Having heard from multiple friends (who are otherwise not remotely engaged politically) in the last 72 hours about the scandalous nature of this, I think this bears hearing in our community. A pause for compassion is needed.
In 7th grade, I fell in love with a girl who got me “saved.” She arranged for a friend, who I never met, to gift me a Bible. I read it two times, then three. It was one of those “Student Life Companion” Bibles that interrupted scripture to tell us what we needed to think… That the AIDS crisis was a form of God’s justice on sinners… That the end times should be welcomed and celebrated… I’ve grown a lot in the 15 years since then.
But I struggled. By day, I was a teachers’ pet thriving in advanced courses at a public school. I had a girlfriend I loved and laid on a trampoline under the stars with. At a certain Cuban Messianic Jewish teacher’s suggestion, I even watched Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. At night, I listened to gay phone dating lines and surfed AOL chat rooms to explore my interests in men. It would be three long painful years before I came out.
If I can grow, so can anyone.
Recently, we all rolled our eyes as former Republican Congressman Aaron Schock finally came out after years of scandal, whispers, and anti-gay press release positions from his offices in my birth state of Illinois.
Today, we Florida Democrats are rocked by the revelation that Friday night, rising Democratic star, rumored veepsakes contender, and near-miss loser of an election by half the population of Lauderhill (32,463 votes) in a state of over 21 million, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was caught sick in the bathroom of a ritzy Miami hotel at 11 p.m. in the company of a man described by the NY Post as a “Rent Boy.”
The first instinct has been to condemn him. Media are hailing the end of the CNN Contributor’s career.
Internet trolls are commenting on the overdose victim (a self-described certified nurse)’s Facebook page with hateful comments like “Disgusting human beings like you don’t deserve to be a live (sic). Do more meth!!”
Pensacola Congressman Matt Gaetz, tweeting from home in self-quarantine, is taunting Gillum for the incident, with the venom and meanness we expect from his hero, President Trump.
I wrote my first “Letter to the Editor” here in SFGN in June last year about the scourge of meth in our community. I have a handful of friends who’ve either struggled to quit meth or who’ve come across it in sexual situations and who’ve become addicts. Some are high-functioning. Others you can see decaying in front of you. It’s a scourge in South Florida, specifically in our gay community, and we need to face it with clear eyes and kindness.
As a man who’s had a journey of my own in life — as a son to a single Mom, as a foster kid moved from home to home, as a Christian grappling with the intersection of faith and identity, as a progressive coming of age in a world where weed is easier to find than a job with healthcare — I say we in the LGBT community should be the first to offer up patience, compassion, and love to these two men who, right now regardless of circumstances, are hurting. We who’ve been called “faggot,” been told to kill ourselves, been cast out of our own families, bullied at school, shunned in our faith communities… We should know how much it means to reach out with love right now.
Andrew’s asked for privacy as he’s home with his FAMU college sweetheart of 11 years, his Kindergarten-aged twin daughters, and 2-year-old son.
Let’s give them the peace any of us would want. Let’s respect his journey, and love those of us facing challenges - whether it’s with alcohol, drugs, or the very identity of who we are.
In the day since I wrote this, Andrew’s committed to checking himself in to a substance abuse facility saying in part, “I witnessed my father suffer from alcoholism and I know the damaging effects it can have when untreated. I also know that alcoholism is often a symptom of deeper struggles. I am committed to doing the personal work to heal fully and show up in the world as a more complete person.”
Let’s all send him warmth on his journey.
Gillum 2018 Canvasser