I’m sorry that I haven’t updated my blog in such a long time. Things have been very good – and busy – which has been an excuse not to write. But I’ve had several things on my mind lately, and I think the overall theme ties back to the title of this blog, “So What?”
I live my life as an openly gay man. But it took a long time to get to that point, mostly because I grew up in church and often heard how sinful man – and by reasoning, I - was. Knowing what my inner struggles were, I equated myself with the most sinful of people. But after years of striving and a bit of self loathing, I finally accepted and embraced who I was all along. I felt freedom and peace for the first time. While my struggle helped make me who I am today, I have to admit admiring - and somewhat envying – young people who embrace their true selves and come out at a young age. What strength they must have! I wasted time that I can’t get back. But I accept that because it led me to where I am today.
I’ve not only been encouraged by these brave kids, but also by the “so what” attitude that so many of the kids in high school and college have, particularly when it comes to accepting their friends who are gay. So being an optimist, I believe that it will be even better, even easier, for the kids who come after them.
But I’ve been a bit disheartened by a few recent events. The first is the story of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi girl who asked for permission to attend the prom with her girlfriend. To avoid having to let her attend, the school cancelled the prom, which essentially vilified her with her classmates. So what did her classmates do? They coordinated and attended another prom, while sending Constance, her date and a few special education students to the “rejects” prom. I was so disappointed because these kids blew a perfect opportunity to send a powerful message of unity.
The other story is practically in my back yard. It’s the story of Derrick Martin, an 18 year old from Cochran, GA who asked if he could attend the prom with his boyfriend. The school made what I consider to be the right decision and said he could. His parents, however, found out he is gay and kicked him out of the house.
I’ve spent a bit of time, probably more than I should, wondering why these stories matter so much to me.
First, I can relate to the feeling of not fitting in. In junior high and high school, I was taunted for being gay long before I knew I was gay, often by kids who were nice to me privately.
Second, while I certainly understand the reality in any situation, I am also an eternally hopeful person, always hoping for the best in people. These examples show the worst.
Third, I think it ties back to my own struggle – and what I view as wasted years – in my own journey toward self realization and acceptance. I was never as brave as Constance and Derrick. And while I hurt for them, I also acknowledge the reality that progress often has a price.
Finally, I think it has to do with my desire to understand and relate to others; to see the value of diverse thoughts, backgrounds and cultures; and the certain knoweldge that my life has been, and will be, enriched by the relationships I build with others, particularly those who are different from me. I may not always live that, but it’s my goal.
In the last few years, I have come to realize that my decision to live as an openly gay man, and to name myself as an out gay musician, isn’t just about me. It’s also about the folks who live in small towns where there are no gay bars or social outlets, who have no gay friends, who live lonely lives, or even those who may have a partner but still pause when asked, “What did you do this weekend?” by a boss or co-worker. More simply, it’s also about people who just feel “different.” (Maybe that’s why I love Glee so much.) It is my hope that I can, in some small way, help pave the way, make it a bit easier, for those who follow behind me – just as the ones before me did.
If I ever have the opportunity to meet Constance or Derrick, I would simply want to hug them and thank them for their courage. They are certainly braver than I’ve ever been.
As frustrating as those individual stories may be, there are many shining examples of “so what” people out there. I am thankful for all of the “so what” people, particularly those in my life. My hope is that there will one day be more kindness than meanness, more openess than fear, more ”Blind Sides” (I loved that movie - and the true story behind it) than bigots, more straight friends than fag haters, more appreciation for difference, for diversity.
I commit to being the change I want to see. Join me!