It seems that I've struggled all of my life for equal rights as an African-American same-gender-loving man. There were times that the battle was so fierce that it almost claimed my life. I even recall a time when I had to literally hire body guards to accompany me to speaking engagements and book signing events because homophobic extremists threatened to show up and wreck the meeting, while at the same time, threatening to do me bodily harm if I proceeded as an activist.
There were times when religious zealots who claimed to love God and stand for righteousness ( but were really wolves in sheep's clothing ) sought to humiliate and embarrass me in public forums when I was being interviewed on television and radio. But God had my back and enabled me to triumph in every situation!
I would be lying if I told you that there were not times when I was afraid. There were times I was nervous and very afraid but I always knew God was with me. Because I was Black, gay and a Christian, people in both the LGBT community and the Black community would often persecute and ostracize me because of my deep love for God and my passion to fight for equal rights for same-gender-loving people.
It saddens me that in the LGBT community, as well as in the heterosexual Christian community, people mistakenly believe that being same-gender-loving and Christian are mutually exclusive. They are not and I am living proof of that! Believe me when I say that being misunderstood because I am both gay and saved is an understatement!!! Still, I refused to continue living on this planet for the duration of my life being marginalized, discriminated against, and yoked by the chains of inequality and inequity.
Even from the time I was a child, I never could understand why people couldn't just leave other people alone and not feel compelled to hurt others who thought differently and who loved differently. To me, it wasand stillis the simplest thing to do!
Even though my journey has been long, frustrating, difficult and fraught with peril, it was worth it! You see my brothers and sisters, on this historic day ( Oct. 6, 2014 ) hundreds of thousands, if not millions, all over America can freely marry the person of their own choosinga dream I have had all my life!
I am ever so grateful to God and to all the courageous LGBTQ activists/soldiers who courageously fought for equal rights long before I was ever born. Some of these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their very lives just to make it possible for me to stand on this precipice of time and witness the dawn of this glorious new day.
Admittedly, I am a bit tired, for the battle has been long, hard, fierce and often lonely.
Sometimes I feel remorseful, saddened, even at times resentful because of the life-long battle I had to continuously fight in claiming and defending my right to live as I am and love who I choose. Spending and sometimes exhausting all of my energies to survive in an unjustly homophobic society. I wonder at times that If I had been freely given the chance to blossom, thrive and mature without restraint, censure, fear or threat of bodily harm, how much greater could I have impacted the world? How much richer and more joyous could I have made my community and my church.
Yes, at times, living my life was a battle and I have the spiritual and emotional scars to prove it, but I believe "That which does not kill you will only make you stronger" and today I am very strong. Moreover, I intend to take this strength and use it to positively shape this world so that my children will not have to deal with the same quality of life sapping obstacles that I had to overcome. In fact, it is my prayer is that God will continue to give me the strength to keep on fighting until the day comes when no other child [whatever his or her race or gender may be], will ever have to fear being brutally beaten and pushed aside on a playground or left on a lonely highway, strung up on a fence and left to die just because he or she is gay.
However, I think that the part that grieves me the most is that while we have made remarkable strides legally, still there is so much more work to be done in African nations and in local minority communities where being LGBT is still a taboo and unacceptable. I believe famed recording artist Jennifer Holliday put it best in her stirring rendition of "Make Them Hear You," when she both encouraged us and planted the seed of wisdom within us necessary to overcome all obstacles and boldly proceed in future endeavors to obtain equal rights in all facets of lifefor all people.
And say to those who blame us for the way we chose to fight,
"That sometimes there are battles that are more than black or white. And I could not put down my sword when justice was my right.
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU.
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU.
Don't you know your sword can be a sermon or the power of the pen.
Teach every child to raise his voice, and then, Oh My sisters and brothers, and then...
Will just be demanded by 10,000 righteous men,
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU...
WHEN THEY HEAR YOU...
I'LL BE NEAR YOU AGAIN!"
Bishop Terry Angel Mason is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, a pastor [Faith That Triumph's Global Ministries] and a national HIV/AIDS awareness spokesperson.