Nine years went fast. Coming out was the decision that altered my life like no other decision I’ve made. I took the reins of my own life. My life is now high resolution. My highs are higher. My lows are lower. I don’t feel the insulating effect of living someone else’s life by hiding in the closet. Each decision that followed my coming out felt like I was owning my own life.
It’s been more than 50 years since the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that kicked off the modern Gay Rights movement. What amazes me most is how fast things have changed. As a society, we’ve come so far since then and we continue the work ahead of us.
Coming out wasn’t easy. At the time, I was a deeply conservative Christian. I didn’t know really anyone who was out. Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, I didn’t have any contacts at the time who could point the way. Looking back, I’m proud of the fact that made the decision to come out without much community support.
Shortly thereafter I watched a lot of movies. I watched just about every movie on Netflix that was in the LGBTQ genre. I needed content that was relevant to me. A common misconception is that gay life is like straight life with the same sex. While there are similarities, there are also key differences. Seeing movies that were representative of my life in that moment was important then and still important now. I commend the content team at Netflix in pursuing content that reflects my community.
In the same timeframe, I also stumbled upon the It Gets Better Project. I can’t convey the value those videos in helping me see that I too had a place in this community. You see – I needed a role model that felt like me. It’s not until you deviate from the mainstream mean do you understand the gap between you and that mean. If you are looking for a place to donate – know that this organization was critical in my own journey.
I remember my first San Francisco Pride. I was a new member of Homoto – San Francisco’s LGBTQ motorcycle club. We take part in the motorcycle contingent of the parade. I smile as I remember all the anxieties I hung onto on that day:
- Am I really ready for this?
- What if X person finds out I’m here?
- What if I dump my bike on national television?
I support Homoto as I believe in the mission of providing a safe space for LGBTQ people in the motorcycling community.
This year, however, I had very different emotions. Concurrent with San Francisco Pride, in my own hometown, there was a resolution to raise the pride flag the entire month of June to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. The city held an open forum for the public to comment on the resolution. I share a quote from my speech that night:
I think we’ve talked a lot about important issues regarding housing tonight. This, however, is an issue about turning house into home and building a community in which you feel supported. I can’t underscore that point enough as you consider this resolution. As many others have said, I encourage you to lean into this issue rather than to hold to status quo.-My statement to the our local city council at it’s weekly meeting
Participation in local government is important to me. In my town, there was a resolution to raise the pride flag for the month of June. Because many of us in the town and spoke to the city council, the motion passed. You could see the city council labor through the decision. I respect them for that. They wanted to do the right thing the right way. It’s easy to dismiss and say “of course it passed, it’s the SF Bay Area!” In other local communities, similar resolutions failed. We can’t just expect one vote in the national election to be enough. We need to know and communicate with our local and state leaders on issues that are important to us.
I’m proud of my city. I’m proud of the fact that we made a statement that LGBTQ people are welcome here. I remember moving into my neighborhood and one of the neighbors coming up to me saying “We are so happy you moved into our street. You are welcome here.” As an out, gay man – those words are gold. Houses become homes and homes become communities. We need to honor and invest in that fabric. I’m blessed that I know each neighbor on my street personally.
For all of us in the LGBTQ community – It’s been a journey. The world hasn’t always been there when we needed someone. When I was in the staging area for this year’s parade, I felt a strong sense of support. This is our moment. It’s not been a perfect journey – but this is the celebration of the value we add to the world.
Pride is your moment. This is the time to step on your stage and let the world affirm you in your moment.
I wanted to thank every supporter in that very diverse crowd. There was every race, creed, age, gender, and orientation. It truly was a quilt of people there lining Market Street. I don’t know how many of the 1 million Pride attendees lined up along those eight blocks of Market Street – but I thank each of them for helping make my journey better. I enjoyed waving with you and cheering on everyone on with you.
I also deeply thank those who came before me in this journey. Those who were out long before it was easy. Those who fought battle after battle advocating for the human rights of those behind them. Those who had to endure relentless persecution as there was no closet to hide in or no support in their world.
Today is your day. Enjoy it as a part of the larger community. You are loved.
Our city councilman made an important comment after the resolution to raise the pride flag passed. Those who are still in the closet are watching close to them to see if/when it’s safe to come out. I encourage you to make the space around you safe for that decision. Someone close to you is watching you to see if you are that safe person. LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to be homeless and five times more likely to commit suicide. You are more important than you realize in that journey.
I’d like to close with a callout to a few movies that spoke to me this year. Happy Pride everyone!
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