Joseph Cook-Giles

Santa Ana, Californa

Joe in 20s“Looking Back…

Looking back at the span of 45 years, I find it amazing to be where I am today, happily married to the love of my life, sharing an unusual life of fun, adventure, travel, and new experiences.

Growing up in Florida, my final destination after years of my family being migrating snowbirds, my youngest recollections were those of a very nervous, ever-doubtful, and rarely comfortable bookish geek.  Throughout college, my goals were simple – to study, to learn, and to eventually get that diploma.  Truth be told, college was a huge struggle for me.  I didn’t enjoy my classes.  I didn’t particularly like where I was living.  And looking back – I don’t think I particularly cared much for myself.  As much as I deluded myself into believing that I was on-track with life and that I should be happy – something was missing.  Maybe at the time I knew that something was missing – but I had no idea what it was.

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I had hoped that receiving that diploma would give me the key to my future – and all of the ends to my self-doubts.  Au contraire.  As I found myself working in my field, I found myself even more miserable – pushing paper that meant nothing to me, working in a field that really did not interest me, all to receive that paycheck.  Something was still missing.  So now that I had more time on my hands, I began dating.  Dating led to going steady.  And that led to engagement and eventually marriage.  My wife and I embarked upon life together, which at first seemed happy.  I had my role, and as we moved into a house purchased through my 9-5 efforts, things began to come together – or at least that’s what I thought.  After all, what young man doesn’t aspire to eventually live the American dream of owning a home with a white picket fence, a wife, and 2.3 kids?  But alas, all things must come to an end.  And such was the case with my marriage.

Legal (Still) CAlifornia marriage

Try though I did, my marriage foundered onto the rocks, and was not bound for recovery.  Asking for a divorce was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  But I just couldn’t live like that anymore.  And I didn’t want to.  Yet, I had to face a very painful fact – the “American Dream” as I had envisioned it lay shattered around me.  NOW what?  After a couple of days of dire depression, I looked around at the metaphorical shattered bits and thought to myself about putting some of them back together.  Heck, maybe I would find another woman to date…

…THAT was the moment!  At that time, over thirty years of suppression came racing forward in a subconscious-to-conscious roar of “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”  I realized the problem.  The problem wasn’t that “the dream” was shattered.  The problem was that I was trying to live someone else’s dream.  My dream was different – and it did not involve a woman.

Alcatraz tourMy entire life, I had known gay men.  I had no issues with gay men.  Several of my friends were gay men.  Yet, I had never quite understood my own thoughts or heart.  When I saw a handsome man on the big screen, for instance, what I now recognize as “wow, that guy is hot!” came across as, “that man is inspiring.  I would like to be like him.”

Fate works in mysterious ways.  And it wasn’t long after I hit rock bottom and realized that I was gay that my life took a very unexpected twist.  As a very active member of a renaissance reenactment society, I had plans to attend one of the largest gatherings several states away.  At this point in my life, I really needed a distraction from everything going wrong in my life!  And shortly after I arrived, I had a very unexpected reunion.

In the SCAA few years earlier, at a symposium on renaissance dance, I met a man named Paul.  I really can’t say that we hit it off well in the beginning – probably because we both had teacher egos and thought “MY way is the ONLY way”.  But by the end of the symposium, we at least found ourselves in a place of mutual respect.  While we stayed in touch on a limited basis in the years since that meeting, I had no idea I would ever see him again.  But much to my surprise, there he was – looking taller and more handsome that I remembered.  And at that point, I really needed a gay friend to talk to.  And as far as I was concerned, that was as far as anything was ever going to go.  But… fate had another plan in store.

New Years kiss

As the days went on, we became inseparable – simply unable to be away from the other for more than a few minutes.  And in my head and in my heart, I began to feel things I had never felt before.  I was in my early thirties, but if felt like some unpredictable pubescent roller-coaster!  And sure enough, when the event was over, and I found myself on the roadtrip back to Florida while he returned to California, it wasn’t long before I found myself more down and depressed than I had ever been before.  This wasn’t just an infatuation.  This wasn’t just a crush.  This was love.  I didn’t have anything to compare it to, as I had never felt like this before.  I thought I had – but it was nothing like what I was experiencing.  And as the days slogged on, I knew I had to do something.  Email and phone calls only did so much.  I needed to take a chance – a chance on life – a chance on love.  Months later, I finally made the single most fool-hardy decision I’ve ever made in my life.  I decided to quit my job of 10+ years at the same company, sell my car, sell my house, get rid of as much stuff as possible, and Go West!  I had no idea what I would be doing…. I had no idea if things would work…. I had absolutely no guarantees, no Plan B, and no idea what the future would hold.  Was it wise?  Absolutely NOT!  But looking back, it was the best decision I ever made in my life!

As the years have progressed, we have grown together.  We joined over 4,000 other couples to defy the prejudiced laws of this land by saying “I do!” on the steps of the rotunda in San Francisco City Hall when same-gender marriages were first becoming a very real pursuit in this country.  We also found ourselves legally (and permanently!) married in the State of California before the blight that was Prop 8 temporarily (YEAH!) suppressed the freedom to marry for all.  We have worked on our 100+ year old house together, restoring it to a glimpse of the glory that was the gilded age.  We have continued in our renaissance reenactments and now have the distinct honor of being the first and only same-gender pair of “landed nobles” that our organization has ever known.  We travel.  We study.  We research.  We laugh.  We occasionally bicker.  We kiss and make up.  We brunch.  We hold dinners with friends.  We visit museums together.  We talk about the events of the day.  And we continue to grow older together.

Sincerely,

Joseph Cook-Giles

 

Ken Bruce

West Hollywood, California

167832f17d1ea85af87b67d605d80af2“I Am…”

I am Ken Bruce, resident of West Hollywood since July 1969. I had moved here a few days before the first walk on the Moon. My friends and I had been in New Orleans earlier when we heard about the death of Judy Garland and days later, while on the road to Los Angeles, we were stunned and suddenly emboldened by the news of the Stonewall Riots. When we left Kentucky to head to Hollywood, we had no idea it would be such a busy summer for the likes of us.

I was born and raised in Central Kentucky and the eldest of six children. I remember that time as though I lived in a black and white movie. I always knew Hollywood is where I wanted to be. I had sent a letter to Walt Disney requesting an audition for the Mickey Mouse Club and was sure I’d get the job but my parents weren’t willing to move the family to Los Angeles on that hope alone. I was only 9 at the time.

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Once I entered high school, I was able to get into acting in the local Children’s Theatre and eventually got some roles at the Guignol Theatre at the University of Kentucky. Most of my friends were older students and I suppose they recognized that my comedic flair had translated into more of an ‘orientation’ than I did then.

So a move to Hollywood seemed like a no brainer after leaving college. Besides, I was out of place in Kentucky. Let’s just say that. It was an unreasonably conservative environment for me. I knew about diversity having spent some time in New York and Florida and the way I wanted to express myself just didn’t fit in with anyone else’s plan. I was recently looking at some photos from that cross country trip and I had never been happier and certainly haven’t been that thin since.

cffc2d2e8adc409a043038b40a3cf95cI loved music. After all I was a product of the 60’s. I had albums by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and also The Supremes, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. I loved listening to most music, still do and was quick to identify with a cultural and political movement which demanded civil rights and freedom for individuals long oppressed and marginalized.

I worked as a production assistant at the building just south of the little park on Robertson Blvd. #666.. Only steps from what would become the Abbey years later.  Eventually I got a call from a friend asking if I’d like to go ‘on the road’ as an assistant to Neil Sedaka. Well, of course. Sedaka was back and I wanted to be a part of it. This adventure, while fulfilling and foreshadowing a long career in the Travel Industry was not good for relationships or one’s serenity. I can tell you that over 35 years later, I still hear that from many people who spend their lives touring.

2457b896df1b9927a942d3a94f0ba77bAfter an exhausting 3 years touring and hearing “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” every night, I decided to take a job on the other side of the desk and I became a Travel Agent specializing in Concert Tours.

This has become a career for me since 1977. And I am now looking to retire from a most fascinating adventure which has taken me all over the world. I have worked along side many amazing colleagues over the years, people who specialize in logistics, geography, mapping, budgeting, hotel efficiandos, airline negotiators, tour guides, translators, experts in world religions, a guide who could recognize over 300 bird calls, environmentalists and safari drivers. To have the privilege of interacting with people from so many different cultures and backgrounds is something I would never have dreamed of the night Neil Armstrong said “One small step for man”.

98af3190e821b654a90fb0aee9115e86I am partner and co-owner of Bruvion Travel and Concierge Service. We are specialists in production travel and luxury travel. Our success has come from only a few things, principally hard work and a commitment to service. Recently we have launched a new division of our Company called ALT by Bruvion. This Service will be geared to the LGBTQ community who are looking for experiential travel anywhere in the world. We grew from 1 to 2 to now we are now a staff of 9.

54c22d0f9f69d8d20e4281e5ad04ffad So what does this have to do with Being Gay and Becoming Gray? Plenty. Life hasn’t been easy for anyone. I believe that as LGBTQ people we have had a different series of obstacles to overcome as we have matured. We have lost a generation of male mentors to AIDS. The Community has had more than its share of addiction disease and young suicides. We are still here. We have been able to find the resources among ourselves to advocate for our health, groups like ACTUP and AHF, The Trevor Project and others. The political advances in the last few years are moving so quickly it’s hard to keep up. Who would have thought that we would be able to serve openly in the military, marry our partners or receive federal benefits in marriage-like our parents have done.

34e3523ec70aa13506dcd21d7ba09b2fI am profoundly grateful for those who have come before me. I am humbled to have lived in the time of Harry Hay and Harvey Milk, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. In 1969, there were so few high profile LGBT people to identify with and now countless noble men, women and transgendered people are contributing to this juggernaut of human rights. We are now empowered by LGBT contemporaries in all livelihoods.

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Oh, yes, I’m getting married on August 7 to my partner of 11 years, Jose Gomez. You’re the first to know. It’s a long and winding road and lots of hiking trails.

-Ken Bruce

 

 

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R.D. Riccoboni

San Diego, California

296537_2367396989173_3928439_n“You Can Create”

It had happened before when my back against the wall, the loss came in with its scarring moments of emotional and physical pain followed by, when I could listen, my inner voice speaking up leading me to my calling.

In 1990 as series of events would begin to change my life. My immediate family and myself had a relative swindle us out of our properties and entire finances within two weeks I would return home from work where my partner with suitcase in hand informed he was leaving me for someone he met a few days prior, out the door he went.

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The next day in numbness after work I emptied the mailbox, walked in the house checked a call on the answering machine that good friend had died, the 20th friend in my close circle to pass from AIDS. We were all gone now, the circle of friends was no more. In a daze I looked down at the mail and they were all solicitations from various AIDS agencies asking for help. I felt very alone, frozen, living a joyful life looked, well insurmountable.  What can I do? A voice in my head gently said “you can paint.”

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During next month, intuitively I focused creating 30 paintings about my friends and the fun we had together. I entered two artworks in a show winning second place and honorable mention. Those 30 paintings became a show and book titled “Rainbow Nation Paintings of The Gay Community” with I used for fundraising in the community. People loved it they wanted more. My paintings with the happy colors had a familiar sense of place to many. I could see something changing out there, perhaps it was hope was beginning to shine in the community again.

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With an art career quickly blooming, I just scratching the surface of my authentic self, my self-esteem was very delicate. I became sidetracked by folks, even my partner at the time, telling me “You’ll never make a living as an artist, you’ll starve, what are you going to do for work when all this is over?” even though I was making a good living! It appeared to me no one surrounding me was happy. That’s way life is and perhaps we’re all victims of it. What a pain in the neck life seemed to be! So back to the corporate pathway in Human Resources after all anything but my passion, that would be selfish.  Before I knew it passionless, jobs, relationships, friendships, and most of all years where going by. 

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First it started with a little tingling in my hands, then very painful. Misdiagnosed carpal tunnel, prescribed rest, surgery if I wanted it, contraptions for my wrists and addictive pain meds. Following doctor’s advice, for seven years this nightmare went on to the point couldn’t drive my car. The job was physically killing me, yet I was grateful to have work and afraid to quit. What would I do if I quit? How could I make a living? I was terrorizing myself with a reality that was discouraging and bleak.

One day my arms went numb. Many tests would follow and I would learn that it was not my wrists at all. What would I do now? If my job couldn’t be performed I am toast! I could hardly make ends meet as it was. It’s true without your health nothing much seems to matter. I was scared and so full of fear I could feel the anxiety welling up from inside like fire. This was not the life I wanted. I did not sign up for this.

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In the medical office on yet another visit to the doctor, that eternal wait, I sat and prayed for a miracle.

The doctor, a glowing wonderful man came in, looked at my hands and he put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, “Hey aren’t you an artist? And if I remember you are quite good, you can paint!, and don’t you want to paint anymore?” I know he said more but that’s all I could hear.

His words took me by surprise, as I had heard many times before but usually softly in my mind but not from my head, somewhere deeper. Now same voice coming from someone else!

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“You’re not going back to this job, you can’t, you’re a creative soul, surround yourself with people who believe in you and walk away from the ones who don’t.” Ending a thankless career and starting many new blessings of my life. I learned of three torn discs in my neck causing this. Recovery included years of physical therapy and no surgery. The Doctor was my angel. The way I lived changed completely.

545490_475214309160141_738731813_nTo make ends meet responsibly I downsized from my own place and rented a room from some very positive friends. With time on my hands I began to doodle and get my art supplies out. I was grateful to have a roof and my friends were positive about my art and grateful to have some extra income. They loved sharing my works with their friends who came by! I began to feel good about my creativity and hopeful.

71684_1664463136266_1170142_nAn acquaintance of ours one day asked me what I wanted to do with my life, in a funny way. “Don’t tell me, just picture it for yourself.” They went on to tell me that every morning “Picture” what I wanted in my mind and don’t worry how it will happen, just keep seeing it and focus on it every day and then pay attention and be aware of those things around me that line up with my “picture”. Heck! I’m an artist I can do that. I have nothing to lose. Deciding not to be a product of old circumstances, every morning I would sit quietly for
a few minutes consistently picture and tell myself “I am a great artist, I paint, I am happy, loving, healthy and prosperous, I am surrounded by people from all over the world who love me and my art and I love them too, or something better!”

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I listened, looked and felt emotions for these things everyday in life that reflected this affirmation while applying my knowledge to my talent and desires and eventually realized I was “being” that person every day. I still do this awareness with what I want in life, make a decision about it, feel it through with cherishing appreciation before it arrives, and act upon what was presented to me with a yes or a no. It’s all about being aware of what is important.  It makes life easier and quite surprising!

Today I to continue to create with paint and writing, you can visit my studio and gallery Beacon Artworks inside Old Town San Diego State Historic Park where millions of people visit us each year. As a bestselling author and one of America’s favorite artists I share my cultural heritage paintings with the world.

207901_463185340381854_1953119683_nTime marches on and people places and things change. It’s always good to do a self check-ask from time to time “Am I in living in my joy?” If not there’s a way to get there, it’s your own individual passion. Following our passion will take us to our joy. For me, my passion is sharing my creativity and only I can do it in my own special way and only you can do it in yours. I don’t know about you but when I don’t life literally turns into pain!

Only you can create a beautiful life for yourself. Can you picture it?  I leave with this advice. Draw the art you want to see, make the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, choreograph the moves you want to dance and take care of yourself so that you can. You have talent. The thing inside you that says “I want to do something” that is the beginning of talent. Have the courage to explore that. Picture it!

RD Riccoboni®, Randy to his friends, is an innovative, self-taught award winning artist and Best Selling Author who began painting at age four when he got into his mothers paint-by-numbers kit.

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Kerwan Rockefeller

Newport Beach, California

ab2d7574b88e3c84d2631b7df8b1a111“Sixty” 

I just turned 60.  For someone who came out in the free-spirited days of disco, I was the youngest of the group, the cute boy (and former dancer) who all the older men found attractive.  Yet, when I was 30 I couldn’t imagine being with a 60-year old fart; the man with thinning hair and a few extra pounds around his middle.  But, now I understand.  And I’m appreciating the joys of being what I most feared of becoming.  Because, you see, we’re at a momentous point in history.

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As an older and grayer gay man, I remember the hatred of Anita Bryant, the California Briggs Initiative, Harvey Milk’s assignation, and of course, living in West Hollywood and San Francisco during the height of the epidemic.  In fact, when I did my doctoral dissertation in the 1993 (has it really been 20 years?!) I was deeply proud of how my tribe had mobilized to become politically active and caring for our own.  Fast forward 20 years and who could ever have imagined the words gay and marriage being in the same sentence, let alone on the front page of the daily newspaper.

a8c66ce7034ea95e6ea15ab926db7269That’s why everyday I think about the many friends who will never have the chance to turn 60.  Every morning I embrace the thrill of being alive, the joy of being a passionate, creative, sexual, community elder and being with other gay men as we co-create entirely new ways of loving and living.  Our tribe has always been pioneers and we now have the opportunity to once again re-imagine our futures, bearing witness to younger men just now coming out, appreciating the beauty of all men regardless of age, waist size or hair.

I’ve come to realize growing older is a gift, a continued journey of self-discovery, exploring new adventures.  And even telling the truth about my age on Match.com.

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Guillermo Bass

Malibu, California

66cd898567b3d767d744ce9905eb96d2“I Remember…”

I remember as a kid all I wanted to do was get older. There was something about that larger number that meant freedom. Little did I recognize the responsibilities that come with the number, ha ha. Over the course of my, thus far short, life I have learned to love and appreciate what a lot of us take for granted. The last two years have been a bit of a struggle for me as I learn to adapt and deal with my Systemic Lupus diagnosis. The symptoms, the treatment, the days of feeling so sick I can’t get out of bed…they all remind me of age. What it is to grow older and what it was to be a carefree kid.

4f3a0688ca126a2260da2c69f39a1d4fI’ll be forty in February. I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones, even held their hand as they’ve gone. I’ve also experience what it is to welcome someone new into the fold. Be it a baby or a spouse, the joy of adding to a family only conjures thoughts of a future. A new generation. Through it all I can say this, age gracefully. Wrinkles are road maps to your soul. They let the world know that you’ve been here. You’ve put in your time. Take your gained knowledge and developed wisdom to the altar and share it. Inspire. Take care of your mind, body, and soul. Allow the mind to rest and become calm, clear. Nurture and nourish the body. Keep it mobile and healthy. Free your soul. Love it and allow it to love.

8d6a138336c0c6ccb6fd8f3cf5fc057cWe were not put here on this earth to be alone. Like a new born child needs human touch and interaction, so don’t we all. Be honest. Be yourself, and embrace that person because you are as perfect as your Higher power made you…and that’s pretty perfect.

- Guillermo Bass

 

 

 

 

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Shaun Proulx Interview


ShaunProulx

Begin With Yes

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Happy 2014 everybody! I know it’s going to be stellar, and if you feel the same way you’ll love the conversation I had recently about simple but incredibly powerful ways we can own 2014 – and every year to come.

Personal coach Paul Boynton is the author of Begin With Yes, a guide to setting things in motion and opening new doors. In his book, Boynton describes what he calls the Law of Action. As someone who lives by and coaches people on the Law of Attraction, I was eager to talk to Paul about a law he says which reverses the order typically described by Law of Attraction. Paul says what we DO effects how we THINK and the kind of experiences we HAVE. You can hear my conversation with him below, and hear a slew of other inspiring thought leaders) here.

Peace + love. xS

PS – Speaking of good conversation, watch this space for a big announcement in a couple of days! Like I said, I know 2014 is going to be stellar! And I have a special limited time offer for you: Visit the Begin With Yes website and click “Special Offer” to download your free copy!

Listen to the interview:


Huffington Post Interview

Embracing Life Beyond 50: Begin With ‘Yes’

How best to move forward through life is one of the questions author, life coach, and nonprofit CEO Paul Boynton asks and attempts to answer on a daily basis. As the author of the inspirational Begin With Yes and the host of both its accompanying Facebook page and the Facebook page Being Gay, Becoming Gray, he helps others take big issues and distill them into manageable bites. Unique to his beliefs is that while having a positive attitude is helpful in creating change, it isn’t an absolute necessity.

Boynton recently took the time to share with me more about his thoughts on initiating change, as well as his thoughts on being gay, aging, and other aspects of negotiating life.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Paul, I’ve been looking forward to our chat! Before we get into your book and Facebook pages, tell me a bit about your backstory.

Paul Boynton: Well, my story is very similar to that of many other gay men of my era. I was married for many years to a wonderful woman, with whom I had three amazing children, and now four grandchildren. As I grew older, however, I realized that I needed to deal with myself in a more authentic and honest way. Consequently, my wife Susan and I eventually separated almost 15 years ago. Happily, we were able to maintain and even expand the best part of our relationship as dear friends and parents, and she and my partner Michael had a wonderful friendship too. Sadly, she passed away three years ago.

Edwards-Stout: What led you to marry Susan?

Boynton: For many years I was somewhat naïve, with no real sense of who I was as a person, let alone a sexual person. After all, I was born in 1948. Growing up today, the world has changed in monumental ways. Back then, I had no role models for how to be gay. There were no resources, as people just didn’t talk about it. Many of us had to do the journey of self-discovery completely on our own, and my journey took a bit longer than most.

Edwards-Stout: Looking back on your life and the challenges you faced, how do you feel now?

Boynton: Life is really an experiment for all of us, isn’t it? We make what we call “mistakes,” we learn, we grow, we make more mistakes, and we continue to evolve. I really have no regrets. We all go through difficult cycles and times, but it is how we react to those that help us evolve.

Edwards-Stout: What inspired your book Begin With Yes?

Boynton: I’ve been speaking and sharing the lessons I’ve learned for a long time, and I eventually realized that there was something of value here. My approach to life was in the spirit of “begin with yes,” even though the phrase hadn’t been coined. And I came to recognize that my lessons, even the difficult ones, might have value to others, in encouraging, hopeful and motivating ways.

Edwards-Stout: For those who haven’t yet read your book, in a nutshell, what is it about?

Boynton: It’s about being hopeful and passionate, even when life seems insurmountable, and it’s about creating your own realities and taking responsibility for what happens next as you find a path forward.

Edwards-Stout: So many books in the self-help genre focus on having a positive attitude. What was interesting to me about your book was that it’s saying that having a positive attitude, though helpful, isn’t essential.

Boynton: As I was writing Begin With Yes, there were several other popular books which were focused on the law of attraction. To me, many of these very popular books were missing what Begin With Yes adds, which is the element of personal responsibility and elbow grease. I’ve come to believe that positive thoughts are helpful, but positive actions are absolutely essential.

Edwards-Stout: Explain what you mean.

Boynton: It can often seem overwhelming, and even discouraging, to get from point 1 to point 2. Sometimes waiting for that positive attitude to show up can mean a lot of waiting. Taking small steps, even when we don’t “feel” it, can help set us in motion, and once we’re in motion, we often actually begin to feel better, and feel more positive too. Take one step each day, and seven days later you will be further along and in an entirely different and better place.

Edwards-Stout: So it is the small steps that matter?

Boynton: Exactly. I also advocate for people rediscovering the things that they are passionate about. One older woman wrote to me that she wanted to be a writer, but that the idea of being “a writer” and actually writing a book seemed overwhelming. Instead of looking at it that way, I suggested that she instead focus on one small action she could take that very day. What if she wrote for just 10 minutes each day? Those 10 minutes add up quickly, and soon she had a couple of chapters under her belt. Honoring our passions is important and gives us the incentive to move forward.

Edwards-Stout: How do you suggest that we deal with roadblocks we encounter?

Boynton: There are a whole host of very real obstacles we may face. It may be loneliness, depression, relationship issues — we’ve all struggled with difficult times. But the trick, again, is taking those small steps anyway. Even if all you can make yourself do is to get out of bed and brush your teeth, do it! Another client I worked with was hoping for a transplant, but she needed to be in better physical health in case she ever had the opportunity to receive it. The idea of “getting in shape” seemed almost impossible, but each day she pushed herself, one small step at a time, and soon she was walking around her block, getting healthy, and getting ready for the successful transplant that eventually came her way.

Edwards-Stout: Your Facebook page Being Gay, Becoming Gray really resonated with me, as I’m approaching 50, and I like the way it celebrates aging, which the gay community in general hasn’t done very well. What was your inspiration for creating that?

Boynton: I was visiting my kids this winter and thinking about what it means to be getting older. My youngest son is gay, and when you look at how very different our experiences were, in such a relatively short time period, it is astonishing. Being older and gay even five years ago is different than it is today, and much different than what I hope it will be five years from now. Ellen DeGeneres and many other heroes took big and bold steps that helped me come out more fully, and with a sense of honor too. And now I am beginning to feel that now, growing older as a gay man is cause for another celebration. Collectively, I believe we have a lot of power, and we need to start using some of it to create a better world for our aging LGBT brothers and sisters, and that belief was the beginning of Being Gay, Becoming Gray.

Edwards-Stout: The Facebook page has a lot of positive messaging.

Boynton: I felt like we need positive images in general, and specifically need more positive messaging about gay men aging happily. People do form opinions and beliefs based on things they see in the media, and we need to expand the vision and the reality of what being an older gay man actually means. I feel like right now is the perfect time to do it!

Edwards-Stout: What’s your take on the many gay retirement communities popping up?

Boynton: I think those made perfect sense 10 years ago; again, this goes back to how quickly things are changing. Will we still have a need for gay bars or retirement centers in the future? I know that for me, being gay is only one aspect of who I am. When the time comes, I would love to be part of retirement community with a great gay/straight mix of interesting people, where all are celebrated, appreciated, and who enjoy growing older together.

Edwards-Stout: You are in relationship yourself. What tips do you have for those desiring a relationship?

Boynton: Often, people have a limiting perspective of what they are looking for, and they feel discouraged when the “perfect” person doesn’t show up. My focus has always been on relationships where partners love each other as they are, and who expand each other’s lives because of the differences. Instead of looking for someone to meet your needs, turn it around and shift the focus to what you can share with others. Shifting the focus from getting to giving actually improves the likelihood you’ll find the kind of relationship you’re looking for. Jane Fonda said something to the effect that Act 3 has the potential to be the best time in your life, where, just like a play, everything begins to come together. We become more comfortable with ourselves and begin to worry less about what others think, and more on who we are as people. For example, I’ve always wanted to learn how to tap dance. Now, I’m not good at tap, but I’m taking lessons and having a blast.

Edwards-Stout: What’s your take on aging in the gay community?

Boynton: I believe that some of the distance and the disconnect between young and old seems to be going away. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many younger gay men follow Being Gay, Becoming Gray. After all, being young has nothing to do with who we are; it is just a very temporary gift we’ve all been given. Growing old is a privilege which many of our community weren’t afforded, due to AIDS. We now have a responsibility to ask ourselves how we’re treating the older men in our lives, and if it’s not with respect, honor and joy, we need to change that. That’s where the real progress will happen. It happens within us.

BWY-front-smallBegin With Yes is available for purchase through Amazon and is free to anyone dealing with unemployment or financial challenges via download at beginwithyes.com. (Click on the link for a free download.) Paul Boynton can be found on his website and Twitter, and on the Facebook pages Begin With Yes and Being Gay, Becoming Gray. Author photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia.

This post originally appeared on KerganEdwards-Stout.com.

 

 

 

 

Greg Louganis

Los Angeles, California

4db1f8455b69b79e8a90aa17dc738298Dear Greg…

Dear (16 year old) Greg,

I know you aren’t going to believe me, but life is going to get better, and actually the darkness and grays you have been living in will pass. Young man, I so desperately want to just hold you, you are a lovely sensitive, caring young man. I know you don’t see that right now, but you ARE worth more than you know. That feeling of failure will pass, and you will in time allow people in instead of pushing everyone away.

You will make lots of mistakes about what “love” is, and what you have to offer as a person and human being of value. You will learn your Dad really is and was proud of you. He loved you too, but didn’t know how to show it. You are not going to get the love YOU want, but you will learn people do the best they can with what they know. You are going to find the love in yourself and learn to forgive yourself and others. You will forgive Dr. Lee for his reaction to your 9th dive in the Men’s 10 Meter finals. You will in time hold that Olympic Silver Medal with pride, not for many many years, but you will. You have been rough on your Mom, just a few years prior, but you will forgive yourself and she will teach you she loves you, even when you don’t love yourself. She will teach you by example unconditional love.

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There is a man you met in your life that will teach you the meaning of the words respect and trust. He will be your coach, and he is a blessing to you to give you proof of love. He will stay by your side when you think no one will. Ron O’Brien will be a love you will learn transcends definition. You will also learn those confusing feelings you are having about “who you love” or fall in love with, it is your nature, to love, and it is just who you are that you love a man. It is ok, you will survive your suicide attempt and something glorious will happen, not right away, you will sulk for some time, but you will start questioning why you are here, and that God doesn’t make mistakes.

You will also learn you weren’t discarded, you were loved when your natural, biological Mom and Dad gave you up to foster care, and hoped for a better life for you. You will learn what an amazing gift they gave you. I know you can’t imagine living past 30 years but you will live well beyond that and learn you can love and be loved. Those hurts, bumps and bruises you are going to let go of, and see them as the blessings of your life, they will teach you compassion and empathy.

fc5f91db4637c71a5cb28c0a30f62069I can barely write this as I feel that black hole you feel as “you”. You are going to stop judging, as others have judged you, you will find you are a brilliant young man, and you will find your voice, it isn’t loud and boisterous, but honest and true. I wish I could hold you close to me, but you will be ok, and you are going to stumble and fall down quite a few times but you will get up, not right away all the times, but you will!

You will face things you could never imagine, and you will love your life! And love the people in it! I know for all that you need to learn, I need to let you go, and in this letter that is what I am doing. I write it out of love but I know I must let you go as well, set you free, free to fall, and free to make those choices, to stand again, taller than you were! I know you will find it hard, but little man I love you and I am so, so proud of you.  Love, your 53 year old you!

(Greg kindly shared a bit of what might make it into his next book, “Out of the Water” with Lawrence Watts.)  Copyright © 2013 ​by Gregory Louganis. All Rights Reserved.

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