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Uplifting & Life-Changing
on September 17, 2001
Born in 1963, Bobby Griffith was raised as a devout Christian child, much like I have been for most of my life. Unsurprisingly, his mother Mary was nothing short of a Bible thumper. For the first sixteen years of his life, Bobby was told how to be the perfect Christian, something that he very much wanted to be. However, something deep inside of him had come into conflict with his aspirations of holiness. He acknowledged that he was gay. However, living in a society that encourages young men and women to be heterosexual, Bobby denied his emotions up until the time that he "came out" to his journal. Searching for some moral support and guidance from loved ones, Bobby came out to his family. He had thought that his mother would understand, but as it turns out, all that Mary Griffith understood was that being gay meant going to hell. From that point forward, it was all downhill. Desperate to save her son from eternal damnation, Mary began a silent campaign to convert her son. She began echoing the same prayers that Bobby had been praying for years, those prayers asking for God to make her son straight. While Bobby had prayed the same exact prayers up until his personal acceptance, Mary was convinced that Bobby had not tried hard enough. Where there is a will, there is a way, a way for God to make her child straight. For four years, she continued to do everything in her power to "save" Bobby. For every prayer answered with a "no," a TV evangelist would tell a story of how a faithful Christian was converted to the right kind of love, the only kind that was pleasing in God's eyes. Eventually, her persistence would be too much for Bobby to bear. After four years of self-loathing and alternating periods of loving God and hating him, Bobby committed suicide at the age of 20. It was a very self-conscious decision, one that involved no drugs or alcohol. On the night of August 26, 1983, Bobby Griffith backflipped off of a highway overpass into the path of an 18-wheeler. Psychiatrists later said that his particularly violent death was indicative of just how much he had grown to hate himself.
In the years after Bobby's death, Mary Griffith began the search for answers. She asked herself the classic question: what went wrong? The answer had originally seemed so simple. God had promised to cure anyone who needed help, but why not her son? Slowly, she began to realize that it was she who was wrong. She began to unite with the parents of other gay children, confirming that Bobby wasn't the only one "abandoned" by God. Three years after the death of her son, she had completed her metamorphosis from religious zealot to one of the country's leading gay rights activists. Gone from her home were the religious ornamentals and texts that she used to find solace in. Today, she only finds comfort in telling Bobby's story to others, knowing that Bobby was all right just as God created him. Her message to parents everywhere is simple: don't let this happen to one more child.
As a gay teenager myself, I know how poignant and true "Prayers for Bobby" is. This story has given me the courage to come out of my "shell" and speak openly about how much gay acceptance means to our society. This book should be read by homophobics everywhere to show them that every time they open their mouths, they are literally killing a child like Bobby. Remember, homosexuality should not kill anyone; it is Biblical literalism that killed Bobby Griffith and has made life miserable for millions of teenagers in our country. I stress the belief to other Christians that the men who wrote the Bible were just that -- men. Man is fickle and fallible. Therefore, I cannot convince myself to believe that they were representing God's opinion of sexuality.
Finally, there is one particular passage from "Prayers for Bobby" that I'd like to paraphrase because it says so much about how much stories like this need to be heard by the American public: "Every Sunday, thousands if not millions of people are sitting in pews everywhere listening to sermons of homophobia being preached in their churches. Among the parishioners are gay teenagers and young adults who cry out for help, but cannot be heard above the messages of condemnation. Before you echo "Amen" at the end of such a sermon, think . . . and remember. Children are listening."