Jamie overcomes the threats, violence and hatred to embrace who she is
I wish with
everything in me that you could be made blind to the normalities of
life and be able to love me for who I am. I beg of you. Because I know
that you'll never be unhappy with me.
LOGAN -- Jamie sits at a round, black table in the Cafe Ibis, drinking spicy Chai tea. She often hangs out here on Federal Avenue, in the valley's only alternative coffee shop.
No one is denied friendly service at the Ibis, not even the girl with the short-as-putting-green hair, the pine-colored, plaid bandanna and the muddy, second-hand store hiking boots. No one stares at Jamie here.
No one gives her dirty looks and no one throws her up against the wall.
Jamie relaxes at the Ibis, playing guitar. Sometimes she eats amaretto cheesecake with her friends. Other times she likes to write poetry in her journal.
Tears flow through my
Like most teen-agers, Jamie describes the ups and downs of teen-age years. However, unlike most teen-agers, Jamie said she was physically, psychologically and sexually abused by family members and acquaintances. She was kicked out of her house. She was shuttled from school to school because of incessant harassment.
Unlike 90 percent of the population, Jamie knows what it's like to be a lesbian in the religious culture of northern Utah.
In seventh-grade Jamie realized that she was gay. In the 10th grade she was "outed" by her friends. This means Jamie's sexuality was revealed to friends and family. According to a 1996 Rhode Island study on homosexual youth, many lesbians and gay men sense something different about themselves around age 4 or 5. They generally acknowledge this difference between the ages of 14 and 19.
Often when teen-agers come out of the closet or are brought out of the closet by others, the abuse they receive increases.
"I know that freshman and sophomore year I stopped going to classes because I was pretty much ostracized by the whole school," Jamie said. "People were throwing things at me. Food."
Jamie was punched in the face in the locker room, thrown against the lockers by a male student, and spit in the face. She received death threats in her locker that said, "Dye Dyke Bitch."
According to a 1998 U.S. Justice Department report, 15 percent of all hate/bias crimes are against homosexuals. Sixty-seven percent of the victims are gay men, 18 percent are lesbians, and 8 percent are either gay/lesbian institutions or unknown.
According to the Rhode Island study, teen-agers have an especially tough time in schools. Abuse and harassment are aimed primarily at students who do not conform to societally accepted gender roles.
A homosexual youth, repeatedly targeted because of a core characteristic of her or his identity that cannot be changed, often suffers from low self-esteem, the report states. Subsequently, homosexual youth often perform poorly in schools and overall they have a high suicide rate. Forty-four percent of homosexual youth experiences violent attacks, and 44 percent of these kids are suicidal.
Not only do their peers ostracize them, 26 percent of gay youth are forced to leave home because they lack familial support.
At age 15 Jamie's family kicked her out of the house. As strict followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the father and mother disagreed with Jamie's lifestyle. Forced to live with a man in Brigham City, Jamie said that she often went without food.
Often she went without
sleep as well.
It's over -- He's gone.
For Jamie, as for many lesbian and gay youth, there is no place to go for advice or help. Even schools offer little or no protection against physical and psychological violence. Out of 2000 teen-agers interviewed for the Rhode Island report, many described their teachers as knowing about the abuse, but not stopping it.
Jamie said that in her first high school, Sky View, the teachers never did anything to stop the harassment. She said this partially resulted from her failure to report anything to teachers or administrators. However, a number of teachers were aware of the discrimination. Her gym teacher had her come into class five minutes early to change because the teacher feared for Jamie's safety.
Solutions such as this only served to further isolate Jamie from her peers. Jamie said that she "didn't have any friends" and she basically hated herself. However, these feelings of hatred did not result from her homosexuality. They were a result of the homophobia and hatred of much of Utah society.
Jamie thought for many years that she was going to some kind of hell. Other young LDS children made jokes about dykes and homos. When Jamie asked her mother about the word faggot that she heard in elementary school, her mother replied that it was "a horrible person."
Like other followers of the LDS Church, Jamie's mother was following the instructions of the upper echelons of the Church, which is not in support of the homosexual lifestyle.
Last year the general authorities told all LDS members to support the fight against same-sex marriages that was raging in California. The LDS Church, along with the Roman Catholic Church, donated $10 million to the cause. The opposition had $6.6 million.
This discrimination was not limited to same-sex marriages. In 1996, when students at East High School in Salt Lake City formed a gay-straight alliance, the SLC school board reacted by banning all school-sponsored extracurricular organizations.
Then in April of 1996, the SLC Utah Legislature voted to ban clubs for gay students in high schools. The bill, which cleared the Senate by a 3-to-1 ratio, and the House by a 2-to-1 ratio, is the only one of its kind in the nation to have won passage.
Although Utah consistently fails to recognize its discriminatory practices, lesbian and gay groups still meet to offer support to their members.
Jamie found two of these groups in fall 1999, both related to Utah State University. One group, called Pride, meets once a week and welcomes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and straight people. The other group, only for females, wishes to remain anonymous.
Partially because of the affirmation she has received through involvement with these groups, Jamie's life has improved. This year she found a job, moved out of her parents house and has begun a relationship with a blue-eyed, long-haired, blond Cache High school student named Adrienne.
Jamie said that she now feels a lot of love for her friends, herself and her girlfriend, who throughout the interview plopped in and out of the chair next to Jamie.
Jamie explains that Adrienne just came out last fall, after she met Jamie on a field trip to an art exhibit at Utah State. Unlike Jamie, Adrienne has had few problems with her family or friends and has experienced no discrimination in her school.
Cache High is a school that has students from many different backgrounds. It is a school for kids who don't fit into regular public schools. Adrienne described her experiences as she handed Jamie a bagel she bought for them to share.
"The last bite of bagel's for you," Adrienne said, as she leaned over to kiss Jamie on the cheek and nudge her side.
"Why're you giggling?" Jamie asked, smiling.
"I saw a man with a cute baby and it made me smile," Adrienne said, eyes twinkling.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
I watch you rejoice