I put a lot of thought into the sub-title of this blog and came up with this: Together, Taking Gay to the Next Level. What do I mean by that?
I'll start with the second part first: Taking Gay to the Next Level.
I believe circumstances will continue to improve for gay people over time, as they have in the past number of decades. In the early 1960s, homosexuality was illegal in Canada. By 2007, not only was homosexuality no longer illegal (it became legal in 1964), but also gay marriage was legalized. We've come a long way in less than fifty years, but we still have a long way to go, particularly to help our gay brothers and sisters outside larger centers in our own country, and in countries around the world.
At the same time we continue to battle for our human rights, I believe we are called upon to address a whole other area, one which I know will have a positive impact on us. It's not dependent upon anyone else. That is, we do not need the support of other people to do it. And we can do it despite the harassment, bullying, and discrimination we continue to experience in the various areas of our lives. We can even do it no matter what country in the world we live in.
For too long, I believe we've paid little attention to our internal wellbeing. While we think nothing of working on our physical appearance, spending long hours in the gym, taking care of our hair and skin, dressing in the latest fashion--all because we've allowed our looks to become critical to what we think of ourselves and what we think others think of us--we've forgotten about our heads. We've ignored our minds and our psyches. How about we put some work into them, too?
To me, taking gay to the next level is about raising our consciousness around how we feel about ourselves. It's about addressing the issue of low self-esteem as it relates specifically to gay people--because we have our own special issues to attend to--including recognizing, for perhaps the first time, we collectively have a self-esteem problem; realizing the effect that problem has in all areas of our lives; and learning how to improve it.
In short, what I really want--what I'm passionate about--is to help gay people to love themselves, regardless of the fact they are gay. If even one more more boy or girl, man or woman, is consumed with self-loathing because he or she is gay, it will be too many. We've lived with this scourge for much too long. We must end self-hatred once and for all. Our time has come.
On January 11th, I published a post here titled "New Year, New Direction," about the repurposing of my blog. Over the following two weeks, I wrote twenty-one posts with the intention of helping gay people begin to think about their self-esteem, and what role it plays in their lives. I also wrote an extensive five-part series about what you can do, gay or straight, starting right now, to begin raising the capacity you have to love yourself.
Along the way, I heard from more people than I'd had the good fortune to over the previous two years my blog existed. Among others, I heard from Doug, a forty-something gay man in Vancouver, who's been with his partner, Jesse, since 2008. I heard from Sarah in Calgary, a forty-something mother of three, who is not gay but who has an uncanny understanding of the issues facing gay people, and who is as supportive of us as she could be.
Together, we became a community of what I believe are smart, insightful, and compassionate people, open to what those who wish to leave a comment have to say, ready to offer thoughtful and heartfelt advice. We created a safe place for struggling gays and lesbians to tell their stories, and, through our ongoing dialogue, to take those first difficult, yet necessary, steps toward self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-love.
I heard from realitypursuit, a straight young man who cares enough about his close gay friend to help him resolve issues related to his sexual orientation. I heard from elevencats, a male student in Estonia, anguished over being gay, and in need of connection and support. And, most recently, I heard from Aries Boy, a young man in Indonesia, living under difficult circumstances for gay people, and needing to know he's not alone.
The work of this blog has just begun. I know we've only scratched the surface of what I believe is an epidemic of low self-esteem in gay people across North America and the world. There is so much left to do, and I can't do it by myself.
That takes me to the first part of my blog's sub-title: Together, as in Together, Taking Gay to the Next Level. What does that mean?
In part, it means my passion might well be to help raise the consciousness of gay people, but unless gay men and women make the effort to take good hard looks at themselves and their lives, to acknowledge their self-esteem isn't where it should be, and to commit to improving it, nothing will happen. My passion and my words cannot help anyone who doesn't want to be helped, anyone who doesn't think he has a problem.
I know what I'm talking about from personal experience. I know how I felt about myself for many, many years. I know getting myself out of the deep, dark pit of self-loathing was a long and daunting one. But I also know there's no substitute for taking that worthwhile journey, arguably the most important one of your life. I know it wasn't until I started my own journey that my entire life began to open in a way it hadn't before, including meeting the man I've been with for nearly two decades.
I'm calling "taking gay to the next level," or learning to love yourself as a gay person, a movement or a revolution.
To paraphrase what I wrote at the conclusion of one of my first posts on this subject: 2011 is our year.
For too long, we've been filled with self-loathing. For too long, we've allowed other people to tell us how we should feel about ourselves. Self-loathing hasn't worked for us. In fact, it's done us untold harm. The time has come to turn this trend around, and to love ourselves.
No more living unconsciously. No more accepting all the negative things said about us, without questioning them, because we believe we have no choice but to accept the insults and the judgements and the epithets. No more bad life choices because we've lost our sense of self-worth. We must give loving ourselves a try. There is no other choice.
When we no longer accept we're bad or worthless, there's nothing we won't be able to do. We have so much potential, from respecting ourselves, to caring about what happens to us, to finding the right people to build solid relationships with--you name it. Like women's rights icon Gloria Steinem says in her book Revolution From Within, "...Self-esteem isn't everything; it's just that there's nothing without it." We must recognize how important self-esteem is in our lives, and we must work to improve it accordingly.
When I talk about taking gay to the next level, I mean taking ourselves to a place we've never been before. Until we respect and love ourselves, that won't happen. But, if it does, we'll be unstoppable. I believe that. I know that to be true.