There comes a point in history when a man is put to the test and can either fail or succeed. He can either hide, ashamed, and return to his place of comfort, or he can stand firm and fight. Today, a band of men stand tall, primed for another victory. Bloody battle after bloody battle, they remain the champions of freedom and the kings over the defeated, sharing the spoils of a war that should have never been waged.
The war goes on, and the enemy continues to fight. As in wars of the past, brother is pitted against brother, neighbor against neighbor. Property is seized, and lives are lost. Each man joins the ranks of the campaign with whom his conscience relates. Tears are shed as mothers watch their young boys march to the front lines; if they return home, they will return stronger.
The conflict, like many before, started in some of our most pacific institutions, places that, up until now, were regarded as safe havens and bastions of peace and were supposed to be the last places in which hostilities would arise. These schools, churches, and homes are where the first shots were fired. No one intended these small conflicts to grow into a full-fledged war, but they did. Some of the first shells launched were words like "faggot" and "fairy," fired through the mouths of aggressors like a howitzer. The small disagreements soon escalated into feuds, factions were formed, and the debate swept into the political arena, where our leaders would soon be forced to take a side.
And here is how it began.
Dec. 19, 1994, 9 p.m., at a stately home on Saint Albans Street in St. Paul, Minn. The kitchen light turns off. Seventeen-year-old Kyle has just finished up his homework when his mother and father enter his room with his diary in hand. Mom asks if the stuff about him in the diary are true. Kyle nods his head in the affirmative. Dad responds, "Well, then I am afraid you are not welcome in our home anymore."
Sunday-morning service at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, 2004. Elijah and his family sit down in the front pew, ready for the impending sermon. Fifteen minutes in, Elijah's face turns beat-red from anger and embarrassment as the pastor starts shouting about the abomination of homosexuals.
May 22, 1989, 2:30 p.m., outside the high school in Palmyra, Va. Benjamin is on his way home when he is stopped by three members of the football team, who proceed to mock him by talking with lisps and dancing around him, ridiculing his less-than-masculine demeanor. Then the taunting turns into shoving, and shoving turns into a total beat-down. After the bullies have had enough, Benjamin lies there, physically and emotionally crushed.
Though years apart, the experience of each child stays with him, growing year after year into what feels like a ball of fire in the pit of his stomach. The events are not isolated. Each is marked by the extinguishing of a beam of light where hope once was. One by one, small parts of the world go dark where a young man lost a part of his soul, his innocence stolen by acts of cruelty. Shamed and shattered, each of the wounded desperately seeks a friend and an identity, and it is through this quest for brotherhood that a common bond is found. Where a cold vacuum once was, a radiant beam now shines. Sometime in the past decade there came a turning point. One by one the beams of light return. Flashes of confidence intensify as the courage to be oneself became more a reality than a dream. Before long the world lights up like a pulsar as strength is compounded through the airing of shared wounds and the camaraderie of combat.
As warriors come together in brotherhood, fighting like the Sacred Band of Thebes, we become unstoppable and unafraid. We come back from battle, hardened and brazen, like finely tempered steel, transformed from a weak piece of iron into a solid, stress-resistant, gleaming piece of machinery. Though we aren't fighting a traditional war, we are soldiers nonetheless, soldiers who, when called upon, will draw their sword to protect the younger ones from the hurt that they once endured, soldiers drafted into an army not by choice but by providence. Guided by God, we are soldiers who will continue to march head-on into the phalanx of a wicked but determined force, not for pride but because it is the right thing to do.
And when the war is over, though it may never be, we will not celebrate but will grieve for our brothers injured in battle. No, we will not delight in victory but will mourn for our brethren who lost their lives in a war that should have never been waged. But for now we stand together, a brilliant light of courage and bravery, as gay warriors.