Today’s Out October Project story comes from Woody Amidon, a man who was afraid to let all of his fraternity brothers see him for who he really was. Although afraid of the ridicule and the humiliation, he was able to find his strength and the courage to be honest and true to who he was, and to his friends. He was met with shocking support and lasting friendships. His story should shed light and hope onto the peoples’ lives who are still afraid to be who they really are.
When I entered college, not a single soul knew that I was gay. I was an athlete, in a fraternity, and acted just like any bro I hung out with. Hell, I wouldn’t believe that I liked guys myself. I felt that I could force myself to be straight. I would drink heavily and hooked up with a few girls (very unsuccessfully most of the time), but I would just blame it on the alcohol.
My sophomore year, I began to drink more and more and started becoming depressed every night that I returned home alone. I started to “give up” and knew that it seemed to become impossible for me to actually be straight. I retreated to myself and began to become isolated from those around me instead of reaching out and trying to find others that could help me, like my school’s gay and lesbian alliance. There was one guy in my fraternity that was out, but I was afraid of getting too close to him thinking that people would begin to suspect that I was gay for simply talking to him, so I kept my distance. I can even remember some of the things people said when he was pledging and I did not want that kind of treatment put on me.
At the end of my Sophomore year and the beginning of my Junior, Prop 8 was becoming more and more of an issue in California as the vote approached. The general consensus on my campus was against the measure but the loudest voices were the ones supporting it. Hearing those around me constantly saying how wrong being gay was and the hate I could see some people have, my depression only got worse. I began to hate myself and it was only getting harder to hide my emotions from others, especially when drinking.
I began to find comfort with talking with other gay people online. The people I met there were the first ones I was freely able to talk about my sexuality with; I felt free to be able to mention anything! I met one guy in particular that had many of the same interests as me and we hit it off. We flirted constantly and it made me start to feel good about myself again. We made plans to finally meet at an anti-Prop 8 rally a week before the vote so I secretly snuck out of my Fraternity house to meet him. I was so paranoid that my friends would find out where I was and tried to dodge the news cameras at the rally, just in case.
After hanging out with this guy a few times, we began dating. This was when my friends began to notice my disappearing act. I would leave the house for a whole night without telling anyone, multiple nights a week. Whenever someone would ask where I was going or where I had been lately, I would brush it off with a joke and change subjects. Rumors began to circulate that I was sleeping with a professor or that I had a drug problem. Strangely, none of the rumors involved me being gay.
After a few months of living two separate lives, my best friend saw an incoming text message from my boyfriend that said, â€œkissâ€. I played it off as a joke between me and a friend but I vowed that I needed to tell him the truth. That night was one of our fraternity theme parties, where I knew Iâ€™d be getting drunk that night so I decided I would get myself to tell him. After downing a good amount of beer, I realized that it was time to tell him, so I walked upstairs to his room, but he was hooking up with some girl. I mustered up all that strength to tell someone so I was determined to do it.
My friend Neil was sitting in his room across the hall so I go in and tell him that I had to tell him something. I shut the door and sit on his bed, and flat out tell him. He was cool about it but the next day I remembered how awkward it must have been for him. I was drunk, slurring all my words, and I come into his room announcing that Iâ€™m gay, all dressed as a â€œBarbeerianâ€ from the theme party, which is a barbarian costume made completely out of beer boxes.
About 8 months went by and I told a few more people but by the time my one year anniversary with my boyfriend started to come around, he started getting restless that he could not be a part of my life, considering that I could count the amount of my friends that knew I was gay on one hand. So at one of my fraternity meetings, in a room full of over 90 restless bros, the President was wrapping up the meeting but I stood up, interrupted him, and told everyone I had one more thing to say. I said that they all had probably noticed that I was barely around anymore and constantly disappeared without mentioning where I was going or doing and that there were numerous rumors about my whereabouts. So I forced out the three words â€œI am gayâ€ and quickly sat down, staring at the floor.
There was a pause for a few seconds as the shockwave hit everyone in the room and my head was about to explode from the anxiety of what was going to happen. How could they possibly react to hearing that? Would they tell me to leave? Would they awkwardly move on like nothing had happened? Would they say, â€œDuh!â€
Then thankfully someone snapped out of the silence and started clapping which got the whole room to applaud. After the meeting many brothers came up to me and congratulated me. I was legitimately surprised at many of them.
As a few days went by, the news spread throughout campus. There were only about 20 out guys on the whole campus and I was a very visible member of our community so everybody talked. Very few actually came up and talked to me directly but I could overhear conversations and saw peoplesâ€™ faces when I would walk by. I dealt with it and after a few weeks, the campus found something else to gossip about.
Hanging out with my friends was a little awkward at first because I was used to talking about chicks but I was able to transition over to my real self and not have to keep track of all the lies I was telling. At the end of that year, I was even able to bring my new boyfriend to our formal dance. He fit right in and all of my fraternity brothers and their dates loved him. It was that weekend where I finally felt the brotherhood that I was searching for since I first pledged that Fraternity four years earlier. They accepted me for who I was and loved me no matter what. Even though fraternities are stereotypically homophobic, my fraternity experience let me be more comfortable with who I am and made me stronger to stand up for myself. Without them, I could never have seen that strong of support from so many straight guys, and I will always be thankful for that.
Remember, there are always options.
The Trevor Project: a 24-hour hotline for gay and questioning youth: 866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
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House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
R.I.P. Sandra Day O’Connor: Politicians, Reporters Mourn First Woman on Supreme Court
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor passed away Friday morning in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 93. She was the first woman on the Court.
The news was announced by the Supreme Court, which said that the former justice died of a respiratory illness combined with complications of advanced dementia.
“A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in the statement.
Though O’Connor was appointed in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and was conservative, she was known to be a swing vote in many major decisions. Her appointment was challenged from the religious right as she had been vocally against banning abortion and had supported the Equal Rights Amendment.
While she normally joined the Court’s conservatives, she would side with the liberal members of the court in 28 cases. In 1992, she was the deciding vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the Roe v. Wade decision.
However, in 2000, she voted with the conservative majority on Bush v. Gore, which stopped the Florida election recount, keeping then-Vice President Al Gore from potentially becoming president. She retired in 2006, during President George W. Bush’s second term, and was replaced by conservative Justice Samuel Alito.
Politicians, pundits and journalists alike took to X (formerly Twitter) to mourn the passing of O’Connor.
“I’m sorry to hear of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor passing. I loved Evan Thomas’s recent bio, which showed off her can-do, self-starter, distinctly southwestern mentality. The first female Supreme Court justice (the original SCOTUSlady!), never a victim, & a model of civility. RIP,” wrote Anastasia Boden, director of the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies.
I’m sorry to hear of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor passing. I loved Evan Thomas’s recent bio, which showed off her can-do, self-starter, distinctly southwestern mentality. The first female Supreme Court justice (the original SCOTUSlady!), never a victim, & a model of civility. RIP. pic.twitter.com/5EFuQykvSI
— A lady (@Anastasia_esq) December 1, 2023
“Today, we say goodbye to the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and first female majority leader of a state senate. El Paso’s own Sandra Day O’Connor was instrumental in developing case law as a jurist, especially sex discrimination under Title VII,” Representative Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) wrote.
Today, we say goodbye to the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and first female majority leader of a state senate.
El Paso's own Sandra Day O'Connor was instrumental in developing case law as a jurist, especially sex discrimination under Title VII. https://t.co/OxndeFrJVz
— Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (@RepJasmine) December 1, 2023
“She blazed every trail she set foot on—defying the odds stacked against women in the legal profession to rise to become Arizona’s assistant attorney general, our first female majority leader in the state Senate, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, and ultimately our first female justice on the United States Supreme Court. She brought her Arizona brand of pragmatism and independence with her to the Supreme Court and was often the swing vote on consequential decisions,” Representative Greg Stanton (D-AZ) wrote in a statement.
“Justice O’Connor was not perfect. But her drive for consensus & common sense, her love of family, and her career itself, having graduated from law school at 22 in 1952, are especially notable and laudable. May her memory be a blessing,” tweeted MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin.
Justice O’Connor was not perfect. But her drive for consensus & common sense, her love of family, and her career itself, having graduated from law school at 22 in 1952, are especially notable and laudable. May her memory be a blessing.https://t.co/HPxpmyKQUO
— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) December 1, 2023
“Sad news w the passing of fmr Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor She was a trailblazer for the high court &always worked to find consensus She was 1st justice I had honor of voting for as Senator Her contributions 2 the court will endure +she will be missed,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote.
“Sandra Day O’Connor was a trailblazer whose life and career paved the way for so many others. Her service and dedication to our country will be long-remembered. My heart is with her family and loved ones today,” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said.
“I’m saddened to hear about the passing of former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. As the first female justice, she leaves behind a trailblazing conservative legacy. My prayers are with her family during this difficult time,” Representative Cory Mills (R-FL) wrote.
Featured image by Kyle Tsui via Wikimedia Commons.
The Christian Ziegler/Moms for Liberty Scandal Could Hurt Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attempted to distance himself from Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler and his wife Bridget, the co-founder of Moms for Liberty—but his close involvement with them could spell trouble for him.
On Thursday, Christian Ziegler, elected this year as chair of the Florida Republican Party, was accused of sexual assault. The accuser is a woman who says she’s had a regular three-way sexual relationship with both Zieglers.
DeSantis told ABC News Thursday night that Ziegler should resign as chair.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny,” DeSantis said.
Before Thursday, DeSantis was close with the Zieglers. In February, during DeSantis’ fight with Disney, he appointed Bridget Ziegler to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, a new board overseeing Disney’s theme parks in Orlando, according to Variety. DeSantis has not called on Bridget Ziegler to step down from either the district or her position on the Sarasota County School Board.
Last year, Christian Ziegler opened a rally for DeSantis, and has backed DeSantis’ using of the culture war to make a name for himself.
“All you have to do is Google Christian Ziegler Ron DeSantis, and you’ll see no one has been in the press more than I have promoting the governor and what he’s done because I think he’s done an outstanding job, especially on the cultural issues, which for me, are a big passion of mine,” Ziegler said in a March interview with CBS Miami.
DeSantis’ approval ratings as governor have been falling. In a poll taken in November, before the allegations against Christian Ziegler were made public, DeSantis’ overall approval had fallen four points since July, to a 49% approval rating. But among independent voters, his disapproval rating rocketed to 60%, a 14-point boost during the same time frame. Disapproval also grew by 10 percent, to 80%, among Black voters.
The allegations against Christian Ziegler are serious. Ziegler is accused of sexually assaulting the woman he and his wife and a standing sexual relationship with on October 2. He’s also accused of secretly recording video of their previous sexual encounters.
Though DeSantis has called on him to resign, other GOP leaders have supported Ziegler.
“If the allegations are true I’m pretty sure change will come at the [Republican Party of Florida] but I don’t believe it for a minute,” Lee County GOP Chair Michael Thompson told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Christian’s the chairman. Christian’s still the chairman of the organization until something else happens. We don’t anticipate Christian leaving as the chair.”
“Innocent until proven guilty,” Thompson added. “That’s what our justice system needs to get back to and that’s for everybody across the board, not just for Trump, not just for Ziegler… let’s not try to convict people in headlines. Let’s see the evidence.”
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