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 8


4/26/98

Subject: A Coward in the Closet

Hi Gabi,

This is my second attempt to write you. My first became biographical and inappropriate.

After reading every word on your web page, I could not sign off without telling you that I was deeply moved to tears, not only by Bill's story, but by your heroic followup, in dedication to him, as well as the outpouring of love and support of the many people who have read your page and posted a response.

In short, I too found early in my teens that I was attracted to other boys. I too felt the guilt, shame, fear and loneliness associated with this situation. I too attempted suicide on three occasions but somehow managed to evade dissemination of its motive. At 29, I met the princess of all princesses and married, followed shortly by a blessed event that brought my, now 19 year old, son into this world. I informed my wife, prior to marriage, of my orientation and she fully accepted and supported me. I have been faithful to her and my son all these years.

The cowardice now begins to show forth. I remained in the closet all these years, with the exceptions of my wife, my mother and a few very close college friends who accepted it quite well. My way of dealing with it was that my orientation was of no consequence to those to whom I did not choose to share it with. It is a personal matter and no one else's business. For the most part, I have been satisfied with this approach. But, I surely understand the passion that some others feel regarding the need to "come out". I can surely understand the misery experienced by those who resist "living a lie". Everyone has to find their own comfort zone in this area.

On the other hand, the hatred that results in violence, both physical and emotional, must be stopped, particularly for the sake of the children. Bill was but a child, an innocent and loving child. He deserved much more than he experienced. But, he never had the chance. You have found the courage and the strength and determination to insure that his life was significant and meaningful.

My cowardice has prevented me from taking a stand on this issue, and for that and in support of what you are attempting to do, I apologize. This much I will do. I will send a copy of "Bill's Story" to our local school board with the encouragement that they use it to educate the entire faculty. Hopefully, some teacher in some classroom will reach out and touch another "Bill" and prevent a recurrence of a needless death. Hopefully, some teacher will be effective in reaching some student to eradicate the hate.

"This is not my choice. This is not forced upon me. This just is." How totally remarkable out of the mouth of babes.

God bless you and your family and know that Bill is with Him, in peace.


5/6/98

Hi I don't know how to react I am in tears. I am a 19 year old who is slowly coming out to my friends and family. I just want you to know that from my experiences and the loss of friends since I first started telling people in 10th grade that your work is appreciated. I live in Georgia but still feel the same things and understand the hurt that Bill felt and the confusion is always there. I have gone through depression and all have been treated and feel that things with a large supporting group of friends will be great for me. I am now a college freshmen who is planning on trying to start a program at this or whatever school I attend in the future for GLBT students. It shocks me how many schools do not recognized this as a group that needs support. I just want to tell you how beautiful your sons life was to me and it touched me from miles away and without ever knowing him. Thanks for publishing that on the web.

5/11/98

I just read (almost all of) "Bill's Story". I have still not completely recovered after about 10 minutes after. I felt compelled to send my sincere sympathy to you. But, more importantly, I want you to know that there is progress being made where I am. At our high school, in Fremont, California (near San Fransisco) we have started a club called the "Gay - Straight Alliance." Although it is still very controversial, and very much in its infancy, I think the fact that we even have a club of this nature is truly progress. We discuss issues in a friendly, non-threatening environment, in an effort to bring two ides of an argument together. I am personally straight, but feel obligated to make any effort I can to bring the gay and straight communities to a new understanding of one another. I think your webpage and story does this so well, it truly shows that all humans are humans, reguardless. I am the webmaster of the beforementioned club, at http://members.xoom.com/gsa/ and will definitely be linking your story right from our homepage under links.

I just cannot stammer out how much I value this contribution to our cause, and thank you for being such a strong individual and putting forth such a tremendous effort to further gay rights. It is just so sad that only pain can bring understanding. Please accept my condolances and support.

Michael, Webmaster of the Gay-Straight Alliance Homepage (gs_a@usa.net)
http://members.xoom.com/gsa/


5/12/98

Dear Gabi,

I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. A client of mine forwarded your web page to me.

I am deeply saddened by the senseless loss of your son. This is a tragic story. Hate kills innocent people and hurts the lives of many others.

Thank you for making public his story. I am moved by reading your stories. Thank you to you, your familly and friends for speaking out and educating people.

Warmly,

Patt Saso (seminars@saso.com)
Director, Saso Seminars, Milpitas, CA
http://www.saso.com/sasoseminars


5/17/98

hi,
I'm a french gay from Paris.
I read the story of your son and i felt so sad about what hapended to him.
Be proud of your son. His coming out was courageous. I'm sure all this will help other people.
Yes, even today's, it's not easy to be openly gay.
Thanks a lot

Jean-Marc ROBINET (jmrobinet@france-mail.com)


5/26/98

Dear Mrs. Clayton,

I just finished reading your son's story. When I was in college I had one friend who was "flagging" madly about being homosexual and about having experimented with heroin and about being suicidal -- a young man who was so disaffected that I knew it was pointless to expect he would seek help from the school counselors. Because of him, and because of the doubts in myself that friendship with him aroused, I sought counseling. The trainee I got the first year did fairly well, the experienced counselor I got the second year made me doubt that my friend could escape being hurt by such an interaction. Mostly it was that they were all speaking from ignorance, and only the beginner would admit his lack of wisdom. In my third year in college I fell in love with a guy -- couldn't feel any sexual arousal because it was so deeply repressed -- old him about it, and after a long talk I thought he had gone to bed but he drove off into the foothills, swerved his car off the road, but fortunately was not injured. I divined the self-destructive impulse behind what happened, and that scared me off of love and sex and everything for decades.

The point is how wonderful it seems to me that your son had parents in whom he could confide. Unlike my friends and I, and regardless of whatever else happened, Bill was not alone. Some of us are more sensitive to hatred than others. I used to (and probably still would) cry when somebody hit me in hatred. I thought I was a crybaby until the day my friend, whom I was quite actively harassing by pushing sideways on his bike as he tried to walk along, turned around and hit me right on the nose, more painfully than I had ever been hurt before. And I fell on the ground, LAUGHING, because I knew the blow was not given in hatred, and it didn't *really* hurt. Bill must have been one of the really sensitive ones, and with so much hatred in the world, and so much perversion of sexual energies that creates people like the man who assaulted your son, it must have just been too much for him. But we do not have to have a world like that.

One of my problems, coming up, was that I could not get any sensible account of what had happened to me. To the good Christians of the small town where I grew up, it must have seemed that at some point I willfully set myself on a deviant road. To the psychoanalysts who wrote on the subject, some deep trauma (which I could never unearth) must have distorted my psyche. In recent years I have begun to find explanations that make sense in terms of my own experience. Because I know and care about the young people who cannot understand how they have become something that "merits" the condemnation of so many self-anointed preservers of righteousness, I started to put a digest of what I have learned into a WWW site.

The WWW site will address fundamentals, and will only tangentially deal with the problems that you attack so capably and so nobly. It is my hope that it will be a resource to young people to let them know that they are just as they were turned out by their human genetic inheritance and all the environmental factors that impinged on them in those early years before they could even have an informed awareness of what was happening to them. (As Bill put it: "This is not my choice. This is not forced upon me. This just is.") I blamed myself so much for being the black creature that deserved, somehow, to be hated, loathed, and abominated by the good people of my society, that I often felt strong impulses to destroy a bad project and let some better soul take my place. Fortunately, I found myself a good therapist at an opportune time, and since then healing has proceeded slowly but more-or-less surely. (Thanks again, Ran Sclar.) I would have benefited many times from the knowledge that I have since gleaned.

So, I thought I would tell you about my project in the hope that you might in turn be able to use it to help others, somehow. That's almost my only way of fighting back. Sometimes people are up-front about their various prejudices, and I can combat them directly, but usually people hide those feelings. It's emotionally satisfying to strike back, but I rather doubt that it does anything positive in the long run anyway.

The WWW page is being written little-by-little. It's not all there yet, but I have lots to say. Take a look at it if you would care to:

http://home.earthlink.net/~kinkaju/

I feel really inadequate now. I feel as though I've said a lot about myself, and by extension, lots of other gay people who struggle to keep their heads up every day. But I haven't anything to say that makes it any better for you. You honor your son deeply by continuing to struggle against the forces that brought him down, and in a strange way you make all similar children into your own children, and the more they are hated and abused and abandoned, the more they are your foster children. Maybe even I, although I think I am much older than you.

I'm having trouble seeing my computer screen, so I must stop now.

Pat (kinkaju@earthlink.net)


5/28/98

Dear Ms. Clayton,
I had trouble accessing your guestbook for the story of your son and i wanted to send you a little e-mail about it.

Thank you for sharing such an incredibly moving story. It is people like you that give me hope that someone is on our side. As a young gay male I find it sometimes very difficult to deal with the way the world is. Living in Northern Idaho, I have to face some of the most close-minded people I think exist. It takes strength and courage and knowing there are other people out there who support the gay community adds comfort.

I thank you for putting up Bill's story for the world. His legacy lives on in your writing, your life, and your support.

Sincerely,
Brandon Bolyard (boly9644@uidaho.edu)


5/28/98

Dear Mrs. Clayton,

I read with great interest your interview with HateWatch and felt compelled to visit your site. Being an Internet Presence Provider I can't tell you how many different sorts of websites I read every day. Most as simple commercial sites or organizational sites but after reading your story and the tragic tale of your son's suicide I wanted to share a personal anecdote out of my own business with you.

Some weeks ago, a local 'religious' group approached me about placing a website on my servers. Upon receiving the materials for posting, I returned them along with their deposit and explained that I could not host them because their pages would violate our corporate policies against homophobic materials. They insisted that I had to accept their materials since there is no law against discrimination against gays and lesbians in New York (which, unfortunately, is the truth). I explained that while the law didn't require me to not discriminate against homosexuals, it is my corporate policy not to do so. I was promptly accused of being gay (I am not), of being a communist (I am a libertarian capitalist), of being "anti-Christian" (ridiculous at best since a good portion of my family is Christian though I myself am not) and of being of illegitimate birth and being the offspring of a dog (so much for their being motivated by 'love') all inside of 2 minutes. Needless to say, I didn't accept their business and upon relating this story to several of my colleagues in the field they assured me that their firms wouldn't accept their business either. Now, it is doubtless that they will find some willing firm somewhere who will post their swill but I am glad to say we made their job a little harder.

Please be aware that though I will most likely never attend a gay rights march nor display a rainbow flag, I and many people like me absolutely oppose bigotry and hatred of any kind.

Please accept my very deepest condolences on your tragic loss and my very best wishes for your future happiness for you and your family.

With warmest regards,
A. Gelbman (wizard@internetwizards.com)
Chief Engineer
The Internet Wizards
P.O. Box 21, Athens NY 12015-0012
Tel./Fax 518-731-8756
www.internetwizards.com


5/29/98

I sincerely pray that your son has found the piece that he was unable to find in his last year here on earth. I hope that for all of mankind he now sees a path laid out for us to a world without hatred. Maybe he will or has played a role in our getting closer to it. From what I have been reading here, it seems he must have been a remarkable young man. It is small consolation, but the world is better that he was here if only for a short time.

I have not had to deal with homosexuality in my family to present, but I have two teenage children. I would not choose it as a lifestyle for them, but I would of course love them just the same either way. I can tell you that I would not want to think of anything so devastating as what you and your family have endoured at the hands of such wretched, misguided souls as those who perpetrated this crime against Bill. One time in my life I encountered (after the fact) a person who participated in such events in high school. He seemed to talk about it like it was a sport. He ended with "we didn't really hurt them, just taught them a lesson", what lesson I asked myself?

I would like to thank you for sharing your story with others like myself. I am a thirty something white male, a teacher, and have always considered myself tolerant and non-judgemental of others. I grew up in a town that was (I thought) non-racist and tolerant, so I have had little exposure to such things. Several months ago, I ran across the Hatewatch organization and have been receiving information on hatecrimes since. It was a wake up call. I was unaware of the depth and number of hategroups out there. I had watched shows like Roots, Rosewood and such, but they were movies. I believed the events occured, but it still doesn't really sink in.

These groups believe (not unjustifieably) that the internet will be their golden pulpit by which they will ensnare the so called "right thinking" people with their venomous trash. I believe it may have an unexpected (at least by hategroups) effect. People like me with formerly passive attitudes who used to think "as long as it doesn't effect me, they can say what they want", are beginning to see the effects of our inaction on a more continuous basis. I can look around and view the vast amount of evil being spilled out of their computers. I can become sickened right down to my soul.

One of your suggestions in your Hatewatch interview when asked what "we" can do was to tell people that you don't appreciate hearing jokes or hateful comments about gays. I'm sure you would agree to expand that to all peoples. I will admit (ashamedly) that I have been on both ends of such jokes. I sincerely thought they were funny, and in my own mind would never have extrapolated that towards hatred of any particular group. I never gave much thought that such jokes and comments serve to demean and dehumanize individuals, races, religions and other groups. I have lately been searching for a way to begin being more proactive in this fight. You have given me a wonderful way to do that.

Thank you

Steve Rosin [sarosin@alpha.delta.edu]


6/8/98

Hi,

I am a 15 year old lesbian. I would just like to say that, first of all, I am deeply sorry for your loss. There are too many ignorant people out there. Your story just about made me cry.

I'm out and get a lot of shit at school. It hurts but has made me a stronger individual. I have learned to accept myself for who I am during the past two years.

My parents would have lost me if they weren't so supportive.

One of my goals in life is to educate as many people as I can before I die.

Thank you,
D


6/11/98

Your tribute for your son

Hi,

I'm from the UK and I just found your page whilst surfing through the net.

I think all of you (including Bill) were extremely brave during the time he had to fight so much prejudice. Here in the UK right now the government are planning to vote on lowering the homosexual age of consent from 18 to 16. Tabloid newspapers are aganist this and all they can go on about is sixteen year old's getting buggered.

What upset's me and make's me angry is the fact that the reason the age of consent for gay men must be equal to hetrosexuals is all to do with equality - pure and simple.

The longer that gay men and woman are treated differently from the rest of society the more we will have to suffer hate crimes like your son suffered and unfortunetly, more and more young men will try to kill their self. Which is the reason why there is such a high suicide rate amongst young gay men.

Your page touched me and you and your family are an inspiration to other gay men and woman all across the world.

Equality 2000 - we're saying in the UK - well how about Equality 2000 for the rest of the world?

Darren (Darrenhr@aol.com)


6/14/98

Dear Mrs. Clayton,

Thank you for all you've done.

I've read Bill's Story 3 or 4 times now. I first found it when I was searching on the internet 3 or so years ago, looking for the keyword "bisexual". You see, I'm 17 years old, and I'm somewhere between "bisexual" and "lesbian". I was struggling to find myself a few years ago, and Bill's Story gave me a sense of the struggle I would have to face, and a sense of the wonderful support that was available to me by kind people such as yourself. I cry every time I read this story, both because it is so sad, and because I know how Bill must've felt. I am writing to you to ask your permission to try and pass this story on to others. I want everyone I know to read it, and I was wondering if you would mind if I sent Bill's Story out on an email, one of those forwards that asks people to pass it on, kind of like a chain letter, but without the threats....:). I also wanted to know if you would mind if I put Bill's Story on my zine. I just want to spread the word....Never again...we can't lose any more beautiful people like your son.... I understand completely if you would not like me distributing your story, and I will respect whatever decision you come to. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful mother and a caring human being. The world needs more people like you.

Thank you so much!
SIncerely,
-- Alexis (lilshe@geocities.com)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Lil Gabtivist~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;

World-losers and world-forsakers
On whom the pale moon gleams
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever it seems."
--Arthur O'Shaughnessy


6/22/98

I am in tears at this very moment realizing what a hatred world this is. I wish I could have got to know Bill, he sounded like such a great person. And might I add that I am a huge Nirvana fan and realizing that we had the same tastes in music and probably much more, but I will not be able to really know him but from what I have read in your story. I think you should write a book on these events. It would be a very touching story!

what else should i be
all apologies
what else should i say
All apologies by: Nirvana
eveyone is gay

Please respond to me, It would mean so much and if you have any information on helping with gay and lesbians in our youth today I would be more than happy to get me and my friends involved. thank you for your time

Melissa (Mellisugar@aol.com)


6/24/98

hi, my name is sean and im a gay 15 year old. i just finished reading your story and it really touched my heart. and im not one of those little panzie boys either, your story was truly heart breaking. i wish there was something i could do. i myslef have not FULLY come out so i dont face ridicule like that, however, my town sounds like the place where something like that would happen. so it scares me that one day this might happen to me. it truly is sad when people cant see how immature they really are, and thats all they are when they have this hate, is immature and power-crazy. these people DO NOT have a choice and i dont see why people dont believe me when i say that. i tell them from experience that its not a choice, but they continue to believe rumors started by other straight people and not the facts told by a gay person. i dont think ill see the end of this type of crime in my life time, but I do believe, in time, things like this will not occur anymore, and it is then that we can be a "civilized race". for, as long as this kind of hate crime is allowed to take place, we are as unciviliazed as the NAZIS in germany in the 1940s. in closing, every time i hear one of these stories i am filled with such pain just reading them that i almost want to kill myself because of the things that go on in this world. it is not right, and hopefully in time, we can change how people view eachother in this world, and things like this will never have to happen again.

~sean tori (SJeanLuc@aol.com)


7/5/98

I just stare at an empty page trying to find the right words to express how i feel. Bill was basically my age, he had the courage to face the obsticales that faced him. I take him as a role modle of a person i would like to be but never can, your support and luv nourished him and freed his sole. You heared his silent cries that many parents just can't here, somtimes i wonder why we are all here on the face of this earth. Looking at what your son was and what he could have become i beleive that we are here to make a change even if it was small. Voices echoing throgh the years could serve as a hand that woul crush peoples ignorance and fear and enlighten them. I think bill is lucky to have a mother like you that refuses to let his memory be erased. I wish you the best of luck

(micky9768@msn.com)


7/6/98

I understand how you must feel , reading that brought tears to my eyes and I cried I am a fifteen year old female and I have lots of "gay" friends and it really tears me apart about what happened to your son ! All of these people need to open there minds and stop being so dumb , If a person is "gay" that is there choice , I wish more people could accept the way people feel !!

My love for you and your family,
Stephaney Kaye Tyner (WvCharmWv@aol.com)

*Note from Gabi When I wrote Stephanie back, part of what I said was:
You said that it is someone's choice if they are gay. There is an ongoing debate about that. I don't believe that someone chooses who they are attracted to. They may choose to acknowledge it or deny it, to hide it or be "out" and honest, but the attraction itself is not a choice from everything I have learned.

and she replied:
I guess you are right about what you said , we can't help who we are attracted to!


7/14/98

great site

really respect how you have shown your love and memory of your son - you have my greatest sympathy on your loss

continue the fight against hatred and ignorance!

dave (davidv@magnet.com)


7/15/98

I have come across your site today. Thank you for your courage and your beautiful words. Know that things are changing. We are raising our children differently than we were raised. I hope you continue to gain in peace.

June

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength
While loving someone deeply gives you courage." Lao Tzu

7/2/98

The Tragedy of Hate

What happened to your son is tragic and I can only emphasize. It is a monumental shame that hatred exists in our midst and manifests itself with such brutality; undermining all that is good about the human spirit. I am truely sorry about you son. His death is not in vain though. That said, it is the responsibility of all people to make a stand against hatred. It victimises us all in the end. Keep up the good work!

Brian


7/28/98

I just read Bill's Story, and I am crying right now. I am an openly bisexual female in a small town and have experienced much the same hate crimes as your son did. His story touched me so deeply. I saw my own bruises and tears in his pictures. I want to send my condolences and my love. It is so sad that he had to die because of the mindless hate in this world. If I could lay a flower on Bill's grave, I would. He will rest in my memories as a martyr against the hatred that I and so many others like me have to endure all the time.

Love,
Kelly La Fountain (PUNKspider@aol.com)


7/30/98

Dear Gabi!

I will writte you in german because i could not say in english i want to say you! I hope you speak german or you finde someone who can translate.

Ich habe die Geschicht ihres Sohnes in deutscher uebersetztung im Internet gelesen.

Sie hat mich sehr beruehrt; auch deshalb, weil ich auch schwul bin und trotz meiner 23 Jahre mein Coming-out immer noch nicht ueberstanden habe.

Das liegt auch daran, dass ich es zwar allen Freunden erzaehlt habe.

Jedoch lebe ich in einem sehr konservativen Teil Deutschlands (Bayern) und meine Eltern wollen nicht, dass ich es den Menschen in meinem Dorf erzaehle. Ich habe immer noch das Gefuehl, dass mich meine Eltern immer noch nicht akzeptiert haben, dass ich schwul bin.

Sie sind sehr katholisch und in der CSU aktiv (like republikans in USA) sind.

Mich hat Bills Geschichte sehr bewegt und ich wuensche ihnen noch viel Kraft und Glueck bei ihrem Kampf fuer mehr Toleranz und auch bei dem Versuch, den Tod ihres Sohnes zu verabeiten!

Herzliche Gruesse

Christoph Regner (regner@informatik.tu-muenchen.de)

Note from Gabi -- I wrote Christoph that I had no one to translate for me, and he wrote again:
Dear Gabi

I try in english.

Thanks for Your answer!
In the last mail I wanted also to say: I think, that it is the important thing for an young gay or lesbian, that the parents accept their childs as lesbian and gay.

You had accepted you son; thanks for that. I know (because of may own parents) that this for us (the gays) very very important.

Love, Christoph

And then Noel's friend Jason translated for me (Thanks Jason!) and sent this:

There's a couple places where I wasn't quite sure of the exact translation (couldn't find the word in the dictionary or the venacular translation is just really different from the 'high german' translation. ie 'schwul' literally translates as 'sultry' or 'close' but from context seems to mean 'gay' (which translates into about 5 different forms of 'happy' in german))

I read the german translation of your son's story on the Internet.

You have my very [sincere condolences]; also because I am also gay and [despite having been out 23 years OR despite the fact that I am 23 years old], my coming-out is still not [easy].

I have told all my friends about your page.

However, I live in a very conservative part of Germany and my parents would not tell the people in my village. I believe that my parents still have not told anyone that I am gay.

They are both very Catholic and active in the CSU (like Republicans in the USA).

I was very moved by Bill's story and I wish you much strength and luck in your struggle for more tolerance and also in attempting to make sense of the death of your son.

Heartfelt Greetings,

Christoph Regner (regner@informatik.tu-muenchen.de)

And then Christoph wrote back and said:
In high german, "schwul" means gay and only gay (but not for women; we say "lesbisch"); there is only a slang meaning: if, for example, a game runes very strange or bad, in slang german (only in a part of bavaria) we say "schwul".

8/3/98

Something I'd like to say

Dear Gabi-

When I first read your son's story it hit me rather hard. Ive heard of similar tragedies, but to hear a particular story on such a personal level..Even more so the pictures of the handsome young man that was your son broke my heart. Your strength is admirable, as well as your continuing fight. Im a young gay male living in upstate New York. Although some may argue, I feel it's the capitol of Homophobia. My school is plagued with ignorance and hate crimes are not uncommon. I myself have gone through many rough times. I do belong to a club though called RESPECT. It's goal besides a mutual respect is tolerance. One major problem we have is that we have to go to the administration to clear most everything we do as a club. It would not be so bad except they ignore the issue of homophobia and down play it's significance. For example, once we held a tolerance workshop and did several presentations, we were only allowed to merely mention homophobia. Ive discussed helping form an alliance with the school Social worker. One of her major concerns is that she still does not have tenure, making her reluctant to do much. Although Im pretty certain administration has to allow a club (within reason) as long as a teacher or faculty member supervises, I doubt my school would allow it. They've basically denied that an informal group meets one day a week with the social worker to discuss such issues. This small group has only been formed by word of mouth. Although I have practically no hope for my school I believe what you continue to do does matter. You are a true fighter, and I wish you the best of luck

take care
~Gavis (Gavis@aol.com)


8/5/98

Hello. I went to your site and read what you wrote. It really touched me. It moved me so much that i broke down in tears. As a gay 16 year old who is out, I've expierienced alot of the things that your son had gone through. Recentally i have fallen into one of the deepest depressions i can remember having. It has gotten so bad that i have begun relying on drugs, alcohol and even sleeping pills to get away from the pain. I had thought about youth groups for a while, but never really did anything about it. I don't want to have to resort to the same measures your son did, i'm really afraid of that. I've decided because of your site that im going to join the youth group, and maybe go to counseling.. Im not sure what i'll do, but now im confident that suicide is not an option anymore. Thank you for that.

Jon Miller (hairdye21@hotmail.com)


8/9/98

Subject: Straight but not narrow

Gabi-

I live in southren minnesota. I am 14, male. Here where I live, homophobics runs rampant. Last year in junior high, it was terrible, and it still is. The most popluar insult here is "Gay," and "Queer." My friends and I desparatly fight against homophobics. Reading about Bill inspires me even more. PLease keep fighting, know I will. PLease. It needs to stop.

Homophobics is no different from racism, sexism, and religious pre-judices. There is something inside of me that says that homophobics will be looked back on in the future, and just be treated as another bigotry or pre-judice. I hope so desparatly for this to come.

By the way, if you ever need me for anything, I do not care what it is, please write back.

Your friend and supporter,
Scott Sandersfeld (ssanders@prairie.lakes.com)


8/16/98

Dear Gabi,

Well I have stopped (almost) crying after reading about your son. I can not tell you how much my heart goes out to you.

I lost my son (adopted) in a car accident 2 years ago, not nearly as horrible as what you went through, but I can understand.... a bit...

I hope it's O.K., I added a link to "Bill's Story" on my pages www.risqilly.org (in the gay/Les/Bi area) just having it seen more, will hopefully teach people not to push such bigotry, and might help a few kids know they have support.

I know the anguish and fear Bill lived with, as a young gay in the 60's and 70's it was different.. more closeted, but just as hard to deal with. I lost many friends to that fear, so many of us live with the scars those deaths have left.

Your pages, and support to others are a grand tribute to your son. Your saving many lives. Bless you.

What a shame, what a loss to us all. your son was a wonderful kid. But with such a wonderful mother, it is expected!

All my love to you.
Billy Kennedy


8/16/98

I was very fortunate enough to have come across a copy of "Bill's Story" on someone else's web page.

I have never before written to someone I don't know; but I was so totally moved by "Bill's Story" that I had to write to you. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your touching, "tragic" experience (that Bill had to die is a true tragedy). I think he was truly lucky to have been on this planet under the care and guidance of such a wonderful family and friends.

I shed buckets of tears while reading your story and although I am not very good at expressing myself, I just want to say "Thank You".

Thank you for sharing your family's story. Thank you for caring so much. Thank you for continuing to try and educate people on the senselessness of hate.

Peter Hankins (hankins@smartt.com)


8/17/98

Mrs. Clayton, Thank you so much for sharing these details of Bill's life with us. It made me cry and then again made me smile when I saw his smiling face. The pictures of Bill as a child, his smiling face, all show how blessed you were as a family to have him while he was with us and how blessed we were as a world to have witnessed him. I'm glad you are helping spread the good word... People need to see this to realize they are missing something special when they cut someone like Bill out of their lives simply because of his sexual orientation.

I think Bill would be very proud of you. And I know that since you are a member of PFLAG, you have many young men and women who look to you as Mom. Thanks for that also.

Best Regards,
Craig Shuey (craig.shuey@1stcapitalbank.net)
Atlanta, Georgia


8/22/98

I read through some of your webpage and looked at Bill's pics. It was painful for me to read about Bill's experiences. I am so proud of you and your family! I mean this with all my heart. I also thank you for Bill.

At the age of 13 I had an experience at school. I played the cello. I was walking with my cello after school down the hall. A group of boys came up to me and said, "you are a faggot". They punched me and threw me into the lockers. My face was bleeding and I didn't quite understand what or why this had happend. I guess I was quite niave at the time.

I saw a teacher in the hall further down. He was a social study teacher. I asked him what a faggot was. He laughed at me. He could see my face was bleeding. As I look back, he had to have had some idea that an incident had taken place. I wouldn't be walking the halls bleeding and confused and ask someone what a faggot was! I look back at that with a sense of anger. I wanted to die that day.

Hmm that teacher is still teaching. I feel compelled to write him and remind him of the incident.

The hurt little boy within me, thanks you for everything that you are doing for ALL children regardless of orientation. Bill really is a brother to all hurt children on earth.

I work with children on an inpatient treatment facility. For all the children I work with, Thank you for attempiting to make this world a better place for all the children!!!

With all my love and respect,
Tom (Chucky33@webtv.net)


8/23/98

Greetings Claytons,

I am deeply sorry for your loss, and moved by the pain and torches that you bear. I have taken the liberty to mirror your efforts because as I was working on my Human Rights Page: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/2099/EVOLUTION.html, I came across your page. It seemed like a natural extension of my work, and I wanted to use my page as a reference to your own. The result was http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/2099/HOLDBACK.html. If this is un-acceptable please let me know and I will make it go away. Conversely, if you wish you can reference my Human Rights.

Bless you for your courage and work; such a tragedy to have our young Edvard Munch taken so soon.

Sincerely, David


8/24/98

Hi there Gaby..

I read your story about your son Bill and was touched by it.. it made me cry..

My name is Jordan, I am gay and 19 years old, I live in Victoria, BC Canada (so I'm nearby). I'm sure you have received 1000's of letters from people..

I recently came out myself, and although have not received any opposition to my lifestyle, I do see homophobia around me and people doing awful things to others based on there sexual orientation and how wrong it is.

I am fortunate to live here, Victoria is a very gay-friendly city. I was recently in Calgary, Alberta. Alberta, up until a few months ago, was the only province left that could legally discriminate against gays. The laws actually changed while I was there, and I went to a rally/demonstration downtown. There were lots of supporters there and lots of people against it, right down to Catholic nuns.

Anyways I just thought I would drop you this note to say that Bill's story touched me at the heart. I would be curious to know what you do in the gay/bisexual community in Olympia. Thanks.

Take Care :)
-- Jordan Lipsett (jlipsett@netcom.ca)


8/25/98

Dear Gabi,

I am sure you receive many many emails daily about your truly wonderful web page, but I couldn't resist expressing how impressed I was with your story. It is very sad that it takes stories like yours to open people's minds. I think it is very admirable, and impressive that you have opened up your lives as you have for the sake of others. I am an openly gay 18 year old, who has dealt with many of the issues that your son, and millions of other teens have indured their highschool, and young adult lives. I fortunately escaped the hatred, and was able to live with the fact that I was going to face some challenges because of my sexual orientation. It is websites like yours that allow kids to get support, and see that there are parents and other parental figures that do support their lifestyles. I wish you and your family all the best of luck and health. I know that your son, Bill, is with you daily, and is so very proud of you. So am I. Keep up the great work!

Sincerely,
Scott Givarz (Madonnaslv@aol.com)


8/26/98

Dear Gabi,

I have just found out that my oldest son is gay. I found your homepage while trying to find a local chapter of PFLAG so that I can talk to someone who has been through this "coming out" with their children. Being an emotional person anyway, I cried while reading the whole story. I have always thought that I was an open-minded person. I have known gay people and had no problems with their sexual orientations. However, I am now finding out that gay is okay as long as it is not in my immediate family.

I have had 10 days to absorb my son's coming out. I have had many mixed emotions. Although I am trying to understand and get over my predetermined opinions about homosexuality, I know that it will take time. As a mother, my biggest fears are the hate that my son may now face. Also, I am terrified that he will contract AIDS and I don't know that I can face what would lie ahead. I have told only one person (not my husband as I don't know how he will take this news) and she helped me deal with the AIDS issue. She has a 16 year old son who is very interested in girls. She pointed out that gay men may be more careful than heterosexual boys who believe that they will never get AIDS. I had to stop and think about this statement and I guess that I would have to agree.

In reading your story, I find that we are close in age and we both went to school while our children were growing up. In fact, I just had another career change this spring. Although I will eventually be working with younger children I can see me trying to help gay children in my local school system. I live in a very small town and, at this point, would not feel comfortable having people know that my son is gay. I believe that my son, ***, is about your son Noel's age while my son *** would be close to Bill's age. How I wish I had kept a journal while they were growing up - they were such beautiful little boys.

I am sorry that I am rambling on but I have so much going on in my head right now and noone that I can really talk to. I have attempted to contact a local PFLAG chapter and my e-mail was returned. I will be calling a help-line later this week.

I have bookmarked your homepage as I cannot read everything in one sitting. However, I know that I will be able to draw comfort from your tragic story and from all of the responses to your story. I wish I lived closer so that I could meet you.

Good luck in all that you do and thank you for listening.

Judy


8/28/98

Dear Gabi,

I was touched by your son's story. I am a 24 year old gay man who has had my own encounters with depression and suicide.

What a loss it is for the entire nation that your son is not out there today, living and loving as he should. My story is a long and complex one.

I was raised in a very rural conservative Catholic family. I was not as honest with my own sexuality as your son was. Throughout high school, I was one of the tormentors of gays. As someone who has turned 180 around, I can only beg forgiveness from those who have been at the receiving end of hatred and intolerance.

I will link your page with mine as soon as I finish working on it, but for now, please visit my homepage and download a gift from me to you.

With much Love and Sympathy,
Chad Lautner (chadintc@aol.com)
Click the piggy to get there -----> ~(^@^)~


September 15, 1998

Hello, My name is Sammi, and I am so sorry about what happened to Bill. I don't think everyone can help what sex they perfer, I also don't think it is anyone's business as long as that person isn't hurting another individual.

I don't know why so many people has hate in their hearts.... it is a very sad thing indeed.

My son is a little different. He is super bright, and very handsome just like your Bill was. And I don't know what sex he prefers...... but, like you..... I will love him anyway. Because that has nothing to do with his heart ............ But, I worry about him because just in case he is..... I know what lays ahead for him.....

I ran into your page looking for suicide among youths.... because a friend of my son's killed himself last year..... for different reasons.

I am not a good speaker..... so, I am going to close this letter. But, I wanted you to know that I am truly sorry about Bill..... and I am sorry for the pain that he had to experience from a cruel society of people who wants to judge something as wrong.... just because they don't understand it, because of their ignorance on the subject.

May God be with you every minute of the day to help you cope with your loss.....

Yours Truely,
Sammi


September 28, 1998

I want to say that your (Bill's) story is one of the most touching I've ever read. I'm so sorry that your son couldn't live with the injustices of this world. If people could only "live and let live" the world would be a much better place to live. Judge not, lest ye yerself be judged.

I myself am tired of living with the prejudice of the world, but I will not let those prejudices make my life any less fulfilling if I can help it. It makes me sad to see how ignorance can hurt people so badly, even end their lives. That is the worst crime of all.

Serafina Black, Birmingham, Alabama


October 19, 1998

Thanks for your website and your special tribute to your son. I learned about your site while looking up information on Matthew Shepard. I was sorry to read about your son and I know it must still be rough on you at times. I pray your heart is healed of the grief.

Thanks for all the information on your site. Take care and best wishes always.

Richard Williams (Md98Go@aol.com)


October 14, 1998

Dear Mrs. Clayton,

I feel a bit strange writing to a stranger, but I had to. Especially now.

I'm a 39-year-old gay man. I was fortunate enough to be brought up in Amherst, Massachusetts, which, if you don't know, was and is a fairly "progressive" college town (albeit VERY snooty and left-elitist). I guess I'm a member of the first generation of gay teenagers who never had to come out per se...I never had to go through the agony of confusion and self-examination most gay kids had to go through back in the mid 1970s (and today, for that matter). I never pretended to be straight, I never wanted to be straight, I never thought my homosexuality was something to hide or anything to be ashamed of. There were rocky times with certain family members (I was brought up in the R.C. church). There were very uncomfortable moments at school--many kids and some teachers were pretty vicious. But because of what I knew about society and my relationship to it as a homosexual, I never turned the homophobia inwards. As a matter of fact, I became something of a bully, beating up fellow students with my mouth and my fists, getting suspended from school, the whole bit. It's my perception that your son was a much better and more tolerant person than I was at seventeen. I absolutely HATED straight people then.

Fast forward to the present. The news of Matthew Shepherd's murder in Wyoming shook me up very badly. I usually turn a blind eye to the news, paying no attention to it, preferring to "cocoon" in the comfort of being self-absorbed and cynical. But Matthew Shepherd's death has upset me, for reasons I'm not entirely clear about, more than anything has in many, many years. I've lost sleep. I've cried. I've actually been literally nauseated by the whole thing. A darling friend of mine, wanting to give me some solace and relief from the bitterness I'm feeling, pointed me to your web page and to Bill's story. I'm glad he did, more glad than I can say.

After looking over the story itself and the responses to it, I would like you to know that something inside me let go. Something...relaxed. I wish I could express my feelings more clearly than that, but I can't. Perhaps the intense love and warm devotion you've shown your family and humankind act as "spiritual antiacids" for me.

All I know for sure is that you are a virtuous and kind woman and I'm very glad you walk the face of the planet.

Regards and thanks,

Brian Eagan


October 27, 1998

Dear Gabi,

I found your site doing additional, personal research on hate crimes. My motivation was the most recent murder of Matthew Shepard. My own journey is quite young, though I have been troubled my entire life.

I feel honored that you have shared your family's and Bill's story with me. I am grateful to all, you, PFLAG, and all the organizations that are working so hard to have what is so basic human dignity and life.

Thank you again,
Paula (paulaf@rainbowgyrl.net)


October 28, 1998

Thank you for sharing your son's life. I'm not bisexual or gay but you don't have to be to see what a waste it was for Bill's life to end so soon. Hatred is tolerated too much in this country.

Michael Ragland (PhilipsMagna@webtv.net)


October 29, 1998

Dear Gabi--

Hello, I am a 16 year old from Alaska. Yes I am gay. I read your story alot of times about bIll and every time it brought tears to my eyes. I was beat up once for being gay in Ohio. I want to help you in your fight to END gay bashing. If I can be of any assitance please let me know. Currently in Alaska we are fighting to get same sex marriage it is on the Nov. 3 ballot, if you have time look it up in Yahoo----alaska ballot.

Thank you for your time.

Dave Ranck (Cjdr7982 @aol.com)


1998 by Gabi Clayton and the amazing people who contributed to this page.

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