Bursting Through Blog

What if I told him

Bursting Through’s mission is to recycle hate into love through storytelling, activism, and the celebration of the relationships between Queer and Straight people. When I write, I keep that mission top of mind and hope that my words put a little more love into the world, make someone think or reach them on an emotional level.

Recently, when I think about the mission, I’ve been thinking about it through the lens of self love.  On my quest to be a better version of myself and with the guidance of a good therapist,  I’ve learned the importance of self love.  That led me to think about my younger self, the kid who knew he was different but didn’t know what gay was yet.  And I wonder if that relationship, the one between the younger “straight” version of myself and the queer adult, is maybe my most important queer/straight relationship.

What if there was a portal to communicate with other versions of myself at different times in my life? Like in a sappy romantic movie, that I have not seen but heard too much about, or a classic episode of Star Trek: TNG where Picard meets another version of himself from another time, or better yet, what if there was a door into the soul like in Being John Malkovich?   

If that portal existed and I was able to use it to communicate with my former self, the “straight” or not-yet-out version, what would I say? What should I say? Would my current words keep young me from living his truth or fuel him to fight?  Would hearing current me alter the course of young Steve’s relationships and change family dynamics or would it just be information not acted upon?

We are going to assume for the sake of argument that young Steve is going to listen. He might not know how to process it all, but he is going to have his ears open. Since it’s young Steve, if I give him a lot of Rolling Rock Beer, Camel Red Lights, a cool lighter and adequate bathroom breaks, he’ll listen.

I’m not thinking about a series of spoiler alerts to avoid a decade of boy band hair, a MadDog 20/20 hangover or the disappointment associated with my Male Vocalist of the Year honors in high school not leading to fame, but some insight into the emotional journey. Something about the path ahead for the queer person. Some honest insights  that tap into the importance and the complexities of queer/straight relationships and life in a normal=straight world.  A world that  won’t always tell him but will often show him just how outside the desired norm he and others like him truly are.

What would I say to prepare him to navigate a world that is taught and encouraged to ridicule and hate people like him?  How would I tell him that despite everything he has observed and been taught, getting married and having children is not the only path to personal fulfillment?

What if I told him that he would learn to identify and avoid “the love of hate” but keep that knowledge inside him for nearly 40 years? What would he think if I told him that people close to him will tell him he is loved and supported but will consistently and proudly vote for people and policies that actively and aggressively attack his civil rights? 

How would I break it to him that in his 50’s, he would turn to activism and spend his life savings fighting the fight to be truly equal while knowing there is little hope of living that equality in his lifetime? 

Would he believe me if I let him know that despite great rallying cries like “Love is Love” and “Love Wins” there has been more anti-queer legislation passed in 2021 than in any other year in the history of the United States?

 Would he believe me? What would he say? What would he do?  What would he think?  

I think there would be a lot he wouldn’t believe and that naivety and lack of understanding would keep him alive and thriving.  But I also think he would FIRMLY believe as I do that there is more good than bad and that love will win.

I believe he would know, as I do, that the people who love us aren’t intentionally trying to hurt us with their words and actions. And he would believe, as I do, that when the people who love us connect their words and actions to the unintentional but all-too-real impact on the Queer community, that awareness will open hearts and minds and deepen our human connection.

We would both believe that most Americans believe in equality for all, my rights and a live-and- let-live lifestyle. We would both believe that if Americans actually took the time to see each other and connect with our shared humanity, then we would be better for it.  

He would believe as I do that Bursting Through is intended to and will open up the hearts and heads of queer and straight people and lead us to better understanding, more compassion and a path forward together.  

Neither I or younger Steve have all the answers but join the Bursting Through movement and let’s see what we can do together.  

The Love of Hate

As published in Las Vegas PRIDE magazine- 06/04/2021

When you are queer you have a lot of hate thrown at you for as long as you can remember.  Most queer people learn or have an inherent ability to take that hate and recycle it as love.  This is one of the gifts the queer community gives to the world.  It’s not as  celebrated as musical theater or fashion, but I believe it’s the greatest gift the queer community has to offer. 

A brief aside to talk about the word queer . . . until recently it was a word that never felt good to me.  Words have power and queer used to cut me almost as deeply as FAG. I’ve recently learned why it’s important. 

This year I become a Volunteer Victims Advocate for the LGTBQ+ Center of Southern Nevada.  During the first week of training, I learned about the growing alphabet of the community to which I belong. LGBTQIA2SP+  represents all letters of the non-heterosexual community. If you’re interested, it’s an easy Google to find out about the letters and their meanings.  (I found 2SP especially fascinating.) 

It’s exhausting saying LGBTQIA2SP+ and it can be confusing. The best term that encompasses everyone is Queer. As a community, we have boldly reclaimed queer and taken it back from being used against us.  Our reappropriation is a perfect example of recycling hate into love. I now proudly use the word queer.  

Let’s dive deeper into recycling love into hate.  To do this we need to talk about words again.  There is a phrase I have used internally for a long time that is a key to understanding my experiences and Bursting Through.The phrase is the love of hate.

The love of hate is that gleam the hater gets in their eyes when they are threatening you or telling you how much they hate you for being different and existing in their space. This person is really enjoying themselves. That look is what I mean by the love of hate.

It’s the look you see in a movie or on TV when a seemingly kind person turns evil.  Right before they turn to their evil act, their eyes usually flash red or black or sometimes with fire. It’s the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” technique. 

In the real world we don’t see the eyes flash with fire, but many times I have seen eyes glow with the love of hate while being called a FUCKING FAGGOT or hearing, “AIDS kills FAGS dead”. 

Junior High was the first time I remember encountering the love of hate. I grew up in Audubon, Iowa. Summers were filled with Little League, days at the pool and nights playing kick the can and chasing lightning bugs. Winters were filled with hopes of snow days, extreme sledding and hot chocolate. 

As I got older, summers were filled with mowing lawns and beer drinking on gravel roads; winters were filled with honing my swing choir skills and beer drinking on snow covered gravel roads. 

During High School I saw the love of hate more.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to hear the word fag from a schoolmate who was grinning ear to ear, with the love of hate in their eyes.

The first time the love of hate made me fear for my life was at a kegger. At keggers I’d overhear, “What’s the fag doing here?”  or, “Who brought the fag?” It was hurtful, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It was typically the same two or three people.

This night, I was  on the gravel road looking for a spot to pee and I encountered one of the love of hate guys.  If this was on TV this would have been where his eyes flashed with fire, but it was real life, so I just saw how happy he was to find me alone.  I can say with a great deal of certainty that he was preparing to kick my fag ass and leave me in the ditch for dead.

Some smack talk started when out of nowhere a badass friend of my brother’s stepped in and stopped it.  I’ve always been grateful for that guy.  I suspect he didn’t step in out of any sense of advocacy—he was simply a good friend to my brother. Regardless, I’m glad he was there. 

I saw the love of hate more through high school but never with that level of danger.  I went on to college and encountered it a few times but I was better at recognizing it and knew how to avoid it.  I still wasn’t out but I understood myself better and knew I was attracted to men even though I didn’t have the words to describe it or really know what it meant.

Post college I moved to bigger cities where I saw the love of hate less.  I eventually found my way out of the closet and met other people like me.  I knew the love of hate still existed and I would see it every once in a while but I felt less alone and more equipped to handle it. It’s possible I turned off my love of hate locator for a while because I was feeling safe.  

Fast forward to 2015—living in New York City, working on 7th Avenue as an executive for Macy’s. One night I turned on the TV and my love of hate locator was suddenly reactivated.  Donald Trump was emerging as a political figure; the station I turned on was covering one of his rallies.

There on my TV, in my cool little studio apartment in midtown Manhattan, the love of hate was staring right at me.  Not Trump himself so much as his supporters, who were being interviewed.  These people were fired up and nearly everyone who was interviewed had the love of hate in their eyes.  They were having fun freely talking about how much they didn’t want people unlike them in the country.  There it was, the love of hate, like an old friend you randomly see at the airport but less welcome.

I had been feeling safe but that did not mean the love of hate didn’t exist. I know Trump is no longer president and positive things have happened recently. That’s fantastic but it’s not enough. I need to do more and I want you to join me. This is where Bursting through comes in. Bursting through wants to depower the love of hate by calling it out. I don’t want you to put yourself in danger by confronting it but I want to remove its power. 

Remember, the love of hate is like that look you see on TV or in a movie right before a seemingly kind person turns evil.  On TV and in the movies you likely always see it coming. I want you to recognize it in real life and help others to recognize it too. And maybe, just maybe, the more we identify it and talk about it and let people know it’s not acceptable the more we depower it. 

Together our queer community can recycle hate into love and turn off every single love of hate locator forever.