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Nationally-recognized LGBT activist Ash Beckham pays visit to OKC's Cimarron Alliance

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
LGBT advocate Ash Beckham was in Oklahoma City this week and paid a visit to the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Arriving a few minutes late, after having had lunch at Eischen’s in Okarche, lesbian and equality advocate Ash Beckham stopped by the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center on Wednesday afternoon after a couple of people at the center learned through social media that Beckham was in town.

Beckham came in the meeting room, where folks were sitting in comfy chairs and on couches.  She was immediately friendly and engaging with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people waiting to hear her talk.

And while Beckham did talk, she actually did more listening as the largely young adult audience shared their sometimes harrowing experiences coming out of the closet (having that “hard conversation”) or facing the realities of being HIV positive and being verbally condemned by family members.

Beckham has been gaining a lot of attention in recent weeks following a powerful speech she gave in her native Boulder, Colorado at the TEDxBoulder in September. The video (view it here), having gone viral, has garnered more than 3 million views so far.

And listening to Beckham talk, it’s clear that she has a down-to-earth style that is both warm and funny. But she is also sincere in wanting to help those wanting to come out of their “closet,” whatever that “closet” may be, as well as encouraging those who are facing challenges after having already come out of their closet.

A transgender woman told Beckham about getting beat up in school and how it was a difficult situation to go through. A gay man talked about the day he told his family he was HIV positive and his family told him that “This is punishment from God and I’m going to go to Hell and I can start my eternal suffering while I was living. Those were the exact words out of my great-grandmother’s mouth.”

And desiring to show his family and others that he was not going to let their words and rejection get him down, he strives to show them how it can really be.

“(That) young people can still live a normal, functioning life and find love, and happiness and all the jobs and be HIV positive and be gay and not have the support of their family,” the young man said.

Beckham, listening intently, responded by saying that she has talked to people who have HIV and said that they would prefer to have HIV rather than, say, diabetes, because of the drugs now available that allow one to live a relatively normal life with the disease, rather than diabetes which wears down the body a lot faster and can lead to deadly complications.

Hearing that, Beckham said, “led, even for me, to a mental shift.”

Beckham was very encouraging, saying that those in the room who had showed up to talk to her are setting positive examples for LGBT youth. At the same time, Beckham, who said it was hard coming out of the closet (her supportive father was in attendance with her at the Cimarron Alliance meeting),

“I know if I had looked back and I had known just one out lesbian, it would have been so great,” Beckham told the group. “She wouldn’t have had to have been perfect, she didn’t have to be without faults.”

And with many family members, particularly of the older generation, having no qualms with telling their gay family member that they are going to Hell, the young man who spoke earlier said to Beckham, in his inner conversation with his anti-gay family members: “What if you’re right? How sad will you be? How heartbroken will you be? What if you’re right? Why would you even say that? Why would you even think that?”

Those in the room nodded in agreement. This, while we see this week that the local “Patriot Pastors” plan to “prayerfully” protest the local theatrical production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told which features a gay take on the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden – yes, Adam and Steve.

Sounding like a throwback to a time gone by, Pastor Steve Kern told The Oklahoman that the play, with gay and lesbian characters “is an open display of intolerance, irreverence and disrespect for the faith (Christianity) of the majority of citizens of this city. We’re just appalled. I mean, this thing is just so over the top.”

And Kern represents the generation of people who continue to attack and bash the LGBT community. Kern and his pals are the ones we hear about. The ones we typically don’t hear about are the ones like the Christian family members of the HIV positive man who is constantly condemned by loved ones for being gay.

Meanwhile, Beckham talked about her experiences in Boulder and when kids there do an “LGBTQ 101” they don’t listen to her, they prefer to listen to their peers.

All in all, those in attendance took a lot from Beckham’s presence and words of encouragement.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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