WP: Coming Out for One of Their Own (gay Oklahoma teen and his hometown)
Coming Out for One of Their Own An Oklahoma Teen Finds Love Where He Least Expected It
By Anne Hull Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page D01
SAND SPRINGS, Okla. -- The fliers arrived three weeks ago. Some came over the fax machines of local churches, and others appeared mysteriously around town. Printed in bold was the heading "Westboro Baptist Church." No seeming cause for alarm. Sand Springs, population 18,500, is a Christian stronghold in the gently rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma.
But the message that followed was a rant against a 17-year-old Sand Springs resident named Michael Shackelford and his mother, Janice, the subjects of a recent Washington Post series examining Michael's struggles as a young gay man in the Bible Belt. The fliers posted a photo of Michael, called him a "doomed teenage fag" and announced that followers of Westboro Baptist in Topeka were on their way from Kansas to stage antigay protests in Sand Springs.
Public theater is the specialty of Westboro Baptist and its minister, Fred Phelps, whose place on the extreme fringe of the antigay movement is symbolized by his Web site, www.godhatesfags.com . But this time, Phelps picked a formidable target....
When Phelps announced that his group was coming to picket at several churches and the high school, fresh battle lines were drawn. To many here, homosexuality was a sin, but Michael Shackelford was their sinner. Just as the November election was reducing moral issues to red or blue, Sand Springs confronted subtler shades of truth. Janice Shackelford was terrified by the persecution of her son, then surprised by what happened next.
"This Westboro outfit thought they could come to this town and break it apart," Janice said. "But it has brought the town together. It has opened some doors to talk."...
Anyway, the bio suggests that in fact he picked on gays at least in part for the same reason that Hitler picked on the Jews: it was a calculated move to unleash pent-up rage--his own, and his followers', his kids in this case, whose own rage was ultimately caused by his mistreament of them; so that picking a scapegoat to rechannel that energy was a brilliant move on Phelps' part. Gays work because they're vulnerable enough to allow for a mainly safe venting of his hatred. Of course, I'm sure he has all kinds of fucked up-ednesses to his sexuality as well; if your entire personality is twisted, for sure your erotic energy is going to be twisted as well. (His obsession with his sons' sex and romantic lives--basically, he didn't want them to have any, unless the wife were willing to come and live in his cult-church, too--is particularly creepy and ugly).
Carol Queen suggests that obsessive sex-phobics of any political flavor, from Jesse Helms to Andrea Dworkin, aren't simply hypocritical or "repressed" as we'd understand it; they actually get off on their own revulsion, if that makes any sense. She even coined a word for it: "absexual."
Anyway, Phelps really is a sort of spiritual twin to Hitler; the only thing separating them is popularity, it would seem. This guy is evil if anyone is.
23. Something must be wrong with him when Falwell says he's a nutcase
There's a documentry about Phelps titled "Hatemonger" which is appropriate. The irony about Phelps homophobia is that he used to be a civil rights arrorney. I guess Phelps version of the bible dosen't say anything about hypocrites.
You know, they say Hitler was actually of Jewish ancestry -- His mother's mother, I believe. But the records that would prove such were strangely "missing". Talk about irony, if he was indeed Jewish, yet caused the deaths of millions of his own people.
Phelps, perhaps much like Hitler did, might be living in denial of who and what he really is. That denial, over time, has festered and become a misguided, violent hate directed towards homosexuals.
with many gay friends-what hell it was for them in the pseudo morality of the Bible Bangers.....The good news is that Oklahoma City now has a strong gay community and it's made a significant contribution to making it a VERY COOL place for arts, music, etc. But the anti gay monster is still alive and breathing, sadly.
They're mostly about whether gays and lesbians can be ordained, or whether they can marry in the church. Currently, the conservative side is holding us to measures against such--but the tide is slowly turning. We liberals will prevail.
Folks like Phelps just sicken me. And his misuse of the Bible is absolutely infuriating. I'm just glad that people stood up to him for once.
Regarding the theory that he's closeted, it's possible. I used to have an old man in my church who: lived alone, never married, and frequently made vague remarks about seeing "scandalous things" in his younger days. Add to this the fact that his favorite topic (that is, he brought it up in almost every conversation) was on the "sinfulness" of homosexuality, and I couldn't help but think he was trying to cover up his true identity.
14. This article -- and the info you can get from it .
Edited on Sun Nov-14-04 03:52 PM by Tesibria
... is at once beautiful and so horrifically scary.
Following the trail of info from this article to the sick website from the Baptist Church headed by Phelps ... (www.godhatesfags.com ) and then to pics posted on the site -- I'm in tears AND utterly sick to my stomach:
Here are posters from these sickos, apparently displayed at the DNC in July:
ON EDIT: I can't stand the pictures disgracing this site so have removed them. Interested parties can find them thru the main site.
But they show people carrying signs: "God Hates America" and "Thank God for 9-11" "God Hates Fags" and "God: USA's Terrorist"
These guys ARE really sick
ON THE POSTIVE SIDE -- is that this sick and twisted thing is causing some people in Michael's church to support him. THAT's positive.
It is things like this that really strike a nerve with me. I myself am not gay but I realize gay people are no different from anyone else. Gay people work and pay taxes, they are in the military, they are human beings the same as me and you, and they deserve to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights as ne and you. So when I see these right wing nuts carry on the way they do about gay people it makes me sick! They call democrats baby killers because we beleive that a women and her doctor should have the rights to make her own choices to her own body. What in the hell do they call what they are trying to do? If they had there way about it they would line gay people up and shoot them one by one. What in the hell do they call that? Is this what they call true christian values? If so they have major problems because this is nothing but humans gone nuts!
17. Ah, our friends the Phelps. Where would we be without them.
Sick as he is, Phelps is useful for the same reason Alan "Looney Tunes" Keyes is useful--he forces people who are saner and more decent than he is to confront the concrete consequences of what has been for most of them, up to that point, pretty much abstract ideology. It's easy enough to endorse the evangelical Christian line on sexual morality until you see what it looks like when it empowers a scary-ass, sadistic, frothing lunatic who has no sense of decency to persecute someone you know.
I want to point out one thing about this story that I think says a lot about how this issue plays out in the political arena. A lot of the support that the community and the church are showing for Michael is tied to the hope that he might eventually be redeemed for heterosexuality. IN other words, they don't want to treat him as evilly as the Phelps family does, not just because they're not that evil, but becuase they're afraid that treating him this way will only drive him into the arms of the devil, i.e., homosexuality. Janice worries that sending Michael off to DC to hang out with the GBLT movers and shakers will confirm his sense of himself as gay--and the article shows it having exactly that effect.
Read from the a queer-positive POV--which I think was probably the POV of the author--it's a story about Michael and his family discovering that his life, his membership in the community, and his identity don't have to end just because he's gay. But read from a queer-unfriendly point of view, the whole story reinforces one of the arguments the Xtian right always makes about issues like gay marriage, which is that by allowing homosexuality to become socially acceptable we are not accomodating homosexuality but actively promoting it, swelling the ranks of GBLT America by recruiting impressionable young men like Michael who might otherwise lead happy heterosexual lives after being reclaimed by their families and churches.
Leaving aside lunatics like Fred Phelps and cynical ideologues like Rick Santorum, the basic struggle over gay rights in this country boils down to that conflict in perspective: what the GBLT community sees as acceptance and equality, the Christian right sees as recruitment.
I don't know how you resolve that conflict. As the Israel/Palestine situation has shown, you cannot negotiate with someone who denies your right to exist. I guess this story might suggest that some kind of compromise is possible, but that it will happen on the local level, in the end.
20. See below; also, I think it works itself out on the pre-rational level
That is, the only real mellowing factor is longterm, constant exposure to real live gay people (or pick your minority) living cheek by jowl with you, as friends, neighbors, family members.
Obviously, this doesn't eradicate prejudice all by itself, as any number of encounters with "Some of my best friends!..." types can testify. And obviously, a lot of communities and families are not going to change overnight (and some won't at all, people being what they are); in the interim is when you see these weird rationalizations going on like Mom buying the excuse that she's trying to save her son from an even more fallen lifestyle than he's been cursed with, or whatever. But over the long haul, it's the only thing that really makes a lasting difference.
I mean, as gross and selfish and ignorant as some of these parents' behavior is, the bottom line is that they love their kids.
And of course, some parents are hateful awful people who will never accept their own flesh and blood, probably because they are in fact incapable of love.
But in general I think you find more people like this mother: conflicted and not very evolved in many ways, but not fundamentally a bad person. I guess I'd say, at least in terms of that town: wait and see what happens. Maybe in another ten years she'll still be holding out the hope that her darling boy is going to terminate his eight-year relationship with his boyfriend and find a nice girl; or maybe not. Or maybe she does still hold onto that hope, but she still invites the S.O. over for family events and tries in her strained way to be polite. You know?
24. he probably helped convince many Canadians same-sex marriage is okay
Phelps was good for at least 2 weeks of material on the CBC's Air Farce/22 Minutes. After his hate-filled rantings against Canada, on the steps of our Supreme Court no less, I suspect that some people who were noncommittal on the issue figured that anything he disliked HAD to be good.
That's the classic way to get Canadians to do something, folks ... tell us the Americans (ideally, represented by an ugly caricature like Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, or George W. Bush) are opposed to it.
The prospect of "burning in hell" isn't particularly unattractive to us, compared with a "heaven" populated by those types.
Does he know that he does his own cause more harm than good?
My alma mater had the honor being picketed by the Phelps clan while I was there a few years ago. Nashville, TN was considering adding sexual orientation to the city non-discrimination policy, and Phelps showed up to protest that. Vanderbilt (a fairly conservative school, by any measure) turned out a large number of supporters of the idea, and we all went with big signs saying things like "Vanderbilt Students Support Gay Rights." I think Phelps took notice, and a month later came by to protest "Sodomy U aka Vanderbilt." I tell you, that man has some memory for grudges. The school and the student body officially ignored him.
19. This is starting to sound like the early de-segregation days in some ways
Edited on Sun Nov-14-04 06:10 PM by belle
Middle America is finally beginning to what the "moral battle" often comes down to: savage murders, overt repression, and even harassing children.
But yeah: one difference is that African Americans don't usually have to "come out" as African American to their own family. Although I suppose there's still a lot of internalized shame and ambivalence over "passing," especially if you had mixed ancestry and "white-looking" features and coloring. And a lot of pressure to behave like the mainstream, there too, even if full "conversion" isn't expected.
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