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Monday, 20 May 2024 13:17

The Right to be Who You Are: Celebrating Pride Month 

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As a child of the 1950s, I was aware I was different in many ways. My sexuality was just one of those differences, one that made me stick out from the crowd, along with my innate need to question and speak about everything. A frustrated private school teacher once accused me of being “an old man in a little boy’s body” because I would loudly voice opinions in adult settings using vernacular most children would never use (often embarrassing my mother).  

Back then, I thought more about my future and what I wanted to accomplish and discover. Fitting in and feeling like a part of the community was not a priority. I knew who I was and what I wanted: knowledge and answers about the scientific world around us. However, I was also aware of topics most kids hadn’t even begun to ponder yet, including my sexuality.  

Being gay was secret, and depending on where you were, it was either simply not talked about, deemed illegal, or even considered a mental illness. As a result, I never wore a sandwich board around my neck announcing it, but I never hid anything about my sexuality, either.  

I knew who I was even so and accepted it in the deepest part of me, and despite the political temperament of the 50s, my sexual orientation was never an issue. I didn’t experience that all-encompassing preoccupation most pre-pubescent boys went through. I was also never bashed, made fun of, or subject to name-calling and pejorative remarks.  

In fact, I had a terrible temper, and if any bully ever bothered or attacked me, I would go crazy and beat them up. “Crazy” is the operative word – back then, even the meanest delinquents were fearful of crazy. I refused to back down and always greeted confrontation head-on, even if that meant suffering the consequences. In that respect, I don’t think I have changed much, even at 81!   

Gay pride parades became prevalent in the 70s and 80s. Harvey Milk, a founder of these movements, was often on TV at these events. The same week he was tragically assassinated in San Francisco, I was lecturing to the FBI and Law Enforcement in Hot Springs, Arkansas about homosexuality and getting praise for the same message he was murdered for. Little did I know that later in life, I would be working closely with his nephew, Stuart Milk, becoming the first Global Ambassador of his foundation, a legacy I am proud to amplify.  

My message at the time was not one of activism per se, but rather an analytical lecture to law enforcement, who knew the gay community was becoming a political element and simply wanted more information on how to deal with gay people at large.   

I covered everything from younger men hustling older men and vice versa, drag queens, lesbians, queer life, and love. The latter made the officers in the audience squirm a little – one even barking out “I love my fellow troops here, but I sure as hell wouldn’t sleep with any of ‘em!” Scanning the room, I said, “Well, I can see why!” which got a big laugh.   

I realized that they all attended expecting an explicit, shocking self-confession of the gay lifestyle from me. What they did not expect was an actual seminar on the different types of people in the gay community – the revelation that gay people were not predatory, exotic, or dangerous but, in fact, ordinary. I think that was when I became an activist, albeit not (yet) a bombastic, fist-pumping-the-air one!   

It was not until a few years later I truly understood what pride is all about. I was in a parade in Long Beach, California, sitting on the back of a convertible, waving at the massive crowds of all kinds of people, all smiling, clapping, and taking photos – the atmosphere was electric and spoke to me. Pride is not about acknowledgment or even tolerance. It’s about acceptance that every human being on the planet has the right to be who they are – any place, any time!  

My career in the skin care world started off as a quest for scientific answers, understanding how skin works on the cellular and macro levels, and solving common and complicated conditions alike. However, as the company grew, I realized the positive impact I could make with my influence. After all, gay culture is at the forefront of beauty and skin care trends. So, while providing the community with the best skin care possible and uplifting queer aesthetics professionals and clients everywhere, I make sure to host charity events that are as much a celebration of pride and queer life as they are a chance to dedicate funds to LGBTQIA+ activism.  

I am grateful for where my journey has brought me, from my innate sense of self as a child to my science-and-activism-filled adulthood, and to have the opportunity to advocate for acceptance everywhere. 

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