A Special Pride Month Message

Date: 06/23/2023

Greg Bridges-MusicA special message from Northern Light Acadia Hospital Chaplain Greg Bridges-Music, LCPC, MSPC, MSCMHC, M.Div on the eve of Bangor Pride Festival 2023.
Somebody, your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished and are perishing every hour – and in the oddest places! – for the lack of it.

– James Baldwin, world renowned novelist, civil rights activist, gay African American

On July 7, 1984, almost 39 years ago, 23-year-old Charlie Howard and his boyfriend, Roy, were walking down Park Street in Bangor from their youth group at the Unitarian Universalist Church. As the two young men turned and made their way up State Street, three teenage boys and their girlfriends drove by, catcalling and harassing Charlie and Roy. The car backed up and the three teens, ages 15, 16, and 17 got out and started beating Charlie. Despite his protests that he couldn’t swim, they tossed him off the State Street bridge where he drowned. His body was found hours later.
The boys bought alcohol and returned to a party bragging they had just thrown somebody off a bridge. After the event they joked publicly about what they had done without remorse. The boys served short sentences for the murder, and later spent much of their lives trying to bring change to the hateful culture in which they were raised.
You see, they believed, with good evidence, that they would be more popular for beating up a gay man. School administrators said nothing about the bullying. A Bangor High School teacher was let go forCharlie Howard memorial publicly speaking out against the hate crime; she had to leave the area for her safety and to find new employment. No other clergy would speak out against the hate, except for the minister of the Unitarian Universalist congregation where Charlie belonged. Adult men actually came forward to shake the boys’ hands and congratulate them at the trial for killing the young man. Slurs and hate filled messages were spray-painted on the State Street bridge, where today a rainbow crosswalk and a monument in memory of Charlie (shown here) can be found. Very few did anything about it.
Everyone didn’t throw Charlie off the bridge to his death. Three teenage boys did. But the culture of the time in Bangor and in Maine contributed to it, either actively or by remaining silent. The killers weren’t raised in a vacuum. They thought they would be honored for their violence, and they were.

People don’t die from love… but too many die from a lack of it.

We have come a long way since 1984. However, too many young people are still tormented for who they are attracted to, what gender they identify as, their appearance, the color of their skin, teased for disabilities, and isolated due to mental health challenges. The time for standing by and saying nothing has come to an end. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can make a difference where we live.
This is PRIDE month. To those on the outside, it might just look like a big colorful party. The reason is that for too long young people, and for very good reasons, were afraid to walk openly as their real selves. They were beaten, arrested, or murdered. That has got to come to an end. So, we march openly, loudly, and proudly every June to push back against the hate and fear.
What does healthy pride and self-esteem mean? It means honoring yourself and the surest sign of that is how you treat others. You don’t have to hurt others to gain self-acceptance, the way those three teens did in 1984. As a Boy Scout, I was always taught to leave my campsite better than I found it. As an adult, that is how I want to leave my corner of the world. No one ever died from too much love, just the opposite. Let’s do our part to add love where we live. 
Happy PRIDE.
-  Chaplain Greg