Monday, October 11, 2010
Coming out is one of the best things I ever did for myself. I spent so many years hiding in fear, worrying about what people would think of me, who would disown me, how safe I would be...well, THAT list was a long one, so I won't go through every crazy notion that ran through my brain. I still clearly remember the night I finally said the words...well, typed them, actually.
I was talking online to my friend Jessa at Washington College back east. It was early Spring, and I was about to get on a plane to meet my friends in Chestertown, MD. I had been building up the courage to come out for a while, largely due to a group of progressive and outspoken friends. When I learned that some of them were members of the GLBT student group on campus and that I had lucked into unknowingly befriending officers, I was terrified and exhilerated all at once. That night, I typed in the words that would change my life forever. I remember crying as I spent two minutes staring at the words I had typed in; I remember the panic as I finally hit "Enter" to send the message into the cybervoid. And I remember the relief as Jessa wrote back a simple "And?"
She went on to explain that she was honored I trusted her with the info, but it honestly didn't make any difference to her. She loved me for who I was, and said she simply knew something more about me. That trip was such a turning point. For the first time I could watch ER with friends and when one commented "Isn't Noah Wyle so cute as Dr. Carter?" I could simply say "Yeah, isn't he?" It was no big deal, and that was a whole new world to me. I spent a week there, letting my personality expand slowly as I peeked out from behind the closet door. It was such a liberating experience, and I almost didn't get on the plane to come back to Wyoming. I almost turned my back on a full-ride scholarship, my friends, family, job....everything. All because I got to be me...fully and freely.
I often hear comments like "why do you have to flaunt it so much" or "do you have to shove it in people's faces?" I especially love hearing that from someone wearing a wedding or engagement ring, or someone with family photos on their desk or wall. Isn't THAT flaunting your heterosexuality too? If straight people have the right to talk openly about their husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc., so do I. I shouldn't have to worry about how someone will react when I introduce Jesse as my husband. I'm not going to hide my life because other people can't deal with it.
NCOD is always a sad time of year for me, though, as it's a reminder that tomorrow is the anniversary of Matt's death. This year has been especially tough: there have been seven GLBT suicides in the news lately. Young people who were bullied, called names, broadcast publicly, or otherwise socially abused. I can't quite explain how much it hurts me to hear of GLBTQ people taking their own lives at a time when I'm constantly reminded of someone taken out of the world too soon. Someone I can't get to know better.
When I was in 9th grade, I almost killed myself. I had listened to one too many people tell me how horrible gay people were. That I couldn't be a teacher or a father. That I was going to be a child molester, was going to get AIDS, and would never find true love because it was all about a never-ending string of anonymous hookups. So one day, I woke up ready to take every pill in the house. Thankfully, the Universe had other plans, because my best friend called me to drive into Gillette and do something fun. I figured, "sure, why not? I can just take the pills when I get home."
I truly don't remember what we did that day, but I remember that it was indeed a good day. When I got home, I realized that had I gone through with my plan, I would have missed out on that good day. And that even though there seemed to be so many bad days or moments, the good ones meant that much more to me. It took me a long time to dig out of the dark hole of despair I had created, but I did it. There were more dark days, and some VERY dark days. But it did get better.
And here I am today. I own my own home and I got married to a wonderful man this summer . Not only do I have a job, but I have a job I enjoy...and I got it BECAUSE of my diversity. I have some of the most amazing friends on the planet, and I wouldn't have met them if I'd never come out. I wouldn't have met Matt...or his family. I wouldn't have met Jesse, or his family. And I would still be sad and scared, hiding in a closet of my own creation.
And that's why I'm here, coming out all over again. I'm coming out because I can, and I know there are many out there who still can't. Because it's too scary, because it's not safe, or because it's not the right time. Coming out for the first time can be a big deal, and it's a personal decision that everyone must make for themselves. It's why I don't shout "come out, come out, wherever you are" from the rooftops. But I hope that my shouting it helps others understand that they're not alone. And that it does get better.
So happy National Coming Out Day. Hopefully you can join us out here...the lighting is so much better. But if you're still not ready or able, it's okay. We'll save you a seat at our table. In the meantime, call the Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org) if you need help. You're worth it. Just promise me that you'll still be around for dinner when the time comes...
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
News came today that a third student within a month died after committing suicide. Their stories are all tragic, and for so many GLBTQ people...all too familiar. They faced taunting, teasing, and bullying. Often when they finally spoke out and tried to get help from those around them, their pleas fell on deaf ears. It appears that schools didn't do enough to protect or support them.
A Serbian man is heading back to court, fighting for asylum...and his life. He was beaten in school, attacked and disowned by his father, raped and abused in the military, and is now facing being sent back. Why is he heading BACK to court? Because the original judge denied his request, stating that he didn't seem obviously gay and so shouldn't be at as much risk as he was claiming.
How is that so many politicians, clergy, and citizens around the country don't "get it" when an 11 year old boy has a broken arm and may require surgery? His crime? He's a cheerleader, and that's not manly enough. Even though there are 40,000 male cheerleaders in high schools and colleges around the country, our antiquated expectations of masculinity are still so strong that people feel justified in hate and violence. He talks about loving the tumbling and cheering on his friends...and got a cast as a reward.
How much blood has to be spilled? How many bones must be broken? And how many of our children must end their lives to avoid the pain before people truly begin to wake up?
We need to stop allowing religious zealots from imposing their particular flavor of morals on everyone else, especially by dumping money at ballot initiatives. We need to stop allowing people to claim we're pedophiles and that we're trying to destroy America's families and values. I've been talking about these issues for years now, and I've always tried to be respectful of other people's viewpoints. Each day, those viewpoints are now causing more pain and injury than ever before. And I'm pissed about it.
I've often reminded people that when we begin to make progress, there is usually a backlash in response. During the civil rights and women's rights movements, there came a point at which violence increased. It's a desperate response, designed to send us running back to the closet in fear. I hope it's also a clarion call for fair-minded (and humane) people everywhere. Holding onto the hate and bias against GLBTQ is literally killing us. The name calling, the bullying, the attacks, the denial of rights...they all weigh on us.
They weigh on your children. Your nephews and nieces. The neighbor kid down the street. They weigh on your siblings, your coworkers, and your classmates. Gay people are everywhere, and that's not going to change. If the bruises and bloodshed aren't a clear enough signal that something is wrong and MUST change, I don't know what more it will take.
Also know that we have limits to our patience. I can't quite find words to explain the depths of my rage and sadness right now. Part of me wants to walk up and slap the face of people who continue to spread venom and hatred. Part of me says violence is not the answer. Most of me wants to scream from the rooftops with a bullhorn until people understand that your words and inaction can and do cause as much pain as actual violence. That if you keep it up, it might be your cousin who next hangs herself from a tree. It might be your son who's beaten by a group of 4 other students. That if he fits one too many of the stereotypes, it won't really matter whether he's actually straight or not...and you will have only yourselves to thank.
How long before people realize on a fundamental level that nobody deserves to be hurt because of who they are or what they believe? If you don't get that simplest of concepts, I say you fail at life. "Go stand in the corner and think about what you've done" doesn't seem to cut the mustard in this case. This is dumb, and I'm tired of wasting time and breath on something so obvious and basic.
Today's lesson: Realize that even people you don't agree with or even like are PEOPLE too. Get over it, or get the fuck off our planet so the rest of us can get on with the myriad of other problems we've got to fix.
Update on Oct 1: I wanted to post a great video too. There are several posts out there with the "It Gets Better" Project. This is my favorite, from San Francisco.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- There was the annual Taylor/Knapp boy's camping trip to the family cabin over Memorial Day. A nice getaway involving drinking, grilling, poker and other card games....all in a picturesque setting with a pack of rowdies.
- In June, I travelled to Buffalo, WY to do a diversity presentation for a teacher's conference. It was for a group of career and technical instructors, including family/consumer sciences, business, health sciences/nursing, and shop. A strange group, but it went well, and is proof that there's still good work going on and we're making a difference...slowly but surely!
- Later in June we got to head to Denver for Pride. It was great to see most everyone again, and we needed the break in a big way. There were plenty of scantily clad beefcakes running around, and we sipped a cocktail or two while occasionally pausing to admire the scenery.
- July 4th means Freedom Has a Birthday, Laramie's hometown celebration. There's music, food, and vendors in the park, which is packed with people and puppies. Dexter went with us and did pretty well considering the chaos and crowds. Troy and Maggie were once again the base of operations and we couldn't have asked for better hosts!
- July 10th we had to get ready for the Jubilee Days parade. Since Jesse's running for coroner, we borrowed the O'Malleys Mustang convertible, printed some signs, and imposed on our friends to help pass out 60 pounds of candy. (We're still eating candy, by the way...) We no sooner took the car back and headed to Douglas for the Knapp family reunion. It was great to see so many of the family again, especially those who can't make it back for our wedding.
- Work hasn't been as slow as I'd like; our office was involved with a number of summer programs bringing in students from a partner school back east. It meant an usual amount of work I don't normally do: reserving rooms in dorms, arranging meal plans, etc. We also had lunches, brunches, and dinners to plan, arrange, and/or attend. Paperwork didn't end, and working in an office that's 85 degrees at 7:30am isn't always a joy.
- And then, of course, there's the wedding!
For the last year or so, I've been working to plan, organize, and strap together a fabulous yet affordable wedding. So here were are about 4 days before the big event. The garage has been exorcised, the defunct hot tub cut out and replaced with decking, the yard weeded and planted, the house scrubbed and buffed, and everything else has been dusted,vacuumed, polished, wiped, or otherwise spiffed up. I did the invitations, the website, the programs, and all the fun paperwork type stuff. I don't know where'd we'd be if Jesse's mom hadn't volunteered to take care of the reception food and decorations!
To say that I've been busy and stressed would be a gross understatement. I've been so lucky to have a host of friends remind me that all will be well, that only the "I do" part really matters, and that we don't have to do everything alone. So many of our friends are helping out with photos, video, music, webcasting, flowers, cakes...we're humbled and amazed at the family we've created here. It means so much that so many are coming to be with us, and we can't wait to see the smiling faces we've missed for weeks or years...
Everyone asks if I'm nervous yet. I am, but not about marrying Jesse. That's the one thing I'm not stressing over. It's the details and planning and "what if's..." I've been in enough weddings to know that things WILL go wrong...and they have. I know that we will reach a point where something with either happen or it won't; the big stuff is all pretty much nailed down, so the rest is just details. Truth be told, we'll be so glad when this whole hooplah is behind us, and we can get back to normality... We're looking forward to the party, but also a week on a cruise ship without any contact with "back home." Bring on the sun, sand, and cocktails!
I don't know that I expect to feel any different after the wedding is all over, but I know that I can't wait to live out this day we've spent so much time planning. It won't be perfect, of course, but it will be perfectly us. And I will be the luckiest man around...I know, it's cliche, but it's what's racing through my mind now. So for now, I'll sign off so that I can finish the list of wedding photos. That's about all that's left other than setting my out of office message and forwarding the phone. Two weeks to focus on my life without worrying about work...how lucky can a girl get?
Friday, May 14, 2010
Mr. Pope, with all due respect (and that's a pretty small amount by now), fuck you! I'm tired of someone with a past connection to the Nazi party judging others (lest ye be...dot dot dot). Stop distracting folks from the issues you SHOULD be focused on. I'm tired of someone who has helped hide truly prolific pedophile priests getting his holy panties in a bunch because I want the same rights everyone else enjoys. Stop blaming us...being gay is NOT the same thing as being a pedophile. Just ask the APA, AMA, and countless other groups. They're smart people, and have been studying the issue for some time.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
UW's Social Justice Research Center had announced it was bringing Bill Ayers to campus to speak. He is a VERY controversial figure, to be sure, but was coming to speak about education reform, not war or bombs. When the news got out, there was certainly plenty of public...comment. His speech was cancelled soon after... again, to the tune of much comment. I made a point of reading the articles and public comments on the Boomerang website, and they made me quite sad.
One side of the debate ranted about how taxpayer money could be used to pay a terrorist to speak to our poor, impressionable youth. Many threatened to stop donating to UW, called for the resignation of the President and the SJRC Chair, and/or generally threw a hissy fit about "liberals" and "socialists" trying to take over everything and brainwash everyone. Some said they wouldn't consider sending their kids to Laramie for school if someone so horrid as Ayers was allowed on campus. Others said he should be turned away at the Colorado border, and some suggested anyone who wanted to hear him should leave too.
The other side went nutty when the speech was cancelled. They accused UW and the SJRC of caving in to outside pressure, being only focused on making more money, and destroying any hope of free speech. They howled about how UW let Dick Cheney speak on campus and accepted a pile of money, usually referring to him as a war criminal. The press releases said that professional and security concerns were the reason his visit was cancelled, and that sent the "Let him speak"ers into a tizzy even more. "It wasn't a problem for Cheney," they said.
Folks on both sides got rather out of control, as seems to be the norm for political or controversial debates these days. They engaged in name-calling, fear mongering, and rested their arguments on the worst logical fallacies. People posted under names like "KillBill," "NoInfringment," "Fire Rios ASAP," and "SocialismSucks." In short...they behaved like 5 year olds. Both sides told the other that they didn't know what they were talking about, blamed them for all the country's woes, and were frothing-at-the-mouth mad.
Maybe my problem is that I can see both sides of the issue. I understand why people were upset about Ayers' visit. I also understand why people wanted to hear him speak. I also know something about being in the center of controversy...and having to deal with security concerns. I have to admit that I do not have specific knowledge about threats that were made privately to UW or the SJRC's director, Francisco Rios. I do know what I've heard people say around town and what I read on comment forums online, and can only imagine how much further anonymous messages went.
When someone threatens your life or your family, it's hard not to think twice about moving forward. I had some real gems when we did Angel Action. I had more with anniversaries of Matt's death, other protests by Phelps, or articles that were published. I ignored them because it was ME on the line. If the threats had been against my family or friends, things might have been different. I refuse to judge Francisco for cancelling the event because I don't know what went into his decision. I'm sure it wasn't made lightly, quickly, or easily. I know what I saw online, and that even more nasty messages were removed. What else was removed? Threats to bomb the speech? To bomb Francisco or his family? The SJRC? Innocent students and community members who made the mistake of attending? How far would you push if others might be at risk?
I also understand that standing up for what's right is always important, not just when it's safe or easy to do it. But what else would have been involved? How much security would have been necessary to ensure everyone's safety? How much would it have cost the University? Most of the threats I received were from anonymous folks living who knows where, usuing aliases like "Dr. Giggles." There was one that scared me, though. It was from a UW student...someone local. It was a veiled, non-specific threat. The type that's hard to prepare for and equally hard to imagine...but hard not to take seriously. There's a reason there were snipers on the rooftops at the courthouse and Union when Phelps and the Angels were in action.
In today's Branding Iron, mixed in with even more letter about the Ayers cancellation, was a letter to the editor from a UW student. She claims that a session at the Shepard Symposium condones the bashing of religion. The session in question is centered around a documentary film that includes criticism of James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame. I should note that the film hasn't played in Laramie before. I suppose it's possible that she saw it somewhere else, but suspect it's more likely she's made up her mind about what the film says without even seeing it.
The irony is that in her letter, she talks about how "whenever you tell one group that another is spewing hate and hateful actions, it is a recipe for creating hatred, not to mention discrimination, violations of rights and violent civil action." She then proceeds to finish her letter by saying that our "state institution" is "monstrasizing (sic) a faith." Didn't you just say this film, which you've never seen, is hate speech? While in the same breath saying you shouldn't say someone else hates? If you don't like that particular session, don't go. I happen to agree that Dobson is a hate monger, though I'm pretty sure she doesn't, but that doesn't mean I think all Christians are haters.
It also just so happens that I know the filmmaker in question. She works at DU, and I encouraged her to submit the film as a session for consideration to the Symposium. I admit that I have not seen the film myself yet, but also know that as a documentarian, human being, and devout Christian, Sheila did not create a project that bashes any religion.
My point today is this: somewhere along the line we forgot how to think and reason, or at the very least we forgot how to teach our kids to do it. We forgot that it's okay to debate someone's case if we don't agree with them, but not their character. That we should educate ourselves before stepping onto a soapbox. That we should listen to ideas that are not our own - and have enough faith in ourselves that we won't agree with something we shouldn't. We may not always like the games that other kids are playing, but it's their playground too.
Friday, February 26, 2010
- Our volleyball team, The Deadbeats, had a great time last season, though we didn't have a great record. We've always said that we're a drinking team with a volleyball problem, and we meant it. We can't wait to start up again this Spring!
- In November, I traveled to Kentucky to speak at an ACLU youth conference. It certainly wasn't the most lavish or luxurious trip ever, but I had a great time. The students were amazing and inspiring. I only spoke for about an hour, but got to spend most of the day with the students. I also got to spend a fair amount of time with Calloway, who used to live here in Laramie. He's still quite young, but was my driver and entertainment committee for most of the trip. I also got to travel to a fundraiser event for a statewide GLBT group. It would have been fun in and of itself, but riding on a limo bus (with 2 bars) and a gaggle of giggling gays made it a great way to let my hair down, blow off steam, and relax at the end of a long trip.
- Honey and I hosted a Thanks-gay-ving dinner at our place this year. Since Jesse was on call at work, we couldn't go to Kaycee to be with his family. We made 2 turkeys, because one just wouldn't be enough. A host of friends were able to join us, and we were stuffed to the gills. We only ate one turkey, of course, but the second provided leftovers like turkey enchiladas, turkey and noodle soup, and other tasty goodness for days. We couldn't be with ALL our family, but at least got to be some of them.
- Since it's been a very lean year financially, we decided that the best thing we could do for holiday gifts was to bake ourselves stupid. We made over 1500 cookies, several batches of party mix, and topped off plates of goodies with candy canes and chocolates. It meant too many hours in front of an oven or mixer, but it was also kind of fun to dust off my mom's old family favorites. I hadn't had some of them since Mom died, so it was like weeks of sugary nostalgia.
- We made it to about 7 holiday parties thanks to friends, family, and work. It sure kept us hopping and juggling schedules, but it was worth it to spend a bit of time with folks. We don't get to see everyone nearly enough, but know you're always in our hearts and the next time we're together, the laughter and cocktails will flow freely!
- As usual, we spent Xmas up in Kaycee with Jesse's fam. They would hurt us if we didn't. We drove up the morning of Xmas Eve, had dinner with his folks and grandpa, then opened presents. We didn't get tons of expensive loot, but certainly had enough little packages to open to make us smile. We then obeyed Mom's next commandment: "We're going to go do karaoke at the bar." Being no strangers to public singing (and drinking) and being duly afraid of pissing off Mama Taylor, we grabbed our hats and gloves. Several hours later, I had very little voice left. The next morning we got up early to help set up for the big family celebration at the community hall. The snow storms came before Jesse and I were suppose to head back to Laramie, though Ryan and Squidly got a bit delayed. As they were going back to work, they didn't mind much at all.
- Work has certainly been keeping both honey and I busy. This semester he's also taking 19 credit hours. My office has been processing paperwork left and right and reviewing complaints every time we turn around. Work is never dull, though it would probably be nice to have a third person around full-time again. I continue to do harassment trainings and speaking to classes now and then. In January I was asked to be the opening speaker for The Good Mule Project's conference. I spoke about diversity and it seemed like it went well. Honey and I got to attend the dinner too, and it was great to see students so excited and passionate about going out and getting involved.
- Laramie Reproductive Health is working to sell our old building, and we're coming down to the wire. It'll be nice to have some reserve capital again, not have to worry about maintenance issues, and cut down some of the utility bills. It's meant several extra meetings for me as the Board President, but will be well worth it down the road.
- Then, of course, there's a wedding to plan. After several months of looking around for the best venue, we've spent the last couple weeks making final decisions. Next we do invitations and save the date magnets. I've had the magnet design done for months, but it looks like we can only afford a single mailing for folks, so they've been on hold. Invitations are another story, but I'm not too scared. Registries are filling out nicely, we're getting close to locking in catering, cakes, and all the details that go with it. We're talking about flowers, as our friend Janet said that's her gift to us.
- Speaking of Janet, I once again spent some time around Valentine's Day working for Killian's Florist. It started many years ago when my friend Stephan was working there doing deliveries. He asked if I'd like some extra work driving a second van so they could keep up with the huge list of orders. The last couple years, Janet's also asked me to come in before the big day to help around the shop, add greenery to vases and arrangements before they add the pretty posies, and whatever else needs doing. This year I moved up again. She taught me how to arrange a half dozen roses, do wraps, bud vases, cubes, and other small projects. So rather than just adding green filler, I was doing actual arrangements! I was thrilled to learn from the best florist in town, and honored that she trusted me and decided I was good enough to send out my arrangements with the name of her business on it. I spent about 25 hours there total over 3 days, but had a lot of fun...albeit very little sleep.
- Our friend William was in town for a few weeks before Valentine's too. He'd been driving truck and brought his brother out on the road with him for a while and to show him Laramie, his "home base." But many years on the road were wearing on him, so his brother rented a car to drive back to NY and Will drove his semi back to Omaha to return it to the company. They bought him a bus ticket and he got back to town Feb 13th (while Jesse and I were delivering flowers). Since then, he's been staying in our spare room and will be there for a few months until he gets on his feet. The job hunt continues and he wants to get a place of his own, but in the meantime it's been kind of nice having a (sometimes overly) conscientious houseguest/roomie around. He cleans up continually; I keep opening the dish washer and finding it empty. That's not always a shocker, except these days there isn't a stack of dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter. The vacuum keeps mysteriously running when we're not home, and the dogs have usually been fed before honey and I even get home. He helps cook, buy groceries, and keeps us laughing. Now to find him a man, a job, and a house/apartment!
- Of course I've been doing my part to work on the "gay agenda." I've spoken to classes in Nursing and Social Work, spoken to a class at LHS where students are also getting LCCC credit, and done a SafeZone session for the Safe Project, our local domestic violance and sexual assault agency. Rest assured, I'm still overly gay. And as AIDS Walk gets closer, we're ramping up planning and preparation for another great walk and night of bingo. This year we're moving on up to the Hilton, and are pre-selling tickets this year. Once they're ready and available, I'll let you all know. :)
So there's a highlight reel of my life as of late. As you can see, it's been a non-stop run. I usually don't know if I'm coming or going, and have to refer to my Outlook calendar to see what in the hell I'm doing (or supposed to be, at any rate) later today. Honey and I are doing well, though this semester has been a rough one. He's buried in school and homework most of the time, and I'm doing my best to keep clothes clean, dogs fed, and dishes washed. Sooner or later, the race pace will slow and I'll be able to take a breath. I think that's called a honeymoon...and ours is a 7 day cruise in the Carribean. Not too shabby, eh?