After learning of the Supreme Court’s decision to make #MarriageEquality the law of the land, I decided to jump in my car and drive to San Francisco from Los Angeles to celebrate. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with so many new and old friends. I’m especially grateful to Board President Gary Virginia for the warm welcome, to Bruce Beaudette for the amazing conversation about LGBT history, and singer/performer Steve Grand for his amazing performance and friendship. This is definitely going down as one of the most memorable pride celebrations in history . . . Somebody pinch me!
I’ve been out and proud now for 17 years, but I remember the dark days of ‘Praying The Gay Away’ and just wishing that I was never born. I was bullied about being a faggot before I even knew what the word meant. My bullies would wait for me after school, torment and beat me, and in the coldest of Chicago Winters — play monkey in the middle with my shoes until I couldn’t feel my toes. In High School, the jocks were my bullies. They would jokingly ask me things in class like, “Hey Ronnie, what’s it like to take it up the butt”? Funny thing is, a few years after graduation, I learned that I could have been asking them the same question as they were all fooling around with one another in the locker room.
With the abuse I suffered verbally and physically, I shouldn’t even be alive today. I battled the worst of depressions and always felt like I had a scarlet letter embroidered on my shirt as I moved through the world. For years I did a song and dance for family, friends and strangers to get them to look past my sexuality and see all the other positive characteristics that I possessed. I always felt like I had something to prove and went out of my way to make everyone else happy, but in the end just found myself unhappy and resenting them.
For those of you that know me, you can attest that I’ve committed so much of my life’s work to speaking out and breaking the silence — sometimes even at the sacrifice of my own career goals. Over the years, I’ve supported HRC, GLAAD, GLSEN, Tyler Clementi Foundation, Center on Halsted, Howard Brown, The White Knot, Ali Forney Center, and so many more like them. Beyond that, three years ago I co-founded an organization with Eddie Lobo called, Friend Movement – – Supporting and empowering people to accept and be their true selves. We feel that by shifting the conversation from “Anti-Bullying” to “Pro-Friendship” that we can truly make an impact and help leverage art, media, and entertainment to lift people up, restore their self-confidence, and know their worth.
I’m truly grateful to be living in a time where we can see the fruit of the labor of all the trail-blazers that have come before us and passed along the torch. People like my late friend and playwright, Doric Wilson. It was because of my interview and friendship with him before giving my speech at the New York Stock Exchange that I even knew what Stonewall was. There are so many incredible stories out there that our youth are missing out on, but it is up to us to teach them and remember that pride is not just about partying, but rather it is about honoring the heroic efforts of those that made this success possible.
In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of marriage equality, I do hope that we can now begin to focus less on our differences and truly see how much more we have in common with one another. I’m a man that happens to be gay, NOT a gay man. I’ve never really liked labels and felt like they were limiting and insulting to all the other talents and value that we have to offer as human beings. There is still much work to be done and many challenges to overcome that impact not just the LGBT Community, but the community as a whole. I’m truly excited to continue moving forward and to creating a more loving, peaceful, and friendly global community in which to live, laugh, and learn.
“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.”
– Justice Anthony Kennedy