Posts tagged ‘Fear’

Just Be You.

I was watching House of Cards, casually scrolling through my Facebook feed, minding my own gay business, when I see this:

Vicky Beeching tweet

Great. There goes freaking Vicky Beeching, making my mind work. After my initial internal, “Aaaaaaamen, girl, YES! Mmmhmm! #preach 🙌 🙌🙌” moment, my mind immediately went to the last few days, specifically the story of my fiancĂ© and the airport.

He returned from a work trip yesterday and I had the distinct honor and privilege of picking him up from the airport. It was a lovely, studly birthday present!

As I waited for him inside the airport, I thought about what I would do when I saw him.

Would I hug him? Kiss him? Hold his hand? Just smile and start walking along with him? What reaction would any of these things get from people around us? Would someone call us “faggots”? Would someone say it was disgusting? Would people start giggling? Shaking their heads? Would someone get physical?

And if any of this negative stuff happened, what would my reaction be? Would I say what first came to my mind? Would I respond with kindness? Would I act at all?

In the days and minutes leading up to him returning home, I spent far too much time (meaning any amount of time) focused on this hypothetical stuff and not on how exciting it was going to be to see him. Now I know this was silly, but it’s reality. It happens.

I was talking with a new (but already wonderful) friend of mine the day before the fiancĂ©’s return home and we were laughing about how much we worry about things that may not even come to pass. We talked about how part of it is societal and part of it is personality, but we both agreed to what I already knew by that point, and really knew the whole time: I should, and will, greet the love of my life in whatever way I want and let the potentially bigoted chips fall where they may.

So, what happened?

I saw him walking toward me. I smiled and waited. When he got close, I took the photo I knew I had to take of my “birthday present,” and I couldn’t help but hug him and kiss him and put my arm around him.

And you know what?

The world didn’t end. The sky didn’t fall. No one said a single damn thing, at least to us.

So fast-forward to me seeing Vicky Beeching’s tweet this morning. I think it’s essentially the main lesson from yesterday’s airport adventure and it’s what I knew all along. I think, deep down, most of us understand her point, although it’s sometimes difficult to put into action.

And for anyone thinking, “Well, it’s your own fault for caring about what others think of you,” chances are you’ve either never been part of a hated, marginalized group and/or you’re just lying to yourself in thinking that you’ve never cared what anyone else thinks of you. Whether we should or not, most people, at one point or another, care about what others think. And the people who shout, “I don’t care what others think!” from the rooftops are usually folks who really care about what others think.

Beyond that, though, for many of us, it’s not actually so much about what others think of us as it’s about navigating our lives peacefully and happily. My primary concern wasn’t feeling bad or shamed by someone’s words. My primary concern was that some jerk would try to start a fight. My primary concern wasn’t our feelings — it was our safety.

So if you’ve never really had to do your best not to worry about potential hatred for simply existing and living and loving, be thankful. Because even for those of us who are able to just let those worries roll right off our backs, they’re still worries that we have that others simply don’t. To know this is true, one only needs to look around in public and see how straight white couples tend to interact with each other, then look at how LGBT couples tend to interact with each other, especially in a setting that may not definitely be a welcoming space. I fully understand I’m generalizing, but I’ve seen it enough to know there’s truth to it. And certainly everyone has worries, but not everyone has this worry this often.

I’m thankful for this reminder to focus on our peace of mind and to not let anyone else’s crap get us down. Because it’s just that: crap. And it’s their issue to deal with, not yours.

Happy Pride, by the way! Let’s go be proud of who we are and who we love! Always.

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About Last Night’s Town Hall

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A shot of the audience before the HRO “community conversation” began. Clearly, some of us are happier than others. Photo Credit: Natalie Cordova

Yesterday’s city “community conversation” about expanding the Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and how it relates to “supporting the needs and well-being of families” was certainly interesting.

The event began with a moderator who described creating a more inclusive HRO as a “difficult issue.” While I understand why the moderator might have felt obligated to say this to appear impartial, it’s honestly amazing to me that this is still a “difficult issue” for some in 2015. The people on the panel, who spent most of the time in conversation between themselves, included someone from the Liberty Counsel, a “hate group” as labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He suggested that external factors don’t cause suicides, used scare tactics and fear-mongering phrases about safety and child predators to make outdated and shortsighted points, people clapped when he talked about how private landlords can discriminate if they want to and he eventually got around to tossing in the “religious freedoms” buzz phrase. Oh and he also used his kid, who he said had cancer, to prove a point.

As I sat there and listened, some questions came to mind for those opposing this measure, including these:

What’s your number? 

Multiple people described instances in which they were discriminated in Jacksonville specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Additionally, when asked who in the room had experienced discrimination in Jacksonville based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, dozens of audience members raised their hands.

Yet each time, anti-equality panelists would talk about how it was just one case or how we didn’t know the facts or they’d find some other thing they thought was a technicality and essentially dismiss the discrimination claim. Those same people would then cite truly isolated incidents in other cities and states and essentially blame the area’s non-discrimination laws for allowing the incident to happen in an apparent effort to show that being a more inclusive city is “dangerous.”

So I ask: What’s your number? How many LGBT discrimination cases do you have to hear before you finally believe it’s happening? And how do you propose we report these when you’re advocating that we don’t create a mechanism for reporting such things? You say we don’t have evidence that this is needed, but you don’t want to create a way for us to report discrimination when it happens. How much discrimination does there need to be?

What about the other protected classes? 

Anti-equality panelists repeatedly talked about how a measure like this wasn’t needed because LGBT people are protected by other laws already in place. They talked about how we didn’t need anything “special” in our community to protect LGBT people. The ever-popular “religious freedoms” buzz phrase was even brought up.

So what about the protected classes in our existing Human Rights Ordinance: Race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age and disability? Certainly, all of these groups are protected by other laws, whether on a local, state or national level, yet our local HRO also includes them.

It is always fascinating to me how people talk about losing their religious freedoms and not providing “special” laws for the LGBT community when they are already part of the very same “special” law that protects them from discrimination. And don’t even get me started on whether or not I feel refusing to protect your fellow community members when they tell you that they are being discriminated against is the “Christian” thing to do. That’s for another blog post. But a hint: I don’t think it is.

While people were given the chance to speak, a relative few had the chance to do so and they had to be worded in the form of a question. I had prepared something just in case, but decided not to even try, given my somewhat late arrival and the structure. But I thought I’d share it here:

Mayor Curry and others. Thank you for this opportunity.

Billy Graham once said, “The family is the most important institution of the world. If the home goes, the nation is going to go.”  

Now more than ever, we need our families to be as strong and as supported as possible. And it starts locally. If we allow our families to be compromised by people forcing their own agenda and their own beliefs onto us, what happens next? How do we explain this to our children? We have to set an example.

How, you ask? We expand the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This will allow us to better protect individuals from discrimination in some critically important areas like jobs, housing and public accommodations. Protecting individuals protects families and helps make sure they have the best possible chance to succeed and give back to our community. And LGBT families are families.

Researchers at Columbia Law have found that out of the 77 scholarly articles that mention the wellbeing of children in same-sex families, 73 found these children do just as well as their peers.

In addition, the professional groups that support same-sex couples and families include:

  • The American Academies of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Family Physicians, Pediatrics
  • The American Medical Association, Psychiatric Association, Psychological Association, Psychoanalytic Association
  • The National Association of Social Workers
  • The American Bar Association
  • The Child Welfare League of America
  • The National Adoption Center
  • The North American Council on Adoptable Children
  • The Voice for Adoption

All of these organizations — filled with doctors, researchers, scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists — filled with people like you and me who have families — all say same-sex families are, indeed, families…and that there is absolutely no reason to think they are somehow inferior to families with opposite-sex parents.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight — we are all overwhelmingly similar and frankly underwhelmingly different.

If you’re still sitting there saying it’s “us” versus “them,” listen to the words of one of my favorite local clergy members — the Very Reverend Kate Moorehead from St. John’s Cathedral:

“We are a family of God. And we are bound together by our faith and our relationships with God and one another. Once you are baptized, your life belongs to something larger than just yourself. You are part of a living entity, a life larger than your own.  

Jesus asks us to love God first and love our neighbor as ourselves, because everything that we do, we do in relationship. Jesus’ Great Commandment is all about relationships. We are bound to one another and to God.” 

My name is Kyle Sieg. I was raised by a dad and a mom and a wonderful family right here in town. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church just down the street. I believe in family values. I believe in relationships. I believe in monogamy and making marriage last. I am loved. And…I’m gay. I certainly don’t deserve to be treated any differently because of it. I do, however, deserve to be treated equally. And an expanded non-discrimination ordinance in town is certainly a step in the right direction.

Thank you.

About My Mom’s “Memorial Service”…

Yesterday, as I was writing about my experience at my mom’s “memorial service,” I definitely had a lot to say. I wrote a lot of wonderfully worded stuff about the man who claimed to follow Jesus’ teachings and spoke yesterday. My writing was intense. Angry. Negative. And boy, did it feel good. I thought I should sleep on it. And then, as I prepared to sleep, feeling so exhausted, it hit me…

I’m incredibly fortunate.

You see, the lousy excuse for a Christ follower who claimed to be a “preacher” uses his pulpit just as I use this blog. He’s trying to get his message across. And yes, it is HIS message. Jesus would not have said many of those things that man said yesterday. And – for a Monday afternoon – he had an audience of mostly people who he’d never seen before. He used that time to spew hate. Anger. Fear. Condemnation for anyone who disagreed, even a little bit. Intolerance. Politics. A lack of compassion. Think about the story of Jesus and tell me — who does that sound like more? The man ON the cross or the people who put him there?

So I’m fortunate because I know when to say enough is enough. I know when to ignore the socially acceptable move and go with the morally required one. I know when to stand up. I’m fortunate because I know one bad apple doesn’t mean they all should be blindly tossed out. I’m fortunate because I have amazing friends who support me in doing what is right, which is not always what is easy or what you want to do. I’m fortunate because more people will read this in a day than people who will hear that preacher in a month. I’m fortunate because I can get angry and transition that anger to something productive — not just name calling. Not just hate. Or intolerance. Or negativity. Something that matters. Something that I — and hopefully others — can benefit from.

I’m fortunate because I only had to endure an angry man’s rant for a few minutes before I got up and walked out. I’m fortunate because I knew that’s exactly what it was — an angry man’s rant — not something from God or for God. It was for religion. It was for pride. It was for prejudice. It was because he could, not because he should. Others have to sit there and hear it over and over again. What’s worse — even more people probably CHOOSE to sit there and listen to that garbage. Why do you think so many people are angry in this world? Is it ACTUALLY the world we live in or is it people like him telling them they should be angry. Telling them all is wrong with the world while the world changes around them, for the better.

I’m fortunate because I get to let this experience shape me in whatever way it will and I get to move on. I never have to go back. I never have to see that person or that place again and I surely never have to give him or any of them any ounce of respect. Respect is earned. Leadership is earned. Honor is earned. That man, that church, that congregation has none of it. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If those people are the kinds of people that God wants in heaven, it doesn’t sound like any place I’ve heard about or would like to visit.

I’m fortunate because I know plenty of people who call themselves Christians who would have been ashamed of that man in that “church” yesterday. Unfortunately for him and the man he claims to represent, others may not.

Hazing & Bullying.

After learning that a FAMU student’s sexual orientation may have played a part in his beating death during what’s been described as hazing, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

First of all, I get that there are people out there who don’t like that a person is gay or straight or is fat or is too skinny or is a Christian or isn’t a Christian. I understand this because I can see the world around me. But I also understand that I live in America, where it shouldn’t matter if a person is gay or straight or fat or too skinny or is a Christian or isn’t a Christian.

And what frustrates me most isn’t that gay people – or any other group of people – get beat up for things not even within their power to change. I’m most annoyed at the people who stand up and say something like, “Well this has been going on for decades. We’ve all had to deal with it and we survived, so they should toughen up.” A bullying or hazing incident is just that – an incident. But that type of rhetoric is what’s truly dangerous because it essentially gives people permission on the basis of tradition.

To those who do think bullying or hazing is a tradition, maybe you’re right. But traditions aren’t always right and you can end the ones that aren’t. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bullying and hazing are rooted in fear. A lot of us are scared of a lot of different things, but we don’t resort to violence to make ourselves feel better.

Since when did disagreeing with someone or not liking something about them mean we have the right to even lay a finger on them, much less beat them so badly they die? I’ll give you a hint: Never.

You know, I really want to be able to get married one day, in any state that I choose. I really do. And I think, in time, it will happen. But I wish that, instead of focusing on something like why marriage equality is wrong or right this election season, we could all just arrive at the same conclusion regarding bullying: It is wrong in any form or for any reason. Traditions should always be reassessed. So should our beliefs. Just as a car needs maintenance, so do our minds.

Again I find myself reaching the same conclusion I’ve reached so many times before: If we would all just think, independently, many of us would realize that, while there are issues we can all reasonably debate, there are also issues that are simply right or wrong.

I’m Thankful For Being Gay

I’ve decided to list something I’m thankful for each day in November. I figured that – for a few of these – I’d need to explain using more than 140 characters. That brings me to today – Day 3:

I’m thankful for being gay. It has made me a stronger man, more capable of handling life’s challenges…and ignorant people.

I read an article earlier today – just before the first time I wrote this blog entry (it got erased) – about a survey that asked gay people what they think their life would look like without homophobia in the world. Most of the answers were obvious, but one was not. It’s something I think I’ve mentioned before: I would be weaker, because handling homophobic people has strengthened me and shaped who I am today.

Growing up, people try to tell us what’s “normal.” It’s not usually until adulthood that we realize what sort of people most frequently use the word “normal.” Scared people. People who need to label everything in an effort to feel safer. People who need an excuse to maintain their unwillingness to explore the unknown.

Some people would probably still say they hope for some sort of “straight pill” that would “fix” gay people. But we aren’t the ones who are broken. In fact, if you talk to a gay man who is finally comfortable with who he is, you’ll likely hear happiness in his voice. But try to talk to a homophobic person and you’ll hear fear and hatred. That’s what amazes me. If we just put our “thinking caps” on for a half-second, we’d see the truth: Homophobic people turn their fear into hatred because of pride and ignorance. People should have the courage to stand up for what’s right and the courage to sit down when they realize they’re wrong.

So no – I don’t want to be straight. I’m thankful for being gay. But simply being gay isn’t what has made me stronger. It’s being gay in this society. And while I’m not thankful for homophobia, I realize that the same group of small-minded and scared people who hate gays right now will just move on to another group they don’t understand in 30 years. And I’m thankful that the people like me, at the forefront of their attacks, can turn that fear and negativity into something productive. And maybe one day, I can help pass out the “acceptance” pills…

On Life And Death

Dancing At My Friend's Wedding

I’ve just returned from Jacksonville. I was there for a beautiful wedding of two beautiful friends. They seem so perfect for each other.

At the wedding, I couldn’t help but think about my future wedding and what it’ll look like. I couldn’t help but think of the one I love. I couldn’t help but think of how awesome it’ll be to be surrounded by family and friends who came just for me or just for him…or for both of us. I couldn’t help but think about how great it’d be to one day make a naturally personal thing so public. As I watched my two friends do all of this stuff among their friends and family, it just made me so happy for them. And it made me so happy at where I’m at in my love life. Watching two lives merge into this joint life was just…great.

In a few days, I may very well be sitting in another place with another group of family and friends celebrating the life of another friend. Only this time, we’ll be celebrating his life because he’s dead. This friend was in his 20s. He was someone I worked closely with for three years and still regularly talked to. I helped him come out. I ran with him. I screamed at him and laughed with him and everything in between. He was a hell of a cook. When he laughed, he sounded like a woman who had just seen the funniest thing in her life. At work, we’d roll our eyes. Now, I can’t help but realize how memorable it was. How nice he was.

I’m not the guy who thinks that we should gloss over our feelings about people in death. I think we should be honest about who they were and what they did. Sure, we naturally think of the positive things, but I think a person is more than just the positive stuff. I know in my life, the negative things I’ve done or my not-so-wonderful actions/emotions have also shaped my life. And they’ve made all the positive stuff even better.

When I die, I don’t want it to be an opportunity for some pastor to try and bring more people to his religion. I don’t want it to be entirely sad. I want it to truly be a memorial. That means lots of music and lots of laughter. I want people to know that I was sometimes an ass and didn’t mean to be – or did. I want people to know that I tried to help others when I could, but wasn’t infallible and knew that. I want people to know that I loved and loved fully when people deserved it. I want people to know that I was gay. I want people to know that I talked a lot and was frequently obnoxious. I want my work friends to talk about my singing showtunes as I produced the news. I want everyone to know how much I loved them and how much I loved the love of my life.

When I get married, I want my wedding to be beautiful, filled with love from all sides, romantic, special…awesome. I want there to be tons of singing and laughter and food. I want dancing. And while I haven’t figured out the whole garter thing quite yet, I know Daniel and I will come up with something!

What’s funny to me after spending the last few days simultaneously thinking about a wedding and a funeral is how many similarities I think they should have. The biggest difference I can think of so far is that I obviously don’t want my funeral to be for another century or longer, but my wedding better happen MUCH sooner than that! Oh, and I guess I won’t technically be at one of them (or will I?!). But they are both celebrations, just for different reasons.

I’m begging you to tell those you love that you love them. Not in five minutes. Now. You never know what could happen and while that fear of the unknown shouldn’t dominate your life, it should encourage you to live each moment as if it is your last and make sure everyone knows how you feel about them. Now is the time. Regret sucks, even when you can try to make things better. I can’t imagine what it’s like when you can’t.

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