Yep. Gay Pride Month.
It was difficult for me to get to a place of feeling self pride as a gay man. Still struggle with it. No, this is not a pity party. I think many of us have a difficult time standing and walking tall. Sometimes my accomplishments always paled when positioned next to my sexuality.
Here’s the deal. I certainly think pride is something personal. It makes you walk taller. Live bigger. Speak with more conviction. But I think it’s also about who you surround yourself with. Years ago (before I landed the amazing man I call my husband) I went through a break up that just took me out. I was not in a good place. I hit the therapy couch for a bit and at a session I told my therapist, “I need something tangible. Don’t just sit there and listen. Give me a tool to use to help me out.” He responded, “See your friends. This break-up caused you to forget who you are. They will remind you of who you are.” So simple. So profound. AND SO TRUE.
I look at some of my heterosexual friends. Carol, Gordon, Pezzie, Michele, Kathy, Sydnie, John, Joey, Abi, Bonnie, Girolmo, Denni, Lori, Shannon, Alki, Susie, Chip, Yvonne, Vincent, Cathy, Arthur, Lisa...my list is big. My chosen family. They are not just accepting of me. They welcome me with open arms. They comfort me. They torment me in the most enjoyable ways. They support me. They make me laugh. They cook for me. I cook for them. They hold me in a much higher regard than I ever hold myself. It’s just easy. It’s just life. It’s breathing. My sexuality is not an issue for them. It’s just me. The goofy kid who shared high school drama club experiences. The goofy adult who shared summer stock experiences. The goofy...wait...this is becoming a theme with me...yikes.
I don’t have to prove anything to them. I don’t have to try to be someone else with them. I can just breathe deep...exhale freely and be myself.
Many of the names I mentioned...we were all privy to the negative messages regarding “homosexuality.” The stereotypical images that were out there by the boatload. The messages I got about being “not accepted” and “not normal” they received too. And those messages are still out there. But they make the choice to open their hearts and minds. They open their lives to me and my husband. They’re not patting themselves on the back. “Oh, aren’t I open minded? Aren’t I accepting?”. No. It’s more than that. It’s something deeper. More profound. It’s in their bone marrow. So I’m patting them on the back.
In this world with so much hatred and so much vitriol being put out there there are people who walk around with open souls and open hearts.
I don’t need the heterosexual world to “tolerate” me. What’s there to tolerate? Tolerate eating my overcooked chicken (and I followed the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe gosh darn it). I deserve more than tolerance. I deserve to be celebrated.
I’ve been “shushed” by family members and sometimes the world at large when I’ve brought up something about my life as a gay man. My life that is so full, so blessed. When you are put in a corner (oh gosh, that “nobody puts Baby in a corner” line from DIRTY DANCING seems more profound than ever) you sometimes don’t realize your life is as rich and as blessed as it really is. My “woke” friends aren’t afraid of my shine. They want that for me as much as I want that for them. How much richer would all our lives be if we opened our minds, our ears, our hearts to different perspectives? So many miss so much because of a label.
Am I special? Yes. Am I generic? YES. I’m just one of many trying to figure it all out. How to be happy, kinder, more loving, pay the rent, achieve my goals and my dreams, find the best take out Chinese food, deal with another Green Bay Packers loss close to the finish line.
So while my pride is personal it’s also social. My gay pride extends to those people in my life who look past the negative labels...the negative images. They look at me and embrace me for all that I am.
So this month when we celebrate GAY PRIDE the pride I feel as a gay man includes those remarkable people, straight and gay, who simply make the world a better place by their welcoming, accepting spirit. They understand the world is made up of so many colors. And those colors will enrich their lives. The way they enrich mine. Happy Pride!!!!!