Favorite

Coming out at Boys State 

I've been among the speakers at Arkansas Boys State for 20 years.

I talk about my left-leaning ideas. Conservative young men take vigorous exception, particularly on social issues such as abortion and sexual orientation.

Things are improving. I don't get hissed and booed anymore. (Lt. Gov. Mark Darr did this year tweet approvingly a message from a nephew in the audience that the "flaming liberal" speaker he was listening to should be slapped.)

I also get lots of thankyous afterward. In early years, the thanks often came in furtive asides from one or two kids.

Boys State was updated this year with the ability to instantly poll the phone-carrying crowd. So I tried the 400 or so delegates on three hot-button questions:

• Gay marriage — 62-38 against. (That's still 13 points better than the 75 percent anti-gay-marriage amendment vote in 2004).

• Right to a pre-viability abortion (the prevailing law, in other words) — 62-38 against.

• Medical marijuana — 50-50.

I'd hoped for better on gay marriage, but I still detected a great deal more tolerance toward gay people, if not marriage, than in years past. Only one Boys Stater quoted Leviticus to me (and I do believe he was wearing a blend of a synthetic fabric and cotton, which, I noted, Leviticus also prohibits).

I'd particularly hoped to soften the voters by reading a letter I'd received recently on Facebook. It follows:

Max. Way back in 1997 or so, you spoke at UCA for the Boys State conference.

Among all of the Legion guys and college-aged counselors during that period on campus, I clearly remember your short talk.

Being a political/civic government type of "camp" full of boisterous and confident teenaged young men, I received a near-constant barrage of anti-gay sentiment.

But then the editor of that weekly liberal newspaper called the Arkansas Times spoke. We had never heard of your paper back in Russellville.

As a young gay kid in the sea of animosity, your talk affirmed your support for gay people. It's been so long that the specifics have been lost to me but I'll always remember that you were the lone supportive voice during Boys State.

Later on during the camp, I would go on to meet my first boyfriend at Boys State. Today I'm happily married to my husband and now live in San Francisco and I'm active in the local PFLAG chapter.

You were the adult in the room who contradicted my idea that everyone must feel like these anti-gay, very conservative young men and Legion guys feel. It was so refreshing and it confirmed that I simply lived in a part of the world where I was definitely in the minority.

In the years since, I've seen Arkansas move step by step towards more understanding (the Arkansas legislature notwithstanding) and who knows how many other young men of 16 have similarly been affected by your talks at similar events and your columns?

Thanks Max.

Brandon Brock

Footnote: Brock posted my Arkansas Blog account of my Boys State appearance on his Facebook page. Soon after, the young man with whom he'd had his first date chimed in with a friendly greeting.

Better yet, one of the counselors this year told me that he'd been outraged, too, at my speech at his Boys State delegate year. He, too, quoted Leviticus. Then he went to college. His views changed. He joined the Gay Straight Alliance.

Hearts and minds can change. Particularly when an idea that's feared or loathed takes a human face. I wondered how that Leviticus-quoter felt if he happened to be in one of the Boys State groups that I'm told included openly gay boys this year. Loving, I hope, if that Bible he quoted really does mean anything.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Speaking of...

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The suffering children's open line

    Until it's fixed, nobody is doing enough to resist the Trump administration's cruel and thoughtless handling of asylum-seeking children.
    • May 27, 2018
  • Arming teachers: An insurance complication

    Gun lovers in the Arkansas legislature are spoiling to put more guns in classrooms at the earliest opportunity. Today, the Washington Post reports a complication — from insurance companies.
    • May 27, 2018
  • Razorbacks plan a return to real grass in 2019

    I don't know why the news of a return to real grass at Razorback stadium seemed like such good news to me. Old fogey, I guess.
    • May 27, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
    • May 24, 2018
  • Are you being served?

    These aren't good times for confidence in public servants.

    • Mar 22, 2018
  • Send in the segs

    The state Board of Education last week rejected requests from Camden Fairview, Hope, Lafayette County and Junction City to be exempt from the state law requiring students to be able to freely transfer between school districts.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trade places

    • Despite not sparing us your hand-wringing PC angst over movies, the rest of the piece…

    • on May 27, 2018
  • Re: Now, the main event

    • Good article and an accurate observation of the inconsistencies in Gov. Asa Hutchinson's words and…

    • on May 24, 2018
  • Re: Flooding the swamp

    • Nations who negotiate sweet deals with the US pharmaceutical companies are only able to do…

    • on May 24, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation