Born This Way

I have always been gay. Looking back at my childhood I can see those moments which clearly stand out. I can look at myself as a child and know that being gay was not something I ever chose to be. It was something I just was. The only choice it seems I made in life was when I chose to follow a straight life and completely deny the person I truly was. That was a seriously bad choice. It was the worst choice and the wrong choice, which almost destroyed me completely.

I was talking to a family member recently who I had not spoken to in a very long time. They told me although they did not approve of the choice I have made in my life they were glad to see me happy. Once again from someone the ugly word “choice” reared its ugly head and even though this family member had the best of intentions it still stung with the fact they had no clue or understanding what they had just said or the person I truly was.

I think about my early years. I could have fallen into every single gay stereotype you could imagine. The Wizard of Oz was hands down my favorite film and I cried the day my sister told me Judy Garland was dead. At five years old I was a huge fan of the non-intentional campy film The Valley of Dolls. In my opinion, what five year did not want to grow up like the tragic Patty Duke character Nealy O’Hara? Hey let’s remember she was living with that hottie Ted Casablanca. I wanted desperately to be a Jet and dance through the streets of New York just like in West Side story. You could often find me dancing in front of my house replaying scenes and musical numbers.  I knew the complete Streisand songbook by heart and would sing it completely if provoked. And most of all I had a huge attraction to Tom Jones and the Greatest American Hero. Yes I was a weird kid. A very weird kid but I was also gay even before I knew anything about sex or sexuality. I just was.

Times have changed and growing up gay is much different than in the seventies and eighties. There is much more acceptance now than ever before even though the world as a whole has a long way to go. So why do we have to still hear heterosexual people tell us they either approve or disapprove of what they believe is our choice? It is a ridiculous statement considering we never in return stated the obvious if I chose to be gay then they must have chosen to be straight. Of course that is ridiculous statement. It is ridiculous no matter who you are. So why do straight people like to parade it out constantly? Is it a fear that if it is not a choice a family member or even their own child could be gay? Is it their way of handling their own prejudice and behavior concerning gay people? Does it make them feel superior or more Christian to state and believe it is a choice? Is it guilt? I think it must be a combination of all these things and more. In some way it is being supportive without truly having to say I give you my support for being a homosexual and I understand it is a completely normal way of being. It almost an easy way out so no one ever will point a finger at them concerning their own sexuality. Like I told someone years ago,”Sexuality is not black or white. Sexuality is a series of grays.”

For most of us being gay is something we did not choose. It was not something we became because it is fashionable. It is not something we chose to rebel against societal norms. It is not something we became in order to hurt family members or to cause them shame. It is just how we were created. It is in every fiber of who we are as people. The damage comes when you make the serious mistake of telling someone they can choose to be or not to be gay because that is a complete lie. It is a lie which often leads to unhappiness and suicide for those who believe they can choose and try to hide their true self. What do you think conversion therapy is all about?

So please be supportive and please never say to a gay person that you support their choice. Believe me when I tell you that is was not a choice for us in the same way it was not a choice for you to be straight. We were born this way and so were you.

The Proper Way to Explain Hate to a Child

What do you tell a child who might be experiencing hate at the hands of others in this life? Tell your child the meaning of life is loving. It does not matter who you love, or what they look like or even what sex they are. People who hate them are hating something within themselves and trust me it has nothing to do with those of us they hate.

Sometimes they are gay and frightened themselves. Sometimes they are jealous of something we might have. Sometimes they just hate themselves so much that they have to find someone else to project it upon. Same goes for the racists and the homophobes in this world.

We are never going to cure stupid in this life but we can live our best lives in the most amazing ways and trust me when I tell you that is exactly what drives them crazy. Why? Because we just do not care what they think anymore other than you cannot fix stupid. You don’t have time for stupid when you are living authentically and happy.

That is the proper way to explain hate to a child.

Homophobia and the Paranormal

The worst homophobia I have experienced in my life has been within the paranormal community. I have been threatened to be outed several times during the years which I thought was funny because anyone who really knew me knew I came out at 29. I just considered my sexuality a non topic and something which was my business. Afterall, sexuality and paranormal are not something which walks hand in hand.

In those early years when Greg Myers of the PTF was trying to undermine me and take over my group the first thing he wanted to do was to out me. He said to a close friend of mine,”I think we should tell everyone Steven is gay. The paranormal world needs to know.” Like outing me would be the thing to destroy me. There was another incident around the time of the Survivor Tour when that same group of people once again tried to out me to hurt me.

It was always the first thing paranormal people would turn to attack me usually out of jealousy. Mark Farley of St. Louis Paranormal Research, you know the guy who does the Fox Tours and Lemp Tours, when I distanced myself from him he went around telling people I came onto him which I can assure you never happened.

Then there was election night of 2016 and it was a paranormal person who called me a faggot within an hour of Trump being elected. There are many more examples. Those are just a few.

Now homophobia permeates every walk of life, not just the paranormal. However, from my experience there seems to be a larger homophobic problem within the paranormal community. There are exceptions to this rule, but for overall majority even those exceptions I am sure would tell you the first thing used when they are criticized or attacked is the fact they are gay. Like that matters in some way.

June is Pride month and I am asking all of my paranormal friends to take a moment to support the LGBTQ community. Just maybe we can be a product of change and just maybe we can change a few of those who hate.

Dear Young Gay Men

Dear Young Gay Men,

Believe it or not, there those of us over 50 who look at and view you with great pride. Why? Because we know what we marched for, struggled for, were beaten down for and for those we watched die, are the ones who paved the way for the open life you currently get to live. We fought very hard to get to this point in our gay history and you are a proud product of that battle. We are very proud of you.

You know, I can remember going to my first gay bar in 1985. It was a small bar in Cape Girardeau, MO. My first night in a gay bar they had to lock and barricade the front door of the bar because it was being surrounded by angry, straight, redneck, white men who did not want a gay bar in their town and were willing to take whatever steps necessary to make sure it would go away. Southern Missouri is Klan country and it was an eye opening experience and lesson on what it meant to be gay in middle Missouri.

I can remember the heart sinking feeling I felt when I saw the first spot of KS on the leg of a friend and knowing exactly what that meant. I can remember my other friend squeezing my arm and whispering, “Oh my God. He is sick.” In those days, you kept your status as quiet as possible until it was no longer possible to keep it quiet. I was one of the lucky ones who remained and still is negative, but many of my close friends were not that lucky. We saw a whole generation of our friends die because they did have the ability to become undetectable or Prep to help prevent it in the first damn place. You got it and you died. It was that simple. You know, it got to a point where I could hug someone and instantly know if they were sick. There was this heat which would emanate from their bodies. It was also a very sad thing to look into the eyes of someone you knew and knowing they would not be around for long. I learned a lot about bravery and grace in the face of death from my dying friends. Their faces and stories stick with me still today.

The things you would witness and the stories you would hear were truly terrifying. Have you ever driven past a house spray painted with the words, “AIDS FAG DIE,” well I have and within that house was someone very sick and dying. I can remember someone getting hit by a car in front one of the bars and no one wanting to touch the dying boy because of the blood. All gays were considered untouchable just in case you might have it whether you did or not. You were sick until proven otherwise. We even heard stories about hospital workers who would avoid patients completely who were dying. Many times friends would be caring for them under the direction of those who refused. We heard stories of families who could not find funeral homes to handle the remains of their loved ones. Bodies were buried sometimes in secret locations or worse. Many of the times the families did not want to have anything to do with their dead child in much the same way they did when they were alive. Sometimes the only people we could trust or cling to during this time was each other and we did the best we could for those who needed us.

I can remember hearing daily on the nightly news how we were the scourge of the earth and we were dying  because that is what we deserve. We were told daily it was God’s revenge we were dying in mass. God was killing us. Most of you would have no clue who Anita Bryant is or even Jerry Falwell, but for us those names signify the worst forms of hate. Those early years were the worst. Everywhere we turned we were being called deviant, evil, cursed, and unnatural.

Of course, we battled much more than just the plague. The idea we would somehow be able to marry was a dream which none of us saw being a reality. Most of the time a partner could not even be in the room with his dying partner if the family wished to keep him out. May surviving partners had to deal with being less than in the life of their most important relationship. Insurance did not recognize the partnership and you could forget collecting death benefits which left many surviving partners, grieving, alone, and struggling.

The idea of seeing a gay couple in a television commercial was out of the question. Gay film in the most innocent form was considered scandalous and controversial. There were very few out gay celebrities. Most of the times we heard about them being gay after their death from AIDS. We had very little gay examples. But we had our Judy, Liza, Bette, Madonna, and Cher. They are the ones who helped them escape the madness of our reality.

We were not able to have children and if you did have children you had better not let anyone know you were gay because those children would be taken away without question or consideration. So many of us raised our children by ourselves and in silence. We were not able raise our children as out gay men and that means adoption was also out of the question. Those of us who did raise children where the true pioneers. We fought numerous battles to raise our children and we lived in constant fear of them being taken away from us. This means many of us had hidden relationships or simply none at all.

I came out at 29 and now I am 54. I remember those dark days clearly. Then I see you with your partners holding hands, getting married, or playing with your children in the open together and I feel pride because we have come a long way. Bu, sadly the fight is far from over. We have to continue to fight to preserve what we have gained. We have to continue fight for what we still need to achieve. It is not going to be easy. The point here is, you younger guys need to stop and remember what we came through to get here.You cannot take anything for granted because there are forces who would rip it away in a second if they could. Trust me they are trying to do just that.

Now you may say, it is just another Old Queen bitching at us, but honestly that is not the case at all. I am telling you this because it is becoming more apparent that your time to fight could be just ahead when you look at the state of the world and where it is headed. I am afraid for your future and it seems that this struggle is going to continue and you are going to need to fight. The time for our equal marriage celebration could very well be over.

You cannot be silent. You cannot run away and hide. You are going to need to take to the streets and believe me when I tell that can be a very scary place to be. But you would understand this if you had marched or attended a Pride Parade in some of those early years. During those years, Pride was shown on the news as a horror and not something which should or could be celebrated. That is okay because you have us. We will stand beside you and if you will listen, we will help to show you the way. We have been here before. We know how it all works. Activism is a long road and it is tiring road, but it is required of each and every single one of us. It is your ticket to the show. It is the price we must pay as gay men.

So don’t roll your eyes at the older person who might say hello or try to discuss things with you because the truth is if it were not for them your life would be very, very different today. Oh, and by the way, not all of us want to date younger guys. Most of us are way over the drama and chaos which comes with the younger crowd. Seriously, we do not want to have to explain the beauty of Chaka Kahn and Sylvester over and over again. If you do not know how Sylvester makes you feel then chances are you are wrong for one of us. We like our men mighty real.

The point is, we older gay men are settled in who we are and our relationships. We can be your friend. In fact, would be happy to call your friend. BUT, don’t assume we want more from you than friendship because in most cases we really don’t. We have had enough to deal with in life not to have to deal with your daddy issues. Oh, and by the way, take a good hard look at us because this is exactly how you are going to look in 30 or more years. That is right. Like it or not you are going to age too. So show us some fucking respect. Besides, most of us bitchy old queens could run circles around your muscle bound asses in the gym because at this age we have learned the importance of cardio. Why do you think we are still alive?

Take care of yourselves and understand we are all in this together. We are here for you if you need us and always remember silence does equal death. Never forget those who came before.

 

What Matters Most

I was sitting here behind the desk doing some work. Nothing important and nothing which required a lot of thought. You know the kind of tasks where you mind can and often does wander? I was thinking about life’s blessings and how the things I thought were going to make me happy were actually the things which in some ways matter the least to me.

As a young man I thought more than anything I wanted to work in the theater. The theater was the place were I was going to find complete fulfillment. Now don’t get me wrong you can find fulfillment in the theater, but you learn very quickly when money comes into play it just kind of sucks the fun and the life right out of it. Theater as a business is a complete different animal than theater for simply the sake of theater and art.

As life continued I thought I would like to do television. In my mind television was where I was going to find the answers to my dreams. I have done a whole lot of television at this point of my life and I can tell you that very little satisfaction ever came from being on a show. Kind of difficult to watch your life being dramatized and portrayed, only in the next moment to be interrupted by tampon and erectile dysfunction commercials.

Then I thought I was going to find everything I needed by doing a film. A movie would bring me everything I wanted in life. I would not only be in film but I would also write for it as well. I was lucky enough to do a few films but in the end I did not find the satisfaction I desired at all in film. In fact. I learned a whole lot about the ugly side of life from working in film and what that ugliness can and will do to people.

So, I became an author and I have to tell you I do get some satisfaction from writing.However, I do not get any satisfaction from working with publishers. Again, once money enters the equation it has a tendency of sucking the life and creativity out of art. Did you know my favorite book I wrote is the only book I self published? Crazy A Prayer for the Dead is by far my favorite of my books. This is why I have made a serious decision to self publish from here on out. Besides, I am married to a perfect artist and editor which helps a whole lot.

I have worked for SyFy, Discovery, CW, Destination America, Warner Brothers, CNN, NBC Universal, Chiller, The Travel Channel and more. I have been featured in newspapers and magazines around the world including Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The New York Post, and The Sun to name just a few. I have done just about every major radio show in the United States, Canada, and the world which has included everything from Man Cow to Coast 2 Coast. I am in the Library of Congress in at least three different places with multiple pieces of work. Are you impressed yet? You really shouldn’t be if you are. Often the things you will be remembered for in life are not the things where you found happiness.

After chasing and achieving all of these dreams in the end do you know where I found satisfaction? I found it in the easiness and simplicity of the love I have for my husband. I found it in all five of our children and the loves of their lives. We get more excited and proud of their accomplishments than anything we ever accomplished on our own. Our three granddaughters who continue to teach make us happier than anything else in life and they continue to teach us about not only acceptance but unconditional love. My mother and father who taught me it was okay to tell people my truth because no matter what you will still have those who will still love you. These are truly the riches found in life and all of that other stuff which might impress some in the end does not matter all of that much.

My Soul is Worth More than Silence

There was a time when I did not say much publicly about politics. That was before it was no longer just political bickering and it became a fight for ALL OF US living the life that we choose and with whom. That was before we were in a fight for the ideals of what the United States is suppose to be about and the country which so many gave their lives to preserve. The greatest generation understood that.

When I first started being vocal with my rage against Trump and the GOP someone said to me, “You really should not take sides since you are an author and you want people to buy your books.” It obviously was a veiled threat. That was the first of many times and each time I would say to them, “I would rather go to my grave penniless than to support hate.”

You know I saw Dolly Parton say something completely the opposite the other day about not saying anything because she did not want to offend anyone. Well that may have been true when you could have peddled this off as a political point of view, but you see Dolly it changed when it became moral. Babies are being put in cages, laws are being passed to legally hate and you are worried someone will not buy a fucking record. You’re right Dolly. Someone will not buy another record or buy another concert ticket of yours because I can guarantee you I fucking won’t.

So for anyone out there that thinks I will stand by and watch the destruction of this country quietly because I will lose book sales, well then you do not know me and you obviously have never truly read one of my books in the first damn place. I don’t care. I will not be quiet and I will not be silent. I just might write a book about it all in the end because that is who I am and many people should write the truth about these dark days.

So for those of you out there who have said, “God bless Dolly for not getting involved,” I have and will continue to block you because Dolly is not doing God’s work by remaining silent while babies are being held in cages. Dolly is not doing God’s work while old men are being beat in the street for being a different color. Dolly is not doing Gods work as another gay couple is beat for holding hands. Dolly is being greedy and Dolly is being a coward. End of story.

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Dear Homophobes

Dear Homophobes,
You can cheer on court cases which say you do not have to serve us a cake or whatever other discriminatory hate you can come up with. Truth is, if you are one of these discriminating businesses I do not want to give you my money anyway. I have spent years boycotting Chick-fil-a, Hobby Lobby, and Tommy Hilfiger just to name a few due to their associations and practices. Trust me there are enough LGBTQ in the community and allies out here to buy goods and services from that we truly do not need to beg you to take our money. I beg no one to take my money.

Secondly, I do not care if you do not approve of my marriage. I simply do not because it is truly none of your business who I am married to. The highest court in the land can say it is not a legitimate marriage and that would be okay. You know why? Because my marriage is between myself and my husband and no one else. I do not and have never needed a piece of paper to say it is real. Seriously fuck you and your reality.

Third, all of this in the end is going to hurt you a lot more than it is going to hurt us. You see we came of age in a world who hated and scorned us. We grew up watching you proclaiming AIDS was God’s wrath upon us. We grew up with Anita Bryant and the Westboro Baptist Church on the news nightly and more hate than you could ever imagine for just being born this way. So you need to understand there is not a lot you can do to us. We will survive because we have always survived the worst you have been able to throw at us and we are still here. So legislate and get your court rulings because the truth is we are queer and we are here and there is nothing and I mean nothing you can do about it. Now can I get an Amen up in here?