Monday, June 26, 2017

When Pride Intersects with Fear.

So let's say hypothetically I have a good friend in the security business.  He is privy to lots of information, let's say he calls me and says "hey, I've heard some chatter and that giant gay mega-Pride you're going to in Madrid is a target, be careful".  What are you going to do? Cancel your European vacation?, Stay away from the event? Or go anyway and take your chances? 

So as gay men and women what do we do?  I mean I'm still a part of a generation that remembers police raids on gay bars and massive arrests for no reason other than hanging out with our friends.  I can remember an underground world of parties that were spread by word of mouth in secret locations for fear the authorities would descend and ruin lives for simply wanting to be with your own kind. I remember being threatened by a police officer to "pay the fine, or we'll put your name in the newspaper."(I didn't.) 

I am still part of a generation where government inaction and homophobic prejudice led to the death of 500,000 gay men from a pretty horrible disease. A generation of people who had to hide their relationships from the world for fear of eviction, shunning or public shame. 

I also come from a community that overcame each and every one of those battles so I could marry the man I love, live a life of prosperity and face my community with dignity.  I fully hope the "chatter" is not true, that all the gay pride events continue to be safe, fun and meaningful.  I believe in the western ideals of democracy, of equality for all individuals and freedom of expression.  I believe in this because I have fought for it in court, at the ballot box, in the streets, in the dying rooms of hospitals.  I will not let events like what happened at Pulse nightclub last year stop me from celebrating my hard won freedoms.

So I'm going to celebrate my victories at International Gay Pride in Madrid.  I can only hope the security services are there to protect my right to assemble, to speak out, to be a citizen of a great western democracy and understand we cannot be afraid of "chatter".  We can not bow down to fear. Why? because I come from a generation of gay men where fear was worn like a very comfortable coat that hung in a very dark closet. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What Father's Day Means for a Gay Dad

Parenting was never a goal or dream I set out for.   I don't think it was because I was gay or anything, I just didn't really feel any desire to procreate or extend the species. Being the middle son of three battling boys, I didn't feel the need to replicate the general emotional and property damage propagated by kids.  However, fate had a different idea and 21 years ago gave me a wonderful single dad who in turn gave me the opportunity of fatherhood.

So today I'd like to thank that man who gave me the opportunity to raise his son as my own. I still remember the romantic date where he dropped the bomb about being a father....a single one at that....and that choice I had to make about dating a someone who was already a parent, and by extension possibly making me one too.  I was young at the time, already working in a field with kids, so I blithely accepted the opportunity to be one of the men who would raise his six year old son.

So being with a father and by extension being trained to be one was interesting and exciting and somehow natural. Earning "parent" status from father and son was one of those roles that you both take and earn.  Just like the evolution from boyfriend to life partner and finally husband, little by little you wake up and realize you're "Dad" and no matter what happens, you know it's your title forever. 

As I learned to be a father, I learned to fight for my role, because or myself or others who are so quick to deny status to a "step parent" or "co-parent". My own reticence to explain who I was in scheme of things. Like being at the pediatrician and saying I was an "uncle" because I didn't want to explain the awkward "no I'm a gay dad" and having been chastised by my eight year old son to say "Why didn't you tell him you were my Dad!!!!"  After that, I said unequivocally to anyone who asked who I was, I'd say: "I'm his father" and I was secure and certain in that role. It was that certainty that made me understand that at last I was an adult and for a long time this boy became the center of my life, to the exclusion of many of my own wants or desires. 

From the gay man's perspective, raising a son made me chafe at the female chauvinism that "only a mother can raise a child", which is just as damaging to the kid who doesn't get to chose his parents, to the parent who is doing the best they can with cards they are dealt.  Secondly, it made me angry at "allies" who still to this day refer to gay men as "boys" because  of  their childless lifestyles. Kids are not in the cards for everyone and it is not a comment on their maturity because children are amazingly expensive for childless couples regardless of sexual identity. 

So to my son, thank you for letting me your dad, you have made me proud beyond measure and my life without you would have been poorer for not having you in it.  To my husband, you taught me to be the father and man I am today. I am so lucky to have these two wonderful men in my life who make me so proud of them and how they helped me be a better person and even a better Gay.  Happy Fathers Day!

Monday, June 5, 2017

LGBT Athletes Take A Backseat at Outgames, Scandal and Cultural Events Dominate

IGLA Championships in Miami

So perusing social media and media in general, coverage of last week's "failed" Outgames was limited to scandal, scandal, and a few short paragraphs about a LGBT swim meet and fawning of the cultural events that accompanied the sports.  The Miami Herald's coverage was particularly dismal and pretty clear that had no scandal occurred, there would have been no coverage whatsoever. Same can be said for local gay media.  Which is a shame because it was the 30th Anniversary of International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics, an organization dedicated to elevating LGBT swimmers and ensuring that gay and lesbian swimmers are respected for all of their accomplishments in the water. Outgames are about competing with dignity, about fighting homophobia in sports. 

It was a real shocker when Outgames cancelled on the opening day of the 10 day sporting event. Naturally, being funded by the City of Miami Beach, a scandal ensued, especially since thousands of athletes had already arrived and were told that their events were cancelled.  Rightfully, media pounced on the ensuing scandal and began coverage.

What was clear to me however, is the local media, gay or otherwise, had no intention of covering the sporting events at all. Sadly, it was clear that no reporters were going to cover swimming, field hockey, soccer or volleyball. It was clear that our "LGBT special correspondent" Steve Rothaus was unable to leverage a single line from the Miami Herald's sports desk, not one photographer to take some shots of athletes doing amazing things, even breaking records!  

From an LGBT athlete's perspective it's more of the same homophobia.  Sports is the one place that is still not welcoming to LGBT community, to the point that we have constructed parallel organizations that let us compete in safety, with dignity.  The homophobia that reigned in the locker rooms of our youth, extends to the gay community denigrating sports in general. Secondly, the messages sent to athletes in the closet are loud and clear, don't expect much support from the LGBT community either. 

I want to say that Miami's  LGBT swim team, The Nadadores, and water polo team,The Miami Vice, distinguished themselves in the water and on the pool deck. Hosting the largest swimming event in Miami in years, over 600 swimmers from 36 countries. Volunteers stepped up with the collapse of the Outgames and helped show how amazing Miami is.  The Swedish team , Dolphins SwimClub, set a new Swedish national record for their medley relay.   All of this happened in Miami and Gay Miamians should be proud of it. It 's a story that should be told. 

Miami Vice Polo Team, 5th place out of 20 teams at IGLA event