As humans, we are constantly being evaluted on our beliefs, values and on who we are as individuals. If this were a perfect world, I would have no problem telling everyone who I really am inside. If this were a perfect world.

I am involved in a lot of sports ever since I can remember. I have gone on to coach kids from all ages. I keep my life personal because everything I know will come crashing down before me if people knew about my "other-side". While I hate to admit it, we will never be free of racism and hate. It is an unfortuate part of human nature. We cannot accept what we do not understand.

I have bookmarked your sons page because when I am feeling lonely I read it and draw strength from his life and his example. You speak of not wanting to make a maryter of your son. To me, a maryter is someone who died for what he believed in. Your son died not because he could not accept himself, but that others would (or could not) accept him. That is the ultimite tradegy.

I often wish I could travel back in time to stop the things that have gone terribly wrong in this world. The death of your son would be on my list of priorities. I have read your story many times and I feel I know him becuase what has happened to him has much happened to me. While I was not the victim of a crime of hate, I see it constantly. It seems no one bothers to correct the injustices of the world. That is truely a shame.

It may seem odd, but it is when I am feeling sad and alone that I read about the life of your son. I read it and I drawn strength from his life; his example. You may not know how many lives your webpage has saved, but you can count one as mine.

I am currently seeing a guy who I love very much. He is my world. Both our parents think we are friends (we both have girlfriends), but we both feel very strongly about each other. I want to thank you for this webpage. It has kept me alive long enough to realize that I can find someone who cares deeply about me. I don't know if you are familar with the Tony Rich Project and the song, "Nobody Know's" It is one of my favorites and describes my life quite well.

Thank you for having Bill,
he has touched many lives,
and his memory will never be forgotton,

Love J


January 2, 1998

Mrs Clayton,

I am at a loss for appropriate words, which is a rare occurence in my life. I happened upon your web page while searching for material for a diversity training workshop I am conducting for Residence Assistants here at the University of Arizona.

I did such work while studying in Rhode Island, but the task is never ending if we are to even hope that tragedies like that you have suffered are to be avoided by oter families. It amazes me that despite Bill's death and the suffering of other youngsters like him, there is such wide-spread denial of the problem in public, governmental and educational circles. The encouragement you provide by being willing and able to share your story is so important, and cannot but help to spread a message of tolerance and understanding from which many could learn.

My Mother has, like you, been a pillar of strength for me; my Father refuses to meet my boyfriend, despite acknowledging that he is sure Jeff is a nice guy. There is so much fear associated with the whole issue of being glb that I am sure he wonders if people will question his own orientation - an absurd thought if only he could see it!

I applaud you warmly for the contribution you make to all of our lives by producing this page, and thank you for renewed enthusiasm and determination for the work ahead. I am crying as i write this, and no doubt colleagues wonder what is wrong, but it is nothing that one more receptive, accepting individual can't help to cure.

Love and best wishes to you and your family,

Nick Ray (nickray@vega.lpl.arizona.edu)


January 2, 1998

Dear Gabi
I can only say i.m truely sorry for your loss.it makes me feel good to know that there are other famileys out there like mine i allways here of famileys that don.t stick by there kids i can say my familey has been there even when i told them i had AIDS others left me but my familey didn.t and i can say thats why i.m steal here today.thank u for writing the letter for everyone to read it must be hard for u but it will help i know it will i.ll print it and pass it along to people who don.t have computers god bless u

George J.Holbrook (miles@theonramp.net)


January 6, 1998

Dear Ms. Clayton:

My name is Matt McLauchlin. I am a 16-year-old gay college student from Montreal, Canada. I read Bill's Story today, and I don't know if my comments can add anything to it, but here they are anyway for what they're worth.

I'm going to a meeting of Project 10, a gay youth group, tonight. This always makes me feel better about being gay - not that I don't already. I've had the good fortune never to have been personally a target of homophobia or violence since I came out. (Touch wood.) Also, my parents have been almost as accepting as yourself, my mother in particular. But every so often, I have to read something like Bill's story to remind myself that worse things could be happening to me than just not having a boyfriend.

Bill's ghastly torment and tragic death, with the Lion's Club incident twisting the knife, serves as a reminder that whether or not it is present in one's life, hatred is still present and will be until it is stopped.

As my life goes on,, I'll remember Bill, and in whatever small way I can, fight not just for me but for him as well.

Blessed be,
Matt McLauchlin (matt_mcl@hotmail.com)


January 7, 1998

Dear Gabi, Words fail me. I guess that all I really want to say is how your son's story is so similar and yet so different from my own. I am too an 18yr old homosexual who ahs come out to his mother (not my father). I was out in high school as well and received my deal of hatred, I too felt really depressed and had thoughts about suicide often. I wish I could have met your son. We surely would have had a lot to talk about.

May I offer you my condolensces, and assure of the fact that your son's deat h is not in vain as long as people like you and other activists continue to work for a better, more tolerant future.

Stef.


January 7, 1998

Dear Gabi,

Well, i read "Bill's story" a couple of months ago, and i read it again today!! all i can say is that i am very sorry! and it's a very sad thing, i cried reading it the forst time!! Well, i guess there isnt anything i can do right now, i really hoped that i was there with Bill, maybe i can at least be a support to him. But too late!! {sigh} i still cant figure out why it happened!! i really wished i was there!! all i can give, besides my condolence, is a promise that i will stand proud being a gay teen!!! Anyway, thanks for the couragement! and i do hope you write a book!!! Be well.

Me,
Darren


January 11, 1998

I'm 19 years old..bisexual.

It's taken me months to accept who I am--and it's still not easy. If I stay up too late, I begin to think about not being able to just be normal like everyone else..and I get depressed beyond belief.

I thank you for writing the story of Bill's life. I appreciate it immensely... And though I am late for work, I had to sit here and write you and thank you for it.

The fight isn't over my any means. Sadly, Bill was a casualty in a war that will last another decade at least. But it won't be in vain. Because there is always people like you out there...and stubborn people like me--I refuse to let someone make me a statistic. I refuse to be just another number. Just another face.

I'm going to make my mark--and I'm going to make it big.

I thank you for making yours.

Thanks for your time, take care.

Troy (satansson@geocities.com)


1997 by Gabi Clayton and the amazing people who contributed to this page.

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