Pride

     June is the "Month of Pride" so I decided I should take a good look at my life and see if there was anything that I could say I was proud of.  What I found was a bit overwhelming.
     First, I am proud of where I came from.  I was raised in a not too wealthy household, my parents both worked and bills were sometimes hard for them to pay.  Still, I had what I needed to grow.  I had three meals a day, all home made and nutritious.  I had clothes on my back (sometimes "hand-me-downs" or from the local K-Mart and almost never fashionable) and a warm bed to sleep in.  And most of all, I had a loving family that encouraged me, praised me when I deserved it and punished me when I deserved that too.  I had parents that taught me right from wrong and did not judge me when I screwed up.  They helped me to grow into an adult with good morals and values and the ability not to force my beliefs onto others.  They taught me to have a strong will and that not being a sports jock was okay.  They offered me the choice to learn music and science and they allowed me to have my menagerie of animals.  And they were proud of who I grew to be.   All in all, they made me the proud man I am today.
    Second, I am proud of my relationship with my loving and supportive husband, Jim.  Sometimes I am amazed at the fact that we have been together for 29 years and I know that often I take him for granted.  Jim stood by my side through some really tough times and has always supported me in every way.  I grew up with a dream of a "Prince Charming" and I found one in Jim.  He rode in on a "dark and stormy night" and swept me off my feet to a life of love and commitment.  When I nearly died, he was there to give me the strength to fight for life.  And with my AIDS diagnosis, he never thought of leaving my side.  In fact, we became closer and more supportive of each other.  I am so proud of our path so far and look forward to the next 30 years together.
     Third, I am proud of the family and friends who constantly offer their love and support.  I have been so very lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life who do not judge me and who are there for me when I need them.
     Lastly, I am a proud gay man.  (There, I said it!)  I grew up feeling alone, like I was the only one, afraid and not wanting to be myself.  Then I realized that I needed to be exactly the person I was, in every way.  I am proud of the work I have done to further marriage equality and overall acceptance of the GLBTQ community.  I am also very proud of the work I have done with regards to ending the spread of HIV.  Speaking to classes of teen-agers and not being the shy and introverted person I usually am is really something to be proud of.  And I am especially proud of those people who have helped me with these causes. 
     Most of all, I am proud that I am no longer afraid to be who and what I am. A person who can stand and say with extreme PRIDE, "I am a married gay man who is also a long term survivor of AIDS!"  And I am who I am because of all those who came before me and all those who helped me along the way. 


  Happy Pride to one and all!

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