Blake: Stigmas breaking down on both sides

Blake: Stigmas breaking down on both sides

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Editor:

Last month I visited Wyoming for the first time. I came with my big awareness project about sexual and domestic violence that I’ve taken on a cross-country odyssey over the past four years.

I was cautioned by advocates around the nation to be careful on my journey for several reasons. I was driving alone. I am gay. And I was going into Wyoming.

People reminded me of the Matthew Shepard story from 21 years ago in this state. I was further reminded this is a conservative state.

On my odyssey to reach a symbolic goal, I’ve given a TEDx talk and spoken out in dozens of colleges and cities about my story of sexual and domestic violence so that I can find recovery while helping others find their healing, too.

Part of that story involves me speaking out as a survivor who is not just a man... but a gay man.

But I did not let that stop me from coming to Wyoming. We can’t live our lives in fear or stay stuck in the past. Or we will never be able to live at all. So I came here anyway.

Sure, I realize there are people who don’t accept me or like me because I’m gay. However, I didn’t experience hatred during my time in this state.

The students and the residents here listened to my story of trauma into triumph. They offered their support for my efforts to get my project to the symbolic goal so I can help millions of survivors find hope in a unique way.

Stigmas take a long time to erase. The stigma about male survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The stigma about gay men. And the stigma about Wyoming and the murder of UW student and Casper native Matthew Shepard.

Thanks to students and residents who were warm and inviting to me on my recent visit to Wyoming. You treated me as more than a survivor. As more than a gay man. You all treated me as your brother. That is the story I will share with the world.

RON BLAKE, Phoenix, Arizona 

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