The Adventures of Apartment Life (Quick Update Blog)


I admire the view of the street and the empty grass parking lot. I hear vehicles driving by on the street and the neighborhood children playing outside. I notice the smell of barbecue coming from the neighboring apartment complex. The noise of a siren, coming from the nearby volunteer fire station, disrupts my attention for about thirty seconds. The sound of several passing fire truck sirens soon follows after the station’s winds down from its half minute blast. I attempt to divert my attention to whatever I was doing before that blaring sound interrupted my concentration.

I am surprised that I managed to grow accustomed to those sounds in the almost seven months I have been living in my apartment. As a matter of fact, there are times when they occur in that exact order! I’ve experienced all of those sights and sounds before. I usually thought nothing of them back when I lived with mom and dad. Why do they capture my attention now? I suppose it’s because I am residing in a place that was previously unfamiliar to me. It is a place I will manage to call home until I take up residence elsewhere.

The ability to live independently is essential for someone like me. Let’s face it, we all need our space for varying reasons. Probably the most important reason for my independence is because I know I am a gay man. I could not be more grateful for my parent’s who continue to be loving and supportive of me. Many gay people consider that a luxury simply because their biological families have been everything but that. However, there becomes a time in every gay man’s life when he must go out and explore this essential aspect of who he is as a person.

I would be false to say that apartment living has turned me into a brand new man. However, I can say that it has given me the courage to stop hiding the things that make me who I am. It’s hard for anyone to talk about sexuality when they are in their parent’s house, let alone express it openly. I currently display autographed pictures of Steve Grand flaunting his chiseled physique on my bulletin board. I hope to run off some pictures of my mom, dad, sister and my adorable curly tailed dog named Cinnamon to add to my display.

With that in mind, I know that living on my own comes with its fair share of responsibilities. I now have to keep track of adult things like rent, utility bills and making sure I take out the garbage before it stinks up the whole unit. I also know that I must focus on things like finishing my English degree at community college, finding employment and exploring career opportunities. These are what make independence more rewarding.

 

 

 

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More Reflections On The Shooting At Pulse Nightclub


I still have not fully come to grips with the events at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Those sentiments do not just hold right for the shooting itself. It holds true for how our world has responded to the deaths of 49 innocent people and sending more to hospitals with serious injuries. People like Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, California pastor Roger Jimenez, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have used this tragedy to promote their hateful agenda. We have much farther to go! 

Reading about such self-proclaimed “men of God” have brought me back to a post from back in late April. The post, titled You Should Be More Discreetexpressed strong opposition to those who have insisted on “discreet policing” me by saying that I have should have lived my gay life in secret to avoid offending people who thought that homosexuality is icky. I indicated that it did not just come from loudmouth pastors like Steven Anderson. It came from individuals who claimed to be okay with the truth. Marrying a woman in a big church wedding will never be the ideal life for me. 

Is this going to become a new trend for the future? Will misguided, angry and hateful people with bad intentions look up to the perpetrator as a martyr? Will they try to succeed in following his footsteps? My definition of a perfect world would be a place where the answer to both of those questions is no. Tragically, that is too much to ask. I have watched report after report. Like everyone else, I have one ultimate question that we will never know the real answer. Why would someone commit an act so calculated, violent and hateful? 

For me, the news reports are the worst things about this tragedy. I especially feel this way when I watch interviews with survivors who describe their horrific ordeal in detail. I can only view so many of those before I shiver and cringe after thinking about what would happen if someone were to open fire at any of the local businesses that I frequent. It is one thing to have to worry about such an event reoccurring at my local movie theater or grocery store. It is another thing to have to worry about it in a business that prides itself on being inclusive of the LGBT community. 

The events at Pulse Nightclub were one of the most brutal examples of how real anti-LGBT violence is. How can we LGBT folks overcome the fear of being targeted again? I am sorry to say that I don’t have a definite answer to that question . Even admitting the fact that I am gay runs the potential risk of being harassed, beaten or killed in some places throughout our United States of America. That does not mean I am going to lay in my bed cowering in fear of the things that make me stand out from everyone else. 

I cannot answer the above question by myself. But, I know there is power in numbers. I feel there is one more question that needs to be answered. 

1.) What will it take to introduce and pass legislation which will ensure that violent crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punished to the fullest extent of the law? Pennsylvania is just one of the states without hate crime laws without that specifically include either of those categories.  

http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/06/21/pennsylvania-hate-crime-laws/ 

You can tell that this was not an easy post to write. I don’t think I, or anyone else, will be able to fully process our thoughts about the horrific tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. Like I said, there is power in numbers! We must all work together in reminding our nation that anti-LGBT violence is an epidemic. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Grand “All American Boy” Review


“Homosexuality is anti-American!”

One can expect to hear many variations of that phrase. Bigots insist upon uttering it every time a celebrity or politician comes out of the closet. They say we are trying to promote an agenda. They think that being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender is “anti-American.” Well, singer/songwriter Steve Grand is proving that it is as “All American” as hot dogs, apple pie and baseball. I have written about him many times. However, I finally listened to his first full length album “All American Boy” and I have wanted to write a thought out review. There is so much that I want to say, but I don’t know where to begin. This brought me back to the day I first discovered him back in July of 2013.

Strangely enough, I cannot remember where or how I discovered Steve. However, I will always remember the impact he still continues to have on me. I am trying to figure out where I am truly destined in life. Things are coming slowly. Although, I know that the only way to do that is to find out as much information as I can and go do it. It is easy enough to say “no” in fear of the outcome being less than desirable. This is why I will always cherish “All American Boy.” It has truly exceeded my expectations! Each song has its own character, but they all reflect the passion and authenticity of the Steve Grand who I have truly come to admire. Here, I have decided to highlight some of my favorite tracks.

There is one thing that definitely makes an album worth listening to. It is the occasional presence of tracks with titles that make a new listener question the lyric content, rather than jump out at them immediately. The beautiful ballad “Back to California” is definitely one of those. This is without a doubt the most personal track on the album. The lyrics are about his long-lost best friend from high school and how she always stood by him. Being gay in high school is no picnic for many people who grow up in small towns with mostly Conservative upbringings. Far too often, this negativity is often internalized and imposed on people who have done nothing but live their own lives. Being someone who happens to be gay and diagnosed with high functioning Autism, I truly admire and respect that someone recognizes the importance of friendships.

Like I said earlier, it is important for anyone who dreams of achieving success in this world to find out where they are truly destined. “We Are The Night” has a very different feel. It’s dance like beat reminds me of The Scissor Sisters, while it’s progressive lyrics very much resemble Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.

And we just wanna be free
Is there anything more lovely?
We got our whole lives to love
And tonight we’re as young as we’ll ever be
So don’t you never look back
Today could be our last
And we’ll just live as we are
Unmoved by the darkness we face
Cause we are the night
They’re gonna say we just ain’t right
But we are the night
We are the night

Homophobia will continue to exist throughout our years on this earth. People will continue to bitch and moan every time a celebrity or public figure comes out of the closet. However, the title track “All American Boy” is also one of those tracks that truly defies the societal boundaries of sexual orientation. This video has received a lot of praise, along with negativity from a few angry and potentially misguided gay people. The video is a fantasy about a gay man who expresses undying love for his straight friend, who is already with a woman. Steve’s fantasy ends up becoming a short-lived reality. He and his dream beau rip off their clothes, jump into a pond and kiss. This alone has angered a few of the nasty critics I just mentioned, mainly because of the clear difference between fantasy and reality. Then again, some gay people just don’t like the patriotic theme because many (but not all) “patriotic” Americans are racist and sexist god fearing Christians who think being gay is the spawn of the devil.

Nevertheless, I sense that this video and song was ultimately intended to remind us all that there is nothing wrong with thinking that we are in love with someone, despite the fact that we cannot have them.

“Stay” is a track that I can picture Steve and his band singing around a campfire. A banjo, mandolin and guitars accompany this lighthearted toe tapper. It sends Steve’s future beau a very clear, yet upbeat message.

Stay with me, we don’t never have to leave
You my southern king, we live it for the daydreams
So don’t you laugh—Notre Dame he had his chance
And he’s a good, good man
But there’s some things he just don’t understand
So when my old man’s out of town but a couple days
I think that you should stay
Oh, won’t you stay
Hmmmm

“Soakin’ Wet” is another one of those upbeat pop/rock type songs. I would consider the lyric content to be sexy in nature, without putting so much emphasis on sexual details. I don’t have anything against people who are “unfiltered” in those regards. However, it is nice to see someone who recognizes that being gay goes far beyond the things we do between the sheets.

I got you out on the water, soaking wet
Got that white t-shirt clinging to your chest
Yeah, the sun’s going down, but it ain’t gone yet
We can dry off a little later on
‘Cus we’re having a little too much fun
Being soaking wet, eh, eh
Being soaking wet, eh, oh

“Time” is by far my favorite ballad. As the title suggests, it’s about the quick progression of time and how relationships can suddenly take a turn for the worst. People are not always as charming as they seem. We swoon over their good looks, sense of humor, their money, cars and stylish clothes. They go on and on about how amazing they think they are. We are completely oblivious to who they truly are. They just want to use us for sex, money or anything else they can brag about to the next person they want to stab in the back. While the song was about the painful end of a romantic relationship, I am sure the lyrics are relatable to anyone who knows how it feels to be mistreated by someone who they previously perceived as genuine.

On that note, I do hope that Steve will consider something in the future. Many artists have created music videos that are either slightly or completely different from your typical visual reenactment of the lyrics. The music video for Garth Brook’s “The Dance” is a remarkable example of that. He used it as a tribute to inspirational leaders who have died and pondered what the lyrics would have meant to them. I listen to the chorus of “Lovin’ Again” and notice how it changes from the beginning to the end.

“You just might keep me, you just might keep me, from lovin’, lovin’ again.

Perhaps the cry is coming from someone who is trying to come to terms with more than just a “love gone bad.” For example, his boss could have fired him for being gay and he could be struggling to find a new job and live his life again. Life’s contradicting messages are nearly pushing him to the breaking point. He finally finds the courage to get up and remind himself…

“You won’t keep me, you won’t keep me, from lovin’, lovin’ again.”

All in all, Steve Grand’s debut album “All American Boy” is more than just an authentic display of defiance towards the societal boundaries of sexual orientation. It is a reminder that we must not be afraid of experimenting and seeing where we truly belong. It takes time, patience and confidence to find that, but it is something that we must do if we want to.  achieve true success. Steve epitomizes someone who can truly achieve that!

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My Letter to Steve Grand


I am sure we all know how it feels  when we finally get the chance to meet a person we idolize. Last night, I had the opportunity to meet Steve Grand at Pittsburgh Pridefest. Our meeting was short, but I was so glad I finally had the chance to give him a hug. I did not have the time to say the things I really wanted to say. So, I figured it would be best to say them in writing. Without further due, here are my words to Steve.

Steve,

You, your music and your talent have made an incredible impact on me. I wish I could personally thank you for everything you have done for me. It all started when I watched “Back to California.” It put me on an emotional rollercoaster and I could not figure out why.  It reminded me of my lonely and painful high school journey without that one friend whom I could rely on. I could not hold the tears back. Several minutes later, I finally gave myself a mental slap. It’s almost like God was telling me to get a hold of myself and think it through.

Like many gay youth, my high school journey wasn’t wonderful. I didn’t have friends. I was an awkward, closeted mess of a kid who had no idea how to interact with people. I was picked on and I allowed them to control me and I acted out in return. I was afraid to take risks and put myself out there.

Please understand that crushes, love and romance are very new feelings for me. Life with Asperger’s Syndrome has always made me a loner. The high school social scene considered me the loner who was a “loser.” I was an awkward, uncoördinated kid with zero confidence who walked around with a scowl on his face. My “phases” changed throughout that time. I refrained from talking to anyone for most of those 4 years, and then I became this kid who could not control himself and acted out just for the sake of acting out. I desperately needed a way to handle my pain and that was the only release I could find.

“In the midst of our lives, we must find the magic that makes our soul soar!” I immediately thought about you when I found this journal. I am at an unknown time in my life right now. My previous path did not turn out to be the one for me. Anxiety is overpowering me. I am debating whether college will truly help me discover myself or if I will have to form my path to success, happiness and love. I know that I cannot just sit here. That will not help me accomplish much of anything. So, I have no choice but to apply for a temporary “job.” I need interaction with people, even though it can be frustrating. There were days when it frustrated me to tears. I try my hardest not to let shallowness, judgmentalism, ignorance and hatred kill my confidence. I know that I cannot let it define who I am.

Speaking of which, I know that my differences cannot prevent me from loving a man with my heart and soul. I truly wish my handsome prince charming could be exactly like you. I’m sure this isn’t the first time a fan of yours has admitted to having a crush on you. Let’s face it, your talent, your looks and your incredibly hot body makes you the perfect package. I know eventually that “someday my prince will come.” (thank you, Walt Disney)

As I maneuver the world at large, there are several things I have to keep in mind. For my well being, I have to be very careful with the men I chose to date. Bitchy, brutally frank and shallow gay men are not my concern. I am concerned about those who really do come off as sweet and respectful. They seem to be able to handle homophobia and all the typical prejudices LGBT people are subjected to, so they think high functioning Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) is no match for their confidence. He may claim to appreciate my quirkiness, honesty and articulateness. He could very well be that handsome prince I have dreamed about since I first discovered my love for men. However, he will not act shocked or offended when he discovers that my Autism will always be there. Although your struggles may be different, finding that right person who can love you for yourself and not the singer Steve Grand, I feel that you are with me in my journey of finding true love.

I keep trying to remind myself that I am destined for great and wonderful things in this world. Aside from publishing my first memoir, I want to spend an entire month in the state of California and drive the entire coast. I will be sure to think about you when I finally get the opportunity to do it. It’s funny how one song can cause a person to become so emotional. It reminded me of that time in my life when I felt like I would become a dismal failure. I try to stay positive, even though it is very hard at times. I try not to ask for too much from people I don’t know. However, I do ask this. Please do not forget me! Please keep up the fight and continue to write such amazing and touching songs. Finally, I hope that we will get to meet someday. Please keep and use this journal as a token of my gratitude for you. I know that magic is out there somewhere, but I know in my heart I will find it.

With all of my love, affection and support,

Derek

I truly hope you enjoyed reading this special post. Much love and happiness to all of you, too!

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Being Openly Gay During The Holidays


The tree is lit up and beautifully decorated! Presents have been intricately wrapped! Christmas has returned for another year of festivities! So, why are people so mean and unhappy during this season that is really supposed to be about comfort and joy? Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that can either bring the best or the worst out of many family relationships. Many of our LGBT brothers and sisters who live with deeply religious parents are no stranger to that fact. If the relationship turns to the worst, it can really take a toll on them during the holidays. Whether you have a supportive family or not, we must remember one thing.

 “Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color any situation!”

I remember my elementary school teachers used to display this quote on their classroom walls. These two sentences are important for us all to remember. I suppose we can say that Murphy’s Law of being openly LGBT is that you are bound to experience people who just don’t get it. Attitude can reveal our true colors. I am glad that I have gotten over the whole “coming out” phase. I can remember feeling outraged when YouTube right-wing “prodigy” Caiden Cowger made a viral video called “Obama is making kids gay.”

“Homosexuality… It is a belief. It’s not mandatory in that person! That person is not born that way, no matter what Lady Gaga says. That person is not born that way! It is a decision! You see, it is getting worse where I’m at. I see younger people that is turning to be out to be homosexuals.  Its equal boy and girl both. All of them are turning into homosexuals. We’ve got about thirty, I’d say thirty teenagers in this county that I am at that are homosexuals and it is sickening! It sickens me!” Caiden Cowger “Obama is Making Kids Gay”

It’s obvious that his parents are raising him to believe such ignorance. I remember the plethora of video responses and blogs following this video. Many of them were from the LGBTQUIA community. Others came from political commentators like Bill Maher. The internet is certainly a place where one can spread their own ignorance and find people who agree with them. Let’s face it! We are all guilty of saying ignorant things. This ignorance can not only come from strangers on the internet. It can come face to face with those who supposedly “know” and “love” us.

This begs the question. Should I discuss my sexuality or not? Well, sexuality is a taboo subject for a lot of people. Some people cannot fathom two consenting men or two consenting women “doing what they do” (if you know what I am talking about.) I am certainly convinced that a lot (but not all) of it is overly based upon religious convictions and general ignorance. When it comes to people I interact with on a daily basis, opinions range from Liberal to Conservative. The holidays are not the time for debates about divisive issues. That means that anyone who wishes to proclaim their homophobia must keep one thing in mind. I refuse to conform to people’s perceptions of what is “icky.”  It’s best to make that crystal clear as soon as they start hurling anti gay (or “pro family”) epithets. They are fully convinced their religious deity believes it is an abomination, among the many negative connotations used by the religious right.

We’ve all been forced to resist the temptation to give that judgmental zealot a bloody punch in the face. However, people like Caiden Cowger should remind us of one thing. A bloody punch in the face (or a terroristic threat in the comment section) is the reaction they want. They want to use us to their own advantage. They want to see us get into trouble so they can gloat about it in the end. They want us to feel like failures. (Caiden makes that abundantly clear in his last video complete with an overly dramatic introduction.) The best thing to do about people like this is to walk away and pretend it did not happen. You have to rise above their arrogance. Tell yourself that you are worth more than any person who ever tries to deny that fact! It took me a very long time to tell myself that.

Homophobia from outside the LGBT community often forces us to do one thing that can be very damaging during the holidays. Internalizing our anger and imposing it on innocent people is an unfortunate and under recognized problem. I am a “high functioning” Autistic male who managed to come to terms with my sexuality. There are a lot of things I still have to learn about living in this world as a double minority. I have already learned that my uniqueness does not warrant disrespect towards anyone. I should remind you that disrespect is not always intentional. We’ve all failed to do things we should have done. We have all done things we should not have done. I was that high school kid who always felt left out no matter where I went. People noticed that and they would occasionally take advantage of it. I don’t feel the necessity to elaborate on those experiences now, mainly because it was in the past. However, I urge all LGBT people to include those who may be going through those feelings now. I am asking you to help in lessening the division that exists within our own community. I cannot do this on my own, but I am willing to do it if you are!

Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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“I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” (Part 1)


I have become aware of the topic known as neurodiversity. This particular belief is very controversial in the Autism community. The term “neurodiversity” is the belief that a disorder in the nervous system should be referred to as a normal human difference. Simply put, they are people who strongly oppose the search for a cure. I don’t fully understand what neurodiversity is, and therefore I don’t know what it means to me. With that in mind, my recent blog post was probably the hardest one to write. It was the blog post where I revealed that I know I am a gay man. This one is going to be just as challenging. I now want to share a post on the Wrongplanet.net forums. I asked the users on the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) forum one question that might seem simple  to those in the neurotypical community. 

Can you honestly and truly say “I am proud to be a LGBT Autistic? Why or why not?” 

At first, I thought everybody was going to say  “Duh! What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I love who I am. I was born this way!”  Once people started commenting my predictions changed quickly. Some of them expressed the belief that they feel no shame in their Autism or their sexuality. They have embraced the fact that they are different from the rest of society and they seem to have enough confidence to stand up to people who try to bible thump and convince them to “change” who they are. There are others who do not feel ashamed, but who feel that neither qualities are things to be “proud” of. Surprisingly, my opinion was different from everyone who answered the question so far.

As of now, my stance on this complicated question is half and half. I am sure you can tell that I felt a huge sense of relief when I finally revealed that I know I am a gay man. I say that mainly because I live in a mostly Conservative Pennsylvania town. I have come to the immediate conclusion that people who use a religious text as a method of “changing” my feelings and desires are not real friends. Despite what 14-year-old Caiden Cowger says, I know that I have always been attracted to the male body. I began to notice it during my junior and senior years of high school,  but I knew I was not ready to reveal it to the world. Here is a quote from my earlier post about my former therapist and why I did not trust him.  

His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…”  That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him.

 It might seem shocking to some of you when I say that I am not “proud to be Autistic.” I honestly don’t truly understand why I say that, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I am a gay man who recently came out of the closet. I am only twenty years old, and it has been a little over a year since I graduated from high school. It is a known fact that symptoms of depression and social anxiety are common characteristics in people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and that is true regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with the two conditions. Now that I identify myself as a man who happens to be gay and who happens to be diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, I have to be prepared for the many bumps that I could hit on the road ahead. 

If you are a parent of an LGBT Autistic teen or young adult, I must be honest that I do not know the many answers to your questions. I say that because I am new to the whole gay thing. However, I am sure you know an Asperger’s child will always experience difficulties with socialization. This could have the potential to make me vulnerable to acts of hatred and violence. The tragic death of Matthew Shepard was a grim reminder that there are sick and hateful people out there. It happened  on October 7, 1998. Two men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson drove Matthew to a remote area east of Laramie, a city in Southeastern Wyoming. The two men pistol whipped him multiple times and left him out in the cold for eighteen hours. He breathed his last breath shortly after midnight on October 12, 1998. 

Matthew was tricked into believing that Aaron and Russell were gay. After meeting them at a bar, Aaron agreed to give Matthew a ride home. As soon as they brought him to the remote area outside of town, Aaron said “Guess what? We’re not gay and you just got jacked.”  That was when he started to beat Matthew. The most painful aspect of being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome is that I have to do everything in my power to prevent my social naivety from overtaking my life. The murder of Matthew Shepard was an violent example of the bullying I experienced in high school. As my regular visitors know, bullies would try to convince me into believing they were being kind, then turn around and back-stab me. So, I ask you one question after hearing about tragedies like this. What is there to be “proud” of? I assure you that I will never feel shame in who I am, but I must come up with something that will prevent a tragedy from taking the lives of people in the most vulnerable “minority” groups out there. 

To be continued by next week… 

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