Coming Out for one of their Own

This is latest of five articles about growing up Gay in the United States. They are well written and give a good picture of what it is like. Link to Coming Out for one of their Own

Please share this series with others. They are educational and inspiring. The Washington Post did a great job here.

Coming Out for one of their Own

The fliers arrived three weeks ago. Some came over the fax machines of local churches, and others appeared mysteriously around town. Printed in bold was the heading "Westboro Baptist Church." No seeming cause for alarm. Sand Springs, population 18,500, is a Christian stronghold in the gently rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma.

But the message that followed was a rant against a 17-year-old Sand Springs resident named Michael Shackelford and his mother, Janice, the subjects of a recent Washington Post series examining Michael's struggles as a young gay man in the Bible Belt. The fliers posted a photo of Michael, called him a "doomed teenage fag" and announced that followers of Westboro Baptist in Topeka were o­n their way from Kansas to stage antigay protests in Sand Springs.

Public theater is the specialty of Westboro Baptist and its minister, Fred Phelps, whose place o­n the extreme fringe of the antigay movement is symbolized by his Web site, www.godhatesfags.com. But this time, Phelps picked a formidable target.

Oklahoma could never be mistaken for a liberal blue state. President Bush grabbed the seven electoral votes here like a sack of candy, winning 60 percent of the popular vote. A state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed by a 3-to-1 margin.

Sand Springs is the essence of pious Oklahoma. Downtown, a veterinary clinic with loudspeakers o­n its roof plays a taped carillon of hymns and patriotic songs. Michael and Janice Shackelford attend a large evangelical church where lots of worshipers bring their own Bibles.

In the eyes of Phelps, any church that allows an openly gay person to attend Sunday worship is weak. "Was there no Gospel preacher in Sand Springs or Broken Arrow to tell Michael . . . that sodomy is a monstrous sin against God that will destroy the life and damn the soul?" the fliers asked.

Click here for the rest of Coming Out for one of their Own

You will find the First four articles here: Gay in Real America

In the Bible Belt, Acceptance Is Hard-Won (The Washington Post, Sep 26, 2004)
A Slow Journey From Isolation (The Washington Post, Sep 27, 2004)
Braving the Streets Her Way (The Washington Post, Oct 3, 2004)
Using Her Voice to Rise Above (The Washington Post, Oct 4, 2004)

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