Kentucky lawmakers rewrote a bill Wednesday that scaled-back an egregious “Religious Liberty” and “Freedom to Discriminate” law with a substitute wording that simply clarifies that only churches and ministers do not have to provide wedding services for same-sex couples if they have religious objections.
State Rep. Jason Nemes, who offered the substitute, said he didn’t want the legislation to go too far. Other states, including North Carolina, have suffered economic boycotts by wading into controversial battles over sexual orientation and civil-rights protection in the three years since the Supreme Court’s marriage same-sex marriage decision in 2015 which already established that clergy have a First Amendment right to not participate in same-sex weddings if they object.
“I wanted to make sure that the (legislation) that passed out of the House of Representatives protected churches and ministers and didn’t go further than that,” said Nemes,
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. also stood against the original version of the bill that would have allowed churches and religious organizations the right to ignore civil-rights protections offered by Lexington, Covington, and several other Kentucky cities to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“We do business in a number of other states, and had concerns, frankly, about how it would appear to those outside Kentucky if we seemed to be discriminating against any one particular group,” said Dave Adkisson, the chamber’s president.
Several Republicans on the committee said they were disappointed because they supported the bill as originally written, but they preferred getting something to nothing.
“The religious liberty and religious freedom of our country are under constant attack,” state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, told the committee as he testified for the bill.
Democrats said the original bill promoted intolerance added that they had no problem with Nemes’ version, because clergy already are not required to marry anyone under the law.
“Honestly, I haven’t heard any outrage from any of the churches in my district about having to participate in anyone’s weddings, so I don’t know what problem this is supposed to be solving,” State Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, said adding that she thinks this might just be an easy pass for the Republican controlled state that so far has nothing to show for getting anything done. “Pension reform isn’t happening. They’re struggling to get any kind of a budget passed. So now it’s ‘Hey, let’s do another religious liberty bill.’”
The new re-written watered down bill will proceed to the full House for a vote
Zachary Taylor McGinnis said he was at the gay bar on Fitzhugh Avenue on Tuesday evening, July 29. He said he was speaking to a woman who was apparently with a man standing on her other side when the man suddenly hit him in the head with a glass, grabbed the woman and stormed out.
McGinnis said he and a friend followed the couple outside and were there when Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel arrived. Paramedics in Dallas Fire Department Truck 8 responded to the 911 call.
“The [paramedic] gets out, walks around the truck, saw my bleeding head, saw the other patrons outside and said, ‘I’m not treating him,’” McGinnis said.
McGinnis’ friend said, “Excuse me?” And the paramedic repeated, “I’m not treating him.”
“Why?” McGinnis asked.
“You have blood on you,” the paramedic said.
“Aren’t you a paramedic?” McGinnis’ friend asked.
“You need to step back,” the paramedic said.
Police also responded to the scene, apparently in response to a call for assistance by the paramedic.
When police and paramedics left, McGinnis said he tried to go back into BJ’s to close his bar tab. Management wouldn’t allow him back in and, he said, he still hasn’t retrieved his credit card.
McGinnis contacted Dallas police LGBT liaison Laura Martin, who directed him to fire department liaison Sherry Durant. Martin said she spoke to Durant, who said she will guide McGinnis through the complaint process. But as of Friday noon, Durant has not returned repeated follow-up calls from Zachary McGinnis.
Disgusting. That 30 years later and the stigma still continues.
Several weeks ago I was asked to do an Op-Ed on whether an HIV negative man should date someone who is positive. Being completely honest, I was nervous. Not because the subject matter of discussing HIV/AIDS makes me nervous, but for fear that I wouldn’t fully encapsulate my point correctly or present each side of the argument accurately. So I held off for a while to ruminate and collect my thoughts. Methodically trying to map out how to present it to a community that has such a taboo about even discussing the subject, fearing an association to something that affects the entire community.
During this process I kept revisiting excerpts of different points I wanted to bring up and as time went on thought they were too convoluted or sounded insulting or just was too random to be of use in the article. I then came across a brilliant and honest depiction of what it was like for a man living with HIV to go out seeking romance or possibly love. David Duran’s story about being positive and navigating through social dating apps really touched me because I truly felt the frustration he expressed about disclosing his status to men he could have some potential sexual relationship. I related to it because I felt frustrations when I’m discounted or erroneously judged because of race in the gay community, another taboo subject rarely discussed.
As I thought about the comparisons it made me think of how taxing that has to be on the gay men that have to endure the silent ridicule and muffled disdain for something that could have happened to any of us. Now some may chagrin to that statement I just made but they would do well to remember that condoms do sometimes break. They should remember that just because someone says that their STI test came back negative doesn’t always mean that they don’t have the virus because it hasn’t shown up yet. So yes it can happen to any of one of us.
This reflective journey made me remember an incident about understanding what HIV is after I came out. I came across a journal entry dated a little over six years ago where I attempt to process whether or not I would date a man living with the virus. I’m going to share a part of this entry to show some of the mistakes I made as a younger gay man and how this experience may resemble the reactions that David and other men have faced. I hope that even though it shows a bit of my own ignorance back then that it may also open eyes to the misconceptions and negative attitudes surrounding it. Because as I always state in these articles, nothing ever changes if we don’t talk about where we went wrong and how we can overcome these flaws.
Saturday January 27th 2007
Tonight I feel like I messed up big time. My first real venture into socializing with gay men, something I dreamed about was a wash. I was finally able to openly flirting with a guy..but in the end it just came out awkward. I was grateful that William had invited me out cause even though it’s been over a year since I came out I don’t know anyone other than the man I’d loved and lost as a circumstance of bad timing and a couple of random guys I fooled around with. This was supposed to be a big step but it..just didn’t turn out right.
I got along with everyone and flirted with the guys and that was received well. Later on this guy walked in. Black hair and the most brilliant luminescent emerald green eyes I can remember. Checkered shoes with a matching scarf and pinstripe suspenders. A hipster from head to toe. I was so taken by him. A few drinks and I felt comfortable enough to say more than hey. We talked about school and politics. He was as so sharp and articulate as I always think I am.. Sweet smile and his butt. Amazing. After we went out back to talk more we leaned in to kiss but he stopped before we made contact. Saying he had to tell me about his status and I was so in the moment it wasn’t clicking to what he was referring to. He said he was positive.
A few seconds of confusion until I realized he was talking about HIV. I was just so caught up in the moment..but I wasn’t able to hide how hard the statement had brought me back down from fantasizing about us throwing each other against the house and me having my way with him. The starry gaze in my eyes was replaced with shock. I could tell he’s seen this expression before and it makes the whole thing worse. And I noticed that he noticed my initial reaction that was in my face that easily to him said “no” when I didn’t know what I would do. But I know he’s seen that face before and a resolve that nothing would come of our earlier flirtation. Shaking and so upset, probably heightened by the alcohol, my reaction condemned this man and I felt so ashamed, that I may have hurt his feelings. I began to cry.
Spontaneously crying, like I always do when I feel I’ve deeply offended someone unintentionally. He was trying to say something like “it’s okay, I understand” but all I could do was profusely yell how sorry I was if I made him feel bad or that he wasn’t desirable. Because I felt like at that point I couldn’t just save face and say of course it’s not an issue but my reaction said differently. Even worse that I know what that feels like on some level to be rejected on something you can’t change, though not to the degree that he had to have felt. Too often I’ve had resolve to rejection as sometimes as an African American you have to brace yourself as some people do react to you this way.
And here I am most likely making this guy feel that way. Both of us embarrassed at the moment I was having I flagged a sober friend to drive me home…Could it have been the era I grew up in? Definitely. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the south, the time of the Cold War and the Reagan era that seemed to completely and utterly fail to diminish the impact of the virus. AIDS was on the news almost every night. And people were terrified I was terrified. These all sound like more excuses about whatever I’m subconsciously afraid to say.
Growing up I remember so often when the subject of gay came up it was automatically synonymous with AIDS and then death. Back then it due to the reprehensible negligence by the government so it really was a death sentence. I wonder if that image was ingrained as I was processing the fact that I was gay; maybe that had some weight in how I reacted. I just remember being so afraid growing up thinking if I’m gay then I’m automatically destined to inherit this disease? Of course I know better than that now. I know antivirals helps a person live normally. But back then that was all I knew. Maybe it’s all an excuse.
Why did I react that way? Why am I trying to justify being so wrong. This isn’t like me. It’s not like I have anything to worry about. I get tested for STD’s at least once every six months. And if we were intimate together I would take the same precautions that I always do. So why did I respond that way. William called and said the guy wasn’t offended and understood but I still feel like a horrible human being. I wonder if it wasn’t completely subconscious, or lingering fear. Maybe that’s why I panicked because I had internalized all the lies and manipulation I had been taught growing up from the media. All I know is that I was embarrassing tonight. And probably hurt someone’s feelings. I hate this feeling and sorry for all this,
I remember during this whole ordeal I kept thinking that if I referred to it as a disease instead of a virus that it was insulting. Or what if it’s the other way around or both or neither. I was just so afraid of offending this man and those amazingly beautiful emerald eyes of his. More likely it was fear that I still had not dealt with and it all came to the surface that night. I needed to reconcile that because no matter how open minded I believed I was, for whatever reason I was seeing a status rather than a person. That was why I had that reaction. For me, I needed to change that outlook immediately and I believe that I’ve done so.
Some things are the same as they were then. I still slightly look away when I make eye contact with someone I’m extremely attracted to and smile. I still have terrible one liners that somehow makes the guy I’m talking to laugh..still don’t know if it’s out of civility or genuine affection. I’m still immensely drawn to hipster. I still use protection every time I have a sexual encounter and get tested at least once every six months to make sure that I don’t have any STD’s. But now I do not treat a man that is positive as some fragile being I need to tiptoe around. No longer through my awkward, panicked behavior do I treat these men as though their status is the only thing I see. I view these men as men, just as deserving of love and affection as anyone else. As it should be.
So maybe the worse thing I did through that experience was be afraid of offending someone else’s feelings (which is at times still a flaw). But it was necessary for me to go through and learn some of the prejudices that I may not have been aware of back then. As the years have went on I grew to see people as people, no matter their circumstance. I now know that I would consider dating an HIV positive man the same way I’d consider dating any other gay man. Would there be lengthy discussions and all precautions before during and after sex be taken? Absolutely as I take those precautions with every man I’m with sexually, as we all should be.
So how do we challenge ourselves to stop letting stigma dictate how we treat these men? How do we evolve and overcome the insensitive and sometimes downright ugly reactions that we may have when these men are looking for the same things we’re looking for? Talk. Just as we did when we first discovered that we’re gay. We sought out after answers about what our sexuality meant and what sex would someday mean to us. We learned the mechanics of protecting ourselves and those we sexually engage. We learned that we don’t want to be treated differently on the basis of one aspect of ourselves.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to revisit the lessons of the past and apply them to a different situation. The one thing all of us can do, regardless of status, is talk openly about HIV. I’m not saying that anyone has to share the exact same opinion on this because I understand why people would have reservations about it. Who knows, maybe I still do as I have not dated anyone who is positive. But at least I am ready to talk about it and learning more. Because I do believe there are valid concerns, just like any relationship you embark upon. Education is paramount, not only in prevention but in understanding what it means to those living with the virus.
All relationships have obstacles that we will all have to face. But that doesn’t mean that you have to treat these men so distastefully. As David has said, we are all kin, and status doesn’t remove our sexual nature or desire or our humanity. Basically the only thing I ask every gay man to do is challenge and examine why they have a certain view on this topic. Question where your beliefs come from, question what you fear, and ultimately do what’s right for you. And always protect yourself. Talk.
Thank you David for being my muse and inspiring me to find the right words to express how I feel. And my journals for yet again showing me how reflection is always necessary for growth.
Weddings Unveiled magazine which bills itself as Inspiring Style for Southern Weddings recently , rejected an ad from Anne Almasy because in the ad it showed a photo of two brides. Not one bride. Not a bride and a groom. But two brides, marrying each other.
I chose Weddings Unveiled because I’m not trying to advertise to “the gay community.” I’m advertising to couples who are getting married. This couple didn’t get “gay married.” They didn’t have a “gay wedding.” They got married. They had a wedding. They share their lives, their joys and sorrows, and all the mundane daily things that we all share with our partners. They are just people. In love. Committed to one another.
Weddings Unveiled later apologized to Almasy after reconsidering their decision. It turns out they didn’t reject the ad out of thier own bigotry or homophobia but rather for fear of alienating those who don;t agree with same-sex marriage.
We are Terri and Brooke, the publishers of Weddings Unveiled Magazine. We hope that you will allow us the opportunity to address an important issue that has angered and disappointed many people. We are incredibly sad that same-sex marriage is still an issue in our society. When we were faced with the decision of whether or not to publish Anne Almasy’s advertisement, we acted in a manner that does not reflect our personal beliefs. We truly believe that all love is beautiful and that all people have the right to marry. You might ask that if we feel that way, then why did we make this decision? Honestly, we knew that everyone would not share our belief that all people have the right to marry. The issue is very sensitive and it is also very divided. We knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we published the ad and we knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we did not. We are so sorry that we acted out of fear and uncertainty. We had never been faced with such a decision and we should have acted with our hearts.
We are two women who operate a small business that we care deeply about. We love all weddings. We love all people and would never want to anger, offend or disappoint anyone. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support for Anne. We are so sorry that we have disappointed you and we ask for your forgiveness. If Anne would still like to run her ad in Weddings Unveiled, then we would be proud to publish it.
Kudos to the owners of Weddings Unveiled for admitting to fear in not placing the ad and apologizing and realizing that being on the right side of history in the end is more important than possibility of offending a few homophobic bigots.
NOTE: The photograph used on the main page is not the one submitted by Anne Almasy
In my last piece I focused on the beginning of our process. The time of innocence and discovery that allows us to see how we’re different. And now this tale is about the middle part of this journey. It’s darker because this is when the internal conflict of accepting who you are and what everyone else believes you are. During this time of the process we are presented with pushes and shoves that drive us to acceptance. Some are subtle yet linger with us while others are overt direct conflict that consumes every aspect of our daily lives. The time in which we leave our adolescence and begin adulthood is marked with these shoves during our process. Even though this is not as lighthearted and carefree as the first tale, it is just as important. Maybe even more so.
So I had learned I was different in third grade. Even though this discovery is monumental, the way I came about it was so carefree and innocent. And I was not prepared for the dark twist and turns of development coming my way. As we get into adolescence and later adulthood, we start to feel those push to understand and accept being gay. The first shove was to understand why I was different. Why I thought about guys instead of girls. Why I felt the need to want I wondered for what seemed like years why I didn’t like girls the same way. I thought girls were great. Still do. They’re nice and have amazing hair that I always want to play with for hours on end. But that shove to be like all the other guys was strong; I was never quite able to be as they were.
It lead me to take on more androgynous behaviors and to this day I am still not sure if it was intentional or because I enjoyed those activities. And this understanding leads me to my first dark period. Bad hair, bad clothes and a sullen guy that listened to R.E.M. on repeat every day. That was coupled with my brief consideration on whether or not this was truly what God wanted for me. I also knew it was about how I didn’t fit into everyone else’s mold of what a stocky 6’4 guy should be like. I quickly learned not to care what others thought about every other area of my life but I still refused to confirm what a select few had suspected. And the representations of what I thought gay was did not resemble me at all so I didn’t know how to be gay. Or maybe I was just stubborn.
Those awkward years ended and finally I was an adult. I felt like as soon as I arrived on my first day that I would feel this euphoria and be able to just come out, everyone would be cool and I wouldn’t care either way because I was happy. And even though that year was the best of my life I still felt hollow. Because I still hadn’t come out yet. The shove of a new life and new beginnings was not enough for me to come out and fully accept my sexuality. I knew and accepted it years before. And more importantly to me, my parents knew. At that time their opinion and support was all that mattered. I often wonder if it was fear of being judged on one more thing I could not change. Because of my race I had faced discrimination. And I did not want to have to always be aware of something everyone else would constantly judge me on. But until I had that final push came the first of much one summer night. Or maybe I was just scared.
And during that summer after my first year of college came another shove. I had the privilege of making friends to two men like me that felt they could trust me with their secret. I was the first person they told that they were gay. That secret that was also my secret, but I just wasn’t brave enough to do so. One friend was there on campus working during the summer months after my freshman year, also known as one of the best years of my life, with me. One night he pulled me aside and asked me to go out for a walk with him as he had something to tell me. And I obliged wondering what he had to say.
We walked across the street and sat on the surprisingly cool steps of our university’s conference building and stared up at the stars, our favorite pastime. But Mick (I nickname all my close guy friends that, I don’t know why) was so quiet that night. And I sensed something was wrong. He turned to me with a tear falling down his face and said, “I don’t want you to hate me, Sly.” And my heart sank for him because I couldn’t take away his pain. I assured him for several minutes that he didn’t have to be afraid of him and that I will support him no matter what. And he said. I’m gay. And I said okay what else is there? And he smiled. Letting out a huge sigh of relief he started to cry tears. I’ll never forget this expression of ease and freedom that was so visibly etched on his face. And then I began to cry.
My heart felt like it was in my throat because I so desperately wanted to say “So am I, Mick” but I didn’t. And he asked what was wrong, holding my hand and more tears strewn down to the ground. The push was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever felt. So torn on when to come out. I kept thinking would I take away from his moment or would this be a double celebration. Finally I recovered saying I’ll always be there for you and support you no matter what. This doesn’t change anything between us. And even though I meant those words they felt like cruel malicious lies because I was unable to say that I’m gay too and you’re not alone. We talked and laughed and when I went back to my room I cried until I fell asleep. The push, or this internal desire was not strong enough to do it. Or maybe I still felt alone.
The next shove was the most subtle and the most powerful. It has the scale and drama of those relentless romantic comedies I avoid religiously. Because one of my last shoves was love. I had met a guy the very first day of college and I was in awe. He was lanky but still so statuesque. A business major with charisma that could woo the most uptight person into having a good time. He was smooth and I was in love. And even though neither of us was out at the time we were drawn to each other as if we knew each other’s secrets. A common trait of mine is to hide my greatest treasures away from everyone else in order to preserve them. Or maybe I’m just a little selfish.
We flirted off and on for years and came so close to something happening. But knew the moment either of us gave into our desires, we would have to share that secret about us. We weren’t willing to do that yet. We’d lose touch with each other then randomly find each other. But we still were unable to commit to announcing that we were both gay. Then during the summer before I started grad school I saw him randomly again. Before we had a chance to say hello we kissed. Impulsive and right in public. We hugged and talked as he asked me about when I finally had come out and I said I hadn’t yet. This changed the tone and he wanted to give us a real chance at something but only after I was out. But I still wasn’t out yet. And we hung out more and I felt the shove to embrace my sexuality more than anything because I wanted to be with him. He went on his way later that week and we kept in touch. I wasn’t fully ready but I was closer than ever.
And then a few months later my last shoves came. They weren’t sweet with hints of love even though I thought about my sexuality more than anything. They were dark and cold. The last shoves were death itself. I had been so stressed with school and grades I thought my appendix erupting was a simple flu virus. When I finally arrived at the hospital they had me prepped for surgery within 15 minutes because I was bleeding internally and were uncertain I would even survive the procedure. They said I should make a quick phone call to my parents and I did. This acceptance of being gay had consumed my thoughts so much that I ignored my own health. And as they rushed me to the operating room, O remember the bright fluorescent lights above me and I vowed that if I made it I would live as openly and authentically as possible.
Then news came of a college friend that had committed suicide because he was gay. Reading and hearing about it as I was healing from major surgery, I remember crying because I wasn’t just sad. I was livid. Because I felt that maybe if I were out sooner that he wouldn’t have felt so alone. I know that it’s not my fault, or at least convinced myself that I had no control over his actions. But I will always wonder had he been around more people that were completely out would it have changed the outcome and that I believe is true in anyone’s life.
So I had shoves in all states of my being. From the emotional, what felt like physical when confronted with how someone else’s truth was also my own and the spiritual side. Sometimes all at the same time, all shoving me to either come out or be alone forever. And I was terrified of both. You see there’s this push and pull. This shoving and stalling the entire time until you are full out. There is time of frustration and anger throughout. I felt even with all I knew and awareness I felt I possessed I still couldn’t own it yet. Even with my parents’ support I still hesitated for years in completely embracing my sexuality. Because that conflict, that pushing and shoving doesn’t end until we allow that process of understanding that we are different in one aspect than everyone else. Self-acceptance comes on its own time when you are willing to accept it. It took years for many of us. But thankfully that is changing for the better.
Again, I tell these stories because I feel we all need to share them. Because even though the newer generation of gay men and women have it better than us it still does not make that process any easier. But the way we make it easier is a result of them reading our stories and life lessons and insights so that maybe they avoid some of the things it took us years to learn. And for them to know that their feelings and emotions through this process is normal. Because it is about their development. So maybe they find more tears of joy than sadness. To know that they are not alone.
There are many what’s when’s where’s who’s and why’s to being gay. Because there is a neverending parade of questions that we begin to ask ourselves. We make speculations but all that does is raise more questions. It is a time marked by fear and pain that we carry with us. But it is also a time of strength and empowerment. So many vacillating emotions go into this process because it is an ongoing process. Through progress and setbacks these moments define our lives. But these five types of questions are the stages we face when we are gay. When I write about these experiences and stories I have only one goal in mind and that is that the more we share the more we grow. That the more we discuss in detail our processes of accepting our sexual
Now this has been written about before but it’s not enough. Even though we have resources like PFLAG that gives an objective and well versed PowerPoint on this process it is still not enough. Because to me, it reads more as an instruction manual rather than really delving into the emotions of what it’s like to be gay. There are so many emotions and questions that seem to lack answers. And while they give a general overlook for the LGBT community, I am focusing specifically on the gay community. Makes me think that we also need to hear more about the other aspects of our community but I can only do it justice if I speak from my own experience.
5 Stages of Being Gay
Discovery/Questioning This is the beginning. The first moments when you realize that you’re not like everyone else. Like most of us this happens at an early age. We notice how we may interact differently than the other guys around us. We may not be into the same things or play the same way. We may not want to dress like our other male classmates or prefer the same music. We have our first evidence of our differences in random encounters and innocent kisses. We may like the same things that girls like. Or we may do the exact same things as our male counterparts but almost like a sixth sense we know we aren’t quite the same.
Then as we progress into adolescence, we develop but in body and in mind. The awkward stage of being between a child and an adult. By now most of us know what’s different. When we aren’t trying to get the cute cheerleader’s phone number or going out for the position of quarterback on our high school football team. When we may have higher voices than all the other guys. When we might walk and move differently too. In a time when we want to be just like anyone else we can’t help but feel the most different and even more alone. Because by now we’ve recognized on some level why we’re different. When we know that we are gay.
Anger/ConfusionAnd as a result of this discovery comes more questions and no answers. This goes on throughout all but the final stage of acceptance. This can last for years. Constant never-ending questions about why we’re different We’re angry because we aren’t like everyone else because we just want to fit in. We are angry at everyone else for not being like us. We seek out the answer from our elders. Needing to find clarity of why we think about having sex with guys. Why do we dream about it almost every night. Why do we always have all these feelings when we see a guy we find attractive.
Why do we think of his shape; his hairy arms, his thighs, his strong hands and legs, his furry chest and chiseled abs, his beautiful eyes. Why do we dream of his hands encapsulated in mine as we gaze at the stars. Why can’t we think of something else. Why can’t we think of girls like everyone else. Why can’t we be like everyone else. We can’t stay this way. Why does God hate us. Why can’t we be this way. Why do we have to try to be like everyone else. Why does it feel like everything about us a lie. We do we have to pray this away. Why are we so stressed that we make ourselves sick. Why can’t we stop lashing out at the ones trying to help even though they don’t know what’s wrong. Why do we have to let go of everything we thought we’d be. Why can’t we stop crying. Why do we keep thinking about his eyes. Why are we so damn afraid.
AdmittanceThat moment when not only do we know but still may not know why. We are going through what feels like an emotional rollercoaster and there are no signs of it ending. For whatever reasons, while we may not be willing to accept it but we can at least admit it to ourselves. It may take years before we full accept it, if ever. We will always be different no matter how hard we try or hide the truth from everyone else. We know that we will never be like everyone else. And the dreams that our parents had for us will never turn out the way they planned. And it is a time where we are relentlessly contemplating what our next step is and where that may lead.
Where do we go from here. Where do we get the strength to accept that we are gay. Where did gay come from. Where will I learn how to be gay. Where can I go to stop being so afraid. Where will we go if our parents kick us out of the house. Where do we go to fix this. Where do I go to learn how to hide this. Where is the explanation why we were made this way. Where was God when he made us.
Fear and Doubt More and more questions with still no clear answers. And like confusion/anger, we go through this during most of the other stages. Constantly afraid to even think about what being gay could mean for us and how it will impact the rest of our lives. Terrified that we are being judged for every single thing we do. Fear that we will never be able to be like everyone else. Always fearing we will never be happy. And we doubt that we will ever be able to come out. We begin to doubt our judgment in all other areas of our lives. We even begin to doubt the few answers that we are able to find.
What if everyone else finds out. What if everyone else hates us. What if people tease us. What if God hates us. What if we can’t be saved and we burn in hell. What if they were right and we are wrong. What if there is something wrong with us. What if my friends start hating me. What if I never find anyone that can love me for me. What if I’m alone forever. What if people try to beat me up or try to kill me. What if I just give up end it all. What if gay is wrong. What if our mothers stop loving us.
AcceptanceThen to us what appears as some miracle, things begin to change. Maybe an event or person has entered our lives to show is that there is nothing wrong with being gay. Maybe it was just time we needed to accept the truth. But we reach a moment. A pure, crystalline moment that frees us from all other thought and reason to the contrary. Because we have finally began to accept us.
We have finally accepted that we’re gay and admit. No longer do we think about being like everyone else because we like who we are. As we have accepted and embraced our sexuality we are finally able to do the same in the other areas of our lives. We realize that being gay is not the only thing we are. We don’t care about being different anyone. So many nights we wondered would we ever feel better. It got better. We can sit back and let our fantasies run wild because it is natural. It is okay. We will be okay. To hell with trying to convince everyone else okay because we are not living for them, we are living for us. We are free.
Who knew we were this strong. Who knew that we would realize that there is nothing wrong with us. Who knew that our friends and family love us unconditionally. Who knew that even though some may have turned their backs on us that we are still okay. Who knew that we could like being gay. Who knew that gay isn’t much different than being straight. Who knew that we can still have all the things our parents dreamed for us. Who knew that we would love ourselves again.
You see, all of these who what’s whens where’s and whys are about me and you. These stages aren’t all linear and we go through some longer than others. I searched my journals for days and these were the things I asked. Even though they are all the personal questions I asked, these are the questions that we all ask. Because even though monumental events like this are hard to forget they are always a series of questions and answers. Even though I had admitted to myself when I was still a child I had not yet accepted it until I almost died. And then learning about a friend who took his own life because he was gay was enough for me. If ever there was a time to believe in signs to change my life those were two of the most defining moments.
I thought about the mothers that have lost their sons and daughters too soon and how my silence was suffocating my own life. Their pain was too powerful for me not to reflect upon my life. I gained the courage to fight back all the fears and doubts and face that this was who I was always meant to be. I searched for all the questions I had about being gay but the most freeing thing I have ever felt in this life is when I discovered the answers lay within me. It is an extremely empowering moment.
When we share our stories it helps others dictate how they want their story written. Our lives all different but our questions are the same. The more we share the better the make it for those that go through the same way. We show that it’s normal to feel this way and that it is okay to be who they are. Because we are tired of seeing people being so bullied and afraid that they feel like the only way out is to end their life and that has to stop. When we talk about our paths, our stories, our lives and how our questions are the same. it shows how the process of accepting things as they truly are frees us. I only hope that it leads to those still afraid to do the same and answers some of their questions.
Special thanks for the twitter friends Tony, Jim, Mark, Colin, Christopher, Roy, and Mike D that helped inspire this article, and to my journals for being there for me during a time when I feared no one elsewould be.
Have you ever wondered what some of the long ranged and potentially harmful side effects of a country’s homophobia? Well one study has found some rather shocking results. The study, Access to HIV Prevention and Treatment for Men Who Have Sex with Men done by the medical and mental professionals of The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) found that situations like rate of homophobic perceptions and income are directly correlated to the number of HIV cases seen in sexually active gay men.
As you can see in the graph below, it shows that gay men from low income countries that have a high amount of homophobia as well as a lack of access to preventative measures such as condoms, testing, and treatments are at a significantly higher chances on contracting HIV.
The study does note that a high amountasd of participants that resided in low income countries expressed fear of exposure of their sexuality and that homophobia which lead to them not buying and preparing things such as lubricant and condoms that would help protect them against HIV and other diseases that can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Here’s a further and more detailed summary of the study’s findings:
In summary, the study findings underscore the need to improve global efforts to ensure that gay men and other MSM have access to basic HIV prevention and treatment services. Structural, community/interpersonal, and individual barriers and facilitators to service access must be addressed at multiple levels; interventions must both disrupt the negative effects of barriers and support the protective effects of facilitators. When considering PrEP implementation, study findings indicate an urgent need for the dissemination of more and better information regarding HIV prevention strategies generally and PrEP in particular.
From the narratives of MSM who participated in this study, it is clear that local and global advocacy efforts are needed to create enabling sociopolitical environments that will increase access to HIV-related services and improve MSM health overall. Securing the human rights of MSM is essential to HIV prevention and treatment strategies, new and old.
These barriers, either through society or anti-gay laws undoubtedly and justifiably perceived as homophobia were also found to cause these overall feelings with higher rates of HIV cases:
Fear Poor self-worth Depression Suicide Anxiety Substance abuse Delay/avoidance of services Treatment interruption
So the next time someone say being anti-gay doesn’t have ramifications this study proves the contrary. And even though this is only one very detailed piece of evidence, the findings are hard to dispute. Homophobia has much more powerful and potentially damaging consequences than previously known.
Today I crossed another milestone as the Sun is in the exact position it was in on the day of my birth in 1980. I turned 32, which if you look at it in some philosophical or existential manner I’d question what is age but some sort of metaphysical awakening as a result of experiences. Or if you’re a nerd like me, you calculate that I’m actually 32 years and 10 months old. I’m in the in-between, not middle-age with grey hair but also not a bubbly (okay I’m still bubbly) 20-something going out to clubs every night. But I am still Sly, so at the moment nothing else about me has changed except a number.
My point is that typically anything over the age of about 28 is considered old, ancient, or archaic in the gay community. So being 32 means that basically died four years ago, came back and died again. Several friends have made awkward statements with this look of fear and impending doom on their faces as they say “How does it feel being THAT age” to even “Awww, don’t feel bad, you’re still great” What the hell do you mean STILL great?! I have ALWAYS been fabulous, regardless of my age. But honestly, Why is that? Why do we put so much emphasis on our age as a detriment, something to be feared, even hidden in shame?
Some say it’s because of our past. Michael C. LaSala, Ph.D, of Psychology Todaystates that it’s because as we were going through puberty, we were awkward and had to deal with our struggle to find our identity in being gay and what that meant to us while facing the oppression and negative perceptions we faced from society as well as our loved ones. as a result, when we’ve embraced our sexuality, we use our youth and beauty as a sign of our self worth, that depreciates over time as we grow older.
LaSala’s description does sound accurate. It’s heavily ingrained in gay culture to be in tip top shape at all times and to use any anti-aging mechanisms that are at our disposal. There’s supplements, formulas used to help enhance and maintain our physiques. And unfortunately some do detrimental things to their bodies like performance drugs or even extreme and excessive plastic surgeries to keep that youthful appearance.
What do we do to stop this stigmatization that we place on age? LaSala believes that we should first remember that we are human, prone to make mistakes and that we’re not perfect. It’s also to realize that about not only ourselves but that this applies to everyone as well as knowing the difference between self critique and unrealistic expectations. Most of all, love yourself completely, flaws and all.
Okay I know that as we age, we have to be more mindful of our past than most consciously realize. Our experiences are the reason behind that. What I mean is that we accumulate a lot of stress because of our collective struggles as a community. We fight for equality and fight against discrimination every single day. That stress builds on us and according to an some, this can lead to mental disorders caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Still this isn’t a reason to fear our age.
To sum this up, aging is not what should be feared in our community. Embrace it with all of your being and be thankful, for there are some that didn’t make it to that milestone. Think of your age as opportunities to change your life and others for the better not limitations. Always love yourself, every wrinkle, grey hair and know that is not what makes you valuable or beautiful, your heart does that.
The 112th Congress has a few months left before the August recess and word is coming forth that any chances for advancing any pro-LGBT legislation even in the Democratic-controlled Senate are slim to none at least before Election Day or perhaps until the new Congress sits in 2013.
ENDA, which would bar job discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, the DPBO bill, which would extend health and pension benefits to partners of federal workers, and the RMA, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, were all reported out of their respective committees and can move on. But a senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to Chris Johnson of Metro Weekly said it was unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would schedule time for votes on any of these bills before Election Day.
And whats the HRC’s reaction to this news?
Well according to HRC spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz, excuses. “Obviously the calendar is tight with only seven legislative weeks between now and the election,” Cole-Schwartz said. “Further, as summer rolls on, it begins to get harder and harder to get much done on Capitol Hill.”
That my friends is our leading Gay Civil Rights Organization speaking.
Well here’s a newsflash Cole-Schwartz and the HRC.
Congress is always busy and the schedule will always be tight.
For the HRC to be making excuses for Congress insinuating that there are more important bills than our “civil rights” is nothing short of APPALLING. (Especially after Congress just passed Bills that would allow musical instruments on planes and allow the FDA to regulate smart phone apps. Guess they are more important huh?)
We need to face some facts here. Not only is HRC not pushing Congress on our big-ticket items like ENDA which would cover every LGBT individualin the United States and bring our civil rights up on par with those of groups covered under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Some Democrats themselves are afraid to put their names on these Bills in fear of being voted out of Congress by conservative voters in their districts that wouldn’t vote for them anyway. Case in point the 132 House Democrats who filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that DOMA is unconstitutional. 60 House Democrats DID NOT sign it.. Many of which are up for re-election this year. And with Congressional elections every 2 years that makes it all the harder because there will always be those who are afraid to sign on for fear of losing their jobs. Because their jobs and political power is more important than the civil rights of people in this country.
We have a President that won’t use his bully pulpit or his Executive Power. Democrats in Congress who are in fear of doing the right thing because they are afraid they will be voted out. The DNC which won’t add same-sex marriage much less than FULL LGBT Equality plank to its platform and our leading LGBT political advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign is either too lazy, too gullible, or just too stupid to push with all the political power and money that our community has given them to get our equality goals met.
If we don’t as a community stand up and do something and do it soon we are forever dommed to be last on the list and our rights hanging in limbo until that perfect moment that might not ever arrive. (Well actually it did arrive once. HRC blew it then too)
To put it bluntly the HRC needs to grow some balls, earn thier salaries and step up. And we need to step up and hold them both the HRC and Democrats who are too afraid to do whats right accountable for the failures and misteps that have happened and push them both to do their jobs.
And if they can’t or won’t we should not hesitate replace any of them with those who can and will.