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The morning after…

This morning, I woke up and stretched as I usually do, but something felt different.

No, it was still the same grey sky that I’ve come to know and love in a city I know and love.  My room was the same, somewhat messy and in need of a dusting.  My kitchen looked the same, with the glass from my previous evening’s drink still sitting in the sink.  The light in the bedroom still didn’t work every single time (thank goodness the landlord is fixing that!).

I woke with a profound sense of sadness.  A sense of loss for 50 of my brothers and sisters in the community, who simply assembled to share their joy.  Maybe to meet the person that was destined to be the one for them.  To make new friends, to celebrate the ones they currently had, to simply be.  To dance without fear of judgment of who they were dancing with, or who they were kissing.

They were in their sanctuary.

For so many in the LGBT community who feel rejected by the standard church’s teachings, the gay bar is/was our home.  Our place of communal worship, albeit of a liquid god.  I say that in jest.  But seriously, it was a place for community, a place where one could go without feeling as though they were different.  Because everyone there was just as different and unique as them — making us all for those two-to-three hours somewhat “normal.”

I woke up feeling unrest.  I have been lucky in my life as a gay man.  I came out, and felt immediate love and support from my family.  From loving and being accepting of my boyfriends to recognizing that I am me, my family has been a stalwart supporter of mine, through words and actions.  I never felt the need to go to the gay bars to simply hang out to be around my kind.  I’ve always identified as a man who happens to be gay.

Today, I am a gay man, and the attacks in Orlando are having a profound attack on me.  Maybe I’ve lived in a completely isolated world where the hate and fear of myself for simply being who I am has tarnished my worldview.

You hear about things like this happening in rural Wyoming, where a young man is lured out to a roadside and beaten to death.  You hear about this happening in the deep south, where the world view is not as evolved as one would like.  Heck, their city view is not as evolved as one would like.  You hear about this in North Carolina, where people are afraid to pee next to someone who may have been born different, but went on their own journey to figure out and accept who they are.

You don’t hear about this in cities like Orlando.  LA.  Seattle.

These are large metropolitan cities known for their acceptance of our community.  Hell, our mayor, a gay man himself, painted several crosswalks in what could be called the gayberhood as a rainbow and the city rejoiced.  Two major airlines competed for the right to sponsor our never-ending pride parade (seriously, that thing is way too long but you do you, boo).

A Facebook friend summed it up best with, “They just wanted to dance.”

And that makes me filled with uncontrollable anger and sadness.  They simply wanted to dance.

Can you imagine any of the people who had made a choice to get ready, take a shower, pick out their cutest outfit, do their hair, looking forward to an evening of fun and frivolity, dancing to the latest music and simply getting the chance to express themselves with abandoned pretenses on the dance floor, sometimes finding the two and four, but having a good time and being around their contemporaries and peers — to suddenly have a madman come in and target this group of people with a semi-automatic rifle?  To go into the bathroom where people were hiding and shoot them down in cold-blooded murder?  To have people frantically sending text messages to their loved ones, letting them know he was there with them, waiting, to call the police now.  Saying their goodbyes, saying how much they loved their moms.

Can you imagine being on the other end of such a message, reading in real time the horror?  That your child had a very small possibility of making it out alive, and then, silence.  Nothing from their phone, no idea of whether they had made it, were injured, were in the hospital, but knowing in the back of your mind, that the last thing you had heard from them was them begging and pleading for help.

I want to blame things.  I want to blame people.  I want to blame the world for this.  I want someone to feel the brunt of my rage because I.AM.ANGRY.

I’m so angry that I don’t know that I can keep my emotions in check.  I’m sitting here at my desk, fighting back tears as I continually try to make sense of it, to figure out any silver lining in this massacre.  Or any massacre for that matter.

Newtown, Denver, Charleston.

I’m tired of it.  I’m tired and angry, and I want to do something.

What can I do?  Devote my life to ending gun violence?  That’s something I seriously am pondering.  Something where I can make a difference.

I’m not for taking people’s rights to have guns.  I understand it’s a constitutional right, one so ridiculously divisive.  I’m not one to take away anyone’s rights.  But I want the rights to extend just beyond the .300 gorilla in the room.  It’s not ONLY about guns and whether or not you should own them.

Someone said, “Let’s arm ’em all.”  What a fucking miserable and horrible idea.  No.  Let’s not arm them all.  Let’s not arm any of them, frankly.  Guns have one purpose:  to kill.  Not to be centerpieces on your table, not to be decorations on your wall.  Their entire purpose is to main, destroy, or kill.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have to worry about whether or not if I cut someone off in line, whether on accident or not, that I’m going to be shot because they had a bad day and are carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle.

I don’t want to live in a world where I wake up and hear that innocent school children are murdered, their lives cut short because someone was mentally unstable and unable to get the help they need.

I don’t want to live in a world where if you’re gay and you go out dancing, you have to fear that someone is going to come in and murder you in cold-blood.  Shooting fish in a barrel.

I don’t want to live in a world where if you go to church to worship, you have to be careful when closing your eyes that someone may open fire on you for worshiping your god, for trying to find peace and salvation in what is a very frightening world.

And yet, here we are.

I’m frustrated that people still cling to beliefs which promote hate and fear.
I’m saddened that innocents have to die because of madmen and women.
I’m angry because I deserve the same rights as anyone else, and I shouldn’t have to worry about my safety if I’m out dancing or drinking with friends.
I’m horrified that people believe and preach that their way is right, and yet they murder innocents.  How warped is their thinking that this has ever become an option?
I’m disgusted with our Congress who has refused to react.  Who turned their noses up when innocent children were murdered and accepted that as the new normal for our country.
I’m tired of having to watch our President — a man who has faced insurmountable racism and hostility while holding the highest office in the land — come out and give yet another press conference, to find a new way to say to the people who are supposed to help support us that this has to stop.
I’m horrified that a presidential candidate has the gall to take congratulations over the shooting in Orlando.
I’m mortified that people support said presidential candidate.

Mostly, my heart is heavy for the families of those people who were affected so tremendously by the actions of a madman.  Lives that are irrevocably changed forever.  Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children who have to bury people now and say goodbyes that shouldn’t have had to have been said.  Husbands and wives who only less than a year ago were celebrating their joy and dedicating their lives to another who now have to say goodbye.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us until they’re finished songs and start to play when senseless acts of tragedy remind us that nothing here is promised, not one day. This show is proof that history remembers. We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall, and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. As sacred as a symphony Eliza tells her story. Now fill the world with music, love and pride.  – Lin-Manuel Miranda

In a naive sort of world view, I’d like to believe that this will finally spur some action on gun control.  We will finally have a conversation around what we are doing to ourselves as a country and to our fellow people.  That we cannot — will not — accept hate any more.  Demagoguery should be the exception, never the norm.
And that we should be free to be who we are, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes us unique and individual.

Love is love is love.

To all my brothers and sisters out there, I stand for you because you cannot.

 

Shifts in Thought

After the wake of Friday’s tragedy, I found myself profoundly affected by the entire event, searching for some sort of meaning, some sort of understanding, and wishing that there was something I could do.

But what can I do?  I’m 3,000 miles away, with no personal connection to any of the victims, with limited means of income.  Yet I noticed a sudden shift Friday afternoon that had been brewing underneath the surface for a while now.  It’s been a progression, a constant evolution to this point where I am doing my best to put it into words.

I want to apologize, first and foremost, if this note seems preachy in any way whatsoever.  That is not my goal.  I don’t wish to stand on a soapbox and tell you what you should think, how you should act, how you should be.  I have no control over your choices, and it’s not my place do so.  All I can do is share my experience with you, and leave it as that:  an experience, a story, a lesson in humility.

A few weeks ago, I went out to a restaurant I had frequented several times before with never a problem, however, this evening the restaurant was particularly busy.  My first experience began when the hostess asked for my name, and after I gave it to her, she asked me to repeat myself.  No problem.  I did.  And she asked me to repeat it again.  I did, and spelled it for her.  She then proceeded to call me by the wrong name even so.  I was a little irritated, but I let it pass.  Even with the popularity of the Harry Potter books, it’s still not a common name people encounter.  Fine.  Moving on.

I was seated at a table, in the furthest reaches of the restaurant, and my waitress came to greet me.  She was new, and said as much.  Her energy was high, as she was clearly excited for her new job, and eager to please.  I gave her my order, and she disappeared in the back.

After about 25 minutes of waiting, the waitress arrived with a tray of food.  Unfortunately, it was the wrong order, for the wrong table.  She whisked it away after I brought it to her attention, but then this meant I still had to wait an additional 10 minutes for the waitress to return and give me my order.  I was finally able to eat, but a bit upset at the quality of service that I was receiving.

I finished eating, my plates were taken away, and the bill arrived.  I was a party of one, and when I looked down to see the amount, I was stunned.  I had received a bill for another table to the tune of $259.00.  Another mistake.  I waited, and waited, and waited, as the waitress hurried past, another waiter hurried past, all the while trying to get their attention so the matter could be corrected.  Eventually I caught someone’s eye, explained the situation, and the appropriate bill arrived tableside.

I was ready to leave at this point, and whipped out my card.  But no attention was paid.  Another five minutes.  ANother ten minutes.  Finally, I got up and went to the front of the restaurant, and handed it to the hostess, along with the bill, asking her to run my card.  She did so, and printed the receipt.

Perhaps it was the fact that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or traffic was frustrating, or there were other personal problems going on in my world.  Regardless, I allowed that one incidient to inform the decision that I made next.  I wrote the tip amount in at 15%, but across the top of the receipt, I wrote, “Exceptionally bad service.”

“I’ll take that for you,” a woman said, and I handed her the receipt, and noticed it was my waitress.  I saw her face as she saw the words at the top, and I was too embarrassed to say anything, and I left.

I sat in the car, feeling instantly remorseful that I had allowed all of the events of the day, this one experience to mar someone else’s day.  Because in the larger scheme of things, I realized that this was simply one meal, on one day, that would not be mentioned again until this posting.

It also went against everything I do my best to achieve daily, living life with a kind heart, a kind word, and a cheerleader for others.  But the wheels were set in motion, and a shift was afoot.  It was a small move, but an important one.

This past election was brutal.  I saw friends, family, people I love dearly get into heated arguments regarding their particular brand of politics.  People who were once allies suddenly sniping at each other from the safety of their computer.  What could have been civil discussions over very important issues turned ugly and bitter, with name calling ensuing, without an ounce of compassion for the person they were supposedly dialoguing with, but in reality, practicing a well-rehearsed monologue.  I did my best to stay out of the frey as much as humanly possible.

This also served as a fundamental shift in my daily understanding of who I am and how I interact with people.

And then, Friday, when the lives of not only 20 children and six staff members was changed forever, but their siblings, their mothers, their fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, friends, neighbors — the list goes on and on and on.  I woke up, and read the news, as I usually do, and didn’t realize I was crying until I felt my tears hit my lips.  Tears of unspeakable sadness for so much innocence lost.  I made a phone call or two to some very important people, just to let them know I was thinking about them, that I loved them, and wandered around sort of confused by the whole situation.

Not that I don’t understand how it happened.  That much is clear.  But why.  Why does it happen?  And then, suddenly opinions were being bandied about, myself included, for stricter gun regulation, a look at the mental health system, protecting our 2nd amendment rights, waging into our 1st amendment rights, blaming this on the President, blaming this on the opposing party, and on and on and on.

I in no way equate my experience at the restuarant or the political season to a tragedy of such proportions.  I only bring these up as key points because they were fundamental turning points in the ever-evolving game of life for this one individual.

Friday evening, I was out, tending to some errands, and the air seemed different.  People seemed a little less hostile, practicing patience, and even smiling at each other.  And suddenly, all of those movements clicked into place.

We have gotten so commonplace about our interactions with people, that simple courtesies are left by the wayside as we go after our ultimate goal.  The things that are drilled into us as children, being polite, treat others with respect and kindness, learning to share, helping someone out has been replaced by vitriolic speech, bullying, and making fun of those less fortunate for a laugh.

For a while now, I have noticed myself saying to myself and others, “Be kind to yourself and to others” more and more often.  Finding the good in what can sometimes be a  dreary, dismal day.  Not ignoring the realities of the world, but perceiving them differently.

In no way, shape or form do I mean to suggest that simply being kinder to people is the answer to every single problem, and especially in a situation where it seems serious mental health issues are at play.  This is a real problem that needs to be addressed by our leaders, from the top down, and quickly to avoid another catastrophe of such senseless violence occurring.  I offer no solutions, as it is a much more complex world than I’m comfortable even discussing as I don’t have the aptitude for providing a solution to what has occurred, only a call for action.

I am, however, suggesting that in order for this dialogue to begin, it may start with us actually being a bit kinder to each other.  Not agreeing with everything the other person says, but to watch what we say in response, to make better, smarter choices about the way we conduct ourselves instead of the negativity that is so often the go-to tool for people.

Maybe this is a Pollyanna view of the world.  Maybe my glasses are rose-colored.  But I will be completely honest — I’d rather live in that world than ever  have first-hand knowledge of the misery and suffering inflicted on innocents this past Friday.

All of these shifts, these thoughts have led up to this one particular stopping point in this journey of my life, and I realize the one thing I can do, 3,000 miles away from what has happened, is to be kinder to myself and those around me.

Enough

I woke up this morning, 3,000 miles away, and saw the news.  Unsuspecting lives changed forever.  I read the story and felt my heart break into a thousand little pieces, and realized I was crying.

My heart goes out to those affected by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  Two mass shootings in one week…when does it end?

No one wants to take away your guns.  If you feel you need a gun to protect you, you’re guaranteed that right.

But isn’t it time we stop allowing any person with enough cash regardless of their mental stability the “right” to buy a firearm and unleash havoc on unsuspecting victims?  Haven’t we had enough senseless violence?

The idea that Joe Schmoe needs an Ak-47 or any assault rifle to “hunt” is simply wrong.  An assault rifle is not a fair fight for any creature.

What will the NRA say about this?  Will they spin this into “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people?”  Okay, fine.  If that’s what you want to believe to make yourself sleep better at night, go ahead.  But what about those families whose lives have been unforgivably changed, whose worlds have been completely changed, and whose nightmares suddenly became very, very real?

Stop already.

We are supposed to love each other.  Not murder each other.

I am numb.

Enough is enough.