by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
When Dan Manning of Wichita, Kansas, openly Gay Democratic candidate for the Kansas legislature, returned home from work on August 28, he found a threat on his front door. Someone had pieced together a letter from cut-out words and letters from a newspaper, including 'kill' and 'will die,' as well as homophobic comments.
'Prior to this incident, I had never had a threat on my life,' Manning told the SGN. As an open Gay man, Manning has dealt with homophobia prior to the incident. 'I had come across some very vocal anti-Gay people, but a death threat is very different; it goes to the heart of the community and can inspire fear in an entire community, not only the one that received the threat. It discourages people from stepping up to take a chance and make change in the community. That is unacceptable.'
Manning says he met with an FBI special agent and that, as of now, there are no suspects in the case. According to Manning, the test for fingerprints didn't turn anything up, but he says the FBI is going to test for DNA, as well.
He says the note scared him, but also strengthened his resolve to run. "I came forward with this death threat to highlight the hate and bigotry that still exists in our city, state, and nation," he told SGN. "I could have swept it under the rug and kept quiet about it, but that wouldn't have done anyone any good. In the LGBT community here, I have seen such apathy and a lack of hope. In the straight community here, I have seen indifference towards LGBT issues. It's very easy to get comfortable in our lives when things are going well and forget that hate still exists. Keeping this secret would have allowed that to continue. I think it's important that the community at large is aware of this and we must all work together to rid our communities of this bigotry."
Manning faces Republican State Representative Brenda Landwehr in the November 2 election. Landwehr condemned the death threat, saying such actions "have no place in America."
Manning said his sexual orientation hasn't been an issue with voters he has spoken with while campaigning. "Here in central Kansas, specifically Wichita, my constituents are very concerned about many things. My sexual orientation is not one of them," he declared. "Jobs, education, and economic development are among the major concerns for my constituents. My sexuality is a part of who I am, but it does not define me, and it's not a major concern in my district."
"Kansas is one of about 30 states where a person can still be fired from his/her job or discriminated against simply for being LGBT," said Manning. "Many in the LGBT community hide their sexual orientation for fear of hate and discrimination from others in the community. We have made great strides towards equality in Kansas, but we still have a long way to go."
Manning, a former military officer graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, says he knows all too well what it is like to live in silence, because he served under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the U.S. military's discriminatory policy prohibiting Gays and Lesbians from serving openly.
"I made it to first lieutenant before leaving the military as a result of DADT. At first, I was OK serving under DADT because I really didn't know, or didn't want to accept that I was Gay," Manning admitted. "But as I came to the realization and acceptance of my homosexuality, it became more and more difficult to lie to my friends and Army family about who I really was. I kept quiet, though, because I wanted to serve. I loved what I was doing, and I was proud to be a soldier. When I was outed, it was one of the most difficult times in my life, because I knew that my childhood dream of being in the Army was quickly coming to an end."
"After leaving the military in 2007, I began talking with fellow LGBT West Point and Navy grads about the experiences we all had under DADT, and we decided that it was time to form an affinity group for LGBT West Point graduates and our straight allies," Manning explained. "As one of the original co-founders, I served as the chair of Knights Out during our organization period."
After all that Manning has been faced with and the obstacles he has overcome, it is important to him that people understand that homophobia and Gay-bashings are not a thing of the past - but should be.
"Homophobia and Gay-bashings are far from being a thing of the past, but can be very subtle at times," said Manning. "Homophobia is in every Gay joke told. It's every time someone uses the term 'that's so Gay.' It's caused by a lack of education and understanding. Every time we laugh at one of those Gay jokes, we say it's OK to stereotype and judge, we say it's OK to remain uneducated, and we perpetuate the idea that homosexuality is a bad thing. For LGBT persons in many cities and states, they have nothing to worry about, but in some smaller cities and towns, we still have to deal with hate and bigotry on a daily basis."
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