To Where You Are
After school I went onto work for the BC Forest Service, starting a career, coming out as a gay man and getting to Vancouver whenever I could. I became a union and gay rights activist. Steven took up a traveling revival show that landed in parking lots in communities all over BC and Alberta in the 70's preaching fire and brimstone. From there he was married, went to the deepest south of the USA to preach the gospel. Steven and his wife came back to Canada a little disillusioned with the Pentecostal movement and took up running grocery stores. They had three children and soon after the birth of the youngest they split up.
Steven was gay. He moved to Vancouver and made up for lost time and soon was diagnosed with AIDS. During this time I had two relationships with men, each lasting six or seven years, gone onto being an elected union and community leader in small town BC. I traveled to Vancouver often was excited to join in the gay scene there. Luck or fate seemed to protect me as I did much of what Steven had yet I did not contract HIV.
In the early years of Steven becoming HIV positive, he was all over the map emotionally. Told by his doctor he had two years at most. It was a tough time and as he lived beyond the Doctors expectations, Steven came to believe he had a life to live. He turned his anger and self pity into positive energy. Living each day in the present, not the past.
As this was happening with Steven, I was living life as an open gay man, enjoying my siblings and their children. I came to regret that I would never be a father. My nieces and nephews were that more special to me as a result, yet I had this need to have my own children. My partner at the time was not interested and I resigned myself to being an uncle. That said, being called Uncle Rick is pretty sweet.
Steven's and my life collided with a soft beautiful smile. I was in love the second I saw him. I had just moved to Kelowna and was looking to meet other gay men. I heard about a coffee shop that had a "gay friendly night". I wondered in and ordered a coffee and went about to meet people. Most seemed a little shy or stuck up. I was new and I guess they were sizing me up.
I went outside to have a smoke and then the smile that would shake my world was flashed. Steven I discovered was a major tease, though I did not figure that out until much later. He was the first person to speak to me, offering me a chair. I sat down and commenced what would take me six months of dating to get to where I asked him to be with me for the rest of my life.
I choose a bed and breakfast in a small remote town, arranged for a bottle of champagne on ice in the room at 11that evening, for the fire to be started in the fireplace. We went out to enjoy a wonderful meal, a truly romantic evening and were back just after 11.
The fire was crackling, the champagne was waiting to be uncorked and I having spent an entire evening with the man I loved managed to keep my plans secret till now. I just about tossed my plan out the window at dinner. Steven’s smile, our conversation, holding hands, sharing our love, could there be a more wonderful feeling or time.
Steven knew something was up, it was not a regular thing for us to go off on a weekend trip, to treat ourselves so well, see Steven liked to do it but it was hard for him to let someone spoil him so, he went along mostly because I whined lots. His little sly grin when he said okay, Ricky needs this weekend. I directed him to a side chair, he sat down and I knelt before him and asked him if he would be my partner for life. It happened so quick. Steven surprised me with what he said next.
"I may only live another two, three years, I may be very sick for long periods of time, I can’t promise you any more Ricky." I can still hear his words. “Are you sure Ricky?” I said I was very sure. He said, “ Yes Ricky”. Shivers run up my arms now, across my back, tears appear and I wipe them away slowly as I recall this moment. We hugged and the tears came on. Steven told me that night he had just one wish before he died, "I want to love and be loved. I know it has happened.” I had almost forgotten the champagne, I opened it with all the flair of a movie star, poured it into our flutes, I leave the rest to your imagination.
Our life began together like it started, only this time there were two amazing smiles and some tears marrying our souls and bodies, overcome from our love. My new partner Steven was just 6 days younger than I. Something he never let me forget. One day in February shortly after I met him I asked Steven out for a picnic on Okanagan Lake.
He thought I was crazy but he came along. I packed all the stuff down to the snow covered beach, it was sunny and the picnic was warm pasta I made that morning. He laughed and told me I was nuts. But he was there, we laughed, ate, and shared a glass of wine. As were leaving he reminded me of his much younger age. He wasn’t laughing as he carried the bulk of the stuff back to my car with me claiming at my advanced age, we wouldn’t want to take any chances.
Our lives went on, normal as they can be with HIV. We were family. We talked about our past, and it seemed we were at many of the same places at the same time, yet we never met. Fate said Steven, we were meant to find each other. He believed we each had something the other needed in this life. I soon learned how true this was.
I became a Dad! Steven's youngest, Stephanie, came to live with us. We were overjoyed to have her. Stephanie added a new dimension to our love as we shared our lives with her. I now knew what being a Dad is like, being an integral, trusting and reliable part of a young person's developing precious life. Steven gave me one of my greatest desires, to be a father.
Steven's son Mark was a big part of our lives as well, visiting us often. When work took me to Mark's home town Steven's former wife Lynn, and daughter Sarah-Dawn did all they could to make me welcome. My Mom became Steven's Mom, my Dad and his wife Carol became parents, my nieces and nephews called Steven the “Weird Uncle” as he sang all the children's songs and played in the lake with them.
We watched the marriage debate and did our part writing letters, joining rallies, talking to people, in support of the right to marry. We should have the right to join in marriage. We lived as a couple, were recognized as such by family and community, only the government failed to see us as such.
Our life was normal, fulfilling and full of love and then came June 3, 2002.
I rushed Steven to hospital. He was suffering agonizing pain. We had been in to emergency three previous times in the last two months and the pain was becoming worse. That night a cancer specialist was on the AIDS Care team. She suspected cancer right away.
Steven was admitted, in the days ahead we heard Steven might live six months, he had cancer and it was very advanced, beyond treating. It was a cancer I soon learned was 100 times more common in HIV positive people. Six months to live, it was not to be. It became days.
Two days before Steven passed away, before he slipped into a coma, he pulled me close, and gave me that same smile he had when we met. He asked me if I remembered what his one wish was before he died. I nodded yes and he said, "Ricky, I know what it is to love and to know I am loved." Tears and smiles shook our souls and bodies.
Steven passed away in my arms on a sunny Vancouver morning at 8:30, June 9, 2002, in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. I miss him. On July 12, 2002 the Ontario Divisional Court said couples like Steven and I had the right to marry.
Our growing family, two years after Steven passed away...
Sometimes it’s hard to express feelings when you are so close to something. A good friend Cody gave me a CD of a Josh Groban song, "To Where You Are". It says it for me. How can Stephen Harper say we were not a family, that we were less than someone else’s family…
"...Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are..."
from - To Where You Are
That could be the US-Canada border, in my case Pearson International, a fifty dollar cab ride outside of Toronto. I was headed to see friends in North Carolina, the Tar Heel State. I always approach this part of a journey to the United States with some trepidation. One wrong check mark on your declaration, one misspoke word, do I look nervous.
I spoke very respectfully, attempting to smile, to let this man who at this moment held my liberty in his hands, know I knew he held such power. He looked at me briefly, typing into a computer screen all the information I gave him.
What would come up? My last visit to the USA? The last book I bought? Maybe they knew I was gay? They asked where I was staying, who I was meeting, what was the purpose of my visit?
I made a mistake, I had not checked one box. He handed my card back, instructed me to go back and check it and then get back in line. The line was long, I had been in it more than an hour now as we waited for Customs to open.
I walked back a few steps into no man's land, checked the box and stood waiting for some direction, determined not to re-enter the line at its end. I was soon pointed back to the man who had sent me away by a woman that was directing traffic. Finally a break I thought, at least I was being recognised in a somewhat more human manner. He looked at the card, stamped it and sent me on my way, without so much as a "Welcome to the USA" or good bye. I wasn't expecting it. No he didn't even look at me.
My experience was not uncommon, a new study recently said, "... 54 percent of travelers from abroad report that American immigration officials were rude, and two-thirds of travelers surveyed fear they'll be detained at the border because of a simple mistake or misstatement."
I am not sure why it is, why it has always been this way, most Americans like people in any other country I have visited are friendly, welcoming and generally happy to say hello to those visiting. I really was entering a new/time space continuum.
At the international AIDS Conference last August, the Harper Government first scheduled, and then at the last minute postponed, a major announcement on Canada's commitment to international and national AIDS programs.
Four months later we are still waiting. In the meantime thousands of people around the world have died from lack of treatment and thousands more have been infected. Join the AIDS Committee of Ottawa to Speak Out
Tell Harper it's Time to Deliver!
Join us at the Eternal Flame on Parliament Hill
I for one never found them in my bed or any of my friends beds...
what's all the fuss ...
Here I am just outside Charlotte NC and I have no sense of anyone believing the Wal Mart is a friend of the gay boys that still hide in closets here. more on this later today!
Mexico City OKs Civil Unions
by Newscenter Staff
November 9, 2006 - 6:00 pm ET
(Mexico City) Mexico City's assembly on Thursday voted for the first time in the country's history to legally recognize gay civil unions, proving homosexual couples in the country's largest city with benefits similar to those of married couples.
The mayor was expected to sign the measure into law.The bill, which does not approve gay marriage, has been heavily criticized by the Catholic Church and conservative civil groups.The law allows gay couples to voluntarily register their union with civil authorities, granting them inheritance and pension rights and other social benefits.The legislative assembly approved the measure 43-17, with five abstentions, with all of the opponents from the conservative National Action Party of President Vicente Fox and President-elect Felipe Calderon.
The party is known for its opposition to abortion and its support for "traditional" families.
-= The Creative World of Coleman Wheeler =- http://www.angelfire.com/il/adventureclub/commend.html
The recent American mid term election was about George W Bush and Iraq, a war Canada choose not to participate in. Americans had lost faith on the war, in the President and his party. It was not the first time Bush was faced with a tough election.
Prior to the 2004 election the Republicans joined forces with Evangelical Christians to create another enemy closer to home. The President was calling for a Constitutional Amendment to prevent homosexuals from entering into marriages. It would destroy the American Family if homosexuals were allowed to foul the sanctity of marriage. The Republicans already the party of choice for evangelicals consummated their marriage once again.
Petitions were started to to get measures on the ballot to ban gay marriages in State Constitutions. The reason, to get evangelicals out en mass to vote for Republicans and President Bush and a measure on gay marriage was icing on the wedding cake. In the States where votes to ban gay marriage were on the ballot, George W. Bush got extra votes and managed to deflect attention from his administrations failings in Iraq and the War on Terrorism. It was a very clever strategy, if less than ethical.
Bush was re-elected, gays in many States were prevented from going to court to get the right to marry. Bush won, the evangelicals won, America lost 2836 soldiers and thousands injured, some 600,000 Iraqis have dead and no American knows where Osama bin Laden is.
Gay Americans were vilified in order to continue the Republican war. Even as the war on Terrorism was begun, highly skilled linguists, people trained in the languages used in the middle east were dismissed, they were unfit to serve, they were gay. Their dismissal handicapped the American Military severely, they had a shortage of people that could speak, read and understand the languages of those the US was at war with.
Canada while imploring God to keep us glorious and free has gone a different route than George W. Bush. Gays in Canada's military have married in Military chapels with the full support of the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada's largest protestant faith group, the United Church of Canada has accepted gays, lesbians, trans and bisexual people into the ministry, as partners in their faith.
Take the just released United Church advertising campaign. Its catchy and meant to get your attention. Print ads that have a Jesus bobble head doll, whipped cream and two gay guys on a wedding cake.
The contrasts between Canada and the United States couldn't be more clear. Where there exists no formal separation of Church and State in Canada the practice of common law and the Charter of Rights prevent politicians from taking action as George W. Bush and Republicans have.
In fact any Canadian politician outside the province of Alberta would be soundly defeated were he or she an attempt to vilify a segment of Canadian society as American President George W. Bush has. More on Alberta in another blog in the future.
There will be a change in the USA toward more acceptance of Queer communities, it could be five years away or twenty, its up to us and the people elected.
The Democrats recent victory is a step toward a more inclusive America, Its not the answer though. Lots of education, lots of getting to know your neighbour is needed. Voters in Arizona have shown the way, follow it.
The rainbow flag has no white, no surrender.
The rainbow flag from Canuck Attitude
Yet there is hope on the horizon though many people living in the United States could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. A heavy quilt of intolerance has been dropped on top of many seeking equality to be with whom they choose, gay or straight. It will be hard for many in the forseeable future.
One State bucked the trend and that was Arizona where voters voted against a constitional amendment banning gay marriages. This is the first time such an amendment has been defeated. New Jersey legislators have to come up with a Civil Unions bill to provide gay couples with all the same rights enjoyed by married straight couples. Massachusetts already allows gay marriage and Vermont has Civil Unions.
As America gets younger, more bills supporting gay marriage will pass. As the effects on unmarried straights caught in the cross fire are discriminated against, more support will build toward equality.
This is all down the road, lots of heart ache, pain and intolerance to endure until then. We must continue to keep the pressure on, to continue to educate voters. With the election of a Democratic led congress the idea of an amendment to the US Constitution prohibiting gay marriage is gone at least until the next election.
There is an old saying, " Your rights are only as good as the next election". Its time to dig in some more, to advance on our issues, to make equality a personal issue with all those we know, equality comes with electing people that understand you.
Did he have a choice on this, I doubt it. I expect he offered the president his resignation sometime ago and Mr. Gates was in the background just in case the Republicans were stomped in the election. They were stomped and badly.
The prospect of having to set up a rollaway cot on the Hill likely was the writing on the wall for Donald. His fiesty and staunch republican partisanship made him public enemy number one. He was in the Democrats sites. Ironic it is that he choose to shoot himself. I would have thought he could have left that to Republican sharp shooter Dick Cheney.
He may still have some trips to the Hill to answer questions, but this time he will go not as part of Bush's administration but as a wealthy private citizen who made millions while in office as a shareholder in the company that makes the only available "Avian Flu Vaccine".
Now we will wait for the confirmation hearings or will the Republican lame duck Senate just rush this through?
One down many more to go...
WASHINGTON --President Bush said Wednesday Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is stepping down and former CIA Director Robert Gates will take over at the Pentagon and in prosecuting the war in Iraq
They are broken people. They harbour great self hatred, they live a double life even if they never act on their desires. When I as a the gay resource they finally reach out to sees them, they are full of guilt, but can not take the stress of it anymore, of denying who and what they are.
Many of these men have families now, they have a wife, kids. They love their family and know that their situation is going to bring more pain before it gets better. They can not take it anymore. They are breaking down.
Rev Haggard choose to hide but its very likely he did so after hearing what his "christian pastors" told him of himself. I can guess where he came from. I recall sitting in the library of my high school, looking up homosexuality in 1975, I was in grade ten. I found very little there. What I found was a dictionary definition that said I was a pervert. I was a pervert before I had ever had any kind of sex. I was a pervert all alone in the world.
I could not tell anyone I was one of those people. Could you? Could Ted Haggard? I did take another route likely due to the strong family support I found at home. Likely because I was involved as a union activist where I knew I was okay. Likely because my parents did not take me to church.
Soulforce a gay supportive Christian group said this today ...
"Rev. Haggard is just one more tragic example of how lives are destroyed by the lies about gay and lesbian people perpetuated by the NAE, the Religious Right, and both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Church. Taught by the church to hate himself, the only option from his point of view was to lead a psychologically and spiritually damaging double life marked by denial and self-destructive behavior. Rev. Haggard is a victim of religion-based bigotry that regularly demeans and demoralizes gay and lesbian people and refuses to acknowledge that we are part of the American fabric, and that many of us form loving families and practice a deep faith in God."
I was elated to tell you the truth when this was discovered. I knew it would send a blow to the Republican party, the party of closets. Yet I resisted posting on it until now. Rev Haggard was part of the established Christain base of the Republican party. He was part of the goal to politizise religion. He was part of a group of people that was hell bent on passing laws based on Christian faith. He was my enemy.
Ted Haggard Bashing Gays - from JESUS CAMP the Movie
In the days ahead we will see more. We will hear how he is reconcilling with his family and how it had become a key election issue. We may even find out in awhile he has left his family though you can expect there will be lots of repenting and pressure on him before that happens.
Current US laws may deny him unsupervised access to see his kids, deny him custody. His good christian friends like James Dobson of Focus on the Family will turn on him. They will pretend to be heartbroken, to have been deceived. He was a bad apple.
The Republicans are distancing themselves from Rev Haggard. Today he was someone not that involved in conference calls with White House Staff or the President. Its as if he was a nobody that just happened to lead the largest organization of Evangelicals in the country, its hard to find anyone that knew him well.
The land of the free, the live and let live society has another victim, another victim of the US Republican win at all costs war. I know there are Democrats too that would run from this issue. I also know there are Democrats that won't. If you are a gay American, a member of a minority, or you believe every life is precious, every person has a right to be who they are then you have a choice. Support George Bush, James Dobson and Jerry Falwel and get more of the same or vote for the Democrat. That will be moving America in a direction that will be more comfortable in making America the land of the free again.
A straight ahead message for equality this election day.
On On this day in 1986, a "New York Times" editorial argues that society should not panic about AIDS because at this point "it's still overwhelmingly restricted to drug addicts, homosexuals, and Africans."
Below you will see the history of one woman's efforts to expose this fraud, and amazingly enough, nothing has changed. Americans who vote today will likely have their vote counted by software installed in voting machines that the local elections people are not allowed to review, that State elections people are not allowed to review.
In the end it means that Americans have cast their future to the hands of a large corporation, who refuse to disclose how it counts your vote. The company CEO even promised to deliver OHIO to President Bush in 2004, did they? Many people have taken to having their vote cast as absentee. At least then the vote is on paper. Thats a hard one for software to change.
The video's below are broken into about 9 minute pieces, 6 in all.
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 1
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 2
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 3
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 4
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 5
HACKING DEMOCRACY-(HBO) Part 6