Just over a week ago I visited the Morning Jolt show on SiriusXM OutQ, the nation's first and only 24/7 LGBT radio channel. I had hoped that the host, Larry Flick, would hear the message of peace, understanding, and hope that I broadcast over social media to the gay community and further amplify it to his radio audience, comprised mostly of gay men around the country who are sorely in need of hearing it. Instead, our conversation was more of an on-air feud, one that I think illustrates not only the widening emotional and spiritual gap between gay men of different generations, but also the jarring disrespect with which gay men often publicly treat other gay men.
At the top of the show, Larry introduced me to his listeners and welcomed me to his radio home with intermittent silence and mocking laughter, poking fun at my age (I'm 25) and my taste in movies. I'm not necessarily opposed to a 49-year-old native New Yorker trying to "take the piss out of me," but at the end of the day, I came to talk about personal (and collective) development. Thankfully, he got around to asking why I do what I do, and I said what I always say, which is that while our brilliant and intuitive focus on outward concerns like politics has served the gay community immensely, we have neglected our inner lives in the process. My intent has always been to inspire gays to discover the best in themselves, and so I want to start having discussions about personal issues that affect us, like body image, relationships, and life purpose, in a way that is enlightening and uplifting, not sarcastic or overly eroticized. This inspired Larry to ask me a question that we wasted almost 30 minutes talking about: "What does a 25-year-old know about any of this?"
By the end of the show, Larry had insisted several times that I am too young to know much of anything, let alone teach, and suggested that I stop. It was clear to some listeners that Larry had lost himself. At one point he said, "We are not a community. The sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be.... The only thing we have in common is that we like dick." I believe that gays are a powerful social and spiritual force, and so I disagreed, mentioning studies that have shown the brain structures of gay people to be different from those of straight people. But Larry really wasn't even open to discussion; he said it was my time to be a young person, be quiet, and learn something. He finally said, "I have the bodies of dead people on my shoulders.... I refuse to paint pretty colors on something that's not pretty." Folks on Twitter later wrote that Larry had given me "a condescending lecture," that he was "terribly rude," and that he "doesn't represent older gays." Another Twitter user wrote that he would be "turning that show off for good."
But I wish the gay community would stay tuned in together. I wish we wouldn't allow ourselves to get so embroiled in our own anger and judgement of each other that we are forced to end these discussions early or stop having them altogether.
Perhaps Larry felt I didn't perceive his value or the value of the millions of gay men of our pained past who have experienced firsthand the horrors of the AIDS crisis and homophobia. But I disagree that those of us whose lives have not been touched by the most depraved horrors cannot be of service to those whose lives have, that my generation cannot effect real change simply because we didn't experience the darkest moments of gay history. The fact is, there is not a day that passes that I do not stand in remembrance of the LGBT people whose lives have made it possible for me to live my own. I don't deny our history as a marginalized, downtrodden, and abused group of people, and I don't encourage others to pass it over, either. I simply want to hold a space of peace and hope and joy for our community, and to contribute my voice to a growing chorus of gay people around the world who are less interested in how terrible things have been and more interested in how great they could be.
It's not naïve to think positively about the future. What's naïve is thinking that cynicism, bitterness, and an attachment to the past will manifest a world outside of us that is filled with good news. There are too many teachers of despair and hostility on the planet. We are in desperate need of teachers of joy and hope. It's not enough to eradicate the cancerous elements of hate in our society. We also need to stimulate the forces of healing in ourselves.
Together, we must clarify our intention and affirm that we want love. In all the little ways in which we indulge in gossip, snarky talk, and making jokes about other people, we are beaming a clear intention into the ether, and we mustn't be shocked when that nastiness comes floating back to us. What are we saying about who we are when we deride each other for our appearance, our social status, our gender expression, or our age? What message are we sending to the young queer children around the world when we wallow in the pain of our past, endlessly judge and blame our enemies, and yet are unwilling to generate peace in our own relationships? That future generation is listening with ready ears and watching with peeled eyes, waiting for us to show them how to be. How vain is it for us to want acceptance from the outside world while we refuse to be willing to extend it to ourselves and to each other?
I don't have all the answers, but I am confident that I am asking the right questions. My prayer is that gays everywhere should begin the inward journey, shifting our collective energy en masse, not looking back in anger or forward in fear but inside right now in awareness of all the places in our hearts where we ourselves are holding judgement and unforgiveness, that we might all be more swiftly delivered to the bright future that awaits us.
Listen to the interview below: