I hope that all of you are filled with joy over this year’s holidays and the coming New Year. May all of you notice that you are blessed each and everyday and especially for the year to come I pray your days are filled with blessing and that we all have the wisdom to notice those blessings.
Today I would like to talk about something I think a lot of us can relate to. How do you learn to trust again after being repeatedly hurt so many times? Whether we’ve been bashed, beaten, rejected, abused, ostracized, mugged, or had our hearts broken, most of us in one way or another have learned to put up our guard in order to protect ourselves. Being both disabled and LGBT presents a unique set of challenges. Do you hide the fact that you are LGBT in public and be open about your disability? Are you out of the closet, yet secretive about your disability? Neither? Chances are, most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
Personally, I am out only to friends and family, while not making mention of it where I volunteer due to differing religious opinions – namely, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. What I personally receive from volunteering my time to the homeless is far beyond the importance of being “right” and trying to fight religious based prejudice and ignorance. My silence is a small price to pay for what I am fortunately able to give back to those that need it. Helping others is just about the best medicine I’ve found to keep my problems distant and gratitude in the forefront.
Very recently, at the age of 41, I have rediscovered the joy of life, and a renewed faith and courage that can only come from God. After 12 years being single, depressed, bankrupt, and in very ill health, I made a very conscious decision to pick myself back up and FIGHT with everything I had. I stopped chain smoking after 25 years, and began to exercise daily to my level of tolerance. I began volunteering my time with the local rescue mission to give back to those less fortunate than I. After a lot of research, I presented a plan to my doctor that halved my medications, and even halved some of the doses of the remainder of my other medications. I sought out traditional Chinese medicine, which involves herbs, minerals, and acupuncture. I reworked my diet entirely to include 80% fruits and vegetables, virtually no red meat, no white flour or bread, no deep fried foods, and no soda. And finally, I reached out and became a member of an awesome group on Facebook for LGBT disabled persons – Gay, Disabled, and Happy. My health has begun to turn around in the past 8 months as a result of these and other changes, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from an old college friend I’d always cared about from 20 years ago! Michael and I were very close in college, but as life happens, we drifted apart. Come to find out, he still felt the same way towards me after all these years. When we hung up the phone, it overwhelmed me in a powerful, all knowing way that this is the man I am meant to be with; want to be with; always have wanted to be with, but never was ready to be with. Until now, that is. The 12 years I spent basically being single had been for a Divine purpose – to prepare me for what I know today is the love of my life. A once in a lifetime opportunity I had all but given up on.
I am basically 100% out of the closet, save for a few elderly volunteers I work with. My disability, however, is basically invisible, and I choose only to tell those that really know me about it. Having had a few dates with Michael, the question raised its head. “How out should the two of us be in public together concerning our sexuality? To what degree should we protect ourselves, and should we even consider arming ourselves?” Both Michael and I both have been targeted for being gay. I was doing target practice one day, and happened to have my .45 with me the night I was attacked. I was perfectly unharmed by the two huge men who came at me, without ever needing to fire a shot. Michael, on the other hand, had to have dental work, and sustained a nasty scar on the right side of his forehead from a group of hateful bigots, and got to spend a weekend in the hospital. Michael has suffered at the hands of hate many times throughout his life, and is still able to love and trust today, for which I am truly grateful.
Michael and I love and accept each other. During a trip to the zoo recently, we rode the train, and I put my arm around him. Nobody batted an eye. We ran into some straight business related friends, and I introduced Michael for who he was. We both had a wonderful day together. For me, it was almost out of a fairy tale. I got to spend the entire day with the man I love, love and accept him completely and openly, and do so in public without any fear of reprisal.
I raise the question again – How do we learn to completely let down our guard with the one we love, at work, out in public, with family, or even sometimes among friends? Is it a good idea to be completely out in public and enjoy the same levels of affection that straight couples enjoy? For those of us who are LGBT and disabled, should we be more careful in public so as not to become unwanted targets of theft, hatred, and bashing? I personally want to trust everybody, but know I cannot. Holding hands at the wrong time, or a quick kiss could easily turn into a very violent situation, perhaps even a deadly one. Do we let our guard down and love in such a full and complete way that nothing else matters? I myself prefer the latter. But, I am also a realist and want to protect myself and the man I love at all costs. I now know that for me, the only way to truly love is to do so fully, openly, honestly, and selflessly. Now that I know, there is no turning back.