June 22nd, 2004

A Mother Talks Back to the Bigots

A Mother Talks Back to the Bigots: 'I've had Enough of your Anti-Gay Venom'

By Sharon Underwood
For the Valley News
(White River Junction, Vermont/ Hanover, New Hampshire)

As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be.

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?
Sharon Underwood lives in White River Junction, Vt.


I checked the TCW mail on the way into work this morning, and then, on a whim, stopped at the Cup A Joe's on Hillsborough Street to see if the June edition of The Urban Hiker had come out yet. To my absolute delight, it had!

I grabbed about 6 copies, and left. I didn't open it all the way into work, as I wanted to have time to take it in when I did.

In the office, I closed my door and opened the magazine. There it was, the third story in the table of contents:

My Detainment.....................................................John Martin 33
"He kept looking at his computer screen, looking up at me, and back."

I really liked the editing done to, and illustrations included with, the article. The "cut outs" were great, too. I absolutely loved the teaser they'd put just under the title on page 33. It said, "JOHN MARTIN meets a suspicious character: himself" Too funny, and just perfect. I had only two minor complaints about it: 1) My opening sentence was relocated. I agree that the opening left was a better one, but I didn't at all like the place to which it was relocated. It just doesn't flow there. Though, I have to say, I assessed where it might better have fit, and couldn't find a place. 2) They put my bio at the end of the second to the last page of where my story ends. So it looks like my story ends there. However, if you stop reading there it is decidedly not a good ending, precisely because there's more on the next page.

Silly as I am, I have placed a yellow sticky over my bio that says, "Story ends on the next page," in the copies I've given out.

I presented our pillar's work on Effectiveness Analysis to the TIGR team at our weekly meeting, and Jennifer was really impressed with the work. Finally, someone gets it.

Only Suzanne and I showed up for bookclub, and we had a good time catching up. She told me about her sailing weekend, which was a very fun story.

I was on an absolute high today about being published, and shared the news with different people throughout the day. During the afternoon, Robert and I made plans to celebrate tonight at 518 West. They have this killer dessert there that we've been looking for a good excuse to indulge in. Voila!

Knowing I was going to eat a lot tonight, I walked 5 miles after work tonight. I had a brilliant (so I think) thought while walking today. At Carmichael, it's 6.5 laps per mile on the indoor track. It's really a hassle to keep track of your laps, especially if you're going to walk five miles: that's 32.5 laps!

I had told Steven yesterday when we were walking that I keep meaning to look in the sporting goods section of K-Mart or Wal-Mart the next time I'm there to see if they have any of those little clickers that you can just hold and click once every time you come around to the start area.

Well, today, while walking, I just happen to have my cell phone with me in case Robert called about coming over early or being late or anything. While I was walking I thought of using it to keep track of the laps! So, I used the calculator function to count the laps. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to do add one each time: press the "select" key to select +, then the number 1, then the "<" key to back up to the equal sign, the "select." Coolio. This has the added advantage of having a good excuse to have your phone with you while you walk. :-)

I tried to call Robert on my way home, but there was no answer. When I got to my place, he was already there. I showered real quick, and we left for our 8:00 reservation.

We were a little early, but they had a table available, so we were seated right away. We had both already perused the menu online, so pretty much already knew what we wanted. I ordered a bottle of the house champagne, and we ordered the focaccia bread with herbed artichoke dip for an appetizer. Robert ordered the Lemon Linguine and I had The Crab for entrees. It was all good, and the dessert was beyond belief:

Fresh Banana Brioche Bread Pudding - Caramelized bananas baked between custard soaked layers of rich, house made egg bread. Topped w/ cinnamon ice cream, toasted walnuts & caramel sauce.

We had great dinner conversation, and I felt so good for the way my life is going right now. I thought about how in some sense, I feel like my life is racing toward something. It's a weird feeling. It's so good, and it's getting better almost exponentially. Where does something like that end? I feel like my writing has gotten incredibly prolific lately, which I love, but wonder, "Why?" It's just weird. Though wonderful.

It was just a great, great day today, seeing my story published. I was so grateful to have a wonderful man in my life to share the moment with me, too.