Gay American Heroes

Sean Kennedy

“So who knows what’s around the corner or down the street. I’m just gonna live life and find out.” -Sean William Kennedy

This past weekend is one that Sam and I had been anticipating for a while, but boy, did it play out differently than we expected. Chip Arndt had asked us some time ago to serve as co-chairs for his event: “Silence the Hate” a benefit for the Gay American Heroes Foundation, at East West in West Hollywood.

You know the drill, no matter how noble, on these kinds of things. It’s a charity you can get behind with a message you support, and you call in your connections and favors all over town to pack the house, and line the worthy cause’s coffers with much-needed resources. You make sure you look great (and we felt good about that having prepped for a season of events 1, 2, 3), then you show up to the event, have a few drinks with your friends, take photos, talk about the charity and what they’re doing, etc., until the goals have been wildly surpassed and a great time had by all.This was not that drill, or at least it was until Sean’s remarkable parents, and specifically his Mom, Elke Kennedy, changed it all with one sentence, “Hi, I’m Elke Kennedy, and my son Sean was killed eight months ago because he was gay – that’s him on the screen behind you.”


There’s always a moment when the spirit of any charity event infiltrates you, (and hopefully moves everyone in attendance to be unusually and spontaneously generous) but it’s usually the centerpiece of a well-orchestrated evening, not an arrow to the heart before you’ve finished your first cocktail.

Elke’s aim was true. She lit next to every little group of two, three, and four in the room, giving us all the word from the front line, and it was unforgettable. See for yourself.

The only thing harder than hearing this from Sean’s Mother was seeing MY Mother hear it from her, knowing she was seeing her own most dreaded reality in Elke Kennedy.Sobbing, my Mom asked, “How do you do this, stand here, keep standing, talking about it? How do you find the strength, because I wouldn’t be able to.”

“Sean is my strength,” she calmly replied.Sean, Elke & Conny

Mom (right) and Elke (left) hugged each other, crying for ten minutes – and my Mom isn’t exactly a house of cards. I put my arms around them both, and Mom and I traded glances thinking of all the bullying and threats and the few close calls (that she knows about) that might have put me up on the screen instead of Sean.Elke went on to say that there are so many parents who reject their children because they’re gay or lesbian, or transgendered, and don’t find out how much they’ve really missed until it’s too late, and the child is gone.

And I looked at Sam, and the space near him where I imagined his Mother and Father might be standing, if they were there – but they’re not there. I thanked God there’s more than enough love, joy, pride, understanding and strength coming from my Mom for the two of us.

We finished our cocktails, and said our goodbyes, all changed: seeing ourselves in Sean and the other young men and women who could only be there in spirit and memory; and seeing our parents in the Kennedys, and marveling at what fortunate children Sean and his siblings are for having had such great parents.

Thanks to all of our friends and family who showed up, or donated, in support of the event. We’re so grateful to have you in our lives.

Click here to learn more about Gay American Heroes Foundation, and make a donation directly to the foundation.

3 Responses to “Gay American Heroes”

  1. Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I was truly thrilled to stand next to real-life heroes…Elke and James Kennedy. I was also thrilled to be there with my sons; Bronson, my biological son, and Sam, the son-in-law that Bronson chose to be part of our little family. They are with me, they are healthy… and God and the Universe help anyone who EVER tries to mess with them! The thing that brought me down that evening was that, as Elke and I looked around, there were no other parents. Shame on them and yet, Universe forgive them for being so ignorant or stupid or both. I will never be the same after having met Elke and James. They brought me face-to-face with what can happen… and does… nearly every day. If it happens once, this cruelty and violence toward the gay members of our world community, that is too many times. I hope that those of you reading this blog have the sensitivity to make donations, raise your voices and live the example. As my father said to my son, Bronson, when he came out to my mother, my father and me, “It matters as much to me as the color of your eyes.” I did not know how brilliant my dad was or how much I loved him until that moment. For those parents who throw away their children because of their homosexuality, there is a mother who loves them; Bronson’s mom and Sam’s mother-in-law. I am only sorry that those parents are probably not reading this. Shame.

  2. Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 3:53 am

    really nice one and keep it up!

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  3. Monday, February 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Elke is one incredible woman, mom, and advocate.

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