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Erasing Hate

Pisces Moon event hopes to eradicate gay hate crimes

erasinghate

It happened in his junior year of high school. Ryan McCune of Stockton was hanging out in the parking lot with his friends and girlfriend, saying good-bye as Christmas break was about to start. That’s when he got tapped on the shoulder and heard the word “faggot” being hurled at him. McCune twirled around and another student smashed him in the temple with a lock. He was knocked unconscious and the beating started. About 12 students, many from the football team, proceeded to pound on him. About 20 minutes later the principal scared away the attackers and soon McCune was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.

“I was a very flamboyant person and outspoken,” McCune says of his personality, which somehow came across as him being gay. At the time, McCune admits he really didn’t know he was gay until the incident happened. Sure, he had been attracted to men, but that’s how everyone is right? At least, that’s what he thought. The beating is what made him realize he was gay.

The injuries he sustained were severe: His chin was shattered, his sternum was severely damaged, a finger was sprained, he had actual Nike symbols on the right side of his chest and his face looked “like one-half of a football,” he says.

While one would think that in a situation like this his attackers would incur serious consequences, but little happened. One teen was arrested and held overnight. The incident was looked into and chalked up that “I asked for it because I ‘flipped them off,’” McCune says. McCune eventually returned to school after recovering, but was held at knife point. So he dropped out of school and contemplated suicide.

“I would have told you a few years ago that if I could have chosen to be straight, it would have been a lot easier,” McCune says. “Being born gay or lesbian is a very hard thing to deal with growing up. It’s a hard thing to know that you can’t be who you are without someone judging you.”

And while McCune’s life eventually leveled out, he knows the hardships that can come with being gay. So he’s speaking out at an upcoming local event, “Raising Ourselves/Erasing Hate,” which will happen from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6 at the Louden Nelson Center in Santa Cruz. The event, spearheaded by Pisces Moon Productions, a local theater company, will highlight a series of speakers and performance artists, including McCune, who will talk about what happened to him.

Joining McCune will be three vignettes performed by actors from Pisces Moon Productions. The pieces will be taken from the company’s upcoming play, “The Laramie Project,” which will take the stage for a third time from Oct. 3-19. Also on hand will be Assemblyman John Laird, a speaker from “No on 8”—a proposition that would no longer allow gays to marry in California, a performance from a woman who was assaulted for being gay, and emcee Dave Grishaw-Jones from First Congregational Church in Santa Cruz.

“We want the event to touch the political, spiritual and personal aspects of this issue (gay hate crimes), and empower the victims by giving them a voice and support,” says Susan Myer, upcoming director of “The Laramie Project” and co-founder of Pisces Moon. “The Laramie Project,” which Pisces Moon performed in 2002 and 2003, is the story of a young man, Matthew Shepard, who was killed 10 years ago in Wyoming from a gay hate crime. Myer’s company will be sponsoring various other events from now until the play opens in early October.

“Raising Ourselves/Erasing Hate” is free and will go from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6 at the Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz. “The Laramie Project” will play from Oct. 3-19 at the Actors’ Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz. For more information, visit piscesmoon.org .
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