Bursting Through Blog

Holiday Queer

When you are queer, the holiday season is a time for family, your favorite foods and the underlying feeling that you will never belong. This season is difficult at best for most people, add being queer to that mix and more times than not it’s going to stir up a lot of unexpected and un-welcomed emotions. 

It’s no wonder that every queer I know loves Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We identify with Rudolph being bullied and discounted for being different, we identify with Hermey for wanting to be something more than what he was told to be, AND we are all kindred spirits with every toy on the Island of Misfit Toys.  

Who among us did not wish for a Charlie In The Box, a Spotted Elephant or to provide a home for Dolly, whose problem was psychological, caused from being abandoned by her mistress, Sue. Dolly was depressed from feeling unloved and if anyone could understand that, it’s us.

One of Bursting Throughs’ objectives is to put a little more love into the world. This holiday season, I am challenging you to do that by embracing and owning your queerness and putting it right under the Christmas tree. Give the people you love the gift of the world through your eyes and let this be the year the queer escape from that feeling of being a misfit.

ASIDE: This idea was inspired by an event I hosted with my family for my 50th birthday.  As my 50th birthday approached, I was asked how I wanted to celebrate. I said I wanted to have a fundraiser for The Matthew Shepard Foundation. I had reasons for this beyond just raising money for a fierce organization.

I’ve always felt connected to Matthew and knew it was nothing but dumb luck that kept me from encountering the same fate in Iowa. I had never really talked about that truth or made it a reality for my family or friends but now I wanted them to look at the world through my eyes as a queer man, if only for a moment.  My hope was that by them taking that moment it could open up a dialogue that had not been opened before. The event was called Skate Against Hate and it laid the foundation for Bursting Through. END ASIDE.

That said, Bursting Through has come up with some gift ideas The idea is to give a gift that feels good to you, to the recipient, offers a view into your world and leaves you both with a little more understanding and love for each other.

Give In Their Name

Many people like to donate money to a charity or nonprofit around the holidays so you might be thinking this isn’t new, but consider thinking about it another way.  

Maybe your parents or siblings have never really thought about donating to a queer charity.  I don’t think mine had before Skate Against Hate.  It’s not because they wouldn’t have, it’s just that they had never thought about it and I had never really introduced them to any organization that was important to me.

If you make a donation in your family members’ name, it gets them on the organization’s mailing list, allows you to share supporting the same cause and may open up a conversation about why it’s important to you.  Maybe your family member wants to have this shared interest but has never known how to approach the topic with you?


The Trevor Project https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

The Circle Youth Drop In Center https://familyconnectionscenters.com/

The Matthew Shepard Foundation https://www.matthewshepard.org/

Give Back Together

Asking someone to volunteer with you is an excellent way to share something you are passionate about with someone you love. The great part about this idea is your volunteering does not have to be done around the holiday season.    

You can use your creative skills to make up a certificate to give to your loved one.  The certificate can explain that you would like to have a give-back day with them at your favorite queer organization.  If you don’t have creative skills, I  know you know someone that does.

This is a great way to not only have a moment and meaningful conversation during the holiday season but to extend the conversation into the year. The organizations I am listing do such incredible work and have different types of events all year long. Some events are more social (like PRIDE Bingo)l that benefit good causes and some are more focused on working an event (like a PRIDE Festival).  I bet you can find a time and event that will work for you both.  Who knows, maybe this will become a tradition for you and your loved one?


Free Mom Hugs (they have Dad groups too) https://freemomhugs.org/

Human Rights Campaign https://www.hrc.org/

Las Vegas PRIDE https://lasvegaspride.org/

Give From A Queer-Owned Business

Giving a gift from a Queer-owned business helps support the community and introduces your loved one to a business they might like but have never heard about. 


The Pluid Project https://thephluidproject.com/

Bursting Through https://burstingthrough.gay/

Create your own book club.

Another great idea is to give a Queer themed book that your love one will enjoy.  Get one for you as well and you can both read and discuss. 


The Savvy Ally by Jeanine Gainsburg https://www.savvyallyaction.com/

When Wren Came Out by Blair Bryan https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61098311-when-wren-came-out

It’s possible the holidays are tough because we realize that no matter how much we have normalized our lives to be accepted, we are still going to be from that Island of Misfits.  Let’s face it, we are always going to be the Christmas Card that needs to be explained to the neighbors or bring a dessert that sparks the question, “Who made this?”  

Instead of being frustrated, annoyed or drunk about it, turn it around and own it by giving the gift of queerness. Use your power to decide how you want your time with your family to be over the holidays and throughout the year. Giving a gift that shares something about yourself is good for your soul. Remember that you don’t belong on the Island of Misfit Toys.  

Happy Holidays.  Take care, stay safe, speak out and be brave.

I love you , anyway

As Published in Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine 10/01/2021

Queer men of my generation were raised to be straight. I have to believe it wasn’t done out of malice but lack of knowledge. That didn’t make it any less damaging or the journey to self acceptance any less brutal. To that end, I have spent a lot of time seeking validation. Sadly, in my community that does not make me special, but all too ordinary.

A while back my therapist suggested I read the book The Velvet Rage. The book, by psychologist Alan Downs, describes the gay man’s journey from shame and anger, to searching for validation to finding one’s authentic self.

When I started seeing my therapist I was a bit lost and exhausted in every way. Picture a person on a hamster wheel or a computer that is always trying to load the next page with no luck. After reading The Velvet Rage I recognized I was in transition.

I had put shame and fear behind me and had moved past my search for validation but I had not quite reached authenticity. The book referred to this stage as being in “the tunnel towards authenticity”. I needed a little help finding my way through the rest of the tunnel. The book was a brilliant way of getting me moving forward again.

As I was reading the book, I thought about something that has been pokin’ at me for a long while.

ASIDE: I love the term “pokin’ at you.” It always makes me think about the brilliant and funny (and queer) comedian Paula Poundstone. In one of her HBO stand-up specials she does this bit about a Snickers commercial. The tag line was “Snickers, when your appetite’s pokin’ at ya pokin’ at ya.” This is where Paula found the humor and I fell in love with the phrase “pokin’ at you”.

But let’s get back on point and focus on what has been “pokin’ at me for a while.” When I was on my coming out journey in the early 90’s there was a phrase people like me heard regularly. It was “I love you, anyway.” It was meant to comfort and reassure me that nothing had changed for them, but it always poked at my heart a bit. Not a constant jab but rather a recurring pain that never seemed to go away.

“Anyway” made it worse. It gave love a qualifier. A qualifier that unknowingly implied I was unlovable, but they were able to rise above it all. It also dismissed a very difficult journey of self discovery. At best, the coming out process for me was rough. It came

with a lot of self acceptance and reconciling that I would not and could not have the only type of life I had ever known. It meant letting go of the idea of ever being married or having a family of my own. Once the words “I’m gay” came up from my heart and out through my mouth, everything changed.

I told myself “I love you, anyway,” came from a good place and I believe that it did. I tried to focus on the words “I love you” but I couldn’t hear them anymore without “anyway”. It didn’t matter if that word was there or not, it was always in my internal dialogue.

I’ve always felt the word “anyway” made it far too easy for those who said it. My entire world had changed and they summed it up with a lame adverb. I didn’t have much of a choice but to accept “anyway” and frankly I wasn’t aware enough or emotionally strong enough to reject any sort of acceptance at the time, conditional or not.

But “anyway” did keep poking’ at me at different times and in different ways throughout my life. One of the most memorable ways was when I lived in New York City and was dating a man named Mike. Mike surprised me one night with tickets to Sam Harris’s HAM: A Musical Memoir.

Sam Harris was the grand champion singer of Star Search in 1983. Star Search was a talent competition that laid the foundation for shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Next Top Model.

Sam won the competition with his version of “Over the Rainbow”. Men were not allowed to be openly gay on television then, but I’m confident that song choice was a nod to his sexuality—pretty bold and brave in 1983!

Harris’s one man show told his very real, very raw and very vulnerable life story. He spoke about his painful journey of coming out and searching for self acceptance. He was roughly the same age as Mike and I so his story was very familiar. As Sam shared his story I found a tear or two trickling down my face. I reached for Mike’s hand and looked at him. His tears were not trickling down his face, they were streaming like rain down a window. As our eyes met he said through his tears, “They fucked all of us up so bad!”

Mike and I talked about it later over dinner. We shared similar stories of qualified acceptance and love. He had also heard “I love you, anyway” more than once. It was both heartbreaking and helpful to know that the man I loved and I had a shared experience that was rooted in qualified love.

Mike and I didn’t make it as a couple. I realize there are a lot of factors that contribute to a failed relationship but in retrospect, I can’t help but think that the damage of qualified love, of “I love you, anyway” contributed to our inability to connect the way we needed to.

I put a lot of emotional walls up as I came of age and learned about the love of hate, that I was different and how being different could cause me harm both emotionally and physically. One of those walls, maybe the one that was the hardest to get over and nearly impossible to get under, was the one built by an adverb I have come to dislike: anyway.

I’ve lived a lot of life since I first heard “I love you, anyway.” When I started creating Bursting Through I knew it was in there somewhere, but I thought it was buried deep down in the roots and Bursting Through was starting from a place of “Beyond Anyway.”

It turns out, it wasn’t as deep as I thought and it is still “pokin’ at me” but cannot be fixed with a Snickers, but it can be fixed or at least stopped. If a Snickers can’t help, then what can? Simply tell people it is hurtful. Be kind but firm and let them know that despite coming from a place of love that anyway is a qualifier that needs to be eliminated. Love should never be combined with anyway.

Bursting Throughs’ mission is to recycle hate into love through storytelling, activism and the celebration of the relationship between Queer and Straight people. I don’t feel that “I love you, anyway” ever came from hate and needs to be recycled, but I do think it needs to be put in the dumpster, anyway.

DEI and the Human Workforce: The Queer/Straight Equation

As published in The Des Moines Business Record on 8/20/2021

Bursting through is the storytelling movement for the Queer/Straight relationship. It is also a for-profit business founded by a queer man who had a very successful 27 year corporate career. That queer man, me, had firsthand experience of well intentioned (but overtasked) HR and Diversity Teams trying to create emotionally safe work environments for everybody. I know HR knows that an emotionally safe work environment creates a more productive and profitable company and I know it’s time the rest of the company got onboard.  

Today’s company cultures, driven by millennial leadership, require DEI to be taken very seriously and treated as integral parts of those cultures. Why? Because, companies must be forces for good to be relevant in business today and that good must start within the business itself to be real, to be lived and to create emotionally safe environments for the entire workforce. DEI is no longer a box to be checked off. I believe that only companies that truly embrace DEI will succeed and create a roadmap for future success. Our times demand that DEI is authentic! 

My community, like many others, needs to be heard, valued and respected to feel safe at work:

• 53% of LGBTQ+ workers report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while.

• 46% of LGBTQ+ workers said they were closeted at work. 50% on non-LGBTQ workers report that there are no employees at their company who are open about being LGBTQ.

• 1-in-5 LGBTQ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner.

• 31% of LGBTQ workers say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work .

• The top reason LGBTQ workers don’t report negative comments they hear about LGBTQ people to a supervisor or human resources? They don’t think anything would be done about it — and they don’t want to hurt their relationships with coworkers.

How do we achieve true emotional safety for an entire company workforce? Well, first it has to be a company value, not a box to be checked off. Then the question becomes how do you put that value into action. 

My deep belief and lived experience is that the best way is through the path of least resistance. As a species we humans are storytellers. We love to share our stories and we remember stories.  When we are heard we are more likely to listen to others.  Stories are our power!

Storytelling is not only important to connect us and develop stronger teams but it is also a key component of any business.  When I was an executive, a big part of my job was developing and presenting ideas. I presented often. Essentially a presentation is storytelling to get approval for an idea and a budget.  

Storytelling brings people with you on your journey. They become invested and want to be a part of the adventure and help get you to your desired outcome.  Most of us want to help others and want to see others succeed and it’s even better when their success can be our success as well.

The most recognizable example of the power of storytelling in business is TED TALKS. The talks show us the importance of communication.  It is also important how we communicate and communication is not the same in all aspects of the professional structure.  We are multi- dimensional and our communication needs to be as well.

Ted Talks teach us because  “TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”  In other words Ted Talks believe in diversity AND storytelling.

Psychology Today has this to say in “The Psychological Power of Storytelling.”

  • Stories provide order. Humans seek certainty and narrative structure is familiar, predictable, and comforting. Within the context of the story arc, we can withstand intense emotions because we know that resolution follows the conflict. We can experience it with a safety net.
  • Stories are how we are wired. Stores take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses.
  • Stories are the pathway to engaging our right brain and triggering our imagination. By engaging our imagination, we become participants in the narrative. We can step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others. Through imagination, we tap into creativity that is the foundation of innovation, self-discovery, and change.

It’s my deeply held belief that the most natural, powerful and effective way to foster workplace compassion, empathy and understanding is through the superpower of storytelling. This understanding leads to an environment where employees show up without fear of being their true selves, which in turn increases retention, engagement, productivity and innovation which all contribute to increased revenue.  Empathy is one of today’s most powerful team building tools. 

Businesses today have more complexities to manage than ever before.  Many of those complexities  are completely out of your control, like tariffs, supply chain shortages and pandemics, but there are things that are in your power to control.  

You can control your workplace culture. You can ensure you provide a physically and emotionally safe workplace for ALL employees. You have the power to control how your company treats the people within and influence how they treat one another.  You can lead on this topic or you can follow but you cannot ignore it or you won’t have a company left to run.  DEI is a reality of a successful business. The path of least resistance to authentic DEI is storytelling.

Story Sharing + Understanding & Empathy= Emotionally Safe Workplaces

It’s (Past) Time for Queer Allies to Come Out!

As published in the Des Moines Register on 08/12/2021

I am a gay man, identify as gay and use the word Queer when talking about my community because it is the most inclusive word.

If you are straight, you don’t have to know me. You could exclude me from your social group, you could refuse to hire me or keep me in the closet at work. You could not invite me to family functions to ensure no one is uncomfortable. All of these things are simple to do and unless you told someone, they would never know or even think about it.

5.6% of U.S. adults identify as Queer. An average of 55% of heterosexual adults identify themselves as allies, yet Queer people are nearly four times as likely to be victims of violent crimes than the straight community. I am far from good with numbers but I don’t think this adds up.

If we are so aligned and evolved why do more than 1.8 million Queer youths in the US seriously consider suicide each year? Why do Queer teens make up 40% of the homeless youth population? Why do one in five Queer adult workers report being told they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner? Why is leadership apathy the top reason Queer professionals don’t report negative workplace comments about Queer people?

I sincerely believe it is because the Queer community’s straight allies do not know. I refuse to believe straight allies don’t care and are just giving lip service to the issue. I truly believe this compassionate population wants to do right by their Queer loved ones but simply do not fully realize the challenges those loved ones face or how to actually help. They don’t realize that loving someone who is Queer is not enough. The love and acceptance our allies give is great, necessary and appreciated but it is just the beginning. Many allies view it as the end.

Like it or not, this country is fighting a cultural war. The lens I l see it through is the Queer/Straight relationship because my life journey has given me a unique perspective of this country and its people. I grew up in rural Iowa, attended Iowa State, and lived all around the Midwest and on both coasts. I am proud to say I have friends who range from those who identify as redneck to identifying as woke and everywhere in between.

I strongly believe the Queer community has more allies than not, that there are more good people than bad, but right now the bad people are better organized and louder.

If you are a straight ally to the Queer community, it’s time for you to come OUT. You can no longer be passive. You are either ACTIVELY HOMOPHOBIC, PASSIVELY HOMOPHOBIC or FIGHTING HOMOPHOBIA.

It is not incredibly complex and the choice is yours.

My friend Phil

As Published in Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine 08/10/2021

As Founder of Bursting Through, I’m on a mission to recycle hate into love through storytelling, activism, and the celebration of Queer/Straight relationships. Nothing exemplifies this more than this story of friendship called, My Friend Phil.

I recently reached out to Phil and asked that he share some memories and perspectives from our growing up years.  I imagined this exchange would be powerful, but what I got back was really eye opening and effected me in a way I hadn’t expected.

Phil and I grew up in rural Iowa, graduating from High School  in 1986.  Phil was a country kid and I was a town kid.  To those who don’t know about rural communities that might seem like the same thing, but they are worlds apart.  The kids that lived in a certain part of Audubon County went to elementary school in a little town called Gray.  In 1980 the population of Gray was 108 and the population of Audubon was 2,841.  By comparison Audubon was a metropolis a long 13 miles down highway 71.

In the seventh grade, the Gray kids came to Audubon for junior high and high school.That sucked for everyone because no seventh grader wants change, but it sucked particularly badly for the Gray kids. By all accounts they were considered new students even though they had come from a school just up the road.  

I remember that year sucking for me because at that point I was feeling pretty friendless in the boy category. During that summer a lot of the boys, most notably the one I considered my best friend, had decided for whatever reason we were no longer friends. I thought maybe I could snag some new friends from the Gray boys or at least feel less alone.

Meanwhile Phil was going through something very similar. He shared,“I had a best friend kindergarten-sixth, but we had a falling out before seventh grade. I was a little guy who got good grades and didnt fight back (mostly because of the fear of my dad at the time) so I was a good target. I hated school, and I dont remember much from those days.”

In hindsight Phil and I had more in common than I could have imagined.

Phil and I were never friends in or out of school, not enemies, just people existing in the same, but very different space. Phil was active in FFA (Future Farmers of America) and Ag classes. I was active in Swing Choir, Model UN and tennis so our paths did not cross a lot. Our school life was very different on the outside but on the inside, we were on parallel paths.

Like many kids, Phil was bullied. He told me, “I started drinking between 8th and 9th grade. That quickly became my solution. High school was the same as junior high for me. I was bullied most of the time, especially in Ag Class. I was just trying to survive the week back then, so I could drink on Friday and Saturday. The bullying centered around my grades, and I was accused of doing favorsfor our Ag teacher in return for good grades. I think I hated gay people, because in some twisted way I thought it would prove that I wasnt. The other obvious issue was my Catholic upbringing. I thought I might be going to hell, but I KNEW you gay guys were!  I didnt like you then, because someone told me you were gay. I know now it was wrong, but at the time it made sense.”

Like Phil, I was drunk a lot of high school. Drinking was also my solution to survive high school bullying and being labeled a fag. The BIG difference is that I knew on some level that I was different and being labeled the fag was hurtful but true on some level that I hadn’t yet discovered. On the other hand, Phil was labeled the fag but he wasn’t. Logically,  he was going to hate gay people and especially me. Given the same circumstances and the high school brain, I doubt I would have thought much differently.

Phil told me his drinking escalated through high school, and he stopped caring so much what people thought. He dated quite a bit, and was always trying to ‘“go as far as he could” to prove he wasn’t gay. He also believes drinking saved his life and thinks he would have committed suicide had it not been for alcohol numbing his pain. He emphasized that he hated gay people, even though he didn’t really know any.

I found another chilling parallel, not the dating a lot or hating gay people but in the alcohol. I’m not sure I would have survived without beer and road trips.

Fortunately Phil got sober but his sobriety came with a tragic twist and then, transformation. He shared, “I got sober the summer after I graduated, and was befriended by an older member of the twelve-step program I became involved in. He was upper 30s and I was 18. I trusted him, and he asked me to go to St. Louis with him on vacation. Long story short, he tried unsuccessfully to seduce me on that trip. I came home with a VERY strong hatred of him and all gay people. I thought they were all the same. . . . A few years later – when I was attending Iowa State- my mom called me and asked if I remembered him. I told her I did, and felt the hate return. She told me he had committed suicide. That experience, and getting to know gay people in Ames, helped change my thinking. I have many gay friends, and a few trans friends also. As always happens, my friendships removed my hate and I thank God for that.” 

Today, when I think about recycling hate into love, I think about Phil. For my 50th birthday I hosted a benefit for The Matthew Shepard Foundation called “Skate Against Hate.”  When I announced the event, Phil was the first person to reach out and make a donation. He and his wife attended and this is when I can say I met my friend Phil for the first time and my life has been better for it. (It turns out his wife is a really good roller skater and she totally owned the rink.)  

Phil is an awesome human being and an amazing example of not only recycling hate into love but of  living the Bursting Through values of change, courage and compassion.  

 I want to leave you with these words from my friend Phil.

I know today that Im not gay, and I also know that its not wrong to be gay. One of my favorite sayings is Different isnt wrong and change isnt bad. Some of my change in attitude was due to guilt over my friends suicide. I cant help but think that, if I had simply told him I wasnt gay instead of pushing him off my island, then maybe hed be alive today. I know I probably didnt have that power, but I cant help but wonder.”

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.