Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. -Dr. Seuss
I grew up in a very conservative Catholic family and went from Catholic school from Kindergarten up to my senior year of high school, Anything sex wasn’t talked about and I never had “the talk”, aka about the birds and the bees. I was taught having sex outside of marriage was wrong and evil and you would burn in hell if you did. The same went if you didn’t go to church every Sunday. For some reason having premarital sex and not going to church was on the same level for burning in hell (also throw in some salty language like 'goddamn', and on certain days of the week, the word 'shit' and' fuck' and that would just be another mark against you when you met your maker).
My parents also taught me to be tolerant of others. The old saying, treat others as you wanted to be treated, and love your neighbor was imbedded in me at an early age. And since I was a social outcast and bullied for most of my childhood, I always treated anyone who was considered different and frowned down upon because of their uniqueness with respect. I was always in awe of a person who didn’t follow the group or walked to the beat of their own drum and didn’t care. I wanted to be that person, proud of who I was and wouldn’t allow anyone else to tell me otherwise.
Growing up I was also very sheltered. I honestly didn’t know how babies were made until I was in middle school. Again I never had the talk, but when it came to marriage, I was taught that marriage was between a man and a woman. It was until my senior year of high school where my teacher didn’t stick to the usual protocol when teaching religion and we ended up discussing and debating real life issues that a follower of the Catholic faith should be aware about such as premarital sex, abortion and euthanasia.
Not once was homosexuality discussed or talked about. Not in my home or at my school. I’m ashamed to stay I was in my own little bubble in regards to this culture or lifestyle. No one I knew was gay, or if they were, they didn’t volunteer that information. And so I went to college in the sticks of Pennsylvania and again I stayed in my little bubble, uneducated and my head in the ground about gay rights and the gay community.
It wasn’t until I graduated college and started meeting new people, as well as reading and educating myself, is when I opened my eyes and my mind to the ever changing social environment around me. By the time I was in my 20’s, I was still a practicing Catholic but the rules I was taught to follow changed for me. I still had faith, but there is one thing regarding my religion that made me want to turn my back away from it, because although I was taught the God I believe in loves all his children no matter what rights or wrongs they may do, certain leaders who preach God’s word feel homosexuality is a sin, perhaps even a worse sin than premarital sex and not attending church on Sunday. Because of this, I’m at odds with my Catholic faith. In a way I have turned my back on the religion that was such an important part of my life for so long.
I have another shame to admit. Up to a few years ago I believed marriage should only be between a man and woman. Again, this was because of my Catholic beliefs where it is taught from day one the reason for marriage it to procreate. Two men or two women married can’t procreate obviously, so why would they get married? What was the point? But then my opinion changed drastically. I actually turned my back on the institution of marriage. I decided marriage and having children isn’t in the cards for me. That is my right and no one can tell me otherwise. No one has the right to tell me I should or shouldn’t get married or I must have children because that's the most important role in a woman's life.
It was also around this time I went to a wedding. Two years ago I traveled to Hawaii for my cousin’s marriage to his partner. Even though gay marriage isn’t legal in Hawaii, and they both live in California, where marriage isn’t legal either, they decided Hawaii would be a lovely place nevertheless to commit to one another. Not only was it my dream to go to Hawaii, but I wanted to celebrate my cousin’s love for his friend, lover and partner. Some were not as excited and open to the idea. A few family members refused to go at first because they felt it wasn’t a real marriage because it’s two men. It really didn’t surprise me because these people are very dedicated to their faith, their religion, where they were taught at an early age that again, marriage is only between a man and a woman and homosexuality is something not normal.
A frank, yet respectful discussion can be a very powerful thing, especially when you’re open to listening to someone you love. And so myself and a few others talked to these people who were dead set against going, to open their minds and see how the power love, regardless if it’s between two men or two women, is pure and in the end, right. Opinions were changed.
I went to Hawaii and was there for the commitment ceremony, which in my mind was a marriage ceremony even though in the legal sense it wasn’t. It was one of the most poignant and beautiful ceremonies I have ever been to, and I have been at many. At one point the groom’s mother who was officiating the ceremony, mentioned all the past deceased relatives and how they were looking down and watching, blessing the event that was taking place.
One of these deceased relatives mentioned was my maternal grandmother who died in 1996 at the age of seventy-five. This woman is my angel, a spirit who whispers advice in my ear now even sixteen years after her death. Alive, she was a very outspoken and opinionated woman. She lived during a war, women’s rights and the height of the social rights movement. If she was still alive, I believe she would have been right there in the front row at my cousin’s marriage ceremony, welcoming my cousin’s husband with open arms. If I ever had told my grandma I was gay, she wouldn’t turn her back on me. She never turned away from her awkward and social outcast of a granddaughter. She welcomed all my eccentricities. I live by her “rules” and her way of life.
Next month will be my two year anniversary as a published author. Since then I have 13 published works out. 9 of these titles are a mix of lesbian and gay (M/M). My very first book published was a lesbian romance. When I first told my parents and others I was getting published, and it was a lesbian romance, their reactions upon hearing this hurt. Most rolled their eyes, some didn’t say anything at all and some went as far to ask I’m not really published or a true author because I’ve published a lesbian fiction, and a romance of all things. In their minds, a real book, a love story, is between a man and a woman. I decided then I would write more GLBT romance and do whatever I had to in order to publish my work. I would hope through my words and my characters and plots, these people would change their minds. I pushed my books on these people who acted negatively against my work. Surprisingly in the two years, by reading my books, some did change their minds, so much so they wanted to read more by other authors.
The epilogue in Lovestruck, my contemporary lesbian romance that was published in June 2010, I mention how my main couple are engaged and New York has decided to pass the bill to make same-sex marriage legal in the spring (the story is set in the winter). I was once told if you write something down, it can become a reality. A year almost to the day Lovestruck came out, New York decided to make gay marriage legal. My fantasy had become a reality. I want a reality where anyone can get married, are accepted and admired for being who they are whether they’re gay or not and not looked down upon or ridiculed because of who they are or who they love. This is a reality I want to be a part of and one I want others to embrace as well.
I have no right to judge the way a person loves and who they want to be with. If someone wants to commit themselves to another, regardless if they’re the same genre, I say, go for it. The same goes for a person who wants to live their lives by their own rules. No one has the right to judge or be the authority on a person’s sexuality and how they love and who they want to love.
Homophobic discrimination is a serious issue in every single country on this planet, no matter how big or small. Some countries are more advanced in GLBTQ rights, while in some countries the penalty for being a GLBTQ person is death. All over the world, GLBTQ people are shunned by society, beat up, tortured, raped, and stripped of human rights in various ways. What makes people believe that they have the right to strip someone of their human rights is beyond us.
The Hop Against Homophobia is an attempt by over 250 m/m authors, reviewers and publishers to stand together and create awareness of homophobia. Each participating blog will feature a message on homophobic discrimination in its various forms. The date, May 17th, was chosen in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and we're hoping to get people more involved with this day by inviting them to our blogs, where the visitors have a chance to win prizes.