#NationalComingOutDay – My Story

coming-out-day-oct-11In the now-distant past, the notion of coming out as gay was so terrifying, I waited twenty-eight years, endured a nine year marriage, fathered a son, and tried everything (short of conversion therapy) to convince myself that my attraction to men was “just a phase.” But to my consternation, those feelings would not go away. I was miserable, living a life I knew was not authentic, not true to who I was as a human.

And so I did what had to be done. But even the process of coming out was done reluctantly, slowly, in jumps and starts. I came out to my wife (she sorta kinda already knew), and we divorced due to “irreconcilable differences.”  I came out to my family next, with the most common reaction being, “It’s about time!” Shortly after that, I met my partner, Larry, and we’ve been together ever since. That was twenty-six years ago.

It wasn’t as easy coming out in the 1980s as it is today. The acceptance of sexual orientation (both inwardly and publicly) has grown year by year. But there are still obstacles to overcome when coming out. Even with marriage equality being the law of the land, it is still legal in 31 states to be fired for being gay. And there is no Federal protection status for LGBTs. But the progress has been remarkable for us, for ALL of us.

So, on the 27th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, to those who are afraid, or reluctant, or are just waiting for the right time, I say to you, “Come on out, the weather’s fine!” And know this: you will always have a great big, world-wide family that welcomes you, cares about you, and loves you just the way you are.

Let Your Gay Kids Be Gay – They Were Born That Way

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I can say now that I knew I was gay when I was around six, although I didn’t know what I felt was called “homosexuality.” At that time (in the late sixties and early seventies) there were no gay role models, no support from peers or adults, no one to talk to about what I was feeling. I most assuredly could not talk to parents about it. Most of the information I could find about homosexuality was outdated and negative, and the name-calling from kids at school was devastating. I fought against my feelings and desires as hard as I could for over 20 years. I even got married to a woman at 19, and we had a son five years later. It was three years after that when I could no longer live in denial of who I was – and had been since birth – GAY! I was finally ready to accept what I had been hiding (and hiding from) for so long.
No child should have to suffer or hide – like I did – in their growing-up years. My advice to parents is this: Kids KNOW when they KNOW, regardless of age. Please be supportive and loving. Celebrate and encourage your child to discover the greatness that is within them. Your gay child needs you to be there for them. And you’ll all be better for it.

An Open Letter to the City Council of Holland, Michigan

On Friday, June 26, The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed what the majority of Americans support and believe: that the freedom to marry who you love is the right of every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a giant step forward in ensuring that we are all created equal and we all deserve the same rights.

However, the ruling does nothing to protect those in the LGBT community from getting fired from their jobs or being denied housing because of who they love or marry. When making a lifelong commitment with our partner, we can share the joy and happiness of our marriage with our friends and family, but at the same time we also face the possibility of losing our jobs or being evicted from the place we call home.

That’s just not right.

On June 15, 2011 the Holland City Council, in a 5-4 decision, voted not to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the city’s human relations and fair housing ordinances and the equal employment opportunity policy. This came even after a year-long Human Relations Commission study that recommended the change to the ordinance.

In the four years since that vote, many hearts and minds have changed. The overwhelming support and success of Holland Area Pride 2015 showed that Holland, Michigan is an open, welcoming, and diverse community. The time has come to take the next step and join the more than 30 municipalities in Michigan that already treat their LGBT residents as equals.
holland city hallNow is the time to show our city, our state, and the country that Holland, Michigan is open, caring, and welcoming to everyone in our community, no matter who they are or who they love.

Holland City Council, it’s time for a vote.

STAND – Until Love is Equal

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On June 15, 2011, the Holland, Michigan (USA) City Council voted to preserve the “right” to fire and evict LGBT residents based on their orientation. The next day, Until Love Is Equal was formed. It’s been three years, and we are still at it, changing hearts and minds. To mark the three-year anniversary of this vote, a video has been created: “Stand” – a song by Sly & The Family Stone – featuring the talents of nearly 20 artists and equality supporters in Michigan.

We will not give up, because we need to STAND for equality – in our town, and every town. Until Love Is Equal.
Get involved! Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Harvey Milk and a Lesser Known Hero

Today is Harvey Milk Day, when we commemorate the birth of the first true gay activist, Harvey Milk, born on this date in 1930. Harvey became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, where he served for only eleven months until his death by an assassin’s bullet on November 27, 1978.

Harvey Milk has since become an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. His campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, said of him, “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”

As great as Harvey Milk was, and as much as we owe to him in the continuing fight for LGBT equality, there is a lesser-known hero, to me. His name was Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. Most people have never heard the name. He doesn’t have a day named after him, or a foundation in his honor. But Jorge, too, died because of who he was. This is what I wrote on the day of his death, November 17, 2009, when he was beaten to death by thugs in Puerto Rico for being gay.

A few hours ago, I fell into a fitful sleep with a heavy heart; heavy with grief, outrage, disappointment and disillusionment. It is inconceivable to me that in this day and age of enlightenment, of tolerance, acceptance, peace, love and understanding, somebody can still be brutally murdered simply for being gay.Jorge lived in Puerto Rico and according to reports, “He was a very well known person in the gay community of Puerto Rico, and very loved.” Yet somebody took it upon themselves to decide that because Jorge was gay, he did not deserve to live. What kind of person could have the audacity to think like this ? A monster? No. A sociopath? Probably not. It was somebody taught by society and by his parents and by his friends to HATE. To hate those who are different, those who may pose a threat to their manhood, those who are brave enough to live their lives the way they were meant to live. Is it any wonder that gay teens commit suicide at a much higher rate than straight teens? They are scared shitless to live freely and openly in this world, in a world that still hates, that still kills those who dare to be born different.

Please, we need–no, we must– we must love each other. We have to accept, tolerate, and celebrate the differences in each other. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is now in the loving arms of God. His struggle is over. He is at peace. When will we be at PEACE?

I hope there comes a day soon when the heroes of the LGBT equality movement can all be celebrated in life, not just honored in death.

Hope will never be silent.– Harvey Milk

The Beach Boys Outed Me in 1968

I came out as gay publicly in 1990. Well, it’s not like I published a tell-all book, or gave an exclusive interview on TV. What happened was I had been married (to a woman) for nine years. We had a son who was a three-year-old at the time. And I could no longer live a lie. So I confessed to my wife, filed for divorce, and told my family (they already really knew).Then began the long journey of self-identification. A journey, I might add, that I will continue until the end of my long and illustrious life. Soon after, I met my partner, and we have been together for over 20 years. That’s the down and dirty of it.

But that is not what this is about. I came out when I was 28, but I was born gay. All of us homos are. The argument by heterosexuals is that gays choose to be gay. That’s very easy to say when you are born as a heterosexual! Ask a straight person when they decided to become that way, their reply is always, ” Well, never! I was born this way!” Thank you. Argument over.

I was thinking about when I realized, when I knew in my heart and soul, that I was gay. I was seven. It was 1968. I was a first-grader. I had never heard the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or for that matter, the word ‘heterosexual.’ In the coming years, I would hear plenty of words; words like sissy, faggot, homo, and queer. But in the first grade, I didn’t know squat. I had a brother who was sixteen and beginning to find his inner hippie; it was 1968 after all. Anyway, he was the only one of my brothers who had his own room. My other two brothers and I shared a bedroom for most of our childhoods. This brother had a record player, and he had a lot record albums. When he wasn’t around, I would go into his room and look at his records, and the record covers. There was one particular album that interested me. It was The Beach Boys cover showing a drawing of them on the beach, shirtless, with their arms around each other (there was a bikini-clad girl ion the cover too, but I never looked at her). Seeing this image for the first time stirred before-unknown feelings of admiration, desire, and longing. I wanted to be in that picture. I wanted to have my arms around those men. They looked so happy.They looked so masculine, and beautiful. I didn’t have a clue at the time what any of those feelings were, or what they meant. I only knew I felt something, and that feeling never went away.

It took me many years to recognize that my seven-year-old self was feeling an attraction to men. I hid it, kept it a secret, and said not a word about it to anybody. I knew having that feeling was wrong somehow, that boys were not supposed to have those feelings. But those feelings never went away. And they helped me to become the man I am today.