Build Right Here, Right Now – supporting Toni Amato

photo by Syd London

I first met Toni Amato through his words. I was a crusty punk kid living in Portland, Oregon and some friends of mine had heard about a new book called ‘Pinned Down By Pronouns’ which he co-edited. I was the only person in my circle of friends with a credit card, so I purchased the book and was utterly smitten.  I had no idea that nearly 10 years later Toni would have become a dear friend, trusted colleague in queer story facilitation, an invaluable mentor in my own writing, and most important of all a beloved member of my chosen family.

I cannot speak highly enough about Toni and his work in the community.  There are few people I’ve met who truly walk what they speak, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, and who truly commit themselves fully to those amongst us who are wounded, freaks, and other outsiders.

Because of where I’m from and what i’ve survived trust isn’t something that comes easily to me. I can count on less than one hand the number of people in the world that I truly and completely trust.  Toni is one of those people.

Toni has been one of the biggest supporters of Kicked Out and what it represents in terms of the power of storytelling for marginalized queers and the importance of created families.  In the past year he and I have worked together very closely as I’ve worked on creating an initial draft manuscript of my novel, and quite literally helping me to find my voice again and remember why I find so much joy in writing.

Toni is someone who sees all of me and in his own patient quiet way has helped me to believe that there could be a place for religion/spirituality in my life because i’m a freak, not in spite of it.  Even if I find it through picture books.

After battling major health issues for the last two years Toni is taking a medical sabbatical to heal and recover. As a self employed writing coach and activist Toni has no employer benefits or the financial resources to take the time he needs to recover.  I’m so honored to be part of the community that’s rallying around Toni to support him with his work/ministry.  Our goal is to raise enough money ($10,000) to cover his living expenses for the rest of the year, and access to occupational health and medical therapies into 2012.  There is no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today  were it not for my relationship with Toni, and I cannot speak highly enough about his work.

Please help spread the word about Build Right Here, Right Now to folks you know in the writing and LGBTQI activist worlds, follow us on Facebook or Twitter –   Toni has given so selflessly of himself to our community, it’s time for us to take care of him so that he can rest and recouperate.  That’s what family is for.