OUT OF THE FOG

Today I am hosting an acquaintance of mine, Laron Chapman, who blogs with a few other friends at Queerwerks.  He has a beautifully strong voice and I am very pleased he decided to add his voice to my compassion theme this month.

The opposite of compassion is indifference.  This post is not only about the power of words and how just a few words of animosity can destroy a life, but it is also about the importance of family. Every child has a voice and it is the compassionate parent who listens and empowers their child to face hate with love.

There are very few topics that illicit such violently passionate opinions as does sexual orientation. It is a topic that seems to send people to the opposite ends of a metaphorical rope to play tug of war using words meant to harm or defeat.  Magical things can happen when one person listens and reacts to someone else with respect, kindness, and compassion.  Magical things do happen when we choose love over hate.  Magical things like living instead of dying.

We all have opinions just as we all have a choice on how to voice those opinions.  My hope is that you choose love over hate. Compassion over indifference.


BeFunky_X7L5hgFXQZazzPaK3goC_14084990857_88cabf3b6d_o.jpgOUT OF THE FOG by Laron Chapman

Rejection. Now, here’s something that is not so much a painful term as it is a painful reality. While it may not incite the same visceral reactions as the pejorative terms “faggot” and “queer” do, it carries a more stealthy, lingering affect. Not the term itself, of course, but rather what it implies; especially, in regards to the LGBT community. While rejection is a something we all experience at some point in life, there is at least one arena that this action should never be practiced: the home

That was not the case for one of our fallen transgendered soldiers, 17-year old Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Ryan Alcorn) whose suicide by vehicular impact this past December garnered international attention. After heartbreakingly publicizing a suicide note on her Tumblr blog, expressing her personal anguish, social alienation, and lack of familial support, Leelah made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death paints a powerful illustration of the damaging effects of rejection when it exists in the home and it’s inspired reflection on my own experience.

I’ll never forget the fear and sadness I harbored as a youth struggling to embrace an identity that seemed frowned upon by my peers, my family, and the state I resided in. Those feelings became a bitter poison that consumed my thoughts, affected my interpersonal skills, and created an inner void. I lived inside a shell, locked away in my room, contemplating worse case scenarios should my sexual identity ever be exposed. On the rare occasion that I mustered the courage to proclaim it, a hurtful gay slur expressed candidly by one of my peers or family members would exile me back to silence. The prospect of continuing to live a life shrouded in secrecy and loneliness was insufferable; The fear of being rejected by my family was unbearable.

In high school, I once overheard a group of students philosophizing over the manner in which they preferred to die. After several testimonies, one of them shared a story about an older woman who had recently passed away after falling asleep in her garage with her car engine running. The obituary described her death as “painless” and “peaceful,” two terms that resonated deeply. I felt as though this private conversation had cultivated a solution to my internal demons. If I wasn’t brave enough to affirm who I truly was, I refused to continue living inside the dark corners of my conscience. I decided to end my life.

The next evening, after my household had fallen asleep, I stole my mother’s car keys and entered the garage. I made a point to keep the lights off to blind myself from any prospect of hope. I started the ignition and rolled down my window. I watched as thick white clouds of exhaust billowed into a hazy, nightmarish fog. I turned on the radio to drown out the eerie hissing of the toxic emissions. I closed my eyes and ruminated on my most cherished memories.

Suddenly, the light switched on with my mother’s silhouette occupying the door frame. She frantically rushed over to the car, pulling me out of the fog and into the light. I convinced her that I had simply been warming up the car before a drive, but for the next couple of years she hovered over me with palpable concern and confusion. She continuously reminded me that her love for me was unwavering until I had no choice but to believe it. It was these acts of affection and affirmation that cultivated a change in my spirit. As terrified as I was when my moment of truth finally came, I knew in my heart that my mother’s love for me wasn’t crippled with conditions. The sensation of relief was exhilarating. For the first time in my life I was openly, honestly, indisputably myself.

I’ve never been one to impose my beliefs on others. On the contrary, I revel and applaud diversity. However, when the same courtesy isn’t afforded to others, the adverse affect can be tragic, even lethal. Love, tolerance, and acceptance should be fostered in the home with whomever we call family. It sets a firm foundation, emotional security, a place of refuge, and a confidence to embrace ourselves as we are. Without these essential elements, it’s easy for the onslaught of anti-gay agendas, cyber-bullying, discrimination, and depression to discourage, dismantle, and destroy the spirits of a community already riddled with injustices, political, social, and otherwise.

Even with the influx of shifting attitudes toward marriage equality and the growing presence of LGBT members in mainstream media, annual LGBT suicide rates continue to unveil a disturbing precedent in regards to how the community at large channels their anxieties about society’s tolerance and acceptance of their sexual orientation. Now, I would never dream of diminishing the glow of progress, but when 30-40% of LGBT youth have reported to have attempted suicide and research confirms that LGBT members are four times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to complete the act, there is no denying that there is still yet work to done (according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center).

It’s human nature to attribute a set of behaviors performed by a few to rationalize our feelings about an entire group. When we differentiate ourselves from others, we feel more superior, more distinct, more unique. However, this is a corrosive process that disrupts our common humanity. I believe that everyone leaves their own mark on the world and we should all respect and embrace our differences. It’s what makes our country so complex, colorful, and pregnant with possibility.

My heart breaks for the death Leelah Alcorn and others like her who left this world feeling lost, unacknowledged, misunderstood, or unloved. This is why the practice of love, acceptance, and tolerance are of paramount importance. Whenever I find myself in a dark place psychologically, I’m always reminded of the wealth of friends and family that would be devastated if I let the fog that’s clouding my judgement persuade me to make a fatal decision.My life has been an endless exercise of love found and love lost. But I never give up hope. Not anymore. Knowing that I’m loved, admired, and valued for who I am by those that matter to me is life affirming.

I’ve always rejected the expression “words can never hurt you.” Words carry immense power. They can bring about healing, encouragement, and change; they can weaken us to despair and hopelessness. I’ve always done my best to see the goodness in all people and time, maturity, and experience has taught me the value of empathy. We should celebrate the people we love. Finding love is a blessing, securing it with someone is a gift, and proclaiming it openly should never be viewed as a privilege, but rather a human right. In the end, love always wins.


blog pic 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laron Chapman is a passionate film and music enthusiast with a background in film and television production, journalism, and screenwriting. He graduated from The University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Media Studies. He works as a freelance Film/TV production assistant and screenwriter in Oklahoma City and has worked on projects ranging from the Oscar-nominated film “August: Osage County,” American Idol, Food Network, and Discovery Channel, among others.   laron.m.chapman@gmail.com

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40 thoughts on “OUT OF THE FOG

  1. I really enjoyed this piece, your pain and empathy were palpable. While no two circumstances are the same, I would like to say that sometimes the rejection, or lack of acceptance may be in the eye of the beholder. As a family that has been struggling with this very thing, we know first hand the damage misperceptions can cause. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! You are absolutely right. In many ways “the fog” I describe could be read as “misconception.” I’m thankful to my friends and family for reminding me that I how I perceived at the time was not in line with reality. I appreciate your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a powerful testament to the edifying power of love in our lives. Love isn’t a race, gender, political affiliation, and certainly isn’t a sexual orientation. I hope more people reading this who judge others in such short-sighted ways realize the shortcomings in their own lives, but not for the sake of judgment; rather, for the opportunity to change one’s perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is wonderful and timely; what’s more, it’s timely for someone very close to me and not even because of the author’s reason for writing it. It shows just how applicable compassion and the power of words is to feeling acceptance in any situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. HELL TO THE SO INCREDIBLY YES! Ohmigosh Laron I LOVE THIS. Your message is SO important and SO vital, and as you say, this compassion and empathy, regardless of a person’s personal opinions and preferences, can be the difference between life and death.

    For too many, the lack of compassion and care means death and I want to yell this entire post from the rooftops. I will do my best! THANK YOU for writing it. It matters. BRAVO!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope your words reach around to find us again because they are BRILLIANT. Very powerful piece and so much emotion in them. Love should always be unconditional in the home. I wish it were. I try to make sure my children understand that no matter what they do or who they become I love them. I try to teach them unconditional acceptance and am proud to see those seeds blossoming in my 18 year old. But it is, and has been, a hard fight when so much of society is conditioned into being judgemental and close-minded. I know, though, our efforts to pass along love are being felt. Fantastic post. 🙂 Thank you Laron and Hasty for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Thank you so much for your comment and for reading. I’m so humbled and overwhelmed by everyone’s impressions of this painful story I shared. It means a great deal to me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can imagine. I remember my first experience with someone who was homosexual. He was the first gay person I’d ever met. He shaped my views on many things. Acceptance is all anyone wants, I think. We can accept not being loved but being accepted…that is a great gift.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is everything.
    I always feel so embarrassed for humans, that we’re so flawed and it’s taking some so long to accept everyone, and treat everyone with kindness and just recognize we all are entitled to our choices and basic human rights. I always tell my children if you to sympathize or empathize by trying to put yourself in someone else’s place. It’s really hard for me to put myself into the place of someone who hates like that.
    I’m volunteering this weekend for an annual fundraiser for Equality Illinois, they fight for rights for the LBGTQ community. I hadn’t met many transgender people before working with EI, and the people I have met are really some of the most amazing, strongest people I’ve ever met. Because they have to be. Unfortunately. Glad you’re with us. ONE LOVE.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s amazing and beautiful that you’re volunteering in the community. The smallest gestures, acts of kindness, and understanding leave the biggest impacts in others lives. Thank you for reading and for commenting!

      Like

  7. This resonates so well regardless of the LGBTQ aspect.  No one should have to be so rejected that they wish to die, period.  Thankfully, your mother was there with unconditional love.  There is always progress with love.

    Liked by 2 people

      • It’s so shocking to me that the phrase “words can never hurt you” is such a regularly used phrase. Words have unbelievable power. They can change lives for better or for worse, which is why I’m so thankful for yours. Thanks for reading!

        Like

  8. “words can never hurt you.” O’ this sentence makes me cringe because words have POWER, such immense, dynamic POWER.

    The fog symbolizes so many things. For example, how we see the world, our perspective, how the fog causes us to not find our way out

    ….into the light. And we MUST have light & love.

    Heartbreaking, beautiful piece.

    Like

    • It’s so shocking to me that the phrase “words can never hurt you” is such a regularly used expression. It’s a well-intended UNTRUTH. Words have unbelievable power. They can change lives for better or for worse, which is why I’m so thankful for yours. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  9. This is just such an incredible piece… heartbreaking and hopeful. Both noted, deeply in my heart. You are such a powerful writer, Laron- and such a passionate soul. I am so so so so so glad your mom came into that garage… and realized HOW to love her boy.

    Love. Every single soul counts. Every voice matters. i sickens me to learn over and over again, of such rejection and pain. This is NOT how God calls us to love one another.

    My prayer is that is the truth that comes from every mouth in this world… someday.

    Thank you, for sharing your soul, and your voice here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m just so overwhelmed with the love, kindness, and encouragement that’s been showered over me in the last 15 hours following this post. Mostly, by complete strangers who connected with my story. You will never know how moved and touched I am by your heartfelt words. I thank you for reading and taking the time to reach out to me. God Bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Laron, I want to run and find your mom and hug her.
    My dear friend struggled so much through high school and when he finally told his parents that he was gay, his mom and dad turned their backs on him. They wiped him out of their lives like he was some sort of stain – it was too much.
    I’m looking at my son sitting on the couch right now, and I cannot even fathom …. I just can’t fathom not loving him for who he is. And that is exactly what it is – love people for who they are on the inside not for who they love, not for what they look like…..
    In every body there is a soul that needs love and respect just like every one
    Thank you. Thank you for writing and for being here – your voice is powerful.
    Now go give that mom of yours a hug.

    Like

    • I will give my mom a big hug on your behalf and my own! It feels so good to know that there are still wonderful parents like yourself that love their children without conditions.

      Thank you for your heartfelt response and for reading.

      Like

  11. “” Words carry immense power. They can bring about healing, encouragement, and change; they can weaken us to despair and hopelessness. I’ve always done my best to see the goodness in all people and time, maturity, and experience has taught me the value of empathy. We should celebrate the people we love. Finding love is a blessing, securing it with someone is a gift, and proclaiming it openly should never be viewed as a privilege, but rather a human right. In the end, love always wins.”

    Well said!

    Like

  12. Pingback: #BeReal – LARON CHAPMAN | hastywords

  13. Life is hard enough without adding more angst and fear into the equation.
    Why can’t people show love and compassion? It would heal our world. Nice job presenting so much here. I admire you and felt some of your past hurts and problems. Glad you have others on your side to stand up and embrace openness, Laron.

    Like

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