TW: death, murder.
Today, May 13, was the final day of the Week of Action 2012. It is also the 24th anniversary of the day Rebecca Wight was killed. I admit that has been at the front of my thoughts today – on this day, at this time, her life ended – and I have been struggling with it. Much love to her family this time of year. The theme today was rainbow, which stands for hope and promise, but it was difficult to see hope and promise while thinking about murder. Nevertheless, I feel it has been a productive Week – exhausting, emotionally draining at times, and difficult, but it has been well worth it. I accomplished what I set out to do – challenge others to make a difference. I wish I could have done more, but I think what I was able to accomplish was fine.
I plan to continue holding a Week of Action every year. The people who were memorialized during the Week are important. Their stories are important. They are the reason I do the things I do. This Week is my way of paying tribute to their memory and pushing for a future where such things do not happen any more. Though it may not get any easier for me to come to terms with the events of the past, I hope that the work I do with this movement and elsewhere help to change people. Even if it is just one person, one life that I change with this, it will be worth it. The goal is idealistic, to make the world a better place for LGBT people, but not impossible. I hope to be a part of seeing that happen.
I have learned and gained a lot from this event. New insights. A reminder of the reason that I fight. The opportunity to be confident, to reach out to people. Even when it has been difficult to get through, it has been worth it. And even though the Week has ended for this year, I plan to keep the blog semi-active until next year’s event. Unfortunately, I will not be able to write the stories from days 5 and 6. It isn’t that I gave up on the Week – I saw it through, but I was just not able to write them anymore. I reached a point where they just became too sad.
How has your Week of Action gone? Do you feel you accomplished the challenge? Is there anything you did that you would like to share?
Day four of the Week. Hard to believe it’s almost over. I saw a number of people who had been told about the movement show up in green today; I saw people who had been directed to the website reacting to the victims’ stories due to the human aspect of them. One of the instructors I had asked to take part made Amendment One and Obama’s support for LGBT people a talking point during their history class. People have told me about the things they have done and plan to do, taking the challenge to heart to do something positive for the LGBT community.
My girlfriend T., who is also taking part in the Week in a different state, had something happen to her today that she was not expecting. She has chosen to do a much smaller-scale version of what I have done to spread the word – symbolic colors, clothing with names written on to attract attention and inquiry. One girl, who is a member of their school’s GSA but never speaks during the meetings, approached her after school and asked her what she was doing. While she was giving the What I’m Doing and Why speech, talking about the challenge for the Week, the girl burst into tears and came out to her. She said she wanted to be out, wanted to do things to help the LGBT community, but she was afraid to. T. was not sure how to react, but told her that the hardest part is over, taking the first step, and that she had support – in fact, it might surprise her just how much support she could find. She said the girl seemed relieved to have told someone.
The theme for Day 4 was green, which symbolizes nature. Many of the people assigned to this color were nature lovers, or found freedom, safety, and peace in the outdoors. The color green also has to do with being natural – people who were always themselves. Today was Rebecca Wight’s color day; her story is the longest because she is the specific person who has had the largest impact on me as well as the person I could find the most information about. There are ten people who I felt were best suited by the color green. Memorialized today are: Rebecca Wight, Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, Eudy Simelane, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, Allen Schindler, Talana Kreeger, Dominic Crouch, and Tyli’a Mack.
Edit 2/2014: Stories have been removed. They served their purpose but have been removed due to misuse.
Due to technical difficulties, I will not be able to post the recap and write-up for Thursday, May 10 – Day 4 until tomorrow. My computer has overheated itself and refuses to turn back on; I am currently writing from my phone. The posts for Days 4 and 5 should both be up tomorrow.
TW: some mention of death, loss.
Day three of the Week; we are just about halfway through. Today was not as eventful for me as the first two days have been. There were still some opportunities to speak out on LGBT issues, including Amendment 1 in North Carolina (which did, unfortunately, pass), some of which I created for myself. There is a strong possibility I will be leading my school’s GSA next year; we have thought about a potential goal for next year as well. I saw some of the people I had told about the Movement show up today wearing yellow in support and solidarity. But as a whole, there was not much that happened today, at least with me.
Today, I realized something as well. Having the pictures of the fallen plastered over the mirror is forcing me to be real. I’ve found myself glancing up at the mirror today, like I would normally do at any random moment during the day, to see if my hair looked okay or if there were any visible signs of tear tracks on my face, etc., but I can’t see the mirror. I see them instead. Not only do they remind me that there are more important things to be concerned with, they remind me that it can be incredibly freeing to be real. They were real. They lived the lives they wanted to lead, without hiding, without worrying about the negative things such a life might create for them. If they could, why can’t I? What good reason do I have not to? The answer is that there is no good reason.
Wednesday’s theme was yellow, which represents sunshine. The people assigned to this category had personalities you could describe as bright or sunny, or radiating happiness and warmth. There were eleven people assigned yellow: Larry King, Seth Walsh, Ryan Skipper, Lateisha Green, Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, Courtney Bright, Jamey Rodemeyer, Michael Sandy, Scotty Joe Weaver, John Lloyd Griffin, and Tommy Lee Trimble.
Edit, 2/2014: Stories have been removed. They served their purpose but have been removed due to misuse. -Meg
Day two of the Week; already it seems to be flying by. I was not able to recruit as many people to take part today – that was largely my goal for yesterday – but there were still plenty of opportunities to take action in other forms. In fact I would say there were an unusual amount of opportunities today; it’s not often that LGBT issues just “come up” out of the blue where I live. In my first period, the topic of North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment One came up. Twenty people heard me out on why they should never support an amendment like that, no matter where it is, and there was mostly affirmation in response. There were other LGBT issues brought up throughout the day. I have also been informed there are events being planned for an Indiana teen who is facing expulsion for defending himself against a gang of bullies, and I hope to take part. It was odd but not unwelcome that there were so many venues to speak out today; it was almost as if I was being invited to speak, or dared, by some higher force. I don’t actually believe in such things, but it was unusual!
The theme today was orange, which symbolizes healing. This was probably the hardest category to place people in; it was hard to see “healing” of any kind where there is murder, suicide, loss, and horror. In the end, the people I placed in this category are those whose stories had something positive turn out from them, or signified the healing the nation needed to do after their death, or, in the opposite direction, those whose deaths are fresh wounds, that we have not yet and perhaps can not yet heal from. There are nine people selected for this category: Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi, Samantha Johnson, Tyra Hunter, Bill Clayton, Juana Vega, Nicholas West, Tiffany Berry, and Billy Lucas. Their stories can be found below.
Edit 2/2014: Stories have been removed. They served their purpose but have been removed due to misuse. – Meg
Today kicked off the first day of the Week and I thought it went extremely well. I spoke to fourteen people about the movement and its purpose, redirecting eight to this blog, and caught the eye of a number of others. Several people were interested and took on the challenge to do something positive for the LGBT community. People asked about my shirt and my ribbons, asked what the Week of Action was about, asked what the the names on the shirt signified. When I told them that all the names on the shirt were all the names of people who had either been killed or committed suicide for being LGBT, they reacted. No one simply returned to what they were doing – they reacted. They reacted with shock, empathy, sadness, resolve, and they wanted to do something. They asked what they could do to stop such things from continuing to happen. I didn’t expect to garner the interest I did today – it was a productive first day and I look forward to the rest of the Week.
The theme for today was red, which symbolizes life. The people memorialized specifically today are those who I felt could best be described with that symbol – those you could describe as lively, or energetic, or full of life, or having a zest for life. There are twelve people who were designated red: Gwen Araujo, Fred Martinez Jr., Cathleen Thomas, Sakia Gunn, Steven Mercado, Ncumisa Mzamelo, Amancio Corrales, Andrew Anthos, Asher Brown, Steen Fenrich, Sanesha Stewart, and Ukea Davis. You can read their stories below.
Edit 2/2014: Stories have been removed. They served their purpose but have been removed due to misuse. – Meg
TW: mentions of death due to suicide and anti-LGBT violence.
This is a question I received a number of times today – what exactly I am challenging people to do through the Week. I don’t feel I have been entirely clear on this and wanted to address it here; sometimes it’s easy to forget that those around me are hearing about this for the first time when I’ve been thinking it through for three months.
How to Take Action During the Week
The force that drives the Week of Action is the concept behind it: we are joining together to promote and create a better world for LGBT people, in honor of those who lived and died in a world that was not. These are the murder victims, these are the suicides, these are the people who are no longer with us because our world is not a safe place for LGBT people. We who take part in this movement are the people who are sick to death of such a world. We are the people who want that to change. That is our common goal: we want to help make things better for LGBT people of today and tomorrow, so stories like the ones of those remembered here cease to keep happening.
Is it an idealistic goal? Yes. Is it impossible? No. My challenge to everyone who takes part is to do one positive thing for the LGBT community, just one act that makes the world a little bit better for LGBT people. I intentionally left the “action, awareness, and activism” bit as vague as possible, because I want the Week of Action Movement to be what people make of it, an event that is open-ended enough that they can make it theirs. I don’t have specific things I am asking people to do for the Week. Whatever you feel compelled to do, whatever you feel would make a positive impact – this is your opportunity to do it. It can affect a whole community or it can affect just a single person. It can be something large and world-changing or it can be something small and simple. Give it some thought – what does it mean to you when I say, “do something positive for the LGBT community”? There is no one way to take action and there are no wrong ways to do it.
Perhaps make a point to talk about LGBT issues this week. Perhaps fight to change legislation or fight to remove anti-LGBT laws in place. Perhaps reach out and let someone know, “You are not alone, and I am supportive”, or say something next time you hear someone make a cissexist or heterosexist comment. That challenge is whatever you take it to mean, whatever action means something to you. I am choosing to speak out in a way people cannot ignore – there are 69 names, 69 people with 69 stories, displayed visibly on the ribbons flying from my bag; today alone I have had 14 people inquire as to why they are there. When I tell them these are all people who have either been killed or killed themselves for no other reason than being LGBT, they react. They’re forced to. That’s what I have chosen to do for the Week – get people to react so they become interested in the goal, feel they should do something for the LGBT community as well. The goal of a better world for LGBT people is what unites us during the Week – what exactly you choose to do is entirely up to you.