If God Would Write

After reading a letter from Pastor Philip Hoppe and St. Paul’s Lutheran Congregation to one of their members named Scott, I wondered how God would write a letter to them about their sins. Here’s what came to me. First the letter that excommunicates Scott, a gay member of their congregation who had the courage to reveal his true nature to his church.

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Dear St. Paul’s Lutheran Congregation,

At your voter’s meeting last month, you voted my child Scott out of my church. Although the thought occurred to me to excommunicate you out of my kingdom because of the sin you have committed in judging one of my own. Not only do you refuse to acknowledge your unloving actions towards Scott, you have not confessed them to me either. Rather, you have sat in judgment and prayed to me like the Pharisee in your bible. Regardless, I have forgiven you of your trespass, even though you will not forgive someone who had the courage to be honest and reveal his orientation to his brothers and sisters in Christ, and did nothing to harm you. There is no reason for him to ask for your forgiveness.

Excommunication is not my way. Let me be clear on this. My son walked on this earth and did not exclude the excluded. Instead, he welcomed each of my children. He spoke of love, forgiveness, and giving up your judgmental spirits. As you said in your letter to Scott, “ … if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” Is that what you wish from me?

I take no joy in your votes. I am saddened that one of my own has been shunned from my house you call your church. You have turned your back on my creation. You see, I created Scott to be who he is. While you shun him, you shun me. I know Scott’s heart, you do not.  I have forgiven you, even though your actions harm another. Know this, he is not outside the body of Christ and is in no jeopardy of being removed.

You are welcome to contact me anytime you wish to reconcile with me about your treatment of my child Scott. I hope you do this soon, for my child is hurting from your unloving actions.

Your ever-loving God

Posted in Gay Christians, Hatred, Religion | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Thoughts on Why Ian Thorpe’s Coming Out Was So Important

ian thorp evolELast weekend, Ian Thorpe, who Australian politician Penny Wong called her country’s “greatest Olympian ”, came out as a gay man.  In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of a number of brave public celebrities and a number of athletes from around the globe.

There was an aspect to Thorpe’s disclosure which was dramatically more poignant than his predecessors, however.  In coming out, Thorpe shared something not often discussed: the horrible cost to one’s psyche of hiding such a core and personal secret.

Actress Ellen Page, for example, came out eloquently. She described her pre-coming out mindset as “You’re just not fully aware of it. I think I still felt scared about people knowing. I felt awkward around gay people; I felt guilty for not being myself.”  Michael Sam came out describing a supportive team, bright draft prospects and ended up kissing his boyfriend on CNN.  Tom Daley came out under the mystery of a romantic “love at first sight” mystique, later to reveal that the magical man was Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.  All of their public coming out processes were brave and heart warming, but they also only painted half the picture that many experience.

The other half of the picture is the dark side of hiding the secrets of one’s personal identity.  It is the side that contains thoughts of suicide, and the proclivity to fall prey to depression, alcoholism and drugs.  Those were part of Ian Thorpe’s story.  He came out about them as strongly as he did about his sexual orientation.

Ian’s story made me cry just a little bit harder.  I cried relating to the all too familiar pain of the dark he was leaving.  I had been a former resident.

I felt compelled to share Ian’s story with my two sons.  As they are on the verge of turning twelve, adolescence is taking over their lives and the temptation to build their own closets of secrets loom before them.  Because their birth families have been prone to alcohol and drug addiction issues, they are biologically susceptible and that too is a situation of which I have made them aware.

Conversations about this time in their lives are not easy, nor do they enter into them lightly.  The school showed them a film about body changes during puberty, which the boys found, let’s say, difficult to discuss afterwards.  I recall it going something like this:  “It was about unspeakable things, Dad!”  Jesse declared dramatically.  “UnSPEAKABLE things!  Trust me you do not want to know!  You are better off not knowing!!”

I of course pressed forward.  “Were these specifically in the boy area, or are you talking about menstruation?”   .

“Acckkk! You spoke its name!”   That ended the discussion for that day.

On the day that Ian Thorpe came out, I had brought up a different, but related conversation with them.  I told them that an Olympic swimmer from Australia had come out as gay.  They thought this was great.  They are both avid swimmers, and both proud of their LGBT family.  I also told them about his struggles with holding secrets through his adolescence and how it added to depression, and a dependence on drugs and alcohol.  Knowing their family history with chemical dependence and the dangers, the boys listened solemnly and seriously.

I concluded the talk with them by essentially quoting something I had written for them almost two years ago.  I said, “I know you are discovering within yourselves new tastes, new ideas and new instincts.  You know we have rules and principles to live by that make us good citizens, help us to never harm others and to be loving caring beings.  With those, I hope you guide the new and developing you that emerges.  I also hope that you continue to feel free to share with me about feelings, thoughts, aspirations and dreams that you have.  Someday, you will fall in love.  As we have talked about… there are men who fall in love with women,  quite a lot of them actually, and then there are men who fall in love with other men…like Papa and I did.  As you develop into the men you are going to be, your instincts will tell you which of these you are.  Your instincts may also tell you that you are both.  I don’t know.  Here is the important point, however–  I won’t care.,” and then I added, “I care that you not hold secrets about yourself from me.  I will celebrate who you are.  As Ian Thorpe showed us, holding a secret can make even being a world renown athlete no fun.  We Watsons cannot dabble with drugs or alcohol, others might, but we can’t afford to. I won’t care about the gender or ethnicity of your future spouse. If you have secrets, I want you to share them with me before you reach out to any of that.  There are things you will win, there are things you will lose and through each, you will have a champion, your Dad.  I am here for you, and I always will be.”

From the looks on their faces, I know the message had gotten through.  They quietly shuffled off to focus on Mine Craft, but in thought over what had just been said.  Meanwhile, I sat down to compose a letter to Ian Thorpe.

Here is that letter:

Dear Mr. Thorpe,

I was very moved by your coming out publicly this last weekend as a gay man.  I related to you in a way that I have not with many of the celebrities who have gone public with their sexual orientations.  It is probably strange that I relate as I did because I am not a swimmer or an athlete.  I did not achieve my ultimate dream at 19.

I did live in the darkness of the same closet you did, however.  When you were fifteen, impersonal journalists intruded on you with questions of your sexuality.  When I was fifteen, anonymous schoolmates of mine essentially did the same thing by scrawling “faggot” across my locker.  I believe you and I shared the same mortification over the exposure, and may in some ways, still feel it.

Like you, I found a “friend” in drugs and alcohol and let it sail me into a painless journey through the depressed places within myself.  I however, eventually emerged into a sober recovery.  It sounds like you are doing the same.

This is my thank you to you, as a hero for millions that you have inspired.  Thank you for telling a story that is not made easy from long term support of a family team and circle, as others have done, but for telling one of secrecy, depression and thoughts of suicide.  There are many who share that experience and they need to see and hear the way out of that particular closet, the dark closet, into hope.

This is also what I want to give back to you now too:  hope.  You are fresh into your new open life.   You are new to recovery.  As one who has been there, I want you to know that what lies ahead for you can be spectacular.

For me, my dream was the love of a family and to become a dad.  I knew that was what life had in store for me when, as part of my recovery process, I walked into a foster care orientation meeting.  I found out that just as drugs and alcohol had threatened my life, there were innocent kids whose lives were being threatened by the drug addiction and alcoholism of their parents.  My recovery could extend further into the actual creation of my family.  Which is exactly what happened.

I am the dad of two eleven year olds, both drug exposed as infants, both healthy and happy, and both aware of your story.  They see in you a hero who no longer hides with secrets and who stays abstinent from his susceptibility to chemical addiction.

I am not suggesting that you run out and get foster care kids of your own, even though if you did eventually, I think those would be damn lucky children.  I am suggesting that you ride the waves of love and life, and take your new found self empowerment with the same discipline as you do with swimming.

Of swimming you said, “I try and listen to what the water is doing, what position the water wants me to be in. And this is where I start from, then, I start to create movement that allows me to swim.”    Take it from this sober, happy and free gay dad.  Your new authentic life is like that water.  Listen to what it’s doing, the position it wants you in.  Now create movement.

One day, like your swimming, that “water” will again wrap a gold medal around your neck.  That medal will have little boy arms.   It will reach up, kiss you good night, and whisper in your ear, “Good night, daddy, I love you.”

You will know victory like you never have before.

 

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Posted in Family, Hatred, Prejudice | 5 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Lesson from His Son Regarding the Hobby Lobby Decision: “Scream Like a Girl”

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“Dad, you are going to need to scream like a little girl!”

My head whirled in Jesse’s direction and my mouth dropped.  Did that condescendingly sexist remark really come out of the mouth of my beloved son?

It was all a part of the things we do for our kids.  It has always been important for me to show up and participate in activities with them.  I know the time is fleeting, and these are the memories that will take them through their lives.  I really never anticipated that this included being strapped to a tower of human torture, specifically, a huge device of  terror called the “Double Shot” at Santa Cruz’s Beach Boardwalk amusement park.  Jesse was eager to go with me and I did not want to deny him this dad and son moment.

The Double Shot is a 125 foot tower on which you and a companion are shot the full distance of a 125 feet into the air within the matter of a few seconds.  Did I mention that heights are not my thing?  It was just after we were strapped in, Jesse leaned over and uttered the aforementioned words now etched on my mind.   As I was about to protest, the machine threw us 15 feet in the air, before a few gentle bounces and then jettisoned us up the remaining 110 feet towards heaven.

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Last week, the US Supreme Court also gave its own injection of controlled horror to the American public, with a jaw dropping sexist moment, when it ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and the ability of public sector corporations to discriminate against women by denying female employees coverage for “morning after” type contraception.  The nuances of the decision are being debated back and forth, including by the Supreme Court Justices themselves,

It could not help but be noticed that the decision was made by five of the male members of the court and dissented by every singe female member.  Rich Lowry of the National Review rankled at the suggestion that disrespect for women could be an issue.  “If you don’t see the anti-women agenda at work in this decision, you aren’t as discerning as the hysterics on the left who point out, accusingly, that the five justices in the majority are all men… (they)  seem to believe that the court was deliberating in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. The Fate of Women’s Freedom in the United States,” he snarked.  As if to prove his publication’s all gender inclusiveness, his article was proudly adorned with an ad for “Pink Princess”.

Ah, pink.  The designated color of all things female.  Months ago I wrote an article that decried the pink designation for girls and pointed out the attempted disempowerment it conveyed.  Many agreed with me, others thought it was benign.  I think it is telling however, that a color that we ask all females to embrace  and with which to identify, is the same one that Arizona sheriff Joe Arpalo dresses prisoners in so that he can humiliate them.  It is just one of many examples of how a subtle but constant is the tone of misogyny in our country.  Misogyny also creates fertile ground for homophobia as a natural extension.  If women are innately disregarded, then how can men who are identified as being women-like, and women who dare to tread on male turf, expect to be respected either?

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The issue of what is right and wrong in the Hobby Lobby case comes down to principle.  In Rich Lowry’s view, only one side had principle, the plaintiffs  who claimed the principle of “religious freedom”.  On the other side, he did not see principle, he just saw a question of cost savings.  “Hobby Lobby doesn’t have the power to deny its employees the drugs it finds objectionable, nor does it claim such a power. Women who work for the company can buy them on their own,” he explains to those of us who believe the principle was actually the right to make decisions over one’s body and the right to equal protections that others enjoy.

Singer Cyndy Lauper understood this.  “Women throughout America know that birth control is an important factor in allowing us to contribute to the workforce, determine our own destiny, and guarantee our economic independence.

Because of birth control, a woman can stay in school and earn her degree. Because of birth control, a hard-working woman can go out on a limb and live her dreams of being a musician, or she can plan her family in a way that allows her to have the career she wants while also providing a loving and safe home for her children.

It doesn’t matter what women choose to do with the opportunities provided by birth control—what matters is that women are allowed to make these choices for ourselves,” she stated.

Another principle is far more basic.  The  Supreme Court noted over a century ago in Strauder v. West Virginia, that in criminal trials the jury should be drawn from a group “composed of the peers or equals [of the defendant]; that is, of his neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society as he holds.”   This was not a criminal trial, but American women deserve this principle to be enacted in a case where their own personal freedoms are under scrutiny.

The lack of female representation in this Supreme Court decision is only the tip of the proverbial ice berg here.  We also have a male dominated legislature that brought in a 100% male authority panel and passed legislation that is supervised in the executive branch by the male Surgeon General and his male Deputy.  Looking out across the country, it does not get better.  The fact is that this issue and decisions around it are made by the part of the population who will never ever personally face the dilemmas in question.  The pregnancy decision is not one we will ever have to face within our bodies, and the rights around it should not be our determination either.

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As I emerged from the Double Shot, I found my voice with my son.  “Jess, I did not like what you said about screaming like a girl,” I told him.  “Why not?” he asked with sincere surprise.  “I think it means that you think girls are weaker than we are,” I shot back  “Girls and women can be as strong as we are, and you need to respect all people male and female and otherwise. “

“I don’t disrespect girls,” he assured me.  “They just scream better than we do.  They know what they are doing.”

“Oh.”

Since the Hobby Lobby decision came down it is evident that women’s health choices and LGBT equality rights cannot be assumed to be safe in the eyes of the American Justice system.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has to be strengthened to be universally protective against any discrimination no matter how religious based the organization is.  Women’s rights need to be decided for women and their own self determination.  We need to extend that protection for them as we, and until we, make sure they are adequately represented to have power over the decision themselves.

If womankind screams better than the rest of us on this, then so be it.  We need to be their chorus and make that voice stronger.  We need to scream “like a girl”, until all “girls” of all walks of life are empowered to scream effectively and get results for themselves.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Family, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, Religion, US Politics | 14 Comments

A Gay Dad Tribute to a Mom Mourning the Loss of Her Daughter, as Her Transgender Son Emerges

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I met Lex in March of this year.   My co-host of the radio show Out in Santa Cruz let me know we would be interviewing a transgender man who was going to read his poetry on the air.  

Even aware of the transgender journey he was on, for me, when I met Lex, I met a man.  Not a woman, not even a “transgender man”.  Just, a man.  I have not known him as anything different even though he has been know by others as a girl, a woman and a lesbian.  For one woman, in particular, Yolanda Beatty, he was a daughter.

Lex has just completed some significant surgery.  I only know about it because it holds significance for him, not because it changes who he is as I personally know him.  My identification of Lex is as much from his work as a poet as it is from meeting his physical persona.  His poem “Break This Skin” is profound.  It is a statement of redemption in the life experience when we all find ourselves beyond our flesh limitation, and embrace the spirit of the real us, buried deep within.  As Lex puts it,  “Below the flesh, there must be a place that has never been hurt, never been touched or tarnished.”    It is in that place, he implies, we need to live “in the light” in between the start and end of our lives, both of which are “in darkness”.

So, when I think of Lex, I do not think of his flesh, what state it is in, nor where it has been.  I think of Lex, the man with the masculine spirit, living his life.

That is easy to say as a new friend.  It has to be harder for those around him.  When a loved one changes, in whatever ways, there is a sense of mourning and goodbye as the person they were disappears, sometimes forever.  One instance, in my life as a dad, which sent that message happened in the most benign of situations. 

From the time I got my son Jason at birth, the routine at bedtime was for me to rock him to sleep on my chest, before putting him into his crib.  I self trained to get him to the level of sleep where the motion from my chest to the soft bedding would not wake him, and start the process all over again.  One night, as I started to rock him, he reached out for the crib directly.  Without thinking twice, I followed his lead and placed him in the crib, where he put himself to sleep.  We never went back to the old way of doing it again.

In retrospect, I cry inside for at least a warning that things were going to change, that my baby was going to go in a different direction and I was only going to get to enjoy the process a few times more.  I didn’t get that warning, and it changed outside of my control.

Change outside of her control is certainly something Lex’s mother, Yolanda, is well acquainted.   Like me, she also did not get a clairvoyant sign to not set expectations, and that her offspring would be called to a different direction.  She put her thoughts on that direction into words this week.  She wrote a public note commemorating Lex’s surgery:

 “On March 14, 1983, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. One of my bosses said she was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen, including his own and his grandchildren. I humbly agreed with him. After much discussion and arguments, we named her Alexis Diane. I happily bought frilly dresses and cute little outfits, which she happily wore until she turned three. After that, there were huge, silent tears as I tried to put her into a dress or anything frilly. I gave up the fight.

From the age of two, her best friend was my godson. They were inseparable, spending many days and evenings in each other’s homes. When Carlos moved away, she spent summers in his small town, riding bikes, swimming and just being kids. She liked the idea of being “one of the boys”.

We are now on the verge of life-changing surgery. I find myself thinking of that adorable baby girl and tearing up. I wanted her to be the cheerleader, she wanted to be the quarterback. I wanted her to buy a gown for prom, she wanted the tuxedo. She made history at her high school by taking a girl to the prom. I am not opposed to the change. In fact, I think it is long overdue. But I am mourning the loss of my daughter. There won’t be any outward changes but inside, everything changes. I find it interesting that this one surgery will make psychological changes and I will have to revise my thinking of her and start thinking of him.

I have many memories of my Lexi over the past 31 years. She literally saved my life when I foolishly thought that Tylenol was the cure for everything that ailed you. She has always been a happy kid, silly and charming. Her father thought the sun rose and set on her, told her every day that she was practically perfect in every way. Now you can understand where her confidence comes from. And then he didn’t. I’m sure you can guess when it changed. Life changes made her sad and angry. I could read her poetry and know where she was in her head. Yet she continued to excel in school and sports and she continued to be my little girl.

I will miss my girl. But I will embrace my son and will love him proudly. He will be a credit to the male species; he’ll continue be a wonderful father; he’ll continue to be a good brother and uncle. But most importantly, he will finally feel at home in his own skin. I want that for him more than anything because everyone deserves to be the person they were meant to be, whole and happy.
Alexis Michael Anthony Beatty, I have always wanted a son. It took 31 years, but God answered my prayer.”

For Lex, this week, the skin that held him back to the full actualization of himself has indeed “been broken”.

For his mother, Yolanda, there are broken expectations and dreams of a daughter who would be a certain way in her life.  As a person whose own self-definition is that of a parent, she has not allowed that breakage to dwell and reside in grief.  Instead, she lifts it as a sword and testament to rebirth, and breaks the paradigm of parenthood for all of us.

A good parent is one who may mold a child into the person they are going to be, a great parent is one who celebrates the emergence from that mold as our redefined child, a magnificent human butterfly, perched for flight, to soar with confidence in the light of true identity.

 

Lex’s Interview 

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Posted in Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thank You Eva Marie Saint for Teaching Me Pride, Long Before There Was a Parade

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Guest blog by Dana StarSong Sullivan, with Rob Watson

I grew up in the 50′s and 60′s.  There was no such thing as an LGBT Pride parade, there were no festivals, no parties.  It could be argued that there was not even a hint of gay pride at all, even within those of us who knew we were not typical heterosexuals.   During those years I got a lot of incorrect information about sexuality.  Confusing the matter even more, at 13, I became aware that I was attracted to other boys.   

I felt very different because of this and knew it wasn’t okay to talk about my feelings with others. I had been uprooted from a small town outside of Boston into the very different world of West Los Angeles, CA. I was very thin, had bright red hair and white skin, and I landed on the campus of Paul Revere Junior High where it seemed everyone was tanned golden brown and had very blonde hair. They laughed at me for how I looked and dressed. Suddenly I went from never worrying about such superficialities to being obsessed with how different I was from all the other kids.  I felt like everything about me was wrong. Everything. I began to feel ugly. I began feeling that I was truly not as worthy as the other kids were.

One morning on the school bus two girls were fighting with each other and one of them grabbed the other girl’s breast and she pushed her back yelling, “Get your hands off me you lesbian!!” As a queer person in the company of the normal, I identified, I must be one of these.  I must be “a lesbian”.

Regardless of my own self-disgust, I thought this new information had given me a way to speak up and score a zingers against others. After coming out of the showers there was a guy at a window that threw a towel out.  The boy in front of me missed grabbing his as it flew past and he managed to grab my testicles. Here was my chance. “Get your hands off me you lesbian!!!” I yelled at him.

After a few moments of silence everyone started laughing and I heard “Lesbian?? You mean faggot??” All the other boys were laughing at me and pointing their fingers. I was so defeated. They started calling me “faggot” from then on, presumably to show me how the name calling “should” be done.

My misstep in throwing insults placed me directly into the cross hairs I so desperately wanted to avoid.  In time the other kids at the school also began ganging up on me and yelling “Faggot!”.

A few of them named me “Half Woman” as well.  I began hearing it everywhere I was on campus. I was so confused as to why. Going to school became most uncomfortable and I tried to fight back.  When a teacher came along, it was always me who got sent to the office. I was “the trouble maker”.  Back in those days, they employed corporal punishment. I got “swats” with what looked like a large ping pong paddle with holes drilled in it. I was asked to bend over and grab my ankles. Then starting from across the room the vice principal would run towards me and hit me so hard on my rear end I would yell out in pain and nearly fall over. One time, he told me not to move and after multiple swats, broke the paddle on me.   I was told to take the broken paddle to Wood Shop to get it repaired.

I did not dare tell my parents this had happened to me. I was never going to tell what the other kids were doing to me. I was ashamed of who I was.

My family lived about 2 miles up Mandeville Canyon Road and it seemed like a long walk home after staying for detention. One day my neighbor Mrs. Hayden drove past me in her very spiffy 1965 Mustang convertible.  She saw me and pulled over. I walked up to her car and she looked at me. She had the most beautiful face I had ever seen on a woman at that time in my life, with the exception of my big sister, Janet. Janet was every thing beautiful in a woman. I idolized her. I would carefully watch how she carried herself, and how she talked. I kept a running score at how many times guys would whistle at her.   Now another beauty was before me, Mrs. Hayden.

“Do you need a ride?” Mrs. Hayden asked.

“I sure could use one.” I answered. I got in the car, thanked her and before long, found myself confessing all my problems. It was hard to not stare at her. She had an aura of loveliness about her with a slight smile on her face that made her seem like she was very happy. I loved how her blonde hair blew behind her as we drove up the canyon. I wasn’t attracted to her physically or sexually, yet I was SO ATTRACTED to her. I wanted to look like her. I wanted to smile like her.   I wanted to listen like her.

As we got to my house she asked if I would like to see her pet rabbit.  “Great,” I replied.   We drove a few doors up to her house and she parked the car and brought me around to the back. Her backyard was lined with huge Sycamore trees that let dappled sunlight fall all over the grass.   Up by the house was a rabbit hutch. We walked over to it and she motioned to me that it was okay to open it and pick up the rabbit. I did. The rabbit was so nice, he was brown like a rabbit in the wild would look like. His nose was twitching and I kept looking up at Mrs. Hayden who was looking at me.  She wore her lovely slight smile and looked at me with what I can only say was a look of total compassion.  It made me feel peaceful, very peaceful.  I felt like I was okay and there was nothing wrong with me.  There was nothing unusual with how I looked or talked or anything.

She exuded kindness. She told me I was welcome to come over to pat the rabbit, any time I wanted to. I went and patted that sweet rabbit many times. Sometimes Mrs. Hayden would come out and talk to me and she always had that sweet smile and gentle celebration that just surrounded her and me. One afternoon she saw me walking home and she stopped and told me to get in. We pulled up to where my house was and my mom and my Aunt Ruth were standing at the end of the driveway by the street. Mrs. Hayden waved at them.  I looked over at my mother and noticed she had a dumbfounded look of complete amazement.  She grabbed my aunt’s arm and pulled her up to the car.

Before I could thank Mrs. Hayden for the ride, my mom blurted out, “I want you to meet my sister from Boston… Ruth, this is Eva Marie Saint!”

Eva Marie WHO? I thought.  THIS is Mrs. Hayden.

Mrs. Hayden graciously spent a few minutes talking to them. I went up to the house and waited for my mom and aunt to come in. When they did, my aunt was beside herself with excitement over having met “a big movie star!”

I had no idea who the beautiful woman with the kindest aura was. I had never seen any of her movies. I had never heard of “Eva Marie Saint”.  I still went over and patted her rabbit and watched her as she watched me with that expression of compassion and kindness.

When I got older, cute bunnies didn’t do it for me anymore.  I had found the contents of my parents liquor cabinet instead.  They helped me feel like I belonged, but also took me down a long and tortured path far from the world of Mrs. Hayden’s bunnies.  To this day, I wonder if Mrs. Hayden sensed that I was transgender. In those days it was not understood at all.  I assumed I was gay because I was attracted to other guys, but my mannerisms were very feminine.

Others eagerly pointed out how I carried my books, how I talked, so I believed, through their guidance, I was a nelly faggot. One day when I was well into my forties, had been in a long term abusive relationship, had become alcoholic and had gone to a detox, a gay man there asked me, “Have you ever wanted to be a woman?” and I answered “Yes”.   He looked me in the eye and said, “That’s the difference between you and me. I have never wanted to be a woman.”

At that moment, I realized, I had been transgender all my life.

How could I have missed that? How?  Wanting to avoid that question is probably why I ran all throughout my life. It is why I never stopped long enough to really look at myself.   I had been running scared the whole time. I began my transition in July 2011 at a very late age but I did it, I chose to become me. It is a process.

Now we have Pride, as we have had for many years. All these Prides have come and gone, all my friends have come and gone, so very few are left due to the scourge of AIDS.

Through my new vantage point of self-awareness, I am seeing Pride differently than before.   I shared some thoughts on it with my friend, blogger Rob Watson.  I told him that I had marched in the first Pride parade in Hollywood, CA in 1970. I told him that with every Pride I was reminded of having lost so many friends over the years and with the passing of time I was beginning to feel useless, forgotten… like an old bicycle parked in a dusty corner of a garage.   

This was his reply: “You are such a powerful hero. I wish you only knew that. You can be as loud and vocal as anyone else AND stay loving, kind and powerful. I am of the same generation as you, and have had all my loves and friends burned away from me. But you and I are phoenixes, and we have risen from our ashes, and that is HUGE. This movement is not passing us by, we are its parents. Speak, write.  The ONLY thing you have stopping you is giving into the feeling that you are done. NO. You are just beginning and it is scary. You don’t have a past, you have a history, and people need to hear it, understand it. Besides the general public, who mostly do not understand what it is to be transgender, the people who are transgender are not as unified as they could be. YOU are needed. Your voice, your guidance, your wisdom is needed. Do not allow your ego to make you small. I am serious as a heart attack about this.   You are one of my heroes and I won’t let you believe you are less than anyone. “

His reply to me created a spark and I realized I have a story to tell. I am not sure just how I am going to tell this story, but I am going to start here.  I need to talk about this journey that I have survived so many things others did not.   I need to talk about the simple inspirations from a kind woman named Mrs. Hayden who was brave enough to be her beautiful self.  She let me see it in her, and has brought me to today where I am privileged to pass kindness on to others as she did to me.

Pride has gone full circle for me now.  First I saw it in the eyes of a single woman who was grounded and confident in herself.  Then I saw it artificially in the bottom of a whisky bottle.  Then I saw it start in the streets.  It grew, it fought, it burned, it raged and finally, it has survived.  Now, it has marched off the streets and back into my heart. 

I have found PRIDE in me.

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A Gay Dad Offers Governor Rick Perry a Twelve-Step Recovery Program for His Homosexuality Problem

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If you are gay, and you are wishing upon a star, it is probably not a good idea for it to be the Lone Star of Texas.  This past week, that particular entity has been more than a little dim in terms of passing out bright news for gay people.

The Texas anti-gay rhetoric has been more absurd, if that is possible, than it has been in other LGBT unfriendly states.  The recent news has been a trifecta of idiocy around gay husbands being legally ostracized from their own sons’ birth certificates, the leading political party embracing abusive therapy for teens, and a governor who has declared homosexuality a destructive behavioral genetic disease.

Anti-marriage equality pundits have claimed that marriage should be reserved only for people who can procreatively make children.  Texans Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs probably don’t agree with that assessment, but they made children anyway.  With science and planning on their side, they have both fathered two twin boys.  Each dad has a biological tie to one of the boys, and the boys are both related to each other through the egg donor.  For me, having adopted my “twin” boys as infants from foster care, sharing of DNA was not something I felt was important or needed.  Jason and Joe wanted it for their family.  This is where choice comes in, how we each choose to create our families. Afterwards, ultimately that choice is unimportant.  As life kicks in, where the children came from is not the issue, it is how to protect and love them.

The state of Texas is currently hindering how Jason and Joe protect their boys, and it has put their children at risk.  Neither man is listed as the legal father to either of the boys.  If they were legally married, they both would be listed on birth certificates for both boys.  Insanity, welcome to Texas.

At the same time, the state’s Republican party has embraced “reparative therapy” to its party plank.  In practical terms, since any legislation against such “therapy” to change people from gay to straight, has been to protect teens below the age of consent, this proposal targets young people specifically who would be subject to psychological abuse according to assessments by all the major mental health oversight organizations.  Governor Rick Perry has jumped on board and declared homosexuality to be a biological disposition akin to alcoholism.

He has been rightly taken to task for this conjecture.  It has been pointed out to him that people under the influence of alcohol excesses pose great harm to themselves and society, while people under the constant influence of their sexual orientations, which are pretty much most living and breathing adults, do not.  It should be noted that while under the influence of their individual bouts of homosexuality, Jason and Joe have done wild madcap behaviors like holding annual toys for tots drives in their home bringing joy to hundreds of teddy bears for children suffering from cancer.  Perry’s retort has been a compelling blank stare and a shrug.

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I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this controversy since besides being a life long homosexual, I also have over three decades of continuous recovery from alcoholism.  In the process of maintaining that recovery, people in my situation are often called to help those who are suffering from the addiction disease, and in some cases actually provide intervention.

Governor Perry clearly needs one.  Here it is:

Dear Governor Perry,

This week, speaking from your position as an experienced alcoholic, (“I made the point of talking about alcoholism. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic,” you have said.), you have decided that homosexuality is a similar “disease”.  Having more experience than you have with recovery presumably (over three decades), I would like to explore your idea a little further, and offer you specific steps that will help free you from the problem from which you currently suffer.

One of the most popular recovery programs examines the nature of the disease in its first step.  It states that under the disease, the sufferer is “powerless” and his or her life is rendered “unmanageable”.  Certainly, that is true for those of us who have been brought to our knees by drugs and alcohol.  Personal relationships, responsibilities, and any semblance of adequate decision making are often left in shambles.

For me, when I put this scrutiny to my acceptance of my homosexuality, and my sexual orientation in general, I cannot say either “powerlessness” or “unmanageability” happen.  My experience has been the exact opposite. I found honest love, commitment and the inspiration to adopt and love two at-risk toddlers and raise them with stable healthy lives.  Dealing with the reality of who I am, in fact, made my life exceptionally manageable.

When it comes to LGBT people I do see you struggling with a disease.  Homosexuality is not that disease, however, homophobia is.  Homophobia creates the environment for the irrational decisions coming out of Texas currently.  Homophobia is the thing tearing families apart, inspiring physical abuse, and leading to death.  Homophobia is the disease, and it appears, Governor, to be the one of which you are afflicted. 

Dedicated to “carrying the message” of recovery, I therefore feel it is my duty to share a suggested program of recovery.  Here it is, in 12 easy steps, tailored especially for you:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our homophobia and the driving need to control other people’s lives had made our own, and theirs, unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe in principles of equality, that when applied, could lead our country back to a sense of sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our knee jerk reactions and our biases over to a greater sense of right and wrong, allowing others to pursue happiness and fulfillment in their own lives.
  4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of the harm we had done persecuting LGBT people.
  5. Admitted to ourselves, the public and our consciences the damage our homophobia had done.
  6. Became entirely willing to stop harming our fellow LGBT citizens.
  7. Humbly asked for the principles of true justice to be enacted on their behalf
  8. Made a list of all the LGBT people we had harmed, including the soldier you did not defend in the Republican debates, the families of LGBT veterans left in the shadows, the LGBT teens bullied and inspired to suicide, the gay people forced from their homes or jobs, the gay bashed and the fathers and mothers ostracized from their sons boy scout troops and others.  We vowed to make amends to all of them.
  9. Made such amends to them, vowing that such indignities would end for them and all others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when homophobic biases emerged, promptly admit them and apologize.
  11. Continued to think and reflect on ways to bring true equality and justice to all people, and seek for the personal power to carry that out.
  12. As the result of a cleansing of conscience as a result of these steps,  sought to educate those who still suffer from homophobia , eradicate it, and exercise the principles of equality in the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for our loved ones and fellow citizens.

Every night of my life, I kiss two little boys and put them to sleep.  I desire to help them grow to be fine men, who are free to be themselves.  Each night, I hold each against my chest and quietly vow to do the best I can for them, love them to my deepest depths and give them the best lives imaginable. 

There are only two things that would prevent me from living up to those goals:  my practicing my alcoholism and my giving in to my internalized homophobia.  Either of those would have killed me many times over.  Neither of them have a place in my life.

Your homophobia is not a winning political strategy, Governor.  It is a poison.  The results of it cannot be smarmily smiled away as an American hero is booed or two dads are legally estranged from their children.  The results of it cannot be ignored as families are subjected to turmoil, and the vulnerable are destroyed by hate.  You need to confront this and deal with it.

In order to do so, you need to do what always comes first in these situations:  you need to admit you have a problem. 

It’s time.

 

 

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An Evol= Video of Compassion Saves a Gay Man From Suicide:  a Coming Out Story

 Guest blog by Alan Digges

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I wanted to write this article in hopes that it will bring peace to the LGBTQ’s who are suffering right now, or those that have been horribly rejected by certain groups of people because they don’t fit into their standards of living. My coming out story is something I have never really shared before, but after seeing and hearing about so many suicides these passed years, especially gay teens, breaks my heart tremendously. I feel I must write this so you can know that there is hope, and that you can overcome the darkness and fear I once faced. You are not alone.

I went through a lot of tough times during my coming out period. I had suicidal thoughts plague my mind, but I did survive, and this is my gift of hope and peace. I grew up in the southern state of Texas, in the big city of Houston, and I’m still living there today. I was literally born and raised in a Church of God called (Spring Branch Church of God). I attended nearly my entire years of schooling at a private school on the same parking lot called (Cornerstone Christian Academy). My mom was both a church attendee and a teacher at the school, so both buildings were home away from home. Even in the summer I was there quite a bit. Every time my mom had to close out the semester or reopen for the New Year, I was always with her. My parents and the people stressed about a lot of things that weren’t justified in God’s eyes. Such as dancing, listening to rock music, and I always had to attend church when the doors were open.

The thing my parents and the people of the church wanted to make, what they thought was perfectly clear, was that homosexuality was sick and horrible. I was taught from a young age to stay away from them and to fear the word.

I can remember growing up that I was always drawn to feminine things, such as Barbie’s, and my favorite (Mighty Morphin Power Ranger) was the pink ranger. When the white ranger came on the scene I remember feeling drawn to him, but in a different way. I didn’t really think much about it at the time, considering I hadn’t quite hit puberty yet. I felt more comfortable around the girls in my class and was always nervous and closed off around the guys. I was always embarrassed to change into my clothes for basketball practice, so nervous that I would hide in the stall and change there.

As time went on, I picked up certain phrases that I regret to say, I heard and used. “Don’t be such a fag.” “Dude, that was so gay.” “You’re such a sissy.” Yes, these are phrases that were heard growing up. At the time I didn’t really know what they meant, but I was determined to act cool like the rest of the fellow class mates.

When I turned 14 the time came when I was old enough to attend the Christian summer camp called (Camp Powers). My best friend Allison was to come with me. The camp grounds were located in the middle of the forest, which was awesome because being in nature is something I love. I remember feeling disappointed because I had to be in the boys’ dorm. It was nerve racking for me because I got homesick real easy, and would have liked to have Allison close by for comfort. The first, full big day of summer camp arrived, and every afternoon at around 2:00 we had one hour of pool time. That is when everything was going to change with me. It was there I met the lifeguard. He was a handsome senior in high school, though I don’t recall his name. As Allison and I were swimming around, we were both glancing in his direction about every ten seconds. After pool time, she mentioned to me how cute he was. We talked about him for a while, and then she went on to her dorm with her new friends. It was not that way for me, because it got me thinking. I found myself being able to relate to her every feeling of the lifeguard. I was attracted to him the exact same way. I blotted it out of my mind immediately. “No, homosexuality is wrong. I couldn’t possibly have these feelings. God would not do something like that to me, would he?” I went on with my days activities, and it wasn’t until two days after, when I lied and pretended I couldn’t swim just to have alone time with the lifeguard, that it became serious to me.

About mid weak I developed a severe anxiety attack. I would panic without warning and would start to scream. Allison was worried, and the counselors didn’t know what to do. It didn’t make things easier when the life guard tried to talk to me about it. Every time Allison tried to get me to tell her what was bothering me, I would brush her off, and try to change the subject. Her father heard about it when he picked us up, but thankfully he didn’t mention it to my parents. In my mind I had a plan. It was just a phase, I’ll pretend I have feelings for Allison and people won’t suspect. That is exactly what I did, and since Allison didn’t understand why I was doing it, it hurt our friendship at times. High school rolled in, and things only got worse for me. I pretty much kept to myself, and I was very careful not to be around the guys. Then the boy crushes came, and of course I had to keep it silent since being gay could get me kicked out of school. Those familiar phrases I explained earlier began to pop up as well. They weren’t directed at me, but might as well have been. Every time I heard them it was like a knife had plunged into my gut.

I couldn’t take it anymore, so I came up with another plan. I would become a Christian, because in the Church of God, you have to be “born again” to be a part of the fold. You have to confess you’re a sinner. So I did that one evening at a youth convention. I started praying every day for God to cure me and forgive me. The feelings never changed. I tried so hard to like girls, and I just didn’t feel anything. I thought maybe attending church wasn’t enough, so I joined a Bible study the principle of my school had started. Whenever people asked me my opinion of the LGBTs I would simply repeat what the adults in my life programmed me to say. It was sick and horrible.

Several years later, during my graduating year at 18 years old, my darkest days would begin. My family and I decided to take a family vacation to see our relatives. Something we hadn’t done in several years. We met my mom’s side at a park in their small town of Charleston Illinois. For the first time in ages I got to mingle with my cousin April. We had always been close, and it was with her I felt I could really be myself. She was always warm and friendly, and would indulge me in the fantasy games that I loved to play with my Uncle Steve’s female action figures. We went off away from the family and sat on the swings.

For some reason we got into deep conversation about our life situations and experiences. It was then and there, for the first time I said I was gay. I couldn’t believe it slipped, she was just so easy to talk to. She gave me a big hug and said I love you, and nothing would ever change it. My cousin Tiffany was just a sweet as April, and was easy to talk to as well. That evening at my cousin’s home, Tiffany was told as well. Considering my mom’s side was heavily conservative, all three of us decided unanimously it would be our secret and it would be my choice to break the silence. I was very nervous about the situation, but once we reached my dad’s side of the family it all faded and I forgot about it. We got home from my vacation, and the very next evening I got a phone call on my dad’s cell from my cousins’ mom, my Aunt Cindy. The first words I heard were “So, Nephew, why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” Tiffany had accidently let it slip during a phone conversation to her friend.

I was terrified, my hands were trembling so much I could barely hold the phone. I was crying, and my heart was racing. My Aunt Cindy calmed me down and explained that she was very open minded and that she still loved me. I thought well if my cousins and my aunt don’t care, perhaps my friends won’t. On a Sunday evening I quietly pulled Allison and another trusted friend out of the sanctuary and told them. They were shocked, and really didn’t know what to say. Allison made it clear she still loved me and that it made since now why I weirdly pursued her. Still they were both born and raised in the church just as I was, so they were still in the mindset that homosexuality was a sin.

It didn’t take but about a week after I told them for it to travel to the ears of my parents. Not to mention my mom got an angry phone call from my grandma after she cornered my cousins’, accusing them of spreading lies. Things became dark after that. My dad didn’t know what to do, my mom thought I had lost my mind and thought I should be put away in an asylum. Thankfully my dad objected to that.

I remember one night my mom caught me talking to one of my cousins’ about a guy I liked and I just took off running down the street. When my sister Rebecca left my home church I decided to go with her, thinking maybe it was just my church that didn’t accept me. I was wrong. The church I attended next was even worse. I tried so hard and never was fully accepted by them, especially the ones my age. I attended the youth class for a while and then was kicked out for no apparent reason, and was approached by a mother that I couldn’t hang out with her son. They were heavily into boycotting anything to do with gay marriage or even supporting individual gays and lesbians. A good number of them went so far as to support the different bills going around making it legal to fire employees for being gay, and to have the right to kick out gay couples for showing affection in their establishments. Everywhere I turned in the church someone was discriminating gays.

Soon I had slipped into deep depression, and I had lost my mind. After developing suicidal thoughts, for my own good I left the church and decided I had had enough. My parents tried to force me to go at first, but I had to stand my ground. I said it was something personal and that the church was hurting me. They offered their church, but I didn’t want to go back to another discriminating church, especially the one I escaped to begin with.

One day, on a Sunday morning while my parents were at church, I went to do my laundry. I poured the liquid detergent in and started the washing machine, and I found myself really eyeing the detergent. The other times I had suicidal thoughts I got scared because I knew people were around. This time I was alone, and no one could stop me. I thought of drinking the entire bottle. I ran to my room shaking, and could hardly stand. I could feel my throat tightening to the point I could hardly breathe. I went onto YouTube too listen to some music, but the detergent was still in my head. In my final act of desperation I came across a video I hadn’t seen before. It immediately caught my attention. It was a video by David Stevens, one of the founders of evol=. It was the video he made addressing how he was rejected by a Baptist preacher after attending his brothers same sex marriage. I couldn’t resist clicking on it and giving it a watch. After he read the message the guy had sent to him I couldn’t believe it. Even straight people who support their gay companions get discriminated against. After reading the message he began to apologize to me, something I had never heard. I was balling my eyes out right along with him. Then he said something I had never heard from any man or guy friend. He said he loved me. A straight guy who should hate gays said he loved me. Of course I knew what he meant. The thing is, he said it without cringing and I knew he was sincere. A guy I didn’t even know was taking the beatings right along with me. It got me to thinking about my cousins and my Aunt, they were taking the beatings as well. I realized there were people who did love me, and that I didn’t have to be afraid. By then the laundry detergent was undesirable as a drinking beverage. I’ve kept the words of David Stevens alive in my head to this day,

Since my near suicidal experience I have reconnected with childhood friends and we love, respect and cherish each other, not even caring what orientation we are. At the beginning of this year I came out to all my family and friends on Facebook using the song from Disney’s Frozen (Let it go). The song has such powerful words in so many ways. It helped to realize I need to not just accept my orientation, but I need to be courageous.

Like Elsa, I need to keep my head up, and no longer look down in shame. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to accept me for who I am. To say hey, I’m gay and I’m proud. My body and mind function differently than a straight person, and that is A okay with me.

Elsa the warm hearted, not so villainous snow queen, will always be my fictional super hero. David Stevens, with the heart of a lion, who has great courage and is truly an inspirational male figure in my life, he is my real live super hero. He is out in the front lines fighting right along with. I am proud to have him on my side. I leave you with a quote from my dear friend David aka (Superman) as I like to call him. “I love you. If you’re gay I think that’s great, and I wish you all the love and joy in the world.”

To those who are suffering right now, whether you’re gay or straight, and people have said that you don’t matter… I encourage you to listen to the song “Let it Go” and its words very carefully. No matter what people tell you, you do matter. You are perfect just the way that you are – never forget that.

 

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