It's something I've wanted to write about in this blog for a while now, but never quite knew how to bring it up. It's also something I've always known, for as far back as I can remember, but something that took me a long time to accept. Usually the easiest way to do this is like pulling off a bandaid, so here goes..
I don't imagine anyone who reads this blog is particularly disrupted by that fact. You're either my friend so you already know, or you're people who seek out mindfulness, and those kind of people are loving, open-minded, and caring.
So I wasn’t worried about coming out per se, and I've made casual reference to “my man” and used photos of us together on numerous occasions.
But still, I've never been overt. I suppose I didn't want to be “that gay mindfulness guy.” I wanted my ideas to speak for themselves, to be universal.
The recent and absurdly tragic events in Orlando though, they made my desire to come out on these pages more urgent.
They also got me thinking a lot. I've been trying to wrap my head around what occurred, and then the response from people of all persuasions over the past few days: reactions of anger for good reason, fear of what still might occur, love for the community of support we've created, honoring the past in the form of brave coming out stories, and hope for the future as we trudge forward with marching orders as political advocates in a new arena.
I've also seen some truly terrible reactions, those of vitriol and blame that do nothing to solve the myriad problems we all face as a society or to better the plight of LGBT people around the world.
I wanted to figure out how and where mindfulness fits into this. As usual, as we all do, we go back to our own bubble of experience to try and make sense of it.
Leading a more present life in the world is a long and arduous journey of fear and accomplishment. Coming out of the closet was, and still is for most young people, a long and arduous journey of fear and accomplishment as well. And the more I think about it, the more I realize growing up gay is perhaps one of the biggest drivers of my own attraction to mindfulness.
Simply living as an out gay man is an albatross of a journey; constantly looking over your shoulder wondering if someone is judging you, or worse, out to harm you. A life in that sort of existence is far from mindful. How can I live in the moment, love who I want openly, and just be my honest self when a "wrong" move in a wrong situation can lead to derision or even violence?
Perhaps I actively search for ways to live free and mindful because I’ve been stripped of the ability to do that in my everyday life, for my whole life, simply because of who I am and the way some in society view me.
Certainly not every gay person is an amateur-journeyman-mindfulness-guru like me. But take a place like a gay bar or club; it's a place of safety for my community, a respite from the worry of constant judgement you feel almost everywhere else. It's a place where we can truly, finally, live in the moment. In that sense, perhaps we gays are creatures of the mindfulness, whether we realize it or not.
On the same token, many if not most gay men grow up with a heightened sympathy for the other little guys in life---the maligned and the bullied---because we've been there too.
I knew I was different from early on, and the other kids in school seemed to know too. So I was picked on, especially in PE class. I endured physical, mental, and verbal abuse, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, but always painful. Later in high school I became much more confident in myself, or at least able to play confident, and the abuse waned. Maybe I was just lucky, because I continued to watch other outsider kids in my school get bullied. High school can be brutal that way.
But because of all of that, I grew up with an extra sensitivity to the plight of others, and it led me to a desire to help make things better. By helping others I thought I could help myself. That led me to nonprofit work in my career, to make the world a slightly better place. It led me to this blog, to make my own life, and maybe yours by proxy, a slightly better place too.
I've always thought of mindfulness as a way of helping out the little guy, even if that little guy is me. It's how we escape the pains of the world and learn to be proud of ourselves, in that moment.
The LGBT community isn’t some monolith, not everyone is like me nor would I want them to be. But I think we all carry with us a chip on our shoulder from each of our individually difficult experiences of growing up in a society that thinks we shouldn’t exist. Or if we do exist we should only exist in private. Or that we don’t truly exist at all because we can just pray it away. Or we might exist right now, but we shouldn’t anymore, so they’re going to show up at a nightclub and mow us down with automatic weapons of war (that have no business being in the hands of civilians).
I know for a fact that mindfulness has helped me wade through the sometimes muddy and sometimes beautifully sparkling waters of being a gay man in this day and age. Mindfulness has definitely helped me deal with my own myriad emotions stemming from the massacre in Orlando.
My history and experience, all of it, has led me to here, a place of knowing about my imperfection, but also a place of strength because of it.
I know for a fact that the world and everyone in it needs more mindfulness. The society that told me I shouldn’t exist said the same to the shooter in Orlando, who has now been found to have been on gay social media apps himself. Instead of taking that difficult upbringing of hate and turning into love, as so so many of my gay brothers and sisters have done, he turned to hate and violence.
I know for a fact that my community, my friends, the loving and open-minded LGBT community, could use a little mindfulness right now too. A moment to look back at where we’ve been, look at the horror that has hit us now, and take all those years of both contempt and compassion, suffering and celebration, pain and pride, and mix up that uniquely amazing recipe to create the next step in our movement.
It's a movement that makes the world a better place by telling our stories, with political action around LGBT rights, in working to reverse the tide of homophobia spawned by religious extremists from too many religions, and now using our collective might to combat our nations' longstanding pillars of shame: guns and violence.
With all that we've been through and all that we've already done, I'm more hopeful now than ever about what we'll accomplish in the future. I couldn't be more proud.