Monday, November 17, 2008

Rick Reed from the Heart

(My Original Blog Post:

Nothing is more touching than real stories from real people. People, like myself and I'm sure, many of you, who have "been there, done that, and sadly, got the t-shirt" whether we wanted it or not.

Horror writer Rick R. Reed said it best in his Myspace blog today. With his permission, I am reposting his enlightening piece. From his heart to yours...

Parallels: Coming Out and the Fight for Marriage Equality

The other day, I posted a YouTube video of commentator Keith Olbermann's wise, common sense, and compassionate words on marriage equality. His was one of the best arguments I've ever heard in a loud and often insane discourse on the topic.

But one part of his talk really shook me up and I haven't been able to get it out of my head, because it really hit home for me personally. It might have gone by too quickly for you to ponder, so this is what he said: "And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage."

I am one of those people he's referring to. I can be counted. For seven years, from age 23 to age 30, I was a married the kind of marriage that's legal in all fifty states. We had a son during that time. And we worked hard and created a life that was pretty much the American dream: the two car garage with attached house, the kid in kindergarten, the cute puppy, and the circle of straight friends who were pretty much like ourselves.

But what those straight friends, the child, nor the puppy knew, I was living a life "in shame and unhappiness." Make no mistake: I dearly loved my wife (and still do); my son was my world (and still is); those friends meant a lot to me (and some were even surprisingly supportive when this perfect-looking little world began to crumble). But I was living a lie. All of my friends were straight; my coworkers at my job were straight; my family of origin loved the son who was now a husband and father. And all the while, I was wrestling with these desires I naively assumed would go away when I married. I believed the Christian right's assertion that being gay was a choice...and that was the most damning belief of all. That belief messed up not only my life but the lives of people whom I dearly loved.

It took me a long time to accept myself for who I really was, to be brave enough to show the world my true face and say love it or leave it. And it took years to understand how I could have known something so fundamental to my very being and to not accept it.

I titled this blog with the word "parallels" and I think there is a parallel with my struggle to accept myself as a gay man and the broader fight the LGBT community are fighting as a whole.

See, the more I pushed myself down, the more I beat back the urges I couldn't deny, the more I tried to be someone I simply was not, the stronger, it seemed, that person beneath the mask became. That person behind the mask, with all the pain he was suffering as he was scuttled into the shadows of the closet, grew angrier and angrier and more despondent at being told: "No. You cannot be. You are sick and diseased and not worthy of the love you are now getting."

I think, in the end, a lot of that beating down (mostly by myself) only made the gay man behind the mask stronger, so that when he did finally come out of the closet, he was finally ready to accept himself and his new life, with all its own problems, pitfalls...and yes, joys. But it was his life...and not a life he thought society thought he should have.

I think the parallel to me personally and the larger fight going on now is that these setbacks, these right wingers beating us down and saying: "No. You cannot have what we have, even if we lose absolutely nothing by giving it to you" is making the whole community at large stronger, more mobilized, and more determined. With each beating down, we rise up stronger and more determined, just like my own gay self did, back when I hid from who I was. What these right wing haters do not realize is that their efforts are harming us only superficially: they are making us more willing to stand up and fight for what is right and what is ours. That little core, both inside a closeted person living a lie, and an oppressed community, can go only two ways: the first is to give up to despair and the second is to finally stand up and say: "There's nothing wrong with me. I am as deserving of love and acceptance as anyone else."

Author Rick R. Reed: Web site or Myspace

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