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What Happened To Love?

I was at odds with myself about writing this post, but the more I watch my neighbours in the US trying to destroy each other every day with an onslaught of barbs, jabs and hate speech, the more I felt moved to offer up my perspective….

I am a gay man. I was born this way – it is not a choice we make, so never let anyone tell you that it is chosen. Those who profess to be cured (“ex-gay”), were never gay to begin with. I am a loving, caring, soulful, spiritual man – an active member of society: I volunteer, I work in my church, I support my friends fiercely with their causes, and they know I will always be there for them. I strive to excel in my workplace and I am respected for both my work ethic and my contributions to my communities. I hold my family in the highest regard, and they bless me with the same love. I love my God and I am blessed in return with more in this life than I could have ever imagined myself. I am respected for “who” I am, for what I contribute, for this person you see before you.

But I am not – to cut through the stereotypes – promiscuous, into children, ready to marry my dog nor do I expect “special” rights. Nor am I a child of Satan, as “Michael Bresciani” has deemed gay people. I wish for the same protections, rights, freedoms, respect and benefits as everyone else. I have no hidden agenda, no secret recruitment scheme, no conversion tactics, no ulterior motive. I am not broken, misguided, evil, sick or less than.

I am exactly as I was created.

I want the same things as everyone else – to find love, to cherish each other for our similarities and our differences, to be respected, to be heard, to be treated with dignity and to make a difference in whatever way I can. For so long, gay people have been labelled as promiscuous, and I will agree that many are – just as many heterosexuals are. Hit any bar/nightclub on a weekend and the behaviour you witness is not so different in either community. However, to then deny us the opportunity to show that we are in committed, loving, respectful relationships or marriages, removes our opportunity to show that we function just like the majority. We too want stable, loving, beneficial partnerships to enjoy.

Same but different is not equal.

I have never understood the argument that “Same Sex Marriage” cheapens traditional marriage. How? How does my love for my partner – wanting that to be something beautiful – cheapen anything? How does it change your bond that I am blessed to live in a country that granted us the right to marriage equality, and have been married?

I was once asked by a friend, quite sincerely, “What does it feel like to be in love with another man?” I simply told her that my feeling of love felt exactly the same as it did for her. I watched as she sat for a couple of minutes – the look on her face changed, the light bulb went on and she apologized for the question. She proclaimed, “I had never even considered that it would be that simple.” I can only speculate as to why she had never considered that the emotional connection would be the same for me as for her, but her one question and my openness changed her life that day.

I am not going to wade into the religious argument – the mud-slinging in the name of God is fodder for numerous other posts – other than to say we were commanded to love each other. Judgements and hate-filled speech in His name don’t fly with me, regardless of which side of the issue you are on.

We seem, as inhabitants of this planet, to have a need to vilify each other on an ongoing basis. Pick a segment of society that has not been targeted in history: Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, women…what is our flaw? Why do we have the need to take down that which we find different from ourselves? What if you were next?

Whatever your beliefs, let us remember that we are all “people” – flesh and bone, full of dreams, wants, needs and the deep-rooted desire to be accepted and nurtured. We are “all” special, we are all worth something, we are all valuable. We are “not so different” from each other.

Temper your words, lead with love, speak with kindness; we are all bothers and sisters of humanity.

Go out into this great world, love your neighbour, and most importantly, love yourself.

Somebody Fucked With My Kid

I have wanted to post here for a long time. I have a story. It is a painful story. Maybe it’s painful only to me, I don’t know. I’ve been so humbled by the stories I have read here and felt unworthy, like my own problems can’t possibly be as bad. I have followed these writers – I will not call them bloggers because to me they are writers as impactful and as important as any that were found on my bullshit high school reading lists.

They do not know that they have been lifelines.

They do not know that they have given me validation. They do not know that they have made me feel like part of something bigger. And I have felt unworthy to speak in these forums because I have not suffered the same losses, the same blows, the same sickness…how could I be part of this tribe? But today, in this strange world of Twitter that I am still trying to understand, someone gave me the invitation and therefore the permission to post here.

Ed note: Please, you’re all invited to post here. We want you to share your stories, big and small. Your victories, your celebrations, your dragons, and your sadness too. Don’t be intimidated Pranksters. If I’m Your Aunt Becky, that means we’re family (sorry). You are all welcome to come in and stay.

Today, someone fucked with my kid.

Maybe this is the way, the opening of the floodgates, where I feel important enough. Maybe this is where my story gets validation. And I will tell my story, most of which has nothing to do with this incident.

And I want to tell you all so many of my stories because it has taken so long for me to realize that I HAVE a story, that my shit was fucked up, that I got a raw deal, that some of how I am is because of what happened. But right now none of that matters, my story is not important, my hurts are not important, nothing is important except the fact that someone. fucked. with. my. kid.

My kid is gay. I am gay. What these two things have to do with one another, I could care less about. The Bean (my kid) is a carbon copy of me in so many ways. We love hard, heavy and openly. She has been raised as a political kid in Washington, DC, where there is a rally or march every other week, and if it is something we believe in – from gay rights to women’s rights to immigration rights to arts funding to DC statehood – we march for it and we are loud and do not back down.

I taught her that.

I taught her about gay bashing and Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena and the Trevor Project and all the horrible things that happen to people because of how they love. I taught her to be the head of her Gay-Straight Alliance at school.  We matched in our rainbow outfits for the Marriage Equality March. The youth-friendly Gay Pride after-party has always been at our house. She knew she could fight because her mama was always there by her side.

Mama was not with her today on The Metro with her girlfriend.

It was a beautiful day here today. Finally, the humidity had broken and I was down at The H Street Festival, one of the city’s biggest festivals. Bean was supposed to meet me at H street but she is slightly geographically challenged and by the time she figured out where to go, it was time to go home. I told her that I’d meet her at The Metro and ride home with the two of them.

As I got off the train, I noticed that Bean and …we’ll call her Banana…were in the car ahead of me. As I moved to catch up with them, Banana noticed me and said “That man messed with us.”

Oh, hell no.

I bypassed the checkout and went straight through the emergency exit and demanded, “Do you have a problem with my daughter?”

To which he responded, “Children don’t need to see that gay shit on the train.”

I discovered that when he said something to Bean, she said something back to him. So this truly classy gentleman, in his fifties made a fist at my seventeen-year old daughter and told her to “step to him.” This man was also still in his security guard uniform with his name tag. He was a douche-bag security guard at an amusement park.

The details are kinda cliché, but suffice to say I turned into every inch the stereotype of a pissed off black woman.

I grew an extra vertebrae so I could roll my head, my finger grew an inch or two to help me point at his face and I learned all kinds of different ways to conjugate “motherfucker.” Eventually, Bean saw me pulling an Arizona Iced tea bottle out of my bag and pulled me toward the car. That was after he informed me that if I was any kind of mother, I wouldn’t have a gay kid, and what my daughter and I both needed was some of his twelve inches, and I needed to bend over and take some of him because I needed to be put in my place.

Ahem.

I told this story to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and the tears in my eyes right now are not because of the incident, but because of the amazing outpouring of support, piss, and vinegar that I’ve gotten. My friends are contacting Six Flags, where Mr. Antonio Washington works, demanding that Mr. Antonio Washington be removed from working around kids. My friends are re-posting my note so people know this kind of hatred and ignorance is real. They are sending love to a little girl that many of them haven’t ever met.

And what is that little girl doing ? She sat on her mommy’s lap for about 5 minutes.  Mommy was busy yelling on the phone, Tweeting and trying to fix all of her favorite foods at once. And she was okay. I overheard her on the phone.

“He didn’t know who he was messing with. My mom is so mad and you don’t mess with my mom.”

I read her Facebook Status, “Some asshole was dumb enough to bash my mom’s kid. He’ll be sorry.”

I listened to Banana  “Man, your mom doesn’t play around!” They just made Pizza Rolls and popcorn and are being WAY squeal-y watching horror movies.

Just got off the phone with Six Flags General Counsel. At 9:30 on a Saturday night.

So I guess, to be cliche and because I love NPR , This I Know Is True:

Just because you were an 18-year old teenage mother with a GED and a crack-addicted mother in the murder capitol of the world, you can still be a good mom.

I’m a good mom because I taught my kid to fight for her rights – her rights as a woman, as a black woman, as a black/Latina woman, as a black/Latina gay woman.

I’m a good mom because she knows her momma is never too far away and will KICK THE FUCKING TEETH OUT of anyone who messes with her.

I’m a good mom because, at the end of the day, she still wants to sit on my lap and play with my hair.

As Aunt Becky taught me, we are, none of us, ever alone. The outpouring of rage and support over this has been amazing. I have seen this story, in the matter of about two hours, be posted, tweeted and spread across states and continents. There are warm and fuzzies everywhere and most of you don’t even know the Bean.

I have a story. And there are people out there to listen.

Now someone pour me a shot.

A Letter I Can’t Send – It Gets Better

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have waited a long time to write this. High school, college, my first job, my first apartment.

Your firstborn is finally an adult.

We’ve addressed the issues before. Usually at the kitchen table, or as you stand in my doorway while I cry in my bedroom. I have yelled. I have called you assholes, terrible parents.

I blamed you for fucking me up.

You did fuck me up.

But.

I am an adult now, so it isn’t your job to parent me any more. To teach me acceptance of self. To tell me I am beautiful; perfect the way I am. To tell me I deserve only the best. To tell me that guy who broke my heart is crazy for letting me get away. To tell me I am a catch. A good person. A talented artist. A fountain of possibility. A woman with an amazing life ahead of her.

You weren’t there for me when I was bullied in middle school and high school. You wrote it off as “being a kid” or “well, that’s high school,” but I was a kid. I was in high school. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have your hindsight.

When I found the note in the garbage during science class, the one that was written about me by two girls in the class, you weren’t the ones who held me and told me it would be okay.

You didn’t acknowledge the pain that I felt when I read those words – ‘she’s such a stupid bitch. I wish she’d just like jump off a cliff.’

You told me they were being stupid and childish. You told me to brush it off.

You found the suicide note that I penned at 11 years old. You were going through my stuff. I was so mad at you. You sent me to therapy, and we never spoke of it again.

When I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, you didn’t help me shoulder the burden. You didn’t cry with me. You didn’t buy any books on the topic. You didn’t do the Walk for Mental Health charity 5k that I KNOW happened several years ago.

Why didn’t you do that?

Why?

When I overdosed in college and you came to pick me up, you silently drove me home to your house, two hours away, where I stayed the entire weekend to “get away from everything.” On Sunday night, you asked if I was okay.

Sure.

I’m okay. Two days ago I tried to kill myself, again, but you know, sure, okay, I’m fine.

And then you put me on a bus back to school.

And we never spoke of that weekend again.

I stayed in therapy.

When I gained all of that weight, because of the PCOS, and I was sad, miserable, and feeling less than worthy of anything, you bribed me with a new car to lose 20 lbs. You didn’t tell me I was pretty. You didn’t tell me size was just a number. You didn’t tell me to go out and have fun with my friends, to not care about what I looked like, to know that it was the inside the counted the most.

You told me you’d buy me a car, and when I starved myself for two months, you handed me the keys.

You never told me it would get better.

But then there was your second child.

I know now that parents have favorites. Do you love all three of us? Of course you do. If something were to happen to any one of us, would it break you? I would hope. But when all three of your kids stand in front of you, you know who your favorite is.

He is your favorite child.

He grew up bubbly, fun, surrounded by friends. Smart, adorable, well-behaved. Charming.

I hated him from the beginning. Remember the time I spilled hot soup on him when he was three? Remember the time I yanked a huge chunk of hair out of his head when he was seven?

I was, undoubtedly, your angry child.

But somewhere along the path of growing up, he became my favorite too. When you guys didn’t care about my broken heart, he did.

When I needed help with stats, he always knew the answers.

When I was in my darkest moments, fearing the end, I remembered that while I idolized him more than he looked up to me, I had a little brother to take care of.

He encouraged me when you didn’t. He took me seriously when you brushed me off. He laughed at my jokes. He asked to spend time with me. He got to know me beyond being his sister and your daughter.

All the while, he shined. Confident, secure, compassionate; he encompassed everything you’d look for in another human being. He made for great company.

He is gay.

You didn’t bribe him to change. You didn’t encourage him to shy away from his friends because he was getting used to his new skin. You just didn’t.

He was still beautiful. He was still talented. He was still smart. No matter what he “was” – he was still your son. My brother. And you loved him for exactly who he was, exactly who he is, just as you did before, just as you always will.

The acceptance was instant. It was non-negotiable.

He was surrounded by your love – the same love I lacked when it came to my yearning for your acceptance. Your non-negotiable support.

I resented you. I resented him.

In the wake of the recent suicides within the LBGQT community, I am so thankful that my little brother was one of the few who was enveloped in love and support from the very beginning.

That he became so much more that could define him other than his orientation.

That his life was so filled with possibility, he never wanted it to end.

You did not grace me with an abundance of love at the times I needed it the most. Perhaps it was because I was your first – your oldest – your first “go” at all things parenting. Perhaps you had no idea what to do, so you chose to do nothing. I know that as a child, I was different. I had different needs. As an adult, I can understand that. And I can empathize.

But thank you for being exactly the type of parents my little brother needed.

If you had been different, if things had been different…well, I don’t know how to even write the words that follow. I can’t write them.

All I know is that I am grateful for him – the one person that in my darkest hour will tell me, “Caroline…it gets better.”

My little brother.

Trans Visibility Day: My Brother and I

A 2016 poll found that there are between 0.5 to 0.6% people who are transgender in the US. 

This would put the total number of transgender Americans at approximately 1.4 million adults.

This is their journey:

I’m R and I’m transgender. I’m also the youngest kid in my family. I’m quiet, and my older sibling, L, is not. We are both a lot alike and very different.

Growing up. I didn’t have a name for how I felt; I just knew I was really unhappy the older I got. I hated the changes puberty was causing. I wanted it to stop. I’m quiet. I didn’t say anything. I doubled down on skirts, on leggings, on purses, whatever I could do to be more girly. My mom loved it, so I kept doing it, but I grew more unhappy. I lied about my favorite anime characters, saying I liked girl characters when I was drawn to male characters.

And then, a couple years into this struggle, when I finally had a name for who I was – transgender, my brother L came out to my parents as being transgender and I felt screwed over. I figured that if I said something now, my parents would think I was copying my brother. So, I dressed even girlier while I grew more depressed.

L was immediately accepted. His entire wardrobe of girl’s clothes went to me or got tossed. He got boys underwear, boys jeans, everything a geeky little guy could ask for. I still hammed it up, letting my mom put makeup on me, do my hair, whatever I could do to embrace being female.

It was awful, but I did it anyway, lasting a year and a half into L’s social transition before my mom helped break through my barrier. She guessed that I was trans, but unlike L’s instant transition, my mom wanted made me to wait an agonizing six months to come out, even though I, too, got a new wardrobe and haircuts that grew increasingly shorter I came out to my extended family as gay first. It wasn’t quite right, the gay label as a girl, but it let me be out, partially, at least.

Trying to figure out who I was and my sexuality at the same time was torture. I told myself that I must like girls in that way, but I didn’t. I want someone to partner with, but I was also figuring out that I was asexual. The asexual part was the easiest. I really needed an easy thing at that point.

I tore myself up over being trans, being gay. I felt so alone.

I was more depressed than ever. I still got called by my girl name and it made me sick each time I heard it or saw it. My mom saw the despair, and four months after coming out to her, I took my new name and came out to my whole family and friends.

My brother and I never said a word to each other during the years we were suffering and trying to figure out what was wrong. We share a room, and both of us are blown away that each night for years we lay in our beds and agonized silently.

If one of us would have taken the leap and shared, we could have suffered less.

We knew our parents were LGBT allies and supported one of my mom’s students who was transgender.

We were scared. Scared to say the words aloud to ourselves.

To each other.

To our parents.

To the world.

We saw the agony that my mom’s student was in, that moving hours away to an LGBT friendly place was the only way to live openly.

That’s why trans visibility is so important. Acceptance is essential.

My brother L and I are transgender.

We are at peace with that knowledge because we are accepted for who we are.

We are supported.

We will, in the future, medically transition.

We are the lucky ones.

Light The Darkness – Male Sexual Abuse

In the United States, every 107 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. Four of every five sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. 68% of all sexual assaults go unreported to the proper authorities.

Why?

Why do so many sexual assaults go unreported?

Shame. Self blame. Embarrassment. Fear that no one would believe their story. Fear that they may have caused it. Not wanting to be the victim. Wanting to move past the sexual assault. There are a multitude of reasons why sexual assaults go unreported.

Just as there are a number of types of rape (gang rape, date/acquaintance rape, intimate partner rape, statutory rape, sexual assault), there are a multitude of responses to sexual assault. Each of which is completely normal.

This year, The Band Back Together Project is shining a light into the darkness of sexual assault. Please share your story of sexual assault so that we can Light the Darkness. 

All are welcome.

Can a male adult be abused and raped?

A gay male friend of mine has a female friend who has been bothering him, abusing him, stalking him. He has low self-esteem and a difficult time standing up for himself. His father has rejected him because of his sexual orientation, and he has had a difficult time coming to grips with that.

She started showing up where he was when he would travel for work or on personal vacation.

Then she isolated him.

She asked him to have sexual intercourse. He refused.

She offered herself as an experiment to see if maybe he was straight and didn’t realize it. She continued asking despite the fact that he repeatedly said no.

Many of those times he said no, she just forced herself on him.

He said he does not remember how he felt during or after, but remembers that he avoided being alone with her many times so that he wasn’t put in the same position.  He felt like there was no way to say no that she would listen to as she would do what she wanted to anyway.

She manipulated the situation to the point of saying they can have children together and to continue traveling together as friends. He wanted to do it as a  sperm donation with no more physical contact, she refused and threatened with no baby.

He was forced again and now she is pregnant.

Once she got pregnant she threatened him with abortion if he refused to live with her as a couple and have more babies.

He wants the baby and he feels like he is trapped.

My Mother Is The Mentally Challenged Child I Am The Parent…

I am finally coming to accept that my mother has a variety of mental illness. I’ve known all my life something was wrong. Mostly I have ignored it, and even joked about it, trying to blow off steam.

Nothing was ever good enough for my mother. If I came home with B’s on my report card, she would want to know why they weren’t A’s. She would say that I could have done better. My father only talked to me about how to fix something. He never shared much about his life, other than stuff about his job. He would tell stories for hours that went on about nothing. In lieu of parenting us, my mother just bought stuff for my sister and me.

Mom was also a bulimic. Day after day when I was growing up, I would hear her in the bathroom throwing up after every meal. If we asked about it, she would deny it and change the subject. Dad defended her and said it was none of our business.

My grandmother knew they were incapable of parenting so we stayed over at her house as much as possible.My grandmother basically raised me from the time I was 12 years old. I moved in with her and took care of her after her first heart attack. Sadly, I was an adult from that day on. I cooked, cleaned and ran her house. We had a great relationship.

Then, my grandmother found out I was gay. She told me I was a sinner, an embarrassment, and told me I wasn’t her grandchild anymore unless I was “healed”. I moved out on my own for the first time. We didn’t speak for years.

After granny died, and later, my father, mom was on her own. For the first time in her life, she had control of the bills. It took less than two years until she had spent all of the money in the saving accounts my dad and granny had left. She then mortgaged her home in order to go shopping and go to the bingo halls. She recently moved in with me because she had no choice. She couldn’t manage her money and had gambled it away.

Mom has always been controlling, She gets mad if I go someplace or even leave the house without telling her where, when and why, even calling my friends to find out where I am. She argues with me over everything: the food and even the type of trash bags I buy. She says I owe her and refuses to chip in with the utilities. If she is driving in the car with my sister or me and she doesn’t like the music or the conversation, she will tell us she’s going to ram the car into a tree.

She is home all day alone while I go to work. When I get home, if she hasn’t already called me ten times, she has had the whole day to get worked up about something. She will unload on me as soon as I walk in the door.

She gets “nervous” about some story on the local news, or something she heard on the police scanner she listens to all day, or something horrible a friend told her about, and has to tell me it could happen to me so I must be careful.

Almost every night is a war and a screaming fit complete with her shaking her fists and slamming my door. The next day, she says “Good Morning,” like it never happened. Tonight she screamed at me, told me to go to hell and stay there and slammed my bedroom door. I cant stand it anymore, she refuses to go to a doctor. Tonight I told her if she didn’t get help, I would call an ambulance and force her to see a doctor. I have no support, no family to help. She badmouths me to her friends, and they always act like I’m such a jerk.

Despite how it sounds, I love my mother. I know there is help for her, but she will not go. She says therapy is stupid, and she just bites her nails when she gets upset.

Is anyone else going through something similar? Does anyone have advice for me?