By James R. Koury, Editor, Diversity Rules Magazine
© 2012 Diversity Rules Magazine. All rights reserved.
As I sit here thinking about this blog and what I am going to say, I look back upon my past, and I am just amazed at where I am at this point in my life right now. I am certainly not the man I was when I moved back here to Oneonta in 1992. What’s more incredulous to me is that I am not the person I was just a mere year ago.
If someone were to tell me back in 1992 that I would eventually become a queer activist with a publication catering to the needs of the queer community here in Oneonta, my hometown, and that I would be totally out and proud of who I was as a gay male, I would have said “you are nuts and you have lost your mind.” But lo and behold that is where I am!
As I reflect upon the events and occurrences in my life that have brought me to this point in time, I can see linkages, and fragile connections, that have propelled me to the next level in my evolution as an out and proud gay male. In the beginning, I met various people who helped me cope with my sexuality and my individuality. At that time it was pretty much an internal period of growth and evolution culminating with my eventual self-realization that I was gay at the really young age of 27.
After that point it took an additional 10 years to actually muster up the courage, at age 37, to come out publicly. When that happened, I decided that there would be no holds barred and that I would do whatever I needed to do to become a whole person with my true self. There would be no going back. I would never return to that dark, musty closet. In fact when I came out of the closet, I took the door frame and hinges with it!
I started to look around for support networks, publications and other outlets that could provide some support and comfort. There were very few. So I decided to start Diversity Rules Magazine and in May of 2006 I launched the first issue. I was so proud of it! It started to take on a life of its own to the point where I was distributing 10,000 copies all across New York State.
It was during that initial period of time when I had my first direct exposure to homophobia. I received a threat to my life from an anonymous coward. It was at this point in time, where something inside me clicked where I just decided that I would do anything and everything at all cost, to work toward equality and freedom from bigots and narrow minded people and became literally possessed with getting myself out there more and more and just becoming a visible activist. The threat is included below just as a reminder that homophobia is alive and well:
“Dear Mr. Koury it has come to our attention that not only have you been spreading your heterophobic filth thruout the region but also include your faggoty shit where young children have access to it.They don’t know what even normal sex is in their impressionable minds.You WILL stop distributing in these areas and keep this shit in gay bars,etc.We have your name,associates,phone numbers,where you live and where you work as well as your routines.You are giving an even worse impression of homos when you freely distribute among kids.It’s called recruting and you WILL stop if you know what’s good for you.You see Mr. Koury we are EVERYWHERE.We have also infiltrated your queer organizations AND distributorship. You boast of 10,000 issues a month.It’s really only 1/2 of that as OUR people destroy the rest.We are invisible and we are LEGION.We are 14-72 YEARS OF AGE.We are in your schools,law enforcement,churches and government (national and local) and we are EVERYWHERE.If you continue in your indiscriminate distribution of your filthy rag someone-an “associate” perhaps will come up to you UNEXPECTEDLY to render you a personal TUNEUP!!!!! IFYOU’RE SMART YOU WILL TAKE HEED OF OUR MESSAGE.THE MAR/APR EDITION WILL BE THE LAST ONE THAT YOU DISTRIBUTE INDISCRIMINATELY.MARK MY WORDS.
ALSO IF YOU THINK “HATE CRIME “LEGISLATION WILL STOP OUR ACTIONS YOU’RE WRONG.
DEAD WRONG.In the present economy we can hire almost anyone to do WHATEVER needs to be done.Have a day. YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE”
Clearly this small minded person did not scare me or make me go back into my closet and least of all stop publishing Diversity Rules Magazine. If anything it made me more resolute in my efforts and just faced the threat head on, squarely and firmly by devoting an entire issue to homophobia. This instance set the stage for what would become my passion in life – to combat homophobia, prejudice and fear of people who were different.
With the advent of Facebook, the message of Diversity Rules has been resonating to the point where I am garnering attention from all over the United States and in other countries. I have also become much more firmly entrenched in my activism, to the point where I just don’t care what people think of what I do or say. I just want people to think for themselves and not be swayed by the opinions and influences of others. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
With this visibility come those who find fault with everything you do and say. In the past few weeks I have been called envious, intolerant and hateful. As far as I am concerned, all marks of accomplishment because I have gotten someone to think outside of their comfort zones. Their striking out at me just appears to be a feeble attempt for whatever reason to hide their own insecurities of who they are and what they have not yet become. So I certainly don’t harbor any resentment toward these people and my only hope is that they can become one with themselves and be happy with who they are.
I have also been accused of being angry and many of my posts on Facebook are reflecting that anger. Am I angry at a country that does not recognize the inherent equality of all its citizens? You bet I am! Am I angry at a Pope who says homosexuality will be the downfall of humankind while hiding their pedophile priests for so many years and not doing anything about them? You bet I am! Am I angry at Republicans who wish to take away rights and equate gay parents to common criminals? You bet I am! Am I angry that 33 percent of the queer community voted for these vile GOP’ers that are trying to relegate queers to the sidelines and put us back in the closet? You bet I am! I could go on and on about what I am angry about.
However, my anger is not just idle lashing out and being negative despite what some people may think. I am taking proactive steps to call these homophobes and bigots out for the small minded people they are. If it comes across as negativism to some then so be it. I do not apologize for my zeal and my manner by which I work toward equality. Being nice to a homophobe and hoping they do the right thing has not and will not work!
As my friend Jennie said, “Its a big challenge swimming against the river – harder than conformists usually realize. Every group that has “come out” – accepted themselves as full humans with human rights in America – faced opposition. That opposition can come in the form of “why do you take yourself so seriously?” – check out the women’s movement for example. Or “you always seem so angry!” check out the black rights movement. People are people with human emotions – its challenging to both accept yourself as you really are and live normally in a world that can easily crush you simply by continuing the status quo.”
I REFUSE to allow the status quo to crush me! Those who propelled the Stonewall Rebellion did not let it crush them. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not let it crush him, nor did any of the other activists of our time who worked for equal rights and fought injustice. I simply will not stand idly by and hope things change by being nice and polite!
Dig deep within yourselves and come to grips with who you are and what you represent! Don’t be afraid to step out and say “that is just wrong and I won’t allow it to continue!” Be strong and diligent in your efforts to combat injustice and inequality. Most importantly don’t let ANYONE tell you that you are being negative and you should “accept yourself” and “stop constantly bitching and lashing out.” NEVER stop bitching and lashing out at injustice! As long as you do it constructively and offer solutions you are on solid ground. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.