After I met my Beloved I moved from California out to Minnesota. It was not a place I’d ever thought I’d live, but once I got here I found great neighbors, great culture, great sports and something much rarer:
Politicians I can respect.
Paul Wellstone was my Senator when I first moved here, and through him I found the integrity, hope, and sense of dedication to the people I’d only dreamed of until then. He was unafraid to stand up and be counted, and he had a way of leading people into standing up beside him. When he died, the people of Minnesota lost far more than a representative to the Senate – they lost one of their best friends.
Apparently he inspired others just as much as he did me, and one of his former constituents, a comedian making a name for himself in television and print, decided to step up and fill the void left by Paul Wellstone. That man was Al Franken.
I’d read his books, so I knew how smart he was, and I’d watched his work on Saturday Night Live and knew how funny he was. He was a native son of Saint Paul, and when he was sounding out the public to see if he should run for Senate, I attended a function at a local park so I could meet him. Well, that wasn’t going to happen as I didn’t come with a fat wallet full of promises of future support, but I did grab exactly sixty seconds of his time when he foolishly wandered in my direction. “Please,” I begged him, “don’t forget your LGBT constituents if you’re elected. You’re progressive, so many of us will support you, but that’s no reason to take us for granted.” Then I smiled at him and begged, “And may I take a picture with you?” Which he graciously allowed me to do.
You hope your words sink in when you gather the nerve to speak truth to power. You trust in the humanity of your fellow man because you have no other option, but in truth, I held out little hope that any politician elected at that time would stand up for gay rights.
People have asked why I write about gay bashing and bullying. Sadly, in recent years Minnesota has seen a terrifying increase in student suicides, and most of them have been associated with bullying at school. A large school district was eventually labeled a ‘suicide contagion zone’ because of the sheer number of attempted and successful suicides.
Local school policies have allowed bullying to grow far out of hand and disproportionately born by LGBT students. When a shocking fourteen students successfully committed suicide (remember, almost ten times as many try, unsuccessfully) in less than two years, I knew it was time to do something. I did the only thing I knew to do, I wrote about it. The Boxer Rebellion is my way of telling their story, and enlisting your help to make the bullying stop.