Gannon Baxter from Beverly Hills High School on June 24. Like any other senior, he was excited about the prospect of attending prom, getting through finals, receiving his diploma, spending lazy summer days at the beach and beginning college.
His immediate plans are to attend Santa Monica College, with intentions to transfer to UC Santa Barbara. He wants to major in psychology with an emphasis on child development and eventually work as a school psychologist.
Baxter is no different from any other 18-year-old as he maps out the next few years of his life.
He is also gay.
When I decided to write this article, I contacted Baxter to ask him whether he would share his thoughts about New York’s recent decision to allow same-sex marriage.
New York is the most populous state to approve gay marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia. In our state, voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, which says that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
But what started out as an article about same-sex marriage evolved into a human interest story about a young man who stands firm as an individual with commitment, integrity, a strong sense of self and spirited candor.
Baxter’s dedication to enlightening people about what it means to be gay is unmistakable. He was eager for me to use his name and tell his story.
He feels that the passing of the New York law is a step in the right direction toward equality for all. Being a homosexual is not a condition to be frowned upon and avoided, he said.
“Everybody should be treated exactly the same as the next person,” Baxter said.
His feelings about California’s passing of Proposition 8 are clear.
“It’s sad that in such a liberal state like California that this is still an ongoing issue,” he said. “Just because you may have two dads or two moms doesn’t mean you’re not a family.”
Being gay is not easy in the eyes of some. People wonder why one chooses to be a homosexual. Yet being gay is not a conscious decision; people are born with an inherent nature that determines the gender to which they are attracted.
“When people say to me that they don’t agree with my choice to be gay and the whole point of marriage is to procreate, I say that 'It is not a choice, that I was born gay, and what about women who are infertile, should they now not be allowed to get married, either?' ”
Baxter wishes people would examine themselves first before they examine others. It is a travesty to him that society often judges by sexuality and not character.
“I say there is nothing wrong with me; there’s something wrong with the people who say there’s something wrong with me,” he said.
Telling his parents of his sexual orientation was difficult for Baxter. He was afraid of their reaction.
“Dad reacted rather negatively and is still in denial about the whole thing,” he said. “But I don’t let him stop me from being who I am.”
When Baxter told his mother he was gay she said, “Gannon, tell me something I don’t already know.”
Baxter thought telling his mom was going to be more difficult than telling his father. “Coming out to my mom was the hardest and best thing I ever had to do,” he said. “I was afraid I was going to be a disappointment to her but obviously she proved me wrong.”
His mother has several gay friends and Baxter grew up around them. He never thought of them as being any different from the next person.
I asked Baxter how it was for him at school. He said for the most part people accepted him.
“ is a pretty liberal school,” he said. “There were some immature kids who picked on me, but again, I didn’t let them stop me from embracing my true self.”
Baxter did admit that at times the teasing affected him, but his resilience allowed him to pick himself up, brush off the negativity and move forward.
Like many other young adults, Baxter sees himself getting married and having kids after he finishes college.
“It’s actually my life’s main goal to settle down and raise a family just like any other American family. I don’t want to fall victim to the negative stereotype of a sexually promiscuous gay,” he said. “I think by showing heterosexual people that homosexuals are not so different from them is the key component in furthering our nation’s fight towards equality for all.”
Baxter’s insight, compassion and wisdom beyond his years would make all parents proud to call him their son.
He asked me to relay a final message to young homosexuals.
“As a side note to all young, closeted gay readers out there reading this, I would like to say that if you love yourself and treat yourself with respect and dignity, you will go far in life,” Baxter said. “And once you accomplish finding that inner self-love, that love will resonate throughout your persona and the right kind of people will gravitate towards you. You have nothing to be afraid of.”