Where do I start?

A couple weeks ago, after posting a status that probably should have been used as a blog post, I promised some sappy blog posts would be coming soon.

Unfortunately, a couple things got in the way. There were the obvious issues: A weekend away from home, a car accident, a stomach bug, more time away from home, and work.

Of course, those things (with the exception of getting sick) would have just added on to the sappiness of any upcoming post. They weren’t really the problem, though.

The thing that kept weighing on my mind was how I would choose to respond to the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed, Black teenager named Michael Brown. It seemed frivolous (and disingenuous) to post about how loved and accepted I felt when so many of my friends were screaming at the top of their lungs about how unsafe they are.

What terrifies me is that there are people who see the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and claim it as and example of “reverse racism,” or worse, dismiss it altogether.

Let me be clear, although I identify as White, if you continue to believe that #BlackLivesMatter or that the protests (not the riots and looting) across the country are unnecessary, you disrespect Black lives and you disrespect my own life.

How many years have people of color had full “protections” under the law? And yet Black people are still being killed without punishment for their killers. I can empathize with the terror so many people of color must be feeling.

Trans* people of color have been thrown in jail for walking down the street, prosecuted for using self-defense, and even slaughtered for daring to live.

In the decade-plus since Lawrence v. Texas abolished laws against LGBT sexual activity in the US, dozens have been arrested under anti-sodomy laws and at least a dozen states still have so-called “anti-sodomy” laws still on the books.

As the LGBTQ community rushes toward greater and greater acceptance and achieves more and more victories giving us equal rights, I wonder what my world will look like in 50 years. Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes? Will my sheer existence put my life in danger even with full protection under the law?

I have a lot more to say, but I don’t want to dilute the message. So, for the moment, let me just say this: My rage will not be contained. My fear will not define me. My existence will continue to shatter your boxes.

Advertisements

Coming Out (Part 1.5)

I’ve detailed some of my coming out process in an earlier post, but I wanted to come back to it again. The coming out process is just that: a process. It never truly ends and only sometimes gets easier. But it’s important to do, to share, and to support.


Totally Moved

In my search for things to do, I rekindled my romance with YouTube and watched pretty much anything ever recorded by Hannah Hart. I first came to love Hannah because of her My Drunk Kitchen videos (a lifelong goal of mine is to record one of these with Hannah and also host my own inebriated cooking show).

This video is really just an aside because I think it’s important that everyone see it. Also, it’s the very first episode, so you’ve got hours of laughter and enjoyment ahead.

I had known for a while that Hannah identified as a lesbian, but it really wasn’t a big part of her videos. And then I found her secondary channel where she discusses much more personal topics, vlogs her trips, and challenges her fans (the Hartosexuals) to do good.

While perusing the channel, I found her Coming Out series. Started in November 2012, this was Hannah’s way to address her sexuality and explain some of her background. Since then, she has posted a total of six videos, the most recent last month.

That last video, taken backstage at the LGBTQA+ panel at VidCon2014, really inspired this post.

I’ve decided to share the entire playlist because it’s just that important. But skip ahead to the sixth video if you need to save time.


Why I’m Sharing My Story

On Friday, while doing everything I could to stay awake at work, I saw a post by someone, who identifies as gay, asking why it was everyone felt the need to “come out” because, as he said, “it’s not like you would do it if you were straight.”

I sat at my desk saying to myself over and over agin, “Of course it’s important for people to come out!” After several minutes of fuming and outright frustration (which I apparently didn’t hide very well, judging by my administrative assistant’s concern), I had a sort of breakthrough.

I decided to re-watch Hannah’s story. I was thinking about how important it is for all openly queer people to share their story. I remember when I was coming to terms with my sexuality thinking how I had no idea what to say or do because I didn’t know anyone who had come out.

Why do people feel the need to come out and make their sexuality known? Because simply loving themselves is completely radical. Because other people need to know that they can also be exactly who they are and still find happiness, love, and support. Because it’s important for people to know who I really am. It’s important for me to let go of this secret and to share it with the world. It’s important for me to begin living my life, not upholding this facade I’ve created.

It is important that people know I am not ashamed to be exactly who I am. It is important that people do not assume I fit their stereotypes. And perhaps most importantly, I want every young person I encounter to know they can be out, happy, and successful, too.


How I’m Sharing My Story

I’m still struggling and trying to figure out the best way to do this. My story, like most, is very long and contains both good and bad. I’m thinking I might make a YouTube video, or I might just write several smaller-ish posts.

In any case, I hope that with each post on this blog, I reach just one more person. I haven’t spoken with each of my family members about my sexuality and don’t intend to. But I do intend to make it known to each of them that they know and (I hope) love an openly gay person who, just like them, dreams of success, love, and family.

 

The best TEDx talk I’ve ever seen

I know I included this video in the previous post, but it’s important enough that I think it deserves its own post. 

I’m not going to say much about the video this time around because I want you to watch and come to your own conclusions. For me, this video is defining my first year as a student affairs professional. I’ve used it in a professional retreat setting, a student retreat, and with my officemates as a conversation piece. 

 

 

 

P.S. to Ash Beckham: If you or your management ever see this post, I would do basically anything to have you speak at Oklahoma State. 

Three Rs of Love

This one is going to be fairly short. These are just some thoughts I’ve had recently as I’ve worked through some things at work. After a day of abject negativity, I started thinking about the power of love. Céline Dion aside, I am continually pressed to recognize the act of loving another person as completely radical.

Accepting and loving the identities of another human, no matter what, is completely revolutionary.

Acknowledging those parts of yourself that are less than perfect and loving yourself all the more is the ultimate rebellion.

Today I saw a story about an 8-year-old boy who was physically and emotionally abused, tortured, and eventually murdered by his parents for appearing to be gay. He never came out. He simply played with dolls and didn’t act “masculine” enough. Of course, at age 8, I’m not certain how masculine one can hope to be.

On the other hand, there’s this story of a mother who describes herself as a Southern Baptist conservative who unconditionally loves her trans daughter and bravely stands up to bigotry and hatefulness.

For Debi Jackson, loving her daughter is revolutionary. It is radical. It’s blatant rebellion against the society that says you have to be one or the other and you can never change; against the society that says we should turn away in disgust; against the society that finds it more acceptable to have young people die in the streets than be loved and given the chance to flourish.

For the parents of that 8-year-old boy, love was certainly a revolutionary concept. Instead, the chose to accept the hate created by others and use it to define their and the child’s life.

What if we collectively decided that rather than focus on the negatives, that we would just love? That’s it. Unconditional love. No questions, no exceptions, and no clauses. Just love one another. Forget our biases and preconceived notions and just love.

Imagine how much happier we would all be. We would never have to fear coming out of our closets. Dropping that grenade we all hold wouldn’t be such a big deal. There would be no need to fear the coming out. We could all just live our lives how we want because we would know there was love around us.

What if we even decided to love those with whom we disagree? How radically could that change the world?

I’m Here. I’m Queer. But do I want to be out at work?

My Coming Out Story (In a nutshell…seriously)

I started my coming out process during my senior year of college when I came out to my friend Sarah. I was trying to figure out how to tell our mutual friend (my best friend) that I was gay and she told me to just rip off the bandage. I’d taken Kathryn to dinner and planned to tell her there (she could totally tell something was up) but I chickened out. Literally. I got The Bill Self at 23rd Street Brewery and ate so much buffalo chicken that I thought I would throw up.

So I waited. And I felt the weight of my confession literally weighing on me for the next two days until I finally just spilled. She smiled, she teared up, and then she called me an idiot (or something similar) for waiting. And our friendship became my rock.

When I moved to Nebraska to work on my Master’s degree, I’d decided that I would live openly. On the first day of Orientation, while eating lunch with three other guys in my program, the conversation of marriage came up (two of them were recently married) and they asked if I, who had been sitting so quietly, staring at my Subway, had a girlfriend. I looked up and confidently (I hope…I was literally terrified) said, “No, but I’ve got a boyfriend.”

Their response was exactly what you’d hope for: “Oh. Cool. What’s his name?”

Later that day, I came out to the rest of the group in different ways, but that moment at the lunch table has been my defining moment. That is when I began living openly as a gay man. But it wasn’t for many more months that I would come out to my family.

In April 2013, I was having an argument with my sister over a piece of legislation back home to which I was ardently opposed (but my dad had helped to write), when she asked why I was so emotionally involved. I took a deep breath and said, “Because this could affect me. Because I am gay.” Neither of us said anything for a long time. “You know that I know and that I love you, right?” she said. I lost it.

It was another two months before I came out to my parents. My mom had surprised me at work and then we went out to eat and got ice cream. While we were eating my ice cream, we discussed my thesis (“Making Their Own Way: The Experiences of Gay Male Students in STEM”) and my purpose and I chose that moment to come out. Then, when I got home to celebrate with my family the following weekend, I also came out to my dad.

My Dilemma

I am incredibly fortunate to have found such a supportive community, including my family. I still have a lot more family to whom have yet to come out, but I’m really happy with where I am. I know now that I can live openly and be myself without fearing retribution or persecution (for the most part). I’ve also recognized that I exist in a space which confers massive amounts of privilege upon me where I get to live openly and my officemates and students accept me.

But I also report to many people on my campus and if I choose to be open with them about my identity I know that it could have very negative consequences. My group could be penalized via the budget, program approvals, purchase order requests, or the general business attitude toward my office.

My students run a $150,000 budget for programming, my boss runs a similarly sized program for the arts in the community, I supervise two GTAs, a work study student, and an administrative specialist. What if my coming out were to reflect negatively upon them or make their work more difficult to do?

My fears aren’t completely unfounded, either. Recently, when attempting to bring an LGBTQ group to campus for a residency and performance series, my supervisor found nothing but roadblocks even though his advisory board had actually suggested the event and unanimously approved it. Members of my division who would describe themselves as feminists or, worse yet, women, have experienced direct oppression from the administration.

As much as I struggle with the guilt and shame that theoretically would exist if I came out professionally, I struggle more with the guilt and shame of not living authentically in my professional life.

Where I’m At Now

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to any of this. Of course, it would be easy for some to say that I should just come out and be authentic because that’s the right thing to do. But you have to remember that although President Obama has signed an Executive Order protecting workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people, in Oklahoma, it is also still legal to fire an employee for perceived sexual orientation. The city of Stillwater does not protect its LGBTQ citizens from discrimination, either.

Others have suggested that if I experience discrimination, that I should just file a complaint with Human Resources. Unfortunately, I have already seen how ineffective that can be at my institution.

At the end of the day, I can only give so many presentations on inclusive communities, identity, and privilege & oppression before I expect to see some changes around me. Many times, I have felt as if I’m the only person on this campus who is concerned for the well-being of all students, staff, and faculty. When none of that is returned to you, it can feel incredibly isolating and defeating.

Where We Go From Here

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. We continue fighting the good fight. But we also keep supporting each other. We keep sharing our stories with each other in the hopes that we can connect and support one another.

No law will change how people feel. We have to do that. But I don’t think we have to do it alone. We can do this together.