The beginning of Bill’s Story was a single page with photo of Bill and a simple statement about him committing suicide after a gay bashing. I had a request to people to help end the hate, and I mentioned being a member of PFLAG.
A man in Los Angeles was searching for information about that organization, and he happened upon my website. So the very first letter responding to Bill’s Story (posted here) was written 14 years ago today:
This started on June 26, 1996, with an e-mail from Steve Schalchlin, long before “Bill’s Story” was written, or even thought about. Steve found my homepage and the dedication to Bill on it that you can still see there now, and he wrote:
I just found your home page and when I saw the picture of your son and story that went with it, I wept right here in the living room. I can’t tell you how much it affected me, that someone so beautiful and obviously so loved by his mother would still be crushed by the hatred in this world. If only these bigots truly understood how much damage they cause.
I invite you to view my web site. I am a gay man living with AIDS and as part of my own struggle to survive, I have created this site the centerpiece of which is my on online diary where I detail what I’m living with. For some reason, people all over the world are being drawn to it and it has helped many people, especially many Christians to stop and think about what they do.
I appreciate you fight, dear lady, and I want you to know that I am in anguish over your loss. That you took this pain and turned it into a fight against hatred moves me and reminds me that there are great people out there. And you are a shining example.
Your Friend, Steve
…and so it began. I visited Steve Schalchlin’s Survival Site and online diary, and there he showed me how the internet can be used to reach out to people in the very best of ways. Now, months later, “Bill’s Story” is up, and it is beginning to take on a life of its own. The responses have been so touching and inspiring that I am starting this page as my way of sharing them with all of you. Please check back from time to time – I will be adding new letters. If you would like me to put your response to Bill’s Story on this page, please let me know.
Gabi Clayton 10/18/96
Thank you, Steve! All those years ago that email you sent me started a wonderful friendship and helped shaped the way Bill’s story is shared and affects people in more ways than I can count. I can’t imagine who and where and how I would be if you had not made that connection with me.
((((HUGS)))) to you my friend.