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For transgender couple, being different isn’t easy

David Ballou and Jamie Lee Sprague-Ballou, who were married in California in 2013, are a unique Las Vegas couple.

When Ballou, 57, was a boy, he knew he was gay, but in an effort to please his family, he went on to have two heterosexual marriages that produced one son.

As a boy, Sprague-Ballou — now transitioning to become a woman — felt he should be a girl, but in an effort to please family went on to have a heterosexual marriage and father three children.

In the wake of the shooting at an Orlando gay club that killed 49 people and wounded dozens more, we sat in the Metropolitan Community Church of Las Vegas and talked Sunday about how being different isn’t easy.

Ballou is treasurer of the church. Its congregation includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. Chuch member Sprague-Ballou is a graduate divinity student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Though worried copycat violence could break out across the county, the 54-year-old Sprague-Ballou decided to go ahead this week with a scheduled town hall meeting for transgender persons because “we don’t want to give in to fear.”

There’ve been times, Ballou said, when he and his significant other draw hateful stares and comments when out in public.

And he worries that some of those people, if they thought they could get away with it, would become violent.

”Sometimes I’ve confronted them and asked, ‘What does our life have to do with your life?’,” the school bus driver said. “Some will say they don’t think our life is right, but many seem too embarrassed to say anything.”

They should be embarrassed. Why should anyone care about who peaceful human beings — individuals who work and pay their taxes and strive to make the community a better place — choose to love or spend their time with?

How can being different become a death sentence?

In trying to explain a motive for the Orlando killings, Seddique Mateen, the father of the nightclub gunman, Omar Mateen, has said that the sight of seeing two men kissing recently angered his son.

Maybe that set him off. But why would it, Sprague-Ballou noted, unless he had learned it was “bad?”

Though the elder Mateen doubts it, maybe ISIS, the terrorist organization which hates gays and that the younger Mateen pledged allegiance to, turned “a good son” into a fanatical killer of gays.

Maybe Omar Meteen, like many people, first heard something negative about gays at home and it festered.

Keep in mind that his father, who said he ran a religious household, wrote on Facebook after the killings that servants of God should not go after gays and that “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality.”

It’s also true the elder Mateen, an immigrant from Afghanistan, wants that country’s Taliban back in power with him as president. When Taliban members ruled in the ‘90s, they publicly executed men who engaged in homosexuality.

Some governments preach hate. So do some churches, politicians, schools and families.

And sometimes, unfortunately, their messages of hate get through.

You don’t have to be a shrink to know that hatred is learned behavior.

Babies don’t come out of the womb hating blacks, whites, gays, Christians, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans or anything else.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Thursday in the Life section. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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