Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Less Than..."

Me and my Mom - 1941 (little did she know the challenges I would present to her later in life)

For most of my life I have been made to feel "Less than...."  By that I mean, "Not as good as everyone else, you're defective, you're ill."  That was the message imprinted in my mind from my earliest memory.  Some of that negativity was from my father who didn't want children.  I always felt my brothers and I were a burden to him, a drag on his freewheeling ways.  You see Dad was quite the ladies man and the responsibilities of housing, feeding and giving attention to three young boys, each a year apart wasn't his first priority.  But I digress (every time I mention my father in a blog I go off on another tangent).


Me and "Pop", back when I was a novelty to him - 1941
I always envied kids who would ride on their father's shoulders - I never thought I did but this picture proves me wrong, it's just that I was too young to remember it

No, what this posting is about is that from my earliest memory I knew I was "different."  What exactly, I didn't know at that time but I do know that the year before I started first grade (when I was four years old), I knew I got a special thrill when one of my uncles would wink at me or be kind to me or pay attention to me.  Maybe it was because my father never did.  I never have quite figured that one out but I know that at that age it had nothing to do with sex.  I didn't even know about sex (at four years old?)  And just to get the record clear, I was never sexually abused or even close to anything sexual when I was a young child.  The "sex part" didn't happen until I was 20 years old.  Yes folks, I was a Late Bloomer.  

Me at 20 years old - dumb as s__t - 1962

But I do know that special feeling I got when a man was friendly to me.  I didn't feel "less than."  Of course I had my favorite aunts but I didn't have that same "feeling with them."  

I feel I'm getting off the subject of "less than" again.  This is what happens sometimes when I start one of my blog postings, I go off in another tangent.  

The reason I bring up the subject of "Less than..." was the feeling I had when I was in Wilmington earlier this week during Governor Markell's announcement to propose legislation to make marriage equality a reality in the state of Delaware.  Standing in Freedom Square during that windy day (almost got blown over more than  few times holding that giant rainbow flag), I definitely didn't feel "less than."  To have the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general of the state of Delaware take the time to announce they support legislation to have gay citizens of the state of Delaware have the ability to get married and thus have the same dignity and protections accorded to other Americans made me realize that I am no longer "less than."  

Me in Wilmington Thursday holding the rainbow flag and trying not to get blown over - if my Mother could see me now I wonder what she would think

My Mother died in September 2010.  She knew I was gay, I came out to her in 1964.  She didn't take this news well at first (hardly, she wanted to send me to a mental hospital to "cure"me) but in time she eventually came to terms with the reality of who I was.  I don't think she ever quite accepted that reality but I was her #1 Son (the way she always referred to me and the way I always signed my cards and letters to her) that was that.  However, whenever I bought up or told her something about my "gay life", she would go silent.  Her eyes would get that sad look like she did something wrong in raising me.  It is a shame but I think to this day that even my own Mother probably thought of me as "less than."  

Me with my Mom at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, PA -  2001

The past week I've posted a blog about my attendance at the Wilmington announcement and pictures on my Facebook page of me holding the rainbow flag.  I find it very interesting the "loudness" of the silence that I have received from many of my relatives and friends, most of whom are of the conservative persuasion. As I've said many times before in this blog, most of my friends and relatives have conservative political views, including my two dear younger brothers who love me to death (I think).  I understand where they are coming from.  They have their sincere beliefs, especially when it comes to their Bibles.  I respect them and their beliefs but I would hope that some day they would realize that I am not "less than" because that is exactly the message they are sending to me by their silence. 

Tipton brothers Isaac, Ron and John

20 comments:

  1. The thing is that you've created your own family, with Bill and every friend you've ever had who loved and accepted you unconditionally. So, if your biological family considers you 'less than' I would consider it their loss.
    I was lucky in that my family was almost instantly accepting, as were my friends who didn't know--with the exception of a few. I think if I ver felt my biological family treated me as 'less then' then i would simply have closed that door.
    But you stayed with them, and you kept living your live the way you wanted and that's a great thing.

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    1. That's right Bob, I have created my own family but ironically even Bill isn't completely on board. He was (and still is) very upset that I went public this week with the event in Wilmington. They wanted him to be there (as the other half of this 49 year relationship) but he would have none of it. We had quite a row about it. I hurt him when I accused him of "being afraid". He is afraid and he knows it. He can't get out of his system living a life of a lie worried about "what the neighbors would think" if they knew he was gay. I just cannot get him past that point.
      Believe me Bob, I am tempted to "close that door" on my relatives who do the bible judgmental thing with me, they know better now because I have confronted them on it including both of my brothers. Now it is a situation of some things are just not talked about. But as I said in my blog, whenever I am involved in one of these situations where I publicly support equality, Bill and most of the rest of my family go running for cover. I hate to say it, but that is the status of my life now and will probably always will be until they die. I've often dreamed of what my life would have been like living with a man who wasn't ashamed of being gay. What hurts is that sometimes I think he's ashamed of me because I am gay and he "really isn't gay." But I love him and he loves me and this is the compromise I've made with my life.

      Ron

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    2. That's got to be a tough situation with Bill, but you have to do what you think best. Sheesh, if by your own part in the marriage equality debate it became legal in Delaware, think of how life with Bill might change.
      Mr and Mr!
      Love that!

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    3. Bob,

      It is a very tough situation for Bill. He comes from a different generation than I do and thinks differently about living life openly as a gay man. He's always felt safe with me. In a way I think he feels I betrayed him by being public this week but I could do no less. We do have a long term committed relationship which will be 49 years old this July. I was asked to help with the marriage equality effort in Delaware and I have to do it, regardless of how much Bill wants to remain private. I am doing what I know is best and I think he knows that deep in his heart but it is just so hard for him to overcome his lifetime of hiding. He is afraid. I'm not. I may be foolish (which he often says I am) or brave. I'll let others decided. But this one thing I do know, I know I am right and I have to follow my heart and do the right thing. If marriage equality is successful in Delaware it is just another card falling in the house of cards that is the national fear of same sex marriages. Maybe Delaware can be the card that tips the scale. Just maybe. That's why I have to do this.

      Ron

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  2. families suck; I know cause I have one.

    you should be proud of yourself for speaking out. now if france and uruguay could legislate same-sex marriage this week, why can't we? oh yeah, people like your brothers...and others in this country that are not forward-thinkers. it WILL happen; keep your eyes on the prize!

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    1. Anne Marie,

      As my late departed distant cousin Charles Tipton used to say (and he was a big time homophobe as well as a racist) "You can pick your nose but you can't pick your relatives." We all make compromises in life. They are my relatives and Bill is my partner/spouse/husband or whatever. He doesn't like being out as a gay man but he does love me like no one else ever has or ever will. I know that and that's why I made my bargain with the devil and continue to live with him. And yes, I continue to keep my eye on the prize which is equality for all, gay or straight!

      Ron

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  3. Sometimes it takes nearly an entire lifetime to shed the burden of "feeling less than.....".
    Standing in the wind with the rainbow flag must have generated a true sense of liberation.

    I can always identify with so many of the things that you write about. My father was extremely abusive - physically and mentally - but thank God there was never any sexual abuse. I had my first sexual experience when I was twenty (and it was non-stop ever since).

    The love of my life, Greg (who is now deceased) had a mother who believed homosexuality was a mental illness. One time she had the police break down his bedroom door and they dragged him off to a mental hospital. Ironically, Greg is now dead and his mother is still alive at 90.

    Thankfully my Mom wasn't like that.
    I'm rambling, as usual, but your post inspired a surge of memories.

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    1. Jon,

      We have a lot in common, you and I (except perhaps for those political views but that's a small matter). You're right, it does take a lifetime to shed the burden of"feeling less than...." And yes, standing in the wind with the rainbow flag in public provided me with a true sense of liberation, a sense that I rarely experienced in my life having to hide and duck most of my life as a gay man for fear of physical retribution, loss of job and loss of respect.

      Another thing we have in common, my first sexual experience was also when I was 20 years old, except it hasn't been non-stop ever since. I peaked out at 37 years old. The last 30 or more years have been pretty tame in these parts and that's just fine with me. Occasionally I met someone who "stirs the juices" but it rarely goes farther than that (thank goodness).

      My Mother also considered homosexuality a mental illness and when I came out to her she had my father and two brothers try to take me to the hospital by force (I fought them off, big dramatic scene right outside my apartment door_). She finally came to terms with my homosexuality somewhat but never completely considered me full. One thing is for certain, she sure wasn't proud that I was gay.

      This has been a rough week because Bill went off the deep end when I asked him to attend that announcement in Wilmington. We're the poster children for a long term relationship but Bill is still in the closet. He just cannot come to terms with being publicly identified as being gay. But we love one another and in spite of this problem he has we will always be together. He is the only man I truly care for in this world and he feels the same way about me. LIfe is complicated, but then no one said it would be easy.

      Ron

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  4. marriage equality is even more important because of a society that STILL makes bill feel as though he has to hide his relationship. he is of a time when these things were not discussed, unless it was with fear and loathing, and i don't know if that is something that can be shaken off, ever. also, bill is not "out in the world" as much as you are, so he may not be aware of the changes in society. but no matter. you are waving the flag and getting to feel what heterosexuals have taken for granted their whole lives: that you belong on the planet.

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    1. Tony,

      You understand about Bill. He is of a time when these things were not discussed. He just cannot get past that way of thinking. If I try and push him too far, he feels that I am betraying him. He says "Let someone else do it! Why should it be you?" But you know what Tony, sometimes history pushes us into something we have never planned for. I just could not live with myself if I didn't do what I'm doing now by promoting the idea that a long term relationship between two men is possible and fairly commonplace. The against marriage equality don't believe this. I have to put a face to the fact that same sex couples are just like heterosexual couples; some stay together a long time, some not. We all desire the same thing, to find someone we can love and who loves us in return and who we can live out our lives with. Unfortunately Bill has this baggage of self-hate and fear that I don't think he will ever be able to get rid of. It's a shame but there it is. I deal with it as best I can.

      By the way, it is a NICE FEELING to feel what heterosexuals have taken granted their whole lives. What perplexes me now is that so many of my straight friends are so silent about my "coming out". Maybe it's nothing but I think they really are in a quandary as to how to approach me. They know me well enough to know that if they do condemn me then they are out of my life. I can tolerate (there's that word again that is so often used against us in a patronizing way) their views about marriage and sex but I will not tolerate them telling me how to live my life of condemning me. One thing that really get me is when they say "I'll pray for you." Ever since I started to respond with "Yeah, I'll PRAY for you too." they have stopped with that condescending cliche.

      LIfe is complicated isn't it Tony but I know what I am doing is right and I know they're wrong. I've always known that.

      Ron

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  5. Wonderful post, Ron. I've felt the "less than" more than once, and I am so glad that it seems the tide might be turning, at least civilly. I don't know that we'll ever change some people's opinions and stereotypes, and bigotry. My family doesn't know that I'm gay (or maybe they do). I might tell them one day and make it official. I do know that the friends who know simply don't care, and many of these are people who knew me as a VERY STRAIGHT man for, in some cases, 15 or more years!

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post, Ron.
    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,

      You gotta come out to your family. They probably already know. Don't feel alone though, Bill never came out to his mother nor my best friend Bob M. came out to his mother. Both were afraid they would be rejected. A groundless fear. I did come out to my Mother and she didn't take it well. In fact she never did quite accept me as fully whole but there it is. I wanted her to accept me as I was and not lie to her, which is what I was doing when she caught me with another man. That's when I decided to come out to everybody in my life. Sure, I lost a lot of friends (forever) and was shunned by certain relatives but you know what? If they couldn't accept me for who I was/am, then I didn't want them as friends or relatives. Each person has to choose their own path. This was the path I chose. I hope you are as fortunate.

      Ron

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    2. "If they couldn't accept me for who I was/am, then I didn't want them as friends or relatives." - THIS! this notion has cost me relatives/so-called friends. so what; screw them; my life is better without them! it took 4 years of therapy to learn this.

      the entire bloggerpalooza team is behind you on this chapter in your life! :)

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    3. Anne Marie,

      That is the same way I felt/feel. If they can't accept the real me, then they're not my friends. And I don't want to hear this "I'll pray for you crap", so condescending and patronizing. I tell them to take care of their own lives and I'll take care of mine. I never look back when I lose any of these "friends." Never.

      Ron

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  6. I spend a great deal of my professional life trying to get people to believe no more in the 'less than' that were thrust upon them.
    I continue on and on.

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    1. Dr. Spo,

      Ironically when I am around you I do feel "less than." That is no reflection on you though. It's all me. Just when I think I've overcome my ingrained insecurities and self-esteem issues, I meet someone like you and I do feel so inadequate which I find ironic because you're in the business of trying to get people to believe "no more in the 'less than'. I'm working on it Dr. Spo, I'm working on it. :) Did I make any sense here?

      Ron

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  7. All I can say is, go easy on Bill. His life experiences has made him the way he is, and he should not be made to feel that he needs to change at this point. Don't have any rows with him, or even discuss it with him if it makes him uncomfortable. He knows your position, and he will tolerate your position because he loves you. As well, tolerate his position, because you love him.

    David

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    1. David,

      Well said. That is exactly what I am doing. I gave him space. Now he has said he will accompany me once I assured him that he would not be in the spotlight. I know this is very hard for him and I respect that. Me? I'm fearless but then I wasn't brought up in the generation that Bill was. He does know my position and does tolerate it. He hasn't said for me not to do it, which he knows I would go ahead anyway. We each respect each other's opinions, that's probably one reason we've made our relationship work all these years, not that there hasn't been a few "bumps" (to put it mildly) along the way.

      Thanks for your comment David, it is good advice.

      Ron

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  8. For many years I felt "less than" too. For me it had to do with knowing I could never live up to the standards and dreams of my parents (marriage, children, etc.). Later it has been our government telling me and other GLBT folks we are "less than" by denying our rights to marriage equality.

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    1. Mark,

      For me it was so unusual to read you referring to yourself as "less than." Of all the people I know you are one of those who are definitely "more than." Good-looking, talented, smart, kind, hard-working, etc, etc. My goodness, how can any parent not be proud of you? I feel privileged to call you my friend.

      Ron

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