Profiles in Courage

Wade Richards, 22, Huntsville, Alabama

By Jeff Walsh

Despite his 22 years, Wade Richards has already gone through more highs and lows than most people will encounter in a lifetime. A religious boy at 15, he fasted, prayed, and had his entire church pray for him to remove his homosexuality. It didn't work.

One day, he checked himself out of school, and ran away to New York City, where he began hanging out in gay bars, and using drugs and alcohol. Finally, he became fed up with the downward spiral his life was taking, and he turned to the church again. This time, they offered more than prayers, instead offering him a solution to change his homosexuality once and for all. So, he entered the program, and before too long was being heralded by the religious right as a successful "ex-gay." But despite their positioning, things weren't that clear cut for Richards.

Miss Teen USA Marissa Whitley Makes Diversity a Priority

By Travis Stanton

"Overwhelmingly amazing" is how Marissa Whitley describes her year so far as the reigning Miss Teen USA. "It was definitely a whirlwind," said the 18-year-old beauty queen when asked about having her life changed by winning the title. As the third black Miss Teen USA, Marissa is nothing short of colorful. However, her life has not always been rhinestones and smiles. The adversity she has faced in her life only serves to make her a more deserving recipient of the crown, and an optimal spokesperson for the official cause of the Miss Teen USA Pageant.

Adam Colton, 18, of Novato, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

During his senior year, Adam Colton wanted to change his high school. The week classes began last year, he came out to faculty, board members and students attending an in-service. Colton had previously mentioned a diversity program with school administrators and now he was pushing for a gay-straight alliance.

Seth Watkins, 22, of San Francisco, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Seth Watkins is constantly on the move. His picture appears in San Francisco gay publications with the same frequency as the picture of the escorts for hire. Only Watkins keeps getting written up because of his work as a queer youth activist.

Within the past month, Watkins protested against insane homophobic minister Fred Phelps at a mass same-sex marriage ceremony, organized a hate crimes rally after hearing of Billy Jack Gaither's murder, led groups of queer youth to speak to representatives at California's Queer Youth Lobby Day, helped plan the local Equality Begins At Home events... and I'm sure there are far more events I'm leaving out.

Night and Day

[Ed. Note: Fraternity life for queer students is something rarely addressed in Oasis. A new book, "Out on Fraternity Row" from Alyson Publications sheds light on how gay and bisexual men cope with their sexuality in the seemingly-hetero world of fraternities. While there is currently a gay fraternity, there are still major issues for people who are queer and are fraternity members. Unlike a traditional profile in Oasis, where we would normally interview one of the people who contributed to the book, this month we feature an exclusive excerpt from the book courtesy of Alyson Publications and the book's editor Shane Windmeyer.]

Alex Trout, 21, of Kansas City, Missouri

By Jeff Walsh

While the senseless death of Matthew Shepard has touched millions of people, none were hit harder than his family and those who knew him. Alex Trout was Matt's closest friend in Laramie, although Alex has since moved to Kansas City after Matt's death. Within days of his friend being beaten and murdered, Alex found himself in Washington D.C., speaking to thousands of people at a rally while trying to process his grief.

Tom Beddingfield, 19, of San Diego, Calif.

[Ed. note: When this column was named "Profiles in Courage" three years ago, the point was clear that we wanted to focus on young people who were out and making a difference in the world. All of profiles to date have been people who have been advancing the gay rights debate forward by being out, filing lawsuits and sharing their stories. This month, we are faced with a new challenge, a profile of a young gay man who opposes hate crimes legislation, gay marriage, workplace rights and gays in the military. While many people will not agree with these opinions, it still takes courage to go against the grain and speak your mind. Oasis has prided itself on our inclusiveness, which we will now extend to this month's profile.]

Willi Wagner, 17, of Fayetteville, Ark.

By Jeff Walsh

Willi Wagner never wanted to be out in his high school. He was outed in the ninth grade, and left school after his sophomore year, due to constant verbal and physical attacks. Wagner and his parents, with the help of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed a sex discrimination complaint to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education. The complaint was the first filed under Title IX on behalf of a harassed gay student.

Steven Cozza, 13, of Petaluma, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Steven Cozza is on a mission. He wants the Boy Scouts of America to recognize that they are being hypocritical about their policy of not allowing openly gay members to serve as scouts or scoutmasters. For the past two and a half years, Cozza has marched in gay pride parades, set up tables in the middle of gay meccas getting signatures on his petition and has spoken out about why the Scouts need to follow their own words.

Sam Francis, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif.

By Ron Belgau

Real men cuddle.

Sam Francis is a man with a mission: to provide an alternative voice for gay men who want more from gay culture than ads for killer abs and articles about sex, drugs, and HIV. Arrow Magazine, his newly launched webzine for gay men, takes a different slant on gay culture: it is the first and only magazine aimed at gay men that features monogamy, romance, commitment, and a balanced approach to life.

The lesbian couple behind the National Day of Silence

By Beverly Greene

Who says that our youth are too self-centered and lazy to make any real difference in our world today? The National Day of Silence is a perfect example of how the vision of one young woman can become a passionate appeal for humanity and how that one small objective spiced with a lot of determination can grow into international activism and awareness.

Tom Beddingfield, 19, of San Jose, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

On January 21, in Sacramento, Calif., Tom Beddingfield stood on the steps of the state capitol and, for the 27th time, spoke about why he became an activist, or rather the events that led him to activism. And for the 27th time in public, he had to relive the love and loss of his boyfriend, Brandon, who shot himself on March 9, 1996.

Beddingfield was speaking as part of Youth Lobby Day, which drew 300 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth from all over California. There was a rally, then individuals met with their local representatives and attended workshops.

Troix Bettencourt, 23, of San Francisco, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Troix Bettencourt was one of the most visible gay teens when I was first coming out in the early 90s. Like most things back then, I don't quite remember how or why I knew about him. He had appeared on Maury Povich and other shows, but I don't recall having seen them. I just knew he existed.

I remember once that I had called BAGLY for some legitimate reason, and asked the person if they knew Troix. They said they did. I thought it was so cool that I was talking to someone who knew Troix.

Jason Hungerford, 20, of Manassas, VA

By Paul Pellerito
Oasis Staff Writer

The Internet has done a lot for 20-year old Jason Hungerford, but what he is doing for it may be even more important.

Hungerford is no stranger to the power of being online. Like many queer youth today, he had his first tastes of coming out on the Internet, and it helped him come to terms with who he is.

Jacob Eiler, 18, of Anderson, Indiana

By Jeff Walsh

School is slowly becoming a better place for queer and questioning youth. With the $900,000 settlement against a public school for not protecting Jamie Nabozny as a harassed gay student, teachers will now most likely be a little more supportive. And last year, many same-sex couples even attended their proms without incident.

Christopher Curry, 25, of Los Angeles, Calif.

By Troy N. Diggs

In medieval times, a renaissance man was someone who could "do it all". Christopher Curry seems to fit that bill as a successful print model, personal trainer, and Web designer. Chris's success comes from lots of hard work and devotion to what he does, and in a recent online interview, Chris shared his thoughts and feelings about his life.

Craig Jessup, 15, of Larkspur, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Junior high school brings changes to any student's life -- new expectations, new teachers and, for some, even a new school district. For Craig Jessup, now a 15-year-old ninth grader in Larkspur, Calif., seventh grade brought with it something even more eye-opening -- a new sexual identity.

"Right before I came into the seventh grade at St. Patrick's, two people who were very close to me came out to me. It was at that point that I started looking back at my life and seeing all these times that I had these thoughts but had no labels to identify them with," he said. "And I began to kind of take a look at the label of 'gay' and see what that meant for me, and see how I could adapt it to my life. And it was pretty much a solid fit right from the very beginning. I could see that that was who I was, and that was pretty shocking."

Jesse Costello-Good, 17, of San Francisco

By Jeff Walsh

Since coming out two years ago, Jesse Costello-Good has definitely put the 'active' in activism.

In September 1995, three months after coming out, he joined openly lesbian Roberta Achtenberg's mayoral campaign in San Francisco. It was the first political and social thing he had done as an openly gay teen.

Thomas Gerald Jean, 17, of Killeen, Texas

By Jeff Walsh

Thomas Jean is a man with a mission, or was one anyway. Until recently, the 17-year-old Killeen, Texas resident was involved in just a few gay community and student groups.

He was a member and served in various positions in these different groups: The Gay Lesbian Alliance of Central Texas, P-FLAG Waco, P-FLAG Austin, Out Youth Austin, Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Young Adults of Dallas, the Teen Project of Forth Worth, Respect All Youth of Dallas, and the Killeen High School Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Student Union.

Jake Hein, 17, of rural Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

By Jeff Walsh

Jake Hein's life changed when his English teacher persisted in asking why he couldn't attend a forensics meet. He had told her he had another commitment, but after additional prodding told her he was attending a meeting for gay teens trying to start a local support group. dent, who lives outside Eau Claire, Wis., says the teacher shouldn't have been too shocked. During a recent meeting with the principal, Hein had told the principal he was gay.

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