When people ask me, what is special about my life, I point them to this paper, and the Express Gay News before it.
We are all on this planet for a short time, and if we are lucky, we find a niche that makes a notch, for ourselves and our community.
Publishing a community newspaper celebrates not just your own deeds but documents the lives and loves of others; their losses and their victories, their successes and their failures.
Each year, this paper selects 50 people from all walks of lives who illuminate and illustrate the diversity and the depth of the LGBTQ community.
Each year we find ourselves paring down the names and excluding more than we can include.
However, each year the list grows. So now I stand here as publisher of our community’s leading vehicle of gay news with a special sense of pride and purpose.
I look at the list of those selected over the past five years and I realize that this paper has given light to so many others, individuals who otherwise may never have made a headline, been acknowledged for their achievements, or celebrated for their successes.
As I do each year, I congratulate the honorees, reminding everyone else your name can be on this list next month or next year. The selectees do not come out of thin air. They come from a broad base of nominees proposed by a cross section of community leaders at every level.
The OUT50 does not come from some magical list created by Norm Kent. As a matter of fact, while I might have been influential in naming 80 percent of our choices in our first, today I barely know 20 percent of our selections. We wait to hear from you.
Now in year 9 —God knows how —SFGN has now published over 400 issues, 52 weeks a year for over 8 years. And now we are online daily at www.sfgn.com. We drop the paper off at over 375 physical locations in four counties. For better or worse, your work and your deeds become our voice. Of that, I am very proud, even though some of our history is not always so. That is just the way the chips fall.
What a lot of community leaders do not understand is that our duty is not to only be a cheerleader for our achievements but we are a newspaper first and foremost. Like it or not, we give life to our warts and wounds as well as our wins. We are not here just to pat your back and please you. Steal from a charity and you will find that out soon enough.
Gay life has changed in this community over these past decades. We have stood up to disease and discrimination. We have gone from being outcasts to just being out. We have made a difference in our community that you can be proud of. We are now the mayors of this town.
Think about Dean Trantalis for a moment, elected last week as the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, arguably one of the most significant cities on the landscape of southern America —the Venice of America; an epicenter for gay life.
Forty years ago, he helped launch tiny groups of barely a dozen people fighting for human rights ordinances. He helped foster a political organization which fought for the rights of gay people. He not only spoke out against gay discrimination as a rare legal voice, he fought for domestic partnerships and marriage equality. Look where those dreams have taken him.
So, as the older gay man not doing AIDS walks but using walkers, here is my advice. Don’t you dare die wondering. If you have not already, stand up and be yourself. There is not enough time left to live out the future to remain stuck in a lying past. While you are here, open your heart to the hopes and dreams you always sought to pursue. You can’t when you are gone.
50 years ago there was no OUT50. There were closets and electro shock therapy. There was deviancy and denial. There was excommunication and freaks, homosexuals denied their place at the table, not celebrated as chefs and community leaders, but instead demeaned with indignities and kicked into corners. It never should have been that way, but it always was. Why, you ask?
We were too silent, too timid, too afraid to stand up to the status quo. Please though, don’t come out of the closet only to find a new pocket of security where you are approved and accepted for doing what others think is normal and all right. Affirmation? Let it come from within.
Conform not to society’s norm, but your own. Create your own universe. Play your own drum, and like Henry David Thoreau said, march to a different drummer. If you do, you may find those chords on the pages of OUT50 one day, because the lives we try to illuminate are not the ones you were supposed to have led. They are the lives you have made on your own.
You don’t have to be the mayor, you can be the mechanic. You don’t have to be the community leader, you can be the caretaker, the carpenter, the cook or the cookie cutter. You must only be yourself. That makes life matter. Don’t wait for the miracle to come. Be the miracle.
Time is limited and precious. It disappears so swiftly, and can be taken so quickly, you don’t know whether the future will be 20 minutes or 20 years. We are all day to day. So, my message is to beat back the demons, and celebrate the moment; the here and now. You control the day in front of you. Make it count while you still can.