Tulsa has world-class opera and Starbucks, and a religious conservatism that rules public life.It wasn’t until 1993 that a social agency, Youth Services of Tulsa, noted a higher suicide rate for gay youths and quietly began providing counseling to gay teenagers.There are only a handful of openly gay students at Charles Page High, and they are subject to ridicule and vandalism.This year, they also became a convenient outlet for the fury against gay marriage, which is why Michael wanted to keep his sexuality a secret.
The events and direct quotes in this story were witnessed by this reporter.
In the sleepy downtown, the tallest points of interest are flagpoles and church steeples.
And yet it’s here in this green and rolling landscape that Michael had his first clue that he was different.
Part I Michael Shackelford slides under his 1988 Chevy Cheyenne.
Ratchet in hand, he peers into the truck’s dark cavern, tapping his boot to Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” drifting from the garage. There is just the wind knifing down the plains, and people praying over their lunches in the yellow booths at Subway.
In the first weeks of Oklahoma’s 2004 legislative session, 10 anti-gay bills were introduced, including one to ban gay marriage and another to prohibit the recognition of out-of-state adoptions by same-sex couples.