Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lean On Me

The struggle for gay rights, and more specifically for marriage equality, has often been likened to other civil rights movements, from the Black civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's... to the struggle for women's rights. This usually raises alot of ire in the group that we are compared to. But what I'd like to talk about today is not those comparisons but, in my opinion, a difference the gay rights movement experiences. This is not to claim a bigger hardship than anyone else because that would be hogwash. Only to point out a facet of gay life that we all deal with on a day to day basis and that has reared its ugly head again in my life.

In other communities, there is usually the background of community support, that could be your family, your neighbors, or your church...those with similar life experiences who are there to help you navigate the pitfalls of life and to help pick up the pieces when it all falls apart. The gay community often doesn't have that kind of support but what we can fashion for ourselves, which is why family for us, may mean the friends who have stood by us and not the family we were born into.

Over time we have built our own community enclaves and started our own churches, but only after having been rejected by the ones we were raised in. Also, unless you live in an area with a large gay population, you have much less access to any kind of a gay community, you have to go it alone.

Growing up and coming out, you have to find out alot of stuff on your own you usually don't have to otherwise. There's no family support when you need a shoulder to cry on if your relationship fails. In fact, no one to talk about a relationship at all for many of us. No sage advice on how to meet someone or what to expect when you date. No one who will tell that the feelings you have are natural..or that all the hopes you had for life can still come true.

Quite the opposite in fact, except for a lucky few, most of us face rejection in some form from our families and communities when we decide to come out, some of us face homelessness and violence. Even when our parents and siblings have the opportunities to see that our lives are not the myths they were taught, its no guaranty that they will come around to acceptance.

That was my experience coming out. When I could finally find the nerve to face being gay, I had to dig my way out of all the misconceptions about being gay that I had been taught in my family and from society at large....that is still a work in progress. I hid my dating from my family because I feared that if they found out, it would be the end of any relationship I could have with them. When I did come out to my family, the results where less than stellar but not as catastrophic as I had imagined.

The one thing that was universally true though ,with all my friends and family, was that they were suddenly unsure how to treat me, as if I had changed now that I had made that admission to them. Also, I knew that their acceptance had limits and that I could not talk about the same personal things that I could talk about before I came out. A wall had arisen where before there was none....and so a subtle separation was created, not said, but still communicated....and with some, it is still there even years later.

I missed my blog post yesterday because we had a film crew from Jaye Bird Productions in town to follow up on an interview that they had started with us last spring regarding the passage of prop 8 here in California. This time they sat down with my family to discuss their feelings about Jay, myself, our family, and our activism. Much of what they felt was already known to me....but some was not. I have had many go-arounds with my family during prop 8. We talked...and occasionally argued, about how things "were back then" and the right of the people to vote on MY rights as a taxpaying citizen. While I disagree with my family on alot of things, I also know that they are the only family I will ever have and that is more important than just about we find a way to meet in the middle.

The road to acceptance with my family has not been a straight, nor are we at its end by any means...but it did shock me...that after knowing me...after knowing Jay and me as a couple for more than ten years...a family member very close to me, still voted in favor of Prop 8. It blew me away ...I had not known that and it made me feel "other" yet again within my own family. It reminded my of all those years of feeling like an alien in a world full of the familiar.

Through our YouTube work we get many emails from young gay kids living in communities where they can't admit to anyone about their feelings. For some, we are the only people they have ever been able to tell that they were gay or to tell them that that there is nothing wrong with them. It speaks volume's about the lack of family and community support there is growing up gay when you have to reach out online to find basic support and human compassion.

The gay community comes from all walks of life. We come from all educational backgrounds, religious communities, ethnic backgrounds, geographical locations...we come from everywhere. Over time, we have had to come together and rely on ourselves to make that sense of community we lose coming out. Thus we have the Castro streets of the places to be, and places where others have common experiences and understanding. We make our own communities. we make our own families when the ones we were born into fail to be that support. Its what we have always done to survive.

but for those of us who live in the communities that we were born into...or at least cannot live in a city with a large gay population, it can be a rough road ahead at times. This is one reason that I am very grateful for my husband and kids, because when the rest of the world kicks my ass, I can go home and realize I don't care so much about what they think, I can survive it. As long as They are there, I know I have a place where I belong. That sense of safety and belonging is different for everyone and for some it may be something they still search for in life, but we all crave it and we all have to create it in some way. It is not handed to us.

How many people's life stories and what history is lost to humanity and the gay community because of the condemnation and stigma that surrounds being gay? How might the sense of "differentness have been eased and loneliness blunted by just being able to know that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves that has connections to the whole of humanity? Will we ever have be able to grow up without that feeling of alienation from the families and communities of our birth?...I don't know.

But it's the reason that I always tell anyone who contacts us to always call on us when they need someone to talk to. We all know what it feels like to be that kind of alone, to feel like a stranger in a not-so-strange land. We all need to be there for each other. Life is hard enough for all of us.


  1. Bryan,

    I have been following your blog and your youtube videos since last october. Since that time also, I have searched for GLBT groups here in the Cebu, Philippines. I did find a few and am planning to join the community especially in dealing with the advocacy for the GLBT rights. Honestly, I still feel so lost. Even though I am starting to see things differently nowadays. I actually am having a hard time mingling with the transexual members of the community since I was afraid I might be labeled as one. I know I'm gay but I cannot totally dismiss the stereotyping of gays here in the Philippines. I'm trying to muscle up some courage to tell other people of the misslabeling that is happening around here. But I still need some help. I've made new transexual friends and I'm starting to get more comfortable dealing with them. I just realized we're not different. Hopefully, I would get to know how things go about in the gay lifestyle here soon. I am out. but in my own way, I guess. I try hard not to be stereotyped as "gay" here so I ended up open about my sexuality but compliant to the pilipino norms. In short, in a way, still confused.

    I just celebrated my 30th birthday and this time I want to make a difference. You both are my inspiration...

    Recently the a GLBT group here petitioned to be included in the Philippine party list system so we can have a representation in the congress since the elections are fast approaching. The group "ANG LADLAD" was turned down because of the basis of immorality and for being bad influence to the youth. I was totally disappointed with our governments reaction towards the GLBT community. This Dec 1 is the last day of filing. I guess its too late for us to petition again. We have been practically silenced.

    In a way I thought this would serve as an eye opener for us, the GLBT community, of the real situation when it comes to claiming our rights. Some GLBT groups staged rallies but I guess everything fell on deaf ears.

    I hope thing will change soon. I hope everything will be better.

    And I hope you and Bryan will be my shoulder to lean on in this quest for equality.

  2. oops, I meant Jay... my bad. Sorry.

    Hope to hear from you both.

  3. nuts...dont feel like you need to change the world by yourself. From what I understand the Phillipines is still a pretty dangerous place for gay people and our first concern is for your safety.

    You don't have to wave a sign or lobby the government to change the world...that change starts at home, with our families, our nieghbors, and our friends. If we can begin there it will spread outward.

    and its great that your seeing a different side of our community...that changes YOUR mind as well. :)

    Live well nuts, and be safe.

  4. Bryan that is terrible. I honestly don't know what I would do in your situation. I get a great deal of grounding from my family and if I found out something like that I think it would shake my world.

    It is one of the reasons (the other tightness with money) that I don't want a big ceremony when Jake and I get married. I think that some of his family would express reservations at coming. And if any of them did that i would cut them out of my life, and that could hurt Jake.

    Not that either of us ever received the kind of bad reaction you and Jay did when you came out. I only ever knew one person who got a bad reaction from her parents in real life and she was a transsexual. One of my friends sisters cried but his dad told her to shut up.

    I wonder if it is a generational thing? Maybe those 10 years between you and me made all the difference for people? I think it shows how far we have come.

  5. I worry about the advise I give to people.

    When people in real life have asked me if they should come out I have always said "yeah do it, your family will get over it, they are your family" and so far I have been right.

    But I have been thinking since I saw some coming out stories on YouTube that maybe I have been too blasé.

  6. I gave up thinking about friends' & family support a long time ago. Because I happen to live in one of those countries where people rarely change their minds about something as controversial as homosexuality.

    I live in a provincial Russian city, pretty big city (population way over half a million), but somehow it feels like I'm the only gay one here. There should be other people like me out there, I know for a fact there are (some friends of mine told me they know a couple or two living together and posing for the rest of the people, like their families and neighbors, as "friends" who just want to save money on rent, pretty much like in the YouTube video A Right to be Gay — Russia). Who knows how many of us hide behind "the rent," or, like me, are too afraid to be outed that they prefer to live in the shadows completely, forbidding themselves anything and everything that may give them away, even forbidding to fall in love.

    I've come out to myself about 6 years ago, unable to lie anymore, at least not to myself, for it's pointless, destructive, misleading & unfair. And all these years I was trying to understand what it means to me and to other people, what they think about people like me, which part of this is true and which is blatant lie made up by sleazy politicians to make people loathe us, so they would have someone to hate and someone to blame for things they cannot change by themselves or realize that they have no power over some things that happen in life.

    «God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.»
    (AA & NA prayer)

    There are so many people who don't even realize they need this prayer in their lives just as much as alcoholics & addicts.
    People who have no serenity to accept things the way they are, things that exist in nature, things that are weird but not uncommon in nature, things that we don't know the reason to be that way, but nature knows better.
    People who have no courage to change their old-fashioned & obsolete views formed by the misled society, Bible thumpers & corrupted politicians who always need a scapegoat to throw into the mob of angry people, because someone always has to answer to make things right.
    People who have no wisdom to see the difference between completely different things, to see that they are being lied to, to see their own wrongdoings & vices & sins, to see that they themselves are the source of violence and crime for which they try to punish others.

    Bryan says that he was shocked to find out one of his family members voted against his right to marry, though this family member probably attended Jay's & Bryan's wedding just 9 days before the elections (they got married on October 26, 2008, if I'm not mistaken). What was it? Hypocrisy? Hidden hatred? Disgust in disguise? Or just dealing still in progress? We don't know. But we must remember that we would never be able to make everyone understand us & accept us, thinking otherwise is just too Utopian & idealistic. There always will be people with their reservations & insecurities, fears & issues formed by society & personal experiences that can't be simply put aside. And it is our turn to accept these people the way they are — unaccepting of us.
    God, if you're there, grant us the serenity to accept people whose minds we cannot change, and simply accept the fact that there are & alway will be people whose minds & hearts we won't be able to change for the reasons of their own inability to revise their views & values, or lack of human compassion, or unhealthy desire to hate someone & always be opposed to someone or something.

  7. Funny, my comment showed up both in this post's RSS feed & in the RSS feed for all comments of this blog, but didn't show up here in comments. It's Craig's problem all over again (remember, orangegoblin82, you posted something and it didn't show up first? now it happened to my post!).

    BTW, Craig, you complained that there's no notification thing to follow comments. Well, you can use the RSS feed for all comments of this blog (Atom) — it's really helpful, I don't miss any comments anymore!

    Wonder if this comment will show up...

  8. Oh, I completely forgot!
    Craig, you and Jake decided to get married?
    Or I misread your comment and you're just considering this?
    Anyway, if you finally decided, congratulations! Tell us more about that in your videos (or point me one about that if you already posted it, for my internet connection sucks here and most of the time YouTube won't even open, so I can't browse it all the time, unfortunately).

  9. @K!r!lleXXI

    Thanks for the perspective lexxi. I have been having a hard time the last 24 hours tring to get my thoughts together about this. Your post has helped me find a more peacefull state of mind. You expressed that so well I think YOU should be the one writing a blog.


  10. Well, in my case, i´ve been extremly lucky, both my friends and family were pretty cool about it.

    And i don´t really had the case where i had to advise someone to come out, but i think sometimes people surprise us, and we have to have a little faith in them.

    About your family Bryan, i don´t what to suy, sometimes people surprise us in a bad way and we can only fell dissapointed, dissapointed about them and us, because we feel like we didn´t do enough, or they don´t care about us, or other shit.

    Sometimes people can´t change, sometimes they don´t want to change.

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  12. This was a great post Bryan, and a way I had never looked at these issues before - that at least in other civil rights battles, those involved are coming from a place where they may be 'against the world', but at least it has most likely always been them and their people 'against the world'.

    Was at a concert for a Christian band this evening, and they put in a little bit of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors. For me it is a brilliant gay rights anthem, but couldn't help but look around and wonder how many people would keep singing it if they knew what it represents for a lot of people.

  13. I don't know if you got my email. But if you did.... thanks a lot for this post.


  14. Dear Bryan,
    It made me sad to read that you don't get the support you deserve from your family. I haven't been in your situation so I can't know how you feel, but I guess it must be much worse than I feel. And even I, as a straight person supporting gay rights, could sometimes scream and yell, just out of frustration and helplessness. I just can't understand why a family would support their child less just because he or she is homosexual. It is my kid, no matter who he decides to live his life with! And I can't imagine how I would vote on a law that would cut my kid's rights....these walls in our heads, they seem to be much stronger than love - which is very, very sad.
    Anyway, I hope you can feel support from the rest of the world on occasion as well, especially from straight people - I believe straight supporters are crucial because they don't "gain" anything when the same rights are finally granted to everybody, and that might make them very credible to those who still are opposed. And most importantly, I wish the families would realize that their sons and daughters will always be their children and that they need family support...

  15. Bryan...I still say the best way to combat homophobia and hatred is to just be "out" to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors. I actually did a little vid on that subject on my channel (stoner829). I cannot tell you how many minds my partner and I have changed over our 18 years together.
    I finally saw the movie "Milk." At the end of the movie in one his last speeches....he told the crowd..."Come out..let the world see who you are.." Many people did and that is how this change is evolving...

  16. Bryan, Your post points out how vital Internet connections are for LGBT people around the world. The isolation and alienation of previous generations of LGBT people can begin to be turned aside. The conscious awareness of a real hope for equality, for a spouse, for a family, for a life unashamed is growing among the younger generation around the world.

    There are going to be unsettled chapters or turbulent storms ( choose your metaphor ) but our story is not yet complete. We still live.

    Living honorably and honestly and openly as you and Jay do gives hope and encouragement to us all. And part of that honest living is being able to cry out with David -- How long, O Lord?

    That is what I admire about your blog, Bryan. You speak from the heart. You and Jay are men of great heart. Thank you for recording your lives and thoughts in this time of change so we are reminded there are reasons to hope, endure and overcome.