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From Chapter - 1997

They thought I was dead.  When I called some of my military buddies to catch them up on my life it had been about four years so they were shocked yet relieved to hear from me.   In mid-1997 the tragic death of Giani Versace made world news.  The great Italian fashion designer was brutally murdered o…

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Great News - The Book is Coming

Stay tuned.

Daily Reflection

There were many days I couldn't imagine making it through the hours, let alone the many tomorrows that would follow.  I am grateful.

Lessons in the Woods

I have such great memories of my maternal grandfather.  He was strong yet gentle.  Kind yet firm.  Wise yet humble.  A man of great faith.  My grandpa was an honest, hard working, good man. He was a stellar example of a father, a patient teacher, giving me my strong work ethic.  He taught me lessons…

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Thanksgiving Day 2020

Entering this holiday season I have so much to be grateful for.  My health.  My loved ones.  My home.  The abundance in my life.  

But it’s just so strange. 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving a bit differently this year, many of us are pining for normalcy and past celebrations with loved …

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Republican Jesus or Classic Jesus

Occasionally I come across one of those modern-day equivalents to chain mail when scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, and typically skim through it, roll my eyes and keep scrolling.  Recently, a family member posted one of these that I recalled being widely circulated on the internet years ago. …

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Veteran's Day Reflection

Those closest to me know that physical fitness is a big part of my sobriety and helps me stay balanced.  I’ve been a fitness enthusiast for most of my adult life.  The feel-good endorphins one gets when completing a long run, bike ride, or tough workout are like no other.  But not only is exercise a…

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Boom and Now He’s In College

Oh my God!  Why?” A friend exclaimed, when I shared the news about our decision to adopt a baby.

 

“A baby!  As in human?” Another friend asked.

 

More unpleasant, catty chatter among a circle of friends had gotten back to us about the journey we began toward parenthood.  

 

W…

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Grateful For 50 Years of Love and Family

I used to say, "I'm a little bit of my father, and a little bit of my mother, but a whole lot of me!"  While I think it's still true, I can appreciate the parts of me that are my mother and father more today than ever.  Today, my parents have been married for fifty years and I've been a part of thei…

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Gays know firsthand what fear, discrimination mean

COMMENTARY BY
GREG GERRANS


I was just months old
when the Stonewall riots
sparked the gay liberation
movement and gave birth to
gay rights organizations
across the country. “Gay
Pride” marches have commemorated
the riots’ anniversary

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From Chapter - 1997

They thought I was dead.  When I called some of my military buddies to catch them up on my life it had been about four years so they were shocked yet relieved to hear from me.   In mid-1997 the tragic death of Giani Versace made world news.  The great Italian fashion designer was brutally murdered on the steps of his Miami home by the serial killer, Andrew Cunanan.  My friends had been following the story in the news and thought they saw an image of me flash on the television screen as the newscaster's story discussed the string of the killer's victims.  I'm not certain who's image they saw exactly but I was intrigued that they believed I was linked to such an infamous serial killer, killed by the same hands that killed Versace.  The thought that I was somehow dead didn't surprise me.  I often thought of death and struggled for years not ever being able to see myself growing old.

I did tell my friends that I never even met the infamous serial killer.  But I got sober, found Jesus, and met another man.

Great News - The Book is Coming

Stay tuned.

Daily Reflection

There were many days I couldn't imagine making it through the hours, let alone the many tomorrows that would follow.  I am grateful.

Lessons in the Woods

I have such great memories of my maternal grandfather.  He was strong yet gentle.  Kind yet firm.  Wise yet humble.  A man of great faith.  My grandpa was an honest, hard working, good man. He was a stellar example of a father, a patient teacher, giving me my strong work ethic.  He taught me lessons that have stayed with me throughout my life, and I continue to aspire to be a fraction of the man he was.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandpa lately.  I can’t help but to wonder what he’d think about all that has happened these last four years.  MAGA.  Abuses of power and the impeachment.  The pandemic and the polarization sparked and fanned by the man in the highest office in this great land.  I wonder what he might have felt about the current President, about his followers and fans.  It makes me think of a quote my grandpa was known to have said to his children, “I can stand a thief, but a liar be damned” which I’m pretty sure comes from an old proverb that says, you can lock your door from a thief, but not from a damned liar.  

With everything I know and every memory I have of my grandpa, I’m certain he would have never supported a man like Trump and would have nothing less than contempt for the man’s reprehensible behavior as a human being.  He’d condemn all this behavior that’s gotten into people, fed and stolen their minds.  I can see my grandpa’s facial expressions, hear his voice, “Whaaat? garbage,” he’d say.  And he’d be just concerned and deeply baffled, as a majority of us are, by how this Presidency has gotten away with all that it has.  The incompetence, arrogance, unbelievable negligence, the gross indecency, and especially the reprehensible, countless lies. 

I can stand a thief, but a liar be damned.  

I think a liar was pretty evil in his book.  But what is worse—the President or his followers?  Evil does not rise on its own, it must be fed and it begins within us. 

Some of my favorite memories of my grandpa are the many summer days I helped him fell trees throughout his back property for firewood on Brooks Road in Muskegon, Michigan.  Over the noise of the chainsaw he’d communicate with me, with hand gestures, where to fell the tree, so I knew to be on the ready, standing at the right spot well behind him.  He occasionally let me make the first cut using the chainsaw.  He’d often repeat don’t be afraid of it, as he would guide me on guiding the saw to make its cut.  “Let the chain saw do the work.  Its job is to saw, your job is to hold it steady and guide it,” he’d teach.  He had a lot of faith in such a little boy.  But he helped that little boy conquer his fear of the noise, of the chainsaw’s power.  And that was mighty.  And there were so many other lessons he taught me out there on the back property in those woods.

After felling a tree, grandpa would begin limbing and bucking the tree and I’d begin to lift and carry pieces I could back and onto the tractor’s trailer to be hauled back to the house where we would chop, and stack.  It was a lot of work, but fun and I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed him.  I remember being enamored with my grandpa’s strength watching him swing that axe and breaking apart huge logs in a single swing.  I wanted to be like him.  One day he let me take a swing with the axe.  I remember its weight, maybe weighing as much as I did.  But he showed me where to place my hands, how to stand, where to place the axe on top of the log and vision it splitting, and how to swing it back and overhead and back down upon the log.  With my first few attempts, I couldn’t quite get the lift of the axe.  “Hold it firmly, don’t be afraid, trust it.”  I tried and tried.  I finally began to make contact with the surface of the log but not its center often overshooting the log.  I began to get upset and started to think I would never be able to do it.  My grandpa continued to encourage me but with each missed swing, I grew more frustrated and then the axe began to get heavier and heavier until eventually, once again, I could no longer get the lift on the axe.  “I just can’t.”  I exclaimed. 

Then my grandpa shared the story of the two wolves.  Years later as an adult, I learned that this story was told by Billy Graham during those years in the 70’s which is probably where my grandpa heard it.  There was a bit of controversy over the story or proverb, but however it might have originated or otherwise been told, my grandpa shared the story of the two wolves with me:

 “A fight is going on inside me,” a grandfather said to his grandson.  ”It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, resentment, lies, fear and ego.”  He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The wolves are fighting to the death.

Wide-eyed, the boy asks his grandfather which wolf will win.  The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

“Don’t allow your frustration or anger to get in your own way, don’t feed this evil or it will consume you.” 

I’ve since come to learn this is a universal truth—what we continue to feed inside our heads will continue to grow inside our heads and will get in our own way as good and evil are fighting to the death leaving the victor to consume us.  The universal law of attraction, what we think about, we bring about.  We have the power to feed the good inside each of us.  To become better versions of ourselves.  All major faith traditions point to this universal truth.  Jesus taught us this by His example.  It’s real, it’s powerful, and it works.  

I always strive to feed the good wolf.  On my journey throughout my life I’ve chosen courage, love, hope, truth, kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity and I believed.  With every major decision I’ve ever made—it’s never led me wrong.  From joining the U.S. military as a young man; accepting my truth and coming out; creating a family through adoption and journeying to foreign lands to do so; moving back to West Michigan to raise that child, while being able to continue my career—through it all I’ve remembered the lessons my grandpa taught me in the woods, felling trees, chopping wood.  When I look with hope toward the good in the world, I see more hope, I see more love, I see more kindness, more compassion, more faith.  I see more good in others. 
 
May I never forget my grandpa’s voice, his face, but most of all his example and lessons he taught me and the love he showed me—the love he had for all his children. 

Thanksgiving Day 2020

Entering this holiday season I have so much to be grateful for.  My health.  My loved ones.  My home.  The abundance in my life.  

But it’s just so strange. 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving a bit differently this year, many of us are pining for normalcy and past celebrations with loved ones, our only connection with our families through Zoom.  I can’t help but to recognize the toll and devastation so many have faced this most difficult year and think of what so many must be facing and feeling on this American holiday and I think about the state of our country.  The protests, the division, jobs lost, homes lost, businesses destroyed, and of course the extraordinary number of lives lost during this historic pandemic.

With all that’s happened these last four years—from MAGA and the rise of white supremacy, nationalism and a growing desire to create a Judeo-Christian religious state—and all of this colliding with a very deadly pandemic—today as many of us focus on gratitude and give thanks for all that we have, may we also reflect for a moment and recognize the pain and loss in our country. And pray for healing, pray for those that have experienced such loss and have tremendous grief this this holiday season.

 

Gratitude and thanksgiving ought to be every day, it’s not a one day National holiday, but an everyday holiday.  May we all one day be grateful, peaceful, loving and joyful, all people, across this great land and throughout the world, and every day of every year. 

Amen.

Happy holidays!

On this Thanksgiving Day 2020, as a truth seeker and a lover of history, I found it somehow appropriate to learn more about the National Day of Mourning, to reflect upon its significance to recognize and honor the truth of the first meal we all so readily celebrate every year on this day as Americans.

The National Day of Mourning is an American Indian protest held on the fourth Thursday of November each year.  Here is a bit of history not widely known.  Enjoy.

THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA (FRANK B.) JAMES, WAMPANOAG

To have been delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970 
ABOUT THE DOCUMENT: Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their "American" descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James' views — based on history rather than mythology — were not what the Pilgrims' descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. If he had spoken, this is what he would have said:

“I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry. ......”

If you are a seeker of truth, I encourage you to search and learn more about the true plight of indigenous people of this land and around the globe.

Republican Jesus or Classic Jesus

Occasionally I come across one of those modern-day equivalents to chain mail when scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, and typically skim through it, roll my eyes and keep scrolling.  Recently, a family member posted one of these that I recalled being widely circulated on the internet years ago.  The author of the original chain email claimed that the NBC news company edited out references to God and “Christ” from an interview Matt Lauer had with a family of a deceased Navy SEAL.  The reason, according to the author, for editing out these references to God and Christ is because it might offend someone.  And the author went on about how outraged and offended she was that the news media would do this and that Christians were being “asked to tread lightly, so as not to offend someone of another religion.”  She also rambled on about our country being a Christian nation, the history and the founding of our country, yada, yada, yada....

Of course this was all debunked, none of it was accurate.  It was believed that perhaps one local affiliate of the parent company NBC aired just a clip of the interview which sparked the author’s outrage, and so she spread a distorted story, getting many others, largely Republican conservatives, outraged who helped to spread the lie widely through the web.  These same conservative conspiracists started the whole war on Christmas business about the same time. 

I love my family, I truly do, and I guess that's why I care so deeply.  So when I saw this family member, who is one of the sweetest people one could meet, I couldn’t help myself.  I hated seeing that she was tricked by this scam of information.  If it were anybody else sharing, I probably would have kept scrolling and not have been triggered, but I was and so I commented.  And later, as usual, regretted it.  I let her know she was sadly misinformed and that none of It was accurate.  I went on to say that as a Christian and a man of great faith—and that I speak up and loudly as Jesus himself did against the arrogance that is so embedded in Christianity.  

 

Well, a cousin, whom I’ve had some difficulty with in the past, jumped all over my comment.  Tagging me she wrote, “its accurate and your an idiot. To say your like Jesus is sickening. Your a bully. The bullied became a bully.”

 

When I saw her name, I immediately regretted my earlier moment of Facebook Tourette’s; she and her family are evangelical, fundementalist-Christian fanatics.  I didn’t want a battle of words but she triggered my response:  

I’ve spent my entire adult life in service to this country, after making it through a childhood that wasn’t particularly easy—because I was born gay. It took years to reconcile the fact that I too, was created in His image. I’m not going to do this with you—I am certainly no bully. And if I come across as one, my sincere apologies, it certainly was NOT my intent. There is so much misinformation these days and it just pains me that many have simply forgotten or don’t care to acknowledge facts any longer and love to spew conspiracy and lies. Now I know [our cousin] didn’t mean any harm and [she] certainly didn’t ask for my comment and, again, I apologize because she has a beautiful heart. I just can’t help myself sometimes when I see stuff like this—because it’s dangerous to many of us. Now I will leave with one question and I ask you to think about it honestly, then I’m done because I don’t want to do this with you and your family—I ask you, if some of the words were changed in the post above, perhaps take out Liberal and replace it with “Conservative” and perhaps replace Christian with “Muslim” and Jesus with “Muhammad”—or references to any other religion, for that matter—do you think this chain mail would be getting shared so widely on social media? Probably not. I wouldn’t think so. And if it had, would you jump all over it? You and I, Threasa, have had many conversations in the past, many disagreements, about DC and it’s people, about my becoming a parent, and of course the Bible and religion and my sexual orientation. It’s why I choose to love you all from a distance and why we’re no longer “friends” on social media because I couldn’t do it any longer. So let’s just leave well enough alone. Please. God bless.”

Well, she didn’t leave it alone.  Her response:

 

I gotta say I am stunned at your toned down very nice comment. It's refreshing. I absolutely accept your apology. Just wish you would have made one for my mother who you hurt immensely. One thing we are similar in is our boldness and our deep strong beliefs. It is our difference in belief that has created a wedge. You do realize that your created that wedge with your harsh words and condensing attitude. (Forgiven) you asked if this article would be shared with certain words replaced....sure..I have no doubt. I don't attack other peoples beliefs. Now we can't replace Mohammed with Jesus because Mohammed was a self proclaimed prophet and Jesus is the son of God. You also said we had disagreements on your son and your sexual preference... I have never said anything negative about either. You asked me what I thought about you being gay and I said I don't condone it but I love you. You don't need to explain or as for an okay from anyone on this planet for that. God loves you just as much as me. I get what your saying about certain Christians and their high and mighty righteous attitude pointing their finger at you..it happens. Just don't stereotype us all like that. Just as you are asking all of us to respect and except your choices and beliefs..you must do the same for us. The reason for my angry reply here was because Crystal is a sweet spirited person and I was not going to stand by and watch you rip her down and hurt her heart. You have pushed people away Greggie that love you because you my cuz can't accept us for who we are yet want it the other way around. Now I feel its my turn to apologize for my name call . This country was built on God. Won't use the word Christian because as in all "groups" you got some ..well..crazies that put their own spin on it. I for one do not believe that because your gay you don't go to heaven. I know that is something that you want an answer to and have found a place of worship to cater to that issue. Your are the only one accountable for you. I wish you would just have that personal relationship with the Lord and stop worrying about what other people think and have to say. I fully enjoyed having you and your son in my home. Your a great cook and love your sense of humor and your Jeep saved the day and got us home safe. As I said before our Facebook friendship ended..I love you. Accept that please without worrying about what I think feel and believe.

I didn’t respond any further on Facebook. Because I’ve been through this too many times before with her and her mother.  They want to war with words but the minute they begin to lose battles when met with someone armed with knowledge, presented with truth and facts, and sometimes using their own tactics, the Bible—they deceive by deleting comments they don’t like or agree with, leaving only their words and their bible quotes, spinning the truth and retreating with the last word.  Posting my response here, she can’t do this.  She doesn’t get the last word.  I do.  Love does.  He does.  

The sad but honest truth is that I know too much—I know who they are.  As a child, I was very fond of all my cousins, very close to several as we were all close in age and we had a strong and loving bond.  I spent a lot of time with this particular cousin and her brother, have a ton of great memories of the three of us together as children.  But, unfortunately, I also have some very unpleasant memories of their mother. My aunt and her newly-found fundementalist-Christian beliefs caused some traumas for a little, gay boy.  I’ve shared in the past some of my writing about those experiences here on my blog.   

Writing is therapeutic for me.  And talking about emotions and feelings is important as it allows us to let go.  Letting go isn’t forgetting.  And forgetting has nothing to do with forgiveness.  Forgetting actually impedes forgiveness.  Ask any person that has suffered trauma from abuse, even persons with a mental block of memory of the trauma, must recall and face the trauma and the experience of the trauma in order to be free from the emotional pain caused by the trauma.  Not doing so inevitably affects the person’s well-being in one way or another. 

I wont respond to every word, every insult thrown at me by my cousin above, I think most can clearly see for themselves the self-righteousness and ugliness in her response toward me.  I know she can’t see it because she’s so bound by the trauma’s that haunt her and blinded by her religion, it all getting in her way of being Christ-like.  But I must address and clarify a few things--  

I’ve never been one to push people away, or to “create a wedge” between people, especially with those I love.  If my honesty does that, because it hurts to hear the truth, well that isn’t me creating a wedge.  I’d like to believe that most people think the exact opposite.  I always try to bring people together, I enjoy bringing people together.  I’ve done it many, many times successfully and in vain throughout my years to bring family members together.  I bring friends together.  I also find it ironic that this cousin herself has said that one of her memories of me as a child was that I was always the peace-keeper.  I am.  I want peace for all my family and loved ones.  I want others to know peace, have love, and to experience joy: to turn away from fear and judgement, and to see oneself as a child of God.  See the divine nature in all of us.  This was one of Jesus’ greatest teachings and what he wanted for all people, to know that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, in the here and now, and for all, and that it is everlasting.  Be still and know.

Another clarification, I never once asked anyone what they thought about me being gay.  Not once.  Ever.  I only ever told the people that truly matter, the truth of who I am, after years of fighting and denying the truth that I was gay.  I never felt the need to tell everyone about my sexuality, all I needed to do was to live my life honestly by living my life openly.  The conversations I had with my cousin about me being gay, centered around the journey my partner and I had toward parenthood.  My cousin and her mother were not particularly supportive of the idea.  The only part of her statement that was accurate is the part of her telling me they don’t “condone” my sexuality.  Do I really need to insert the definition of condone here?  A wedge, one might say.

It’s also true, my son and I spent time with my cousin in her home.  I enjoyed the time very much myself.  What she doesn’t know or understand is that I traveled from my home in Washington, D.C. to accompany our grandmother to a wedding.  My younger cousin, Threasa’s sister, was getting married and my grandma was anxious about going and staying with her own daughter as it would be the first time she would be doing so alone since the passing of my grandfather.  It was my grandma that invited me.  She needed a calming presence with her so she could make getting through the visit because of some of my aunt’s difficult beliefs and ways.  Truth.  Another truth I found to be quite shocking, having lived in Washington for many years, is that I extended an invitation to my cousin to come up from Virginia for a long weekend, to sort of return the favor for having so graciously welcomed me into her home, and she said she couldn't.  I didn’t quite understand.  When I pushed, she mentioned her brother worked in the area doing some job or jobs and she had visited Washington during this period of time and and then admitted during a telephone conversation that she didn’t honestly care for D.C. because there were “too many black people” for her liking.  I’ll never forget her words and just how deeply disturbed and upsetting they were to me.  It found these words more shocking and upsetting than her words directed at my orientation.  (Forgiven)

One final thing I’d like to respond to and be very clear in doing so.  Her comment and I quote, “I for one do not believe that because your gay you don't go to heaven. I know that is something that you want an answer to and have found a place of worship to cater to that issue,” end quote.  

This is something else I’ve never once asked nor said anything like this to her nor any other human being after coming out as an adult—wanting “an answer to” whether or not I would get to heaven.  Sure, I struggled as a child and young man, trying to reconcile my Christian upbringing and my sexuality. But I sought God. And God provided all answers to all questions.  Sexuality isn’t a choice, it’s innate.  I was made by God.  And truth be told, my aunt and her religious influence made my childhood and my coming out journey all the more difficult as some experiences with her had a toll on my psyche.  All her talk about ancient writings collected together in a book that she herself clearly never comprehend and still doesn’t to this day.  Her pure fundamentalist brainwashing nonsense made up of manipulation and deceit.  Always talking about the rapture, the devil, the mark of the beast, the end of times, speaking in tongues, her miracle performing, and “saving” people.  Anyone that ever questions or challenges her nonsense is a nonbeliever—not saved and is damned to hell.  Fear is all she knows. They continue to feed the fear, inviting evil into their lives. I just wish they would just have that personal relationship with the Christ and stop worrying about the boogeyman getting everyone else.

My friend and one of my own spiritual teachers, Sal, I’m sure would be happy to hear that I have “found a place of worship to cater to that issue.”  I guess my being gay and not getting into heaven is an issue for my cousin and her family. But, hey, at least she doesn’t have a high and mighty righteous attitude. 

Veteran's Day Reflection

Those closest to me know that physical fitness is a big part of my sobriety and helps me stay balanced.  I’ve been a fitness enthusiast for most of my adult life.  The feel-good endorphins one gets when completing a long run, bike ride, or tough workout are like no other.  But not only is exercise a major part of my mental health program, it helps me manage chronic back pain and literally keeps my body from seizing up on me. 

When I was a kid in middle school, we learned I had scoliosis which is a curvature of the spine.  Although it is believed that many have some degree of it, my curvature was beginning to present itself significantly enough in the shoulders and abdomen that my parents sought treatment from a specialist.  If they hadn’t, it was believed I might suffer as an adult, and beyond just physical appearance.   

The treatment plan prescribed was bracing and exercise although as a kid I didn’t follow the exercises all that seriously.  

A cervico-thoraco-lumbo-sacral orthosis or CTLSO, also known as a Milwaukee brace, was a device made of metal, cloth, and molded plastic.  Specially designed for my condition and fitted to my skeletal frame, the brace went from the base of my skull down to my pelvis.  The doctor prescribed that I wear it 23 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the rest of my growing years, with the hope that with periodic adjustments, the bracing would help to correct my posture and prevent further curvature. I was allowed one hour a day for personal bathroom time. 

Again, I was in middle school.  

There’s no looking cool when you’re encased in plastic and metal, when your clothes don’t fit right because they’re sized to accommodate the extra bulk--there was just no hiding it.  The pads attached to the metal ring around the base of my skull stuck out from the collar of my shirt, always giving it away to any passerby at just a glance.  I had to always wear a belt because my pants felt like they’d slide down and off the large molded plastic that wrapped around my pelvis.  Its edges would press and wear into my pants with every step or movement I made.  The plastic pieces were secured together with metal framing.  A metal collar was connected by a metal bar that ran down the front over my sternum to connect the plastic pelvis with two metal bars running down my back.  I would enter the back of the brace between these two bars by pulling its frame apart and slipping my arms through as it snugged my body.  With every periodic adjustment to its pads I would endure more discomfort.  Everything was a challenge.  Sitting, sleeping, walking--moving were all a challenge.  But the largest challenge was socially and the impact it had on my young fragile psyche.  I already had an unfair share of unwanted attention from bullies growing up as a child and wearing a brace just made my life all the more difficult.

It was a torturous transition into high school.   

The summer following eighth grade came with a lot of change.  Our family moved from the trailer park on the other side of the tracks and into a real house, a brand new house in a nice neighborhood.  I transitioned from a tiny parochial school to a large public school system with many kids that came from wealth and privilege.  I had zero friends—the four girl friends I thought I’d have from middle school were transitioning to the same new school themselves and I guess the freak with the metal brace was too much of a threat to their own social game of survival.  An easily perceived gay kid (Christian kids that are taught to believe they are broken, evil, and damned to hell, struggle with their innate truth), wearing a metal medical device made me an easy target for bullies.  And It didn’t take long for it to begin and intensify.    

The ninth grade bullying from non-Christian school kids was at a whole new level.  

It wasn’t just name calling, teasing for how I sounded, cruel jokes about my sissy mannerisms, an occasional finger-bipp on the back of the head, or knotting my shoes to the bus seat just before my stop—all done by “Christian” school children.  This level of bullying was much worse, it was intense, it was physical and traumatic.  “Hey Faggenstien!”  “Fag!” “Faggot!” Homework often ripped from my possession in class, crumpled or destroyed.  Teachers did nothing.  Books knocked to the ground at my locker.  Book bags torn and thrown at the bus stop.  My brace, with its many parts, made it easy for bully’s to grab hold and throw me to the ground, or into a locker, or against a tree, or to hold me down against the back of my seat so that I couldn’t turn or get away from the onslaught of physical blows.  It was mental and physical torment.  Every day.  I couldn’t go to my parents as I feared they’d see the truth in the words of the bullies.

This was when the darkness I had been battling for most of my childhood began to tighten its embrace against the backdrop of increased televangelism and the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  Faggot meant certain death.  Thoughts of wanting to die alternating with fear of dying and a late night ritual of negotiation in prayer.  All the childhood talk of Jesus and satan.  The saved and the unsaved.  The born again, speaking in tongues, the looming rapture, and my damned soul.  All together, it altered my psyche forever.  

I stopped wearing the brace to school and by eleventh grade all together.  The bullying did eventually taper off but fear, shame, and self-hate were my demons and I had become my worst tormentor.  It took everything I had to protect my secrets, to mask, distort, and hide who I was.  Anxiety and depression, my new invisible brace tightening its grip over the years that followed, would ultimately take its toll. 

The mental and emotional pain eventually manifested physical pain.

I will never forget the first time my body stopped working.  I was twenty years old, in the Navy living off base when a paralyzing pain tore me from my sleep.  I literally could not move from my bed.  The amount of fear in that moment was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.  After many minutes I was able to roll myself to the floor as more waves of excruciating pain tore through my body.  I yelled for my roommates.  My roommate, DeEtte, helped calm me and my pain as she promised I wasn’t paralyzed; she would later in life become a doctor of medicine.  “Breathe,” she repeated.  Eventually, she helped me to the hospital on base.  

“Did you know you had scoliosis?” the Naval doctor asked.  

I acted surprised, “scoliosis, no, what’s that?” My adolescence helped foster great acting skills.  When I enlisted a few years earlier and my recruiter met with my parents because I wasn’t a legal adult, my mother tried sabotaging my enlistment by bringing up my scoliosis.  It didn’t work.  It was kept a secret and with some coaching from my recruiter, I passed the physical examinations and was enlisted without incident.  Up until that point, I had never experienced any pain from my condition and the bracing helped my posture so without the device, the secret of my crooked spine was easy to keep.

I was given pain medication at the hospital and the naval doctor prescribed muscle relaxers, rest for 48 hours, followed by physical therapy.  Less than twenty four hours later, however, I was feeling fine.  The pain was completely gone and I was back to normal.  

I skipped the physical therapy.

It would take a few more years before I’d begin to understand the connection of the mind, the body, and spirit as I continued to struggle with self acceptance, reconciling my childhood and my faith.  I was headed down a self-destructive path that had become increasingly dangerous.  Yet a desire for something greater still burned within me.  By the age of 23 I began to take steps toward accepting things I could not change and in doing so I felt lighter, more peaceful, joyful.  Facing my demons of fear, self-hate, shame, guilt, secrecy, and addiction I began to let them go.  I finally understood what it was to be born again.  In accepting my truth and coming out of that dark closet I was able to see the light.  My eyes were opened to courage, love, forgiveness, dignity, pride, and gratitude.

I was truly free for the first time in my life.  And sober.  

But I would continue to struggle from time to time with emotional and physical suffering as life would be filled with ups and downs, highs and lows.  And change.  But through it all faith and a will to evolve into the best version of myself moved me forward in whatever place I may be.  I’d come to learn later in life that spiritual and mental suffering eventually always manifests physical suffering. Exercise was an antidote to mental suffering and it became the pillar of my sobriety. My interest for physical exercise was shaped during my time in the service and I embraced this new passion. The focus, the training with every AIDS Ride, 5K, 10K, half-marathon or obstacle race, learning as much as I could about the biomechanics of the body and embracing each adjustment that time and experience so often brought.  With the help of talk therapy and my exercise regimens, I managed my anxiety and PSTD fairly well.

As a parent, I gained so much. It challenged and altered my perspective of my own childhood, it revealed a deeper understanding and relationship with my own parents. Parenthood gave me a love like no other and an ability to heal and continue to evolve into that better version of myself.

2016

Following a trying period of a cancer diagnosis and the death of a loved one, at the start of the 2016 Presidential election race, I took a fall.  While working on a pool project, I fell, landing directly on my tailbone and thought I broke something. It turned out, I had ruptured a couple discs.  With my existing back condition, stenosis, and now the ruptured discs it was the beginning to an end for me.  I had a few months of physical therapy and was able to return to a new normal of running and exercise, it was, after all, the pillar of my sobriety program.  With the devastating election of the new administration, I struggled and eventually my back began seizing up, causing debilitating pain. I turned to the practice of meditation and renewed my commitment to the practice. I began meditating every day while continuing my physical therapy. I had to give up running outdoors completely. After injections and medication and physical therapy, doctors were now talking about surgery.  The thought if it scared me. I chose to continue with long term physical therapy, exercise and meditation but without running as an outlet, it was difficult. As a veteran and civil servant, watching the horrors playing out in our country were really taking a toll on me. My mind, body and spirit were out of balance even while I poured myself into my meditation-prayer practice and continued with my exercise regimen. Many days, I was just going through the motions, some days I spiraled. Eventually I discovered an alternative to running that got me back out on the road and lifted my spirit.  And in time.

2020

We all carry emotional traumas, scars from our past.  We all have something, our own challenges, and demons that rear their ugly heads from time to time.  This past year I became reacquainted with many of my demons.  They tried to take a hold of me and may have succeeded if it were not for exercise, meditation, and even some help through medication.  During this pandemic period of isolation, I also became reacquainted with a little boy.  That little boy inside that was hurt by alcoholism, hurt family members, hurt by religion and its televangelists fanatics, hurt by the bullies on the bus in early grade school and the bullies in middle school, hurt from the loneliness and isolation, and secrets. Hurt by society, the media and its stories on television. I told him he was loved. He would be safe. He'd know joy. He was free.

We all just want to be loved. And safe. And happy. To be free.

All these years later, I can still recall the smell and feel of that Milwaukee brace, its sweaty and torturous grip and the pure relief and freedom I felt when I'd take it off.  On this Veteran's Day, and the outcome of this past week's election, it felt just like taking off that brace but after four, long-torturous years. Relief.   

It’s freeing.

 

You can find many other past posts here on my blog. Thank you for stopping by, we will all get through this together. Love, peace and light to you. ~ Greggie

 

Boom and Now He’s In College

Oh my God!  Why?” A friend exclaimed, when I shared the news about our decision to adopt a baby.

 

“A baby!  As in human?” Another friend asked.

 

More unpleasant, catty chatter among a circle of friends had gotten back to us about the journey we began toward parenthood.  

 

We widened our circle of friends.

 

But even family members had doubts in the beginning, questioning our motives for wanting a baby.  

 

The long and short of it was that we had grown quite close to another couple who adopted a baby from Vietnam.  Watching their journey as two men, spurred conversation between us and ignited the desire to have a family of our very own.  It was a natural decision  for us to have a baby.  

 

Why does anyone want to have a baby?

 

After visiting countless adoption agencies and attending adoption seminars, learning more about our very limited options, we made the decision to adopt internationally from Ukraine and we put our plan into motion.

 

Sharing this news during a visit with some close friends, we learned they had talked about possibly one day having children themselves.  All of our conversation of baby talk sparked the flame again between the two of them.  

 

And so it all began.  The big, gay baby-boom!  And we were part of it at the turn of the new century in Washington, D.C..

 

But nothing could have adequately prepared us for Parenthood Road, let alone the journey as a gay couple that ventured to have a baby against all the odds.  Nothing could have detoured us from becoming parents.  Not the endless questions, nor doubts, not the daunting process of paper work and social worker visits, the mental exhaustion nor tears, not even the tragic events of 9-11 or its aftermath could stop us.  

 

Almost eighteen years ago, a little, beautiful baby-boy entered our hearts, joined our family forever changing our lives, and the trajectory of his.

 

Becoming a parent has no doubt been one of the greatest experiences of our lives.  But being adoptive parents, especially as a gay men, has not only challenged us to grow as parents but as trailblazers and in ways I cannot adequately express.  And our example has impacted our world around us.  All for the better.

 

As adoptive parents, you hear a lot of insensitive statements and questions, like “what about his real parents, do you know anything about his real family?”  But as a gay men, in addition to the “mom” question, it’s often, “which one is the the real father?” 

 

Um, we both are!we’d say and often explain.  

 

As gay men with a child, we’d get a lot of well-intended advice on parenting.  Because naturally, men are so incapable of being maternal or nurturing.  As gay men with a child, we’d get comments and puzzled looks, oh mom’s day off” was often a comment made by waitresses when meeting our table of men and children.   “No moms” was often the response in stereo, followed with a blank, sometimes uncomfortable stare from the waitress.  As gay men with a young child, you must be ok with being outed every day.  Multiple times a day even.

 

I myself, would always welcome questions and opportunities to challenge others’ belief structures about roles and parenting. But there were times too, I’d find myself cringing inside when some would get hung up on the real family” question or the “mom” thing.  There were days I’d want to scream and cry like a mom, “they didn’t want him, ok?  He’s mine!  We are his real family!” This child that I love more than anything in this world, more than life itself, given away for God only knows why; I couldn’t imagine my life without this precious soul in it.

 

Today, as we moved our son into his dorm, I felt all sorts of emotions.  Love, pride, joy.  And fear.  All tangled neatly together inside.  Weeks and days leading up to this big day, we heard from so many others, other parents having been through it before, sharing words of wisdom.  But again, not anything could have prepared us adequately for this moment.  This milestone.  Our first, our last.  As dads.  As gay men.  

 

We didn’t want to add to our son’s emotional plate on this very big and important day.  So we held it together.  We wanted to do our best for him.  So, we just unloaded the cars, piling all his cargo into big laundry bins and made our way up and into this dorm.  We met his roommates.  One from China who had moved in a week earlier along with all other international freshmen students.  So surprisingly we only met one other parent, an adoptive parent.  A mom.  She was pleasant.  After unpacking, we joined the boys in the Hall cafeteria for lunch.  I wasn’t really hungry.  My nerves were escalating as I knew our time was getting shorter as any further time alone with Mason had already slipped away. 

 

Then it was happening; the boys finished eating and they stood.  “Mason?” his papa said.  He came and hugged each one of us and we said goodbye.  My knees were shaking and I felt the emotion work its way up into my throat.  I watched our boy of eighteen years walk away with his roommate, already heavily into the next topic of discussion.  And I wanted to scream and cry like a mom.  I wanted to run after our boy and grab him and never let go.  I wanted to tell him one more time, how proud I am of him.  I wanted to remind him one last time of so many things.  Remember to make your bed, pick up your space.  Remember to lock your bike.  Remember to get up when your alarm goes off.  Remember to set your alarm.  Remember to get haircuts.  Remember to floss your teeth.  Remember to listen.  Remember opinions are not always asked. Remember to be kind and caring.  Remember to always follow your passion and do your best.  Remember to respond to texts.  Remember to call sometimes. 

 

But mostly.  I wanted him to know that his papa and I love him more than anything and may he never, ever forget that we are his real parents and real family forever.

Grateful For 50 Years of Love and Family

I used to say, "I'm a little bit of my father, and a little bit of my mother, but a whole lot of me!"  While I think it's still true, I can appreciate the parts of me that are my mother and father more today than ever.  Today, my parents have been married for fifty years and I've been a part of their story from the beginning.  High school sweethearts that followed their hearts, had faith in each other, believed in love, and fought for love vowing to journey in life together.  It wasn't easy in the beginning, in those days, a truth I realized as an adult and only fully realized when I had a family of my own, and I held a new important title, dad.  It truly does give you a whole new perspective in life and appreciation on deeper level.  

Today, we honor my parents on this special milestone.  I am grateful, I'm grateful these special two were chosen as my parents.  They are incredible people today, they've continued to grow and evolve over the years, becoming better versions of themselves.  Loving.  Forgiving.  Compassionate.  Caring. Accepting.  Grateful.  Joyful.  And they speak truth and from the heart.  My dad has always had an incredible gift in making people feel comfortable, welcomed.  My mom, sensitive yet strong, a truth seeker.  Both hard working and lovers of life.  Thank you, mom and dad, for giving me, accepting me, teaching me, and not just loving me, but celebrating me.

I love you both.

 

Gays know firsthand what fear, discrimination mean

COMMENTARY BY
GREG GERRANS


I was just months old
when the Stonewall riots
sparked the gay liberation
movement and gave birth to
gay rights organizations
across the country. “Gay
Pride” marches have commemorated
the riots’ anniversary
every June since
the first marches were held
in the New York, Los Angeles,
San Francisco and
Chicago in 1970. I am grateful
to all who came before
me who fought for liberation
and legal protections under
the law. 
As a young Christian man
in the late 1980s, I found it
remained a tumultuous time
to be gay, particularly for
those in the United States
armed services. Gay people’s
ongoing plight was included
in national news
stories, due in part to the ongoing
AIDS crisis, rising instance
of LGBT-targeted
hate crimes and the increasing
number of witch hunts in
the military to out, humiliate
and punish its gay service
members. This made it all
the more difficult to come to
terms with being gay.
“Come on, ladies! Hold
it! Don’t you dare drop!” he
shouted at us. There were 80
of us young men, all being
cycled on the line in the barracks
and held in pushup position.
“He” was not our
company commander; he
was a Seabee, the toughest of
the tough by the Navy’s standards.
He was asked by our
company commander to drill
us because we’d failed an inspection
earlier that day. 
When we were being
drilled through hell, we
dared not make eye contact
with the instructor.  While in
pushup position we were not
to look up from the line, but
this time someone did.
Someone broke. 
“Get back in pushup position!
What are you looking
at? Do you want something
to look at? Ladies, I think
we have a faggot among us,”
the Seabee shouted.
As he continued barking, I
became hyper-focused on my
dripping sweat pooling
inches from my face. It took
every ounce of fight in me to
not get sick. I find it hard
now to wrap my head around
the fact that back then I was
only a year older than my
now 17-year-old son.
I did make it through basic
training. Actually, I excelled
and was meritoriously rewarded
as one of the top 10
percent in my company.
Chasing perfectionism is
something many gay people

can relate to. 
Six months later, following
more training, I found myself
stationed on a Naval air
base outside Washington,
D.C., where I lived in the
barracks alongside many of
my young shipmates. 
One afternoon, our
squadron’s master chief
called a special meeting for
all persons living in the barracks.
 Once we had gathered,
he coldly informed us
a shipmate was upstairs
packing his bags at that very
moment. Many of us had
grown fond of the young
man. The master chief told
us our shipmate was heading
to Bethesda for treatment
and would be dishonorably
discharged because he was a
homosexual who had
AIDS. This hit me hard.
As soon as I had the approval
and opportunity to
move off base, I did. The
burden of my truth was getting
harder and harder to
carry; I drank heavily during
those years to drown the
pain and mask my fear. 
In 1989 I happened to be
in the wrong place, at the
wrong time. I was a white
lone sailor, perceived to be
queer, and was chased down
and attacked, beaten with a
lead pipe. I suspect my assailants
would have killed
me if I hadn’t thought to
jump out in front of an oncoming
car to force help. 
I was taken to the hospital
where I was treated for cuts,
bruises and a broken hand,
which I had used to protect
my skull. But nobody saw to
treat the slowly-dying soul
inside me.
Self-hate is a very dark,
lonely place. As for many of
my gay brothers and sisters,
standing for truth and shining
one’s light isn’t easy. It
can end horribly and far too
short for some. I share these
stories to give voice to others
who have struggled.
A couple community
members were quoted in a
recent newspaper story regarding
a new church renting
Saugatuck Public School
facilities. I hope to give
some of them more perspective.

If you are white, male, heterosexual,
Christian and
think it is unfortunate that
this situation has prompted
discourse based on fear and
exclusion, I ask, “Unfortunate
for whom?” 
One person said he had
never felt any discrimination
(from this new church). Why
would he? He is
white, male, straight and
Christian. 
I may not have known dis

crimination and oppression
to the extent my gay elders
did, but I know what they
feel and look like. I know
fear intimately. 
To this gentleman I repeat
Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s
words: “Freedom is never
voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded
by the oppressed.”
If you are white, male, heterosexual,
Christian and say
your church is inclusive and
honors diversity; perhaps
your definitions of honor
and diversity are different
from mine. If you welcome
people into your fold yet
treat gay persons differently,
giving them a separate set of
rules to uphold within your
church, that is anti-gay, antilove
and anti-Christ. As
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve
learned that people will forget
what you said, people
will forget what you did, but
people will never forget how
you made them feel.”
I speak for many of my
gay brothers and sisters
when I say we are sensitive
to issues that may tread upon
our constitutional rights and
freedoms. And I, for one,
must stand up when white,
male, heterosexual Christians
don’t “see” the real fear
and concerns others may
have. 
I honor all LGBT persons
who came before me. Their
plight made our journey a
little easier. Because of
them, I was able to make it
through the military and go
on to build a life that was beyond
anything I had hoped
or dreamed for.
The younger generations
have it easier and are far
more accepting. I am grateful
I have lived to witness all
the great change in our
world, to see more inclusion
and acceptance. 
But we must continue to
speak our truth, stand together
and point the finger at
injustice and discrimination
as often as it takes, because
some cannot.
Writer Greg Gerrans lives
in Douglas. –Ed. The Commercial Record

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