Capitol Hill reception marks launch of CRISIS in paperback
Mitchell Gold was honored on Oct. 5 in during a reception at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. that was sponsored by both U.S. senators from North Carolina, the Honorable Sen. Kay Hagan and the Honorable Richard Burr, for his work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
The event served as a launch for Gold's new paperbook Youth in Crisis: What Everyone Should Know About Growing Up Gay. Gold in 2008 published "CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing The Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America." He has called the book, co-produced with Mindy Drucker, his sister-in-law, one of the most rewarding advocacy projects he has ever undertaken.
Hagan thanked Gold for his work.
"No child should grow up in an environment where they are made to feel less than whole," Hagan stated. "Mitchell Gold's work on behalf of our LGBT youth pushes attitudes away from intolerance and ignorance, and toward acceptance and compassion. I thank him for his continued support of our next generation."
More than 50 guests attended the reception this evening in the The Family Dining Room at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Read Mitchell's remarks below:
Remarks by Mitchell Gold at reception at The Capitol on October 5, 2011
Hosted by Hon. Richard Burr, Hon. Kay Hagan and Faith in America
Thank you Senator Burr and Senator Hagan. And thank you to the board of Faith in America. I’ve been humbled before but I must admit today I am perhaps humbled more than ever. The reality is that to be in the halls of Congress…..a place that wields enormous influence in the everyday lives of every American, a place where the legislators think and study and debate so many issues of grave importance….for me to be here today and possibly influence any one of you to take a greater role of leadership to protect the unprotected gay youth of our country….that is truly awesome and humbling to me. I take today so seriously that I have written comments instead of speaking extemporaneously with an outline as I normally would.
Bob Williams and I started our little furniture manufacturing business in rural Taylorsville, NC a little more than 22 years ago. There is something to be said for naiveté and being in love. Bob and I were a couple than….we were so in love all we wanted to do was be together all the time. We wanted to work together so we could in fact be together as much as possible. So with less than $60,000 we bought into an existing and struggling furniture factory. We were too naïve to know that there was a terrible recession in 1989 and too naïve to realize that our factory was in a county that truly was in the buckle of the Bible Belt and what that might mean to a gay couple.
By the mid 90’s I came to realize that there were enormous forces in America who would stop at very little to demonstrate that they believed homosexuality was a sin and consequently gay people should be marginalized….to them it was fair to say gay people should not have full and equal rights because in their minds gay people were ruining the moral fiber of this nation.
Frankly, I was a bit horrified with what I heard and saw. Growing up in the 60’s, I saw the same use of “it’s in the Bible” used against People of Color, Woman and minority religious groups. I remember hearing how it said in the Bible that woman were second to men and of course Gov. George Wallace’s famous words “Segregation now, segregation forever, it says it in the Bible.”
So in our naiveté we had set up shop in an area that by most observations would be considered unwelcoming to a gay couple and just went about running and building a company that would become a standard for other companies to reach for. With an onsite daycare center, college scholarship program for our employee’s children, full time nurse and an exceptional health care program, treating our employees with enormous respect, having a fast growing business, we became the largest employer in the county and a good size company with revenues approaching $100 mil annually. AND we became a place where people learned what a gay person was….not what their misconceptions were.
With but a very few exceptions, we have not lost any employees because of who we are. I could spend hours telling you wonderful stories about how our employees have embraced change and knowledge and how welcome we feel in their midst.
But there is a stark reality in rural North Carolina that is the same in Oklahoma or Minnesota, California or even in New York and Massachusetts. And that is that there is enormous misunderstanding about homosexuality….some people really do fear that gay people are out to ruin society or the institution of marriage. And there is enormous ignorance…..there are misguided and outdated beliefs….there are those who refuse to believe the science….who refuse to acknowledge what the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Assoc. and Am. Psychological Assoc acknowledge: sexual orientation is how you are born, and trying to change it is enormously harmful to one’s mental health.
Fear and ignorance about gay people….is not just perpetuated by religious extremists, but by nice, middle of the road people….perhaps even by some in this room. I felt a calling to do something about it….i was coming in contact with too many kids locally who made me understand that there were still kids just like me when I was young: scared to death.
In 2005, along with former Rev. Jimmy Creech, I co-founded Faith in America…whose mission it is to educate people about the harm caused to the LGBT community by religion-based bigotry. I know those last three words might seem harsh or incendiary to some, but unfortunately those are the words that best describe the disease that has and is dividing our country and too many families.
Three and a half years ago I was being interviewed in the Café in the Great Hall of Union Station by a reporter for a SouthEastern chain of newspapers. He asked me why I, a successful looking and healthy middle aged guy as he said, would devote so much money and time to this Faith in America organization. Without hesitation I said “Because I don’t want one more kid to go through what I did as a kid.” And then I proceeded to explain how too many nights I cried myself to sleep because I just couldn’t understand ‘my problem.’ Why did I find Dr. Kildare appealing and not his beautiful blond nurse? Why did I want to be with other guys and not girls in not just a sexual way but an intimate way? Why did God hate me….what did I do wrong…why was I created like this? I was petrified my parents or brother would learn my secret and disown me. I was scared I would never get a decent job. And I was heartbroken that I would never be able to experience the love and companionship that my parents had….or that my older brother had what seemed to be every other week.
When I finished and looked up at Scott Sheppard….the man standing right there who now works for Senator Kerry….he had tears in his eyes and simply said….and I will always remember exactly what those words were: “I had no idea that‘s what a gay kid goes through.” Eureka….it hit me. So many people…so many well meaning people….they just don’t know.
I left the great hall and stood at the train station entrance on that beautiful spring day and looked at the Capital. And frankly, for some peculiar reason…..i had great hope. It was inspiring. I have great hope in the people in this building. I am just naïve enough to believe that if I can educate you to understand the enormous pain and trauma that over a million gay kids suffer every day….if I can get you to understand that there is a mental health epidemic that you can end…if I can get you in the head of a 14 year old gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender kid that is so distraught they are contemplating jumping off a bridge or hanging themselves….then I will be able to get you not to take pity on them but rather to lead more strongly than you ever have before to end the marginalization and second class status of the LGBT community in America today.
That afternoon I called my sister in law Mindy and suggested we create a book where well known, as well as not so well known people, tell their story of the moment they realized they were gay. What was it like? Not beautiful coming out stories which avoid the pain and embarrassment of revealing your vulnerabilities….but those moments when a person said “Geez…I have a BIG problem!” And a moment when they are freaked out…in a crisis.
Six months later Mindy and I assembled stories that are too often chilling from 40 diverse gay and lesbian people. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Barney Frank were kind enough to share their stories. Thank you for sharing something so personal and private. Joe Solmonese, President of The Human Rights Campaign shared his story and let the world know that the leader of the largest LGBT advocacy group is not doing it because he’s some kind of radical with a deviant , promiscuous HOMOsexual agenda but rather a good and decent human being who works everyday to make sure kids don’t go through what he went through. Jody Huckabee, President of PFLAG shared his story in an effort to make sure kids live a better life than he did. (See if any others are in room) And mother’s who lost their children. Mary Lou Wallner’s daughter hung herself, and Elke Kennedys son was murdered.
Perhaps one of the most meaningful chapters for the people in this room and me….one for you to read and one to share, is by Brent Childers, my friend and Executive Director of Faith in America. As Brent says, less than 10 years ago he was a homophobe and a Jesse Helms Republican. Brent is a person of deep faith….grew up Southern Baptist and continues to uphold many of his faith beliefs and traditions. But about 7 years ago Brent started to change…to grow and to learn about homosexuality and more importantly, the harm he participated in causing the gay community. Brent wrote a chapter that is his open apology to the gay community. The bottom line is that Brent recognized he was wrong and was man enough to admit it and move on. That’s what we need. People to understand they have been wrong and to move on to make the lives of those they’ve hurt better.
This week we are launching CRISIS in paperback. We have titled it YOUTH IN CRISIS: What everyone should know about growing up gay. The book is dedicated to all the teenagers who are in crisis mode today because of the fear they might have. And to Scott Shepard….because sometimes asking a question leads to answers that can cause significant change for the better. For the paperback we are also dedicating it to the young people who have been lost in the last 3 years: Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Asher Brown, Tyler Clemti and Lance Lundsten to name a few.
This book was and is my clarion call to the crisis that exists among gay teens…the potential suicide risks and the mental health epidemic for these kids. Today I am asking you to take a copy and read through it…understand it….and never again allow yourself to be complicit with the bigotry that has taken place against our brothers and sisters, children and friends. The next time someone uses their personal religious beliefs to justify their marginalization of the gay community just look at them and say “NO. We’ve been down that road before with People of Color, woman and minority religious groups. History has been the arbiter to teach us it was wrong and harmful. And I will not be on the wrong side of history now! I will not cause one more kid harm.”