First up, today’s title comes from this song (which, sadly, every version of it I've ever seen mangles the line I mention above):
So let’s rip this Band-Aid off: I’m gay.
Raise your hand if you’re surprised. No one? Okay then, moving on.
Please understand that I didn't tell anyone out of a love for those around me. The BSA is so connected (I have yet to go to an event for my new employer where I haven’t run into a former camp staff kid or volunteer) that I never wanted anyone to have to lie for me. It may seem selfish, but I promise, it was out of care for everyone around me, it was my struggle and no one should have had to be put in that position.
And it's a great relief to be able to say that without being fired.
Honestly, it’s not a big deal. But I can do some good, I always have to remember that while human sexuality is private, coming out is important, if for nothing else than addressing the public side of human relationships and sexuality, raising awareness, putting a human face to a “foreign” idea. I tend to play everything close to the chest, I'm a very private person, so again, no disrespect meant, I just kept this to myself, not only as a way to keep myself safe, but also as a way to ensure I could keep paying the bills and remain employed.
There is so much that is public that no one thinks about, that for years, I had to guard in fear: weekend plans, dates, pictures of significant others, facebook likes and posts, so much that is taken for granted that seems innocent enough, but was a minefield for me to navigate. And now I don’t have to do that anymore, you can just be with the complete Mike, and maybe you can put a face to the LGBT community now.
Working for the BSA for five years was hard. And that’s probably the understatement of the year. It was emotionally draining, exhausting and heartbreaking. Each and every day. I was one of their best employees, and I enjoyed what I did. But for my own sanity, health and safety, I needed to be in a place that doesn't discriminate. I hope the policy changes, and I hope I can change some people’s mind about it. And we need to keep in mind, the policy needs to change, not for me, but for the youth that are being told they aren't worthy. Being told they aren't equal. Being told they are broken. Institutionalized discrimination hurts children, make no mistake. I'm bolstered by the stories I've heard, the people I've worked with, and the lives people have made me a part of. And they're all worth fighting for. I'm tired. No, I'm exhausted. But the fight for equality rages on, and I intend to help. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Moving forward (also, I keep writing that lately, I’m blaming Luke Ravenstahl. And his drinking game), I’ll be listening to the advice of one Captain Malcolm Reynolds:
“I aim to misbehave”
And by misbehave, I mean try to make the world a better place. Two items:
- I wrote a large post for the BSA’s internal Idea Forum (IdeaSource), hoping to provide some insight as to why they need to change, not only because they will quickly find themselves irrelevant, but also because of the real harm their discrimination causes to children. I’ll be posting it for public view (and hopefully getting it in front of the people who can make a difference) via item number two:
- I kept a blog of my experiences working for the BSA, what it was like to hide a large part of myself out of self-preservation as well as commentary about the fight for equality. But don’t worry, I wrote it, so there’s a lot of humor, irreverence and fun links involved too. But a lot of it is raw emotion, and heartbreaking for me to even write. I’ll be going back and editing the posts (grammar wasn't high on my priority list as I wrote and I have to decide how to deal with the hatred and bullying I was put through), and releasing them. If you’d like to follow along, I’ll be posting them under the heading “The King of Spades.” I hope they provide some perspective, and if others stumble upon them, some hope that things can get better for those in the LGBT community employed by organizations with rooted discrimination.
Both of those items will probably ruffle some feathers, to put it mildly. But what’s the point of having the influence and connections that I do if I can’t try to make the world a better place. Maybe I can change some minds, or even convince others to add their voices to the fight for equality. Besides, if I wasn't ruffling feathers for the greater good, I wouldn't be my parent’s son, now would I?
And you’ll notice I posted this on December 21, 2012 (if I did it right, although I know what's wrong, I can't change the time zone, so sometimes I'm shooting in the dark). I couldn't pass up the irony of the “end of the world,” “Mayan prophecy,” “Armageddon,” “new era” and “OMG Mike just ruined Christmas” date. See? I still have that strange sense of humor, that’s not going anywhere.
And to everyone I couldn't tell in person, I’m sorry. I just didn't have that much time and I want to get on living my life, and again, it's a small facet of who I am, not a big deal, I'm moving on. Chances are though, if I didn't get a chance to talk to you in person, you're really important to me. That sounds antithetical, I know, but the stakes are so much higher for those closest to me, and I'm scared. I certainly tried, and chickened out more than a few times, but that's my fault, not yours. But I'll be talking about all that in the blog, not to worry. And besides, this helps to boost my ego and makes me think I have a large blog readership. Right? And besides, I'm a much better writer than an extemporaneous speaker.
I hope you read along, I talk about a lot of different things and it’s a fun journey that we can make together. I could go on, but I run the risk of already losing my brevity (I know, too late), but as a teaser, I talk about stereotypes, beer, Pride, hockey, ENDA, camp, and much, much more. I have a lot of caveats to everything above, and a lot to discuss, so please, stick around, I'll make it worth your while, I promise.
So for now, just know that you’re honestly important to me and a part of my story.
All my best,