My speech at the Seattle's Pride '99 Freedom Rally

On June 25, 1999 I was one of the grand marshals for Seattle's Pride Parade/March and Freedom Rally The rally's theme was "Pride Changes Everything -- Thirty Years After Stonewall". Craig Peterson from Spokane WA was the other grand marshal.

The MC introduced me saying something like "Our other grand marshal is Gabi Clayton from Olympia. One of her sons, Bill, came out as bisexual at 14 and was assured by his family that he was loved and supported. Then at 17 he was assaulted in a hate crime and committed suicide. Gabi is an active member of PFLAG and the Safe Schools Coalition of Washington." Then something like, "Here is Gabi Clayton. Lets show this woman how much we love her..." The applause and cheers was overwhelming.

My speech:

After my son Bill was assaulted in a hate crime in 1995, he lost hope -- seeing a world filled with hate, and he committed suicide.

Thank you for the huge honor of being here as your grand marshal. I am here as a member of PFLAG and The Safe Schools Coalition. It is a privilege to know and work with the people in those organizations.

We shouldn't need them. We shouldn't need organizations to teach people that it is okay to love their gay children, siblings and friends. Or to tell people how unsafe our schools are and help them make schools safe for our gay children. But we DO need them, in a world that, 30 years after Stonewall has come a long way, but is still filled with ignorance, fear and hate.

People sometimes ask me "How did you survive Bill's death?" One way to explain it is to tell you about my friend Steve Schalchlin. He is a songwriter living with AIDS. About four years ago he was SO sick, and his partner Jimmy told him, "Take the pain and turn it into a song." Steve did that, and now he and Jim have a powerful new musical called "The Last Session." They wrote part of my son Bill's story into the play.

And I did that too. I had to do something with my pain from Bill's death. My website and my work with organizations like PFLAG and the Safe Schools Coalition is my song. And I am not singing alone. I'm singing with my husband Alec and my son Noel who are here with me today, and I'm singing with all of you. We are a powerful chorus, and we are raising our song together. That is what I think we are all doing here.

Thank you for inviting and including me here today. You are all wonderful.

-- Gabi Clayton

1999 by Gabi Clayton

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