Your True Authentic Self

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We all have heard it and often times we may even get tired of hearing it, but it is important to come out. It’s important on so many levels and we must also realize that it isn’t a one time event. It is important for others to see us as LGBTQ people; to see us is to know us. To know us is to be held accountable for things they say and actions they do. Our visibility helps those who have not found the strength to come out, it gives them a point to focus on and become stronger.  October is the perfect month to start thinking about this and how it affects you, it is LGBTQ Awareness Month.

Before I get into the normal part of why coming out is important, let’s look at a real life reason. On Tuesday September 25th, Cuyahoga County passed the LGBTQ Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance.  Even though about half of the county already had some form of protection legislation in effect. Everyone in Cuyahoga County can be out and not have to worry about losing our job or our houses. We can hold hands in a restaurant and not have to constantly check to see if someone is looking that may get us thrown out. We can be our true authentic self, for most establishments, and not have to worry about being refused service because someone doesn’t think we fit into their small little religious detailed boxes. We can now legally use the bathroom that is correct for us and not have to worry about our safety. These are very important reasons for us to come out now. But these aren’t the most important reasons.

During this hearing many sides were able to voice their opinion. Many communities spoke out for and against this ordinance and why they felt it was important. None gave me grater pause to stop and think than a member of the African American community who spoke out against this ordinance because she knew we chose to be this way and felt we should not have “special rights.” Which, point of fact, are the very same rights she already has. The sticky part for me is when she said, “Choose to be that way.” Yes I know, this isn’t a new argument, it’s the one that is trotted out every time the LGBTQ community stands up for themselves and demand equality. History isn’t teeming with examples of abuse, prejudice, inequities, and inequalities we have suffered. Why? Because our very being isn’t always as easily spotted as heteronormative culture likes to say. Modes of dress, speech styles, rhythm affluences, and mannerisms often aren’t so easy to spot. Because of that the same heteronormative society says it’s because we choose to be this way and only recently wanted fairness.

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LGBTQ people were there in the concentration camps, right along with our Jewish allies. We have been hung, brutally beaten, rape d, and murdered in horrendous ways right along with other minorities.  We stood in the same lines, walking the same streets as our African American brothers and sisters. There were many LGBTQ people who were advisors to Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. We fought for racial equality knowing it was still illegal to hold hands with our loved ones in public. These are the most important reasons we should come out, everyone of us. We need to show the world just how many of us there are and stand in unity with all those who fight. You want to shape the world for the future? These are the means to do so.

Coming out is and should be a daily event.  I know what you are saying; I just want to live a normal life and to be accepted. What you really are saying is that you want to blend in and not be noticed and that is equal to going back into the closet. You may even argue that heterosexuals don’t come out everyday, but I challenge you to reconsider that thought. The world is tailored around a heterosexual mindset. Media caters to their sexuality, movies highlight their lives, artists write songs about it, and even the government is accepting of this as the right way to live. While it is only the tip of the iceberg.it is not the reason this post was written.

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To constantly live in hiding does damage to ourselves, so coming out is important for our well-being. It’s about accepting yourself as a valid person and beginning to love yourself. This starts the ‘healing of self’ process and is key in being able to allow someone to love you for who you are. We all have heard it at some point, “if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect someone else to love you.” It’s a watered down expression, but what it means is that everything interaction we have in our lives builds a relationship. The first relationship we foster is the one with ourselves. Many times, we cannot even look at ourselves in the mirror for 30 seconds without passing judgment. Learning to love and accept yourself isn’t an easy or overnight thing. In fact, it will probably take all of your life but you can make a start.

Inner homophobia is hard to overcome and it comes in many guises. The easy ones are when we hate ourselves because we view ourselves as not what others expect us to be. We see it too important to base our worth on what others think of us. That is the most evident ones, but there are other deeper ones many of us still carry. Congratulating ourselves on our coworkers not being able to identify us as gay, when you feel good that someone praises you for having straight friends as well as gay friends, or when we let go of our lovers hand in public when we walk into a group of heterosexuals or when children pass by. We also see this in our dating apps and profiles, “masc seeking masc,” “straight acting seeking same”, or even “gay but doesn’t act it.” These are examples of internalized homophobia. The same as just wanting to be viewed as normal and not having to say that you are LGBTQ. We shouldn’t have to feel dread or stay out of the conversation when someone asks us about your weekends. If they talk about what they did with their spouses in comfort and ease, we too should be able to.

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Now before you start saying, “damn it Keith, I do not need to run around waving a rainbow or equality flag every time I have a conversation.” You are correct and that isn’t what I am saying, exactly. Here is an example, you are at your normal Monday morning staff meeting and they are doing the “what did you do this weekend” recap, as it comes to you can say that you and your spouse was doing whatever. Calling your spouse by name allows others to make the connections themselves, much the same way you do when Ted says that him and Sarah went to Olive Garden for their anniversary. You make the conclusion that Sarah is female and his wife, whether that is the case or not, we do know that Ted has a connection to Sarah. It is the casual conversation that should be undertaken to have the coming out moments. Why should we shy away from sharing about our personal lives simply because we are in a same sex relationship? You don’t have to wave a flag, but you shouldn’t have to hide it either

This being said, sometimes it is truly not safe to come out and for those times I would tell you to consider your options before making that move. If you are dependent upon parental figures for your survival, then wait until it is sustainable for you to be on your own. If the place you lie in would react hostile to you coming out, then it may not be the right time to open up. However, if you are in any kind of abusive situation, you need to get out. Your safety is always first. There are resources available to help you, please seek them out. It takes bravery to come out and many times people just don’t have the support network to find that bravery. Do not put yourself at physical risk to be brave, there is always a time and place.

I stand here in support of each and everyone of you. If you ever need someone to talk to, you can always email me. I will listen to you and support you for your True Authentic Self. No struggle should be done alone, you always have support. Email me if you need.
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Flaming River Con

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This past Saturday was the second annual Flaming River Con and was held in Rocky River at the West Shore Unitarian Universalists Church. I brought my best friends who happen to be a straight married couple and we decided to check it out. I had been excited for going since they announced the event early in summer. As it got closer I was hopeful for what the turn out would be like. We arrived just after 12:30 and the parking lot was packed and my excitement was escalated. We are making circles in the parking lot, skillfully looking for a spot. All I can see is my fellow LGBTQ community showing up, many of which in costumes.

Suddenly, I am filled with the emotions of the first time going to an amusement park. I am pretty low key when it comes to comic cons. I am not comfortable about dressing up as my heroes, so I am usually limited to wearing a t-shirt of anyone of my favorite villains or heroes. Today I decided to wear a blue cargo kilt and a grey Batman shirt, sort of as a mock throw back to the original Batman colors. I look around and I see the levels of peoples cosplay and I am just struck by the talent and creativity.

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As we walked in we were greeted by the Welcoming table. They offer information about the event and its roots. Talk about the raffles and what to expect. Thankfully, my friends paid attention because I was more like a kid in a candy store. My gaze feasting from one sight to another, trying to see it all. We purchase our tote bags, make our donations and I am still lost in all the people around me. As we move into the building we pass other tables for groups, rooms for all the panel discussions, and finally we enter what can only be described as geek heaven, the vendor floor.

Now many of us have been to comic cons before, the vendor floor is by large the biggest space at them and it’s where we, as collectors, find the rare statues or figures we have been searching for, for what seems our entire lives. Here it was different, it was local artists showcasing their talents and passions for the community. This is the type of vendor floor that makes me happy. If you ask me what my favorite booth was the Adopt A Monster booth by C. M. Manfredi’s Emporium of Wonders . Her handmade creatures were amazing and I think I fell in love with everyone of them. Please check out her link and support her. There were handmade Pride stained glass, artists of every flavor, and even locally made cosplay gear. Taranis Works  was on site to suit your leather goods needs. From pride colored spiked bracelets, leather eye patches, full arm guards, and leather belt bags. Check out his site for anything you may need made to your specifications.

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Many may ask why there is a need for an LGBTQ event such as this and my response is the need is important for us to have a place where we can feel at ease celebrating who we are and what we love. Sure we can do this at the larger Cons, but speaking to LGBTQ representation in comic/sci-fi/horror culture would be unheard of. Here we had Sine Grace signing autographs and discussing his role in making Iceman a representative of the LGBTQ community. These are the stepping stones for young LGBTQ youth to have role models and sources of strength and self worth. Comic books shape us as children and oftentimes they do not represent all of society. This even allows that to happen and to celebrate it.

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Thank you Flaming River Arts for putting on this event and seeing the importance for it to happen. Thank you to each person who was in attendance for it, you are the ones that make this a success. I look forward to next year and how much more it grows. It is the only place where we can be our true LGBTQ geek selves. So make sure we continue to offer your support to them. Thank you again to Flaming River Con.

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#Kiltlife

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Often, when I am out, I am asked why do I wear a kilt. It’s usually combined with are you Irish or Scottish. On occasion I get a rude comment or two. A lot of just looks, but it’s usually the why? The simple answer is that I like them, but it starts a deeper question as to when did I decide that it was something that I wanted to wear. I have never really “fit in” with fashion. Often times I dress how I like with only a little nod to any form of fashion. I also don’t think that people should be pigeonholed into a specific current fashion trend.

Pants weren’t accepted by most of the world until about 1701 and even by then there were French style breeches as opposed to trousers. And modern versions of trousers weren’t set until about the 1800s. Until the first onset, most of the world of men’s fashion was a caftan style or tunic style apparel. Native American were wearing breechclouts, which were pieces of fabric passed between the legs and held up by a belt. Roman and Greeks soldiers thought it barbaric and effeminate to wear pants. This Roman didn’t change their mindset until the Teutons conquered them and more exploration into the northern regions. Here it was limited, primarily, to the cavalry. Hitherto, this has not effect as to why I currently wear a kilt, but it is a history to show that men didn’t always wear bifurcated garments.

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As I said earlier, I have always been different in my mode of dress. I wore what I liked and didn’t pay a lot of heed to man fashion trends. In the 80s I did follow the neon fashion statements and the jelly bracelet fad. But I also wore a floor length black denim duster through most of high school with a bit of an early gothic edge. Definitely different than the normal kids in our school. I grew up in a very small rural town and our school TOTAL was 500 people. When I graduated, it was about 45 people. So, as you can see, very small. Standing out means you stood out. Seeing Boy George blurring gender lines by wearing skirts and dresses fascinated me. We had person in our school, Brian Cales that mimicked Boy George’s dress style. I never had the nerve for it. I really wasn’t witness to anything like that until after I came out and started going to the local gay bay. They guy I was dating at the time, Shawn Moomau, had a friend whose name was Mike and he always wore kilts to the bar. He was a somewhat club kid of the time. I loved his kilt and wanted one. The Internet was much smaller then and when I researched kilts I was met with the sheer expense of them. So my hopes were dashed. Today we have companies like Kilted Bros , who make it a bit more affordable to get a quality product.

I personally feel that men should branch out and try a kilt, even if only occasionally. When you are kilted up for special events, the image cannot be beat. Even casually, it can be awesome. It’s about the confidence you carry while wearing it. I have my favorites out of all of my kilts; my gotos and I have some I wear out of comfort. The most difficult for me, personally, are the cargo style kilts. And there difficulty only comes from the fabric being the heavier canvas; they are prone to creasing if the pleats aren’t perfectly situated. That it seems, is a huge struggle for me. Basically, I hate ironing pleats it is torture. I don’t seem to have that issue when I wear my wool or acrylic tartans. That aside, I still love wearing them. The freedom of movement is incredible. Pants or jeans never seem to fit 100% perfect, you always seem to get that binding pinch at some point. Go for a pair more form fitting and you end up with them riding up on you. Not comfortable, to say the least. Give me a kilt any day, All day long it’s comfortable, I don’t have to worry about feeling overly warm. Sitting for a long time, my only fear is how my pleats look.

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It takes confidence to be different than the pack, so do not think a man shouldn’t wear a kilt. Anyone that tells you that is out of his or her mind. It’s not about being Scottish/Irish, its not about wanting to wear skirts, its about being comfortable and being your true authentic self. Many think they can’t afford a kilt, well  Kilted Bros sells a more affordable kilt called a RRRip kilt. It is designed as a runner or hikers kilt, or to be used as a quick cover up for the pool and etc. Very lightweight and breathable. But, if you want to try a kilt without having to put a lot of money into one, this is the way to go. They can still be dressed up the same as other kilts, sporran, belt, shoes, shirt, and tie or just a t-shirt and barefoot around the house. It’s a PERFECT to see how you feel about it and to get comfortable with it.

And I get it, you like wearing a kilt. You wear them out in public, to the bar, and various events, but it is hard to wear them to work. Not all places are accepting of being able to wear one. This is because they are different and not widely accepted as acceptable forms of dress for men. I have been lucky to work for places that were accepting of me wearing them. With my current job, I usually wear them on Fridays and maybe one other day of the week. At a previous job, I wore them almost every day. In general, most people are pretty accepting of seeing me in one. I have had more people genuinely interested and giving compliments than the few random people who are negative about it.

The more you wear a kilt and it becomes a part of  your routine, they become you. Rude comments won’t bother you anymore, you will notice the looks of approval you get from men and women. As it becomes a natural thing for you, broaching the subject at your place of work becomes easier, as well.  The point is, you can’t know if you like something unless you try it. Be different, be ahead of the pack and not stuck in the middle. Get out and go talk to the guys at Kilted Bros. and try one on.

 

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Silent Masses

A Gallup Poll in 2017 showed that 4.5% of Americans verbally identified as being LGBTQ. It’s a staggering statistic to imagine. Four out of every 100 hundred people are LGBTQ. I was at an event at work recent and we had about 170 people in attendance. There were 10 LGBTQ that I was personally aware of, in the crowd. That was ten of us that we openly identify as LGBTQ, however, to those around us. I officially came out in June of 1996 and ironically a similar poll had results of being about 3%.

I look at this poll with its number and am left conflicted. How can it be in this our era of what should be LGBTQ awakening and acceptance? How is it we know that there are more of us out there than this poll shows? Like the curious prairie dog popping his head out his den long enough to survey for predators, I am quickly reminded as to why. Cleveland, the place I now call home, is home to 17% of the transgender deaths in the United States. We live in a county where the bodies of government we elected is openly and actively pursuing means of changing legislature about LGBTQ rights. But that isn’t the point of this post.

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In 2017 5.1% of women openly identified as being LGBTQ, which is up from 3.5% women identifying in 2012, a of that gain was in the years of 2016 and 2017 Men on the other hand are 3.9%, which is up from 3.4% in 2012. And of course millennials are the largest group where the percentage of increase has happened. Again, the question is why isn’t the percentage reported higher. These kind of polls are always slightly jaded in the fact that it asks you if you identify as LGBTQ. Many people still have the built in stigma of answering truthfully to this question. Fear of some repercussion makes them question how to answer honestly. For me, I feel it falls back to the pack mentality that many animals have, strength in numbers. Being in your close and tightly knit circles offers freedom to be who you are without that fear. Answering a poll, on your own, can be a bit more daunting.

We live in a world where we, as LGBTQ, have quickly learned that it is better to keep quiet about our sexuality and violence against us, because we are seen as less than human. A 2007 Department of Justice Poll states that 17% of the “reported” hate crimes were because of sexual orientation. Many of us still live in cities, counties, or states that offer us no protection based on our orientation. That leaves us nowhere to turn to speak out when violence is acted upon us. It becomes harder for men to report sexual violence, due to stigma that many men harbor. For the transgender community, it can open up much more emotional issues. 26% of gay men, 44% of lesbians, 37% of bisexual men, and 61% of bisexual women experience rape or physical violence by an intimate partner. 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, this number raises even more based on people of color. These stats come from the Human Rights Campaign.

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

There are still states that do not offer other rights to the LGBTQ and it was until 2015 that many hospital accepted spousal rights for LGBTQ marriages. I remember when my partner died in 2003, the paramedics that came referred to me as a “her” because I was distraught at holding my lover in my arms as he died. Their reports never included partner or lover when they were writing down what happened. I wasn’t even told the hospital he was taken to because I couldn’t possibly be anyone that was of importance to him since I was just some emotional gay man. In 2003, there were NO protections of any kind. When I arrived at the hospital they wouldn’t update me on anything. After sitting there for almost three hours, a nurse felt sorry for me and quietly said she would show me, if I kept quiet about it since it was against hospital policy to let non-family members to see the body. It was embarrassing to have to endure when your loved one is somewhere and you cannot be with them. No one should have to go through that.

This is only a fraction of what we have to endure and is partly why reporting crimes and filling out surveys are so hard for us to get through. Personally, to me, this is why these polls always seem to show we are only at a 4% of the population. Some of that is our own fault. It is beyond the time for us to stand up together and be counted. We are comfortable in our smaller groups, but it is time to lay those to the side and join the larger group and be safe in those larger numbers. Take those surveys with honesty and confidence. If every one of us that are LGBTQ made ourselves known, we would no longer be considered the “certain minority”. People would realize that they already know someone, close to them, that is LGBTQ and what kind of an impact we have on the world. Look at recent history of when North Carolina passed the HB2 ordinance that essentially told transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their sex at birth. The LGBTQ community stood up against it and refused to patron the county where it happened, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors contacted North Carolina and stated that their county employees were barred from visiting the state for county business. Collegiate and professional sports teams pulled their venues from North Carolina. Even Hulu cancelled filming a TV series there, based on this ordinance. . With a sum total of $3/76 billion not going to North Carolina, HB2 was repealed and replaced.

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Do our numbers truly reflect what these polls say? Look at Pride events to see these numbers are obviously misrepresented. It is left to use to change these perceptions. Unlike people of color, it is easier for us to hide who we are and we often times do that out of protection to ourselves. We feel safe in our own communities, but it is time to realize that the community at large is also our community and it is here where we need to fight for our safety. To do this we must come out and we must be recognized. We have the power, as we have seen in our boycotts, to shape this country and its businesses, but we have to come together to do that. How will you shape the change?

 

Finding my needle in a haystack…

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I mentioned that I came from a small town in southwestern Virginia, in a previous post Cleveland Dating Woes. I don’t regret it, it was hard growing up there but I wouldn’t have changed it. Afterall, I met my first love there. So it cannot be all bad.  Dating was so easy, when I first came out. Going to the only gay bar in a hour’s drive in any direction meant I was fresh meat. They knew when you walked in if it was your first time. Blood in the water and the sharks are circling. My sex life wasn’t all that bad either. Small towns gave you the ability to develop close friends that could help you out when it was needed. No drama, nothing expected.

Now that I live in Cleveland it can be a bit daunting. I have found that Southern Men are much easier in a lot of ways. Our customs and mannerisms about things, like dating and sex are different, When I think about it, all that comes to mind was an episode of Golden Girls where Blanche Devereaux is telling the rest of the girls how southerners develop sexually. She said it was because of “The Heat.” It’s true, in a way. Plying you with subdued conversation and innuendos tends to move things along.  Men in Cleveland, at times, seem to lack the necessary conversational skills to properly motivate someone. Maybe it’s the city life, the hustle and bustle. I love a little romance; whether it be talking or wining and dining. I need a little conversation. Sure Elvis crooned that a little less conversation is preferable, but that’s only when it time for it.

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It’s a larger population here, so trying to find what I am looking for isn’t as easy. That means there is more, per capita married straight men looking to spice up their sexual repertoire. I prefer my men to be a bit more available emotionally. Meeting people still remains hard for me; I stand at about 6’4” and have a larger build, as you can see from any of my pictures on here, short hair, and a beard. So at first glance, most think I am straight. This rarely helps my situation.

Gay men are fickle creatures, we have fought for our right to get married, and for some that is a good thing. But our roots come from many partners. I am not saying that Gay men never stayed with one person, but our history does show a penchant for random hookups with men. A lot of that stems from the fact that until recent history, it was illegal to be Gay. Being in a bar that was classified as gay could get you arrested. Sex with another man, fell under sodomy laws and came with a jail sentence. So, furtive and quick hookups were commonplace.

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Because of this thought process, many people still think that is how Gay men should be. Not tied down to one person. I’m not here to tell you what is or is not right, that is only for you to decide. Neither is wrong, they are only different sides of the same coin. I only point it out to show how hard dating can be for Gay men.

I tend to be more cerebral when it comes to things involving dating and sex. Being someone who is particularly loquacious, I like a little of that back. If you can talk to me in those dulcet tones, you win me over much faster than just saying things like “sup.” Think about your words and give me eye contact and you got it. Now that you know my secret, i expect to see it put into action. Challenge has been given

 

Gay Rights Movement vs. Civil Rights Movement

We should be learning from those that have laid the very groundwork for fighting for civil liberties. We also should be cognizant of the fact that many of those pioneers were, in fact, fighting for LGBTQ rights at the same time they were fighting for civil rights. This Ted Talk shows how the Gay Rights Movement has correlations with the Civil Rights Movement and how pioneers Bayard Rustin and Jack Nichols fought as out gay black men.