Sunday, October 14, 2012

Arizona Good? Hmmm.....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

5:00 AM and having a cup of coffee. The Channel 12 news is on and again, I ask myself why I even bother watching it. Do you ever stop to consider that 90% of the time, the same issues are reported; crimes, politics, food, etc. The stories are always the same, but with a slightly different cast. Anyway, I am certain that some of you must live in places that have things that are a lot more newsworthy than Arizona!
Throughout the course of my blogging, there may be times that I sound as though I detest Arizona with a fire that burns deep down in my belly. If I come across that way, then I am doing very well in expressing my true feelings. Many people would assume that my negative feelings for the state of Arizona stem from the fact that I am imprisoned here. That is not the case, at all.

I was not born or raised in Arizona. When I was a pre-teen, My mom and I decided to relocate from San Francisco because we needed a change. The man who I had come to associate with as my father, Joe, had passed away from a cardio aneurism, and our desire to move, was most definitely a new-start situation. We had considered Charlotte, Miami, Austin, Dallas and then Scottsdale. (Personally, I loved Austin, but Scottsdale worked too.)
It was not long after building a home and enrolling in school that I began to notice things. I discovered that I could not find many ethnic people. I was always looking for Asians, Middle Easterners, Polish, Blacks etc. I was hard pressed. When I did stumble upon a person of different ethnicity,  I would reach out to them only to learn that they did not live there. For the most part, I was surrounded by Caucasians and Mexican Americans. I am not racist in any way, but I admit that I do crave cultural diversity. It was what I was raised with in San Francisco.

To add to that, I was coming to terms with my sexuality and well, you can imagine that coming out as a gay man would be much more acceptable in San Francisco than in Scottsdale. In my mind, the chips were stacked against me but I tried to make it work though.
Scottsdale is one of the most beautiful cities in America. It’s incredibly clean, has lots of grass, cobblestone streets and lots of manicured “McMansions” are to be found everywhere you turn. I usually refer to it as the desert’s Beverly Hills. There were positives. We no longer had horrendous traffic every day and a monster monthly mortgage payment. It was quiet, clean and sunny. I was also able to attend a private school that allowed me to have a horse there. I road Hunters, Jumpers and some Dressage.
 In time though, all of these positives began to fade away as I began to get pulled over by the police all the time. I was never doing anything wrong – so they would say. It was simply to find out where I was headed, what my business was in Scottsdale, and if the vehicle I was driving – was mine. Most people of color that live in Scottsdale are professional NBA or MLB players, or rappers. Sometimes I would wonder if they experienced the same treatment that I did. In any case, because my mom worked at the local emergency room, I began getting her on the phone so she could speak to the officer pulling me over. The likelihood of them knowing one another was high and so, it worked at getting them off my back. Still today though, those experiences leave a very, very bad taste in my mouth.

The gay scene in Arizona is also very interesting, and very different from what I had experienced in San Francisco.

I love my gay people 100%.  It has been my experience though, that there are really two distinct factions in the gay male community. The 1st is completely secure, confident and knows exactly who he is. They are like the average guy, who just happens to be gay. The 2nd type is a bit more exaggerated and wants to be the best gay man that they can be. Their lives revolve around their sexuality. And there is nothing wrong with that. While these two types share many commonalities, they are also very distinctly different. Personally, I love both types for who, and what they are.
Now keeping all of that in mind, consider San Francisco. For those who have not been there, many people believe that the Bay area is full of the 2nd type of gay men.  They are there, but the majority of gay men in San Francisco are in the 1st. So I grew up around mostly gay men who were very secure in themselves. It was commonplace to see two men pushing a stroller down the street, hand in hand  - and that was before the same sex adoption controversy. There was no judgment or issues in the Bay.

In Scottsdale, a lot of the gay men are also in the 1st category – during the day. But at night, when they go out, they begin to fall into the 2nd category. The entire sociology of it is really very intriguing. Anyway, the experience of being gay in Arizona, left me feeling as though I never truly “fit” there. As I look back, I wish I could have accepted the dynamic for what it was, instead of thinking that something was wrong with me.
The degree of comfort and sense of freedom that gay men experience changes dramatically as you travel the world though. In some areas, it is unacceptable to express one’s sexuality in any overt way. In other, more evolved places, it is celebrated and completely embraced. Most gay men simply adapt to their environments and adhere to the level of societal acceptance of them. They willingly adopt the ‘rules’ and do not question the impact upon their civil liberties. My experience as a gay man in prison has completely altered my way of thinking on this topic. I am in an environment where I have zero freedom to express myself openly. On many levels, prison serves up a metaphor to the larger problem of societal acceptance of gays in the world.  For those of you who are struggling for liberties and freedoms, I can only urge you to exercise what rights you do have. Whether you live in San Francisco or Scottsdale or anywhere else in America, you owe it to yourselves to stand up, to stand proud.

Well, it is working its way toward 6:30 AM and I think I am going to go outside and work out this morning. I do not have to be at work until noon. That means that I can work out, call my mom, stop by mail and property, do some laundry and shower – all before going in.

Mom leaves for Boston in the morning and I am so glad. I love to live vicariously through her and she gets to be with Joe, at his home, in our new city!

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