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Really! I literally bought the t-shirt that says Boot Edge Edge. The point of which is to teach us to say his name. I remember being excited and frustrated when I first heard of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Like, could the first viable gay presidential candidate have a more difficult name to pronounce. At best, it would be chronically mispronounced. At worse, it would become the “butt” of gay political jokes that would shame our entire community. And who needs either? I had come to the same conclusion about Barrack Hussein Obama, “With that name, he’ll never win!” I was wrong. 

Is America really ready for our first white gay president? I really don’t know, but a deeper question is, Is our first white gay president really ready for America? This is the question laid at Pete’s feet on June 16, 2019 when South Bend Police Officer Sgt. Ryan O’Neill shot and killed 54-year-old Eric Logan. Til now, the refined and articulate Mayor Pete has resurrected the hopes of the LGBTQ faithful and awaken the shaken hearts of neo-liberal centrists, many of whom are just happy to have a sharp tongued technocrat capable of combating evangelical Christian conservatism. From the start, Mayor Pete quickly proved that he is the anti-Pence, the one who can stand up to the religious right’s hostility toward gay marriage and faith based hate against ungendered bathrooms, non binary pronouns, and same-sex wedding cakes.

As a recovering evangelical, thrust from the fold after coming clean about my same sex attraction, I was among the first to relax in the “shade” and sip of the “tea” that Mayor Pete was throwing in town hall after town hall when pitched a question about his sexuality and his faith. But is his political eloquence enough, in today’s transphobic, and anti-queer milieu? While many gay marriage crusaders and ACT UP survivors hail the coming of our white gay Messiah-elect, many within the community are not so jubilant. The trans and people of color edge of the queer liberation movement are less than hopeful about the prospects of a President Pete. These are those who have been left behind the gay marriage bandwagon, waiting for viability and visibility in community reluctant to bring them along. 

While black trans women are being killed in record numbers year after year, while trans rights are being erased from Obamacare and the military, and while HIV/AIDS infections are higher amongst black and brown gay men, the black and brown-led queer and trans activist class are refusing to blindly endorse the white gay privilege inherent in the “Pete for 2020” presidential campaign. Having become the casualties of urban gentrification, cultural assimilation, and rainbow capitalism, queer and trans people of color have very little in common with the recently out of the closet, gay veteran from South Bend, Indiana. The disturbing lack of privilege among the most marginalized in the LGBTQ community and society at large requires a more nuanced dialogue than simply Pete vs. Pence, gay vs. church, millennial vs. baby boomer.

Such nuance is not just limited to the Mayor Pete campaign. Since 2012, liberal progressive institutions writ large are being called to account for trafficking in systems of white supremacy. Taken together, the incessant killings of unarmed black men and the election of Donald Trump has launched the movement to dismantle white supremacy culture in liberal progressive institutions writ large. The fall out has begged the question, how can these bodies that have been deeply committed to the civil rights movement, the liberation of women, and inclusion of gays and lesbians be complicit with white supremacy culture? 

While great progress has been made, the journey has been arduous. The systems of white supremacy culture and the benefits that abide with white skin privilege are insidious and reveals an existential crisis, not just among conservatives, but liberals as well. The killing of the unarmed Eric Logan by a white police officer whose body camera was turned off, has afforded America the opportunity to see this crisis first hand as Mayor Pete was forced to exit the political stage to give an account to a community torn apart by another a racialized police murder.

The situation in South Bend not only affords us the opportunity to engage police violence in black communities, but to evaluate the track record of liberal political leadership since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown. While the timing couldn’t have been worse for Mayor Pete, the timing of the tragedy affords the people of South Bend the perfect opportunity to have their voices heard on the political stage. We all get to see in their eyes and hear in their voices the pain and the trauma of living in the shadow of state-sanctioned terror. We get to witness the response of a political candidate in real-time and ask ourselves, “Is he merely lobbying for the black vote? or Does he really love black people?” Does he have the capacity to empathize with the plight of black people? Is he willing to suffer the backlash of white ambivalence, to see the most poor and most marginalized uplifted and liberated? 

Is it fair for Pete to have been handed this lot? Maybe not. But it is the hand that he has been dealt. It is the hand that we all have been dealt. Mayor Pete, the police department and the people of South Bend have afforded us all the opportunity to ascertain to what extinct sexuality, race, and class are interrelated. Is gay really the new black? Is the fight for gay rights in Christian America, on par with the fight for black liberation in white America? Should trans people trust the white gay Mayor Pete simply because he is gay, but with no track record on fighting for trans rights? 

My answer to these questions is that the killing of Eric Logan just might be a political gift for Mayor Pete in that #BlackLivesMatter movement was founded by queer black women of St. Louis, MO. That this tragedy happened at this moment in our search for a democratic nominee who can beat Trump, puts #BlackLivesMatter front and center in the political debate. In past campaign seasons, the movement for black lives has been deduced to an argument of for or against. Do we hang the banner or not? This campaign season affords us the opportunity to go beyond banners and t-shirts, to accountability and solidarity. White liberals are just as guilty of replicating systems of white supremacy as radical republicans. Hillary Clinton’s problems with race were as significant as Donald Trump’s in that racism exhibited on the right is antagonistic and hostile, but racism exhibited on the left is betrayal. 

In today’s political climate, when liberal women are no longer silent about abuse from their liberal male counterparts, and black and brown children are being locked in cages as a result liberal immigration compromises, black communities do not have to go along to get along with liberal politicians providing lip service to #blacklivesmatter. Similarly, the queer and trans POC electorate are refusing to coalesce around a white midwestern mayor, just because he’s gay. We deserve more! We deserve a candidate who reflects our deepest values of liberation, equity, and social justice. No longer are we willing to settle for a mainstream liberal hopeful complicit in our generational poverty, mass incarceration, health disparities, and segregated education. We want more. Mayor Pete has the perfect opportunity to prove that he can offer us more. But only if he wants to. 

 

Trump is a genius.

Yes.

I said it.

Trump is a genius.

Because he knows the race card always wins…which is the very reason he plays it over and over again.

Sadly, most will say Trump is a genius because “the libs” go mad…and make a mountain out of a molehill…which in turn fires up his base…which silences the conservative majority…eager to consolidate more power in an increasingly diverse political milieu…which makes Trump a genius.

Trump is a genius because he continues to say the quiet part out loud, “America is racist…and racism wins.”

The reason Trump says things like, “Show me the birth certificate…Mexicans are rapists and murders…shithole countries…Puerto Rico takes from the United States…go back to where you came from…and Make America Great Again” is because he knows the average American doesn’t have the ingenuity to respond appropriately. This makes Trump a genius.

Trump knows race is America’s San Andreas Fault. It lies just beneath the surface just waiting for geological forces to align causing it to erupt at any moment. The genius of Trump is that he knows just how and when to align those forces and firing off that perfectly designed tweet that drives us mad.

And by us, I mean all of us.

He drives conservative Republicans mad, in that he forces them to choose the wrong side of history, again and again. The genius of Trump exposes the naked racism of conservative politics, the hypocrisy of evangelical Christianity, and the rabid rawness of a confederacy dormant but not dead in red districts all around the country, from sea to shining sea.

He drives black and brown people mad, not just because Trump harkens us back to a dark and evil past when our parents and grandparents were terrorized and exploited…but also because Trump inflames and further frustrates the grievances of broken immigration systems, education systems, voting systems, and economic systems that exist in the present. As a genius, he knows that it’s best to leave those broken systems unfixed and instead to exploit them for political and economic gain.

But ultimately, he drives white liberals mad!…not just because Trump’s vile and demonic words undermine the legitimacy of the office of the presidency and makes him unfit, but because his words reveal a deeper truth. Trump is a genius because he knows racism is not just a white conservative problem, but also a white liberal problem. The mad genius remind us that we are led by neo-liberal leaders who lack the urgency to act beyond the words they preach. He knows they are fighting for the same immoral middle electorate willing to vote for Bush, then Obama, then Trump.

Perhaps Trump knows that in 1963 white liberal elites called for Martin Luther King, Jr to remain patient amid the venom of attack dogs, fire hoses, and billy clubs.

I’m sure Trump remembers 2014, that when black activists screamed Black Lives Matter, white liberals screamed All Lives Matter.

And he sure as hell is mindful that as children are shelved in cages along the border, white liberals are content to shame the congresswomen who are crying out most strongly against the shameful policies targeting black and brown refugees begging at the border, to be let in.

Trump is a genius because he knows that white liberals have not done the work to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms. Trump knows just how to exploit these harsh realities for political gain. Trump is a genius because he knows that the problems facing black and brown people are problems largely ignored by white liberals.

When Trump says go back to where you came from, he knows that white liberals are thinking the same thing but not saying it. In his ingenuity he is saying the quiet part out loud, “Go back to your own neighborhoods. Go back to your own schools. Go back to your own churches. Go back to your own parks.”

Trump is a genius because he knows that black and brown people know this. These very arguments are vented by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Talib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar. Trump in his ingenuity knows that what they are saying is true. He knows and understands the complacency that white supremacy awards white liberal elites leaves them impotent in accessing the power and rage that will defeat Trump in 2020.

Yes! Trump is a genius. Not because he sets our nice liberal white hair on fire. Trump is a genius because he knows the black and brown radical left, with all out passionate, protesting, preaching, and postures will never upset and unseat the calm and the cool liberal establishment who are unwilling to go the distant to defeat and abolish Trumpism for good. The ingenuity of Trumpism knows that you cannot trash your black and brown caucus on Friday and decry racism on Monday….and also defeat Trumpism in 2020!

In January, I was invited to join the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) Faith Coalition by my friend and colleague in faith, the coalition chair, Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer. Mike has the responsible swagger of one who would never invite another into any initiative that would be a waste of time. Apart from that, two other vital components peeked my interest making the invite irresistible, namely Faith and AIDS.

In my intersectional work as LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager at the Unitarian Universalist Association, addressing the HIV epidemic is essential, especially as a queer clergy of color living with the virus. The USCA Faith Coalition seemed like a necessary alliance. I began by joining monthly Zoom conference calls, listening intently while interjecting rarely as my fellow partners determined the theme, solicited sponsors, designed the logo, and crafted the agenda. It took me a few months to figure out how I could be most helpful.

Then in May it was announced that there would be a panel on “Engaging the Lived Experiences from the Communities We Serve.” I immediately volunteered because I believe stigma is the greatest barrier to Getting to Zero. The greatest way to reduce stigma is people in positions of power and privilege living with HIV and AIDS sharing our lived experiences in the communities we serve.

Today, alongside HIV activist Daniel D. Driffin, co-founder of Thrive S.S. I had the opportunity to do just that as moderator Cary Goodman of Balm in Gilead posed the following questions.

Was there a moment of truth where you had to reconcile your faith with your diagnosis?

Yes! When I was diagnosed in 2006 I was in seminary about to become a chaplain in the US Air Force. Becoming HIV positive forced me to have to decide whether to pursue ministry or drop out of seminary and military service. I chose the latter. I believed that if I wanted to live, I needed to leave the church. I was right. Leaving the conservative evangelical church allowed me to prioritize my health, then later find a faith that would affirm my HIV status. The journey was treacherous as life with HIV without faith would eventually prove to be just as intolerable as life in a faith hostile to HIV.

How has living in the rural south impacted you now that you are living in a metropolitan area?

I was living in Columbia, SC when I was diagnosed in 2006. I believed that if I wanted to live, I needed to leave the south. I was right. Leaving a southern city with limited access to social services, support networks, and a living wage saved my life. Relocating to the urban cities of Chicago, D.C., and eventually New York blessed me with the privilege of housing, health care, and nutrition allowing me to cope with the trauma of my existential crisis. Daniel Driffin said it best, “Housing is medicine. Employment is medicine. If I feel that I am unworthy, then a pill won’t fix that.” These vital social support services are what makes HIV no longer a death sentence, more so than the science of life saving medications. Faith communities must advocate for social support services be available for all people living with HIV to reduce the threat of stigma and eliminate transmissions.

What do you think the faith community needs to know?

It is our fault as people of faith that the virus is what it is in the world. American religion, both liberal and conservative, is responsible for the rapid spread of AIDS in the 1980s and the 500,000 deaths by 1990. The belief that any sex beyond heterosexual monogamy is unorthodox has lead to 36.7 million living with HIV today. Because of faith, society has no language for sex and sexual health. Because of faith, the LGBTQ community has been told AIDS is God’s curse for being who we are. Because of faith, sex workers and intravenous drug users remain in the shadows where there is high risk of transmission and limited access to treatment. Faith communities must accept responsibility for the shame and the death that has resulted by developing responsible sex positive theologies that affirm the inherit worth and dignity of every human being.

This is the work of the USCA Faith Coalition. Every year, we gather the day before USCA to discuss and develop strategies to strengthen the capacity of houses of worship and faith-based organizations who are engaged, or wish to engage, in efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

On the one hand, as Unitarian Universalists who believe in the the inherit worth and dignity of every person and the justice, equity and compassion in human relations we are privileged with the best hope of developing a responsible theology and sexual ethic that will support the Getting to Zero movement. On the other hand, as a faith steeped in classism and white supremacy conflated with a liberal progressive theology, Unitarian Universalism in a cautionary tale for how difficult it will be for all faith communities to live up to its own best values and ethics, even with the most open of theologies.

Stay tuned via Twitter @uua_lgbtq for more update from USCA and the lived experiences of people living with HIV.

img_9018 Truth Isn’t Truth, or Is It???

In all my years of following religious conservatism, never would I ever have imagined that truth would be accepted as not truth, also known as false.

On Sunday, on Meet the Press, Rudy Giuliani, while defending Donald J. Trump, blurted out “Truth isn’t truth” as a means of explaining how two seemingly credible sources could so convincingly argue two contradictory accounts of the same conversation.

Without delving too deeply into exactly which truth isn’t true, I’m tempted to argue that Rudy is right. The presupposition that truth isn’t truth has been the basis of American political discourse since its founding.

The truth that the New World was dispossessed prior to European settlement is a truth that isn’t true. The truth that indentured servitude was a sovereign right bestowed upon white landowning males is a truth that isn’t true. The truth that God ordained man to be head over woman whose exclusive duty was to serve him and bear his offspring was a truth that isn’t true. That men who lie with men as one would lie with a woman and that women who lie with women as one would lie with a man would each be doomed to eternal damnation is a truth that isn’t true.

Indeed, the landfill of American virtuosity it littered with truths that aren’t truth. From white picket fences to apple pie to baseball and rock-n-roll, are all truths that are only true for a select few.

Last week, a naked truth that we all wish was not true was revealed. Scores of Catholic priests conspired to rape and abuse countless little boys and little girls over the course of many generations, exposed the truth that sexual anorexia in the name of religion is detrimental to psychological and spiritual health, not to mention demonic and may very destroy all of Christendom.

The lie that truth isn’t truth is the spiritual truth peddled by religious conservatism since it’s inception with imperial rule. Such truths proclaim that first peoples aren’t first. That black people aren’t people. That God’s chosen people aren’t chosen. And that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Thus Giuliani’s revelation that truth isn’t truth is not such a radical departure from the canon of heresy that is the bedrock of religious conservatism. It is quietly preached in the halls of congress as lies are abided so that religious falsehood can be exacted in the courts.

The truth that life is sacred is betrayed by the lie that sexual violence is inconsequential. The truth that God hates fags is betrayed by the lie that the richest one percent are entitled to more wealth than the ninety-nine. The truth that global warming is not man-made is betrayed by the lie that Mexicans are murders and rapists. The truth that gun ownership is a god-given right is betrayed by the lie that parents seeking asylum for their children is not. The truth that Barack Obama was not born in America is betrayed by the truth that he was.

The lie that truth isn’t true is perhaps the truest untruth Giuliani has ever uttered for it reveals more about Make America Great Again religious conservatism than we can ever imagine.

The lie the truth isn’t truth should shock and surprise all who seek truth, justice, and the American Dream. But since so much of the American Dream is just a Dream we have become accustomed to trusting in truths that are untrue. As such, Giuliani’s lie that truth isn’t truth will soon be accepted as mere rhetorical relativism used to justify supporting an administration that is remaining true to its promises to make America hate again in the name of God!

Arrested for Justice!

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions…or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support. He is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I sat there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were….it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit up juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we – don’t – get – it?

Shut it down!

Source: The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People

Brilliant. Thanks Alex Kapitan!

Radical Copyeditor

Introduction (Read This First)

A style guide for writing about transgender people is practically an oxymoron. Style guides are designed to create absolutes—bringing rules and order to a meandering and contradictory patchwork quilt of a language. Yet there are no absolutes when it comes to gender. That’s why this is a radical copyeditor’s style guide. Radical copyediting isn’t about absolutes; it’s about context and care.

There are profound reasons for why the language that trans people use to describe ourselves and our communities changes and evolves so quickly. In Western culture, non-trans people have for centuries created the language that describes us, and this language has long labeled us as deviant, criminal, pathological, unwell, and/or unreal.

As trans people have fought for survival, we have also fought for the right to describe ourselves in our own language and to reject language that criminalizes, pathologizes, or invisibilizes us. Just as there…

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Two UU congregations are finally “READY,” after far too many “not readys!”
“The leadership of TRUUsT is grateful to the many transgender UU ministers who have come before and forged a path for others to follow, often at great personal expense. Although the first openly trans ministers were ordained in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until 2002 that the first openly trans minister was called to a UU pulpit. Too many congregations over the years have considered themselves “not ready” for a trans minister despite the readiness of trans candidates to serve, and others have proven themselves unwilling to welcome the fullness of ministry that trans religious professionals bring.”

TRUUsT

TRUUsT is thrilled to announce that two trans ministers have been called to new Unitarian Universalist pulpits: Rev. Dawn Fortune and Rev. Otto O’Connor. Both have been called as settled ministers.

Rev. Dawn Fortune was called to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore in Galloway Township, New Jersey. Rev. Dawn currently serves as interim minister at both Emerson UU Chapel in the St. Louis area and the First Unitarian Church of Alton, Illinois. They graduated from Andover Newton Theological School in 2015 with a Master’s of Divinity and are in the process of earning a Graduate Certificate in Sexuality and Religion at Pacific School of Religion. Rev. Dawn was ordained into the UU ministry in 2015.

Dawn_laying on hands Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore members participate in a laying on of hands to welcome Rev. Dawn Fortune. Photo courtesy of UUCSJS.

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IMG_4626It’s June. June! It’s only June. Everyday since November 8 the news has been nonstop. From #pussygate to characters streaming in and out of Gotham Tower to #fakenews about crowds to failed attempts to ban Muslims to Spicers press briefing antics to crazy nonstop tweets to #fakenews about #Obamagate to failed Obamacare appeals to #Russiagate and on and on and on. It just hasn’t quit. It’s June. June! It’s only June.

It hasn’t even been six months, but already there is plenty of proof that we have been Trump-ed by traitors. A traitor is a person who betrays a friend, country, or principle. Traitors have infiltrated our government under the guise of piety and American Pie in order to rob us of our dignity for the sake of personal gain.

But the traitor is not Trump. Trump is who we have always known him to be, a self-interested, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist who will do whatever it takes to advance his own agenda. The real traitors are all 54 senators and 247 house leaders who are betraying American values by defending Trump’s self-interested, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist antics. The traitors are the white evangelical church leaders who are betraying American values by worshipping a God who is ambivalent to exhorbitant wealth, women’s rights, immigrants, refugees, extreme poverty, and racism. The traitors are the rust belt middle class pretending to be pitiful and poor to mask their fear of blacks, immigrants, refugees, and industrial progress.

These deep and subtle betrayals are what makes all this Trumpian chaos so horrific and unimaginable. Prior to November 8, I assumed I had friends who held differing views and values. Prior to November 8, I assumed I lived in a country with a constitution that states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Prior to November 8, I assumed that my interests were being served by a democratic government that would protect me from the wiles of authoritarianism, nationalism, unrestricted capitalism.

But since the election of Donald J. Trump, I can no longer be led by such ill-advised assumptions.  Since November 8 it has become clear that those who have voted for this self-interested, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist president are self-interested, narcissistic, misogynistic, racists themselves. While Donald J. Trump is indeed problematic, the real traitors are these treasonous wolves in sheep clothing who pretend to be pious and patriotic in order to carry out their own self-interested, narcissistic, misogynistic, racist agendas against the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, and the American who still believes in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for all people everywhere. Such values no longer Trump all.

moonight-oceanBeing a black gay boy was my worst nightmare. I knew that one day I would need to stand before my family and my world and confess my unpardonable sin. This was the cross that was mine to bear. This was the thorn in my flesh. This was the crimson stain that would never be washed away. And I hated it. I hated it with the wrath of thousand suns. I hated who I saw in the mirror. I hated the sissy who was mocked on the playground. I hated the sound of my voice. I hated my girlish ways which brought on the wanton whispers. I was gay and I hated it. I wanted to be someone else. Anyone else. Just not me. I did not want to be a black gay man. I did not want to be a black gay man because I did not know what that looked like. I did not know what it looked like to be me. I only knew what it felt like. And it felt like hell. It was a living nightmare.

Tonight’s Moonlight Best Picture WIN…is typical of my living nightmare. It’s that feeling deep deep down that knows that you are the best you can be, even if no one else does. It’s that abiding uncertainty of knowing you are better than the mediocrity that continuously passes you by. It’s that never ending nightmare that tosses you into hell, while knowing one day you’ll wake up in heaven. Moonlight is the movie of that life. Moonlight reveals to the world the hell that black gay boys go through. It shows the shame that is so deep that it forces you to absorb everyone else’s pain in order to cover up your own. Moonlight is that silent cry in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep. Moonlight is that deep deep need to be wanted, but too afraid to believe you are.

Tonight, when Moonlight won, black queerness won. Little black gay boys won. Boys bullied. Boys called faggot. Boys touched by men and told not to tell. Boys whose lifeless bodies lie dead in the grave because they were too ashamed to live, too afraid to love. Tonight, Moonlight exhumed those dead lives, those dead hopes, those dead dreams. Tomorrow, black gay boys can go to school a little less confused, a little less afraid, a little more emboldened to live the life that is theirs to live. A moonlit life shining in the darkness, just waiting to be lived.