Laura Lee Bishop is a talented singer/songwriter from East Texas with an NYU education and a passionately profound opinion she is not afraid to voice.
The strength of her voice is undeniable. Whether watching her perform live or listening to one of her empowering pop/rock songs like “Real Man,” (or my personal favorite, “Those Girls”) she sings with a conviction that is inspiring. But last week, her strength was voiced in a different way.
"What inspires me is truth. I know the truth. And when you know something, when it is written on your heart, flowing through your veins, when it is a part of you, it cannot be denied. I know my truth. Every human being on this planet deserves to be treated with respect. No one should ever have to be treated the way the members of the LGBT and black communities have been treated in this country. That is truth. That’s what inspires me," Laura Lee stated.
A local paper in Laura Lee’s hometown, The Gilmer Mirror, published a letter written by a man named Elliott Dean titled “Must Get It Out.” In the letter, Dean expresses his issues with homosexuals, his confusion about hate crimes, and his qualms with a progressive society: “Now look, I don’t care if you want to sleep with your dog or mule,” Dean wrote, addressing a gay and lesbian audience. “I don’t care it’s none of my business; the trouble is you keep making my business,” he said. "When I read that letter, I was shocked, sickened, and enraged. I was angry at the paper that published it, mad at the people supporting it, and mad someone hadn’t ripped him a new one already," Laura Lee said.
Laura Lee immediately posted a passionate reply on the The Gilmer Mirror,'s website that spread like wildfire and was applauded by Dallas Voice, a popular LGBT publication in Dallas.
This was just the beginning. Being the ally she is to the LGBT community, Laura Lee Bishop had much more to say: "Obviously his homophobic, racist delusions were enough for anyone to go off, but I think the thing that really got my blood pressure up was his insistence that all that hate came from a place of love. One thing I can’t stand is a liar. He says he loves everyone, and in the same breath says, '…but get out of my face.' It’s the perfect example of how he, and people like him, just lie, lie, lie. They act as though simply saying they love all God’s children makes it so. I’m not buying it. They are manipulative, insidious, little liars, and they have hate in their hearts."
Ashley: "You are not afraid to voice your opinion and stick to your guns. How did you become the strong person you are today?"
Laura Lee: "I’ve been in this fight my entire life. There was a time when I’d come home, shut the door, and break down crying. People can be cruel, especially when you challenge them and the way they think. As a kid, I spent a lot of time confused. I was confused by some of the hateful things people would say or do, but I was even more confused by the people who watched it happen and did nothing.”
Ashley: "You mention in your blog that despite the initial backlash and bullying regarding your comments on Elliott Dean’s Letter, there was a positive reaction from people in your hometown and on social media. What has the overall reaction been like both since you posted “Must Get Out: THE SEQUEL?”
Laura Lee: “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are sharing it and posting all over the place with enthusiasm and support. I’ve received messages, texts, emails, and phone calls expressing how happy they are that finally someone said what needed to be said and stood up to Elliott Dean. People are asking how they can help. It’s beautiful, exciting, and humbling.
However, there is a flip side to the coin. In my town, your last name determines your position on the food chain. The Dean family is somewhat wealthy, so they are towards the top. My last name carries a bit of weight too, and when you are in one of these families there is pressure to make sure you don’t do anything to tarnish your good name. It’s dead serious, 'You have brought shame to your family,' stuff. So, as I was getting ready to publish this response to Elliott Dean’s letter, I was getting phone calls urging me to bite my tongue. People began to distance themselves from me. I’ve being unfriended on Facebook; there are passive aggressive ‘likes’ of negative status updates about me; and posts saying things like, ‘NOBODY speaks for my family!’ It gets to a point where you are no longer allowed to be an individual because you are tethered to this ‘reputation,’ that if shattered will have serious repercussions. Granted, no one can ever articulate to me what exactly those repercussions are, but I’m just to know they are ominous and scary. When faced with the choice of whether or not to publish my opinions, I got to thinking: If speaking my mind is all it takes for someone to turn their back on me, then so be it. I lost my father many years ago, but he gave me my last name, and he raised me to stand up for what is right. I have his ‘reputation’ to uphold too, and that carries a hell of a lot more weight in my book.
This beef with Elliott Dean is between him and me, not anyone else in Gilmer, and not anyone in my family. My letter is for all the people who live in fear, who are treated like dirt, and who deserve so much better. That matters more than what people think of me or some superficial reputation.”
Ashley: “I know you personally, and I know this isn’t the first time you acted to stand up for or protect others; I know it probably won’t be the last time. However, I also know you to be a sensitive person. How do you deal with the hurtful comments?”
Laura Lee: "I put a lot of it into my music. I use it. I harness the anger, direct it onto the page, and let it take life. I try to turn that negativity into something productive.
In Elliott Dean’s drama-queen mess, I try to remember most people talking about me, most people who hate me, are people I never want to associate with anyway. They are the kind of people I don’t want listening to my music or telling people they know me. The kind of people they are is not the kind of person I am. They have a tendency to make assumptions about my personal religious beliefs when they know nothing about me.
The most bizarre thing is that as ‘Christian’ as they are, not one of them, not one, has ever tried to convert me; they only condemn me. They assume I have no faith, but instead of trying to help me ‘see the light’ or treat me with kindness, they basically tell me to go to hell. It’s the perfect example of their complete and utter hypocrisy. They have no interest in anyone’s salvation. They have no interest in helping anyone. Their only interest is in themselves. I deal with their hate by seeing them for what they really are: vultures, looking for someone to pick apart and devour.”
The Gilmer Mirror has since posted a link to Laura's response with a publishers note stating: “The newspaper doesn't agree or disagree with the viewpoints of letter writers. It just prints the letters. The Mirror, as always, wishes the talented Laura Lee Bishop much success in her career and life.”
Written by Ashley Bellman,
Corporate Journalist, Media Communications Committee.
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