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I’m always hopeful when I write about Gay Pride that this will be the last year I have to explain why indeed it is we still need Gay Pride Parades.

Ask me why we need Gay Pride Parades, and I’ll ask you why we need St Patrick’s Day Parades, or Cinco De Mayo Celebrations or Groundhog Day Festivities or Octoberfest or Halloween or May Day, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, or any other of the myriad of celebrations that happen in a country with such diverse cultures.

Tell me why you celebrate any of these things, and then we can have a conversation about the celebration of Gay Pride.

I’m always hopeful that people will stop asking me why it is we want “special” rights, and me having to explain that we don’t want “special” rights, we simply want the rights promised us in the United States Constitution. The rights promised to every single American Citizen. You know – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Everyone wants/needs their life to be validated.  We’re all individuals, but, we all need love and kindness and acceptance.

I won’t use the word tolerance. I believe in acceptance of people for who they are. Tolerance just means you put up with someone or something. I don’t want anyone to tolerate me, I prefer acceptance for who I am. I mean if you’re simply tolerating me, what’s the point of my being in your life at all?

As for those who believe that being gay is a choice. Let me just this: My being gay is as much my choice as my being 48% Scottish, British and Welsh.  I had no say in any of those things. I’m proud of them all, but I had no choices to make. It’s all a part of who I am.

Unless you are gay and you’ve experience the fear that lies with coming out, you have no clue the importance of Gay Pride.

Unless you’ve been bullied and spit on, or not seated in restaurants, or not given hotel rooms, simply because of who you are – you have no idea of the importance of Gay Pride.

Sadly, I know there are people who aren’t gay who are experiencing these sorts of atrocities right now in these United States of America. People who are being bullied and shot at and spit on and yelled at simply because of who they are, the color of their skin, and what they believe.

I don’t understand the hate, but I do understand that the feeling of empowerment of these haters is coming from the those in our government who have the power to do good and spread kindness and instead they foster resentment and hate and do whatever possible to divide us.

When you have a President, who says it’s perfectly fine to grab women by the pussy, well then, it must be okay to grab women by the pussy, and do whatever you feel is necessary to make you feel like a man. The women want you to do it.

If the President refuses to recognize Gay Pride month, then it must be okay to not recognize the millions of LGBT citizens, and take away those pesky rights we are entitled to.

If the President wants to take away health care from millions of Americans to pander to himself and the other 1%, then it must be okay if you can’t afford the medicine that keeps you or other members of your family alive.

If you have a President who says the Press is bad; with the exception of Fox and Breibart  and Rush and other Alt Right Conspiracy News Makers, and that Crooked Hillary, and President Obama, and President Clinton, and China and  Women, and Gays, and Muslims, and Planned Parenthood, and Black Lives Matter, and Hollywood, and Libtards are responsible for your lot in life – then it must be okay to beat them up and post vile pictures and continue to follow blindly a leader who cares nothing for you or those you profess to love.

It’s sick and twisted, and if you can’t see what’s happening – shame on you.

More to the point – If you stand behind the hatred and divisiveness – shame on you.

This year – Gay Pride matters more to me than ever before.  Vice President Pence is quite clear on his stance on how he feels about LBGTQ Americans. He finds us disgusting, and blames us for the decline of American society. He doesn’t approve of gays in the military, prefers conversion therapy and signed a bill in Indiana that allowed businesses in the State of Indiana to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on their personal religious beliefs – And this man has the ear of the President, and he’s helping to write legislation…

I’ll be cheering on everyone who marches in our San Diego Gay Pride Parade. I’ll be crying with pride, when the military members walk by, and the police and firefighters. And all the churches who support and love their fellow human beings, and when that big gay flag comes at the end – I’ll be grabbing hold – as I have the past 16 years, and I’ll be crying and celebrating and asking the Universe to give the world more love, more kindness, more acceptance, more joy, more understanding, more peace.

Until next year –
Happy Pride.

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So, what happens after the winner is determined in this preposterous presidential election? Where do we all fit into the scope of what is now The United States of America? We’re certainly not united, nor are we even on the road to inclusion. I’m not sure there’s even a path…

Will all the meme’s and words that brought us to the point of unfollowing, blocking, restricting, and unfriending our “friends” on Facebook suddenly disappear? Will we simply just click the buttons and return to the way it was before this election brought out the worst of human nature?

For me; the answer to these questions and many more, are a real struggle.  There is family involved – family who have stopped speaking to me. Family who lectured me on doing what was best for the country, but when I made my choice, stopped speaking to me. No more discussion, no more anything…   How do you come back from that? How do you start the discussion? More to the point – is it a discussion worth having?

The thing is: A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against everything I believe is right and just in America.  He’s against basic human rights – gays, blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Muslims, women – he’s against God-given human rights for those of us who fall into any of these categories. So, if you vote for him, you’re voting against these human beings – You’re voting against me, and millions of people like me – we aren’t just phantom people in a tweet or a stump speech. It’s personal.

Misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, racism – you must believe in these things to vote for Donald Trump. You can try and spin it any way you want, but the truth is, if you can vote for him, then you have these feelings in your heart, and this I will never be accepting of. It’s not my vision of what I want America to be.

If you’re thinking: “I just can’t vote for Hillary” – that’s your choice.  Just don’t be naïve about who and what you’re voting for.  Own it, that’s all I’m asking.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016 was the annual San Diego Pride Parade – or as it’s known at our house – Reaffirmation Day!

Pride Parades are always a day filled with joy and love. It’s a day of singing and hugging and making new friends, and letting my soul be renewed in its gayness as I touch that big gay flag at the end of the parade.

But this year – this year was different.

This year it wasn’t just those of us watching that needed to be there. Those who were walking in the parade needed to be there also. They needed their souls to be renewed, they needed to be seen, they needed to be loved. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I had a San Diego Police Officer come over to me and take my hands and in hers and thank me for being there, for supporting them. Seriously? Through tears I told this woman: “No, thank you for being here for us.” There was a hug – and then she was gone.  My heart was just full.

There were over a hundred people marching under the Qualcomm banner. Cheering and waving with smiles of pure joy on their faces.

Walmart, HP, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, The San Diego Padres, Harrah’s all there – all marching – all waving, all proud to be human beings not being judged or in fear of losing their jobs.

A high school marching band made up of gay kids from schools all over the county – marching and basking in the glow of the roar of the crowd as they passed by.  No fear of rejection or bullying or condemnation. Just love – lots of love.

Military personal – Army, Navy, Marines, Airforce, Coast Guard – all under the American flag, all walking tall and proud with some tears streaming down their faces.

Police, Firefighters, Sheriffs, Highway Patrol – all walking, riding, waving, hugging, smiling – all joyful.

Almost 4 hours of churches, businesses, politicians, community services walking, waving, singing, hugging, laughing, loving…

This is what happens when no one is forced to hide. This joy is what happens when people are accepted for who they are. This love is what happens when there is no fear of rejection, no thought of discrimination, no laws that divide us one from the other.

Whatever your political leanings may be, I simply ask that before you tick any box this November – you think about what can happen when people come together in love and the knowledge and acceptance that we are our brother’s keepers. It’s not about black or white or Hispanic or whatever ethnicity you may be. It’s not about being a Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever religion you may or may not follow. It’s not about gay or straight or transgendered. It’s not about men and women. It’s about the human race. It’s about all of us sharing this life we are blessed to be living.

Your thoughts should not be about hate and walls and guns and laws that divide us one from the other. Your thoughts should be about what you can do to unite us as a people, what you can do to make things better for you, for your neighbor, what you can do to stop discrimination, what you can do make peace in your family, in your community, in your own life.

For me, my peace is grabbing that big gay flag at the end of the parade. That’s where I promise myself to never look back, to never go back, to never settle, to help where I can, to hug and love and keep talking and writing until I’m no longer able to do so.

And grabbing that big gay flag is about love. My love for Susan, for my kids, for my grand kids, for my brother, my nephews and their wives and their families. For my friends, who are also my family, I want the world to be kind to them, I want them to grow up in a world where they are free to be whoever it is they are. Not who or what the world thinks they should be – but who they are.

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On July 16th I will celebrate my 14th San Diego Pride Parade. I remember my first Pride Parade in 2002 like it was yesterday.

I was 49 years old, still mostly in the big gay closet, but trying really hard to make myself understand it was okay to swing that closet door open. I had made a mess of my life, and I was finally on the way to making it not quite so messy.

I was with the woman I was meant to be with, but… One foot was still firmly ensconced in that closet.  That closet of wondering how many members of my family will walk away, how many friends will I lose, how do I possibly tell my parents, how do I live my life without having to lie? 

This Parade was like nothing I had ever seen, and as it was coming to an end, my sweet Susan told me I needed to go get under the big gay flag. As it came around the corner I went out onto the street and I grabbed on to that big gay flag, and my emotions just overtook me. I cried tears I didn’t even know I had. It was the turning point in my life. I’ve never looked back; and I’ve never again questioned who I am or wondered if my life had any meaning.

I go out onto the street when I see that big gay flag coming around the corner and I reach up and grab on to it every year. I cry tears of relief and happiness and joy that I had this Pride Parade to show me that my life had meaning – that I mattered – that there were people just like me who suffered and agonized with all the same fears and feelings I had.

For those of you who may wonder if Gay Pride still matters, I can tell you from personal experience – Yes, it most certainly matters.

It matters because we, as a people, ­­­matter.

It matters because there will always be those who are trying to swing that closet door open and find a safe, accepting world to step out in to.

It matters because a Father won’t claim his dead sons body from the worst mass shooting in the United States because his son is gay.

It matters because laws are made specifically to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.

It matters because politicians still spew hate-filled rhetoric against us to garner votes.

It matters because LGBTQ kids are homeless and alone and need to know their lives matter.

It matters because some religions preach a gospel of hate and loathing.

It matters because – well because every life matters.   Period.

If you are lucky enough to go to a Pride Parade and they have that big gay flag at the end – embrace it.  Let it float over you and surround you with love and peace and joy in who you are and know that your life matters. 

If there is no Pride Parade where you are, know in your heart of hearts that you are surrounded by a big gay flag. Know you are loved. Know that your life matters.

Every life matters.

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With marriage equality now supported by the highest court in our land; I’ve been asked that since we’ve won this one – will I finally just stop talking – will I finally stop shoving my “agenda” down the throat of the conservative evangelicals who tend to not appreciate my point of view?

First of all – it’s not an agenda, it’s my life – and second – My answer to your question would be:  No – I don’t believe I will ever stop talking, nor will I ever stop asking questions to those religious leaders who love to preach about the sin of homosexuality.

And mostly – I will never stop talking as long as there are LGBTQ brothers and sisters who suffer – mostly in silence – as their families walk away from them – their friends turn their backs and they find themselves alone, questioning the benefits of “coming out.”

I remember those days – those days of thinking that living the lie would be how I would spend my life. Those days of living a life that most certainly wasn’t mine – those days of believing that I had to have the acceptance of my family more than I needed to live my life.

I lived that life until I was 50 – I knew who I was, I just didn’t have the courage or live in an environment that encouraged individuality. I spent way too many years trying to make everyone happy and in the process I pushed who I was to the back of my closet.

And that’s where I stayed – in the back of my closet – until I saw that 300ft rainbow flag at the end of my first Pride Parade in 2002.

There is nothing more welcoming than a Pride Parade. There is nowhere safer, more accepting, more loving than being surrounded with your people. With people who have been where you are and will gently guide you to step out of your safe little closet.

There is nothing that will make you feel more proud of who you are than placing your hand on that 300t flag and just letting the tears come.

It’s not about your Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, children or grandchildren – it’s about you. It’s not about your church, your friends or even your government. It’s about you, who you are and the life you were meant to live.

At this time in our Country’s history – Pride matters more now than ever

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For years now I’ve been writing about tolerance and kindness and how we just need to love one another. I’ve tried to stay focused on the end result which is love and justice and the freedom to simply be whoever we are and live a life of truth as we travel along our journey.

But – I have to tell you – I’m tired.

As tired as Franklin Graham is of … “the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats” – that’s how tired I am of his religious balderdash that’s being crammed down my throat. I’m tired of the Christian religion showing up in my government and my schools and anywhere else they deem it necessary to save humanity. It irritates me that some Christians believe that their religion should dictate the laws of the land that include millions of people who do not follow their religion.

I have nothing against religion – nothing at all. However – We live in a Country that was built on the Freedom of Religion. You know – a Country where we all have the choice to go to a church or synagogue or mosque or meeting hall or a building in a strip mall and worship as we choose.

We also have the choice to not go to any church and not read a Bible or a Koran or any book and simply live our lives doing the best we can trying desperately to do no harm to anyone or anything as we go along.

I’m a lesbian – and the Franklin Grahams, Jerry Farwell’s of this world have decided that my life of “moral decay” is not worthy of their sort of inclusion – unless, of course, I change my ways and do as they say…

Allegedly, Franklin’s Mother instilled in him that he follow the teachings of Jesus, but as far as I know – Jesus never spoke about homosexuals. So – does he follow the teachings of Jesus or does he follow the Bible? And if he follows the Bible – does he believe and follow every word or does he simply pick the parts that suit his gay-bashing agenda?

It’s this sort of evangelical, religious craziness that I have grown tired of. I’m a human being – not some sex-crazed, porn-watching, marriage bashing, end of the human race, lesbian.

My life with Susan has absolutely nothing to do with the high divorce rate in the United States. We had nothing to do with it – really.

My life with Susan has nothing to do earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, tornadoes – and my favorite – September 11.  (Jerry Falwell pointed his finger and his Bible in my face and said the gays and lesbians ‘helped this happen.’)

I understand that people need religion. I understand the need to feel inclusion and acceptance and a purpose to this life that at times feels out-of-control. What I don’t understand is when a religion turns into bashing.

You don’t need a religion to love one another. You don’t need a religion to be kind and thoughtful and polite and gentle. But – if you have a religion and it doesn’t include any of the above – then what is the purpose of said religion?

Religion or no religion – go out into the world and be kind.  That’s it – Just. Be. Kind.

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Today I was sitting in a Panera Bread eating my lunch.  This man came up to me and asked if he could sit with me and chat.  Not wanting to offend, I said yes.  Turns out he was a “Christian Minister” and what follows is part of the conversation…

  Minister: Are you a Christian?

  Me:  Well, what do you consider a Christian?

  Minister: You live your life in accordance with the Bible, you follow the teachings of Jesus, you go to church, you tithe to your church, you follow the bylaws of your church – and you spread the word of God everywhere you go.

  Me: Well, by those standards – no – I am not what you would consider   a Christian.

  Minister: Well then – what are you?

  Me:  I’m a human being.

  Minister: NO – what religion do you believe in?

  Me: I believe in human kindness. I believe we are all one people – all deserving of love, respect and kindness.

  Minister:  So – you have no faith?

  Me: I have an abundance of faith.

  Minister: But you don’t go to church, you follow no religion – how can you have any faith?

  Me: Some days it isn’t easy – but most days I believe in the goodness each of us have within ourselves to help others, to love others, to show respect and kindness toward one another.

  Minister: You’re a dreamer.

  Me:  As are you.

  Minister: If you don’t follow the teachings of Jesus, you are damned to walk the road that leads to hell.

  Me: I don’t believe in hell.

  Minister: Well, what do you believe in?

  Me: Love, Kindness, Goodness, Tolerance, Respect,

  Minister: You need Jesus in your life.

  Me: How do you know this? You don’t know me at all. You know nothing about my life, you know nothing of what I do in my life – And yet – you judge me. 

  Minister: I’m not judging – I’m telling you, you need Jesus.

  Me: And if I don’t have Jesus?

  Minister: You are on the road to hell – there is no saving your soul – there is no hope for your life…

  Me: I live a good life – I’m kind, I’m loving, I’m tolerant and respectful and yet – you’re telling me if I don’t have Jesus – nothing about my life matters?

  Minister: Jesus can save you.

  Me: I don’t need saving.

  Minister: You are on the road to hell.

  Me: Well – my road is paved with good intentions.

  Minister: You need Jesus

  Me: You need to leave now…

This – this is what makes me crazy.  This man had never seen me before – and God willing – will never see me again. And yet – he felt he had the absolute right to tell me my life didn’t matter unless I had Jesus making all my decisions.  This man was an ordained minister – supposedly a man of God – telling me my life didn’t matter. He certainly did nothing that would entice me to follow his religion. If anything – he convinced me I don’t need to go to church to be a good, loving, kind, caring person.

I have people of all religions and no religions in my life. I love them all, I respect them all, and I do not judge them. I respect that this is what they need in their life to get them from day to day, and I would never tell them their life didn’t matter – every life matters.

Apparently, I’m on the road to hell – I wonder where that intersects with the yellow-brick road?

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