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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

“I envy your freedom”.  These words came not from a person in a foreign country or a person in jail.  They were not uttered by someone staring out from a hospital bed, crippled by illness or disease or some other physical ailment. Instead, they were spoken by someone who knows, from a place of fear, what it is like to live a life where you can not pursue who you want to be or who you are.

Living as an out gay man in the City of New York, amongst pride parades, rainbow flags, drag queens, hand-holding in the street, and recently legalized gay marriage you sometimes loose your prospective. It is easy to forget what it was like to be behind the frosted glass—true to yourself only in shadow, or only to some friends—and not your family or your coworkers.  That tired old silly game of pronouns. Avoiding the subject of love entirely with your friends, family, or yourself.  Not wanting to let out even a hint of who you really are except in the most guarded and private of ways.

This isn’t me now and hasn’t been for a while.  With a solid “fuck-you-world” I will hold my man’s hand walking down the street.  I will tell the gay jokes and stories—even at work—just the same as the “straights” tell theirs.  I have moved into the post-gay world where I have always seen myself.  A place where being a Gay Man is only one of a hundred—of a thousand—ways you can describe me.  

And that is why the stories shocked me out of my fairytale Gayville. With a group of twenty or so fellow LGBTQ people I heard their stories.  Tales of coming out at 68 or 75.  Grown adults—retired adults who were still afraid to tell the family back in Ohio. They were still unable to “officially” tell the kids—or to even have a conversation about it after so many years.   Still unwilling or unable to comprehend integrating the various sides—the various stories—after so many years of fighting what they were—of fighting love.  Still afraid—and never free. 

 And this is New York City!  Blocks away from gay bars—and gay billboards—so beyond gay that our pride stickers largely rest in museums and nearly every bar in Manhattan can be described safely as mixed.  Where we keep the Gay bars largely for the tourists and the rest of us just live a normal life.  And that is what I so blindly, so callously assumed until just the other day. 

If even here, if even in 2012, we have so many people unable to live their lives in a fully integrated way and afraid of what “They think” or what “Those people” will say, then how is it other places? How horrible can it be for our older LGBTQ brothers and sisters who haven’t caught the 21st century train of gay liberation?  Those who live in unsupportive places—who are old or young or middle aged— and so terrified to loose those they love that they loose themselves instead. 

I always assumed that the kids had it hardest.  The rash of suicides by gay teens is an embarrassment to this nation and a disgrace to all religious organizations that claim to love in the name of God—but at least they are being addressed in some way.  At least there are Facebook pages, rallies and fundraising walks and gay prom kings and queens.   At least the light is being brought into many of these places of darkness and things are “getting better.”  

But what of the ones who don’t have Facebook pages?  Those who still remain behind the darkened doors of their closets in 2012—confined by their belief that they can’t be themselves? With a door held closed by an unsupportive community, frequently unsupportive Church; and too many politicians who see us as something between the anti-Christ and Hitler.  These people—old and young, not yet permitted the inner strength to overcome these factors to proudly proclaim who they are—no matter what Pat Robertson or Jim DeMint think?  

How can the LGBTQ community ever be whole as long as so many of our old and young are in pain—and unable to love themselves far more than strangers dislike or hate them?   Some from being too out in the open, some from still living in fear of that same light? Until we help all of them—old and young—men and women—urban and rural—find their way out of the darkest depths into a path of love then we are failing at our first—most critical purpose—to help and love and support and nurture our own family.  Our growth and progress will be stunted—our cities and towns will lack the presence of these beautiful people—and they will not know the glory of living a life as the entire being, 100 % in God’s image, 100% God’s creation—that they are. 

And beyond all doubt I know this is not a uniquely Gay problem, or Lesbian Problem.  It is a human problem.  One only needs to talk to a victim of domestic abuse of any gender or orientation to see what ravages can be brought when a person has a hard time seeing themselves as worthy of love.  One only needs to read a few words about bulimia, or anorexia, or see a commercial about plastic surgery to being to see that this is our greatest epidemic. It is real and it is everywhere.

Anytime a person can not look in a mirror and love who they are—all of who they are;  anytime a person can not share who they are—all of who they are—with others and with a sense of pride and divine acceptance; anytime a person feels they need to hide in the shadows to avoid any questions, any potential outing of any kind; anytime someone feels unable to be true with someone they are supposed to love be they family or friend; and anytime someone sees themselves—a life that is a representation of God here on earth—as a lesser human being because of their orientation—these are all sad and tragic wake-up calls to the work that needs to be done.  A universal alarm to the extent that humanity has allowed itself, for so many reasons, to see human joy, human potential, and human divinity diminished and excluded and denied in the name of hate; judgment; and misdirected righteousness.

I will not claim to know the source of all this un-love in the world.  I can not being to guess at the entire reason why so many people feel as those they just aren’t good enough—in whatever form they are.  I do know, however, where some of the messages come from.  From the media, from politicians, from advertising; from so called religious figures—a million images that cascade down on people to convince them that they just aren’t good enough. To overcome this may seem impossible.  To overcome our own fears at being unloved or disliked or unwanted may seem or feel to be completely beyond reach.  But I also know that I have experienced it myself.  The same kinds of feelings very nearly lead to tragedy many years ago in my life. 

But sitting on a hillside in Southern Ohio I made a choice that the demons would not get me for any reason—that I would fight through the feelings of self-loathing; inferiority; and low self esteem.  I didn’t know how, and God knows it took a long time.  But when I look back now, I know that what I really did that fall day in 1999 was declare my freedom to be me. 

The fear of so many people—their inability to be free—is denying this world of so many of its children—their gifts—their creativity and their solutions.  My wish, going forward, is to help empower people to claim their freedom—to demand it and to proclaim it.  And from that position of strength—to share their unique and magical gifts with the world and help to make this a better place. 

That, in the end, is what we all need: the strength to declare that we each have the freedom—to be ourselves.  In whatever role, or condition, or orientation, or dream, or desire that means.  Not in a sulking, hide in the closest way of freedom—but a freedom of expression and of sharing and taking our rightful place in the world.  Bringing our gifts to the world’s table and putting our talents to work.  Secure and content in the knowledge that freedom is not given to us by any other person—it is not bestowed to us by anyone here on this earth.  It is not the receipt for them deciding that its okay we are gay, fat, black, purple, single, buck-toothed, thin, bald or any other thing.  We do not obtain our greatness because someone decides it okay for us to do so.

Greatness is our birthright—it is ours from the moment our eyes first blink.  And though others may try to convince us otherwise—perhaps even our own ego working to undermine us—it is a gift we never ever loose.  And even though it may be misplaced—it never ever leaves us.  Our highest expression of freedom is when we acknowledge this—and our highest place on this earth is when we live it!  

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