Growing to fight for equality.

Growing to fight for equality.

Hmmm. This is always hard. Trying to tell your story so it doesn’t sound like a resume. Lol.

I was born and raised in WV. I love my home despite not loving all the residents. I graduated in 1987 (yes, it’s awhile ago) and enlisted in the Navy. I served 7 years and served in combat in Desert Storm. That would be the first Bush’s Iraq war. I’m gay and struggled with that until I was 22. It was a different time for our community. Definitely not as accepted or celebrated. I lived through the HIV/AIDS genocide. I lost many friends. I contemplated suicide several times during my teens and early twenties. I just didn’t see a way to be myself without causing so much pain around me.

After much soul searching and finding friends, I found the courage to come out of the closet. It was more like busting the door down, seriously! Still have splinters. Lol. Pretty much from then on I was a “deal with it or fuck off” happy gay. I met my partner of 21 years in 1998. My partner is the best thing that ever happened to me. In 2005 we took custody of my nephews because of their useless parents. People should have to pass a test to have kids….seriously. We were able to fully adopt them in 2007. Now they are 15 and 16 and we are rethinking the whole adoption thing… No, they are awesome. Just teenagers 😳.

They have done as much for us as we have for them. I really started advocacy work around 2010 when I joined the board of directors of Fairness WV. We are the states lgbtq+ civil rights advocates. We mainly work with the WV state legislature to pass equality or fight hatred. We play a lot of defense, but we have successfully kept all anti-lgbtq legislation from passing. We have passed 13 city wide non-discrimination ordinances across WV. I am very proud to have run the campaign in my home town of Martinsburg and passed it unanimously. I now am also president of Eastern Panhandle Pride which is our local pride/community outreach organization.

That about catches me up to 2020. I love and hate advocacy work at the same time. I love to fight for equality, I hate that we have to. I tell people I get my drive for equality from my cousin. That always gets weird eyes and pauses until I tell them my cousin is Abraham Lincoln. That’s about the high fly over of my life so far. Looking forward at least another 50 great years. Thanks.

This incredible story was shared by a human named Joe.