31 January 2011

Owning The Truth!

Watching the video of Madonna on Ellen recently discussing bullying and other subjects, I am forced to reflect on a time in my life when I was not so comfortable, or secure as I am today.  You see, despite the public face of Miami and its famous beach, the Miami I grew up in in the 1980's and 90's (and the Miami some live in today) was not the most GLBT friendly place on earth.  I was teased, spat on, tortured, beaten, robbed, threatened with death...all for being gay.  Committing suicide seemed the only way to be free of the hell I seemed to live in.  My Mom was a Southern Baptist, and an avid churchgoer, and basically the position of the church was that God hated people like me, so you had few choices.  You could A-live a lie by going to 'Conversion Therapy' , B-Kill yourself, C-contract some horrible disease and die as dictated by God, or D-Wait to be beaten to death by the righteous.  I was not happy with any of those options, and I did not believe God hated me, or that AIDS was God's answer to homosexuality.  So I did what I do today.  I stood up, came out and got counted.  I found it hard, and my blood was spilled on more than one occasion for standing my ground.  But the part of me that I kept safe and secure knew that someday, I would leave the South and move to my version of Mecca-NYC.  

I thought leaving Miami after High School would end all my problems.  I was convinced I would be a famous actor, and would find global adulation.  I was doubly convinced that I could then use my fame and fortune to champion the cause of GLBT rights.  I had no idea of the rough ride I was in for.  Life in New York is not for the meek of heart.  The City is cold and can be cruel and unusual.  I spent many nights cold and hungry.  I even spent a few sleeping outdoors because I was out of options when I was first here.  I fought and scraped and starved my way through it, though.  I learned that life as an actor was fulfilling, but not as much as one involved in the process of politics.  I evolved, I grew, I changed.  I never, however, forgot where I came from or why I am so passionate and vocal about equality for ALL.  I never close my door or my heart to someone who is in a bad situation, particularly when that person is GLBT.  I march in parades, wave my flag proudly, and do what I can to keep the march going forward.  I do it because so many others can't.  I do it because so many who I have loved are gone long before their time.  I do it for the kids who remind me of myself before life got too real, before the scars I carry made me harder than I want to be sometimes.

I still love to perform, I still love attention, but I am learning a little bit every day about how I can employ the skills I have been blessed with in making someone else's day better.  Even in retail, I am daily given the chance to make someone feel good about themselves, to show someone the beauty they carry within.  I am blessed to live where I wanted to be from the time I was a little boy watching Wonder Woman on TV.  It is my job to nurture those blessings to keep them alive, and to share them wherever I can.

I challenge all of you to do something unexpectedly kind today.  Look for the saddest person you can find, and find something about them that is special.  Compliment them on it with a smile, and go about your day, without another thought.  Then do it again tomorrow.  You never know, it could just make the difference that saves someone's life.

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