Posts tagged ‘Relationships’

Of Little Faith

“You of little faith.” 

This phrase is so common for us today, one doesn’t need to have been raised in a church to have heard it. Others might know it as, “O ye of little faith,” especially if you were raised in a King James Version-based congregation like I was.

In our society, we use this phrase so often, it likely rarely makes sense when we use it. Maybe you’re perpetually running late and someone doesn’t believe you when you tell them you’ll be on time.

“O ye of little faith.” 

Maybe you tell your coworkers you’re going to finish a project wth a seemingly impossible deadline on time and they don’t believe you.

“O ye of little faith.” 

Maybe you tell your kids you’ll play with them outside, right after you finish washing the dishes, but the kids aren’t buying it.

“O ye of little faith.” 

But think about why Jesus tells Peter that he has little faith. Think about how crazy it all is. This story — probably one of the most told stories in the Bible — really picks up when Jesus is walking on the water out to the boat. The disciples think it’s a ghost! And then — as if that’s not weird enough — Peter decides to put Jesus to the test and Jesus takes him up on the offer.

“Come,” Jesus says. So then Peter hops out of the boat and starts walking on the water, too. But what happens? The moment something changes, Peter realizes what’s happening, gets scared and starts to sink.

I have to admit that, today, in a way, I find myself having little faith, too, perhaps in that sinking moment.

Berke M. M. Bates — a state trooper in Virginia — would have turned 41 today. Bates was up in a helicopter yesterday with another state trooper — Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen — monitoring events between protesters and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The helicopter crashed and Trooper Bates and Trooper Cullen died. We still don’t know why the crash even happened.

On the ground at those protests yesterday — between white supremacists and counter-protesters — 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Junior drove his car into a crowd of people who were protesting white supremacy. Nineteen others were hurt in the crash, including five people who were still in critical condition this morning.

Reports say one man gave Heather CPR while another held an oxygen mask to her face until they could get her out of there. But she didn’t make it.

In another incident yesterday, multiple white men started beating 20-year-old Deandre Harris, a black man, with poles in a parking garage. He has eight staples in his head, a broken wrist and a chipped tooth. Throughout the day, others recounted similar attacks on social media.

So today is a day of little faith for me.

Little faith in my fellow Americans.

Little faith in the justice system.

Little faith in many of those in the Church.

Little faith that our government will do anything meaningful to help stop emboldening hate-filled, fear-filled people.

Today, I see yet again how violent the waters are, and I have little faith.

In humanity.

But since when does our faith rest with humanity? Sure, we may seek to have faith in each other, in our government, in our world — but our faith does not rest there. Our faith does not begin there. Our faith begins with the man who called Peter out onto the water. Our faith begins with a man who can perform miracles and can enable us to perform them, too. Our faith begins and rests with Jesus.

And I admit, even knowing that, days like today can be hard. Days like today, you may not want to be called out onto the water. You might just want to sit at home and think. And be angry. And heartbroken. At very least, it’s tempting. And maybe today’s not the day, but maybe tomorrow is.

And, when you feel the time is right, there are things we can learn from Jesus and Peter in today’s gospel.

First, we must realize that faith isn’t just about belief. It’s about doing. People like to say they are, “stepping out in faith.” But really, stepping out is faith. Even when we aren’t sure if our actions will help anything, we can still act faithfully — we can still faith. And really — isn’t it even more faithful when we aren’t completely certain of exactly how our actions will help, but we do them anyway, knowing they’re guided by the Holy Spirit?

This is where I should mention a reality that may be a bit difficult for some to hear: Many of those white supremacists yesterday call themselves Christians, too. They think that what they’re doing, what they’re advocating for, is a Christian ideal. They may even think that they are being led, by faith, to do God’s work in the world. To us, that may sound crazy, but to them, it might feel real.

So how, then, do we know when we are acting in faith? How do we know when our actions really are guided by God? A good place to start is to ask yourself this question: Is what I’m being called to do something that will create or cultivate love and inclusion in the world and among God’s people? 

It is critically important, especially now, that we, like Peter, don’t just say we have faith, but that we back that faith up with action. Because if there’s another thing this story teaches us, it’s that with Jesus and through Jesus and in Jesus’ name, we can work miracles. But the minute we begin to overthink and shrink bad inside of ourselves — the moment, perhaps, that we become too rational — that’s the moment we begin to sink. Miracles, after all, are inherently mysterious.

Like Peter, we will fail. But, with God’s help, we can get back up. And like Peter, we don’t have to rush out to try and conquer the world or solve problems on our own. Faith begins with a single step out into the unknown. A step out of our comfort zones. That’s where freedom is. That’s where miracles are. That’s where love is. Because that’s where Jesus is.

The world needs compassion. The world needs hope. And those who are marginalized need us to stand up in faith and call out hate and discrimination and fear when we see it. They need us to act. Not just when it’s convenient for us, but especially when it’s not. After all, isn’t that at least part of what love is? Isn’t part of how we show love by showing it when it’s needed the most, which isn’t always when it’s the most convenient?

I don’t know about you, but some of the most powerful, love-filled moments in my life have been totally unexpected and totally inconvenient for the person doing the loving, whether it’s me loving someone else or someone else loving me. As usual, that’s where the Holy Spirit tends to lead us. Into the darkness. Into the hopelessness. Into the valleys. Because that’s where faith and hope and love and the message of a savior who offers all of that — and more — is needed the most.

So let us always go forth in love and peace, ready to do the work God would have us to do, even and especially if feels tough or inconvenient for us. Especially if it means stepping out in faith into uncertain waters. Because that’s where miracles happen.

Advertisements

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 fiancé 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 fiancé’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.

These Statistics Scare Me

unnamed

A friend of mine recently told me about the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System‘s national school-based survey. It measures lots of things, but I was particularly interested in national and local statistics related to lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students. (They explain here why data on transgender students is unavailable.) As with anything, I encourage you to look at these numbers for yourself. If you see any errors in what I’ve listed, please let me know! There is a lot of info, so it’s worth checking out yourself, but here are some things I found most interesting:

– 23.3% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse (nearly 1 in 4), compared to 9.7% of straight HS students.

– 26.1% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported experiencing physical dating violence, compared to 9.1% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included (which include many major U.S. cities).

– 24.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported experiencing sexual dating violence, compared to 11.7% of straight HS students.

– 20.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, compared to 7.4% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 37.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being bullied on school property, compared to 16.7% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included. In fact, the next closest is Broward County at 30.8%.)

– 28.7% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being electronically bullied, compared to 12.1% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 20.3% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported that they did not want to go to school because they felt unsafe there or on their way to or from school, compared to 10% of straight HS students. Duval is tied with Orange County, FL (the Orlando area) for the third highest in all of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 53% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported feeling sad or hopeless, compared to 27.6% of straight HS students.

– 41% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide. 37.5% say they actually made a plan on how they’d do it. 32.5% actually attempted suicide. This is compared to 15.4%, 15.4% and 15.2% of straight HS students, respectively.

Nationally, LGB students have much higher percentages than straight HS students in every category I’ve listed. Nationally, 60.4% of LGB students report feeling sad or hopeless, compared to 26.4% of straight HS students. Nationally, 29.4% of LGB HS students report trying to commit suicide, compared to 6.4% of straight HS students. Naturally, even more of them make a plan to do it or at least think about it. in fact, more than 40% (42.8%) of LGB students across this nation seriously consider suicide. For straight HS students, it’s 14.8%.

I found these numbers particularly meaningful as our city debates providing equal protections to the LGBT community, especially because opponents repeatedly say that there is no proven discrimination against LGBT people in Jacksonville. They repeatedly say that Jacksonville is a welcoming place for all and it’s so loving and wonderful for everyone. Well, these statistics alone, while only about high school students, suggest otherwise.

Perhaps there’s an argument out there that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are just being more honest and reporting their issues more often. But if they’re the ones being bullied, attacked, and trying to kill themselves the most, I struggle to think they’d be more comfortable with being honest in answering these questions than their straight classmates.

These are terrible statistics for all involved, but especially for lesbian, gay and bisexual kids. Certainly, we don’t want to see any young people being bullied, attacked, trying to commit suicide, etc. And there’s no one way to magically stop all of the negative things in the world from happening. But as widespread acceptance and community support grows, LGBT people gradually become safer and are treated more kindly. There are multiple ways to do this, but an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance that provides equal protection is a great step in the right direction.

One thing is for sure: We need to treat all children with more love and support and understanding and equality — not less. For some, it’s a matter of life and death.

The Art of Conversation

I think a lot about communication. It comes naturally to me. But communication is important to all of us. Our lives revolve around how we communicate, with ourselves and others. Most recently, however, I’ve been focused on what I’ll call compassionate communication: how to effectively communicate in a way that shows compassion for all involved.

I have lots of opinions. We all do. We all have our own life experiences which shape these opinions. And, as if that’s not messy enough, we’re all imperfect. So how do we effectively communicate with each other — not at each other or around each other or past each other, but with each other?

We have to be quiet and listen.

We can’t communicate effectively or compassionately if we don’t make an effort to understand each other, which happens by listening. This is why social media communication sometimes fails so miserably. We are complicated people discussing complicated issues that tend to be far more nuanced than we sometimes like to admit. Many times, we need to be able to actually hear each other. Even better, we need to see each other. We need to remember that the person on the other side of the conversation is a human just like us. In many cases, the people we are communicating with are our friends and family. If we have any chance of communicating effectively, especially via social media, we must be willing to be quiet and listen to each other.

We have to start from a place of mutual respect.

Can I just admit this is extraordinarily difficult to do sometimes? And if you’re honest with yourself, I bet you’d agree. I live in a world in which my very equality is regularly questioned in my own community. In fact, I don’t even have the same rights as others in my community and there are still people, most of them who say they’re Christians just like me, actively trying to deny me this equality. It is incredibly difficult to think of these people as anything other than mean, fearful, ignorant people. It’s messy. And even when I do remember that these people are also beloved Children of God (regardless of their faith or lack of it), and that we should strive to love everyone, it’s not something I can permanently sustain. It’s something I must regularly work to do. But if I’m asking them to respect me, I must be willing to offer them the same respect, which leads me to my next point.

We must be willing to treat others as we would like to be treated.

I know — what a cliche. But this one is true. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. It helps stop us from being hypocritical. And let’s be honest: we all love to call someone out for hypocrisy, don’t we? And we’re all hypocrites at times, aren’t we? But beyond it being the right thing to do, you’re never going to get your point across to someone who disagrees with you or doesn’t understand you if you don’t even treat them the way you expect them to treat you.

We must be prepared to show grace.

As a gay man, especially one who now (again) identifies as a Christian — a word that understandably tends to carry a boatload of assumptions, I would get absolutely nowhere with many people if I just shut down a conversation every time someone asked me something that was inappropriate or offensive.

I am not saying that one should endure a continued barrage of angry, fear-filled hate speech and continue to be around the person spewing it. I’m also not saying the marginalized bear the full burden of explaining ourselves to others. What I am saying is that when we’re engaging in thoughtful conversations with folks, we should try our best to extend grace to one another.

I’ve been asked so many uncomfortable, insensitive questions about my sexual orientation. If you’re in a minority group or a group that’s very often misunderstood, chances are you know what I’m talking about. 

Perhaps you’ve even asked someone these sorts of questions. If I’m honest, in my effort to learn more about others and learn how I can advocate on their behalf, I think I have. And anytime anyone has ever patiently pointed it out to me, I’ve been so thankful to them for doing so, so that I can learn from the experience. One’s motives behind the questions make a difference, at least to me. If you’re asking to truly better understand me and people like me, I’m much more likely to patiently answer your questions. Regardless, we need to have more grace in our conversations.

We have to hold each other accountable.

Once we establish that we are willing to listen, respect one another, treat each other as we’d like to be treated, and prepare ourselves to extend grace to one another — once we do all that, we are better equipped to effectively hold each other accountable.

I can’t say this enough: humans are not perfect. Often, we slip up. When we do, we need help from friends who will hold us accountable. But more than that, we also need to call out things like racism, bigotry, and homophobia when we see them. We can do this while still listening, showing respect, following the Golden Rule, and showing grace. It’s a challenge — trust me, I struggle with it regularly — but it’s optimal.

So why don’t we do all of this? Why is it so difficult? Well, that’s a loaded question with many reasons. But let me explain why I think it’s sometimes difficult for me.

I want to avoid unnecessary stress and controversy.

I can handle stress. Successfully handling stressful situations has always been part of my job, regardless of the industry. I have even frequently enjoyed these moments. But a key to effectively handling stress, for me at least, is minimizing unnecessary stress as much as possible. Sometimes, stress is good and needed. But sometimes, it’s definitely not. It’s all about balance.

So when I’m faced with a decision about whether or not to engage in communication with someone on some issue, I factor in how much stress it may cause and if it’s worth it. That’s a reasonable thing to do, but more often I’m realizing that it’s important to have important conversations, regardless of the stress it may cause.

I want to avoid tension and being in uncomfortable situations.

This is especially true for me in person. But tension can be good. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued for the benefits and importance of tension in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail:”

“I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

Did you catch that? Tension isn’t only important, it’s necessary for growth. Dang.

We find similar themes in Christianity, with tension and complexity in the Bible itself and in issues people struggle with. As Christopher L. Webber puts it:

“Uniformity of opinion and vision might be more comfortable to some, but unity is made up of diversity. It is precisely in this clash of opinions and the debating of different visions that the mission of the church is clarified. A church without controversy would be a dead church.”

Dang.

In order to have effective conversations, we must be willing to embrace tension and get out of our comfort zones. Honestly, you and I probably both know some of our most meaningful learning experiences have been in trying, tense, and uncomfortable times, yet we sometimes still fear them. But the more we do it, the easier and more comfortable it becomes.

I fear imperfection.

Yep. The guy who talks about how imperfect we all are is the same guy who has this nagging need to try to be perfect, even though he realizes this is unrealistic. Welcome to my mind.

The reason this sometimes holds me back from conversations is that I worry what I’ll say will hurt more than help. I worry that I won’t have the right words or will have the wrong tone. Also, the idea of people thinking I speak on behalf of an entire group, regardless of the group, adds enormous pressure. And while maybe I tend to thrive under pressure, my mind doesn’t seem to care. But hey — realizing this is the first step to moving past it, right?

I like to be liked.

There. I said it. If you know me, you’re probably all like, “Um, duh. That’s obvious.” But here’s the thing: when I think about why I like to be liked, my mind almost immediately goes back to the things I listed above — I want to avoid unnecessary stress and controversy and I want to avoid tense, uncomfortable situations.

But I also want to be approachable, especially for friends and family. I want to be a resource — someone who they know will listen to them. While I’m certainly unafraid to take positions and have opinions, I do often try to find common ground. And that’s not a bad thing as long as I’m not denying myself, denying others, and avoiding what’s right in an unrealistic effort to make all people feel comfortable. And I know I do that, especially in person.

For example, if I’m around family or even in public with my boyfriend, I’m less likely to show him any form of overt affection. I’ll tell myself that I’m not a huge fan of PDA and wouldn’t be if I were straight either. But is that true? How do I know that’s true when I’ve been conditioned for literally my entire life to think that being gay and showing any form of romantic affection to someone of the same sex is wrong? Two things drive this thought process: fear and wanting to make others comfortable.

This is also something I’m working on — not just the PDA thing — all of it. While certain times may call for neutrality, in many cases it’s better in the long run to stand firm in who and how you are, letting the chips fall where they may. But I think you must also keep the Golden Rule in mind, as well as the idea that we should strive to show love and kindness to one another. 

So what’s the answer here? How do we communicate effectively while staying true to who we are and not condoning dangerous, damaging rhetoric? How do we have conversations with people who are not playing by the same “rules,” so-to-speak? Why should we have to play by those rules if they aren’t? Should we even try?

As usual, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle — in a gray area. And I think it depends on the situation. Like most things in life, it’s complex. And if I had one perfect answer, I think I’d be a much more popular person, probably with a few extra bucks in my bank account, too.

Most of life’s big questions don’t have definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. It’s messier than that. But there can be beauty in  difficult answers. To reference Christopher L. Webber again, a “middle way” can “achieve a comprehensiveness or breadth of approach that could draw wisdom from every side and include the insights of others.”

While Webber is talking about Christianity, particularly Episcopalianism here, I think it holds true in general, as well. For so many issues, the best answer lies somewhere in the middle — in a gray area. Why? Well, people are diverse and complex. Many issues are, too.

Certainly, there are issues that are either just right or wrong, and we must not be silent when we hear things like hate speech. That’s when holding each other accountable comes in. But how do we know what’s right and wrong?

Jesus tells us we can judge a tree by the fruit it bears — a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. If one’s actions and rhetoric are bearing bad fruit — leading to negative outcomes — it is not good. If one’s actions and rhetoric are bearing good fruit — leading to positive outcomes — it is good. Using this method, we can better understand when it’s time to speak up. And when we do so, we must be prepared to be bold while also being mindful of the things that make a conversation most productive.

If we want to affect any change, if we want to learn and grow, if we want others to learn and grow, and if we want to fully live life, we must be willing to engage in difficult, messy, conversations. And we must be willing to do so with compassion, understanding, respect and grace. It’s easier said than done, but it’s worth a shot.

It’s All About Equality

When I left First Coast Connect this morning, I left a bit angry at myself. As you may or may not know, I take part in a media roundtable some Fridays — it’s a collection of the week’s news, usually local and statewide stuff. This week, however, there was a ton of national news with implications everywhere, so we talked about those stories, too, including the striking down of a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. All week long, I had been thinking about what I would say if we covered this story on the roundtable. As a journalist, it’s drilled into us not to “take sides,” especially on issues seen as divisive. Also, it depends on if I get asked to comment on a particular part of the conversation — I can’t just say whatever I want if it doesn’t make sense. I won’t. But the final comment regarding marriage equality struck a chord. Below is a transcription, or if you’d rather listen, I’ve uploaded the full comment to SoundCloud.

“You know, personal opinions aside, the bottom line should be economics here. In a world where we have such a high divorce rate, if you can manage to stay partnered with someone for a long time and show a commitment, then you should have the same rights, economically speaking. Then, a stable marriage — a stable partnership — means insurance is getting paid, which means paychecks are getting paid. Everybody is happier on that and I think that’s going to be — maybe not brought to the forefront — but I think should be discussed. Stability in a family life is very important in the 21st century right now. We don’t have it. We’ve been discussing instability in family lives for the past half-hour, so let’s make things a little easier and maybe one less thing to worry about when it comes to just being a family — a couple.” 

Let me begin by saying that I applaud the commenter for a lot of this and I encourage you to listen to all of this segment on WJCT’s website. I agree that stability in a family is important. I agree that we need more of it. And I truly believe the commenter didn’t have negative intent or thought behind this at all. He’s knowledgable, friendly and a great guy to chat with. We get along and I enjoy and am happy to be on the panel when he is. I also think the beauty of the show is that it provides different perspectives and allows us — and, in turn, the community — to have a real conversation. In fact, I love the show for this reason. But I absolutely disagree with the notion that “the bottom line should be economics.” Unfortunately, the on-air conversation had to end there. But that doesn’t mean the entire conversation is anywhere near over.

There are surely economic considerations to be made and discussed with this. In fact, we talked about it this morning on my show. And economics could be something that sways people to the right side of history. That said, I don’t believe anyone who supports marriage equality would call it anywhere close to “the bottom line.” Here’s the bottom line: An entire group of people — a minority — faces discrimination daily. A law was actively discriminating against them. The Supreme Court fixed it — or at least took a huge step toward doing so. There’s obviously more work to be done. And while economical considerations might sway some people, they shouldn’t have to. I think the need to have equality in this country should be enough. I think the need to make progress should be enough. I think the happiness of millions of families should be enough.

Regarding what I’m “allowed” to say publicly about this issue, I’m tired of pretending that there’s one side and another side and both are equally valid arguments. We do this too much in journalism. No. Sometimes, there is just a right and there’s just a wrong. And if the other side of this argument can feel that they’re entirely right, then I’m entitled to do so, as well. History will determine the victor. I’m confident equality will win. That said, I realize others haven’t made up their minds. Professionally, I’ll always offer other perspectives. Personally, I’m convinced that doing so — even impartially — will show which perspective is the winning one. I don’t need to hide anything. I just need to be honest about everything. It’s not like I have to be “fair” and acknowledge the KKK’s perspective as a legitimate one. Why do I have to do anything similar with marriage equality or other gay rights?

In the hours since the show, I’ve thought a lot about why I had such a strong reaction to the comments, knowing the commenter didn’t mean to be hurtful or at all negative. I’ve thought about why I could feel my body temperature rising. I’ve thought about why my mind was moving at a frenetic pace, almost to the point of physical manifestation. Here’s why: I felt like my life, my love, my equality just got turned into a spreadsheet.

How would you have felt as a woman fighting for the right to do a job typically reserved for a man if you were told the “bottom line” as to why women should be able to get those sorts of jobs is because it increases productivity? As a black man, fighting for equality, how would you like to have been told that African-Americans should be considered equal mostly because it’s a real good economic stimulator?

The focus of marriage equality isn’t economics. It’s equality itself. It’s love. It’s happiness. And anyone who needs any other reason to accept it isn’t accepting it for the right reasons.

Supreme Decisions

Obviously I’m content with what the Supreme Court did today. Obviously there’s more to be done. What’s more intriguing to me at the moment, however, are the reactions from some friends and colleagues — even the ones who support marriage equality.

I had to pull myself away from live updates on the Supreme Court’s actions, while others could barely pay attention. I couldn’t stop thinking about the Supreme Court’s opinion, while others just treated it as just another thing.

I understand that people care more about things that directly affect them. But this was more than gay marriage. This was the nation’s highest court ruling on a huge civil rights issue — akin to other issues of times past. It was history. Right before our eyes. I’ve seen people get more excited — yes, excited — over a deadly car crash or a shooting .

To those who say it’s obvious that this would matter more to me than you and who think gay America is focusing too much and talking too much about this issue today, I ask you to reverse our roles. What would you have been doing today at 10:00 a.m. Eastern if you were currently banned from getting the same benefits as other legally married couples just because you happen to like the same sex? What would you have been doing if you got put in a legal holding pattern with your marriage? What would you have been doing if your significant other died and you weren’t recognized as anything more than a friend? You would have been just as dedicated to hearing what the Supreme Court had to say, telling others and celebrating. You would’ve gotten the chills. And I think — had the roles been reversed — I  would’ve still been right there, doing the same thing I was doing today: Hearing the news, spreading it and celebrating. For you. For everyone.

We are far too focused on ourselves in this country. We’re always focused on what affects us — not on what affects the group. This is a huge failure on our part, I think. We could all stand to be more understanding of other perspectives and care more about issues that affect more people — not just the ones that directly affect us.

Today’s decision wasn’t a ‘win’ for gay America, whatever that is. Today’s decision was a win for America. A win for equality for everyone. And everyone should be elated.

My Mom Died.

My Friday started like other Fridays: Waking up in the middle of the night, lots of coffee, lots of writing, breaking news and breakfast. But that’s where any normalcy ended.

I got a call from my dad. My mom was in the hospital. It didn’t seem good. The doctors needed someone with the power to make medical decisions for her. And that was me. Logically, I knew that decisions like that would fall to me. But even aside from the fact that my mother and I weren’t as close as one might expect, what 25-year-old thinks of stuff like that? I mean I think of A LOT of “what ifs,” but not that. Not decision-making before death. Not that.

I’m told my mom collapsed very early Friday morning. I’m told she stopped breathing and that a roommate performed CPR before calling 911. I’m told that, had he not performed CPR, she wouldn’t have made it to the hospital alive. But from that moment on, my current understanding is that she was no longer conscious or stable.

I got to the hospital as soon as I could. When I got to the area where my mom was, my dad was standing outside. As soon as he saw me, he teared up. This man does NOT cry. My mom’s heart had just stopped beating again. The doctors were working to bring her back. They did. This would happen repeatedly.

After, the doctor came out and told us we could go back to have a few moments. We did. This was not the same as with my grandfather a bit more than a year ago. With him, he looked a bit different, but was chatting, making jokes, and still trying to get me to become a Republican. Not my 48-year-old mom. She wasn’t saying she loved me. She wasn’t saying something inappropriate, in her country voice. She wasn’t asking me about any guys in my life. She wasn’t repeating herself and taking five minutes to tell a pointless story that could’ve taken 30 seconds (where do you think I got it from?). She was bloated from the fluids that were going into her. She was on ventilator. She was having seizures. She was pale. I know that some people see a benefit to seeing people like this. I, however, do not. I find comfort in productivity, so I went out to try and call more of her family members to tell them what was going on. Before I went out, the doctor said she would likely need CPR again — she was very unstable.

The doctor was right. Eventually, it would be clear that — in addition to not being able to get her blood pressure up, stabilize her heart or stop her seizures — there was no brain activity. The CPR stopped. Her heart stopped. Last weekend, she was at the Home & Patio show. This weekend, I was planning her cremation and memorial. Just like that.

Because of my relationship with her, many people have thought perhaps I didn’t love her. Perhaps I didn’t care. Perhaps I didn’t appreciate her. Perhaps I could’ve tried harder. To these people, I say: You’re wrong. You were always wrong. You will forever stay wrong. I have no regrets for myself. Life can’t be that way. Life can’t be this series of endless second guesses. I tried and I tried and I tried. And despite that not working out so often, I still cared. I still hoped. And I still loved.

After all, if there’s one thing I DO know, it’s that she loved me and was hella proud. Her “baby” always made good grades. He graduated from UF. By the way she told it, you would think I was the main anchor at Channel 4. So you know what? Yes, I ran the River Run on Saturday. Yes, I’m going to rock the hell out of this play next month. And yes, I’m going to produce the hell out of a special work project I’m doing around the same time as the play. I kept living. It’s what we do.

I don’t know that it’s hit me yet. I learned with my grandfather that I almost go into “work mode” when these things happen. I make lists. I call people. I plan. I help however I can. I help others cope. I understand this. And I understand it means I must make sure that I am grieving and not holding back. We all handle these situations differently and just as I respect how others are handling it, I expect my handling of this to be respected as well. So far, so good. Writing this is helping.

The point of this is not to suggest sympathy. It’s not to suggest I’m going through something no one else goes through. It’s not to suggest that I didn’t see this coming, one day. It’s not to pretend I had the best relationship with my mother in the history of mothers and sons. It’s not to pretend she was perfect. Or to suggest that I am.

No. The point of this is to say that a whole lot of people will go through this. It’s to say that, even if I did see a premature end to my mother’s life, it doesn’t make it better or easier or different. It’s to say that, despite a rocky relationship, she’s my mom. It’s to say that now, when I think of those imperfections and things that she did that annoyed the hell out of me, I think about how I will NEVER have the chance to be annoyed by them again. I’ll never have the chance to blush at something she says. I’ll never have the chance to get pissed off at her. I’ll never get to listen to a five-minute voicemail that starts with, “Hey, Kyle. It’s your mom. I know you’re probably sleeping right now…” I’ll never have a new “mom story” to share with my friends.

So mom, thank you. First of all, as you would put it, I came out of YOUR stomach. Thank you for accepting that I was gay and eventually going above and beyond to ask about relationships and such. Thanks for saying you’d beat anyone’s ass if they messed with me. I always knew you could beat mine! Your 5’5, 100 pound body was deceptive. Goodness knows, I knew that. Thank you for introducing me to Alanis and Celine. I mean, I have NO idea how you didn’t know about me…but, whatever. Thanks for letting me drive down that dirt road to see your family when I was younger, though you were always a terrible driver. Thank you for always telling me you loved me, to the point of annoyance. Now I get it.

I’m sorry you didn’t have a great life. I wish I could’ve been there at your birth to protect you. To help you. To give you what you needed to have a successful life. You could’ve done such big things with your big heart. You gave a lot. And a whole bunch of people took a lot. I’m sorry I didn’t understand where you were coming from with a lot of things. I know that, as a child, I’m probably not supposed to. But I also know I wasn’t the average kid. I’ve never been average and I promise you I will try to keep it that way. I promise to take every advantage I was ever given, however little or big, whether from you or from Dad, and to do great things with it. You may not have been able to climb out of the circumstances you were born into, but I wasn’t born into those same circumstances thanks to you and Dad. And I took what I was given and am trying to do the best I can with it, to go above and beyond anything anyone ever expected. And I think I somehow DO have the ability to climb — to transcend circumstances. I won’t let people hold me back. And I may have pretended to have forgotten, but I’ve always remembered that I used to be called a “mama’s boy.” And I bet I don’t yet give you credit for a lot of my good traits. Aside from my good ass…you always said I got that from you. 😉 I’ll work to really identify those traits and be more appreciative of them. But I never stopped loving you and caring about you. I know you know that.

To all of my friends, I know you care. I appreciate your well wishes. I’ll be fine. While I’m OK, I would ask you to keep my family in your thoughts. Some people aren’t doing so well. We all had different relationships with my mom and we’re all taking this new reality based on those relationships.

Anything like this reminds us of life’s fragility. So, today, do me a favor: Tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t assume they know. Hug them, if you can. Kiss them, if you can. Do something kind for them, if you can. Consider all of your relationships. Make sure the important ones are being treated like they’re important. Make sure the bad ones are being fixed or eliminated. Don’t waste time. Be kind, but be honest. And please, please, please: If you have a friend or family member with significant alcohol or drug problems, try to help them. Try. But in the end, they have to help themselves. You can support them, but you can’t do it for them. If you could, this blog post would probably not be happening this early in my life and it might sound a lot different. But try. Don’t give up easily. Never give up hoping.

And most importantly: Never stop loving. Never hide your heart. Always treat people the way you want to be treated, at least. Let life’s low points make the high points sweeter. Move forward, not ignoring the past, but accepting it and using it to your advantage. To make you stronger. Anything else is wasteful.

%d bloggers like this: