There is a saying I heard, way back when, that to this day I hold near and dear in my life. The saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, then you stand for nothing.” I have heard this saying said many different ways over the years, but the meaning has always stayed true; if you don’t ever take a stand for something in your life, or ever show a passion for a cause greater than yourself, then you are destined to live a very meaningless existence.
I understand that this is easier said than done. Most people in this world would much rather stay quiet and keep their beliefs to themselves. It’s much harder to stand up and intentionally get on that frontline and fight for something you believe in. Shit, most people don’t even take the time to “actually” believe in anything at all. I mean, look at the state of our political process in this country right now; perfect example. People would rather be told what to believe, how to act, and what to feel than to take the time to find out for themselves. I believe it all boils down to people being afraid to look inward. Self-reflection can be a scary thing to do; we don’t always like what we find. Trust me I get it. I was this person not too long ago too.
Over the past 6 years or so (but probably more intense the last 3-4) I have been on a journey of sorts. Ever since I started my faith journey about 3 years ago I have been feeling pulled in a certain direction. Some might even say I am feeling “called” to something. But, it wasn’t until recently, maybe a year or so, that I have begun to see my elusive path become more clear.
Along my journey I have met some very wonderful people. I currently attend a church called Hope UCC in Alexandria, VA. Hope is just about the most awesome (excuse the horrible grammar there) environment one could ever want to be in when starting their journey, or at any point actually, in faith. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, Hope is an open and affirming church. Certain people, like Mr. Spitz, take that and label churches such as Hope a “gay church.” No sir, we are not a gay church, neither are we a straight church. We are “a church.” We are a church the way Jesus intended it to be. We are people from all walks of life; backgrounds, race, sexual orientation, gender, age, and monetary status in life, that come together as one unified congregation in the name of love and doing God’s glorious works. Yes, a sizeable portion of our congregation are members of, or identify with the LGBTQ community. And you know what, they are some of the most loving and wonderful people I have ever met in my entire life. They are my friends, and I love them very much. The same goes for the community of friends outside of church that the Wife and I have made since moving to DC.
So how does all this tie in together? Well, as I have talked about before in previous blogs I did not grow up in an environment where social issues were discussed very much. As a result, I was never really challenged on what I thought about certain topics. I am not worldly at all, and certainly do not have the advanced education the Wife has. Because of all this I have spent most of my life….well, kind of with blinders on. That is to say, I know things are going on around me (racism, bigotry, war, famine, injustice everywhere), and while I know all those things are wrong, I have never felt the urge to stand up and take a stand. Until now.
There is a lot of injustice going on in America at this very moment, but to me, none more heinous than the fight for equality; marriage equality to be more exact. The fight for recognition for the LGBTQ community has been going on for decades now. But this last decade or so, maybe even as little as the last 5 years, it has felt like the equality movement has begun to gain steam. This of course has been met with major push-back and false statistics created by the ultra-conservative movement in this country, including outrageous attempts at passing hateful legislation by right-wing politicians who attempt to block same sex marriage as a way to pander to their base.
Some may wonder why I have chosen to take a stand now. Why am I being so vocal in my support for my LGBTQ friends and loved ones? Well, the answer lies on several levels. The first reason is because of how I grew up. I always knew treating others horribly just simply because they are different from me was wrong. But more importantly, now that I am older I realize that “they” are not different from me or you. There is no “us” and “they.” Just because I am straight and others are gay does not make us different. We are all the same. We breathe the same air, we all laugh, we all cry, we all feel the same kind of joy and pain….and well all love the same. Who I love has no bearing on their life, just as whoever someone else loves should have no bearing on yours.
The second reason came about from something I read not too long ago; last year, around National Coming Out day. I read an article where the author boldly called out “straight supporters.” In the article the point was made that “just being a supporter is not enough,” and I really took that message to heart. I reflected on this challenge for a long time. I asked myself if I was doing enough to support my friends and loved ones. That brings me to the point I made earlier about not always enjoying inward reflection. After reflecting on this question I came away feeling very disappointed in myself. I was clearly not doing enough for my friends. They don’t just need another straight man saying that he supports “their” cause. It needed to be my cause too. Saying you’re a supporter and then doing nothing to help advance the cause is shallow and self-serving at best. My friends needed more from me. No, they DESERVE more from me. I know any one of my friends would kindly tell me not to be so hard on myself because I’m a good friend, but I know in my heart I could be doing more.
That brings me to the final, and to me, most important reason. I admire all….and I mean ALL, of my LGBTQ friends. They are my heroes. And, I’ll tell you why. I grew up in a mold that, by “society’s standards,” should have equated in me being nothing short of uber-successful. Here are my stats: I’m a blonde hair, blue eyed, straight male. If someone were to hand those stats to a potential parent, they would scoop them up in a heartbeat. But, they have also led a life with very little adversity, socially speaking.
I’ve never had to fight for anything in my life. I’ve never been oppressed, discriminated against, told I “can’t” do something based on my nationality, and certainly I’ve never been told I am “wrong” or “evil” because of who I love. To quote Lady Gaga, “I was born this way;” boring.
But my friends; they have had to fight every day of their lives. If not against some ignorant fool telling them how wrong they are, then possibly with themselves struggling to find a place to feel safe, or people they can openly trust and call friends. My LGBTQ friends are some of the strongest and most resilient people I have ever met. I am proud to know them, and even more proud that they trust me enough to call me friend.
I’ve walked through life essentially always knowing who I am. And while I believe that is the same truth my friends, I have never had to face a lifetime of criticism. When I think about how each and every one of them have gone their own journey, and eventually arriving at the moment when they stood up and proudly said, “I know who I am. I’m gay, and I’m proud of who I am;” it gives me chills.
Recently my Wife gave birth to our beautiful son. When I look upon him I see a small person with his whole life ahead of him. I feel so helpless because I don’t know anything about him. To me, he’s this little living blank slate. I also can’t but wonder what kind of person he will be. But one thing I do know for certain is that his mother and I will raise him to be a good man. He will treat others with fairness, and with respect. He will stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. And most of all, he will know he is loved for “who” he is; because who he is, is the exact person God intended him to be, and he will see that in others as well. And he will know how to return that love to others.
Maybe the boy is another reason why I feel it’s so important to stand up and fight for what I believe in. After all, he’s going to be seeing the actions of his parents, and in turn deciding from that where he stands. What better way to show my son than to proudly stand up for others and speak against injustices?
This brings me to the last part of this blog. I wanted to tell a little story about the other side of standing up for what you believe in; and that is not everyone believes what you believe. For some time now I have been pretty active with posting and commenting on articles, as well as blogging (such as you are reading) via social media in support of my friends, and the rest of the LGBTQ community. Some days I have been a little more active than others; such as when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was dissolved and more recently when Prop 8 was defeated in my home state of CA. I was also very active in my protest of the military dismissing soldiers, more accurately officers, they had found were gay. To me, from a logistics stand point, this was a terrible stance from the military to take, especially since we, as a country, are involved in several overseas situations (putting it nicely). You need all the leadership you can get; who cares if the soldier is gay?!? But from a moral stand point, and as a former soldier myself, it was disheartening to watch my beloved Army act in such an ignorant manner.
Nevertheless; I recently was commenting on a story where JC Penny’s chose to stand by their choice in spokesperson, Ellen Degeneres (gay), against a borage of criticism from a group called 1 Million Moms. The group actually only boasts about 40,000 members; can someone say false advertising? Anyway, while congratulating JC Penny’s on their decision, a friend (and I use that term in the sense of Facebook, because this person was not my friend) from high school began ranting on my Facebook page about how horrible I was for supporting the LGBTQ community. He even sent me a private message where he was a lot more vocal, and vulgar in his opposition to my support. It was a very sad situation. I was watching someone with all of their ignorance hanging out for the whole world to see. Then, it got a little funny. He threatened me, as if we were dating or something. He gave me an ultimatum to stop doing was I was doing, or he would unfriend me. Really?!? Well by all means let me show you the door. To quote one of my favorite movie characters Curly Bill in the movie Tombstone, “Well…..bye.”
I think having him “not” be my friend anymore actually makes me a better friend to my “real” friends. Why the hell should I keep someone in my life that is so filled with hate? My friends deserve better than that.
So, this is my long, and somewhat all over the place blog standing up for what I believe in. Since I have written all this I think it only proper to end the blog with the short-short version I could have done from the get go, lol. Here we go:
My name is Mike Cruse and I am a heterosexual friend and active supporter of the LGBTQ community. I have many friends and loved ones who identify with this community. My friends are some of the most wonderful people on this planet. From this day forward I join them in the continual struggle for justice and equality. I will forever stand up and say “no more!” No more injustice. No more discrimination! No more hate! And while I know that this dream of complete equality, sadly, may not fully become a reality in my lifetime, I am proudly raising the next generation in active supporters in my son. My friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community are great people and are a big reason as to the man I am today. I can never properly repay the love, kindness and graciousness they have shown towards me, but, as I will show anyone who dares insult my friends, or tries to make them feel lesser than the awesome people they already are, I will always continue to fight in their honor.
Well….this concludes Part #2 to my blog. See you soon when we wrap this thing up. To be continued…..