Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why I chose to be gay, Matthew Esquivel's response, and Why I chose to be gay, part 2

I have to say that my final two weeks as a writer for the Daily Campus ended on an interesting note. The following is my original article, followed by Matthew Esquivel's response, and finally my response to his response.
Since the articles have been published, I've received over 35 positive emails. The responses have been amazing to read, and I would love to hear your reaction to the articles. Enjoy.

Why I chose to be gay

When I was four or five years old, I could frequently be found in a dress, playing with Barbies, or watching the television show, Gem. You know, that cartoon where the animated girl with the pink hair had a rock star alter ego? Yes, that’s the one. Even though I knew it’d be over after thirty minutes, I don’t think it ever ended without me shedding a few tears. When I was six, due to my obsession with the movie, The Wizard of Oz, I insisted upon dressing up as the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with green makeup, the black pointy hat, and long fake nails to boot. When I was seven or eight, I told my friends and family that when I grew up, I wanted to be a makeup artist, a hairdresser, or a figure skater. Pretty gay, right?
I know that some of you are already wondering where my parents were through all of this. What kind of parents would let their son act as if he were their daughter? Well, I don’t know what they discussed behind closed doors, but I’m pretty sure that they weren’t exactly thrilled to have a boy whose favorite pastimes include collecting figurines, painting fingernails, and walking around in high heels. If nothing else, I’m sure they were worried about how other children would treat me. To be completely honest, it wasn’t all pink and pretty. My dad would take me camping, fishing, to ball games, and all of the other expected activities for a father and son to participate in. However, I still remember when he took me to the toy store for my birthday one year, and I had the choice between a G.I Joe fort and a Barbie Corvette. I guess I was beginning to pick up on what society considered to be normal, and I selected the fort. When we got in the car, I started crying. I wanted that pink corvette more than anything in the world, and my dad didn’t even have to ask me why I was upset. He held my hand as we walked back in the store and made the exchange.
I want to be clear that not every gay man played with dolls as a child, and not every boy that does turns out to be gay. However, most boys with similar childhood inclinations do not grow up in accepting homes. Many of my friends have told me stories about how they were scolded or even punished for participating in feminine activities even though they were only doing what felt natural to them. Imagine what it must feel like to an innocent child who is made to feel as though something is wrong with them, taught at an early age to put on a show, to be someone that they are not. The damage is different for every individual, but I know firsthand that the side effects never truly disappear.
When I was in the fourth grade, I remember running home crying. Someone at school had called me a “gay wad”. I didn’t really understand what it meant, but I knew from the way that it was said and the way that the other kids laughed, that it wasn’t a compliment. I couldn’t understand it. I was a nice to everyone and always tried to do the right thing. How could I be something so awful?
By sixth grade, my first year in middle school, I knew what being gay meant. I also understood that I was, in fact, what that kid had called me two years before. Because I owned a Bible of my own, I went through and read all of the verses pertaining to homosexuality. It was torturous, and while I would later realize that I had allies in my struggle, I felt alone at the time and forced to hide. I prayed to God every night that year that He would change me…that He would make me normal. I had girlfriends to try and fit in, but my parents had taught me the difference between right and wrong. I knew that lying was wrong, and I began to wonder why it was safer and more acceptable for me to lie to everyone than to just be honest.
Today, as I write this, I am being more honest than I have ever been. While I know that many people won’t be too happy about what I’m about to say, I know it’ll be worth it if this reaches even one person who desperately needs to hear that their sexuality does not make them a good or a bad person.
To this day, there is a war being waged against homosexuality. Whether it’s as extreme as the radical groups who hold up signs that read, “God hates fags,” or well- intentioned friends or family members who uses a variation of the sentence, “I love and accept you, but I don’t support your lifestyle,” the effects are the same. Most people, who don’t approve of homosexuality, believe that it is a choice. While it seems obvious to me that physical attraction is a trait beyond one’s control, others disagree. I have had friends who have been sent to camps and programs to be changed (yes, they do exist) and have come out broken, confused, and still…well, gay. In fact, these types of organizations and counselors who believe in similar methods have done nothing but increase the suicide rate amongst gay teens, which is the highest of any other group.
Even if a man or woman who is attracted to the same sex ignores their desires and lives a life of celibacy, he or she is still gay. While I prayed every night in the sixth grade to wake up and be interested in girls, it never happened. If it happens tomorrow, I promise to retract this article as soon as I regain consciousness and dump my boyfriend.
Why someone would ever choose to be treated as a second-class citizen without the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals, put his/herself at risk of being a victim of a hate crime, or risk being disowned by their own families is beyond my comprehension. So if choosing to not be gay means going to back to the way I felt in sixth grade when I would cry myself to sleep at night because of fear and shame, then yes, I choose to be gay.

Why I chose to be a child of god, by Matthew Esquivel (

Curtis Hill told us last Wednesday in The Daily Campus why he chose to be gay. I can relate to his article in many ways because I have struggled with homosexuality. I say "struggle" because I have always believed what the Bible says about homosexual behavior, but I could not deny my thoughts and feelings. I didn't ask God or anyone else for them. I struggled with not knowing what to do about them.
As I have continued growing in my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ, though, God has shown me that my thoughts and feelings do not define who I am. This was hard to accept at first, but I chose to believe God's word over what I thought or felt.
Curtis Hill wrote that one's "sexuality does not make them a bad person." I say that your sexuality does not define who you are. Hill also commented, "To this day, there is a war being waged against homosexuality." I believe there is an even greater war being waged against the identity of this generation. So many are defining themselves by their sexuality, accomplishments, failures, culture or background, appearance or what someone else thinks - the list goes on. None of these define a person. What does define us? Jesus Christ. The word of God.
Romans 1:25-26 says, "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." What we believe about God and about ourselves directly affects how we behave. If our beliefs stray from God's word, then so will our actions, and we will suffer the consequences. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). I choose life by putting my faith in Jesus, believing his word and following him.
I do not believe that a person chooses to be attracted to men or to women, but I do believe that a person chooses to engage in the behavior. I believe that the term "homosexual" describes what a person does, not who a person is. A liar is someone who lies. A murderer is someone who murderers. An adulterer is one who commits adultery. If someone were to commit these against you or someone you know, would you accept the reasoning of, "I was born this way," or, "This is how God made me"? God did not make anyone a liar, a murderer, an adulterer or a homosexual. He made us in his image, according to his likeness with a purpose and destiny of knowing him, knowing Jesus intimately, and ruling with him in his kingdom (Genesis 1:26, John 17:3). However you were 'born,' Jesus says that "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The Apostle Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Following Jesus involves us experiencing a changed life and a changed way of thinking and believing.
I invite everyone reading this to turn from everything the Bible calls sin and turn to Jesus Christ. I also invite you to stop defining yourselves with anything but Jesus and his word. Jesus warns us that Satan has come "to steal, kill and destroy," but Jesus came that we might have life "to the fullest measure" (John 10:10). If you are defining who you are by anyone or anything besides Jesus, then you are allowing Satan to rob you of your destiny in Jesus the Messiah and the fullness of life he offers.
I have become more and more secure in who I am as a child of God. This has been a gradual process motorized by daily speaking and believing the Bible. My Christian friends have been essential. They remind me of what God's word says about me: I am a child of God. A friend of Christ. A saint. Redeemed and forgiven. All through - and only through - faith in Jesus Christ. He defines me. Nothing else. There is a war against our identity. I choose to be a child of God through Jesus Christ and experience life in the fullest measure.

Matthew Esquivel is a senior vocal performance major. He can be reached at mesquive@

Why I chose to be gay, Part 2

I had a different idea for what my final article in The Daily Campus before graduation would be about, but I had to scrap it when I read Tuesday's paper. It's not like I didn't think I'd be having this kind of exchange when my article, "Why I chose to be gay," ran last Wednesday, but I guess I just assumed that the hateful statements wouldn't be coming from a vocal performance major. In my deeply personal article, I shared stories of my childhood and the struggle that I went through in coming to terms with my sexuality. I was inspired and humbled by all the e-mails that I received from people who related to my story and thanked me for sharing it. Yesterday, Matthew Esquivel wrote a response to my piece entitled, "Why I chose to be a child of God." He sent me a polite e-mail notifying me of its publication, and I'm glad he did. OK, maybe I'm not so glad that I had to read it, but I'm elated that I get this chance to respond. While I'm sure his article was written from an honest and caring place, it is offensive and out of touch with reality.

To begin, the title alone implies that anyone who identifies as anything but heterosexual is not a child of God. I would like to hope that this isn't the sort of message that any Christian would like to be sending. Whether Matthew Esquivel likes to admit it or not, he is gay. Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to women are homosexuals. He may choose to live his life asexually (Lord only knows why), but that cannot change his sexual orientation. His assessment that "the term homosexual describes what a person does, not who a person is," sounds more like an attempt to distance himself from…well, himself, rather than anything based in the truth. I can't blame him though. I would also still be running from homosexuality if I thought of it as he does. The fact that he would find it appropriate to compare the love I have for my partner to the actions of liars, murderers and adulterers is a perfect illustration of what is so incredibly wrong in this world. As a liberal Democrat, I respect the right of all people to express their opinions and beliefs, regardless of how much I disagree with them. And as much as it pains me to think that Matthew Esquivel will go through his entire life ignoring his own natural feelings, I completely respect his right to do so. It's just important to me that people get both sides of an argument and hear that it is possible to both be gay and believe in God. There are many churches, even in our area, that would find Esquivel's statements to be deeply offensive and in opposition to Christian teachings.

One of the e-mails that I received last week came from someone who was still dealing with the scars from being taken to psychiatrists and given medications in their parents' attempt to "fix" them. Another response came from an SMU alum, a fraternity member who spent a large portion of his time in college drinking, trying to cope with the pain that came along with hiding his sexuality. No one deserves to feel that way, and as much as I respect Matthew Esquivel's right to live his life in the manner that he chooses and to share his opinions in the same way that I share mine, I do not respect his message. His message is one of ignorance and is rooted in bigotry.
I am not a liar, a murderer or an adulterer. I am a kind and caring male who happened to fall in love with another kind and caring male. I could choose to never touch him, never hold his hand, hug him or kiss him goodnight. I could choose not to hold him when he's sad or tell him how much I love him, but it wouldn't change the fact that I do. It wouldn't change me, my sexuality or my status as "a child of God." So, much to the disappointment of Matthew Esquivel and anyone else who thinks I should live my life pretending to be something I'm not, I choose a life of authenticity and happiness. I choose to be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Saved Jager for Hillary

My weekend in Pennsylvania

The light rail screeches unpleasantly as we turn the corner away from the Baltimore Washington International Airport. The route takes me through downtown, passed smoke stacks and Camden Yards, before reaching my stop in Hunt Valley. I am meeting Frank Pratka, a volunteer whom I have only spoken with on the phone. He offered to drive me to the regional campaign office in York, Pennsylvania, and because I didn’t want to pay for an hour-long cab ride, I figured I’d chance it. The train ride is long and complete with two electrical shorts that cause us to halt unexpectedly, but it gives me a chance to reflect on how and why I’m sitting here right now. Exactly one month has passed since the March 4 Texas Primary, and while I’ve been completely focused on projects, papers and deadlines, I knew that I somehow had to find my way back on the trail. As I look out through the window at the cloudy gray sky hovering above inner city properties, factories, and the occasional display of dilapidated foliage, I know that I am headed for the battleground.
Next stop, Hunt Valley. I call Frank to let him know I’ve arrived. He is there waiting in his orange convertible Volkswagon Beetle, complete with colorful flags and a “celebrate diversity” sticker stuck proudly to his dashboard. I find out later that he took the day off work to drive me to York and volunteer. I like Frank.
Before I know it, we arrive in York City, PA. I am greeted by my friend and Regional Field Director for South Central Pennsylvania, Graeme Joeck, who I first met at a Hillary Clinton rally in Dallas, Tx. I spend the day helping to prepare turf packets for the statewide weekend of canvassing ahead, where along with other volunteers, I will go door to door to talk to voters and identify Clinton supporters. In a world where people barely speak with their neighbors, approaching complete strangers is a little bit uncomfortable at first, but I get used to it. I am accompanied by Nitoy Lopez, a retired electrical engineer and out of state volunteer who believes so much in Clinton that he is getting involved in a campaign for the first time. We split up the neighborhood and head off in separate directions.
Walking around alone down unfamiliar streets can present some unusual challenges, such as realizing that you have to use the restroom. Do I knock on someone’s door and ask to come inside, or do I risk being arrested for indecent exposure with pictures of me in my “I heart Hilary” tee blanketing the Internet? As Democrats tend to do, I find the appropriate solution to the problem.
For some reason, people in many of the houses I visit look outside at someone they don’t know carrying a backpack and a large packet of paper and don’t answer their doors. I wonder why? It’s a little frustrating, but I keep going, hoping for contacts. At one house, a middle-aged man comes to the door in an uncomfortably stained wife beater and boxer shorts. I ask if Patricia is there, the name of the voter on my list, and he informs me that she is sleeping. A yappy little dog at his feet is barking so obnoxiously that I don’t bother trying to speak over the noise, so I offer him a piece of literature on Hillary instead. He opens the screen door to grab it, and the dog takes off. He steps out on the porch beside me and yells in his Texas like accent, “JAGER!!!” The commotion wakes up Patricia, who joins us in her nightgown on the steps, as all three of us trying coaxing the dog out of the street and back inside. Nothing is working. Jager is now turning the corner at the end of the street and the half-naked man is chasing after him, leaving me with the perfect opportunity to ask the angry woman if she is supporting Hillary for President. She is undecided. I apologize profusely for the missing animal situation, and leave her with a bumper sticker and a button to compensate for the loss. I cross the street as the angry man comes back around the corner empty-handed, muttering to himself. The only words I can hear are that one that begins with “f” and Jager. I continue down the street, feeling awful and thinking about how two undecided voters will head the polls on April 22 and remember the Hillary Clinton volunteer who came to their house and lost their beloved pet. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the yappy little mutt running in my direction. I call its name and he comes to me. I pick him up and triumphantly return to their doorstep. The arguing I hear inside ceases, as they come to the door in shock and express their appreciation. I hand him over with a smile and exit with a simple but more effective than ever, “Vote for Hillary!”
The rest of the weekend consists more of the same; visits to the campaign office in Gettysburg, canvassing in New Oxford, tallying and recording our progress in the evenings. Over two days, 2,000 doors are knocked in the South Central Region and over 37,000 statewide. I meet interesting and passionate people, listen in on campaign conference calls, leave a bar to avoid drinking in front of the press, and listen to amazing stories from the crazy world of campaigning. A part of me wants to stay.
During the long drive to Reagan airport in D.C, Graeme and I play this game of questions. Among other things, he asks me where I’d be right now if I could choose anywhere in the world. As someone who longs to travel the globe and see new places, I think long and hard. Then, I think about this country, this election, and how much I believe in Hillary Clinton. The answer is simple.
At the hotel, I look out the tenth story window at the city before me. To my left I can see the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, and straight ahead I see the Air Force Memorial. I think of my family. I think of my sister Christy and her husband Chris, who is currently stationed in Korea. It may seem silly to some that I would fly across the country to knock on doors and chase around a yappy little dog in a strange neighborhood, but my window view reminds me why I’m here.

Check out photos from my trip!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pennsylvania here I come!

I will be leaving on Friday to work for Hillary in PA. Here is what I am taking as motivation:

A Note from Dr. Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits end, but she has always risen, always risen, much to the dismay of her adversaries and the delight of her friends.

Hillary Clinton will not give up on you and all she asks of you is that you do not give up on her.

There is a world of difference between being a woman and being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But, to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the time she takes up and the space she occupies.

Hillary Clinton is a woman. She has been there and done that and has still risen. She is in this race for the long haul. She intends to make a difference in our country.

She is the prayer of every woman and man who long for fair play, healthy families, good schools, and a balanced economy.

She declares she wants to see more smiles in the families, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace. Hillary Clinton intends to help our country to what it can become.

She means to rise.

She means to help our country rise. Don’t give up on her, ever.

In fact, if you help her to rise, you will rise with her and help her make this country a wonderful, wonderful place where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety, without crippling fear.

Rise Hillary.