Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Speech For My Institutions First Annual Pride Event, 2016, Stafford Creek Correction Center, Washington State

I gave a presentation/speech at this years first Dept. Of Corrections LGBTI Recognition Event. This is a copy of what I said:
Titled: Solidarity Through Pride
I want to thank you all for attending SCCC's first annual Pride event. Many of you already know me, for those of you who don't, my name is Jeff Utnage and I am openly and proudly gay. For some of you, coming to this took real courage. For that, I thank you. I'd be willing to bet that everyone here is in attendance for a different reason. Some because they have gay or trans relatives, some have friends they want to support some are openly gay and want to connect with your community. Regardless, welcome.
By a showing of hands, how many of you here knew you were attending an event that was making history? This is the first time in Washington DOC history that LGBTI people are being recognized and celebrated, formally. Look at the people around you. Take a moment and look around the room, these are your neighbors and coworkers. Give yourselves a round of applause for having the courage to come here today and help make history. This isn't just my day, my event. This is our day, our event. I couldn't be prouder then to be with you all right here, right now.
When I first came out I remember sitting on the first edge of my bed. I had told myself a thousand times I was gay, but never out loud. Never. I knew that would mean it was real, true. Earlier that day I had seen another man. Out loud I commented on his looks, I said " Lord, that man is gorgeous!" It just slipped out. The shame that followed caused me to retreat inward, angry and suicidal. So I sat on the edge of my bed, ready for death but before I went through with it tears streaming down my face I said to God; "God, I am so sorry, but I AM gay". It was an act of defeat. A confession. Years of being told that no queer is going to heaven. No abomination will enter the Kingdom. Here I was about to end it all and take my rightful place in hell, when something miraculous happened.
Those words leaving my mouth " I AM gay", suddenly I felt relieved. I no longer wanted to die. It was like my whole life I was viewing the world in black and white and now suddenly, like a light switch everything was in bright vibrant color. Everything was brand new, everything. I was suddenly captivated by the endless possibilities the world had to offer. I had a whole globe to rediscover! I couldn't wait to live! That freedom offered me a second chance.
I became comfortable with who I am. I love people. I am in love with my community. Your stories I've heard over the years, the trials you have overcome. I feel connected to you all. I want to experience life with every one of you. I want to share my joy, my hope and my passions with you. Its small victories like this event, that are big victories in the end. One day we will not be discriminated against, one day we will not be told we made a choice, one day we will not be hated by religious factions, one day we will not be told that were abominations. One day we will look back at today and we'll know today was a victory in OUR lives.
For so long we have been looked at as confused imitations of our opposite gender. Men acting like women, women acting like men. Because some of us switch our hips when we walk or have a lisp when we talk. Because women wear pants and have short hair or because a man wears a dress. Am I less of a man with painted nails? Is your wife less your wife when she cuts her hair short? Or make up, why would any man want that? Perhaps because we like it? I admit, these are all cliché. The reality is just because your gay doesn't mean you suddenly wear drag or walk with switching hips. Any person can commit a homosexual act, but we don't have a choice if we like it. Thinking this was a choice is just as ridiculous as saying you to could be gay if you wanted, when in fact your not. I had no more choice to be gay then any straight man had a choice to be straight.
Now to my lesbian, gay, bisexual,transgendered, intersex, asexual, pansexual, gender queer and questioning friends here today please know that you are NOT alone. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, whoever I am with, you are always welcome. We have lost to many to not make time for one another. Please, connect with me, around me you can be you. No judgement here. I mean that, you absolutely have a friend in me.
For anyone who is having trouble coming to terms with their sexuality, if you need help, please ask. I may not have all the answers but there is a whole network of people here who legitimately care. You no longer have to be ashamed. Coming out is an act of courage, not defeat. Here, you have a family who loves you. My name is Jeff and I am proudly, fantastically, beautifully crafted, created by Something higher and I wouldn't change it even if I could... gay.

That was my speech! 
With Love
Jeff Utnage

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave comments or suggestions so we can continue to interact with you. All comments will be monitored and responded to. We love your interactions with us.