Thursday, February 26, 2009

Honoring a Very Big Heart in the Heartland

As our families in Iowa wait for an upcoming decision about marriage equality from the state's highest court, we are reminded, via this guest post from Kenny Michael Murrell, that America's heartland is home to countless, loving families that are making a difference in their own communities, every day.

Kenny contacted PFLAG earlier this week in hopes that we would allow him to honor his chosen family. In this moving tribute, Kenny, who hails from Van Meter, Iowa, reminds us all that our families are defined by our heart . . . and that it is time to honor all of those families, in big ways and small.

It all started in 2003. I moved to an Iowa town called Van Meter. I started school, and shortly after starting I met a guy named Justin. Although I was shy and withdrawn, he was very friendly and invited me over to his place to hang out. I didn’t know at that time that Justin’s mother (pictured) was a lesbian, and furthermore I didn’t expect the impact she would make on my entire life.

Before I even said anything, Kimberly (Justin’s mom) knew that I was gay, and knew that I was not yet comfortable with it and that was why I was so withdrawn and preserved. Kim’s partner is Brenda. Kim was married before she met Brenda, and loved her husband Mitch. With him, she gave birth to three wonderful boys, and since Mitch was black and she is white, they are all bi-racial. Kim and Brenda had moved into a place together and Brenda brought her daughter, Cheyenne, with her. They all live in this very nice house very happily together.

So there I was, an awkward, gay 16-year old thrust into an atmosphere of love and acceptance, unconditional support and understanding. I spent more and more time over there, and became closer and closer with not only Justin, but Kim and Brenda as well. Kim was someone that I could talk to about anything. She always had the best advice for me no matter what it was about. She had known that she favored women since she was a teenager, so she had a lot of experience with being rejected and hated.

For the next few months I spent all of my free time over there, so much to a point where my own birthparents would get jealous. I soon started calling Kim mom, and I was considered their son. We did everything together, I could talk to them about anything, and they helped me through some very tough times in my life. I don’t know if I would still be alive if it weren’t for her. She spoke with me and helped me get comfortable with coming out. After spending so much time with them, I was more comfortable with myself, more confident, and not afraid to be whom I was born to be.

I came out to my parents after knowing Kim and Justin for over a year. My parents said that they knew, but they didn’t ever want to talk about it. My mom became a very bad alcoholic and my dad was moving all around since he was in the military. At the time, I was pretty much raising my little sister. At the time my older sister was doing drugs, and I didn’t know what to do. Of course, I came to Kim. She knew just what to say and do, to make me feel better.

I eventually called my biological parents and told them that everything at home is a mess, and I am moving in with Kim and Brenda and Justin and the kids. They were less than thrilled, but I was 17 so they didn’t argue with it much.

Kim Hines is the single greatest person I know. She writes fantastic poetry on her life experiences and does some work with Photoshop. She is a tough woman, and being a mom of bi- racial kids and being a lesbian, she had to be! She would defend all of us kids to the death if we were being persecuted or discriminated against and wouldn’t take any slack or allow us not to be the best people she knows we can be. She pushes us to out limits, then past them and forces us to excel in life.

Justin is the greatest straight-supporter I know. He has always had his mom’s back, as well as his entire familys’. Kim has taken me in when my own family pretty much didn’t want to have anything to do with my gay side, and it’s not only me. She has taken in several kids that were for some reason or another cast astray by their unloving parents. She is always there for everyone, even at the expense sometimes of her personal time, pleasure, and even health. She is so selfless that I have to stand back in awe, wondering how someone could be so passionate, so caring, and so real, even in the face of constant adversity. She get’s stares, things yelled at her, homophobic remarks, gawking and her kids of a different race, but stands tall and smiles, knowing that she is doing the right thing, and there is nothing wrong with love. She has straight friends she made when she moved to the area, and she has helped inform them on the LGBT issues and enlighten them that just because you love the same sex, it doesn’t make you different.

Kim has done so many great things, I have barely scratched the surface. She has helped so much, yet faced so much that I could never repay her in a million years, and she has never asked for anything in return.. I just want her to get some sort of recognition because even if she hasn’t directly made an impact on the minds of American’s on a national scale, she is the best local political activist I know, and has touched and changed the lives of many people in the community.

Thanks, Kim . . . for being you, for making me who I am today, and everything you do.

- Michael

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