Our Anniversary in the Hospital and the Story of Post Op PRIDE

As we navigate a health crisis together we rediscover the real meaning of PRIDE and love.

John & Chris at Barker Pub

It’s a little after midnight, the clock has turned and June 26th, our anniversary is upon us. We’ve been married for five years together for 15, yet it seems like only five minutes. I look up and I see him in his hospital bed rolled over on his left side, it’s the only way he can get comfortable, laying like that is the best way to not get his IV tangled. “Hey it’s officially June 26, happy anniversary.” He rolls over just so slightly and wishes me a happy anniversary and he tells me he loves me. Chris rolls back over, puts his phone down and finally succumbs to sleep. He’ll wake up every so often to look back at me, to make sure I’m still here.

John M. Livelsberger (right) and his husband Chris.

Room 513 has been our home now since Saturday afternoon when they transferred him from the ER and it’s going to continue to be his/ our home for three to five days after his surgery. I’m the only one who gets any relief, I at least get to go home for a few hours a couple time a day to let the dogs out and play with them. Tomorrow they are going to take my husband to an operating room somewhere in the bowels of this hospital and remove part of his colon and re-sect it. For me and for our friends time will stand still and a two to three hour surgery will seem like forever, for Chris though no time will pass and if all goes as planned he’ll wake up in the recovery room and the healing can start. That’s the best case scenario. We’ve been dancing around the ‘C’ word all day today. We meaning us, the doctors, our friends, our parents. Cancer. We’re being told by medical professionals, “Oh I’m most certain that it’s not, but we will need to cut out the blockage and do a biopsy, just in case.” Or my favorite “We’re 95% sure that considering the type of procedure this is that we won’t need to attach a temporary colostomy bag.” I mean nothing ever goes wrong in with a major surgery, right? What me worry?

He’s scared and who could blame him. He’s having major surgery on his intestines and we really don’t know why or how this happened. All of the answers we need are inside of him. In all the years we’ve been together I’ve never seen him in such incredible pain. There’s been CT scans, x-rays, enough pain killers to knock out an elephant. Honestly I thought we wold have been here two days tops, but things are not good. I’m scared, but I have to be strong for him and he needs the strength and even though I’m exhausted, emotionally drained I’ll give him everything I have and let him take more, because he’s my husband. He choose me. If you ask me he got the short end of the stick.

PRIDE this year has two very important mile stones, 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and five years of marriage equality being legal in across the nation. Marriage is a journey, two imperfect people choosing to be a part of each others lives forever, or so that’s the plan. Our marriage comes with passion, baggage from our childhood that we both carry around, fights over trivial things and fights over important things. Marriage comes with, at least in our case, lots of laughter. There have been lean years and prosperous years. There are people who have came into our lives who we loved like family. Then they broke our hearts when they left. Most of all our marriage has been full of dreams and possibilities. It’s been about supporting the other person when they just want to give up. It’s been about supporting our friends and chosen family, but most of all our marriage been about love.

So we canceled our plans for PRIDE 2019. We will be in this hospital dealing with whatever gets thrown at us like we always have. Sure, we’re both disappointed, but PRIDE isn’t just about parades, corporate sponsorship, drag queens, dykes on bikes, or go go boys on the back of floats. The first PRIDE was a riot, a spark of violence that caught fire and became an inferno. PRIDE is all those things. PRIDE is also staying by your very sick husbands hospital bed, praying that he’s going to be okay, because you can’t imagine your world without him. PRIDE is sacrifice, PRIDE is lending comfort to others, Pride is about your friends, PRIDE is our struggle to get and hold on to our rights. PRIDE is our soul and PRIDE is our hopes and dreams, PRIDE is our broken hearts, PRIDE is love.

Happy PRIDE

Happy Anniversary to my Husband

50 Years After Stonewall, PRIDE Riots On

50 years after Stonewall, it’s the PRIDE of our lives.

Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade

PRIDE. Pride is a word that can mean different things to different people. You can take pride in your work, your home, your family, and yourself. For a lot of people taking pride in themselves can be the toughest. Sometimes it seems that despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made, especially over the last 10 years, finding pride in oneself can be elusive and inconsistent. For many people self esteem comes in waves, sometimes you’re riding high on the biggest wave of the ocean, everything is going your way, other times you keep falling off the surf board and retreat to land thinking that you’ll never have the self confidence to try again. For others there are challenging times for sure, but they always seem to land on their feet and walk through life with a never ending confident stride.


Left: View along Sixth Avenue as hundreds of people march toward Central Park, June 26, 1975. Right: A couple kiss on Sixth Avenue, June 26, 1975. Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images




People who are LGBTQ face a unique set challenges that can effect our self esteem. Issues ranging from acceptance of family and friends to discrimination. Health and mental health issues not to mention the disproportionate suicide rates among trans and queer youth. Homeless rates among LGBTQ youth are also disproportionate. Depending on who you are the reality of coming out as LGBTQ can be one of the single most stressful times in a persons life. So, if you are able to navigate any of these challenges in life you are brave.

Take coming out for example, we don’t come out just once, we come out all the time. We come out when we meet new people or start a new job and talk with our new co-workers the conversation will most certainly turn to ones spouse or partner. That happened to me recently. I started a new job and had two days of on boarding with another new employee, we were sequestered in a small office belonging to the human resource manager. The HR manager is an older man probably in his late 60’s and uses terms like “golly gee,” “heck,” and “swell.” As we were going over the companies benefits package I mentioned the low insurance rate compared to what my spouse was paying for both of us to be insured. He asked me what my wife did for a living. Of course I polity corrected him and said that my husband is the director of social services for a long term care facility. It seemed that the awkward silence lasted longer than what it actually did, but the on boarding resumed like nothing happened.

The New York City Pride March reaches a police line, 1971. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

There’s always that fear, the fear of the person that you’re interacting with might get insulting or maybe even violent. I didn’t know either of the people that I was in that small office with, so when I “came out” there was a certain amount of awkwardness. Those awkward moments will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Even though we’ve made progress those of us who are LGBTQ will always be living with a certain amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty straight cis gendered people will never have. Straight people never have to think twice when they share with others who they love. They will never have to worry about getting fired from a new job or any job because of their sexuality. They will never have to worry about discrimination. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are living our truth live with these harsh facts everyday of our lives.

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, arguably the start of the modern day gay rights movement. The riots led to the start of the first gay pride parades and festivals around the country. To get where we are now the patrons of The Stonewall Inn exploded into a violent protest after the police raided the bar. At the time raids of gay bars were common practice, but finally the people had enough. The riots became so violent that the police hid in The Stonewall Inn, afraid to leave for 45 minutes. The LGBTQ community has been clawing its way up ever since. Those early protesters were not just brave, they were fearless in finding the courage to fight the New York City Police because they were sick of being treated like their lives, their loves, and their dreams didn’t matter. Just this year The City of New York issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBTQ community for the way that community was abused at the hands of the people who were there to serve and protect all citizens.

The cis gendered straight white guys that are organizing “straight pride” events because they feel threatened that their little world is becoming too diverse, those toxic people want nothing more than to feel better about themselves by taking away our power to feel good about ourselves and undermining the achievements of our community and individuals. Don’t let them.

If you’re LGBTQ and still in the closet, if you’re not ready to come out, that doesn’t mean that you are not brave. Just coming to terms with who you are is one of the bravest things you can do, don’t ever feel pressured to come out. If you’re out always remember, just like those first protesters who took on the police during The Stonewall Riots your lives, loves, and dreams do matter.

So, on the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots think of the sacrifices and hardships queer people had to live through everyday, think of those who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Know that with people like Harvey Milk, Martha P. Johnson, Jim Obergefell, just to name a few we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, honor those who came before and know that they would want you to honor yourself, live bravely, love passionately, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broke, dream big and don’t ever let the world dictate what your truth is. And as always dance like no one is watching.

Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 29, 2019 in Washington Park at the Guy Forman amphitheater from 1-9pm.

Let “Religious” Freedom Ring

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Happy Pride !!!

Wow, it is June already. It seems like winter just ended and now we are almost half way through Pride Month. A lot has happened since I last wrote. The first half of the year has kept me busy either teaching or traveling for TREES, Inc. (www.webetrees.org). Some thing that happened recently has caused an itch to get under my skin, so, I would like to share some thoughts on it. It is the recent SCOTUS ruling about “the baker”.

For those not in the know, in short, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado was unjustly “sanctioned” by the local human right commission/ordinance there. However, the ruling has been used as a tool to inspire some folks to think they can openly discriminate with “religious freedom” as the tool for this discrimination. My first, and most significant reaction is “Oy.” In fact, that may be as far as I should go with any reaction, but I won’t.

In my view, if someone wants to discriminate they will. It is only when there is a definitive or blatant record of it can much be done to debate which side is right. We are not at this point yet. See, someone’s “firmly held religious belief” has not been define and in many cases defining it is being avoided. By defining it, those who declare this defense for discrimination would actually be held to some level of accountability. Being held accountable would then mean they would have to show a true conviction to their religious faith. Right now, it is a wide open can of “pick and choose” religious doctrine adherence. Spew a bible verse when it is convenient and works for you. When challenged on other verses, side step them by declaring them obsolete. Wow, what a nice easy tool to be just plain old bigoted. And, as lower courts begin to rule in favor of “religious freedom” there starts to be legal precedent for upholding carte blanche discrimination. This should scare us all.

I mention to folks sometimes that I would love the opportunity to used these rulings to prove a point. I would like to open a restaurant and have the chance to ask people, or just make a blind assumption, about their sexual orientation of gender identity in the hopes that when they answer as straight or cisgender (not really thinking they would know that term but you get it) so I can channel Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi by saying, “No Soup for You!”. Of course, this would probably land me in the news. In the end, this would be a terrible business model and I’d probably go out of business in short order, unless, I incorporate as an IRS 501c3 Religious Organization. Hmmm? Anyone want to join a board of directors? LOL

In conclusion, talking about religious freedom and discrimination is not going to go far. Actions will speak louder than words on this one. Go out and prove a point in whatever manner you wish, because, until this can is closed, it’s a free(dom) for all. Walk proudly as your authentic self and when someone challenges you to prove your authenticity just say “no proof required due to my religious freedom” and see how they react. Good Day.

Happy Pride !!!

Get Over It

So it was mentioned to me on Friday that a local radio station was having a discussion with their listeners on why we need a PRIDE Festival or more specifically why we shouldn’t have one. Just this morning before it was deleted on a local Michigan City community Facebook page someone said they didn’t understand why ‘you people’ needed a PRIDE Fest.                         

Jeanne Manford founder of the support group that would eventually become PFLAG marching in an early gay pride parade.

Here’s the deal, Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community. This community pays taxes here, spends money here, and CHOOSES to live here. NOT Chicago or Indianapolis or other big city with a ‘gay neighborhood’ but here. In fact I got news for you haters the WHOLE city is a gay neighborhood. I can’t swing a stick and not hit a LGBT person in my community. The LGBT community in Michigan City is no longer sitting on sidelines. Also we are no longer going to someone else’s city to celebrate PRIDE and why should we have to?

A more unified LGBT community is what I envisioned three years ago when I started OUT in Michigan City. Our Facebook page and eventually our website was started after my husband and I attended a RFRA protest march in Indianapolis and we witnessed first hand what a united LGBT community could accomplish. I wanted the same thing  here and now it seems we are heading in that direction. As of this writing OUT in Michigan City had 1095 ‘likes’ and followers so we must be reaching a few people in Michigan City and the surrounding communities.  

Honestly when I started our page and website I thought I was alone, but thankfully I’m not. Other like minded people have started their own projects like the La Porte county LGBTQ Alliance or the LGBT support group at the high school. The local PFLAG chapter here offers support to parents of gay, trans, bi, and questioning people and to any queer person in need of support. Real support for real people in need.

One of the things that attracted me and my husband to this city was it’s diverseness and inclusiveness, Michigan City for at least in the time I’ve been here, has been a haven for people from all different walks of life and for that I am thankful. I’m also thankful for the unwavering support that the PRIDE Fest  Committee has received from The City of Michigan City.

Since we started the process of planning the PRIDE Fest I’ve been expecting a little blow back, but at less then a month before the event all I have to say is what took so long? For those of you though who ultimately just don’t get it. For those of you who have never had the word ‘fag’ screamed at you from a coward in a moving car as you are trying to carry groceries into your apartment. To those straight guys out there who have never been fired from a job simply because you are gay or had to suffer from any sort of disrespect or discrimination, yet you have the  audacity to ask “Why can’t we have a straight Pride parade?” To those of you who just don’t like us, I’ll put it in a way you will understand in a terms used since the first gay PRIDE parades dating back to the 1970’s….

WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET OVER IT!

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th 2018 at 121 W. Michigan Blvd (Next to City Hall) in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District

Why We Need Gay PRIDE Festival

I have it on pretty good authority that Michigan City is going to have its first gay PRIDE festival this summer. Why this summer? Why now and not years ago? Why do it at all? I mean can’t we just go to Chicago for PRIDE? The answer is simple, yes we can but why would we want to or better yet why should we have to?

PRIDE month means different things to different people, just ask the Michigan City PRIDE committee, a haphazard group of people thrown together to make the impossible possible. A group consisting of a reluctant drag queen, a PFLAG mom, a gay husband and father, a straight alley, a politically incorrect smart ass who thinks he can write and his husband the social worker with little patience for things like committees. I’m the politically incorrect smart ass if you were wondering. I can’t say what PRIDE means to the other committee members, I can hazard a guess, but I can only speak to what PRIDE means to me and why the time has come for Michigan City to let its freak flag fly.

For many years I made it a point to go to Chicago for PRIDE. It started with an ex-boyfriend in 2000 and his friend Jeremy who ironically is now my friend. Jeremy and I always had a sort of frenemies type relationship. We could both be back biting and borderline insulting to each other, at first out of general annoyance of each other but now it’s out of love. It was one of Jeremy’s back biting antics that got me on the Channel 9 news my first year of PRIDE after he had heard one of the last things my mom had said to me before we embarked on that particular adventure was “I better NOT see your ass on the news.” Jeremy saw the news crew interviewing bystanders and quickly called them over screaming “OVER HERE, OVER HERE, SHE WANTS TO BE ON THE NEWS!” That was the beginning of many years of fun and debauchery at the Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade. Over the years my life had changed, but the one constant was going to Chicago for PRIDE the last weekend of June.  Oh, and my mom was not pleased that I ended up on Channel 9.

The last Chicago PRIDE that we actually attended was June 24, 2012. Our best friend came home from Florida. That weekend in Chicago was perfect. We partied all weekend and watched the parade from the street in front of our hotel. It was as if the fates knew that this would be our last PRIDE in Chicago, our favorite band Scissor Sisters played at the Vic (it was to be their final tour) right there in Boystown after the parade. It was the perfect PRIDE at least for me and then I was done, there would never be another PRIDE weekend like that one.

For many years gay PRIDE weekend started out as an excuse for me to party. As the years went on it became so much more. Seeing gay soldiers march in uniform for the first time after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed or LGBT affirming synagogues and churches march along with PFLAG. Gay parents marching with their children or gay children and their supportive parents. That last year was the first year that I actually watched the parade from start to finish from the street, not on live on TV from inside a bar. I found out that the gay PRIDE Parade was more than just half naked GoGo dancers or dykes on bikes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For the first time I was actually paying attention, PRIDE was about real people with real lives out celebrating their right to love and marry who they wanted.

Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community most likely dating back to 1861 when Harriet Colfax took over as the Michigan City lighthouse keeper. According to digthedunes.com, when Miss Colfax moved into the lighthouse her friend and longtime companion Ann C. Hartwell moved in with her. They lived there together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve reported before in an article I did a couple of years ago featuring local drag troupe Welcome to the Other Side, the Williams Institute ranks Michigan City fourth in Indiana for the highest percentage of same-sex couples. I like to tell people that I can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting a fellow homo. That being said Michigan City’s PRIDE celebration is long past due and with our town right on the lake and all the other amenities we have to offer we can definitely hold our own when it comes to throwing a party. For those people who are undoubtedly going to try to compare our PRIDE to Chicago’s and say things like “It’s not like it is in Chicago,” I’m going to tell you now that it’s not supposed to be. We’re taking this celebration and making it our own so thank you Chi Town for letting us come over and join you for your PRIDE celebration it’s been fun, but this year we got this.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake. Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th, 2018 from 1-9pm in the historic Uptown Arts District. 

 

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.

Creater of Iconic PRIDE Flag Dead at 65

Gilbert Baker

Gay right activist and creater of the Gay Pride flag Gilbert Baker has died today at age 65 in New York.

Baker created what would become the iconic symbol that has become  synonymous with the gay rights movement around the world for gay PRIDE in 1978.

Fellow gay right activst Cleve Jones confirmed Baker’s death today via Twitter, “My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert Baker gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship.”