Have you ever wondered why you don't see stories and opinion about the struggle for equality of Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in some Tennessee newspapers?
Question 1: Is it because we only inhabit urban enclaves? Nope. We're all over the state, according to the Williams Institute's analysis of census data.
Question 2: Has it been a slow news year for discriminatory legislation? Um, no. The Don't Say Gay bill and the Special Access to Discrimination law (SB632/HB600) were frequently covered in the newspapers of the state's four largest cities.
Question 3: Is it because we weren't pitching stories (not that we should have to)? Strike 3. The Lebanon Democrat would not cover the Special Access to Discriminate law, even though it was sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers from Wilson County and they were definitely given the opportunity.
Question 4: Is it because we weren't writing letters? We were and I have to point out a notable exception to the pattern. The Crossville Chronicle did publish a letter by R. G. Cravens, our TEP Upper Cumberland Committee Chair, on the Special Access to Discriminate law. But we've run into an instance of erasure by another Upper Cumberland paper, The Herald-Citizen out of Cookeville. Shayne Bilbrey tells us that he wrote a letter to the paper about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth face, but when he talked to a representative of the paper on the phone, he was told "that they were a family values newspaper, and they weren't comfortable with publishing it."
Take action: We suspect this sort of thing happens quite a bit. So we're going to publish Shayne's letter below. But if you'd like to send a letter to the Herald-Citizen, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org . Or you can post a comment on the wall of their Facebook page asking them whether they are trying to disappear their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender readers. Do it for Shayne and the other readers who are looking for coverage of the whole spectrum of people living in the Upper Cumberland.
Shayne's Letter: And now here it is:
It’s okay to be Gay
High school graduation is just around the corner, and well over a thousand Putnam County students will be graduating this year. Most of them had the normal teenage years, goingto prom with the person they love, getting that first kiss, or getting their driver’s license at sixteen. Yet for some kids that dream was a long shot, because some of this year’s graduates are Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual. Most of these students couldn’t have that dream life, because they were usually the primary targets for bullying. The bullying would vary from daily taunting such as being called a “fag” or a “queer.” The students usually behind the bullying would often cite the bible, or what their preacher told them. This is very troubling for that, in a society that values individualism, we can’t honor these kids fundamental right to let them be whoever they want to be and to be with. I know that when I came out, during my senior year in high school, I was faced with some backlash, but even before that I was called many names, and felt at times that I was worthless, which is similar to how some of these students feel. It hurts to be bullied at school, but to be bullied in your own home is incomprehensible. Thankfully, I have a family who loves me for who I am, and for which I am blessed for. Yet, it saddens me when I hear of some of my friends, which have come out to their parents, have had to face ridicule from their own parents. Some parents go as far as to disowning their own child, calling them a failure, and sending them to a gay to straight camp. I don’t understand why a parent would do such a thing, but sadly it happens a lot. Well I‘m here to say that, things will and do get better, granted they’re still some that disagree, but it does get better. We should all be able to value ourselves, love others, and be able to accept all for whom they are. We are all God’s children, and he loves us all in the same way. So if you are Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual, and bisexual, it’s okay to be you, and be proud of who you are, and will become. Love, cherish, and embrace thy own self.