Waving Through a Window

“On the outside always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass. I’m waving through a window.”

Two really important things, at least to me, are happening right now.  I’m planning a wedding with my fiancé AND the Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording has been released to Spotify.  IMPORTANT THINGS I SAY! Over the last week, if I’m at my desk, the songs from Dear Evan Hansen are on repeat, over and over again. I’ve also been, like I said, planning a wedding so if anyone asks, I’ll talk about it. Planning a wedding was never something I ever really thought about as a kid. Do boys think about their wedding day? Do gay boys think about their wedding day? The answer for me is, no, I never really thought about a wedding. The perfect day and setting and person was never really something on my mind growing up.  Geez, my life was filled just trying to figure out if it was going to be a woman or a man for crying out loud. I didn’t have time to think about an actual wedding until recently.

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 So while I was figuring all of that stuff out my friends were dating and getting engaged and getting married. Oh did I attend a lot of weddings in my 20s and 30s. That was a lot of cake and alcohol and dancing. It was fun, so much fun. However, it wasn’t for me. Somehow I didn’t fit in that societal norm of finding someone, getting engaged and planning a wedding. I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about it, rather I went about my life and enjoyed those people around me who were in love and getting married and getting all those gifts and inviting all those people to celebrate with them. On June 26, 2015 our societal norm changed. The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in favor of equal dignity and marriage for all citizens of the United States. Then, lucky me, on June 26, 2016, exactly one year later the man of my dreams asked ME to marry HIM!

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Well now this whole marriage thing got really real and really fast. My fiancé said he would be fine just going to the courthouse and getting married.  I said, “Do you know who you just asked to marry you?”  Haha, wait, I hadn’t ever really thought about a wedding, that is true, but now that I have the chance, I’m taking it.  People have said, “You’ve gone to your share of weddings over the years, now it is time for those people to buy you gifts!” Sure, I guess that is part of the celebration, but that’s not all it is for me.  I told my fiancé that the reason I want a wedding is because as I sat at all those weddings in the past I thought to myself, “I wonder if it will ever be legal for me to get married?” “Sure we have ‘civil unions’ in my state but that isn’t the same. That isn’t equal.” The reason I want to have a wedding is to celebrate with those people who have loved me for me. It is now my time to step inside and stop “waving through a window.”

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That brings me back to Dear Evan Hansen the new musical on Broadway. It’s about a boy who watches life pass him by due to severe social anxiety.  But why, to me, isn’t he point. Have you ever spent a portion of your life “looking in from the outside?” That is why I connected to this music and that is why I want to celebrate my love and my marriage because after June 26, 2015 I no longer had to look in from the outside.

“While I’m watch watch watching people pass I’m waving through a window, oh can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”

Unlike Evan Hansen, I have never been socially isolated or lonely, luckily. But I have waved through the window while people who are accepted pass by. I’ve tried really hard not to get political in my blog, as far as this past election, but just briefly I have to. It really frustrates me when people say, “I support gay marriage and equal rights”, but that person voted for the Republican platform, one that does not promote equality. They might say, “Well gay marriage is a done deal.” Sure it is the law of the land, but depending on who the new Supreme Court justice is, that ruling could be overturned years down the road. Likely or unlikely, why chance it? And it isn’t all about equal marriage. It is about equal rights for all people. It is about accepting refugees and immigrants into our country. It is about accepting and loving others no matter their gender, sex, race, sexual orientation or other. Why make people in America wave through the window and hope that one day their difference will be just as accepted as someone else? Why? Why not share love and spread love and think about all those people who are waving through a window?

In this clip, Cynthia Erivo Tony Award winner from The Color Purple sings “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.

Even when the dark comes crashing through/ When you need a friend to carry you /When you’re broken on the ground /You will be found

Why don’t we work on loving each other, all of us, and helping each other out. You are not alone I wish was the mantra of our country because far too many people don’t have the same power, privilege, and acceptance. Don’t wait until it is your time to suffer to “get it” and start thinking about others. Let’s help each other now.  Let’s share and care, just a little more. Let’s notice each other more. Let each other know, we all matter.

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So that brings me back to why I want to have a wedding; a celebration of our love, an acknowledgment that our love matters and our love is important too. It’s not about the gifts (but I’ll take them, I guess) it’s about being surrounded by the people who love us; the people who have lifted us up when we were down; the people who, no matter what, have been with us throughout life to say, “hey, hey you, you matter.” 

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Equal Dignity — June 26, 2015

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It’s been 25 days since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of equal rights and equal dignity for all Americans. Call it Gay Marriage, call it Marriage, call it what it is, a Human Right that is afforded to Americans based on our Constitution. I’ve been meaning to write about this momentous day for a few weeks, but just haven’t had a chance. I also wanted it to settle in and I wanted to feel it. On June 26, 2015 LOVE did win.

We should never let anyone into our hearts if they don’t enter with love. With all the hatred around the SCOTUS decision and the fight over equal rights, “Love Wins” is one of the truest messages. As the late, great Whitney Houston once sang, “Your love is my love and my love is your love.”  We all love. We all want to love. We all want to feel love. If two men or two women find love, let it be, please! Who’s to say that your love is more right than my love or my love is more right than your love? Life, this journey, is hard enough, why make it harder by fighting over love? Let love be. Let us move forward allowing everyone to love.

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So here’s my perspective as a non-religious gay man, it’s a separation of church and state.  Our forefathers wrote that into the constitution for a reason.  For so many years I have been arguing the point that I’m not asking to get married in your church. I’m not religious, so I would never get married in a church. If you want to that is wonderful, for you. “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is part of the Constitution(state, “government”), and if my happiness means marrying a man, then I get to do that. Marriage comes in two forms.  There is a ceremony(the church if you choose) and there is the license. With the legal part of a marriage license come rights that heterosexual couples have always had. These are the law, not the Bible. These are the state, not the church. No matter what you believe marriage is, one man, one woman…two men or two women…everyone should be given the same legal rights of marriage because we live in America and we all should be afforded the same rights.  Now, because SCOTUS ruled in favor, it is the Law of the Land, as it should be, as it always should have been, as it now will be forever more.

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Ever since President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, I felt things would pick up speed, and they sure did. People have differing opinions on when and how Obama “evolved” into believing in the right for gay men and women to marry. He is a politician and our country is so divided that of course he didn’t come out and fully support gay marriage until after he successfully won his second term. Say what you choose, but what matters to me is that he did and I always felt he would, once he was a second term President. When President Obama took office two states recognized gay marriage, seven years later, all 50 states recognize it. I believe that when the leader of the free world came out and supported equal rights, the slope slipped in the right direction. Call it political posturing, or whatever, Obama had to do it the right way and he did. Thank you Mr. President!

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Several years ago, my friend’s son wrote a letter to President Obama. He asked the President to pass a law so that I can get married. How wonderful, right? E has known me since the time he was born. He and his sister have grown up in a time that gay men and women have just been part of social media and their personal life. In my opinion, he’s been lucky enough to have several “Guncles” in his life, and we are lucky enough to have him in our lives.  This now middle school boy just accepts love as love, couples as couples, people as people.  My hope is that his generation is growing up knowing that “love is love”. They are going to be the first generation that doesn’t quite remember the time of marriage vs. gay marriage. He and his generation will know only, MARRIAGE.

Speaking of the younger generation, did you see this 7 year-old girl stand up to a homophobic preacher?

It’s quite wonderful that I was home in Michigan visiting my family the day of the SCOTUS decision. My five and six-year-old nieces’ take on the day’s events, “Can we be your flower girls and wear pretty dresses?” Again, this young generation will not remember a time when marriage was talked about separately. They will only know marriage as a celebration of love. How wonderful is that?

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The sidewalk in Bronson Park, Kalamazoo, Michigan-June 26, 2015

So what does this all mean? I think Frank Bruni writes about it best in his article “Our Weddings, Our Worth” from the New York Times. It’s about worth. It’s about EVERY American feeling worthy and feeling noticed and feeling dignified. This blows my mind because it is exactly how I feel when Bruni writes, “And that’s because the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t simply about weddings. It was about worth. From the highest of this nation’s perches, in the most authoritative of this nation’s voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they’re normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake.”  So what it means is that our young gay men and women can grow up in a time knowing that they belong and that they are normal and that they matter. And for me it means that I can get married and have cake!!

As all of this settles in, there are still haters, some of whom want to lead our country like Ted Cruz who is calling for states not to follow the law. Um, Ted, it’s the law. You have to follow it. Sorry dude! We must push that nonsense away(and not vote these bigots into office)and forge our path to love!!  LOVE! While we do that, I would like to share some of my favorite moments and images of June 26th, 2015 and the days following via social media.

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The White House

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Our President 🙂

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Our Next President–Please?

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Police raising the Pride flag at City Hall in Chicago

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Niagara Falls

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What a week in US history

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A lot of work yet to accomplish

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This Instagram post from Bey

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That’s right, what makes being American and living in America so wonderful is that we can all have different opinions and we don’t have to agree on any of them. But, we should always be kind to one another and we all deserve the same rights. In the end, it’s about every American knowing that he matters, that she is worthy, and that we are all dignified. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the most beautiful final paragraph in his majority opinion ruling.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

Now we move forward. Let’s call it marriage. Let’s call it celebrations of love. We’re all equal and we’re all deserving of human rights. We are all deserving of the rights afforded to all Americans. So go ahead, you can just call it MARRIAGE now.

I Beat the Fastest Woman in the 10K – Gay Games

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Where do I begin?  Spending 10 days in Cleveland, OH last week for the Gay Games #GG9 was incredible, amazing, fulfilling, and totally unexpected.  I guess I knew the Games were being held in Cleveland, but I didn’t give it any thought to participate.  Life sort of had its way of happening and I had my way of Saying YES to Life and well, I ended up in Cleveland as an athlete in the Gay Games 9.  What I didn’t know when I signed up is how much fun it would be, how many people I would meet, and how significant it would feel to participate in an international event that happens every four years.  Cleveland opened it’s arms to the world, and we all answered back.

Cleveland?  Really?  THAT is the city that they chose to host the 2014 Gay Games?  Eight years ago it was in Chicago.  Four years ago the Games were held in Cologne, Germany.  Cleveland, Ohio?  How the hell did they beat out Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City?  That I cannot tell you the answer to, but I can tell you that those other three cities are pretty progressive.  Gays are totally boring in those cities.  The significance of hosting an international event like the Gay Games allowed a humble Mid-West city to become exponentially more progressive and what a job they did.  Everywhere we walked there were rainbow flags hanging from businesses and on lamp posts.  The most iconic building of the city (above) was lit up in a rainbow of color every night as if a beacon saying, “Gays, we love you too and you are welcome in our city.”  Never once did I see a protester.  Never once did I feel uncomfortable holding hands.  Never once did I hear a shout of negativity.  I felt accepted and loved and full of joy for 10 days in Cleveland.  As I said when I left on Sunday, Well done Cleveland.  Well done.

Tom Waddell founded the Gay Olympics in 1982 on the principle

that competition can overcome division and prejudice.

The purpose of the Federation of Gay Games is to foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the nongay world, primarily through an organized international participatory athletic and cultural event held every four years, and commonly known as the Gay Games.

Not only did I want to participate as a runner in the Games, but I wanted to take them in like Princess Kate and Prince William did with the London Olympics.  Much like Kate, I donned my finest attire to attend the diving practice, and the swimming competition and even a basketball game and party after party after party.  I wasn’t nearly as pretty, but I did my hair real nice.  At the basketball game I met a reporter from Germany who sat next to me.  We chatted about the significance of the Games in Cleveland.  He is from Cologne, the host four years prior, and his friends told him the festivities were way more outrageous than in Cleveland.  While chatting, he asked me why I felt the Games were so significant.  What I told him is that Cleveland is still in the Mid-West and there is still a lot of growth that needs to happen.  But unlike Boston, D.C., Chicago, or NYC, Cleveland offered an opportunity for residents of a fairly conservative area of the country to be exposed to more GAYS than they knew existed!  The city was drooling with gays.  Like I said, the city and businesses embraced us all.  I chatted with a girl at the Starbucks who asked about the Games. She had no idea that they are held every four years in an effort to spread tolerance and the message of acceptance and inclusion.  She simply thought her home city was doing something really cool.  Yes, everyone is included in the Gays Games, even our straight friends.  At swimming and diving I saw people who were most likely in their fifties competing.  One man did a belly flop, twice, but he was accepted and a little tolerated, and he was most of all, having fun.  So my conversation with the German reporter continued.  I think it was only because I had my hair real nice, like Kate, remember?  I finished with this.  It may not be the flashiest or most outrageous of Games, but I feel like Cleveland is a success because it furthered the push for acceptance and tolerance in an area of our country that so desperately needs to get on board with all of that.  Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, they are all on the wrong side of history and the exposure that the Gay Games has given the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and it’s residents, I hope, will begin to put the rest of the Mid-West on the right side of history.

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So what was it like?  Well, if I could win a gold medal for party participation, I would have.  The gays know how to throw a party.  I knew if the kick-off party at the art museum Friday night followed by the Opening Ceremonies(Lance Bass-bad; Pointer Sisters-fabulous)Saturday night of opening weekend were any indication, this week would be fab, fab, fab.  It was exhilarating to march in the opening ceremonies that hosted more athletes than the Sochi Olympics, probably because the gays weren’t afraid for their lives to attend this event.  We marched into the Q Arena to a huge party with thousands of fans.  Senators welcomed us.  The Mayor of Cleveland welcomed us.  President Obama welcomed us.  But most of all, Cleveland welcomed us.  One thing we all wished was that Lance Bass had NOT welcomed us.  He was kind of awful.  However, the Pointer Sisters, rocked the house.  “Jump for my love.  Jumpin’ and feel my touch.  Jump Jump For My Love.”  We went to the White Party and of course, as the gays would have it, it poured rain and turned into a huge wet t-shirt orgy.  Ok, that didn’t happen, but Boy George was there spinning some great tunes.  House of Blues hosted a party.  Hotels hosted parties.  Bars hosted parties.  Festival Village hosted parties.  I don’t think we got to bed once before midnight.  Of everything, the post-closing ceremony party might have been my favorite one.  The Games were over and we all relaxed and drank and tossed flowers at each other and danced and made friends and had the time of our lives.  Most of the guys I had just met that week but we simply had the best of times.  So really, I guess it was a huge party with a few athletics thrown in for good measure.

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The above sign is one I never thought I would ever follow in my life.  Growing up, my brother was the athlete in the family.  I tried soccer one fall and asked my coach incessantly if I could organize the oranges for halftime rather than play.  The following spring I gave t-ball a shot.  My parents were frighted for my life, and probably a little embarrassed, when I sat down in the outfield and picked grass with my back to the game.  I wasn’t an athlete.  My freshman year of high school, during PE class, my teacher, the high school swim coach, asked me to join the swim team after he watched me swim.  As an overweight kid, living in the shadow of my all-star athlete brother, I didn’t even give it a thought.  Well, that is wrong, I thought, “I’d love to swim, but what do I show up the first day in?  A speedo?  A regular swimsuit?  I’m not an athlete.”  I just didn’t have the confidence to pull it all together.  So I did my thang in marching band and musicals and had a great experience.  It wasn’t until 2011, after my first marathon, that I felt even remotely athletic.  Even then I’d tell people, “I’m not an athlete.  I just run.”  Finally, last year after running two marathons in three weeks, and posting sub-four hour finishes in both, I felt like an athlete.  When the opportunity arose to participate in the Gay Games I did not even think twice.  I went for it.  I ran three events, the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon.  In each event I posted new personal records, crushing all of my previous times.  My best race, the 10K, I was 5th in my age bracket, just missing a medal.  I kind of felt like Michelle Kwan, always the bridesmaid.  Whaaa Waaaaaaaaa!  But that doesn’t matter, what is important is that it might have taken a long, long time, but at 38, and Saying YES to Life, I finally call myself, an athlete.

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Look at that amazing bouffont at 6 a.m.  Now that is a GAY ASS ATHLETE! 

My takeaways from the week:

Cleveland, you rocked.  You accepted us.  You loved us.  You rocked with us.  Thank you.  Forevermore, Thank you!

I’ll remember the people I met along the way.  The German reporter who sat with me and interview me at a basketball game.  The speedo clad, tatted up, nipple rings, overly tanned, slightly saggy older man in the swim competition.  Erik, the teacher from Montreal, I sat with on my way to the 10K start line.  We chatted about teaching and kids these days, and how Cleveland rocked the Gay Games.  And there were the two Germans I ran with during the half marathon, Fritz and Michael.  Once I realized they were in my age bracket, I left them in my dust.  Sorry guys, it was nice chatting with you.  There was the girl who waited on us for brunch following my race.  “Did you guys participate?  Did you win?”  My response, “He’s a sliver medalist in volleyball.  Mine is just a participation medal.”  Haha, it’s fine.  She said, “Oh cool.  This is all so cool,” with a huge smile on her face.  Finally, all of the guys I call my new friends.  You know who you are and you are pretty awesome.  It was a joy to participate with you and all the shenanigans.  Thanks for opening your arms so wide to me.

Our straight allies who participated in the sports or volunteered or simply cheered us on, as the MC of the Closing Ceremonies said, “Where are our straight people?  We love straight people.  We need you to make more of us.”  Isn’t that the truth.  Thank you for making us and loving us!

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It was an incredible week filled with amazing feelings of joy and memories to last a lifetime.  My friend Matt captured many of the finest moments in this video that played at the closing ceremonies(find him at mattquinncreative.com).  If you watch closely, you might recognize one of the athletes at 1 minute 40 seconds.  Matt’s video captures how it felt to participate and spend 10 days at #GG9.

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  Yup, I’m lucky and so are the thousands of gay men and women I spent time with and competed against in the Gay Games.  Our world has changed immensely in the eight years since Chicago hosted the games.  What will the world be like for us gays in 2018 when Paris hosts us?  Yes, us, I say.  US!  We’re going!

I leave you with this charming, charming little conversation that will live on and on.  “You are the SILVER medalist in volleyball,” I lovingly said to my guy.  “And you honey beat the fastest woman in the 10K!”

Say YES to Life!

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