This month I turn 40. I completely embrace age. Life offers many wonderful moments that often lead to lessons. Lessons often bring wisdom and wisdom presents limitless possibilities!
Recently my father turned 63. While celebrating I watched the family interact and socialize. It was one of those “aha” life moments seeing three generations (my father, my siblings, and my children) at one table. It was not too long ago that I was talking with my grandfather who is no longer with us. At some point in our lives we face the realization that we all, even our parents, are just tall children trying to navigate this perplexing and often challenging world the best we/they know with the tools given (or not) in childhood.
Although the relationship with my father growing up was far from ideal, we both have matured and are learning healthy father/son dynamics as adults. I do not necessarily think any parent has bad intentions for their children; we are all simply a product of our childhood – the good and the bad – as are all generations before us. When I view my parents as tall children – who are a product of their own childhood – it helps me understand them, forgive them, and love them.
It won’t be long before my toddler will be playing with his grandchildren. Reminds me of a trip I once took to Arlington cemetery in Washington, DC. Our tour guide stated, “On every gravestone there are two dates – one in which you came in the world, and the other in which you left. Although you have little say on those dates, you have all the say on what happens in between them.” Days may be long but the years short. Are you pleased with the decisions you are making in life? Like it states in James 4 “life is but a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
This month, the USPS will start offering Harvey Milk postage stamps. Harvey Milk became a national gay rights hero in 1977 when he was elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk’s belief that the U.S. Government should represent all areas of American society encouraged and inspired the gay community at a time when discrimination and gaycist mindsets were rife. Milk was instrumental in educating the public on the dangers and absurdity of Proposition 6, (the modern-day witch-hunt) which would have made firing teachers – who happen to be gay – mandatory in the state of California.
Milk was a highly respected civil rights advocate and loved human being. Sadly, however, just eleven short months after serving the people of his district, Harvey was murdered (shot point blank in the head) by Dan White – an anti-gay colleague. Mr. White was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter; it was an appalling legal injustice.
What I find ironic is that although some deem our lives worthless, history has shown that we are some of the strongest, most resilient, and courageous people. For centuries we have been imprisoned, beaten, bullied, mocked and murdered. Gay people have been used as science experiments and regularly regarded as less than human. According to FBI statistics, every four minutes in our nation a crime is reported from a gay person being harassed, bashed, bullied, etc. These reports often include death threats – and these are just the reports on record. Incalculable acts of gay bashing are never reported due to shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and threats if they are reported. Gay people cannot, to this day, freely walk in their pride parades or get married without hearing insults, slander, and verbal attacks from scores of deluded people with bullhorns.
Every day across the U.S., gay couples and their homes are robbed, egged, vandalized, and burned by hate-motivated arsonists. If you open a newspaper or do a quick online search, you will find gays are daily brutally beaten, burned, mobbed, assaulted, bashed, intimidated, even killed as acceptable “punishment” simply for the way they are born. Not too long ago, we suffered excessive and demeaning bar raids, including completely unnecessary and extreme brutality from police officers. We agonized silently, having no legal recourse or protection. As an invisible minority, we had no voice and scarce allies.
Our community encounters countless double standards. I see many young straight couples passionately making-out in shopping malls but if a gay couple holds hands they’re “flaunting their lifestyle.” When anti-gay groups call for nationwide boycotts, it is deemed a righteous use of the free market in order to preserve morality, marriage, family, and the American way. But when the gay community exercises their right to boycott, it is then homofascist intimidation, intolerance, bullying, a stifling of religious liberty, and an attempt to deny others the freedom of speech. Sadly, the examples are countless.
Despite these constant travesties and setbacks to our community, we continue to boldly live in love, forgiveness, prayer, and hope. We are a community often fired from our jobs for who we are, yet the first ones to lend an ear to others in need. We are a community disowned by our families, yet first to give a helping hand to others lost. We are a people continually knocked down physically, spiritually, and mentally, but stand tall and proud while dusting ourselves off. Yes, we are that community. You can throw us to the wolves but rest assured we’ll return leading the pack.
I will share my personal story at another time but in short, I lived on my own at the young age of fourteen, forcing me to leave school and work three low-paying dead-end jobs to survive rent and bills. My future was looking miserable at best. I was too young to drive and too poor for public transportation. My seven day work weeks were long and grueling. Life was not easy and I never knew what was in store for me from day to day or if my tired legs could endure another day. I guess you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option!
In time I realized that although I had little say about my start, I had all the say about my finish. I went on to serve eight honorable years in the United States Military (four years in the Army and another four in the Airforce). I returned to school, eventually graduating with a master’s degree in education (high honors). I moved to NYC and worked on various television and movie sets. I wrote and recorded a CD and performed throughout the nation. After teaching for many years I wrote and illustrated a now published children’s book “I Am Loved Right Where I Am” http://www.jasonj.biz/author.php I joined a pop group and toured all over – one such performance was for the wedding of Shania Twain’s manager. Pictures of the wedding and our group were featured in a nation-wide publication. I am happily married for almost sixteen years and together we adopted two amazing children (from birth). Most significantly, I remain steadfast in my relationship with my heavenly Father, and my daily renewal to follow His examples. Click Here For A Quick Life Clip
I share some of my accomplishments not in any way to boast, or for a pat on the back. I share them simply as an example of how our community repeatedly turns our tests into testaments and our messes into messages. Despite endeavors and accomplishments, I am habitually surrounded by naysayers. Our community and all our successes are persistently dismissed, debased, and disregarded. How cruel and unfair when others throw you out in the cold and then get upset when you learn how to get warm on your own.
If you are gay, or an ally, know that you are a part of a magnificent and exceptional community. I always say gay people are like winning the lottery; one never knows when a winning ticket will emerge from the family. I hope your next post office trip includes a Harvey Milk stamp or two as your support speaks volumes and helps contribute to a better, more equal tomorrow. When the gay community is strengthened, every community is strengthened simply because we are in every community!
The great Harvey Milk is unfortunately gone, yet his heroism, fearlessness, and fortitude live on. Decades after his death Milk is still opening hearts and minds and encouraging all to live authentically. Harvey Milk’s passion for equal rights put his own life in danger, and he knew it. While writing this post, John 15:13 comes to mind, “No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.” There are many scholarly interpretations of this superb verse; however, my favorite is from Harvey Milk himself, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door!”
Twelve years ago, on our first date, Eric and I spoke in length about the importance of our individual spiritual walk, and our wish to eventually have children. Four years later, while in Venice Italy walking side by side underneath an umbrella, Eric stopped to kneel and propose. Three years later (seven years to the day we met) we officially tied the knot in my hometown of Syracuse N.Y. in front of hundreds of cheering friends and family members.
One day while making lunch I felt a small pain in my lower back. Assuming it twisted the wrong way I ignored it. However the pain became increasingly unbearable. I called Eric (who immediately left a meeting) and came home. When Eric walked in and found me pale-white and on the verge of tears he swiftly assisted me to the car and rushed to the nearest emergency room. When we arrived at the hospital I was in the most indescribable pain, and in tears. I could not talk, walk or think. The medical personnel had many questions and asked Eric his relation to me. “My spouse” he uttered as they rushed me into a room and quickly attached an I.V. Although I have a pretty high threshold for pain, it was so intolerable all I could do was scream. All the while Eric stood at my bedside calmly speaking and responding to questions from nurses, doctors and billers.
Countless hours, and many tests later, I was discharged home with powerful pain medication where I would eventually pass my kidney stone. Though my physical pain eventually decreased my emotional pain for the gay community increased. While in the hospital Eric didn’t have to explain that he was my civil-unioned domestic partner lover (or any other grossly misunderstood and watered down term and the countless confusing state laws that vary with them). He simply said, “We are married.” The word “married” is universally understood. I am grateful to live in a state where all citizens are treated equally. My heart bleeds for the many across the U.S. that are not.
When I reflect back on our first date I am almost amazed at what has come to fruition. Here we are with one child and one on the way, happily married and living a very Christ-centered life in a state that respects everyone equally. While enjoying the blessed life that I live I vow to never stop fighting for all of my brother’s and sister’s rights to marry the love of their lives, regardless of where they happen to live.
Today I celebrate my 11th anniversary. I have been with the same wonderful person for four thousand and fifteen days – and counting. The majority of these days have been filled with pure enjoyment. On many occasions I have found myself on the verge of tears asking God why He blessed me so abundantly. Other days, however, have been incredibly challenging. On these days, where love and bliss feels distant, I hold on to my commitment.
We live in a microwave society. Everything we want from fast-food to research is at our finger-tips and attainable in minutes. Marriage, however, is very much the opposite. Like anything of worth and value, marriage takes hard work, time, effort, and a conscious decision to recommit; day after day, year after year.
I’m never too surprised when I hear new lovers say, “I’ve never felt this way before” or “this person makes me feel alive.” What usually follows a short time after, unfortunately, is “they just didn’t make me feel special anymore” or “I wasn’t happy with her/him.” While I would never advocate staying in a loveless or emotionless relationship what I do know however is that we far too easily give up on relationships, and our commitment to stay in love.
Yes, love is an emotion, a feeling of butterflies and rainbows at times. Much more than that though love is a verb. Love takes work, a lot of hard work. A large part of that work is making the decision to commit and recommit daily. Recommit your vows, recommit your dedication, and recommit your decision to support your spouse, encourage and forgive your spouse, elevate your spouse and continually find ways that keep your marriage alive. When this is the focus, happiness overflows.
An anniversary is a medal. A marital medal is a souvenir born from the most difficult task there is; to lay your life down for another – for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. And that takes commitment.