Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts November 4, 2008

eeNOTE: I wrote this last night but did not post until I contacted my daughter and asked if she was OK with it. She is very gratified and wants to share with her friends. A couple of my other friends also told me to go ahead with it, so here goes...

I told myself that if Obama won tonight I would do something I have been putting off for years. It is not easy living in a place where you feel outnumbered and alone, and that is how I felt for many years teaching in a very conservative Texas county. Recently I moved to my new home town where I can breathe easier. I found it a lot less difficult on a university campus to admit I was a lifelong Democrat and that I opposed the Iraq war. It is not easy to be a Democrat in my old home county. Gosh, it's just about as bad as coming out and saying you are gay. And speaking of gay, well, that is what this piece is about. No I am not talking about myself, but rather about my beautiful, smart, talented daughter. My friends know she is gay and so does our family. But I don't talk about it publicly. And why is that? Well, it is a personal thing. I have never felt that one's orientation was something that called for public discussion.

So why talk about it tonight? The reason is that I am hoping that tonight a few halting steps toward tolerance were taken. And maybe I can do a little by saying how proud I am of my daughter. She is one of the most courageous people I know. After earning a degree in Music Composition from University of North Texas, she moved from our beloved state to live in Oregon where she could feel more accepted, striking out on her own with just a few acquaintances there. Though it was hard to see her move so far away, I grew happy to see her there because I realized she was safer in Portland OR, than she was in Texas circa turn of the millennium. I am also proud of her friends. There is Megan, who is on full scholarship in Bozeman Montana, working on a master's degree in creative writing. There is Dexter, another accomplished writer and musician who toured the country last year reading her stories, and Renee, with her hard-earned English degree, and Haley, and Vanessa, and Tamara, and too many others to name. There are her fellow musicians like Ben, who do not judge people by the narrow parameters set by small minded people who would put God in a box, label Him neatly, and never consider that His priorities are not the same as theirs. So now I am publicly sharing my pride in Emily and all her amazing friends. Let's work to make our country a place where everybody can feel save and proud and confident in every region, state, and town.

To educators I offer this plea. You know who the kids are in your school that are struggling with their sexuality. They may not have come to terms with their selfhood, but they know that they are different. In your heart you know that being different, for whatever reason, IS NOT A CHOICE. No one wakes up and says, gee! I think I will map out a life that puts me in a hated minority! I think it is so tempting to take a path that will make my life infinitely harder, possibly lose my own family, and decrease my civil rights. Please also remember those kids who are not gay, but socially inept, or too precocious for their peers, or not physically attractive, or just plain eccentric. Defend those books on your school and classroom library shelves that can help them, whether they are about penguins or tomboys. Welcome these youngsters in your classrooms and libraries. Don't turn your head in the hallway or cafeteria when they are singled out, ridiculed, and harassed. Let your library or classroom be a safe haven, but more than that, work to make your whole school a safe haven for all students, regardless of race, RELIGION, appearance, sexual orientation, or any other thing that separates and isolates youngsters.

Oh and, if you have read this far, thanks for hearing me out! I cannot resist sharing a couple of web sites. First, here is Emily's MySpace. If you have never visited MySpace, you should know that it started for musicians and artists. Emily's first song, "Has Country Gone to Hell," has been on Neil Young's Songs of the Times list for over two years, having reached #1 on a number of occasions. Of course if things get better in Iraq and in our country, the song may be less relevant, but I think she would settle gladly for that trade-off. Here is the URL: http://www.myspace.com/emilyherring
And here is Ben's site. He is an outstanding artist as well as musician:
And just as one more example of the amazingly talented people who use MySpace in a constructive way, here are another of her friend's pages. He is also both an artist and a musician. Take a look at that incredible guitar!


  1. Good for you for speaking up! I myself have no "dyed in the wool" politic party. I choose to vote for people, which took a while this year. But shame on all of us who make you and your daughter feel like it's not okay to be who you are. I HATE that my kids are growing up in a world like that! I know it's better than it used to be, but we have such a long way to go. Keep making noise and make everyone listen, because that's who you are and we should respect you as you respect us!

  2. We recently received about four new titles about being gay. A girl happened to see one of them lying near the circ desk and was overjoyed. "I didn't think you would have books about this" was her comment. I responded, "Why wouldn't we? We're the library.We have something on everything." This led to a search of other titles and me giving her some call numbers to check out. She left a very happy patron. It felt good to make her happy.

  3. Thanks for comment! I have, through Emily, met far too many young people who feel so marginalized that they are so glad to be accepted that it is very touching. Many times they will tell me how great it is to see a mother who is accepting of her child. This perhaps makes me most sad. So many kids and young adults are estranged from their families. Can anyone really think that their God would favor those who turn away their own children because of dogma?