My heart goes out to Sean Horenstein today, an old friend from my UCLA theater days. In our show “When Esther Saw the Light,” in which Sean played Grandpa, he was completely obscured by the pillowcase he wore on his head, and while he didn’t like it, he was graceful about it–even when I made him wear it during the curtain call. The show went on to win Best Play in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, and our trip to perform in DC was memorable for all. In the years since, Sean moved to Nashville and married his now-hubby, Stanley Joel Churchwell.
For the past many months, Sean has bravely been battling cancer, and given its continual advancement and resistance to chemo, in January Sean made the decision to no longer continue treatment. Now, it seems, his journey’s end is quickly approaching. Please join me in sending out positive thoughts to Sean and Stan. Here’s to you, Sean, and your beautiful face.
UPDATE: Sean passed away in his sleep at 1:45AM on Wednesday March 9, 2016. He will be deeply missed.
Behind the scenes: Michael Sargent, Wade Skeels, Jeremiah Enna, Brian Omeara, Steve Brown, Kim Gibilterra, Michael Korn, and David Thomsen. Cast: Pamela Silverman, Kathleen Hartigan, Pia Pia Romans, Steve Schaeffer, Rebecca Delfino, Debra Guarienti, Catherine Skillman, Sean Horenstein, Jack Black, and Jeff Maynard
Dearest family and friends,
Russ and I have for many months been wanting to share with you the ordeal our family has been facing, but haven’t been able to, until now. As most of you know, I adopted Mason with my now-ex, and I was the stay-at-home father for the first year and a half of Mason’s life. Upon our breakup, I became Mason’s primary custodial parent and have served in that role to this day. Our family quickly grew to include Russ and Marcus, leading to many years of amazing adventures, emotional bonding, and terrifically fun times.
Once we had made the decision to put our house on the market, we discussed this with Mason to find out if he wanted to move with us to Colorado or remain in California. He said he wanted to be with us, as we are the only family structure he has known, and he has reaffirmed that decision many times over. Thus, we were shocked several months ago to find that my ex had filed suit for full custody of Mason, which would mean he would remain in Orange County and we would have only a few visits with him each year. Ever since, our entire family has faced a whirlwind of emotions. Not only have we had to deal with the tremendous stresses of selling our house, buying a new one, and the subsequent pack/move/unpack–while also fulfilling our full time jobs–but we have had this emotional legal battle hanging over us the entire time, ripping our family apart. We have been so saddened to have Mason taken from us over the summer, as moving him wasn’t permitted by the court until this matter was settled. Marcus has missed him terribly, and Russ and I have had countless sleepless nights. You simply can’t imagine how horrific it is to potentially have your child taken from you, against his wishes.
Finally, after months of hearings, court investigations, and testimony, on this past Monday the judge finally ruled that Mason could move, and we flew back to Colorado that same night, as Mason had already missed the first day of school.
Today, we are relieved, but exhausted and emotionally tapped out.
Needless to say, we have appreciated your support throughout these months. One of the many reasons we moved to Colorado was for a less-expensive life, as I have been struggling to pay back debt, only to find ourselves with what will be over $50,000 in legal fees. I’ve opened so many credit cards to cover the attorneys fees, and have no idea how to pay for them, which only serves to make my stress even worse. (I would prefer to work this debt off, so if you know of any freelance writing projects or marketing work which could be done in the evenings, please let me know.) Reluctantly, on the advice of friends who want to help us out, we’ve also set up a GoFundMe account, should anyone like to contribute. http://www.gofundme.com/272329d4
Still, as daunting as the debt may be, that is nothing compared to the incredible relief we feel to have our “Boo Boo” back home with us. Our family simply wasn’t the same without him. And we are especially grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and prayers.
Family has always been paramount to us, and we are so grateful to finally have ours back together.
Kergan and Russ
P.S. Please don’t leave any negative comments about my ex. This entire episode has been so emotionally draining, we want only positive energy moving forward. Thank you for respecting our wishes!
This is to all my Republican friends: Many of you have told me that while you yourself have more liberal social views, you vote Republican because you see that party as being for limited government and a strong economy. PLEASE CONSIDER THIS, THOUGH: Your actions in voting Republican are leading to the death of the planet, as your leaders disavow climate change and are indeed working to ban even the phrase. Your leaders, putting corporate profits above ecological sensibility, continue to push for deregulation of corporate oversight, and that deregulation and lack of oversight leads to increased pollution. This, despite a mountain of evidence that our earth is changing quickly, and not for the better. Devastation of species and the environment are imminent, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.
Many of you have told me that while you personally support LGBT equality, you feel that Republicans actually are–at their heart–LGBT allies, but are just appeasing the louder voices of the party’s right wing base. But your actions in voting Republican are leading to laws which discriminate against the very people you claim to support. People can be turned away, simply from ordering a meal, or holding a job, or having a roof over their head just because they’re gay. What year are we living in, you may ask? Good question. Just remember, YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.
Many of you have said that while you support tighter gun control, to avoid the kind of mass shootings we’ve seen, you don’t want your guns “taken away.” Well, guess what? In the last 10 years, your guns HAVEN’T been taken away, have they? At the same time, your vote has led to inaction on behalf of stricter laws. We DON’T HAVE tighter gun control laws, which means senseless killings and mass shootings will continue, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.
Many of you say that you think Republicans are better in terms of national security. Yet the biggest terrorist act against the U.S. occurred during a Republican President’s watch. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.
Many of you say you want a peaceful, diplomatic foreign policy, yet voted for a man who led us into two ill-considered and expensive wars, killing countless in the process. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN. Meanwhile, Democratic Leadership is trying to bring peace to areas of strife. You might not agree with every decision made, but it is all with the goal of peace–yet the Republicans in Congress seem determined to screw up even that. Just remember, if an Iran agreement isn’t reached due to Republican interference and war occurs, YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.
And finally, for those who vote Republican due to fiscal concerns, just remember this: It was your Republican President who got us into the financial crisis and collapse in the first place, and it was a Democratic President who got us out of it. The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average. Corporate profits have nearly tripled, and stock prices have soared. ALL THIS ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT, from a Democrat, not a Republican.
Now, you may want to quibble the details–and I’m sure many of you will–but my point is this: YOUR VOTE MATTERS, and your vote is killing the planet, creating discriminatory laws against LGBT people, ensuring pay inequality for women, enforcing a lower-than-liveable minimum wage which leads people to poverty, and so much more–none of it good. Yeah, the Democrats have problems too. Lord knows, they ain’t perfect. But they aren’t trying to kill the planet either. Peace.
While the LGBT community continues to battle discriminatory legislation in Indiana and states contemplating similar such laws, it gives me some measure of comfort to know that this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the long-raging debate over same gender marriage. For some, the court’s eventual decision will be solely intellectual, but for me, that verdict will be extremely personal, and it is my every hope that marriage equality will be the resulting law of the land in all 50 states. After almost 12 years together and raising two children, my partner Russ Noe and I were legally wed in California on June 7, 2014. That moment was a lifetime in the making and as the gold wedding band slid onto my finger, I was fully cognizant of all that it meant, both legally and emotionally… For as it happens, in my recent history, I’ve experienced inequity more fully than most.
One fall day in September 2001, I lost almost everything I held dear when I stumbled upon an email not intended for me. In it, I learned that my then-partner of six years, “Rob,” had broken the commitments we’d made and that, in fact, I’d been lied to from the start of our relationship. As that email glowed onscreen, I remember looking over to where our infant son lay sleeping, wondering what our collective future held. Rob and I had created a life together, had a commitment ceremony, bought a house, and adopted a child… I’d given up my career to be a stay-at-home dad, only to soon discover that while I was the primary caregiver, with a stronger emotional bond to our son than Rob, I had no legal parental rights whatsoever. Should Rob so choose, he could lawfully banish me from my child’s life.
I couldn’t imagine losing my son, nor how devastating that might be for him emotionally. He was my touchstone, and I vowed that somehow I would find a way for us to remain together.
I was urged by my attorney not to confront Rob about all I’d discovered and instead wait until my rights were settled, as I was then undergoing a process known as a second parent adoption. And so I returned home, plastered a smile on my face, and attempted to act as if everything were fine. I went about my daily life, taking care of our house and son, though I was tormented and wracked with fear inside. During this period, I even went with Rob to one of his therapy sessions, only to hear the therapist say that the only issues in our relationship were my doubts about Rob’s faithfulness, and that Rob was a moral and ethical human being. For one hour I sat, boiling inside, unable to stand up for myself and all that I’d discovered to be true.
Rob and I had stood in front of our family and friends, declaring our love and commitment toward one another. We called each other “husbands” and combined our finances, which were intended to be shared 50/50. We acted like a married couple and built our life like other married couples, but we didn’t have the same legal protections and benefits as our peers. This discrepancy became even more pronounced as time passed.
After two months of silence, unable to confront Rob, a court case in California placed all second parent adoptions–including mine–on hold, determining them to be incompatible with state law. To clarify this confusion, the California State Supreme Court would have to eventually rule on the legality of second parent adoptions, which could take months. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to remain silent indefinitely, I finally confronted Rob about all I’d discovered. In the process though, in order to ensure my rights were established, I pretended to give him hope that our relationship could be salvaged. I told him that we should take time apart and live separately, to see if we could mend the rift and find a way forward together as we had intended, as a family. In other words, in my attempt to hold onto my son, I became a liar, just like Rob.
We sold our house, and on the day it closed escrow, Rob went to the bank and took out the proceeds, leaving me what he alone determined to be “fair.” I had no choice but to live with that, and any other crumbs he offered, as I had no legal recourse. In the eyes of the court, we were no more than roommates, and I couldn’t afford to rock the boat until my parental rights were firmly established.
Eventually, a court date for my adoption was established. Even as Rob stood next to me in the court room, I waited, breathlessly, afraid he would halt the proceedings and take away this child whom I loved so dearly. At last, the judge signed the paperwork and the adoption was complete. After walking to my car, I sat in the front seat, holding my son and crying uncontrollably, grateful to no longer be afraid and for the ordeal to finally be over.
I had been in a similar emotional state before, in 1995, when my partner Shane Sawick died of complications from AIDS. In that situation, I endured months of anxiety, not to mention the physical and emotional toll of being a daily caregiver, but I did so all with the knowledge of how his story would play out. I knew that the end would come and I knew what it entailed. Still, when it did, it was agonizing.
At the time, I thought that never again would I experience anything as painful, but the prospect of losing my son and the months of uncertainty and turmoil that provoked proved far worse to my psyche.
It took me a long time to fully work through my anger and learn to trust again. Moving forward wasn’t easy, but I did it, with the support of my son and those I loved. That journey led me to Russ and the subsequent adoption of a second son.
Almost one year ago, as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful June day, Russ and I stepped out into our garden wedding ceremony, walking behind our sons, who served as best men. They each had written notes about the importance of family which they read to our assembled guests. Russ and I shared our vows, which we’d also written, publicly proclaiming our promises and commitment to the life we had crafted. At the end of the ceremony, as Russ slipped the gold wedding ring onto my finger, all the emotions and moments of my life seared through me, reminding me of the road I’ve traveled, the battles fought, and the promise of things to come.
Our rings are just simple bands, nothing fancy. But they are durable and signify the legality of our union. They are gold wedding rings, meant to last a lifetime.
This originally appeared on KerganEdwards-Stout.com. Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, was the recipient of a Next Generation Indie Book Award. His collection of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was named on multiple “Best Books of the Year” lists. He is currently at work on a memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide.
After being interviewed by Corinne Lightweaver of RaiseAChild.US for this The Huffington Post article, I flashed back to when I first met our youngest, Marcus, in his foster home. When my social worker and I walked up to the door, Marcus–without knowing me or why I was there–ran up and gave me a hug. I took that as a sign… (I ignored “the sign” of my next visit, when I took him to a park and he cried for two hours uncontrollably.)
There was also another child there at the foster home, Christian, who was about 11. He was a beautiful kid, loved basketball, and he asked if I was there to adopt Marcus. I told him that I might be, and it was clear to me that as happy as he was that Marcus might be adopted, he knew the chances for himself were slim. I walked away from that home happy that I’d just met the newest member of our family, but also sad that I couldn’t manage to take Christian as well…
Did you know that the number of LGBT people willing to fost-adopt children FAR OUTWEIGHS the number of kids in foster care??? Simply by making adoption by LGBT people across the U.S. legal, we could provide houses for all the kids in foster care. Astounding, and sad–for all the “Christians” in the world–that we can’t do just that.
Thanks to Corinne Lightweaver and Raise A Child, USA, for the chance to chat! Read the interview here!
So proud that our older son, Mason, is turning into such a fine young man. He agreed to be interviewed by Rainbow Riot, which is a literary magazine for teen youth with LBGT parents, and he did such a great job. LOVE this kid! Check it out here!
So today’s #TBT comes with a story… When I started at UCLA, I wanted to be an actor. The truth was, though, that as I hadn’t yet explored my soul, I wasn’t very good; all artifice and posing. My favorite shows at the time were DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING, and when they were on, I’d hide in my dorm room with a towel blocking the bottom of the door, so no one would think I was there and disturb me. I was convinced it was my destiny to end up on DYNASTY. I thought–if only the casting director would see me–they’d write a role for me as the teen son of Alexis: a brooding, sexy, tormented young man. I was so thoroughly certain this would happen that I actually practiced my DYNASTY title sequence, walking and turning to look directly into camera, smoldering, as if caught unaware.
As luck would have it, I heard about a special day-long Cold Reading class on campus, taught by none other than the casting director of DYNASTY. I knew that once I made an impression on him, I would find myself on the show. I spent much time picking out just the right outfit and concentrated on this brooding character I’d conjured in my imagination.
There were about 100 actors in the class that day, which was held in a lecture hall, so very little chance of me even meeting the man; still, I felt certain. The whole morning he talked about the key points to cold reading, which requires you to not have any preconceived ideas about the scene, as you have no time to even read it. It is all about being “in the moment.” Finally, as we broke for lunch, they announced that when we returned, one guy and one girl would be selected at random to cold read for the class. MY CHANCE–AT LAST!
All through lunch I ran through imaginary scenes in my head, each one more emotive and darker than the last. I probably even practiced my squinty “sexy pout” a time or two. After lunch, he asked for volunteers who wanted to read, and every hand in the class shot up, including mine. And he picked me! (I knew it!!!)
As the woman and I stood up and walked to the front of the room, we were handed our sides. We began to read, and I tackled it with all the force and passion I’d been storing up since my early days of first watching DYNASTY. I was intense, in a bad way–but befitting an Aaron Spelling production. I was Hamlet, only to find out mid-scene that the piece I was reading was witty, light Noel Coward-quipy comedy. I was utterly mortified, having committed to this part, but had no choice but to see my folly through to the end. After we finished and I returned to my seat, I could feel the other actors shrink away from me, fearful of catching my bad-acting bug.
Which is why I’m a writer.
#DontCountYourChickens #EpicFail #WorstAuditionEver #IamJoanCollinsSon
Last night I was fortunate in finally being able to legally marry my wonderful Russ, after almost 12 years together. Our wedding had a French theme and was a joyous celebration of our love, commitment, and family. Thank you to all who attended, and for the support and well-wishes of our friends and family. Here are the vows I wrote and read, and the boys played a part in as well…
June 7, 2014
My beloved Russ,
We stand here today, before family and our dearest friends, entirely mindful that we are a product of our pasts. At the same time, we are fully invested in this sacred moment, publicly proclaiming our commitment to one another and detailing our vision for our collective future. We can’t change where we’ve been, even if we wanted to, but together we can move forward with grace and consideration, charting together a map for the road we envision our lives to follow.
We both came into this relationship with a sense of purpose. As many people here know, we first met on Match.com. (I was attracted to his hair.) Meeting with common intention, it took us a while to realize that the goals we’d each initially had had already been fulfilled. But the friendship that first formed between us during that on-again/off-again time provided the foundation for this life we now share.
As my profile back then stated, I lead an ordinary/extraordinary life. I was looking for someone to enhance the extraordinary factor, which you have in spades.
French writer Andre Breton noted that “Love is when you meet someone who tells you something new about yourself,” and you’ve done just that for me. When we met, I was a struggling single dad, with an amazing two-year-old son and a dead-end job. While I’d had creative aspirations, I’d decided to focus on raising Mason, and my identity quickly narrowed. But in me, you saw a writer, and encouraged me to follow my passion. You saw a person of spirit, and now our church family has become one of our strongest sources of support. You saw more than my surface, and opened my eyes to the possibility of a new way of living.
One of the things I mentioned in my profile was that I was looking for someone to lovingly challenge me, and you’ve done that as well. While we initially saw our differences as obstacles—something to get over—we finally realized that these aspects of us were actually complementary. Your drive at work inspired my career determination. Your zeal for fitness inspired my love for boot camp. And your creativity and unique take on the world helps inform everything from our home, to the trips we take, to our spirited family dinners. We continually bring out the best in each other, encouraging personal growth.
When it comes to our boys, you tend to not get the credit you deserve. Not only do you work tirelessly to create the best possible life for us, but your love, guidance, and support—even telling the kids five million times to pick up their clothes—all of that plays an instrumental role in shaping Mason and Marcus into becoming the best people they can be.
French dramatist Victor Hugo wrote, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Neither of us is perfect, and never will be. But despite that knowledge, we continue to love, and our love grows only stronger as the years progress.
It seems only fitting that we are now taking this step into matrimony. We could have done this before, but today the time, place, and the people feel “right.” We are both committed to each other, to our children, and to completing our journeys together. And so this I vow to you…
Trust. I was a bit bruised, lacking in the trust department, when we first met, but you quickly cured me of that with your forthrightness. I vow to you my trust.
Faith. I believe in you, Robert Russell Noe. You have such gifts and creativity, and I fully support who you are. I believe you can do anything you attempt, and I place in you my faith.
Commitment. You’re it. There will be no other. This I vow to you.
And, most importantly, but not lastly, love. I love you. I believe that somewhere along the line, you never received the vital message that you are worthy of love, and lovable. But you are. And I want you to feel love—to experience love—and vow to show you every day that you’re worthy of love.
Mason: I vow to show you my love.
Marcus: I vow to show you how much I love you, Pappy.
And, finally, if there is anything lacking in our relationship, I think it is spontaneity and surprise. While we came together born of purpose, we didn’t have those fireworks and ringing bells—the romantic notion of love—that many have. You and I made the decision to be committed to each other and the kids, and in our day-to-day attempts to ensure we do everything necessary to keep our lives afloat, sometimes romance and surprise take a back seat to practicality. But that ends today. I vow to you, Russ, romance, spontaneity, and surprises…
And that starts right now. (I then launched into singing “La Vie en Rose” with guitar and accordion accompaniment–with the intro sung in French, which I don’t speak!)
Garrett Miller’s Rated G Radio is burning up the airwaves every weeknight, covering the latest in news, entertainment, and culture, culminating in a Friday night dance party. In addition, he’ll be joining Lance Bass for a day as co-host of Dirty Pop on Sirius XM OutQ 109 on Tuesday, February 18th from 3:00-5:00 PST. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Miller when my new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, was released, and meeting him later in person, I was struck by the drive he’s shown in ensuring his dreams come to fruition. Not only is he active with his radio show, but Garrett is also a singer, with a new song, “Eyes Wide”, and accompanying EP. Just a year ago, however, he had none of these and was on a completely different life path. Graciously, Garrett agreed to chat about his radio show, singing career, and what led him to change course at this point in his life.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: Garrett, thanks so much for making time to catch up. We first met when you interviewed me for your Rated G Radio, and it’s fun to be on the other side of the interview for a change! (more…)
Like many other LGBT people, I grew up thinking that I was all alone in the world. I knew of no other gay folks, either in or out of the closet, and this absence of role models likely contributed to my then sense of solitude. It didn’t help that within my own dysfunctional family, I had secrets to keep about who I was, which created a wall between me and them. In those pre-internet days, I would scour every book and newspaper in hopes of finding the slightest reference that someone else might be gay like me.
At Christmas time, I have fond memories of watching The King Family TV holiday specials in the 1960s and 70s, where a large family of varied talents would gather together in a faux-living room to sing and spread holiday cheer. There was something so nurturing about the bonds the family seemed to share, which gave me not only comfort, but an idea of what family could actually be. Still, while I wanted to be a part of that family–to be loved and valued as one of its own–I didn’t see myself reflected in the faces staring back. Would it have made a difference to have known that one of the King Family was actually gay?
King Family member Cam Clarke was then only a child himself, but would go on to be a sought after voice-over artist and out gay man later in life. Indeed, as we celebrate the holiday season, it is difficult to separate the season from the LGBT individuals who helped contribute to it through their creations of song and craft.
You can’t get through the holidays without catching a refrain from one of renowned vocalist Johnny Mathis‘ countless Christmas classics, yet how many will know that Mathis is an out gay man? Think of the dazzling (if over-priced) ornaments created by famed designer Christopher Radko, also a gay man. Indeed, in towns all across America, audiences will flock to see ballet performances of The Nutcracker, unaware that its composer, Tchaikovsky, was gay. Writers as distinctive as Truman Capote and David Sedaris have shared Christmas memories through their books. Victorian poet Christina Georgina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Love Came Down at Christmas” were both turned into popular Christmas carols, but most people do not know that her brother later burned the love poems that she’d written to women. Even as we shop through the malls, buying gifts for one another as Wham!’s “Last Christmas” plays in the background, most are likely not aware that the founders of Stonewall Kitchen, makers of tasty gourmet food items, are gay, or that Tim Cook, president of the ever-popular Apple company, creators of iTunes, iPads, and iPhones, is also gay.
Yet how much more powerful would it be if LGBT people proudly claimed our history, calling it out, and coming out ourselves in the process? We each have certain gifts to contribute to the world, both large and small, but key to giving is to give authentically, as out and proud LGBT men and women.
The most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, was painted by a gay man, Leonardo da Vinci. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was conceived and crafted by another, Michelangelo. One of history’s most successful commanders, Alexander the Great, was gay. Gertrude Stein, of “a rose is a rose is a rose” fame, was lesbian, as are tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. One of the most popular plays in America, the quintessential Our Town, was written by a gay man, Thornton Wilder, and one has to wonder how being gay shaped his views on small town life.
In my new fiction collection, Gifts Not Yet Given, the characters (particularly those who are LGBT) are each facing a moment in which their choices and actions will define them, for better or for worse. It is that way for each of us; the way in which we choose to operate in the world makes a difference. Do you have a moment to spare to help someone in need? Do you have stories which might assist others lead better lives? Are you living your life in truth and sharing your gifts with others? What do you have to contribute to society?
Regardless of what your gift is, the more important aspect is that you be honest in sharing it. Tell people who you are, as LGBT individuals, and show them that your contributions to the world matter. Without us, there would be no “Send in the Clowns,” “Come to My Window,” or Glee.
This New Years, revelers will celebrate the passing of one year and the dawn of another, and as they do, they may be listening to a popular song being sung by one of the top music superstars of his day. And while many may infer that he is gay, as the singer has yet to come out publicly, his is one gift that we can’t yet count.
Tell your story. Live authentically. And make the Yuletide gay…
Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new collection of holiday-themed short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was recently named a “Perfect book to give everyone this holiday season” by the nationally syndicated column, The Bookworm Sez. It is available now in paperback and e-book at Indie Bound (Independent Book Stores), Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or at your favorite book sellers.