Los Angeles is Paradise

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Living in Los Angeles often feels like paradise. For example this morning when I woke up, the sun was warm and shining and the sky was a shade of baby blue that could make the coldest hearts thaw. And it’s December! So, I wake up smiling, take a shower, and gather materials needed for walking my dog. I finally make it outside to find it sunny and just warm enough for a light jacket.

The author on the pier.
The author on the pier.

And then, as I kiss my boyfriend one last time before he heads to work, I find myself quickly scanning the area to make sure no one’s watching. At this point, you may be asking yourself, why bother? Well, the fact that we are both men has something to do with it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I came out of the closet in high school back in Mississippi almost ten years ago. I learned how to take care of myself at an early age, and I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I would never hesitate to show him affection in any situation because I care about him very much.

That being said, why did I feel the need to check and make sure no one was watching? It’s not as if we were about to perform some outrageous behavior that would be inappropriate for both gay and straight couples. It was just a kiss. Simple, quick, and loving. Yet, some part of me felt as if I were somehow disrupting my neighbors or perhaps even breaking the law.

It could be argued that if I lived in West Hollywood or Silverlake, then that wouldn’t have even been an issue, but I live in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Hollywood. However, why does this even matter? Where I live shouldn’t influence my behavior as long as it is appropriate in public. And let’s be real here: I’m a southerner — we’re born with manners.

Downtown Los Angeles from the author’s neighborhood. (photo provided by Kyle Levy)
Downtown Los Angeles from the author’s neighborhood.
(photo provided by Kyle Levy)

As I contemplate this, I am saddened to realize that if I feel nervous to kiss another man in LA, what must people in the South or Midwest be going through? I would be terrified to openly kiss my boyfriend in parts of Mississippi, even though I call it “home.” With all of the controversy going on in Russia, we seem to have forgotten that we’re still dealing with these issues here on our own soil.

Not that I’m in any way lessening the importance of helping LGBT members in other parts of the world, but how are we as a country supposed to make the world safer for others when it’s not even safe within our own borders. Growing up, I heard more than enough stories about kids being thrown out in the street just for being themselves. How does a parent disown their own child? The concept alone is inconceivable to me, but it happens.

Let me tell you the story of a good friend of mine. We’ll call him Carlos for privacy’s sake. Carlos was born in the Chicago area to a conservative Catholic Mexican family. Having grown up in a large family as is custom, Carlos was born into a life of poverty. That is until his family found out he was gay. Then without money or transportation, my friend was thrown out of his own home and forced to fend for himself.

The author in the Hollywood Hills.
The author in the Hollywood Hills.

After years of hard work and study, Carlos is now an RN is his late thirties and far more successful than most of the people I interact with on a regular basis. He lives alone in a two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood, drives a beautiful BMW and is as kind and generous as I could ever hope to be.

However, this story could have easily gone in another direction. Carlos could have given up and wasted his life away on drugs and alcohol. He could have committed suicide even. We’ll never know because my friend was too strong to give up and let the world take him down. This example is obviously a tremendous success story, and the sad part is that it is far too rare.

In the upcoming holiday season I hope with all of my heart that we will provide a reprieve for those dealing with discrimination and abuse. This is a time for humanity to give and accept love in all of its forms, and I wish you all the very best.

(All photos provided by the author)