To all those who have been in the trenches and feel the stress of burnout:
Burn-out is a problem that afflicts many dedicated people. I think the risk of burn-out is less likely when you are closer to the battle line. I have been asked to speak at many different large metropolitan areas in this last year. One thing I continuously encounter is shock at the horror stories that is daily life for GLBT people and their families in the Heartland of our country. I know that homophobia, hatred and fear abound in all communities. But for many small communities across the nation this is still 1950's . . .with the 1950's mindset.
I have done 15 speaking engagements this last year. I still have not conquer my fear of public speaking. Each engagement is a gut-wrenching war with my number one phobia. Sometimes I whoop the dragon; sometimes it whoops me. Rumors has it that my ex-minister is threatening to file a libel civil suit against me for telling my story. My home has been broken into twice within the last six weeks. Nothing is ever taken. It is as though someone wants us to know that their menacing presence has been here. The police asked if we had any enemies. Now we are beginning to receive harassing phone calls with a mechanized voice. I am having personal crisis issues going on in my life. My response to all this . . well, I plan to take a huge step in being more out in my community by approaching all the local newspapers about our chapter's presence in their community and to promote the hotline number for the national Family-to-Family hotline.
Why? This last year I have personally dealt with the following: homeless, abandoned by family, teenaged lesbians living in a storage shed in the dead of winter - one was pregnant; Jimmy being denied access to his dying, beloved Jamie, a desperate search for a teenage boy who was attempting suicide - luckily we reached him at the very moment he was taking an exacto knife to his wrists; a teenage boy who was forcefully committed to a mental hospital, when his parents discovered he was gay; another boy who was made to crawl on his hands and knees and beg forgiveness, so his parents would allow him to continue to live with them - his parents have forced a life of total isolation on this fine, young man who was just beginning to bloom into his affirming self; a seventeen year old sitting in my living room who just had the hospital bind his wounds from a recent gaybashing to have me help bind the more permanent wounds on his dignity; a fifteen year old lesbian whose parents changed the locks on their home to deny their daughter even her personal belongings; dealing with the realization that my Eddie who is dying of AIDS has to be driven over an hour to find a hospital who won't mistreat him; and lastly, this weekend a gay youth in my son's support group decided life had become too unbearable and flung himself out of a speeding car.
Their faces, their eyes, their stories haunt me. They build a fire in my belly . . . a fire so intense that it threatens to consume me, if I do not take action. These are our children, our brothers, our sisters. They are bleeding. They are dying. And they are bleeding and dying in a world that does not give a damn about them. They need us. Oh, god, how they need us.
Please take the much deserved respite to ease the burden of burnout. But please do not forget their plight and those of us on the frontlines who have no one to step in, if we have a need to step down. Our respites come in small victories that are few and far between. Rest, relax and then come back with renewed vigor to fight. For this indeed is a war . . a war in which the only bodies that lie at our feet are those of our GLBT loved ones.
Forgive me. It is not I who speaks but the fire that burns within.
Love and peace,