Thursday, August 31, 2006

A gift of hope from an extraordinary young man

On Thursday, I had a day from the bowels of hell at The Evil Empire, and it took the entire AA meeting, getting introduced to the mother of my sponsee's child, and a pralines-&-cream ice cream cone to detox from it. But I find that my Higher Power usually holds the best gifts for last, and tonight that gift was waiting for me in my Gmail inbox.

In previous posts, I've shared about my history in a Masonic youth group called DeMolay, and how part of my struggles about coming out to a dear friend would be to put the kabosh on ever participating in DeMolay advisorship again. (And there's a hundred other good reasons not to do that - but it was still aggravating.)

The email was from a DeMolay advisor in Buffalo, NY - saying that he'd found my blog, and thought I'd be interested in an article in the Buffalo Evening News, an editoral written by his son.

His gay son. His gay DeMolay son.

The article is a little over 2,700 words, and ran in the August 31st edition of the paper. I got a copy of it from their archives, and would be glad to share it with you if you click on my email link or comment below. It describes his coming-out experience as a 15-year-old student at Grand Island High School in Grand Island, NY. He came out to two of his best friends, and they in turn encouraged him to come out to his parents, and then to his close circle of friends. Then a year ago, he came out to the entire school on National Coming Out Day 2005. It goes on to describe some of his fears, hopes, and experiences as an out gay teen.

I read that article, and my first reaction was, "Oh...my....God. What an incredible story..."

My second (and entirely self-centered) reaction was, "Damn... I wish I'd had a tenth of the courage this guy has when I was 18..." I was just completely blown away by this young man and his journey.

And yet - Abram Morgan and I, despite more than thirty years separating us, have much in common in our stories. He starting his "outing" with two good friends; mine began with my two dear friends in AA who were gay, with whom I have shared much that has been important over the last two years. And the first two straight people I told were also two friends whom I trusted deeply.

Like Abram's father, the people I was most worried about were the ones for whom my sexuality was no surprise (like my friends Eric or my other Kansas friends) or no big deal.

Like Abram, I am less afraid of other people's emotional reactions and more afraid of their physical reactions. My friend Tom would walk through Hyde Park with a black leather cowboy hat, a black leather bomber jacket, and an enormous bright purple scarf that pretty well screamed its message. But, as I've often teased him, it's a little easier to be that "screaming" when your a former Special Forces soldier. When you're an out-of-shape ball of confrontation avoidance (as I am), it's a little tougher to pull off the bravado...

But I am learning...slowly.

There are, however, a couple ways in which I envy Abram Morgan his life and his courage. I remember back to my own days as a 19 and 20 year old in DeMolay, and how two of the guys in my own "posse" got caught "in the act." It immediately fractured the gang into two almost evenly-divided groups. The homophobes were on one side, yelling "Fag!" and other niceties, while the "homo-lovers" (as we were called) gathered around our two buddies and did our best to buffer them from the hatred and invective. It was also tragic that while a couple of us did actually end up coming out ourselves, the majority of the "friendly" crew were (and are) straight. And accepting, and loving. (But none of the homophobes would believe that, of course...seems they never do. All gay-friendly folks just have to be fags....)

Ten years later, as an advisor, I listened to a young man tell how he was being driven out of the chapter by his friends - guys whom he had trusted and cared for. He wasn't gay - but he had admitted to them that he'd had some kinky sexual experimentation (with his girlfriend). But even that admission was too "gay" for a trio of his friends, who were deeply, deeply homophobic - and in the end, these morons drove the young man from the chapter, and he ended up utterly disappearing. I often think about him, and hope he found the ability to trust again.

I'm glad that Abram hasn't had to deal with crap like that.

But a comment by Tom on my earlier post is worth repeating here. His partner, Michael, had commented about a coming-out encounter that had gone well, and he'd ended by saying, "Not all stories turn out this way, of course. But it was a great treat for me!"

Tom's comment is insightful:

True enough, but freedom comes when the story turns out the other way -- when the person you come out to rejects you because you are gay -- and life goes on.

That's when the fear that you might be rejected goes away -- you realize that you will be rejected from time to time.

All three reactions -- acceptance, indifference, rejection -- are part of being gay, and all are positive in their own way.
Tom is, of course, absolutely right - true freedom is in having nothing to lose by others acceptance or rejection. It's a place I haven't quite reached - but the openness of people like Abram Morgan give me faith and hope to keep striving.

Thanks, Dad Morgan, for sharing your son's journey with us. And than you, Abe, for following an ancient instruction that we share from our common DeMolay background: Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, NIV)

10 comments:

  1. glad to see life giving you what you need, my friend.

    peter

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  2. My Dad sent me a link to this site, and I have to say, I am extremely embarrassed,
    BUT also extremely pleased. Sort of a I-am-so-flattered-I-don't-know-whether-to-blush-or-to-jump-up-and-down-with-excitement.

    I've looked into your blog, and funnily enough, we seem to have a lot in common. (Sister Act, Science Fiction, the Matrix, Harry Potter, are ALL interests of mine).

    On a note I SHOULD have nothing to say about, but I'll give my two cents anyway, I think you becoming an advisor again would be a great thing: gay, active DeMolay would definitely be heartened and have their very life brightened by the fact such an advisor be out and gay, and most importantly, proud. I have learned that coming out is a continual process. Why not take the next step?

    Thank God I have received only positive feedback from this (so far, keep your fingers crossed!) Your response is indeed important to me...in fact, I am reasonably sure I'll remember this forever.

    Again, thank you for your priase: I don't FEEL courageous. I just feel, well, like me.

    Love your posts, I think I will follow this blog in the future to see what an amazing man does with his life.

    -Abe-

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  3. If courage felt like "courage" when we were being courageious, we might never do it. Unless we were desperate attention seekers.

    Bravo, to you Abe. Bravo. And thanks, Steve, for sharing. Maybe, you could work with DeMolay? You could be a great mentor for many.

    Hey, you're already one for me! Thanks for your courage, Steve. for letting your light shine and your truth be known.

    Cheers and Shalom, Joe.

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  4. "My second (and entirely self-centered) reaction was, "Damn... I wish I'd had a tenth of the courage this guy has when I was 18...""

    Oddly enough, I have been thinking the exact same thing (about wishing I had the courage) lately. It's a theme that comes up in my head from time to time. Now I just have to figure out how to stop looking back and keep moving forward.

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  5. Steve

    I had a lot to think about. Too much to say. Such a terribly frustrating feeling.

    I aplaud all who have spoken of and shown courage here. And I also understand what a wretched, small-minded, jealous, vindictive, evil world we live in. I can not imagine what it must be like to be gay man in a world of gay haters, with a church and a political party in power that harnesses and rides that hate to their own wicked ends. I can not comprehend it.

    Just suiting up, showing up, putting one foot in front of the other and living life as a gay man, coming out very slowly and selectively to those you know well and trust...just that takes great, great courage. More, frankly, than I have. So while I do ROUNDLY applaud all those who are out, proud, challenging and "f*ck you, deal with it, I am a man who cowers before no one!" I also understand that staying out of harm for harms sake is understandable, if not self preservational. Looking for understanding in a world of non-understanding, looking for compassion in a world of insecure, self-gloating homophobes is both saintly and tactically dangerous. The Lord has put in this world both saints and average Joes. I think only we can know which we are.

    I know from only the little bit of time I spend in the world of whitebread, protestant, homophobic, god-fearing, Bush-loving, Liberal-hating, America-blessing, militarism-supporting, civil rights sacrifising, beer-swilling, superbowl worshiping, bible-quoting, social justice hating America that I am not meant to be there. I do not change them one iota. I convince no one, I effect no change when I try to lay out facts, arguments, anologies, comparisons, or any type of persuasive verbage. My blood boils at their smug contented "Know what I like and like what I know" mindspace, and I come away only sad, spent and frustrated. It is perhaps my real Irish curse. Passion, quick to anger, self rightous and totally unable to hide my disgust and contempt that negates times ten the validity of any meaasge I might bring. Some guys you just don't want out on the sales floor, you know? Few converts are won over with "look you intolerant son of a bitch..."

    Yet they are many and I am few. It is the mob that is Rome, as the man said. I know despite thier collective brutishness and inhumanity they call the shots. That is clear to me.

    So my basic suvival tactic is keep my mouth shut and make my world smaller and smaller and smaller, to where brushed teeth and a made bed are my contributions to western civilization.

    I can only fall back on 2 things.
    1. Self-rightous anger is better left to those more able to handle it than I. and 2. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in gods world by accident. It is his will. (which is PURE FAITH to me, I can't imagine a loving knowing God creating Hitler and Stalin and all that has happened in history, as well as in our land and time.

    I guess there is a 3rd one. They are right and I am wrong. Imagine that? LOL

    Anyway, bud. You have my support and I pray that when I am among my homophobic straight friends and they are bashing those who are not around, and they are basking in the group reinforcement and status they gain among the GUYS for being more fag-hating than the next, I will have the strength to tell them to shut up. That will of course make me worse than the liberal I already am. It will make me a queer lover, an unforgivable, unpardonable sin in MALE america.

    "You will deny me three times before the cock crows..." while I rarely give regard to the bible, that line and the one about false prophets coming in my name stay with me.

    Peace and love, steve, and all the people who read this blog and are bound up, one way or another, in the struggle.

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  6. I grew up with, and am a few years older than "Dad" Morgan, and was a member of DeMolay as well. I also came out in high school, very badly, and was promptly thrown out of Isle Chapter, ODM. I nearly took my own life, and would have but not for the physical intervention of one of my DeMolay brothers.

    I lost my faith in "God" after that. So many who espoused great tales of love, understanding and acceptance judged me (and those like me I was yet to find) as unworthy and unredeemable. They showed me the hypocracy of the church and its teachings first hand. Since that time I have had no use for the church (I was raised Presbyterian), the Masonic orders (ALL of my immediate relatives are now or have been members of Masonic groups, even my paternal grandparents), and the public school system (which insisted I attend "counseling sessions"). Steve and his son are very lucky. It has take the better part of thirty years for me to allow that the acts of men on earth do NOT represent "God", if he or she exists. For you see, although I still believe there is one (or more) higher power(s) in this universe, I no longer believe in the "God" that so many religions promote. But I am glad that something so important to so many young men is finally opening up to all the young men who may benefit from it.

    This has been a little long winded, and meandering, but it is, after all, thirty plus years of thoughts and feelings condensed into this small space.

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  7. First, Matthew, thank you for sharing your story. That took some courage. If you want, contact me at the email ID on my profile...I'd love to continue the conversation.

    The sickest that I ever got, in my relationship to God, was when I was around folks in seminary. It has taken every bit of 2 years to get that rot out of my head. So I understand your reluctance to relate to any organized institution of faith.

    One of my best friends - he was Master Councilor when I was - was driven out of a nearby DeMolay chapter shortly after he went out as PMC, because one of the str8 jocks caught him in flagrante delicto with one of the other members. I was one of the guys who helped support him through that - though I wasn't ready to come out for another 20 years (sadly).

    I am now a stand-in chapter advisor for a DeMolay chapter - because I will always be an advisor, whether I'm in DeMolay or not. And I've told my friend the governor what I am - and told him that I won't share my orientation, unless I'm asked. And if I'm asked, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going back in the closet, no matter what.

    I've wasted too much time in too many closets to ever do that again.

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  8. Hey dude.
    I'm a Senior DeMolay, and while I happen to straight, I'm afraid we probably called each homophobic slurs back in the day. We didn't have any openly gay guys, but I hope I didn't hurt any closeted guys by my unthinking words.

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  9. steve can u send me a copy of the work of "His gay son. His gay DeMolay son." <--I hope u understand,
    cause i'm mexican and i dont speak a perfect english, send it to my e-mail serbi_edad16@hotmail.com
    1 more thing, i want to know more about demolay, thats why i got here, and in a future i might be a demolay but i keep thinking on it.

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  10. sorry but my correct e-mail is bi_edad16@hotmail.com
    thx

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