- By Teri Mayo
In November of 2011 my partner Teri Mayo and I founded an organization called Beyond the Bridge, whose vision is to bring awareness to and reduce the risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth. In January 2011 we joined with the Pride Foundation to create an area of interest fund, to support local organizations who do critical work with LGBTQ youth, focusing in particular on reducing bullying in schools, increasing family acceptance, and building more affirmative faith communities. On June 25, 2011 we held our first house party, and it was a day filled with connection, somber remembrance of lives lost, and inspired visioning of the future. Teri gave this beautiful speech which I wanted to share here, because it speaks to so many of the issues that are of concern to TJP readers, including allyship, resisting oppression, and activism. She focuses on the theme of choice, and the many ways that plays out in people’s lives: for example, the choice to bully (or not), the choice to ally with someone who is being bullied (or be a passive bystander), and the choice to take action via community engagement, activism, and advocacy (or not). I hope you enjoy it.
There is a beautiful song out now by the popular group Mumford and Sons called "Timshel." I've liked the song since I first heard it but it struck me that the meaning of that word was a perfect synthesis of all that we are doing here with Beyond The Bridge- both today at this gathering and in the larger sense with our cause.
Timshel is a Hebrew word, loosely translated as "Thou Mayest." There are many ways to interpret and discuss this word but here is the very abbreviated version. It is from Genesis in the Old Testament and refers to God's granting man knowledge and choice (as opposed to living a pre-ordained life). We were given the choice in that moment but with that gift of knowledge comes responsibility: the individual responsibility to do the right thing. Many describe that moment as the invention of conscience.
It seemed appropriate here because choice - the right choice - is what we are hoping to affect with Beyond The Bridge, in small and large ways. Including the choice for us as individuals in this moment at this party.
With Beyond The Bridge we hope that with by funding various, specific programs we will be able to give more knowledge to those who need it. And in doing so, that we can affect choices made by individuals, teachers, schools, congregations, and communities at large. With the addition of support and a newfound sense of community, perhaps people will make a different choice. Timshel. Perhaps they make the choice not to bully. Perhaps they make the choice to stand up for a classmate who is getting harassed despite the risks to themselves. Maybe a teacher intervenes instead of letting covert homophobia stand or comments go unchecked. A pastor decides to take a stand in favor of love and against institutionalized marginalization. Maybe, with the right education and with a new understanding of options previously unknown to them, an LGBTQ youth makes the decision to live. These are choices. And like the line in the song says, these are what make men (and women) great.
It may be a cliché to say this but it’s true: if what we do protects or affects one queer kid, then we have succeeded. My sense is that we will largely never know the impact that our effort has. But we must still make the choice to try and affect change. Too many lives are lost or harmed if we do nothing.
Which brings me to this moment. Our choice. Many of you have already given to this cause and we cannot thank you enough. But here is a moment to do more. If you understand, relate, are drawn to what we have talked about here, then make the choice that resonates with your conscience and contribute again. Whatever you are able to give makes a difference. If you have not donated, this is your opportunity to help us along on this long and difficult path.
This journey, sadly, will likely not end in our lifetime, but we can make the choice to do everything we can to help. Today is just a step on the journey but it is our moment. If I could say one thing to all of the kids out there struggling with acceptance, who are being bullied and who are scared, I will reference the song one more time and say: "You are not alone in this."
To find out more about Beyond the Bridge please visit our website, www.beyond-the-bridge.org.