This book details the true events of the Charles Soper family that resided in a nearby public housing project. I didn’t know that the father struggled with mental illness and drugs, or that, at times, he would act out violently against his wife and their young children.
The housing project was across the street from a large recreational facility which I managed. The park was considered to be an escape from the drudgery of their daily low-income lifestyle, as well as a safe haven for the neighborhood children. Residents of all ages looked up to me as the quasi-authority of the City of Carson. In reality, I was a 22-year-old “kid.” This was my first real job in terms of supporting myself financially.
During my tenure at the park, I came to know Mrs. Soper and especially her son, Roy, who was seven when I first met him. The little tyke would call me his “protector,” and would run to me whenever anyone would tease or bully him. But I never believed Roy was in actual danger, nor did I anticipated the shocking events that followed.
The story is told against the backdrop of my exploration of my sexuality. I grew up wanting to be married and have kids. I was raised that way. But despite my attempts to establish a romantic connection with women, I never happened. My journey of self-discovery included consulting psychologists, participating in the early days of computerized heterosexual dating, researching homosexuality, engaging both female and male prostitutes, and attending an intensive EST-like seminar. I was not afraid or embarrassed to be gay; I just wanted to be certain that I was gay. When it finally came to me, it was like an epiphany—I was a healthy, normal gay man, and proud of it.
As I began to participate in the gay lifestyle, I became painfully aware of the beatings and murders of gay men in my community of Long Beach, CA, often perpetrated with impunity. I thought about Roy and realized that these gay men were also vulnerable and innocent. I surrendered my comfortable, closeted lifestyle and publicly vowed to stop violent assaults against LGBTQ people. I was extremely fortunate in connecting with the new Chief of Police who welcomed me as the official liaison from the gay community to partner with him to stop hate crime. My three-prong approach to stopping gay-bashing, as described in the book, was a success, and I offer it to LGBTQ communities across the country.
Barack Obama wrote to me, “Jack … Our journey as a nation depends, as it always has, on the persistent efforts of people like you – compassionate, caring, and open-minded – who stand up in defense of the notion that love is love and that all of us, no matter who we are or who we love, are worthy of equal dignity, equal respect, and equal protection under the law. … That is the vision for America that Michelle and I share. And I want you to know we will continue standing alongside you.”
Targeted Age Group: 18 to 90
Written by: Jack Castiglione
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