I’m Not Walking 6 Miles!

If you read the On the Gay Horizon newsletter, you know that my co-publisher announced in this week’s issue that we would be doing the AIDS Walk New York again this year. Didn’t ask me. Just proceeded to include in her fitness piece that I would begin, today, training for the 6.2 mile walk. Being the calm, reasonable person that I am, I believe my response was something like….

Are you nuts?!?!? We’re not going to publish that and publicly commit me to doing that again!” 

“Did you, or did you not, publicly proclaim that you are following the Fit in a Year prescriptions? What better motivator than this year’s AIDS Walk?”

“Well, yes, I may have said that. But I didn’t mean it. I never see these people and I only see you a couple times a year, so who was gonna know? That 6 miles just about killed me last year. I’m not doing it again.”

Sometimes you just have to stand your ground.

I was firm — “Do I have to?”

I was resolute — “Uh, well, I don’t know. What about next year?”

I was strong — “Please don’t make me do it!”

And so we discussed it like mature adults and reached an equitable compromise. New York in May it is! In fact, I only have a couple minutes here. I’m due to go walk around the block about a hundred times. Training, you know.

There is a moral to this story — be discerning when you choose your friends! If puttering around is your idea of about how rigorous you like your physical activity, don’t hang out with a personal trainer. But honestly, how was I supposed to know? I met her at a writer’s conference, not a health nut convention! She may have mentioned something about being fitness-obsessed but I probably wasn’t paying any attention. I just thought she was cute.

How many times has that gotten me into trouble…

Seriously, though, last year’s AIDS Walk in New York City was an incredible experience! We walked with about 50,000 people through Central Park and then along the Hudson River. And we raised a ton of money — over 7 million dollars! Join us and Team On the Gay Horizon as we do it again this year!

On Becoming a Footnote

It’s such a strange world. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up. In November, we allowed right-wing moralists to push through stripping hard-won civil rights from gays in several states. Our former president tried to convince us that we are attacked because others hate our freedom. Perhaps he didn’t mean the freedom to marry or to adopt. And Iceland now has a lesbian as Prime Minister.

And you know what is so remarkable about a lesbian holding the top job in Iceland? Apparently, nothing. At least not to Icelanders.  Prior to becoming PM, Johanna Sigurdardottir was the Social Affairs minister and had a 73% approval rating. Her civil union to partner, Jonina Leosdottir, in 2002, was widely known and basically, nobody cared.

Klaus Wowereit, during his campaign to become mayor of Berlin, was cheered when he made the statement “Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.” (“I am queer, and that’s how it should be”).  Paris has a gay mayor and so does Hamburg. There are openly gay members of parliament in France and the United Kingdom. 72% of voters in Spain support equal rights for gays.

So what is it about the “land of the free”? I have my suspicions but its late and that kind of rant could keep me up all night. Besides, I’d like to get some feedback here. Why do you think we claim freedom as our motto, something we sacrifice our sons and daughters to defend, and yet stingily dole out with so many restrictions?

Silvia Jaen, secretary-general of the Spanish Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, was quoted as saying about being “out” in most of Europe,  “There was a time when you would have received a lot of extra press coverage for being gay – these days it’s a footnote.”

So, now we know what we’ve been working for all these years — to have that little quirk of difference become nothing more than a footnote.

Hmmm…..I’m not sure how I feel about that…..

The World Was Watching

Once a month, I have dinner with four friends — four bright, funny lesbians. There’s lots of laughter and an incredible amount of irreverence, and I look forward to it every month. Tonight, as it was mentioned that Obama signed legislation today to close Guantanamo and put an end to interrogation techniques that involve torture, someone made the statement, “Can you believe we are even having this conversation?”

Think about that for a moment. An American president officially ending America’s official, supposedly lawful, policy of torture.

During Tuesday’s inauguration, I watched as the cameras panned the millions of people on the Washington Mall. I saw tears in so many eyes and was amazed at the depth of emotion that I felt. I realized that this outpouring was not just for the man being sworn in on the platform — it was for the country that elected him.

And, all of a sudden, I understood a movie I recently saw, Valkyrie.

I’d enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I had no idea they came so close to assassinating Hitler and replacing his government. But I wondered about the central figure of the movement, Colonel Klaus von Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise). He was considered a war hero after being severely wounded in Africa. He had a wife and several small children. Yet, even with so much to lose, he was willing to risk it all. High ranking officers in Hitler’s inner circle, like von Stauffenberg, knew that Germany was within months of defeat, but still they made this final assassination attempt. And the reason they did this was to show the world that all Germans were not like Hitler.

That’s what I felt on Tuesday as I knew the world was watching.

No, I’m not comparing George Bush to Adolph Hitler — I actually think Bush is probably a decent guy. But the idea that the end justifies the means sets a course down a very slippery slope. It may be a way to win a battle or even a war, but at what cost?

We still have a long way to go to be everything that was envisioned by our founding fathers, but we are better than what’s been presented over the last eight years.

It feels good to be back!

JFK to Rick Warren

I have few memories of JFK before those surrounding his death. The doings of presidents meant little to a twelve year old back in 1963. But I remember exactly where I was the moment I heard that he had been shot. And I bet that most of you do, too. That’s a connection we will always share.

From then on he became “our president”. Who knows if he would have had a successful administration. Maybe — maybe not. What we do know is that he became a symbol for a new generation. And that symbol was immortalized in the words “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

When did we turn our backs on that sentiment? When did we decide that we have to go on the offensive every time something doesn’t go our way? When did it become about me instead of about us? Or am I being naive and its always been that way?

I know that Rick Warren was a poor choice for the inaugeration. But let’s face it, Barrack Obama has repeatedly said that it is his belief that we can disagree about certain issues but still find some common ground to work together. We are not going to like all of his choices — and neither is anyone else. Wouldn’t it be better to give him a chance to at least get sworn in before we judge what kind of a president he is?

Besides, if you think about it for a minute, which religious leader could have been chosen for the invocation that would have met with eveyone’s approval? Ah…maybe that should be the focus of some of this dispute.  There shouldn’t be an invocation during the inaugeration. No matter who does it — no matter what they say — a large number of American citizens will be offended and feel as if their beliefs are not being honored. That’s the whole point of separation of church and state.

I think we’re a little scared. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that it was our turn to take our equal place in society. We got bruised pretty badly in November. Now, we’re wondering if Obama said all the things we wanted to hear so that we would help get him elected.

Personally…..I’m still hopeful. I’m still excited about the inaugeration. If Rick Warren starts spouting religious hogwash, there’s always the volume control button on my remote.

This is going to be my president — I’ve waited a long eight years for him to get here.

Sometimes a Dime is Worth More Than Ten Cents

My partner saved dimes. I don’t know why. But they didn’t weigh much or take up a  lot of space, and it was one of those small things that made her happy. So, we filled jars and tins — until we would hit one of those really rough stretches. Then we would make lots of little stacks, count them and cash them in. She never seemed to mind having to spend them and sooner or later we would start filling containers again.

This morning, as I was about to get in my car, I spied a shiny dime in the grass right next to the driver’s door. My immediate reaction, before the rational side of my brain kicked in, was that it was a gift. A little sign that she’s still around and that she knows I’m having kind of a tough time. Knows I’m struggling with some decisions about moving on and that she’s giving her blessing.

Naturally, that other part of my brain wanted to make the case that I had simply dropped the dime getting out of the car last night and it meant nothing. I thought about that for a moment. Certainly more rational. But…

You see, I’ve never believed that anything was meaningless. Or that something could be explained away as coincidence. Meaning comes from within each of us — it’s how we choose to respond, interpret, react to what we encounter in life.

Finding that little dime gave me an instantaneous shot of happiness. Whether I dropped it or it appeared for some other reason is irrelevant. The result, the meaning for me, was the same. It put me in touch with what I already know — the awareness that it doesn’t matter whether I’m making the “right” decision or not. It’s simply time for me to make some sort of movement forward.

And that I’ve always had her blessing — no matter what — and that I will always take it with me, no matter where I go.

Maybe I’ll hang on to the dime. Just in case I forget…..

Moving Forward

We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing “big pictures” — politics, economy, equal rights. As the New Year unfolds, we will be revisiting those topics as well as others that affect us as a community. So, what do you say, for a few moments, we narrow the focus to our own individual selves?

What do I want for 2009? For me, personally.

My situation is a little different. Losing a life partner is pretty much the same as losing your life. It simply no longer exists. When people suggest it’s time to “snap out of it” or “get back to normal”, I’m sure they mean well, but they have no idea what they’re saying. There is no normal to go back to. Everything has changed, and it will never be the same again.

Okay, so it’s taken me over two years to figure that out. Now what?

Seems to me that there are only a couple of choices — since there’s no going back, there is only standing still or moving forward. I’ve tried standing still, and it served its function. I was certainly not capable of making any decisions. But now I think I’m ready to try moving forward.

If you read the OTGH newsletter, you know that we are kicking off 2009 with a special program designed to encourage changes that will have a significant impact on our reader’s health and fitness levels — gradually, one small step each week of the year. This program is being developed and presented by my co-publisher. Not only is she a personal trainer, fitness instructor and owner of a fitness studio, she is the real deal. I’ve been in her kitchen — everything’s organic and comes from a health food store. There’s not a partially hydrogenated fat or molecule of high fructose corn syrup to be found (trust me, I looked). No sodas in the fridge (except when I’m there) and if you ask for a glass of water, you’ll get it at room temperature.

I know — how can you listen to such a person? Well, she’s in her mid-fifties, looks at least ten years younger, teaches athletes how to run properly and took up roller blading last year. But! Lest you think this is someone you wouldn’t be able to relate to I will share a little secret — I was driving the day we had to try at least four exits on the way to South Carolina because of the search for a Krispy Kreme doughnut. And it wasn’t for me!

So, I’m thinking this is a great opportunity to give my “moving forward” plan a head start. I would just as soon no one mentioned to her that I’m going to be following her suggestions — she would just pester me about it. But by this time next year I can either be healthier — or not. Seems like kind of a no-brainer. Maybe I’ll even share my progress and thoughts on the process in the newsletter.

How about you? What kind of year is 2009 going to be for you? Are you going to buy into the doom and gloom permeating everything we hear and read? Or are you going to choose to move forward on your own path?

Its always a choice, you know — your choice.

Sexual Jihadists — Who Knew?

I couldn’t help but think about Robert Hillsborough today. Oh, I honestly didn’t remember his name, but I’ve never forgotten him. And it wasn’t hard to find. Just had to do a quick search on the gay man that was stabbed to death while his attackers shouted “Here’s one for Anita”. It was two weeks after Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign overturned Dade County’s non-discrimination ordinance.

Why think of him today? Because another contemporary of Bryant has written a column so hateful and inflammatory that it almost surprised me — and this stuff rarely surprises me. Pat Boone, white buck shoes and all, felt the need to lash out last week at Proposition 8 protesters with statements such as “…there is a real, unbroken line between the jihadist savagery in Mumbai and the hedonistic, irresponsible, blindly selfish goals and tactics of our homegrown sexual jihadists.”

Homegrown sexual jihadists? What is it about Christian singers anyway?

And what is it with people who purposely spread hatred and incite violence? Sure, Boone will probably become the next greatest thing to happen to gay rights. Just like Anita Bryant was. But that doesn’t make up for what happened to Robert Hillsborough. Or to Ovidio “Herbie” Ramos. He was a gay activist in Miami who committed suicide following the backlash from the Bryant campaign. After participating in a radio talk show where callers said gays should be deported, forced into concentration camps or executed, Ramos told a friend “I didn’t know they hated us so much”. A couple days later he shot himself.

So, what do we do, now?

For starters, we continue to support organizations like HRC. I sent my donation in today and they promised to send Pat Boone a note stating that a donation had been made because of him. I thought that was a nice touch. I’m sure they will do the same for you. Tell Pat Boone you’re no terrorist

More importantly, though, I think we need to focus on the incredible progress that we’ve made. We suffered some heartbreaking losses at the polls but the entire tenor of the campaign was different. The vast majority of our opponents were falling all over themselves saying that we certainly deserve equal rights — just don’t call it marriage. That’s a huge difference from the standard rhetoric of just a few years ago.

We still have a lot to do. But I honestly believe that the momentum is now with us. I think the “other side” knows that too and that’s what is motivating this last push. So, it may get a little worse before it gets better — but one of these days….

Yeah, one of these days!