Faith, God and Family: Opera, Sports, and Hope in the New Year


The New Year, the inevitable limbo and its effect on the LGBTQ community

Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
During my time at a Massachusetts law school several years back, the Boston Red Sox made it into the World Series. The event energized most of the students and faculty. I listened to my “Walkman” when a professor passed in the hall heading to class. “What’s the score?” he asked looking hopeful, wearing his Red Sox cap and thinking I was listening to the game on the radio.

“Carmen,” I responded. We both had puzzled expressions on our faces. He had as much interest in opera as I did in sports.

It’s rare when I pay attention to anything remotely sports related. I took notice when it was announced renowned opera singer Renée Fleming—whom I’ve had the sweet, memorable pleasure of seeing perform at the Metropolitan Opera—would sing the national anthem at some sports event (the big bowl, crystal bowl, Super Bowl?).

In mid-December, I again took notice of a sports event. This time it involved a love story between Jake Conrad and Michael Holtzman that they shared with the world at a Chicago Bulls game. According to Time magazine, it isn’t uncommon to have proposals at sporting events. News to me. This one, however, “is one of the first same-sex proposals in the franchise; previously, two women got engaged during an Atlanta Hawks game,” according to the same article.

The surprise proposal occurred with the help of the team’s mascot and cheerleaders and Scottie Pippen, who Time described as a legend (I’ll take the magazine’s word for it). The public pledge of love and fidelity happened on the playing court during a “timeout.” I’m guessing timeout means some sort of intermission.

Everyone with a heart appreciates a good love story. Of course most will be happy for the joy and happiness Jake and Michael have found in coming together as a family. Not only is this a wonderful, defining moment for Jake and Michael, but the proposal has larger social and national implications.

In these uncertain times, this blessed event should give comfort to anyone who has ever doubted there is always joy, hope, and happiness to be found no matter what is going on in the world or their personal lives. This beautiful event before a large, televised audience also helps to change the hearts and minds of those still fearful over the expansion of civil and human rights.

As I’ve noted on several occasions through the years writing this column, law by itself does not change hearts and minds, especially if people think their rights are being undermined. Because there is a law (judicial or legislative) doesn’t mean justice and goodwill prevail. Hearts and minds don’t necessarily change because the law did. Harsh attitudes can still undermine justice and good law.

What’s needed in the next four years is something in addition to legal and legislative tactics to preserve the rights gained for LGBTQ people across the country. There must be a sustained effort to directly and respectfully communicate with those most vocal about perceived threats to their religious freedom.

Remember, perception is reality. Hence, you must meet people on their terms and give them a reason not to be fearful. You need to give those who perceive you as different a reason to direct their energies toward other things. Don’t expect quick results. It also may be a test of your patience.

Bette Davis quipped in one of her movies, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night. ” There will be bumps for the LGBTQ community in 2017. This is in addition to the personal and professional challenges and frustrations everyone faces.

Find your joy in each day as you think about measured responses to social, political, and personal issues ahead. Go forth in the New Year with hope, courage, and determination remembering everything you’ve already overcome to get to this point in your life. Challenges are ahead in 2017, yes, but never stop believing the best is yet to come. If I can occasionally find joy because of sports, which is like watching paint dry for me, you too will find it throughout 2017.

*Paul is a corporate chaplain and lawyer in the Albany, NY area, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”

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