Saturday, June 18, 2016

Shoshana Bean and Adrian Hansel- Not my Fathers Son

The first time I heard this song it literally took my breath away. I am reminded of it as we approach another Father's Day observance. It's never been a favorite holiday for me. Not that I don't love my father. Not that at some level he didn't love me. He just never really knew me.

My father contracted presenile dementia and didn't know me by the time I was 15. When he was still healthy and I was quite young he was already grappling with this second child who was displaying obvious gender dysphoria. My father was a simple man from a country upbringing. He was a man of great integrity, but also of strong programming about what was right and what was wrong. There was no acceptable tribal program that explained how I was expressing. He wanted me to fit in. To buck up and to face the world as the example of the masculine power that he was demonstrating. He was a star athlete with a son who couldn't catch a ball if his life depended on it. He wanted me on the field or court while I longed to be at the barre or on the stage. I recall watching the inner battle between the love he felt and the aversion he barely concealed.

Scriptures tell us that the sins of the father are revisited on the son. Properly understood this means that the  tribal perceptions that are passed on generation to generation often cause enormous pain to those who come along and do not fit the mold. To most the tribal program is nothing less than survival. My father wanted me to in reality hide what he feared I was in order to survive in this world. That came from caring. That came from love. It also came from generational ignorance. Neither one of my parents fully accepted my expression. Neither one of them wanted for me the pain of how society would judge and revile me. I do not fault them for that. I know they did the best they could from the parental programming they themselves were reared.

I really am not the son my father wanted, though he did not live long enough to fully know the extent of that. I embrace today that I was not born to be the son my wanted. I was born to be the son I am. I was born to love and to accept my father the way he was. I was not born to fit in or to pass. This realization is giving me a Father's Day in which I celebrate the Dad I lost so long ago. To celebrate the step-father that embraces me and my husband exactly as we are. To celebrate the father energy in me which is known and actualized as I choose to show up authentically, honestly, radically as who I am.

This Father's Day I show up for myself, owning and embracing the perceptual system into which I was born, while also transcending its bigoted and ignorant  limitations. With neither parent left on earth I choose to hold for myself the very best that they had to offer me. I choose to focus on the level of love that they were able to express. And I choose to parent myself in ways that are nurturing, loving, compassionate, and wise.

I am not my father's son, and in embracing that fact, suddenly I am.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


My friend Kevin skillfully maneuvered his bright orange Corvette through the dark back allies of downtown Columbus. The city was largely deserted after business hours, so as we rounded a corner and saw a large number of parked automobiles I knew this must be the spot. I could feel my heart pounding down into my solar plexus and up into my throat. As we got out of the car I did a quick but complete scan of the surrounding area. There was no one else around, and I quickened my pace to keep up with Kevin who was clearly on task. I saw ahead of us a short brick staircase crowned with a small globe style porch light that bore an italic small inscription “Ty’s.” As I started up the stairs, with a twenty dollar bill and a fake ID in the pocket of my then stylish Jordache jeans, I couldn’t decide if I was more afraid to stay outside or to go on in.

This was the late 70’s and I was heading into my very first gay bar. Even from the landing I could feel the pulsating bass beat coming from within the club. Kevin opened the door and basically shoved me in. I landed face to face with a humorless bouncer who smirked as he looked at the ID photo that bore no resemblance to me at all. He stared at me knowingly for what seemed like an eternity and then nodded for me to go on in. The knot in the pit of my stomach began to almost instantly ease as I looked around in amazement at what I was seeing. The light scatterings of the mirror ball and the softened hues of the colored lights revealed rooms filled with mostly men who I knew immediately were members of my tribe. Some were alone, some were coupled, some were gathered in groups. But I knew I was finally in a place where it was safe to be me. Where I could express in a way that was authentic to whom I actually am. This was a place where if I chose to dance it could be with a partner matching my natural orientation. This was a place where it was safe to meet and to talk openly with others who were born like me. I could even dare to flirt without fear of violent rejection and retribution in this oasis of free expression.

Ty’s was a safe zone. It was a tiny slice of earth where it was okay to be fully me. I frequented it in my college years, and internally smile as I think back on those years. I recall heterosexual friends going to the club with me and watching as they struggled to find a way to fit into “our” world. I may have had to try and to “pass” most other days of the week but on a week-end evening or even two I could step out of a scary world and step into a place where what I am was what I was allowed to be. It was my safe space for me and it was a community for us. It was a place where we could be free for a few hours underneath that mirror ball of dancing light.

That was long, long ago. And yet I imagine the LGBT clubs of today are serving much the same purpose. They are safe zones for people who still are not safe in the world at large. But now one of those spaces has been violated to such a degree that the betrayal cannot be ignored. Over one hundred individuals were gunned down in what truly was their home away from home. The safety was shattered in a hail of gun fire, the security drowned in a pool of collective blood. Couples died together. A mother died who was there only to dance in loving acceptance with her son, a son who now lives to survive that loss. Friends huddled together as they breathed their last breaths in a place that had promised to protect them, to let them be themselves without fear of rejection or retribution.

I contemplate my dark alley experiences in long ago Columbus and realize it could have been me. And it wasn’t. Yet at a deep level all of us who have hidden in the shadows and danced in the darkness feel this violation, this devastating breach of security. These were indeed our tribe. We felt safe together. Free together. We protected and embraced each together. And though that was temporarily interrupted in a vile and unspeakable way the tribal strength and the collective whole have risen together to face this tragic time. Love has faced the depth of hatred and has not flinched. The Light that has shined through this atrocity is not from a mirror ball but is generated by countless caring and compassionate hearts.

I have struggled to write and to somehow complete this piece. I have moved in and out of vulnerability and authenticity. To those of you still reading I confess to tender feelings around how this is received and evaluated. This tenderness I know is a direct result of having lived a life outside the margins. I know that my human experience as a gay man is a relative experience. It is not what I am in Truth. I know that at a broader level I am part of a human fabric that transcends gender, orientation, and nationality. I also know that I was born this way for a direct and higher purpose. Part of that purpose is to come to embrace fully the totality of my humanity. Part of that purpose is to stand up and to freely express the fullness of me.

I will no longer hide in back allies or gain entrance with a fake ID. I stand in solidarity with my LGBT sisters and brothers even as I know I am part of the greater whole. I am speaking out today on behalf of those who can no longer be heard. You were gunned down but you are not gone. You are here in these words, here in this heart. I will carry the torch of Truth for the remainder of my days. My heart will remain open, and I will love regardless of what the world may say. In this heart is my place to be, and in here I am truly free.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


I recently addressed our four graduating high school seniors as a part of our regular Sunday service here at Unity. We as a congregation wanted to celebrate them and this important milestone. I must admit that at this point in my life it is difficult to remember exactly what was going on inside of me as I left the relative safety of school and set off on the journey of adulthood. It felt very important to me to be able to communicate to these youth in a way that would perhaps contribute to the trajectory that is lying before them. I felt totally humbled and yet intensely passionate. What could I say?

I decided to approach the message from the vantage point of what the current me would say to my own eighteen year old. From what I remember of my own young man, what wisdom could he have used that I now perhaps possess? What pitfalls could I potentially guide these youth around from the perspective of one who had fallen into them?

It was a rich and rewarding internal exercise for me for sure. I am so grateful to these youth for invoking so much love in me that I spent considerable time and energy in exploring within myself for what I might then say to them. I came up with a list of seven things to share with our youth that I now want to share with you blog readers. I do so not from a place of thinking these are things you do not know. I do so with a desire that it might evoke a similar process within you.

So, what would you say to your eighteen year old from where you are now?

Here is what I shared:

* Life Loves you! Life is for you!

* Worthiness is Essential and Intrinsic. It is independent of what you do.

* Loosen your grip on how you think life will turn out. It won’t. And that’s perfect.

* Don’t let dreams, goals, and aspirations ruin your life.

* Choose connection over protection, presence over pretense.

*Have the courage to be real, authentic, and vulnerable.

* Always and in all ways lead in life with a YES!

For the sake of brevity I will not elaborate on these points. I simply offer them to you as I did with our precious youth: with love and with a deep knowing that Life is always seeking the very highest for us. It always has been. We will all be offered curve balls and unexpected falls. We will also experience love and majesty beyond our wildest dreams.

Relax! Maybe that is what I would speak most of to my eighteen year old. Relax, Taylor. Let it be. Give it a rest. Cooperate. This One Life of which you are a part has your back and is your heart. Relax and let yourself be lived and loved.

I am not at all sure the graduates heard me. But I did. I am spending these days basking in my own intuited wisdom. What is good for the eighteen year old is even better for the man I am now.