Friday, February 22, 2008

Remembering Lost Lives

For Larry, Ian and Cameron

Tonight I attended a vigil to remember the life of Larry King,
the young gay/transgender 15 year old murdered by a classmate
in Oxnard on February 12th. Some of thehigh schoolers here in
Kansas City organized the event held at a very caring church,
Broadway Church. If I were to need a second faith home, this
engaging congregation would be my choice.

I was humbled by the endeavor undertaken by our youth and I was
embarrassed to stand with them as it is my generation that has
failed them. We must remember that Larry's murderer, a 14 year
old, had to have been taught this hate, this fear, this
disregard for someone unlike himself to have acted in such a
violent manner. For that, I apologize to the youth of my
community. It will be up to them to take on Larry's courage,
the courage he had to be openly gay and wear makeup and heels,
to work for the end of such hatred.

And as we added Larry's name to that of Brandon Teena, Gwen
Araujo and Matthew Shepard, all young lives cut so tragically
short, but now not forgotten, I recalled two other transgender
youth whose lives ended within the last few months and whose
names you are likely not familiar. They both died at their
own hands - but to me this only reflects the pain inflicted
upon them by our society's continuing harrangue for those
who are different.

The first is Ian Benson, a 16 year old who had wonderful
family support. His mother is a founder of TransYouth Family
Advocates. His suicide was seemingly a surprise, he left no
note of explanation. But we've all felt the overt condemnation
- and thus it is no surprise. TYFA has now started the Ian
Benson Project and the Amethyst Ribbon Campaign to raise funds
and awareness for transgender youth who are at an alarmingly
high risk for suicide.

The other is Cameron McWilliams. Cameron lived in South
Yorkshire, England where support for transgenders is about
on par with that here in the United States. According to
Cameron's mother, he had been interested in girls things for
most of his life. He was quiet, shy and mostly a loner with
few friends. Caught once wearing some of his half-sisters
clothing, the harrassing began. His mother did by him some
girls panties to wear underneath his outwardly male clothing.
But he recently pressed for more - to wear makeup, to be a girl.
His mother, who had little knowledge of her child's true needs,
declined the plea. Last week, Cameron was found hanged in his

Cameron was only 10 years old.

It may take a village to raise our children, but it is
that same village that is killing some of them, be it by the
hands of others or the actions of themselves. We can no longer
afford to fail our youth. We can only hope our youth will do
better than we have.

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