On Pride at 50

My First Pride. 

Forty years ago, my Republican political career was going strong.

Coming off the National Staff of the President Ford Campaign, I’d been managing programs for Young Political Leaders with the Department of State, then building and running a Political Action Committee for a Small Petroleum Refiners Association when I was asked to go to Colorado to run the campaign for a Republican candidate for State office…

I was deep in it and had visions of a powerful, political future in the Party.

Though with the gently relentless and increasing intensity of a festering carbuncle, I was discovering a growing unease within me. Not only was I finding myself uncomfortable with some of the perspectives of colleagues, friends and coworkers with respect to race, class, level of economic status and the Earth…I was also discovering something about myself that I knew I had to keep deeply buried in order to continue sitting at that table.

Dropping off my dates at 11:30 or midnight, then parking my car on dark streets and slipping through dark doorways off nondescript streets and into festive bars and clubs where another entire life was underway – a life of which I’d barely begun to be aware – and discovering the level of comfort and welcome I felt in those places was one of the most threatening experiences I’d had, to date. I had plans for my life that all of this threatened.

It’s a phase; It will pass; I can submerge it;  can ignore it: all delusions I tested and failed to prevail.

So, when the offer came to move to Colorado, away from DC and all the temptation, I took it. 

And there, I met Don; and what had been essentially physical and objective became immediately sensual and emotional. The power of love between like beings, between two men, overwhelmed me and terrified me. 

The year I spent in Denver and Colorado (great stories for other times) showed me, taught me the incredible Lightness of Being true to myself; of recognizing who I truly am and embracing that Truth. This truth, this realization, meant I had to relinquish all I had thought lay before me and seek a new path and a new life.

Politics was out. I sought and interviewed for work in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York and came to San Francisco to visit a former love of mine from years previous, Sue. Sitting in a cafe on Pier 39, I came out to her. In that conversation, we re-bonded and caught up; and she asked me where I was going to live. I shared the frustration of trying to work that out and where I’d looked and the jobs for which I’d interviewed and…she put her hand on my knee and looked out the window…

The sun was shining bright on the Bay, I remember no clouds in the sky as sailboats and sailboards were whipping past, gulls flying overhead, happy people laughing here in the cafe… Sue looked at me with a “…seriously, what are you thinking?” look on her face and the decision was made.

On April 15th, 1979, I crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco in a U-Drive-It and moved me and a few suitcases into the basement of Sue and her husband; and started doing temp jobs.

In no time, it was June and Pride in San Francisco. I didn’t really know anyone, yet, and though I could maybe meet some people and get involved by becoming a Monitor for the Gay Freedom Day Parade. So, I did. 

Being Gay in Broad Daylight is far different than being in a dark bar or festive nightclub, or even sitting quietly in a cafe. Being GIBD means that there are A LOT of other people around. 

So. There I was, at the corner of Spear and Market Street, with the Hyatt Regency on my right and market street stretching up the hill toward the Castro, flanked with thousand of people; six, seven, twelve deep on either side. 

Wearing my Monitor’s sash, I was clearly A Part of It. Gay…. Gay, gay, gay. No hiding. Public. 

The day was heavily overcast, a cool-ish grey with not much of a breeze and it was time for the parade to begin. Everyone was happy and smiling as things rolled toward the start; then there it was…Time.

About eight million Dykes on Bikes zoomed past me and up the street, many with their biker chick partners, all of them looking just a tad scary to this country boy. But it was thrilling…the power of the machines an instant metaphor for the power of what was taking place. These dykes in all their uber-confident glory, racing up the hill to screams and cheers and flags and the pounding explosions of their battalion of exhaust pipes…

I was beyond whelmed. 

Next, standing at the ready, was the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band. I hadn’t seen a marching band since High School – and these men and women in rank and file looked to grand, so regal, so happy as they stood there…

Suddenly, the clouds broke and the sun shone a sparkling brilliance on the band and all their lovingly, proudly-polished brass…I’m sure it was the brightness of the shimmer that made my eyes water as they struck up the Starting Tune, “If They Could See Me, Now!”


If they could see me, now. 

Immediately, a cavalcade of colorful imagery from my past raced through my mind in a heartbeat. If they could see me, now; what would they think? What would they see?

Friends from high school, friends from college, teachers, teammates, traveling companions, colleagues…all of whom knew something of me; none of whom knew this deepest part of me that I was just discovering for myself, just coming to grips with, just barely beginning to accept and perhaps even embrace. 

In the coming years; some of those would continue to love me, some would be bewildered and uneasy, many would reject me and depart my life. I would, one-by-one, conquer fear and come out; then rejoice or grieve the loss…and move on.

At that moment, standing there in all my authenticity in the bright light of day, tears streaming down my face; immersed in the lush sounds of the band playing and the crowd cheering and the welcoming, celebratory throngs of people lining the boulevard into the distance…I felt unequivocally good about what the future might hold.


Just as they began to march, a young couple from inside the Hyatt pushed through the crowd. They looked at me…”What parade is this?!” She demanded, excitedly. (Omigod, I’m going to have to tell them! I thought to myself.) 

I swallowed my fear of this Truth and how it might shock these strangers and said, “This is the Gay Freedom Day Parade…” 

Her husband shouted, “HONEY, GO GET THE KIDS!”

Catching the Fall of Another: WWGD?

“Balance” by Author. iPhone photo by author, too.

I. Did. Not. Like. Her.   

It just seemed that everything that came out of her mouth was just a little more negative than it needed to be. 

From the first Sharing Circle on the first day of this week-long retreat; Camille stood out. A little too much backstory, a little too much detail, a little too much self-pity… Even through casual comments made in off-hand conversations during exercises or casual time; there always seemed a dissonant nuance, an extra note of Negative.

It was bugging me; distracting me. I did not like this, I was not liking her. Though she presented as brilliant and professionally adult as any of our intimate group of 15, this relentless soupçon of negativity was becoming like a splinter in my finger; a constant irritant. I needed to find some sort of spiritual tweezer and remove it.

On the way to meditation, the second morning – after another brief, antipathetic encounter, I was thinking that perhaps I’d just sit down with her and ask her if she even realized how much negativity she was projecting. Maybe help her see and process it.

As I walked, I played a scenario in my head. How might this plan play out? How would she take it? Would it be productive or come off as confrontational, condescending? 

Maybe. (Probably.) 

As the meditation commenced, high on a deck overlooking the sea, I wasn’t really listening to the shaman. Rather, I was watching the waves and wondered to myself, “What would Greg do?”

What would Greg do?


Greg is a dear, longtime friend of mine who lives his life such that he embodies all the spiritual and personal qualities to which I aspire. He is a driven, focused, unsurpassably accomplished athlete; he loves and actively cares for animals; he possesses a will of iron while being easily the most gentle and loving, fully authentic person I’ve known; and he embraces his spirituality so fully, so completely in the way he lives and moves through this life that it is sometimes simply breathtaking.

He’s a damn good guy. 

And the man Forgives. He forgives before being asked. He forgives without being asked. He has forgiven a lot.

None of his accomplishments have come easy; the things, events and treatments, the circumstances, negativity and actions with which he’s had to deal through life and career can be overwhelming simply to hear; not to mention actually experience or with which to deal. 

Yet. In the face of and having come through all that he has, he forgives and releases and moves forward; truly having forgiven and even given love back to those who may have hurt him. He is the most Namaste person I’ve ever encountered. 

I aspire to have that equanimity, that strength, that commitment to generosity, truth and love.

So, as I sat there, not listening to the Shaman, I thought about Camille and I thought about Greg.

Examining my experience with Camille, it came to me that negativity and anger are so often the outgrowth or manifestation of fear and unhappiness. Depression is so often rooted in Rage, and all of this comes from sadness, frustration, fear…

The times in my life when I’ve made my most egregious mistakes in treating others poorly have been when I’ve been struggling with the deepest of sadnesses or most paralyzing of my own fears…

What would Greg do? He would love her.

That’s all he would do. Love her.

I can do that.


Afterward, during breakfast, as we were all randomly seated outdoors, I glanced into the kitchen and saw Camille with two others, baking bread. The body language among the three telegraphed to me that Camille wasn’t fitting-in, in there, either…

Next thing I knew, I saw her walking from the kitchen, face down and heading past us into the compound. I saw my chance.

Getting up from my table, I took a course to intersect with her. I had no idea, yet, what I would say; but there she was. 

She did not see me coming. As I approached, I called, “Camille! Don’t take another step; I have something for you…”

As I opened my arms to offer her a hug, she turned to face me and I was stunned. Her visage was a knot, so tightly screwed together so as to seem of stone. I saw pain, I saw worry, I saw anger and sadness, all of it raw and intense. Had I seen that before getting so close, I’d have asked permission to approach but it was too late! I had momentum and she’d already stopped and before I knew it…

“May I …?” was all I got out before she and I embraced. 

…and she began to weep.

I held her, fully embracing her as she wept openly, uncontrollably, sobs coming from deep, deep inside her. 

And I held her. Feeling her sobs against my chest, feeling her fragile soul opening up and pouring forth. 

I put a hand on her head and told her I wasn’t going anywhere, that I’m right here and I have her. 

And she wept.

And I held her.

And she wept.

And I held her.

When she caught her breath, she asked, “…you don’t even know what this is about, do you?” I have no idea.

And she shared with me a diagnosis she had recently received; one that had seemed negotiable when in familiar surroundings; but the extent and effects of which had become alarmingly pronounced and defined now, in her first foray into new geography. She was appreciating the reality of her life and she was terrified. And I got it.

“You know…” I said, “ …if you’re willing to share this with the group, I’ll bet we’ll all have your back…”

And over the next hour, in the next sharing circle, Camille shared it all and found a cohort of comrades ready to stand by her and to share love with her as the week unfolded.

What had been so heavy within moments became so light!

Camille’s face over the coming days grew smoother and smoother, the smile more and more present and fresh. She felt safe and we, as a unit, each and all became closer to her – and to one another, for that matter. 

That resonant moment, I believe, speeded the catalysis of our group in coming together and digging into the work we had come to do for this week. It was a powerful experience for all, I suppose, individually and collectively, to be such an active part of catching the fall of another. 

For me, it was simple and profound. 

He would just love.

I can do that.

Thank you, Greg.


The lesson, through all of it, is to keep an eye on myself for perception through mindset or, as I term it in my own Tenets, Exploration of Assumption. (…or, in instances such as this; Seeing through One’s Own Sh*t.)

We know no one’s backstory, we have no idea what may have happened to that passerby this morning, we know no one’s makeup, experience, state of mind or why. 

If we…if I…can keep in mind what I don’t know when confronted with something negative or uncomfortable; chances are I can keep if from affecting me negatively and possibly even contribute in some small way to something more positive for the bearer.

From smiling at a stranger on the street to embracing what looks from the outside like a Problem.

One never knows, until…


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