I’ve never boasted about being brave and in light of some of the stories I’ve heard from folks who came to the U.S. from other countries, I know that there are varying degrees of what bravery really is.
I remember being 15-years old and being asked by my parents – in a good cop-bad cop way – if I was gay. The two people I feared most in life discovered evidence that pointed to my being gay and confronted me in an inquisition that ended with an ultimatum. My father insisted I give it up – being gay – or leave his home.
Even then, leaving the only home I’d ever known to live on the streets of NYC seemed like an easier prospect than denying who I was. It just seemed that I had finally taken a deep breath after having hands around my throat and allowing those hands to take hold again was unthinkable.
The next three-to-four years of my life were difficult at best. I bounced from friend’s homes, to well-wishers to folks who will prey on children in the name of charity. I suffered indignities that I succeeded in repressing so far in my unconscious, that today, the very thought of speaking them out loud hurts my chest.
When I finally met my first partner, I endured a physically abusive relationship in the name of having a stable home. Dangled outside a 4-story window, precariously held by a belt loop from a car moving at 70 miles per hour and having my face slapped so hard I wished I’d passed out so that my nose didn’t hurt so bad – all in the name of normalcy.
Living my life as an out and proud gay man was a choice that came at a very high price. While I have an open mind toward folks who do not share a respect for diversity, I have a difficult time sitting back while someone is disrespected or treated inhumanely. Similarly, I cannot relate to someone who in adulthood struggles with coming to terms with who they are and living in their truth.
As my 40th birthday approaches, I’m filled with a sense of pride at how far I’ve come from that frightened 15-year old boy that was cast to the wolves. So many of the youngsters I remember sharing the street with are long gone, consumed by drugs, disease and despair. It is by God’s will that I’m here. It is by God’s will that I have the resilience to show bravery as the man HE created.
To my fallen friends who didn’t have the luxury of a fourth decade of life, I acknowledge that I’m here because of you. Your bravery taught me the skills to survive and, at times, you took the blows intended for me. Today, I can only live in pride and truth because the price of bravery is too high to squander on present day pleasantries.
Keep passin’ the open windows…