Swish News

So last week marked the end of my column Unexpected Voice on Swish Edition. Not because I am a terrible writer or anything, so save the rude comments, but because the column concept was not working for the site. Sure I'm sad, but no hard feeling, I still love Scott and Dale and Steven and Jason! And who knows maybe I will be back in the future, but for now I will be migrating my columns over to "Stuff on My Mind" as well as adding new content! I hope that those of you who followed me on Swish continue to read the random things that I write and I hope that those of you that read my personal blog welcome me back!

Developing An Unexpected Voice (From Swish Edition)

I remember sitting in front of the fireplace at my parents’ house wondering how I had arrived at this point. I was staring at my blue and white sneakers; tears were running down my face. My parents were on the other side of the room trying to process what I had just told them. I saw the confusion and concern in their eyes. I knew they didn’t know how to respond. My father turned to me and simply said, “We love you.” My sister walked in, and suddenly all was back to normal, though I knew that I had a long road ahead of me when it came to gaining my parents’ acceptance.

That Sunday afternoon, on an unplanned trip home, I decided it was time to come out to my parents. I had been leading a double life for years, and in neither of those worlds did I ever reveal my true identity. I had no idea how I was going to do it and I don’t remember how I ended up doing it. I just remember the tears and the concern in my parents’ eyes. I remember the freedom I felt within, paired with the sadness of not knowing if my parents would ever understand.

I vividly recall crying the entire ride back to my home in Boston. That three-hour ride marked a turning point in my life. It was that moment when I was no longer afraid to live my life. It was a moment of freedom, and it was the moment I started cultivating my unexpected voice. I know that my story is not unique; it mirrors that of many others. It is a painful process but many times the people who go through it come out stronger on the other side. They are suddenly more powerful and more willing to make a difference in this world.

As SwishEdition.com is making its first public appearance this week, and with National Coming Out Day right around the corner, I thought a discussion of my coming out story, and the importance of coming out, would be an appropriate first column for me.

A majority of gay men and women have to deal with the same struggle in some sense. It is a frightening internal struggle; and a painful battle. The decision of whether or not to come out is one of the hardest decisions we face. There is the built-in fear that your family and friends will refuse to accept you. These fears can be paralyzing.

A quote from poet e.e. cummings rolls around in my head anytime I think about coming out stories, It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. No truer quote could have ever been spoken when referring to the process of telling your friends and family that you are gay. It truly is courageous. We all follow our own path and we all make our own decisions. We were once afraid to lead our lives but now we celebrate who we really are.

The day that I entered my parents’ house, I had reached my breaking point. That moment when we can no longer live the lie, and we decide that we must be completely truthful and live our lives without apology is a powerful moment. That is when we start to cultivate our voices, and when we begin to actively get involved in the world around us. We all begin to walk down a new path of freedom from the moment we come out. It took me a long time to arrive at the point where I am now, that point where I am not afraid of what people think. I AM FREE!

I now feel comfortable standing on a stage and proudly saying that I am a gay man and there is nothing wrong with that. I finally realize that I have nothing to be ashamed of, that I am equal. I am now comfortable serving as a role model to others who are struggling. So many young adults are harming themselves because of who they are and I want to be that person that can be out there and can show them that they will be okay.

Even after I came out to my parents, I felt a need to hide some of my true self. Then, tragedy struck. I was the victim of a violent hate crime just a few weeks before I left Boston. I woke up in the hospital. My best friend and now fiancé was not allowed into the hospital room to visit me.

Then, there was a trial. The man who attacked me served no jail time even though he was guilty on nine counts of felonies and civil rights violations. My anger at these injustices boiled inside me. I needed an outlet. My voice became louder. I would not stand by and let this tragic injustice occur. I was going to speak out. I was going to make sure that my voice was heard.

Following the trial, I continued to speak out, and some of my words were selected to be used as part of Senator Kennedy’s floor speech in support of the Hate Crimes Legislation. I spoke even louder. I refused to stand quietly and allow for my rights to be trampled upon.

I continued cultivating this unexpected voice in the fight for marriage equality here in D.C. I got engaged to my fiancé on the eve of the National Equality March in Washington D.C. The following day, we marched hand in hand and the strong voice formerly hidden inside me came out. I chanted and clapped as all of the different speakers expressed the need for full equality so eloquently. For the first time in my life, with the support of my amazing fiancé, I realized the real power of words, I realized that I had the ability to make a difference. I had power. My words were power.

Finally, in March of 2010, we decided to enter a contest. It looked like something fun to do, yet it became so much more. We became a symbol for marriage equality here in D.C. and nationwide. My unexpected voice was here to stay.

What was shocking to me was that people were listening to my words. They were listening to my voice, those words that came from my heart, and they wanted to hear more. I am not sure what was more unexpected – the fact that I developed this powerful voice, or the fact that people were listening. They were listening to me!

The root of all of this, however, is my coming out story. If I had not made that decision, I would still be living that dual life behind closed doors. My voice would still be hidden. I would not have been able to change so many hearts and minds on this amazing journey.

We all have an unexpected voice within us – all of us do – and in order to finally achieve full federal equality, we all need to let those voices be heard. We all need to come out, be proud, and share our stories; only then will we achieve our goals. All of our words have power. Each coming out story has the power to change minds. Telling those you love about that which was once secret can help all of us achieve our goal.

This column is about the issues. It is about my unexpected voice, and it is about all of you cultivating your unexpected voices. It is about our freedom, and sometimes it is about some plain ol’ gay fun. I hope it entertains and enlightens you.

And one day, I hope to use this space to celebrate achieving our ultimate goal – full federal LGBT equality.

A Look Back

I was doing some writing today, and I referred back to this post from less than a year ago. It is amazing what we can accomplish in a year. Now hopefully DADT is overturned in the next couple of days and we can continue making progress!

Bill 18-482, Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 Testimony

Testimony by JRH on Bill 18-482, Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 before the Committee on Public Service and the Judiciary on November 9, 2009.

I would first like to thank DC City Council Member David Catania and the nine co-sponsors of Bill 18-482 for introducing a bill that will amend the law and allow for same sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia.

When I first came out of the closet as a gay man to my parents there were many challenges, many of the same challenges every gay man has. Some of the challenges were personal, some involved acceptance, and still others involved my mothers religious beliefs. There were many things that my loving family didn’t understand, like why I would make this choice for my life. Certain things my family still doesn’t comprehend. However, the one thing that stuck with me for all these years is them sitting across the table from me and saying… “We just want you to get married and have a family.” I started to cry, and I looked my parents straight in the eye, with the tears dripping down my face and told them that I was still going to do that.

Back when I made this declaration to my parents it was not legal for me to marry the man I love anywhere in the United States. People were fighting for these equal rights, but this fight for equality was just becoming visible to me. I had no idea how hard of a fight it would be, because I grew up assuming that all men and women are created equal, that “separate but equal” was a thing of the past, a failed experiment that the men and women before me had finally fixed. I was sadly mistaken. The same failed and unequal laws were being applied to the LGBTQ community in the United States. I started seeing this and I felt defeated.

I was starting to feel at peace with who I was a couple of years ago. I had found a group of friends that loved and supported me; I had a good job, and had gotten past the feelings of confusion and hate because of who I was. While my family didn’t openly acknowledge who I was, they accepted me on a one on one basis. This was progress. Then one October evening, I decided to go out with a group of my supportive friends and I met a man who took my breath away. From the moment I saw this man I knew that no matter what, this man was going to be a very important part of my life. Over the next few months we grew very close; it became very rare that we would be out in public without each other. My friends and family were shocked to see me as happy as I was; I was simply a better person when he was around. I had fully accepted myself for who I was and that was freeing. As the summer ended the Doctor and I made the decision to leave Boston where we had been living and move down to DC. The Doctor had secured a job that he couldn’t pass up at a local university, and I had a job opportunity in the District as well.

The Saturday before the Doctor left Boston completely changed my world view. I had gone out for a few celebratory drinks with friends to mark an end to our time together in Boston and we decided to walk home. We were enjoying each others company when suddenly an innocent night was turned upside down. A white car pulled up and a few guys jumped out, one of them attacked me. He screamed “die faggot die,” as he kicked my head into the pavement. He ran off with his friends to his car, driving away, leaving me unconscious in the middle of the street. A witness pulled up, making sure on-coming cars wouldn’t run me over. My friends watched, tears welling up, as they loaded me into the ambulance. I don’t remember anything. I woke up in the hospital. I turned to see my friend in the other bed, also a victim of this hate, still bleeding from his scalp. My own head was throbbing. Even as the world came into focus, I was still confused.

The Doctor was out of town this weekend, yet he was still the first one to make it to the hospital to see me after this horrific attack, except the Doctor had to fight to get into the hospital to see his friends because he was not family and we were not married. This was another figurative blow to the head.

The Doctor was there with me through the recovery. The Doctor was there with me through the nightmares. He slept next to me even when I would wake up punching and screaming as I relived the attack. The Doctor was there with me for the Doctor appointments, and cleaned my wounds, some of which were very gross. The Doctor was there with me to get my mind off of things when I needed to be thinking about something happy all I had to do was look him in the face and I knew he was the one I could count on. The Doctor was the one sitting next to me at the trial, when the man who attacked me pled guilty and got off with no jail time, and the Doctor was the one standing next to me as I spoke out against the violence and the judge who allowed this man his freedom. I knew very early on that this was the man I was going to marry. This strong man who was always there for me was the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with.

Two years after I met the Doctor, on the night before the Equality March in DC, I proposed to the Doctor and we are now engaged. On October 10, 2009 we made a commitment to each other, and in 2010 we want to be able to get married in Washington DC and we want many other loving couples to follow.

Equality is never something I though I would have to fight for but it is and this Bill is one of many steps in the right direction for all citizens of the United States, straight, gay, bisexual, or questioning. We all deserve to be treated equally and we all have a right to marry those we love. I urge the City Council to pass this bill and set an example for all to follow.

Thank you

Reality TV with Morals?

Last night I was surprised with America's Next Top Model. I generally dont watch this show for any reason other than watching bitchy self centered girls get pissed at each other. And quite honestly I also believe that Tyra takes herself way too seriously.

Last night however something was different. The photoshoot focused on bullying. Each of the models needed to reveal the one word that taunted them as a child, and then they also had to come up with a new empowerment word. These words were then written on their body, and the photo was supposed to represent them overcoming this bullying and sending a positive message.

There were tearful confessions about how all these girls were bullied for being different. Some you felt bad for others you might not have. But one struck me. One girl admitted she was a lesbian and the word that she was taunted by was "queer" and she was concerned about having queer written on her body. I have to admit I was concerned for her as well, and how the show was going to handle it. I could not imagine what would happen if the show allowed for a girl to have the n word written on her. If done incorrectly this could have been mistaken for a photo used as evidence for a hate crime.

However, this model was strong, her empowerment word was free, and this word was written powerfully on her neck. And even though she was tearful you could also see how strong she was. In one single picture, one beautiful picture she established herself as a role model for strong free women everywhere. For once I was in awe.

This episode made a statement about bullying, it made a statement about struggling with coming out, and then during final judging it touched on health and body dysmorphia. The girl voted off (who was a bitch) also looked unhealthy. She thought she was overweight at 110 pounds and needed to lose weight. She saw nothing wrong with her body. But she was eliminated because of this. I only hope that the show will provide her with the help that's she desperately needs.

Hmmm, who woulda thought strong public statements on America's Next Top Model... Maybe Tyra really is the goddess she believes she is... Errr maybe not!


For this upcoming possible project that I keep eluding to, and I will continue to elude to because in a way I enjoy being cryptic, I was asked who my GLBT hero was...

Florence Nightingale? Nah! Gertrude Stein? Reverend Troy Perry (MCC)? Brave man! Larry Kramer? Possible. Harvey Milk? Strong possibility. What about Constance McMillen? Sadie-Ryanne Baker a leading activist for transgender rights here in DC? Gay Penguins?

All of the above are strong answers to that question, but when I think about it, I have to say that my real heros are the people that are working everyday now for the movement. The students and twenty somethings that are putting in countless hours. And those people who spend time highlighting issues and standing up for what is right. And the straight allies that stand beside us in our fight for full federal equality.

I usually don't use names in this blog, but I think for this post I will make an exception. Some of my heroes are people like Jay Carmona and Samantha Ames, Ali Lozano and Ian Goldin. These guys are barely adults and they are mature well beyond their years. When I was their age I was trying to figure out how I could stay in the closet, they are planning events, screaming at the top of their lungs, and standing up for all of our rights. I am very new to the LGBT movement, but I know that we need people like these guys in order to secure the future of our movement.

There are people here in DC like Julia Mandes and Sean Carlson who put together this weekened's Big Commit event, and then I have friends like Mark Reed and his partner Dante Walkup. My friends Phil Attey and Phil Reese. And beautiful straight allies like Momma Jude Stevens and Will Phillips. And then national activists like (wait for it) Robin McGehee and Joe Solmonese... yes I did put them in the same sentence! These among so many others are people who are working every day in many different ways to make sure that we keep moving towards our ultimate goal and they are all my GLBT Heroes...

But if I had to narrow it down to one single person, I would have to say that my own personal LGBTQQI(LMNOP) Hero would be a close friend, dedicated activist, brilliant writer, and wonderful all around guy, David Mailloux. Yes, David I would say you are my hero and my inspiration, one of the first people that dragged me into this movement and an all around normal guy who just fights for what is right everyday. Many times we don't agree on the proper way to get things done, there are even videos of us screaming across the room at each other about DADT, but he keeps me moving forward. He inspires me, and he is a hero to many including myself!

Oh, and here is one of the reasons why David is such and inspiration... he helped me put the polish on this powerful speech that the Doctor and I delivered at the Big Commit this past weekend!

It is a great honor to be here and to be speaking to you all today.

We have fought a very public battle over the past year, but entering wedding contests is not the only thing we have done, nor is it the only thing we want to do.

Those contests have given us the opportunity to share our love with a more accepting society, but also to take on the social stigmas that still exist surrounding same sex marriage. Our willingness to share our story has allowed us to become a part of the important changes happening in our country today.

It is amazing to stand here, in front of all of you, and know that the tide really is turning. We are making progress in each and every realm, in each and every facet of our society.

It was just last week that a CNN poll showed that 49% of people asked believe that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. We are just two percentage points away from our majority. This may frighten our opponents, but it should inspire and energize our community to stand up and say, in a unified voice, I am somebody and I deserve full equality!
Our inspired community needs to rise up and show people that we are just like every other American citizen. That we have a right to love who we love, and that we are not going to harm you or anyone else by expressing that love.

We are changing people's hearts and minds each and every day, and it is only a matter of time before we find the glorious success about which we've dreamed – that is, full federal equality for the entire LGBT population.

We may never change the minds of those like Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown, and those supporters of the National Organization for Marriage but we don't need to do that. We need a majority of this country to believe that love is love, that love has no gender, and that discrimination is wrong.

I have faith that we are moving in that direction. I have faith that people are beginning to understand that our relationships, our unions, our marriages in those places where it is legal can only positively impact their own partnerships. I have faith that this peaceful rally will continue to help us move in the right direction and...

I have faith that all discrimination in this country will, very soon, be history.

While I was trying to write this speech, I glanced hesitantly at the National Organization for Marriage website. After all, I wanted to be educated about the anti-marriage equality rhetoric that the opposition had been preaching in recent months and years.

And I came across this line in one of their pieces...

"Marriage helps create and care for the next generation, helping to satisfy men and women's deep human longings for connection with each other... Marriage works by fostering commitment, trust, fidelity, and cooperation..."

I stopped dead in my tracks for a moment. "Wait a minute! THIS is actually a lovely and open statement. It doesn't just apply to unions between a man and a woman.

Because marriage is about connection. It is about the future. It is about trust, and fidelity, and cooperation. Whether they like it or not, the leaders of the National Organization for Marriage are talking about all unions, all marriages, and not just those between a man and a woman.

If only we could make them realize that.

The National Organization for Marriage wants you – heck, they want EVERYBODY to believe that people like Greg and I can not be committed to one another, that we can not create a relationship based on trust, and that we could never raise children and care for the next generation.

Well, we are here today for one really good reason. We are here to tell Brian and Maggie and the rest of the organization: You. Are. Wrong.

Each and every human being has the capacity and the RIGHT to love, to be loved in return, and to express that love through the institution of marriage.

As Judge Walker so eloquently stated in his recent decision that rendered Proposition 8 in California unconstitutional:

"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians."

I am not immoral. I am not harming anybody, nor will I ever harm anybody, because of the person I love.

I have a very simple solution to the "problem" of same sex marriage. It isn't a violent solution like some NOM followers might support.

My solution is not rooted in bigotry but, instead, in love and an open heart.

It is time that same sex marriage is fully recognized by each and every state.

It is time that this "social experiment" is fully enacted.

Same sex marriage will benefit millions of people in this country, including the children of same sex couples.

Marriage equality will go a long way to putting an end to the discrimination that all LGBT people face. It will show that tolerance is not an option in this country but a necessity. It may even lead to acceptance, which is something about which we all dream, yet don't dare discuss, like some sort of birthday wish that may not come true if we utter the words.

I firmly believe that our wishes will come true soon enough, but we can't stop because people here in Washington D.C. have full equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents.

We must keep going. We must keep fighting. And we must keep believing that a better day is coming soon for every one of us.

It is only a matter of time before equality is ours.

Thank you.

I'm Back... Sorry I Was Gone for So Long

It has been an incredibly long time since I have written on this blog. Things have changed a little bit but things remain the same in a lot of ways as well. It has been months since the end of the wedding contest, but things have remained busy, and The Doctor and I are still referred to as "The Crate and Barrel Boys" and have even been asked to deliver a few speeches at events. Because of all of this I have lost track of writing for this blog, as well as the other blog which I have decided to abandon.

I am sorry for those of you who miss my snarkiness and don't appreciate some politics in this blog (not like I have a ton of followers) but you can read those posts you like and ignore other posts. I am going to make an effort to write here a couple times a week. The idea behind the blog will remain the same, it is about things going on in my life and mind.

It may also serve as some good practice because I may be writting something more professionally in the coming months... more to come on that well, in the coming months!

For now, here is an article I posted on the other blog, that I particularly like, and I don't want to lose, more original and first time stuff coming soon! It's good to be back!

Peter Pan and Equality

I read this story about the "Peter Pan Syndrome" in gay men. It got me thinking a little bit, sure some among us don't want to grow up. Sure many do stupid things. Yes, some gay men are reckless. This is not however, a reason to deny us rights, we shouldn't assume that because some of us act like children we should be denyed equal rights. Plenty of straight men and women act like children. Plenty of straight gay men and women cheat on spouses (Hello, Tiger Woods and Jesse James) and engage in unsafe actions. I would agree that there is an epedemic of drug use in the LGBT community, and while I won't assign blame I will say that the lack of acceptance and feeling alone can lead one to the false high one gets while using drugs. Is this a reason to deny us the right to marry the one we love? Are these actions a reason to deny an entire community rights? I don't think so! Nobody is talking about denying Tiger Woods the right to marry, and my guess is if he does get married again he may even cheat again.

The author, who is a self proclaimed conservative says, "There is a delicious set of ironies coming from the gay pseudo-world that doesn’t escape the public eye. This nebulous community wants validation and recognition in the form of same-sex marriage, ending DADT and comprehensive employment non-discrimination (ENDA.) Yet, what have you been doing to earn society’s respect? Creating a Bohemian underworld in some dark corner of a bathroom stall? Spiraling into a G-hole? Killing your own?" There are also many people who are out and proud, and honorable. We want validation because it is the right thing to do for society. We want validation because we want to grow up, and many of us are working hard and contributing to society.

I am not sure why this article got under my skin, maybe it is because it is validating the discrimination we face everyday. It is saying, yes discrimination is probably bad, but here is why you deserve it! Well, I am not going to mince my words here and that is a load of crap! All human beings deserve the respect of society and they deserve to be treated as equals. Acceptance is key.

I absolutely agree that some people gay or straight need to grow up. They need to learn to be a productive member of society. But in a country founded on the basis that all men are created equal we should all be treated as equal! Oh, and by the way I will continue to "screetch" for acceptance and equality!


So, I am totally addicted to Life... I love watching it. I think it may be even more exciting then Planet Earth! And here is why it is so totally amazing...

Life is all about the amazing things animals do to survive. The way it is filmed is amazing, the animals are unbelievable. You seriously can't make this stuff up... except as you watch it, you can't help but think that Oprah (who narrates it) is making this stuff up. I'm serious you are watching it and you think... "really Oprah? Does that starfish that lives in the freezing waters of the arctic really exude it's second stomach to eat that seal?" But it is true, unless of course she is making it up!

I love it!