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Mid Michigan author turns negative events into positive change

Dominic Thrasher standing outside his Isabella County home
Tina Sawyer
Dominic Thrasher standing outside his Isabella County home

After being diagnosed with ALS, a fatal neurological disease, 1-year ago, Dominic Thrasher decided to use his time at home to become an author and to inspire others to follow their dreams. He went on to publish a series of children’s books featuring his family’s dogs, Sheriff and Cece and after much success, was invited to read from his books at schools during Reading Month in March.

But not everyone was happy that Thrasher read at one particular school in Isabella County. WCMU's Tina Sawyer sat down with Dominic Thrasher to talk with him about it and tells us why.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Tina Sawyer In March, Dominic Thrasher, of Mount Pleasant found himself in the middle of controversy after he was invited to read his latest children's book at a friend's preschool class at Saint Joseph. The Worker Catholic School in Beale City soon after Thrasher finished reading to the class, the school's priest, Father Tom Held, wrote a letter apologizing to parents that a gay author read a book to the children.

Father Held resigned soon after.

Now Thrasher tells his side of the story and how he struggled to come to grips with his identity. Dominic started off by explaining how he found out about the letter that was sent to parents and a note to listeners. This conversation does mention talk of suicide. Please use discretion.

Dominic Thrasher A week later, I went and I saw on Facebook this letter that Tom held had put out basically, without using the words, calling me a pedophile and predator and saying that he would make sure that people who come into the school are vetted properly. And it's all because. I'm gay.

Tina Sawyer You were telling me that the preschool isn't affiliated with the parochial school?

DT No, they just rent the space. Yeah, from Saint Joseph. Which is why he was not informed right away

TS So why did he have to write a letter?

DT Power. From what I gather, I don't want to spread misinformation, but from what I've been told, it was never a parent from somebody in the class. Pictures were shared on Facebook that I had visited the classroom and somebody saw those and then had a problem with it, and then they wrote Tom and that's how all this came about.
You know, I would say yes, gay people do have an agenda. They have an agenda of being accepted. And just they have an agenda of just going ‘I am a normal human being’. My agenda is to inspire... my agenda is to show people that your dreams can come true... if you just work hard and believe in yourself.

TS Did you know you were gay from an early age?

DT Oh my goodness, yes. Yeah, that's why I changed my name from Michael to Dominic. I wanted a fresh start. I kind of didn't like who I was. I didn't like Michael Stahl, Michael Shehan-Stahl, I didn't like that person. And I tried committing suicide twice when I was in high school.

TS Is that why you felt the need to take your life?

DT Was a mixture of things. Yeah, there's just a lot of things at home that weren't the healthiest, but the crazy thing is, is my youngest brother is the one that stopped me both times at 2-3 years old. One time it was in my bedroom and all of a sudden he just pushes the door open, ‘Mikey, what are you doing?’ And I was like, well, you know, stop. I then swallowed a bunch of pills in the bathroom and all of a sudden you know or I didn’t swallow, I put them all in my mouth and all of a sudden. The knock on the door. (knocks with fist) ‘Mikey, what are you doing? What are you doing?’ I was like, wow. OK, this child...... He was born to save me....which he did...twice. And I never, ever...tried again.

TS So that that was a change in you because of that event and are you then now an advocate for people to change? Do you believe that?

DT I have seen people change. I have people in my family who I've seen change, who were definitely one way about a lot of things, very negative, not inclusive. And I've watched them turn into being loving, 100% unconditionally, accepting of all...
That can help.

TS That was Dominic Thrasher. The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw did not respond to our request for comment. And if you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, just dial 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Tina Sawyer is the local host of Morning Edition on WCMU. She joined WCMU in November, 2022.