Friday, December 22, 2017

This Is Me Without The Not

Anyone who's seen the trailer for The Greatest Showman has heard the song "This Is Me." If you've paid any attention to the lyrics you know that it's a veritable anthem for anyone who is different. Being a man who is gay that seems to still include me.

I latched on to the empowering song about not making apologies, being seen, and being who I'm meant to be, the minute I heard it. But recently I've been catching myself incorrectly singing this lyric: "I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me." I've been leaving out the word "not." Therefore, singing, "I am scared to be seen..." I began to ponder if this was less mental snafu and more subconscious admission--yet more proof that I'm not really comfortable being seen.

For all of my #BeYourself hashtags, mascaraed lashes in public, and high-heeled shoes wearing moments on the subway, I'm still uncomfortable in my own skin. I don't love myself. I show up but I'm still afraid to be seen. Even as I defy you not to see me.

I am never more confident than when I'm safely inside the walls of my own apartment.

There are moments (beyond the walls) when my confidence rages within me like a fever consuming every cell. But the fever never burns for long. I sabotage my well-being, turning my own thoughts of self-loathing into an antibiotic; curing me of my "undeserved" happiness and leaving me a little more debilitated in the aftermath.

The more I begin to externally express my internal awareness, the sadder and lonelier I feel. How odd. I would have thought my life of secrets would have been a lonelier life to live. But no. I feel like an aging queen--hair coiffed, perfectly mascaraed lashes, clothes on point, fabulous bag--smiling and waving at the men, all the while convincing myself the men don't want the mascara and that the wave is just too limp wristed. I see them turn away,  averting their eyes so quickly that they appear to be afraid someone will catch them looking at me.

I don't know what man wants a man who likes nail polish, mascara, flamboyant jewelry, and high heels. I've convinced myself I'm undesirable number one. I feed my own self-contempt. I'm guarded. I don't want to get hurt. So I pretend I'm not interested so that when I get home, safe behind those walls, I can fall apart in private, not being seen. This is me.

I'm ashamed that I like makeup and high heels. I'm ashamed that I'm not more masculine. I'm ashamed that I'm ashamed. I've lost my way. I no longer know what my purpose is.

I risk nothing yet I risk myself every day when I express my true self. I'm wallowing in self-pity--almost drowning in it. I am Michael Rohrer yet I feel like I am nothing, no one; an invisible entity moving through life longing to be seen while fervently hoping no one will notice me. I'm trapped between worlds.

This can't be "who I'm meant to be." I am boldly rambling through my life right now. Not so much Rohrering as whimpering. I've got to add the "not" back to the lyric.

My journey continues...


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Desire/Fear

As his ass begins to flatten, his biceps deflating from mountains to hills, he knows he only has himself to blame. The desire to keep his body lean and taut is greater than his fear of it becoming flabby. Yet still, he finds it easier to distract himself with other things like...sitting. That, instead of making his legs move in a forward motion toward a goal that, once a necessity, has now become a discardable challenge. Sitting. Avoiding. Why? Is there fear? He knows the place and its virtually unfriendly members. He knows a person will rarely say hello. But he craves the chummy atmosphere that he once took for granted. He’s convinced himself he’s too old to be desirable in this playground of youth and pretty bodies. He now feels self-conscious where he used to feel like he belonged. So he sits. And avoids. And his abs become slack. He becomes mentally self-destructive—harder on himself than any other person could possibly be. He’s taken the step forward before. He knows he can. He knows the feeling of satisfaction. He sits. His legs twitch, aching to move. Only he can change his situation. Only he can fuel his desire and defeat his fear.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Motivationally Inept

He awoke feeling rested. The day had its plans well before sleep had taken him into its embrace the night before. As he sat on the sofa reading the first of the day's many tweets and updates, the coffee filled his mouth with its bitter warmth that somehow always managed to taste pleasant. He read and sipped nestled into the sofa's corner: scrolling, flipping, content. Nearly four hours later, the morning had slipped away and those plans the day haf made...fallen by the wayside, discarded like last month's Vogue. As regret and failure began to set in he realized once again that he had become depressively inept at motivation.

Caught in the Apron

There was a knock on the door. I looked up and saw his face framed in its diamond-shaped window. I froze. My little hands clutched the apron I had tied around my waist. In my panic I tried to wad it up and remove it at the same time. He looked as if he was staring right at me; his eyes piercing through the glass and right into my own. But he wasn’t reacting. Could he see me? I was terrified. As we walked across the lawn toward my grandmother’s house my father said nothing.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Repeal Toward Silence

There was a time when I didn't consider myself a political activist. I was content to let others do the work, to let others fight the fight. During President Barack Obama's administration that changed. The game changer for me was the prospect of marriage equality.

I've never been one to want to get married. (Well, not since I was a teenager and thought I might marry a woman at age 17, but I digress). Maybe that's because I haven't had a significant other in my life that I love so much that that down-on-one-knee scenario would be the next logical step and a resounding, tearful yes the only answer. If you know me you know I would cry. I'm a soft-hearted Sally.

Regardless of my personal relationship status, I have friends who wanted/want to get married. Why shouldn't they get married? Just because some words in an ancient text says it's not the way? Please! Evolve already. Many words in that ancient text no longer hold any meaning. And yet, same sex couples continue to be judged against the ideals of some man from a time long ago (and translated through the centuries by yet more men) that continue to keep the hearts of believers so hardened that they can't open them. And the heels of all of their shoes must me in ruin for all the digging in.

That was 2015 and this is 2017.

It's an era of frustration, anger, anxiety. There is hate on both sides. And name-calling. There is no compromise. Social media doesn't help. It doesn't really bring us closer together. And it's certainly not social. No, social media allows us to yell and scream at each other, emboldened with the courage that only the safety of a keyboard can provide. 

It's an era when "fake news" is screamed in front of the camera anytime the person screaming doesn't agree or accept what's being reported. There are bans, witch hunts, repeals, stalls, rush jobs, refusals, threats. There is finger-pointing, bullying, harassment. There is no end in sight. The "leader" of the free world is guilty of leading the charge for all of the above mentioned verbs. Oh look, he is a leader.

It's an era of marches and pussy hats and the raising of voices.

This brings me to the vote on Thursday, December 14, 2017, to repeal the Obama era rules to keep the internet free for the American people--net neutrality.

This was one more slap in the face to those of us who raised our voices in protest--We The People. The ears that needed to hear the voices refused to hear. And why is that? From my view, standing outside looking in, it appears that the undoing of legislation put into place during the Obama era is at the top of the To Do list for the current administration. The man that lost the popular vote but won the electorate, hates his predecessor so much that it appears all he really wants to do is undo everything the man did, effectively taking us backwards. 

As a supporter of Barack Obama I will admit that it's hard for me to understand the point of view of people who hated/hate him as much as I hate his replacement. But that's not what this is about. 

Yesterday's vote to repeal net neutrality has me concerned for our Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Regardless of who you support, you should be concerned about the repeal. 

While initially appointed to the FCC by Barack Obama, it was Donald Trump who appointed Ajit Pai, chairman. And it was Mr. Pai who cast the deciding vote to begin dismantling the net neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open. He has now opened the door for internet service providers (ISP's) to slow down content (better finish the second season of The Crown on Netlix before it starts stopping to buffer) or even block content with which they don't agree.

This is where it gets personal for me. I am a writer. I have spoken out many times against the actions of Donald Trump, the administrator of the Corporate Greed Administration. You have to open your eyes. Don't you think that the man who made "fake news" one of the go to phrases of the year has just laid the foundation for a different kind of wall? The one that blocks the legitimate news outlets that report the truth that he doesn't like? It's a What If scenario but can't you see the "what if" getting clearer all around you? Maybe you think, This is America. That won't happen here. Do you really want to find out?

If ISP's have the ability to block competitive content what makes any of us think that news websites that keep us informed and point out the truth aren't going to be added to the "blocked" list?

We have to fight. We can't be silent. We have to raise our voices. We have to make ourselves be heard. If we don't, the truth could be repealed and that silence will be deafening.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When Damaged Goods Reveal A Deeply Rooted Problem

It was page 362. I was roughly halfway through devouring my fashion meal that is the September issue of Vogue, when I turned the page and there they were. I gasped.

This amuse-bouche was unexpected and deliciously seductive.

Three models wearing three different colors — and styles — of shoe with the same fabulous heel. In bold type I read, “Sies Marjan Shoes” followed quickly by the subheading, “At long last, the label’s lust-worthy footwear collection has arrived.”

I did lust. 

The shoe from the image that caught my attention was in a beautiful shade of blue. I immediately read the article to which the image was attached then put down the magazine and headed to my computer to do some research. 

I learned that the silhouette of the shoe was inspired by the penny-loafer; that it had a one inch platform in the front to go with its 4.5 inch heel. I learned that it was covered in Nubuck, which is the material used for Timberland’s. And that her name was Ellen. It was that heel, however, that turned my lust to love. It’s flared shape was the distinguishing feature that made it nothing short of intoxicating. (Who knew a magazine could feed you and get you drunk?) There was a twist though: the blue shoe, which might be a bit less conspicuous for a man to wear, didn’t seem to exist. Everywhere I searched Ellen Nubuck Ankle Boot it was only available in pink. Pink! 

For days the image of that shoe popped in and out of my head. I would find myself on a break at work Google imaging it. Finally I screen shot the image and saved it to my phone (duh!) so I could drool over it whenever I wanted.

MONDAY
When I awoke on the morning of October 2nd, I decided it was time to go to Barney’s on Madison Avenue and see those shoes in person. Why not? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I wanted to behold. Plus, it never hurts to look. 

They were gorgeous. Shocking in their pinkness. I hesitated to touch the one on display but it called to me in a dulcet tone saying, “Pick me up. I won’t bite.” The softness of the suede was like the rose petal butter cream that fills a rose-flavored macaron. I wanted them. I only hoped they had my size. After someone stripped a mannequin of her footwear I admired them on my own feet in the reflection of a mirror. I was apprehensive about the color yet exhilarated by it at the same time.

I walked out of Barney’s with those shoes in tow. Yep, I did more than look. In 20 years of living in New York City, they were my first Barney’s purchase. As I headed toward the subway to take my beautiful pink shoes home, I was floating on air. Excitement was exploding from my body. It was ricocheting off of every person I met. I wondered if they could feel it. 

It was after arriving home that the dreaded realization emerged. The shoes were damaged. The heels weren’t even. I couldn’t tell this in Barney’s as the shoe salon is mostly carpeted. But on my hard wood floors it was obvious. One rocked. One didn’t.

I didn’t quite fully panic, but my insides did get that tingly spread that happens during a panic. I went into search mode. I saw there was a pair of the shoes in my size available on the Barney’s website. So I called. I spoke with a very helpful customer service representative who connected me to Barney’s, and from there, my sales associate, Andrew. Andrew said he would get that pair from the warehouse delivered to the store so that I could try them on and make sure they were perfect, then exchange the pair that was damaged. I relaxed…a bit. 

WEDNESDAY
The bad news arrived: the shoes inside the box in the warehouse were a size 39 instead of the marked 40. They were searching for the 40’s but had been unable to locate them. Andrew was holding out hope. I was not. 

FRIDAY
Barney’s was unable to locate the size 40. I returned the damaged pair to the store. I mourned.

Then I got the bright idea to reach out to customer service at Sies Marjan. I spoke with a customer service concierge named Amena. She was wonderful. She immediately began to search for the shoes in my size in order to “rectify this problem.” 

Later that day she texted me with the “bad” news. The only other pair of the Ellen Nubuck Ankle Boots available in my size was at Selfridges in London. I was heartbroken. Yes, I know they’re just shoes. But when you find something you love and you actually have it in your possession only to lose it, there is a sense of loss and heartbreak attached. 

SUNDAY
It took two days before I finally realized that the Universe was giving me exactly what I wanted but that I didn’t like the option for how to get it. I was playing the victim, a role that I have perfected over the years even as I try to stop the type casting. There was not another pair of those shoes in my size in the United States but there was one pair in my size in London. I didn’t want to order them from London. I had PTSD from the first pair being damaged and certainly didn’t want to order that only pair available in my size from another country. What if they didn’t fit? What if the color was off? What if they too were damaged? I was prepared for the disappointment without giving one thought to the possibility that they would be perfectly, beautifully, exactly what I wanted. 

This led to a deeper discussion: Why won’t I allow myself to be happy, Why can’t I find the joy? Why is it easier for me to prepare for the gloom and doom than to live in the moment and the happiness that is waiting for me to embrace it?

I don’t have an answer to either. The universe was giving me exactly what I wanted. All I had to do was place an order. That’s all. If something happened to be wrong with the boots, I could return them. In my mind, the idea of returning something to London was such a burden. But then again, what if the shoes were perfect and no return was necessary? I couldn’t seem to give a positive outcome as much credence as a negative one.

I began to wonder if there was a moment in my childhood where I learned to feel bad for my desires, when I started thinking I didn’t deserve the things I wanted out of life. I remember my father saying that he hoped I found a good job when I grew up because I had expensive tastes. I remember feeling bad about that in the moment. That little gem burrowed its way deep into my psyche.

The shoes were the catalyst revealing something that goes much deeper. Why don’t I think I deserve happiness, joy? This issue has tentacles that touch every aspect of my life: I have a good job, what if I get fired? I love my apartment, what if my lease isn’t renewed? This guy is great, what if he thinks I’m stupid…or bad in bed? What if my next blog piece fails to connect? What if the shoes are damaged? What if, what if, what if?

They’re just shoes. I know that. But to me they are yet another step in my expression evolution. To walk out into the world, to ride the New York City subway, to show myself in pink heels elicits old adolescent fears of name-calling or maybe even physical contact. It may be an irrational fear at this point, but my adolescence — and living in the Age of Trump (even in NYC) — gives me reason to pause. My guard is always up. I often wonder how it might feel to live without that guard: to exist, breathe, express myself without fear?

I shouldn’t let any of the above keep my happiness at bay. And none of it should keep me from experiencing joy. That’s on me. Fear though: it takes a toll on us that we don’t often see. 

By Sunday night I had gotten out of my own way. 

Selfridges delivered the shoes two days later. They were perfect: a confectionary delight —no sugar, no carbs.

The day that I wore them out into the world for the first time my guard was way up, but in the safety of friends I found my joy. 

We’re meant to enjoy our lives. With this blatantly obvious reveal, I am now trying to really experience the joy that I find, live in its light. Damaged shoes do serve a purpose. Who knew?


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Enough Is Enough: Christians, Homosexuality, And The Casting Of Stones

This piece first appeared on HuffPost

I am so tired of hate speech spewing Christians. They of the holier-than-though contingent who seem to think their shit doesn’t stink. 

I am tired of my homosexuality being labeled a sin. 

I am tired of my acting upon my sexual desires being labeled a sin.

John 8:7 (KJV): “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” 

Ever notice how many of those stones are being cast by Christians? 

Enough with the sin talk already.

Heterosexuals do not corner the market on sex. Because let’s face it, it’s all about the sex isn’t it? That “nasty,” “disgusting,” hurts-so-good butt sex that many people can’t seem to wrap their heads around? What does it matter how two (or more) people express their love for one another? I can even take love out of the sentence and put it even more bluntly. What does it matter how two (or more) people choose to get off? There are even heterosexuals who enjoy a visit to Butt Town.

Homosexuals are not perverse as some are wont to think. And enough with the desire to round us up and kill us. Would you have another holocaust? This time on American soil? From some of the statements I read from Christian leaders in this country, I’m thinking a rainbow holocaust of epic proportions is exactly what some want. I get the feeling there would be much joy from some after an LGBTQ elimination.

I doubt that anyone who hates gay people enough to wish death upon us cares, but I’m a human being. And living with that kind of hate on the periphery for my entire life is challenging to say the least. 

What I find so interesting about hate is the part choice plays in it. Think about this. I’m the gay man. Who could possibly know better than I what I feel and who I’m attracted to? Do you know better than I what I feel because you’re a conservative, a Christian, a whatever else you claim to be? You’re wrong. But here’s what I know. You make a choice. You have chosen to hate something you can’t accept. You have chosen to believe the words of the Bible without question. You have chosen to follow the doctrine of a religion that picks and chooses what is sin. You have made a choice. I did not. 

I was born gay just as I was born with a crossed left eye and blond hair that eventually turned brown. I didn’t have a choice in those matters. It’s that simple.

If people would stop casting their stones for just one second—one second—and look, they would be able to see the LGBTQ people—the human beings—in front of them. But our country—America—is filled with pious people who think they’re doing the “right” thing, but have merely consumed the Kool-Aid laid out for them on the silver platter of self-righteousness.

Who I love, fuck, or get off with is no one’s business unless I share the details. A non-heterosexual couple who wants to get married does not affect negatively the institution of marriage. It’s time to get over that notion. That belief is nothing more than irrational delusion.

It fills me with anger when I see a video like the one posted by Theodore Shoebat calling my homosexuality a perversion worthy of death. Are you kidding me? The professed ‘Christian Militant’ (Christian Militant??) is pious indeed. This man is so drunk on the power of his religious superiority that he believes that people should be put to death merely because they are homosexual. Look in the mirror, sir. You’ve got a little bit of shit dribble on your face.

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky filled with fear and shame because I was gay. (Thank you religion.) I continue to fight against those fears and that shame every day to be the person I want to be and to fully live my life. 

Hate is taught; it is learned. Love comes naturally. I, and my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, deserve to live, to thrive, to love. I know that attitudes toward LGBTQ are more positive and accepting than ever, but I also know that hate has carved out its place in this country. 

I’m not casting a stone but…isn’t hate and the wishing of death a sin?