Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm tremendously fortunate, and sometimes as a result of what I have been
privileged to have, I am quite unaware of the depth of what's been received.

I grew up a fairly typical, middle-class country boy in a suburb, in a small
town in Florida. But, my saving grace was that I was close enough to a large
metropolitan city, Tampa, and went to school and cultivated interests based
out of there.

Growing up gay was still difficult; there was a dearth of positive gay images
or information in the late 1970s, early 1980s, and it really wasn't talked
about at all in daily conversation. Yet, everyone knew the shame that was
to be attached to the dreaded "F" word whenever it was used to punctuate
contempt and end social standing.

But as time went on, I met people. I found out about the original "Tomes
& Treasures" LGBT bookstore in Tampa. I attended the GLC at USF
(that's all it was then--a Gay-Lesbian Coalition. Come to think of it, the
debate to make it 'Lesbian' inclusive may have taken place while I was
there!) A friend at school had a dad who had just come out as gay, and
books were lent. I had parents that were both oblivious and hands-off.
A pro-gay therapist was found by my loving grandmother.
I fooled around with a school friend, discovering heaven.
I had a boyfriend.

I had advantages that many never have.

Now that I have spent some 10 years living in a truly isolated, inclusive,
tiny southern town in Georgia, I have seen an entirely different side of life.
Folks here grow up with limited choices, limited access to information,
complete societal domination by the church, and a goodly distance to
drive to get to anything positive--bookstore, social group, church, bar, or
campus--that is open to them.

People here grow up completely terrified of someone finding out who
they are, or what they think. There is virtually no visibility here for
someone who is openly gay or content. Most who come to terms
move far away and never return.

Some decide that chastity is their cross to bear, and saddle up for an
uncompromisingly martyred life. Others contort their psyche into a
split, living one way for their friends and neighbors, and another on
business trips or, quite dangerously, on the down low in town.

The welcoming and nurturing cocoon of a real community....of options
and alternatives and, most importantly, the positive mirroring of what
it means to love yourself, are not available to these folks.

I can't imagine what it must feel like to have been raised and
shaped by such a world, and I'm thankful that I can't. But I do have
immense compassion and empathy for those who have.

I don't expect everyone to come out. Such blind idealism is great for
speeches, but not the real world. I wish I could craft a better environs
for all my brothers and provide for them what I had the
great fortune to have available to me. I wish this were a better world.

But I have to settle for hoping that folks like those here in rural
Donalsonville know now, thanks to the Internet and TV visibility and
more open people than ever before, some basic truths.
Like the fact that they are perfect as they are.
Or that their feelings are valid.
And they are not alone.
That it's never to late to learn to love and accept yourself, as you are.
That you have a right to live free and pursue your desires.
That life is worth living, wherever you are and however you find yourself.
That in order for others to know and love you, first you have to do it.

Don't accept anyone else's limits or condemnations; life is far too short.

I never knew how much greatness I had been exposed to until I met
folks who had lived in relative darkness and gone without. It's never
too late.

(This may all be dismissed as condescending clap-trap by my local peeps,
wondering "Who does this guy think he is?" and asserting that there's
nothing wrong with how they live. The slave is always taught to have deep
love for the master, and to avoid the very thing they most need and want.
Que sera, sera.)

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