Why I Fight

Someone asked me recently what led me to become an advocate for equal rights. Good question.

There are some rather obvious answers. I was raised in a civil rights family. Our minister marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and both my mother and father were active in taking on things like racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism when they  crossed their paths.

Also, I’ve been lucky in a very real way. When I was a boy I was a ballet dancer. In that arena I met and knew and was friends with quite a few men who were gay. As a result I discovered there is no difference between straight men and gay men other than their sexual orientation. Then, a series of events landed me in reform school weeks after I turned 16. There were, as I recall, about 350 boys of which less than 10 were white. There I learned what it felt like to be a minority. I also learned that those who are black or Hispanic are no different than anyone else.

After I was released from reform school events propelled me into nearly three years of homelessness. During this experience I learned that if you are poor or homeless you are seen and treated as if you are less than human. But there too, there on the streets (we called it on the streets then, not homeless) I met men and women who were the same as all the other people I’d met in life.

For a time I was in a relationship with a remarkable woman who was Jewish. I was able to take part in Passover with her family and we became close  and through them, was given a deeply special close look at what her family, and other Jewish families have been through and endured for centuries.

And then, since the mid-nineties, I’ve worked with people with brain injuries like myself and other disabilities and seen and experienced the kind of brutal heartlessness and bigotry inflicted on this segment of our population.

The point is, we really are the same and we really are equal which means we all deserve equal rights.

But there is something else that must be included in the answer to the question of why I fight for equal rights: I love life. On more than one occasion mine has almost been ended: when I was shot in the head in 1984, when, in 1974, I was held at gunpoint for nearly three hours before escaping, and then again, in 1985, when, just months after being shot, I was held-up at gunpoint. Moreover, when I was homeless I  received medical treatment two times when suffering with hunger pains. And then, of course, I’ve lost three family members to suicide.

So, all this adds up to a deep love for and appreciation for life itself. And when I see forces that openly seek to deny people their right to a life of freedom and equality I’ve fought them and will continue to fight them. If I don’t, I am not only betraying my father and mother, I am betraying all those throughout my life who, because of their presence in my life, taught me we are all the same. And then there is this; if I don’t fight back, I betray life itself -  and I’ve fought to hard to keep mine to do that.

My Mothers’ Day

They both died at 68, one by her own hand, the other, cancer. Both gone too soon as far as I’m concerned and both were in the light of reality, my mother.

One of the things you learn as a child who has been adopted is this; blood may be thicker than water but family is thicker than blood. One of the phrases all adoptees I know truly hate is, “Well who are your real parents?”  Hell, I’ve known mothers and fathers who are anything but loving and kind to their genetic progeny. In fact, some of the most brutal experiences some children have gone through were inflicted by one or both of their parents. Like I said, blood may be thicker than water but family is thicker than blood.

Frankly, I only use the term adoptive mother and birth mother so the listener or reader can tell who I am talking about. In my heart, there are no qualifiers, they are both my mother. There is my mother Virginia who raised me and my mother Leona who surrendered me for adoption for reasons not of her making I would learn when we were reunited on January 8, 1987.

Like any human being, neither was perfect, but both loved me and from both I learned and gained an enormous amount. Both were instinctively supportive of equal rights for everyone and both were deeply empathetic to the underdog, the castaway, the persecuted. Both were fiercely supportive of my advocacy instincts. In fact, for years my mother Virginia was my number one confidant when it came to things like fighting for the Brady Bill and against the death penalty, when it came to fighting for Gay rights and disability rights and against things like anti-Semitism. 

My mother Leona was, without question, my emotional and spiritual familiar. Time with her allowed me to learn a lot about where who I am came from. To this day she is one of the most emotionally and physically courageous human beings I have ever known.

My mother Virginia ended her life August 12, 1992 and my mother Leona died of cancer on December 19, 2001.

I can tell you that I love both my mothers with all my heart and I miss them both – with all my heart.

I love them my whole wide world and then some.

Vatican Message Sinks Lower & Lower

With Pope Benedict – a man who covered up child molestation for God knows how long –  present, a Vatican official had the slime-ridden audacity to equate the world-wide cry for justice in the face of a pope and other catholic officials who covered up or took part in child abuse, to the brutal persecution of the Jewish people. To utter these despicable words on the day Jesus was crucified is nauseating to say the least.

Father Cantalamessa said “They (Jews) know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms.” All of those involved in the abuse and cover up engaged and still engage in criminal activity. For slugs like Cantalamessa and Benedict to claim the heat they are feeling is unfair is equivalent to Charles Manson claiming his prosecution was a wee bit overzealous. Now there’s an analogy that works!

What galls me even further is the absence of an outcry from world leaders, including my own president, who is the best president my country’s had, certainly in my lifetime, which makes his silence all the more troubling.

Unless you’ve had your head up your ass for the past decade or two, just got back from a trip to another planet, just bought the Brooklyn Bridge from a guy named Mouse, or are an out and out liar, you know damned well there is a real world wide problem of child rape in the Catholic Church, and the cover up continues.

Issue warrants, arrest them, charge them, convict them, jail them.