What Pride Means to Me

This weekend, the Tri-Cities, where Greg and I grew up, is having a pride celebration for the first time. While I think it’s taken entirely way too long to get to this point, I am glad nonetheless that it is finally happening. Greg and I have had a long road in our relationship of over 13 years as a couple and in all of that time we largely and surprisingly did not go to pride celebrations. That of course changed last year with us attending Atlanta Pride. We declared at that point after having so much fun that we would never miss one ever again. We are going to no less than three pride celebrations this year. We’ve already been to Knox Pride, we will be at TriPride this weekend, and in October we will be visiting Atlanta Pride again.

In all of this I ask myself, “What does pride mean to me?”

It’s important to me that I support everyone in my community. We should all be proud of who we are. We should have people around us that love us unconditionally. I have to admit that I have felt at certain times in my life that while people say they love me they secretly have misgivings about me and my sexuality. That is an unfortunate but real feeling for someone to have. It usually comes in the guise of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I have grown to loathe that way of thinking. One cannot go through life living a by double standards like that.

OK, so that got negative for a second. Let’s focus on the positive. Pride is still a very important thing, especially in the current political climate. I don’t want this post to turn into a history lesson so suffice it to say that you know how things have gotten better while terrifying at the same time in the last 5-10 years. I won’t go into those details here. The point is that the LGBTQ community still faces challenges. Hate is a very, very real thing. It’s sad that in 2018 we even have to say that. Maybe one day we will be past it. Will I see it in my lifetime? I don’t know. I hope so.

Pride is also important because of why it exists in the first place. We must remember the Stonewall riots of 1969. It is very important to respect our elders and the struggles and sacrifices they made to make sure that we can be loud, proud and authentic. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the riots. I hope we can go on vacation to NYC next year to celebrate pride there. We shall see. Other people in other cities and towns have had similar struggles as well. Each and every one of them needs to be remembered as well. We all have to recognize the adversity of being our true and authentic selves. It’s not an easy road being someone who goes against someone else’s opinion of what is “normal” and “usual.” That is why we celebrate pride.

It’s also important to remember those that we have lost over the years. When we were vlogging in Atlanta last October, we visited the AIDS Quilt in Piedmont Park. I shot a little footage that we did not end up using in the vlog because it was way too emotional. It is sad and tragic what people in our community had to go through when the crisis was happening in the 1980s and 1990s. I read story after story about how people like that were disowned. However, there were a lot of heroes who stepped up at that time and helped out. We must remember these people when we celebrate pride as well.

I have a confident feeling that the majority of people in the country, if not the world, do support the LGBTQ community. Like my friend Joshua Willis said, “It’s getting there. It’s getting there.”


New Focus

This post put simply is to get down my thoughts on my new focus in life.  I have a new positive outlook on things!  I want to share my story with the world in a way that I haven’t before.

I have an awesome life already. I have an awesome husband, and a great job.  What more could I ask for?

I have a voice, and I intend to use it for the greater good of all that is great and good in this world.

More to come over the coming days.  But, suffice it to say, I am changing every day for the better.


Being Bold

While we were out a shopping center yesterday, some idiot decided to, well, be an idiot.  This person stole my Human Rights Campaign magnet off the back our car.  Not only that, they went further and bent our license plate.  My initial feelings was anger, sadness, irritation, you name it and I was probably experiencing it simultaneously.

As a testament to how wonderful Greg always is, he listened, reassured, told me everything would be OK, and calmed me down.  I made a Facebook post after that initial reaction died down:

I had a great reaction to that, and for that I thank you all.  I feel better today…

Love will win. It always does. 🙂

My Coming Out Story

You might want to sit down for this one.  This is not the sappy tale you think it’s going to be.  My life has been a complicated one, but one that I have never wrote out or told publicly.  That changes now.

I struggled with my sexuality all through my childhood.  I have always felt an attraction to other guys as far back as I can remember.  It was just there.  It didn’t happen overnight or anything, it was just… there.  I didn’t understand it then because well, those things weren’t talked about in such a rural place like Southwest Virginia.

All throughout high school, the feelings were still there, but with no guidance, I never did anything about it.  I didn’t have any kind of meaningful relationship.  I couldn’t come out, not then.  I was fortunate that it never became an issue that anyone would bully me over.  I was made fun of a bit for other things, but not for being LGBTQ.   It’s unfortunate that anyone should ever have to be bullied for anything at all, but we’ll come back to that.

EDIT: I just wanted to add here that I had some good friends and did have some really great times during my high school years, so it wasn’t all pain and suffering.  I have many great memories from those days.

I didn’t start to figure things out until I was 19 going on 20.

Me at 20 Years Old (Dec. 1999)

I remember my first so-called “relationship.” (I put it in quotes for a reason.)   The details of what it was aren’t important to this story, but suffice it to say that I still couldn’t tell everyone who I was, even then.  I think I knew by that time that I was gay.  At the same time, I knew 100% that I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of being a social outcast.  In a small town of around 2,000 people, it would be like drinking poison in a way.  I look back on that now and say, “What were you thinking!?”

I wonder if anyone I knew then would have cared if they had known.  Some probably wouldn’t, some probably would.  I’ll probably never know, nor does it matter at all.

The first person who I came out to was Brian, a great friend and co-worker at the time.  He was very understanding and didn’t think any less of me.  I distinctly remember him saying, “I don’t care.”  That was a very encouraging thing to hear.  Brian and me are still good friends to this day.

The first family member I came out to was my sister Naomi.  It was 2002.  I was taking to her on the phone while walking in a store.  I felt this huge weight on my shoulders.  I felt like I just had to tell someone, to just let someone else know who I was and hopefully that I wouldn’t have that gut wrenching feeling in my stomach anymore that I was contained in such a small space in my own existence.  Naomi understood, she said “I still love you, everything will be OK.”  That was a very big relief.  I didn’t come out to anyone else in my family on my terms, they just kind of found out over the years.  They still love me, even if they might not approve.  I respect them no matter what, and I know, or at least hope, that they respect me.

Since that day, the issue hasn’t been a big one for me.  I could be who I was.  I met new friends, experienced new things.  Even had a few bad relationships.  The normal stuff any person might go through.  Then the man who stole my heart walked into my life in 2005.  And, well, if you know me, you know most of the rest of the story.

Until it came up one last time: 2008.  My 10 year high school reunion.  I went and caught up with some great people.  Until one person started questioning me about being gay.  He said that he couldn’t believe it, that he thought I had failed them.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I wasn’t scared, or afraid, or worried, no.  I was just literally dumbfounded at such a statement.  I just brushed it off and reaffirmed that I am who I am.  I left it at that.  Why should be sexual orientation be on full display in a place where it shouldn’t matter?  Isn’t that the culture that we all would hope for, where we can be ourselves and coexist happily?  I just went on about my business.

This year marks 20 years since I graduated high school, and I don’t really want to go back to another reunion.  Not because of that encounter, but because I feel more disconnected from where I grew up than I did 10 years ago.  I didn’t belong there.  My ambitions were elsewhere.

So, that’s my story.  An unusual one, but that’s what it was.  You may ask yourself why my story needs to be told?  Because it needs to be told.  So many people struggle with coming out, with being who they are.  I’m here to tell them “YOU matter.”  Don’t be afraid, there are lots of kind, nice and warm people here to help you with who you are.  That’s why I am telling my story.  I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of my strong relationship and I’m going to be proud of everyone.  I love my life, I love this world, and I am not going to be silent. I am proud. 🙂