It’s Alright to Talk About It

Activist Meghan Buell is back and in this tough time she wants everyone know it’s okay to be alone with your thoughts and it’s okay to reach out.

Quarantine? Lockdown? Stay at Home order? Whatever you call it, it can be frightening. I used to be more afraid of being alone than I am today. I’m not saying I don’t recognize it and understand why I would be afraid of it. I mean, feeling alone almost cost me my life.

Long before I “came out”, I always felt that I was alone with my thoughts. These thoughts always were directly related to my feeling that I was different but was unaware of why I felt this way. I had no words to express it. The thought of being alone with my thoughts always scared me most because I knew it would either lead to binge drinking or anger. I have spent more hours in my life trying to avoid being left alone with my thoughts as I have enjoying being less afraid of these moments. What is different now then before?

When I began the process of “coming out” I felt a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders. After awhile, I could see that this weight was made up of a lot of emotions related to my frustration with my identity unknowns. The sames things that made me afraid of my thoughts. The emotional release was freeing and liberating. It was also making me feel more secure with my thoughts, mainly, because they started to make more sense. But, I will tell you, the weight almost caused me to end my life. For me, the not-knowing and all of the emotions connected to this was such a burden and after living a life that was being negatively affected by this battle, a 24/7/365.24 slugfest, that I had made the decision that not waking up tomorrow was a better option that another day in battle. I had succumbed to the hopelessness. I was about to become a part of a very daunting statistic of transgender suicides.

Obviously, since I am here today writing this I didn’t not follow through with this plan of committing suicide. What changed? When I was in high school I would get into verbal skirmishes with my mom. The topic was irrelevant but the spat always ended up with her saying “You think you have an answer for everything?” and my reply “That’s because there is an answer for everything. You just need to find it.” First, I highly discourage saying this to a parent, especially while in your teen years. Secondly, my response may have been the thing that pulled me back from the edge. I may have mumbled this to myself at the eleventh hours. To be honest, I am not sure. Lastly, whatever it was, I am forever grateful.

I have discussed my brush with suicide with only a few people over the years. At first I was embarrassed but then grew to share as a way to show that even I was not immune to the power of hopelessness. I share it today to a wider audience to make sure folks know that even on the grimmest day, there is something better awaiting you on a day in the future. To quote college basketball coach, Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

If you need to talk, reach out to a friend. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of hope. You can also contact one of these groups:
Trans Lifeline 877-565-8860
Trevor Project 866-488-7386

On September 26, 2020, I will be sponsoring a walking team at the Out of the Darkness Walk in Goshen, Indiana. This is a walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My team will be walking to save transgender lives. You can walk and/or support by donation at https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=2293886#donate

Thank you in advance.

Peace Out and Be Well

Meghan
She, Her Pronouns

Coronavirus, The New New Normal.

A health crisis that could have been handled in a competent way at it’s onset, instead President Trump is carrying on the Reagan legacy.

I’m having a hard time finding balance. I want to be there for my community in a positive way during this health crisis but the other part of me is very angry. OUT in Michigan City has over 1600 followers on our Facebook page. People from all over the world have visited our website and we just launched our podcast “The Bent Edge.” I want readers and listers to be informed and entertained. I would like nothing more than to make people laugh or give someone something thoughtful to think about. I want to make people feel good no matter who they are. We would like to be a positive voice in the darkness. Yet, I can’t seem to get over my own anger right now and I don’t want it to bleed into other peoples lives and bring someone down even further. So, I’m going to get it out. I’m going to do what I always do, exercise the angry demon that invades my soul from time to time by writing it out.

President Trump addresses concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic.

One of the reasons I’m angry is because I just got into a war of words with a Trump supporter, which is not unusual. This particular Trump supporter did not like it that I called the president a “low life con-artist,” referring to his handling of the pandemic in which we find ourselves. This man was offended by my opinion of the president. He claimed, “That low life con artist has done more for this country since I have been voting than any of the other idiot presidents.” My knee jerk was to tell this person to fuck off which I kind of did, but my other reaction was this. I calmly explained that two years ago President Trump dismantled The National Security Council’s Pandemic Response Team. I then pointed out had the President not taken this action we may have been able to avoid the pandemic. He’s response was; “I am sure he thought it was just another worthless government agency collecting paychecks.” Really? That’s your defense of President Trump? I have no doubt that the government has overspent for agencies that we don’t or didn’t need in the past, but an agency that is in place to protect the health of the American people from a global pandemic is not one of them. The Pandemic Response Team is like your home or car insurance, you pay the fucking bill every month and hope you don’t need it. You don’t cancel it because your house has not burned down yet.

AIDS Activists protesting then President Ronald Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s

I’m also angry because this is taking me back to the 1980’s during the onset of the AIDS epidemic. You notice that you don’t see a lot of gay men especially the older generation freaking out over this. I was a teenager in the 80’s and in my early twenties in the 90’s when AIDS was still a death sentence. Coming out of the closet can be scary, but in those days if certain people found out you were gay there was a good chance you would be made out to be a villain because of your sexuality. All the sudden people who didn’t understand what being gay meant thought that all gay men had AIDS. Lot’s of these men were beaten in violent confrontations or ostracized from there families. After being diagnosed many of these gay men were disowned and left alone to die. Can you imagine, alone in the hospital or worse in a back alley somewhere homeless and abandoned dying of a disease that no one understood and that had no cure. At the time this was “new normal” for the gay community. This new normal was all encompassing. Our government didn’t care that gay men were dying. 

President Ronald Reagan and his administration did everything thing they could to ignore AIDS. The government did NOTHING to help the sick. 39 million people have died of AIDS since the onset of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. Right now at this very moment everyone now knows what it’s like to be living with a virus that has no cure and coping with incompetent government leaders, and a current president that claimed during it’s onset that this pandemic was a hoax conjured up by political enemies. As I write this Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the state has had it’s first death because of COVID-19. Had the Reagan Administration did the right thing during the AIDS crisis, which was to protect Americans that just happen to be gay, whole communities may not have been wiped out. President Trump is taking us all down the same road that the Reagan Administration took the gay community down. I had hoped that road was closed forever. 

I can’t speak for the entire gay community I can only speak for myself. As a proud gay man, I don’t wish the gross incompetence, neglect and fear that our community experienced on anyone. COVID-19 IS NOT AIDS and some people will recover others may not. As with the AIDS crisis I blame the mishandling of this crisis on an incompetent president with no understanding or compassion for the people he’s supposed to be serving. No one deserves to live through this uncertainty once. Some of us are living through it twice, first with AIDS and now COVID-19. 

We will not get through this as a LGBTQ community or a straight community, we will get through this as a human community and when the dust settles and it’s all over we will hold those elected officials responsible. 

Be safe and be kind to each other and remember we will come out on the other side of this, hopefully as a better and kinder community.

Peace, Acceptance, and PRIDE

We arrived at the bar Saturday night and the first thing that hit me was the crowd. There was really no one there that we knew, DJ Mark was setting up but that was about it. I had expected to see some friends or people I recognized hanging out having a cocktail or two while they waited for the show to start. Then I got a really good look at the crowd. There was a group of guys in their twenties, one of whom was wearing a pro-gun rights hoodie. I gave my husband a sideways glance as DJ Mark came up and sat at our table to chat. “I’m a little concerned with the crowd,” I said, “Do they know there’s a drag show tonight?” Mark nodded in agreement, but what was there to do? 

Welcome to the Other Sides Kane Richards. Photo: John M. Livelsberger

Soon Jayda Pill, that evenings drag queen and Kane Richards that evenings drag king arrived in full face and started working the crowd. Selfies were being taken and the mood in the pub quickly turned up a notch. Welcome to the Other Side, our local drag troupe were doing a spotlight show that night. Since we have no local gay bars anymore when the “straight” bars really want a amazing weekend turn out they go to the group and ask them to perform. About every other month they have a “spot light” show where two of their six members will perform small sets and in between numbers DJ Mark keeps the crowd pumped as he spins music that everyone can dance to. 

By 10pm when Jayda hit the stage for her first number the bar was packed and our friends had arrived. I took a minute to take a look around, there was no tension or animosity, gay people and straight people were interacting and dancing together peace and love where in the air, a far cry from a few short decades ago. Michigan City had come along way in the 16 years that I moved here. This was originally supposed to be a two year layover as I worked at the local casino and saved my money to move to Chicago. I had no intention of staying here, then when I least expected it as often happens to people, I fell in love. First with this city then with the guy I would end up marrying.

Jayda Pill performing at Creekside Bar & Grill. Photo John M. Livelsberger

Over the last couple years Michigan City PRIDE Fest has helped bring the whole community tougher and bridge a lot of gaps. No matter who you are Gay, straight, bi, questioning, you’re welcome at PRIDE and the sense of belonging is just paid forward through out the rest of the year. 

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is going into it’s third year and we’d like to invite you everyone one to come out and celebrate your lives and celebrate living your truth, no matter what it is.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 20th, 2020 from 1pm to 9pm at the Guy Foreman Amphitheater in Washington Park, Michigan City Indiana.

Welcome to the Other Side can be seen at RG’s Bar & Grill, 9954 West, US-6, Westville, IN 46391, Saturday March 7th, 2020

Welcome to the Other Side will be performing a all ages drag brunch at Fiddlehead Restaurant Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Click here for reservations.

Thank You

Out in Michigan City was started almost five years go with a basic mission, keep the the LGBTQ community of Michigan City and the Region informed. When I started the Facebook page LGBTQ community activist and environmentalist Nancy Moldenhauer reached out and asked if she could contribute to the page. I didn’t know Nancy well, but I knew her stellar reputation and I didn’t even have to give it a second thought. Seeing the need for a different voice other than my own and as a gay man my perspective on the LGBTQ “condition” is not the only perspective, thank God. I credentialed Nancy giving posting access to OUT in Michigan City. I’m so very glad I did. Over the last five years Nancy has shared so much. Articles and opinions that were important to our community that I may have missed, information on our local PFLAG chapter that she helped get up and running, important information that we could use.

Nancy Moldenhauer Photo: Facebook

This morning I received a message from Nancy telling me that she was taking a step back. Nancy wants to focus on her good works as an environmentalist and traveling with her wife Shar. Thank you Nancy for your contribution to OUT in MC, for your help getting the local PFLAG chapter up and running and for you being a pillar of strength in our community. Your contribution will be missed, but we’ll be here if you have anything to get off of your chest. See you OUT and about.

“First Name Mayor, Last Name Pete”…Why Running for President Mattered.

On Sunday Mayor Pete suspended his presidential campaign, but in running for president he changed perceptions and started a conversation.

On June 26, 2015 Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana published in op-ed in The South Bend Tribune called “Why Coming Out Matters,” effectively letting all his constituents know that their mayor was a proud gay man. Since coming out Mayor Pete and his husband Chasten have lived openly and proudly sharing their lives with the City of South Bend and the rest of the state of Indiana. Last year he announced that he was a candidate for President of the United States. Building a grass roots momentum as the only gay man to ever run for president he was able to out raise campaign funds of other more established candidates that have been on the national stage for years. After winning the Iowa Caucus but showing a poor performance in the South Carolina primary the New York Times and other media outlets reported on Sunday that Mr. Buttigieg has suspended his race for president. Stating in a speech given in South Bend Sunday night, “The truth is that the path has narrowed to a close, for our candidacy if not for our cause.” Mayor Pete’s popularity and visibility comes on the heels of the damage that now Vice-President Mike Pence tried to do to Indiana’s LGBTQ community by signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Governor Mike Pence signing RFRA

On March 26, 2015 the state of Indiana gained national attention when then Governor Mike Pence signed RFRA into law behind closed doors and surrounded by local religious “leaders” thus sparking national outrage and drawing protests to Indianapolis. A year before that the LGBTQ community were fighting HJR-3, a proposed law that would change Indiana’s state constitution stating that legal marriage was only between one man and one woman. The LGBTQ people of Indiana were not just fighting for the freedom to have our relationships legally recognized we were fighting for respect. We were fighting to show all law makers both Democrat and Republican that our lives and relationships mattered, they mattered just as much as the cis gendered straight couple getting married in that small town church on any given Saturday. 

Over the years so many of this states LGBTQ youth have left to make their way in Chicago, New York, or other “big” cities, leaving their home towns because they were either disowned by their own families or they felt like more accepted more in a strange city. How many amazing and talented people have we lost because they felt unaccepted?

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s so many gay men were vilified by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Gay men were portrayed in the media and television and effeminate or as joke, never to be taken seriously. In Mayor Pete we have an example of what could be accomplished. Mayor Pete’s political agenda aside, in running for president and proudly embracing his home town of South Bend, Mr. Buttigieg has set an example for not just the LGBTQ youth of Indiana but to the entire LGBTQ community. As a solider in the military he showed the world that a gay man could be brave. When he was still Mayor of South Bend he was deployed for active duty. In the time he was gone he did not take his mayoral salary, in this he showed the world that a gay man could be honorable. While running for president he talked about his Christian faith and how proud he was of it. He showed the world that you could be a gay man of faith. 

Pete Buttigieg in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: CNN

Mayor Pete will not be the president elected in 2020 and that’s okay. What he did do though was change the playing field. When he stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest on the candidates during debates or in interviews, when you saw him on television or in your news feed unashamed to embrace his husband it started the conversation, it set an example. Pete Buttigieg showed that whoever you are, however you identify and no matter where you’re from it’s not the bigots or the homophobes that define who you are or where you choose to live, it’s you. Pete Buttigieg showed us all that it’s okay to be exactly who you are and that is not something the Donald Trump’s or Rush Limbaugh’s or the Franklin Graham’s of the world can ever take away from us.

Thank you Mayor Pete, job well done.