Open your hearts for Michael and Lee
One of the things I hope to achieve with this column is to help others. So many LGBT people have noted the frustrating lack of support from the community and from the organizations which claim to represent us. Scores of gay bloggers routinely post inflammatory, hurtful rants directed at other LGBT people.
Where then can people turn in their time of need? If you identify as LGBT and suffer from any kind of a mental health issue, you can come here. As a gay man who’s lived with PTSD for the better part of forty years, I hear you. I understand what you're going through.
And that's why I'm asking you to open your hearts to Michael Schwarz and Lee Brister, a gay couple based in South Florida. Lee lives with PTSD. He also has epilepsy, which makes it impossible for him to hold down a job.
Michael and Lee are now living apart. Michael remains in their Florida home, which he owns and where he has a job. Lee moved to Arizona in order to get proper treatment for his illness, which Florida Medicaid does not cover, and which Michael cannot afford to pay for. They're hoping to be reunited in a year.
“It's been extremely difficult,” Michael told me. “We miss each other so much. I couldn't move because I own a house and have a career here in Florida -- there are no jobs available for what I do in Arizona.”
Michael described Lee’s epileptic condition. “Lee has had seizures for years,” he said. “He has been trying for months to get a neurologist, thanks to Florida Medicaid. His psychiatrist made matters worse by constantly upping his medication when they were having no effect.”
Lee’s PTSD, according to Michael, was caused by physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather, a preacher named Brian Andrews. “This man of God abused Lee between the ages of five and six,” Michael said. "Every night, Brian would come into Lee's room and rape him. It got so bad towards the end, Lee took to sleeping in the back of his closet just to hide from Brian.”
After Brian and Lee’s mother split up, the police came to their house to show them a sketch of a man who was wanted for molesting young boys in the area. It was Brian.
Years later, Lee was raped again, this time by a police officer. He attempted suicide, and was in a coma for several weeks. Though he survived, it appears that he suffered brain damage, which led to his epileptic seizures.
Michael and Lee love each other deeply. "We found out that we are almost identical and perfectly match," Michael said. "We both love pagans, dragons and even have the same birthday. We've been inseparable since the first day."
But now they are separated by thousands of miles so Lee can get his medical treatment --Michael says he worked 18 hour days but still fell behind in the bills.
I hope that readers of this column will consider helping Michael and Lee. If they can raise funds to cover Lee's medical expenses then Lee can move back to Florida sooner rather than later. Please think about making a donation to their Go Fund Me page so that Michael and Lee can be reunited in the home where their hearts are:
If we don't stand up for each other, then who will stand up for us?
"I'm Lee's support system and he is my soul," said Michael.