The “I’m From Driftwood”
project collects and shares true LGBT stories from all over the world, based on the towns where people were raised, and they’re starting a 50 state tour this year. They only have two stories from Alaska, both by gay men, one from Eagle River (posted below) and one from Juneau. The guy who wrote “I’m From Juneau, AK”
now lives in Texas, but he came out in Alaska:
I had my first [coming out] conversation twenty-nine years ago, driving my friend, Trent, back from a high school dance in downtown Juneau to his house near mine in the Valley:
“I want to tell you something, but I’m afraid it could hurt our friendship, and I don’t want it to. It’s hard to talk about, and I’ve been avoiding telling you, but I want to.”
“Okay. It’s no big deal. Just slow down!” Apparently, my nervousness had caused me to tense up and clamp down, including clamping my foot down on the gas pedal.
“Well,” I thought afterward, “that went a lot better than I feared.”
The Driftwood team is still planning and fundraising for the 50-State Story Tour
. They expect to fly to Alaska in November 2010.
There are gay stories from every corner of the Earth and I think they should be told. But why? What does it mean??
To the gay teens struggling to come out and deal with their sexuality, who to this day still attempt suicide 4 times more than straight kids, it says “you are not alone.” Other people have dealt with similar situations, families, communities and churches, and have overcome and are now living happy lives. It can happen for you, too. It gets soooo much better, I promise. Hang in there, kiddo.
And to the people who don’t support equal rights, it says we’re not all that different after all. We all have stories and problems and loves and lives just like everyone else. So maybe we should all be treated like everyone else, too.
The other Alaska story, “I’m From Eagle River, AK”
by John Ashton, is about the anti-gay hostility he feels and the importance of coming out:
“Mom, I have something I need to tell you.” I said, trying to find the words. “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay.”
There are some things in my life that I never considered that I would be sharing with my mother, or any of my family for that matter. I never saw my preference in a love partner as anyone’s business but mine. The climate of hostility that still surrounds the issue of gay and lesbian people only secured the thought in my mind. All of that changed last year.
In January of 2009 a good friend of mine, Chris, passed away from complications with the HIV virus. I took his death hard, but in a way it helped me more than I knew at the time. The whole time that I knew Chris he pushed me to talk with my family about being gay. He told me that the closet put so much stress on me that I wasn’t even able to see yet. When he passed away I was finally able to see what he meant.
For over a month I was not able to discuss with anyone that a close friend of mine had just died. I was not able to cry about it. I was not able to deal with the feelings that his death brought up in me. Instead these feelings were only allowed to fester and grow inside of me until I could not bear it anymore.
I called my mom one morning. “Mom, we need to talk. Would it be alright if I came over tonight?”
“I would love to talk with you, John.” She said. “Come over when I get home from work.”
Even with the now obvious stress that keeping quiet was putting on me, I almost backed down. I almost chose to remain silent. The level of hostility that still remains in society around the issue of gay and lesbian people scared me enough that I was not sure how my own mother would take this news.
“Mom, I have something I need to tell you. I don’t know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay.”
“I am not shocked.” my mother said.
“Is that all?” I asked, ready for any response.
“John, I still love you. I am not shocked by this. If you are going to choose to explore this path, I will support you. There may come a time when things change for you. You don’t really know who you are until you are a bit older.” she said.
I had a mixture of feelings. Mostly overwhelming joy, though. There was a subtle hint of annoyance, but joy overpowered this. She still loved me. These were the words I was hoping to hear for longer than I realized.
“What made you want to tell me this now?” She asked me.
I explained to her that I had a friend that had died recently, and that having to hide this part of me meant having to hide my pain in relation to him.
The conversation went long into the night. There were a lot of happy tears mixed with some sad ones. When the conversation drew to a close my mom offered these last words.
“John, I want you to be happy. If this is what will make you happy I will support you. If you bring someone home, though, be sure it is someone I would approve of, male or female.”
In the months since this I have had similar conversations with the other members of my family. I look back on the last 9 years that I spent hiding with a lot of regret. I somehow allowed other people’s fear and misunderstanding of gay and lesbian people to damage and restrain my relationships with my family. I spent nearly a decade hiding from myself. Now I will spend the next decade, and longer, working to ensure that the next generation will not have to hide from themselves, or anyone else.
I leave you with the words of the author Dr. Seuss. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
According to the guidelines, the “I’m From Driftwood” stories are based on the town and state you were raised in (not the town you live in now). 300-word stories are best, and make it a story, not an essay, a social commentary, or a rant. Try to write about something other than your coming out story. Keep it clean, this is a for-all-ages site.
Contribute a written story (guidelines and submission form HERE
), set up a video interview (examples
), or be a featured artist
Bent Alaska received the following warning for LGBTQ people and our allies concerning an unfriendly RV park in the Fairbanks area:
A well-respected member of the North Pole community and his partner were recently asked to leave Santa’s RV because they are gay. Santa’s RV is owned by the same people who own the Santa Claus House. Use of other campgrounds in Fairbanks or North Pole are suggested for anyone who despises this kind of discrimination. Thanks!
When I asked for more information, the writer replied that he heard about the incident from a mutual friend who is traveling out of state until July.
All I know is that they were told they had been reported as too loud and when they questioned that, they were told that the fact they were gay was the deciding factor.
The couple has been encouraged to write a letter to the News-Miner describing the incident, or to contact Bent directly. If they respond, the full story will be posted. I will also post a reply from SantaLand.
SantaLand RV Park
was founded by Con and Nellie Miller, and their daughter Merry and son Mike (a former state senator) are still involved with Santa Claus House and the RV Park, according to the website. But SantaLand RV Park is currently managed by Phillip and Teffonie Wyman, who are active members of the North Pole Worship Center.
If you are LGBT and have camped at SantaLand RV Park recently, did you have any interactions – positive, negative or neutral – with the managers? If so, please leave a comment about it below this post. Thank you.
Gay AK: Notes from Homer, Juneau, Palmer, Kenai and Anchorage
Community Memorial Day Picnic
Please join the Imperial Court as they host the annual Memorial Day Picnic
in Anchorage, at the Kincaid Park chalet again this year, on Monday, May 31, noon-5 p.m. For more than 30 years, this showcase event has launched the summer meet and greet season. Strike a pose! See you there!
Homer’s New Youth-Community GSA
A group of young adults in Homer started a Youth-Community GSA. Their first meeting is on Saturday, May 22, from 3:30-5:30pm in the Homer Public Library Conference Room.
Marcia’s Redfish Lodge on the Kenai
Thinking about a summer tip to the Kenai? Check out Marcia’s Alaska Redfish Lodge
. Beautiful cabins, friendly environment, and a great place to get away.
Half Moon Creek opens new art gallery in Palmer
The new Palmer store is open! Come support some fabulous lesbians and some of Alaska’s finest artists. Half Moon Creek
Juneau Drag Queen and King benefit show, help needed
The recently appointed Duchess Marguerite of Juneau is planning a Drag Queen and King show as a fundraiser for Four A’s, at the Rendezvous Bar on Friday June 18th, and she’s looking for help.
“I need some awesome talent to get up there and shake it. You can lip synch, sing live or karaoke, juggle, I don’t care really, just as long as you’re willing to cross dress while doing so. Or not, I’m pretty open to any help! Not a performer? How about help with sound, lighting, costumes? Sign making, donations, general street team getting the word out action is definitely needed. Donations of time, supplies, ideas, money, I want it all.” Please contact Marguerite
, to offer assistance.
A Bent Alaska reader asked the owner of Sound Aviation – a flight-seeing company based in Anchorage – a few questions about his scenic tours and got a long homophobic rant in reply. Why? The reader’s email had a signature line supporting Alaskans Together for Equality, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, and Sound Aviation’s owner Bill Marsan felt compelled to tell a potential customer that gays can be cured – and pilot Bill can show us how:
God has created man to have fellowship with Him and gave man and women the desire to be fruitful and multiply—have children so that they too could enter into fellowship with God… He made sure that man knew why He had made him and gave him a book to instruct him. The Bible. This same Bible tells us that it is wrong and unnatural for men to burn with lust for other men and women to burn for other women. It is a crime against nature and the whole purpose and reason He made us. It is not loving but rather sinful. God has made a way for sinful man to be forgiven instead of being judged in the end. Since everything He asks man to submit to is right, just and loving —to do other than that is unloving and causes hurt, pain and misery to a society. The way to be forgiven is to stop sinning and submit to God’s rule of love which will bless all people you come in contact with. We are cleansed as we believe in the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross—He came to allow a way for the law of God to be upheld and yet allow Him to forgive sinful man based on their faith in His substitutionary death on the cross–By faith in Him our pending doom can be canceled and we may begin a relationship with Him—It is really amazing to see how God deals with man–such patience with the wicked—waiting for them to turn to Him and His design for the universe. You to may enter into this amazing relationship TODAY—if you wish more information I would be happy to provide you with more. Homosexuality is NOT a civil rights issue —It is a SIN issue.
All that (and much more – this quote is only the second half of his reply) in response to a few questions about scenic tours.
We don’t have to support business owners who force their anti-gay religious bigotry on us! Spend your ‘gay dollars’ on gay-positive businesses, like those in the LGBT-Friendly Business Lists linked in the right-hand column of the blog. ➨
Please spread the word about Marsan, so that no gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender visitor to our beautiful state becomes a captive audience to this hater and has to sit through a whole flight of his ugliness.
Seattle’s LGBT chamber of commerce launched the website Travel Gay Seattle
last week to reach and attract LGBT travelers to Seattle, and the press release included this quote from corporate partner Alaska Airlines:
“We work hard to provide all our customers with genuine and caring service, and invite travelers to experience what we call ‘Alaska Spirit’,” said Glenn Johnson, Alaska Airlines’ chief financial officer and executive vice president. “We are proud to partner with the GSBA [Seattle's gay business group] and others to showcase the hospitality and diversity you’ll find in our hometown.”
Well, heck. Wouldn’t it be great to see Alaska Airlines bring some of that LGBT-friendly ‘Alaska Spirit’ home to Alaska… you know, the hometown they’re named after. Wouldn’t it be great if they sponsored an Alaska GLBT travel site… or were a sponsor of Alaska PrideFest, like they sponsor Seattle Pride? Seems they should support something gay in Alaska, if they’re going to brag about the ‘Alaska Spirit’ of diversity.
Because, really, what’s the point if Alaska Airlines only supports the ‘Alaska Spirit’ of diversity outside of the state of Alaska?
Felix Rivera, president of the gay-straight alliance at Alaska Pacific University, has been accepted to an intensive summer program at the Institute on Political Journalism in Washington, DC. The two month internship will teach him valuable news writing skills that he will bring back to use in Alaska. He is asking for help to cover the costs of food and expenses during the program.
“I am very much looking forward to DC, and also looking for more financial help,” writes Felix. “It turns out that I didn’t raise as much as I expected. Housing is provided – well, I’m paying for it. Money for food and other expenses would be great. I believe my parents are pitching in the plane ticket.” He’s leaving for DC on June 6.
The IPJ internship
at Georgetown University selects undergraduate journalism students from around the country to attend classes in economics, ethics and leadership, and to serve in internships with major news organizations. Participants also attend regular briefings at The U.S. House of Representatives, the World Bank and The State Department.
Felix has a passion for social justice issues and was awarded the Hartman Writing Prize. He is active at APU and in the Anchorage community:
As a student at Alaska Pacific University, I have the unique opportunity to develop my skills as a leader, mostly because there are so few of us. At the school, I take on the roles of APU Editor (the campus newspaper), ASAPU Sophomore Representative (the student government), president of Spectrum (the GSA and diversity club on campus) and treasurer and secretary of Newman Club (the Catholic-based club on campus).
As you can see, this encompasses many different positions and responsibilities. One of the biggest strengths I can bring is the power of religious dialogue, as I am an active Catholic in the community, volunteering with CSS and Brother Francis from time to time.
In the community, I also serve various roles. As an employee of the Anchorage Youth Symphony, I have various connections with the musical world of Anchorage. As an intern at the Anchorage Daily News, I can represent the larger issues of the GLBT community in the media. I also volunteer in the GLBT community, representing Spectrum at the GLBT Alliance, serving on the Sponsorships Committee, volunteering for the Youth Drop-ins at the GLCCA, and working to start a subset of the GLBT Alliance focused on the issues of youth, which I am very excited to do!
Congratulations to Felix on the internship! Please support this current and future community leader. If you have donations, questions, or would like to know more about Felix and the internship, please email him
Imagine advertising gay weddings on Mount Denali, enticing gay tourists from all over the world to spend their travel money in Alaska by offering legal same sex weddings on our tallest mountain.
Well, the country of Nepal is legalizing gay marriage this spring, and they’re advertising same sex weddings on Mount Everest, complete with elephant-riding processions and honeymoon tours to Nepal’s favorite sites.
Nepal is adding rights for sexual minorities to their new national constitution, including the right to marry a same sex partner. Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s openly gay member of Parliament, celebrated by opening a travel company catering to gay and lesbian couples, called Pink Mountain Travels and Tours.
Nepal, a mainly Hindu country with some of the most progressive LGBT policies in Asia, is well placed to cash in on the gay travel industry, worth an estimated $670 million worldwide.
“If we brought even one per cent of that market to Nepal it would be big. But I’m hoping we can attract 10 per cent,” said Pant.
Just think what gay and lesbian tourism could do for Alaska! Oh, wait… Alaska banned same sex marriage. Too bad.
Hello, Internet visitors! Welcome to Alaska’s LGBT blog. If you’re here to read the Letter to Levi or another linked post, thank you for coming to the source. Please stay a while and look around, get to know Bent and Alaska’s LGBT community.
Alaska is an amazing state, and we love it. Yes, we’re a little behind in terms of gay rights. (OK, more than a little.) We’re working on that. Bent will keep you up to date with our political efforts, introduce you to the people and events of LGBT Alaska, and share the lighter side of being queer on the Last Frontier.
Do you have a question about LGBT people in Alaska? Do you have a tip or an issue you want us to cover? Leave a comment below the post or write to the contact address in the column along the right side of the blog, and I’ll get back to you. (If you have a media request to interview gays in Wasilla, I’ll add you to the waiting list, but don’t hold your breath.)
While you’re here, this is the perfect time to start planning your gay vacation to Alaska, staying in LGBT-owned B & B’s, sailing with gay cruises, and touring the wild backcountry – the real Alaska – with our gay and lesbian adventure guides. For more info, see the LGBT Alaska Travel page under our Everything LGBT Alaska resource list.
If you like what you see here and want to stay in contact, please bookmark Bent Alaska, or subscribe to the posts in email or RSS.
Thanks for visiting us on the queer frontier. Come back soon!
Gay AK – news briefs for and about LGBT Alaska
Vote in Fairbanks’ Nov. 3rd Mayoral Runoff
The runoff election for borough mayor is on Nov. 3rd. The two candidates are very different in ideology and experience, and our borough will look very different depending on who wins this race. Luke Hopkins, a democrat, won the first round and now faces Tammie Wilson, a conservative Christian, in the run-off election. Please vote.
Imperial Court elects new board members
Congratulations to the new members on the ICOAA Board of Directors: Mikel Wiles, Mary Bess Bohall, Scott Turner, and Christopher Oeser.
Another Fairbanks LGBT Retreat?
Thanks to everyone who showed up at the retreat this weekend. It was a great success and the feedback suggests that people would like a similar event to happen in the near future. Contact Joshua
to suggest ideas for other events.
More than 20 people showed up to the AMP Launch at Snow City. “We got the ball rolling on our MPowerment Project, now it’s time to spread the word about AMP throughout the community,” writes Ted Jones, Prevention Coordinator/Facilitator at Four A’s
. The MPowerment Project is a community-level HIV prevention program for young gay and bisexual men.
Take the COLAGE Donor Insemination Survey
, a national network of people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer parents, announces the ART Project to highlight the experiences of COLAGErs born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies. COLAGE is calling all youth born through donor insemination, and their parents, to take a 15-20 minute online survey, available through November 30. There is a survey for LGBTQ identified parents with a donor conceived child
and a different survey for people born through donor insemination with a LGBTQ identified parent
. For more info, contact Jeff DeGroot
Out in Alaska Roadshow
Meet Out in Alaska’
s lead guide Tim Stallard at the Gay and Lesbian World Travel Expo in Boston on 11/3, at the LGBT CENTER in New York City on 11/6, and at the All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC on 11/10. Visit Out in Alaska
for more info on the roadshow and the Alaskan adventures.
Passports Magazine: The Insider’s Guide to Gay Travel posted an interview with local guide Tim Stallard, owner of Out in Alaska, an adventure tour company catering to GLBT travelers. The article also lists gay-friendly lodges, restaurants and B&B’s in Alaska.
“Tim Stallard believes that the best way to experience our 49th state is to get out and enjoy the wilderness,” reads the introduction to the online story. “His company, Out in Alaska, makes sure you do just that.”
Out in Alaska
takes small groups of LGBT travelers and open-minded friends all over Alaska, often visiting Seward and Denali in addition to Anchorage and Fairbanks. They organize adventure travel, comfortable land tours, small boat cruises, and custom options like romantic remote lodge trips and corporate retreats, and have a full line-up of exciting trips for summer and fall 2009.
Passports: “Why did you choose to cater to LGBT travelers?”
Stallard: “Because LGBT travelers have a reputation for being avid, adventurous, and discerning travelers. However, straight travelers (especially Europeans) have gay travelers beat for recognizing Alaska as a world-class destination. No one was serving the gay market for real travel experiences in Alaska so I saw an opportunity to do that. Also, many gay people love nature and animals, but a majority of gay people live in highly urbanized cities, so gay Alaskan adventures seemed the obvious antidote! As I later realized, operating a gay travel business in Alaska also allows us to promote equal rights for gay Alaskans through our business networking and supplier connections.”
In addition to being an explorer, adventure guide and Fairbanks-based business owner, Tim is the Vice President of Alaskans Together for Equality
, a group dedicated to achieving full civil equality for all Alaskans.