Dear Dustin Lance Black,
It happened several weeks ago. I thought it was mysterious and surprising at first, but then it was very clear to me why you had retweeted our video entitled THE BULLIED AND BRUISED GAY YOUTH OF AMERICA. I had remembered back to 2009 when you won the Oscar for writing MILK. I watched your speech over and over again, and it made me cry. I cried thinking about the LGBT youth out there being taunted for expressing themselves or simply ‘existing.’ You had mentioned how at 13, you moved from a conservative Mormon town to LA, and I thought of how pained I was at 13, and 14, and 15, and 16, and 17 and how I wanted to escape so badly out of my home in Indiana. But I was so worried that the whole world was as hateful as the small bubble I was trapped inside.
Thinking of the 14-year-old version of myself that was being encouraged to hang himself on a daily basis makes me nauseous. I was constantly made to feel ‘lesser than’ by the school staff and administrators when I sought help. The pain felt unbearable, but my screams were almost silent; no one could hear me, or rather, no one would listen. Although I strongly wish this all did not happen, it did. And although it made me stronger, I am now so far immersed into a project and life-plan where I want to expose and represent these stories across the country through my passion. When I come into contact with the families and people connected to the kids who have died, reality hits that I cannot fix it. I cannot bring these boys to life. I so wish I could tell each kid when they were alive that “it’s going to be okay, I promise you will be happy and you’re special and you deserve to be alive.” They needed someone to tell them they were loved. And are still loved.
After researching, studying, and writing about these countless stories of young gay boys killing themselves or being beaten, I wrote a play in memory of their lives and experiences. After 100+ phone interviews and several cross country trips, I have met the families of the most uncovered, underexposed and horrific stories of anti-gay bullying. Many of these boys’ stories are lost in the media. A week after the kid has died, it seems that everyone forgets and stops talking about them. As soon as the word ‘gay’ is placed in front of the name of the victim, the community stops caring, newspapers stop reporting, and people start forgetting. They no longer see this young life as a human of worth. The two stories that break my heart the most are the deaths of 14-year-olds, Rafael Morelos and Phillip Parker, in January 2012. Both openly gay, both horrendously bullied, both hung themselves.
My play that I have written is about 7 students in a room outside an office waiting to meet with the principal regarding their punishment. Set up as a mixture of The Breakfast Club and Waiting for Godot, the story is filled with eruptions of anger, sadness, and humor, and each character reveals why they are there and what has happened to them. A representation of utter loneliness and their desperation to be accepted while waiting in this confined office space that may serve as their eternal ‘limbo.’
Dustin, I need your help. I am 23 years old and trying to make an impact, and I am hitting so many walls. Because of resources, because of money, because so many national LGBT organizations are ‘too busy’ with so many other matters to respond to our inquiries, we need a voice, a platform, someone to stand up and say, “Hey, look at this work!”
I write hundreds of emails and letters a week to people asking to be a part of our movement here in Chicago that opens June 1st. We are creating a resource book for the show so the audience can leave with something that furthers their growth and knowledge about this American problem. My dream would be that this play would perform all over America.
I am alive today because of hope. I did not know of Harvey Milk when I was a kid, but I believe him or someone else was watching over me and gave me the courage to go on. I will keep having hope, and I hope you and I can meet and talk, because I would be so grateful to receive advice on how I could move forward on this project to help change America. To give ALL kids hope.
THE ROCK & THE RIPE
markjblane at gmail dot com