Name someone who has significantly influenced the way you see the world.
Question via: Plinky
When I was very young, I had all these things about me that taught me about many things. From a very young age, I knew these things for sure. I saw things, read things, did things that would inform my life forever. And at some point I learned, well, I thought I learned that if it was good for an adult, let’s say if it was good for my parents, that it would be good for me. I don’t know where I learned that from or from whom, but I knew at some point that if it happened and I learned about it, then I could do it too.
From the buffet of things to read and experience as a young child, into a young person, I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted, and in my mind, what secrets were kept were ammunition for me to use later on in my life. I did not know that then, But I learned it on the way through life.
Be careful the lies you tell your children, because one day they will eventually come back to bite you in the ass. And don’t ever say that I never told you so.
For me, in some way, however disgusting I find this sentiment, I wanted to be just like my father. And in my way, I did become him. I grew up to be a raging alcoholic. However, he managed to keep his house, his wife, and his job. My father, on the other hand was hell bent on my destruction from very early on in my life and had not several people gotten in the way at the right time, when they did, I probably would not be here. His words haunt me even today …
YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN …
At the end of my relationship with my father I hated him. Clear and simple. I was living in Miami and I was very sick and in the thick of AIDS. Those first five years were torment. I was terribly sick and miserable. I had come close to death several times, it was really bad.
My father would come through town and he would visit me. But his intentions were clear from the outset. He would berate me and make me feel less than and unimportant. He had no shame and he didn’t think twice about expounding his beliefs as a Christian, me being a raging homosexual and dying of AIDS at the time. Back then, predicting my survival was sketchy at best. Had you told me then, that I would have made it to here, I would never had believed you.
I remember the last time I saw my parents. It was January 2001. New Years day to be exact. I had worked an all night shift at a local club, and I got home around 6 a.m. My phone rang and it was my mother, telling me that they were in town and wanted to see me. They had been in Miami for a week, and failed to tell me that in the beginning or make any move to see me earlier. So they came by my place and my father got out of the car and told my mother that she had mere minutes to speak to me as they were on their way back to Sarasota. I offered to take them out to lunch, hell, I was even willing to splurge and pay for parking on the beach for them to stay longer. My father said no.
I walked my mother around the block, said my hellos and goodbyes. And she got back in the car and they drove off. That visit lasted maybe 30 minutes.
I never saw them again.
So it is 2011. Many years have passed. And I am the man I am today because of men in my life who took the time and invested in me to help me live, survive and thrive.
The man who saved my life and took the greatest interest in my life was Todd. From the day we met, in that dark and dank leather bar many years ago, we were meant to be together in ways that normal people will never understand. I was working at the STUD when I was diagnosed with AIDS back in 1994. I have written ad nauseum about that time in my life.
I learned how to live. One day at a time. Through the vehicle of odd jobs and nightly chores in a nightclub I learned how to take care of men who were pigs. Stopped up toilets, cum covered bar stools, Shit packed toilets and garbage strewn patios and club space. I once begrudgingly did these chores resentfully.
I hated these pigs for a while. And I used to bitch about how dirty men were and I pissed and moaned about cleaning up after them. Until one night Todd took me aside and said to me …“You spend so much time bitching about doing the work, If you would only do the work instead, it would get done much quicker.”
He also added on many occasions that “If I could clean up dirty bathrooms and shit filled toilets, that when I got sick and found myself in degrading shitty situations myself, that I would know what to do.”
Back then people with AIDS were suffering terrible situations, it was degrading and demoralizing. What I witnessed and what I went through with my friends, and the hundreds that we cared for during those years, Todd was preparing me for my own demise.
Although, I think and this is speculation, that he would teach me and take care of me hoping against hope that I would live through this and survive. And if it had not been for Todd and Roy and all the men who took care of me, Farkle, Billy, Marie, my doctors and the clinic staffs, I don’t know if I would have survived.
I still find it odd today that so many men went to their deaths in the ways they did, yet I emerged from that hell. Yes, I had many medical issues in the first five years, I stated that above. The government was not kind to people with AIDS.
In the end circa 2002, I was sober. But at that time, I was living on disability and living as well on the good graces of my friends, and the service organizations who provided meals on wheels and furniture for my studio, rent assistance because I could not afford to pay rent, buy food and pay for my medication at the same time. Sometimes it came down to a choice, whether to pay for meds or buy food. Or buy meds and not be able to pay rent. The price I was paying for drugs in the U.S. was criminal. How the government expects you to live on pittance and be able to afford life sustaining drugs was beyond me.
I got lucky. A lie once told, gave me my out.
So here we are in 2011. I am still alive. Imagine that. Nobody cares. It isn’t that important. I breathe and nobody is none the wiser. I came to Canada and met the next group of men who would pick up where Todd left off. Todd’s teaching got me into the game. All those lessons learned have been put to good use.
In 2003, I became a Citizen. I arrived on February 13th 2003.
I would meet my mentor a few months later by chance. A man who I call one of my best friends today. I came to Canada during the run up to the Iraq war. The war was not applauded, nor was it wanted. The president at the time was suffering from lack of support. There were marches here in the streets every day. Anti War protests, Anti-American protests.
In those first two years I was here in Canada, I had to find my footing. I grew up in the South. My parents were Catholic. My parents were very homophobic, racist, bigoted, ignorant and I had to skate through my life at home listening to the family gospel. I was supposed to follow everything that my father preached to us as children.
I’ve learned this lesson about life … And living in the United States.
If you want to really learn about the United States, from outside the spectrum of U.S. media and news makers and policy makers and your churches and your government, leave the comfort of your sofas. Put down your beer and chips and move abroad for one calendar year. I promise you if you do this, you will never be the same.
Living above the Northern Border has given me eyes to see how I was raised and just how different a man I am today because I left the United States. The way they forced me to live those years that I was so sick was detestable.
I had to learn where my loyalties lay. The Anti U.S. sentiment was getting to a fever pitch here in Montreal, with demonstrations all over the city. They told me to sew Canadian flags on my backpack so that I would not get pegged in the streets or the Metro by those who were not so sympathetic to the U.S.
I took me a long time to find my feet. And it was Donald who gave me what I needed during those years that made me the man I am today. When I was uncertain of where I should be, and who should I support, I was both an American and a Canadian. I didn’t know what to think or what to believe.
And he told me … “If you don’t know where you sit or where you stand, then sit where you are until where you are feels comfortable. Learn about your surroundings and take it all in. Then when you are ready get up, consult your map and take the next step.” Whenever I had to make a decision about something I employed this tactic.
I am a proud Canadian. I’ve learned enough now to know who I am, what I am, where I stand and what I believe. On Sunday I will turn 44 years old. I lived, despite everything that I have been through in my life. I could not have ever imagined life as it is without the care of many men in my life.
I trust my husband, my friends and my medical team with my life. They have kept me alive all these years, and I have had my down periods. I have had setbacks over the years, but I have been gaining. As long as the drugs work, I stay on the upswing.
I lived. And I owe my life to the men who cared for me, loved me, supported me and gave me what I needed.
They say you can’t choose your family. You are stuck with what you get. And for some that isn’t good enough. And for that I say this, one day you will leave your home and make your way into the world. You must survive what you begin with in order to become the man or woman you were meant to be.
I had to make a decision in my life and I had to get away from the demons of my life, my addictions and my parents. That relationship never healed. And I am all the better for it. I gave up seeking redemption. I gave up seeking approval as a man. Because it will never come. And it is their loss not mine.
Life is what you make of it. You live or you die. Make your choice.
Hopefully you have someone in your life who helped shape the world you live in.