Scottie Thomaston, the beloved blogger formerly known as indiemcemopants, is the most amazing young man I've ever met. He was born in 1984 in rural Alabama, born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, yet he survived both and even learned to walk. When Scottie was fifteen he underwent a thirteen hour surgery for rapidly advancing scoliosis - and survived that just fine. The surgeon went back in a few days later to put in a piece of hardware, and left Scottie paralyzed. [You can read the entire harrowing story here.]
So there he was, fifteen years old, suddenly in a wheelchair, and headed for rehab. At about the same time he inadvertently came out to his family through a letter-writing mishap and was met with horror and rejection and attempts to "pray the gay away". He was told in no uncertain terms that "it" would not be "allowed" in his parents' home. Now, imagine yourself in Scottie's position. Imagine what that must have felt like. Fifteen-year-olds are all about body image and sexuality, right? How does a young man deal with loss of mobility, family rejection, and the complications of dating while in a wheelchair? Can you imagine how lonely and rejected and trapped he must have felt?
When I met Scottie a few years ago he was disabled, unemployed, depressed, isolated, and living alone in a small low-income apartment. He had no local friends, little positive contact with his family, and forget about a social life. But he had one tiny tiny thing going for him: Scottie is freaking brilliant. Combine a huge intellect with a gift for writing, a passion for justice, and unending curiosity - not to mention a great sense of humor and an ability to listen- and you've got something damn special.
He's also got courage. When Scottie and I won scholarships to NN10 in Las Vegas from Democracy for America, just getting there presented unique problems for him. How would he get from his tiny town in Alabama to a city with an airport? How would he manage a large suitcase? What should he do at the airport? With TSA? Scottie had never flown before that trip, so he didn't even have memories of healthy flying to fall back on. And yet - and yet. When I arrived at the airport in Las Vegas, there he was.
Did I mention Scottie stutters? The thought of engaging with people at Netroots Nation gave him anxiety attacks and nightmares, but it didn't keep him away.
He turned around and went back the next year, too.
How does a guy in Scottie's situation make a life, a future, for himself? College wasn't an option; the cost of books alone put that out of reach. Who's going to hire a guy in a wheelchair in rural Alabama? Especially one wearing a rainbow armband? I don't recall the exact sequence of events that made Scottie aware of a position open at Courage Campaign; he might have seen the listing himself, or perhaps another Kossack found it and told him about it. In any event, Courage Campaign was looking for a writer for their Courage Campaign Institute site Prop 8 Trial Tracker, someone to cover LGBT legal issues and impact litigation.
Who'd been writing diary after diary after diary about every legal case in the U.S. affecting LGBT issues? Yup. Scottie had the chops for the job, but did Courage have the courage to hire a paraplegic with no formal secondary education and no job references? To their eternal credit they did, and Scottie's first post for Prop 8 Trial Tracker was on March 15th, less than six months ago.
How's he doing? you might ask. He's doing better than okay; Scottie's writing is first-class and [drumroll, please] Courage Campaign nominated him to be included in a White House event on September 19 for "emerging leaders in the LGBT community". There will be a dinner at the Vice President’s residence followed the next day by an East Wing Tour and LGBT Policy Roundtable.
SCOTTIE THOMASTON IS GOING TO THE WHITE HOUSE!!!
The arc of this story, from its roots in backwater Alabama to the near future at Joe Biden's dinner table, quite takes my breath away. If anyone reading this thinks your life is hopeless, that you'll never get out of whatever quagmire you find yourself in, please remember Scottie in your dark hours and hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Life may have a sweet surprise for you, too.