How I got involved in Equality Texarkana

Mark VaughanPersonal Stories

I have been to well over three hundred funerals. 217 have been for friends who died from AIDS. Thirty-eight have been for friends who have committed suicide because they just could not stand the pain that they were being inflicted with because they were gay.

Thirty-Eight of my friends were so bullied, belittled, and beaten, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually, that they could not stand it anymore, and they ended their pain, the only way they thought they could.

Tommy killed himself after his family subjected him to an exorcism…his third. Dwayne deliberately overdosed himself on his father’s heroin stash after his dad beat him, again, for being a faggot. Brian ate a bullet from his father’s gun. Chad overdosed. It wasn’t until they found his journal a month later that his family found out it had been on purpose…and that he had been gay. And that his lover had killed himself two weeks before when his parents had sent him off to Bible Camp to pray the gay away. John died in a Bible Camp…whether it was suicide, or murder has never been determined.

Thirty-eight people who were so lonely, lost and afraid that they would rather be dead than go through one more day being tormented for something that they didn’t choose, and something they can’t change.

That’s just my friends who succeeded. There were much more who tried. The one that hurts the most is Paul, who put a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. It jumped, and ended up just blowing off the right side of his face from jaw to eye socket. He is still undergoing reconstructive surgery. He has lost the eye. He is still being fed through a tube and breathes through a trach. He still has every single problem he had before the attempt, and now, so much more. Every day, I pray for him. Every day, I weep for his pain.

That’s why I’m involved. LGBT people are 4-7 times more likely to attempt suicide. They face far greater odds of being the victim of an assault. 42% of all transgender people have made a suicide attempt. Transgender women of color are thirteen times more likely to be murdered than the average citizen. 18.9% of all hate crimes are against LGBT people. The average life expectancy of a transgender person in America is 32. Let that sink in. Dead by 32.

When the effort to repeal Ordinance M-130 that offered LGBT protections in city jobs started, we knew, absolutely, that there was almost no chance to save the ordinance. But we fought anyway because evil should be fought where ever it is found. We knew we were doomed, but we fought, we educated people and we lost, 4 to 1. Four to one.

Think about that. We could have lost ten to one. Statistically, that is what should have happened. But it didn’t. We lost four to one, and they outspent us 32 to 1.

Now, we are going forward, and we are choosing avenues that can’t be voted on. We are unifying our community, pooling our power and resources to make real changes in the Ark-La-Tex. The Outreach Center will be a huge step forward. It will give our community a resource to find information about health, safe sex, your legal rights, how to fight discrimination, and how to live a productive life in a region that is notoriously hostile to LGBT people, a safe place where you can be yourself, a beacon of hope so that hopefully no young gay boy in Texarkana will have to start a list of how many of his friends have taken their own lives. So that hopefully, he will not make it on to any other. So no one has to end up just another sad statistic.