What hatred can do

By |2010-07-15T09:00:00-04:00July 15th, 2010|Uncategorized|

There are many times in our lives as LGBT people where we are asked to, or simply do, recall pioneers in our community – people who really stood for something and created change.
Here in Michigan, we are reminded of two such women every time we visit Affirmations and see beautiful paintings, photographs and other artworks in the main lobby. They are housed by the Ferndale center’s Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery, named for a slain couple who should never be forgotten.
Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett rented a Detroit house they owned as the first-ever location for Affirmations. They were an integral part of Michigan’s LGBT rights movement up until their death at the hands of their homophobic Huron Township neighbor in 1992.
Filmmaker Brian Alexander is seeing to it that their story lives on forever in the Pittmann-Puckett Documentary he has been working on for the better part of a decade. Like the art gallery that bears their name, it will serve as a reminder to generation after generation of LGBT Michiganders as to who these women were and what they stood for.
But as the documentary nears completion, there is still a part of the Pittmann-Puckett story that remains very much incomplete.
Josh Puckett was just a teenager when his father died of AIDS and his mothers were shot. Now, he is serving life in prison without parole for a crime he didn’t commit, but for which he would not testify against the gang members who took part in the accidental murder of a 12-year-old Detroit girl in 1995.
Fifteen years into his sentence, it is difficult to hear Josh’s story and words of remorse and redemption without feeling emotionally touched by them.
And though we can never see into Josh’s head, nor can we experience what happened the night that 12-year-old Angel Lawrence was shot, we can easily see from his story how homophobia can ruin the life of a vibrant youth.
In Josh’s case, the downward spiral began with his father’s death and was pushed further with the death of his mothers. Josh never knew that the community cared. He never saw justice served in the gunman’s case. He never received proper counseling – until prison – for what he had been through.
Homophobia, and the negative effects it can have on a child or a family, can manifest itself in many ways. Bullying at school can turn youth suicidal, reclusive or rebellious. Societal and legal inequality against one’s family or parents can lead to feelings of abnormality or being unwanted and inferior.
Josh Puckett’s case is a particularly tragic and noteworthy example of how homophobia can ruin a child’s life and effectively lead them down a road of violence, drugs and depression. But it’s important to remember it – as well as the story of Christine Puckett and Susan Pittmann – to show what hatred can do to our families.
But it’s not all negative. Josh Puckett hopes to eventually be set free at the governor’s request, and plans to use his story to help other youth learn not to take the same path. The Pittmann-Puckett documentary will teach younger generations about an important part of Michigan’s history of LGBT activism.
And, most importantly, we can all look at their stories and remember what we are fighting for.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.