Monday, July 25, 2011

Why I love Lady Gaga

Recently, the state of New York has legislated gay marriage into law. I could not be happier. The gay rights movement is in full swing and it'll only be a matter of time before full marriage equality will be instated in every state of the country.

In many ways, the gay rights movement parallels the civil rights movement in the 1960's.  They were both grass roots movements that gradually gained steam and became national movements that influenced the course of history. I wait for the day that the President signs a national bill into law that ensures equal rights for all Americans.

Equality also has a personal meaning to me. Yes, I am a young gay man, so gay marriage affects me personally, but equality also means something to me on a deeper level, deep within my psyche.

When I was 14 years old and in junior high, a classmate caught me checking out other boys in the locker room after gym class. He asked me (and these were his exacts words), "Nathan, you're not gay or anything, are you?" Now, I wasn't a flamer nor was I obvious, but I definitely was gay.

My face all red, my heart pounding, I stammered, "No, no, of course not."

"Good," he said. "Because I hate those faggots, like Steve. My dad tells me they're full of AIDS."

Embarrassed that he had caught me checking out other boys, I nodded along, barely listening to his hateful speech. I felt guilty for not standing up for gays and lesbians and for Steve (who was my best friend at the time and the only one who was out in our rural, conservative junior high school), but I didn't want any trouble from the hater, who happened to be the school bully.

So, I high-tailed it out of the locker room.

But the nagging feeling of guilt persisted all throughout college. I should have stood up for my own kind, defended them or even admitted that I was gay, but I didn't. Instead of fighting, I fled the locker room. I felt like such a coward.

Why did I have to hide my sexuality? Was I not proud of who I was? Of course I was, but revealing my sexual preference would have gotten me in trouble. I was fearing for my life. I had heard about cases of gay bashing, like the Matthew Shepherd case. I wanted no part of that. I just wanted to live my life in peace, without fear that an intolerant, prejudicial meathead was waiting for me around the corner with a baseball bat.

But still, the feelings of guilt and cowardice have followed me all these years.

What does this have to do with Lady Gaga, you might ask?

She is a fighter. She stands up for equality. She stands up for those that have to hide, for fear of retribution and gay bashing. We need fighters like her on our side to say and do what so many people are afraid to say and do.

I remember watching her speech at the National Equality March in 2009. Her eloquence and passion brought me to tears. There was something about how much she cared for the plight of gays and lesbians all throughout the world that made me not only admire her, but gave me the courage to stand up for myself and others.

After watching Gaga's speech that day, I ran into that old bully on campus. Instead of turning around and fleeing like I did in junior high, I confronted him head-on.

My heart racing, I said, "You're an ignorant idiot. Gay people are not full of AIDS. And yes, I am a proud gay American."

The shocked look on his face made my feelings of guilt vanish. They festered there after all these years, now, they were gone.

I thought he might hit me, but he turned around and walked away. I never saw him again.

A proud smile spread across my face as I went home.
I stood up for myself.
I did not have to hide anymore.
And it was all thanks to Lady Gaga and her impassioned speech for gay rights.
It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

I can't help but think what a better world this would be if everyone was like Gaga: tolerant, accepting, non-judgmental, loving.

Gaga, you rock!


  1. I was in a situation where it was hard to stand up to someone, and backed down. I hated myself for being a coward. In this case, it's someone I didn't know, and if I saw again, wouldn't recognize. But the nagging feeling of self betrayal is there.

    We can't always resolve issues later when we fear them now. The best thing to do is take action right then. I've tried to keep that in my heart and use it to help me do what's right. Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate completely. Mine was about a different subject, but it was close to my heart just the same. I never want to let myself be shamed out of speaking up again. I've learned there can be far more shame in silence. Bless you Nathan.

  2. I know how you feel, Kayelle. It's hard to stand up to total strangers, especially when you don't know how they would react. Your life could be in danger. But still, there's that nagging feeling of betrayal, like you're selling out a core, essential part of yourself. That's why it was so refreshing when I finally let that bully have it!

    Would you care to share your story? I want my blog to be a place of healing and love. You don't have to if you don't want to, but just know no one will judge you. I find that it could be pretty therapeutic and cathartic to let it all out. That's why I wrote this blog entry in the first place.

  3. Thanks, Nathan. I think that would be helpful. I appreciate you letting me share. This has been on my heart for so many years, and I've never shared it. I think it's too big to post, so I'll try it in two parts.

    I know others have differing views about the subject, and I've not wanted to create controversy. I need to work at getting over that fear as well.

    Here's the story. I'd gone to a medical clinic for a routine procedure many women experience at some point in their lives. It wasn't a big deal, an easy fix. Right near me was a young woman in her early 20s. I was probably close to twice her age, had three children, and four sisters with kids. She was there with a female friend, and kept crying the entire time. I thought she was in pain, and was worried the nurses needed to help her. But I caught part of her conversation, and realized she was there to have an abortion. The fact that she was so upset led me to believe that she was having second thoughts. Her friend kept insisting it was for the best.

    I stayed out of it, but because there were few people there, and we were all lying about on these semi-reclining bed/table things, it was an intimate atmosphere. I could help but overhear enough to discover the pregnant woman had lived with her boyfriend for three years. She had just found out she was pregnant, and didn't know how to tell him. She was afraid he'd leave her, but wasn't sure. She wanted to keep his love. So she was having an abortion and planning to never tell him.

    Thing is, the kind of emotional upheaval she was going through wasn't going to be something she could just pretend didn't happen. She'd get home; he'd come in the door and ask how her day was. How was she going to face him and say everything was fine? These kinds of decisions are not things entered into without consequence. It's not like having a haircut or artificial nails. If it meant that little to her, she wouldn't have been sobbing.

    She didn't give her boyfriend a chance to have a say in the decision, and assumed she knew what he'd do. Perhaps she was right, but once she had the abortion, there was no going back. If she had talked to him, given him a chance to talk about it, she might have discovered that those three years together meant a great deal to him. He might have wanted to raise a child with her. Even if he felt the abortion was right for them at the time, she could have had the assurance of knowing he cared.

    I kept telling myself to ask her how her boyfriend would feel when he found out that she'd hidden it. Would she feel guilty because she didn't even ask what he thought? Would he forgive her if she did have the abortion when maybe he was in love with her and would have been thrilled? What if he agreed that not having the baby was the right thing, but wanted to be there with her and support her?

  4. Once she made this decision, there was no going back. Once she aborted the baby, there was no undo or do-over. The fact that she planned to hide everything and carry all those doubts she was apparently having made me feel sorry for her. She was feeling guilty already, and I could see that she wasn't going to be able to fake it and go on as if nothing happened. Would she come to resent the fact that because she didn't trust him, she'd made a decision she regretted later? Again, her constant tears and expressed fears revealed her heart wasn't in it.

    Her friend kept repeating that it was the right thing to do, and didn't let her discuss how she felt. It was as if she'd taken control and was pushing her to do this for her own reason. I didn't know how to step in or say anything. It truly wasn't my business, but I'm empathic and intuitive, and I could tell the poor thing needed help. My heart was breaking for her, because I could sense her pain.

    In the end, I was too afraid of what her friend might do or say. She was far more assertive than I was back then. It's been more than fifteen years since I sat there and let that woman go off to make a final life or death decision without talking to the one person nearly as involved as her. I thought - if she can't trust him enough to tell him she's pregnant, and would rather end her pregnancy than face him, how could that be love? Love and trust go together.

    What mattered wasn't that she was having the abortion. What mattered was that she had so little trust in her boyfriend, and feared losing him so much that she was ready to end her unborn child's life rather than risk telling him, and then think she could just sweep it under the rug and go on with her life.

  5. Believe me, watching her being wheeled into the operating room with her friend beside her broke my heart. I was so upset with myself for not just going over to her and at least giving her a hug, and maybe giving her a chance to talk. So many years have passed, and I never knew her name. I was in a strange part of town, and doubt I'll ever see her again. How could I say or do anything to make myself feel better for doing nothing? Why couldn't I overcome my fear of how her friend would react, when maybe her friend didn't know what to do and would have welcomed help to comfort her?

    The entire guilt I feel comes from the fact that I didn't overcome my fear and try to help. I let someone who was in tears, fretting and wringing her hands go blindly into a decision she could never reverse, and might never recover from. Not all women have abortions and are fine afterward. Some suffer guilt and when they see other children who are the age their child would have been, they feel pain all over again.

    And what about the father? Don't fathers have rights? Shouldn't they at least be told? There are diverse opinions on this subject, and I haven't spoken because I feel the same way I did back then. I was too afraid to face conflict and try to offer help, when I might have ben able to heal the union between this couple. Now, I'll never know. I regret that I didn't try to comfort her, help her see the things she was missing in her grief, and let her talk it out and walk through what the decision would mean long term.

    Does it help that I talked about it? I still don't have peace over it. I feel as though I failed because I didn't even try. That's a hard pill to swallow. I can only hope that the next time I see someone being pushed to make a decision, or someone who's scared and doesn't know what to do, that I'll care enough to get out of my comfort zone and at least try. Thanks Nathan. I hope this helps others see that sometimes an easy decision now leads to regrets later. What ever happened to these two? Maybe they talked it out, worked out their feelings, and drew together in a stronger relationship. I'd like to think it had a happy ending. Maybe that's wishful thinking.

    I'll log off now. Thank you for letting me share. Sorry to take up so much room!

  6. Wow! What a tough situation to be in. I'm glad you feel better after talking about it. In my opinion, there's a grand plan for life that the Universe has. I like to think that whatever happened to the couple was for the best.

  7. Perhaps it was. I know it was a lesson for me. Maybe now I can put it behind me. I appreciate being able to let it go. Thanks so much for letting me open up.