Personally, I’ve wanted to have this conversation with Eric for a minute, but our schedule at Fly Media has been pretty cray as of late. Knowing that there’s no time like the present, Sherri and I have been carving out minutes/hours to publish this piece and others like it, which are coming soon, so stay tuned!
“Only when we learn to value the differences among us can we achieve the true spirit of humanity.” - Charles S. Weinblatt
I recently met Eric on Twitter and quickly found him to be a pretty down-to-earth individual, kind and honest, and though some of what I’ve personally shared with him regarding my own past experiences was regretful to say the least, he has been gracious and encouraging.
And while it’s difficult for us to talk about, Sherri and I think it’s important to touch briefly on our own past in relation to this topic. We didn’t feel right having this conversation without at least mentioning the fact that we were both born and raised into a pretty conservative evangelical religion where we had regretfully made decisions in our past that seriously impacted the well being of people we both love and care very much about. We spent years ignoring what our hearts felt was right because we genuinely felt that what we were doing was what we were “supposed to be doing”.
In saying that, if your past is anything like ours, change may seem daunting, and may even at times require a complete break from your former life - as ours did, but it’s definitely possible, and well worth it. Having an open mind is a process, and trusting yourself takes time. We dread our mistakes and strive daily to make up for our past decisions, taking some solace that through our own experiences, we may be able to help even one person avoid the same mistakes we’ve made.
If it wasn’t for folks like Eric and others who’ve sacrificed their own privacy, safety and time to educate others, I shutter to think of where we might be today - excluding good people solely because of church dogma. And though we can’t change time nor the effects of those past decisions, we can continue to work hard to share conversations like these, hoping that in some small way we may be able to not only make amends, but also be the change we wish to see.
Equally important, my conversation with Eric reminds me that there’s always something more to learn about embracing diversity personally & professionally. I hope you enjoy the following conversation as much as we did…
An Author, Father and Activist
“Children are not stupid. They’re extremely smart, and if it’s explained to them in an age appropriate way, they get it.”
Reuben: For our readers who may not yet know you, or who have yet to hear of My Uncle’s Wedding, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Eric: I would say I’m an author, father, and activist. I have worked with a lot of groups like GLAAD, Marriage Equality USA, and San Francisco Pride. I wrote My Uncle’s Wedding, a children’s book about marriage equality, and my next book will help same-sex couples that want to become parents. It’s called The Journey to Parenthood, and New Horizon Press will publish it early next year. I’m also a contributing writer for the New Civil Rights Movement website.
Reuben: What moved you to write My Uncle’s Wedding and the upcoming book about LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) couples and their journey to parenthood?
Eric: Back in 2008, the Proposition 8 campaign in California was using horrible attack ads against the LGBT community, and for me, it really struck a nerve when they started using children as pawns in their fight. The campaign started using scare tactics about how we needed to “protect the children,” and there was this big concern about what would happen if children knew gay people could get married. That whole issue was stupid to me, but you know what? Children are not stupid. They’re extremely smart, and if it’s explained to them in an age appropriate way, they get it. That’s what inspired me to write My Uncle’s Wedding. I wanted to show what a same-sex marriage would look like through the eyes of a child.
The Supreme Court Ruling - #LoveWins
“I live on the West Coast and was woken up at 7am by my husband calling me and screaming, “Wake up! Wake up! We won!” It was so surreal.”
Reuben: Having dealt with our own share of persecutions, as well as having close family that have been waiting for the legalization of Gay marriage, Sherri and I personally were filled with many emotions after the June 26 Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent wave of rainbows and #LoveWins support that followed online. What was that day like for you?
Eric: It was amazing. I live on the West Coast and was woken up at 7am by my husband calling me and screaming, “Wake up! Wake up! We won!” It was so surreal. I had flashbacks of organizing and participating in marriage equality rallies, getting arrested for civil disobedience (peaceful and non-violent), and marching along the streets of San Francisco with so many friends, allies, and fellow activists.
I’m so grateful to all the people who were out there in the trenches changing hearts and minds. Whether it was going door-to-door having conversations, collecting signatures, making phone calls, organizing rallies and fundraisers, etc. I’m also extremely grateful to the brave people who took these cases all the way up to the Supreme Court.
“Every single American—gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition.” - President Obama
On the night we won, I took my son, Connor, to a victory rally because I wanted him to be there for that moment. He’s not even two yet so I know he won’t remember it, but it’s such an important part of our culture’s history, and our country’s history. So now, when I have conversations with him about the movement, hopefully it will impact him more, and he’ll own it because he was a part of it.
Reuben: While the June 26 ruling was a huge win for love and equal rights, we know that this is just the beginning. What changes/progress do you hope to see happen next?
Eric: I think for the LGBT community, the next logical step is to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Many people don’t realize that there are 29 states that don’t have employment protection laws based on sexual orientation, and it’s legal to fire someone based on gender identity in 30 states. I mean, now that we have marriage equality, it seems ridiculous that someone can get married one day, and fired from their job the very next day simply because they exercised their right to marry someone of the same sex.
There are many other issues in our community as well like LGBT youth homelessness, conversion therapy, the gay blood ban, transgender individuals serving in the military, etc. In regards to future progress, I hope I live to see the day where kids no longer get kicked out of their homes or contemplate suicide just because they’re gay.
The Role of Social Media
“I think social media helps us with accountability. We’re able to expose injustice and hold people accountable for their actions.”
Reuben: I personally see many parallels between the #LGBT movements, including the #NOH8 campaigns and the #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) work. For myself, when I see the traction that activists like yourselves have made within your space I’m encouraged that the #BLM movements will continue to grow and thrive, especially beyond the black communities. For me, Twitter has been a great space for meeting new folks like yourself and other activists. How do you personally see social media within the activism “tool kit”?
Eric: Absolutely! I think social media is a key component in our movements, and it’s such an effective way to spread information quickly. After I heard the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, I didn’t turn on the TV or radio. I jumped on my computer and checked my twitter and Facebook accounts. That’s the kind of world we live in now.
Also, I think social media helps us with accountability. We’re able to expose injustice and hold people accountable for their actions. When videos like the ones of Oscar Grant and Eric Garner went viral, it helped a lot of people come back to the real world. Some of us live in bubbles, and if we don’t see something like racism or homophobia happen, it’s like it doesn’t exist. We become complacent, and I think that’s one of the main reasons the LGBT community lost the Prop 8 battle in California. A lot of people lived in friendly bubbles like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Many of us believed there was no way Prop 8 was going to pass, and our bubble was popped quickly on Election Day.
Social media can help give us the wake up calls we need, and allow us to organize rapidly if needed.
How to Get Involved
“There are so many things that people can do, but I think the number one thing is to VOTE! That goes for everyone, not just the LGBT community.”
Reuben: How can everyday average folks support the LGBT work for respect, equality, safety and NOH8?
Eric: There are so many things that people can do, but I think the number one thing is to VOTE! That goes for everyone, not just the LGBT community. Keep in mind that the next President is probably going to change the makeup of the Supreme Court, and that will have a big impact on equal rights cases going forward. Also, the midterms can be just as important as the presidential elections since we also vote for our representatives during those elections. Those representatives go on to vote for our rights as well.
Just look at the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to see how important those elections are. ENDA passed the Senate back in 2013, but the House of Representatives will not allow it to come up for a vote. The House is basically saying it’s still ok to fire people for being gay in over half the states! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
Reuben: What resources can you recommend for folks like myself interested in learning more about your work, the lives and realities of LGBT folks and to better connect with them as our neighbors?
Eric: My Uncle’s Wedding is a great resource for people that want to introduce the topic of same-sex marriage to children. This children’s book isn’t preachy. It just brings up the topic and helps parents to start a conversation with their children.
My upcoming book, The Journey to Parenthood, is a great resource to help prospective parents in the LGBT community navigate through various parenting options such as adoption, surrogacy, fostering, assisted reproduction, and co-parenting. It has legal advice, checklists, tips, and stories from other same-sex parents. New Horizon Press will publish The Journey to Parenthood in the beginning of 2016.
Here are a few other resources:
The Human Rights Campaign – LGBT human rights organization.
The Trevor Project - LGBT youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
The Forty to None Project – Working to end homelessness among LGBT youth.
Reuben: Eric, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to connect with us, and for sharing a bit of yourself and your story with us today.
Eric: It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Q1: Who motivates and/or inspires you, both personally and professionally?
People like Michael Sam, Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins, Billie Jean King, Darren young, etc. really inspire me. The sports world is not often seen as being LGBT friendly, so anyone who can come out of the closet and play proudly in that environment has my utmost respect.
Q2: How do you define success?
To me, success is when someone can reach their goal without compromising their integrity. Stay classy, people!
Q3: What technology do you use most while working, and while playing?
My pager. Just kidding. I’d have to say my iPhone. I use it for everything.
Q4: Where’s your favorite place, event, etc. to network and meet other professionals for work or business?
This might sound weird, but I have met a lot of great people professionally through twitter. Someone pitched a book idea to me through twitter, and we’re working on it together now.
Q5: If you could spend one week anywhere (unlimited funds, energy, etc.), where would you go, and who would you take with you?
Did I just win a vacation or something? I mean, if you were offering an all expense paid cruise through the Bahamas for me and my family, I wouldn’t say no.