(This is Part 4, the final part, in a series of stories about my journey beyond sexual assault. I hope it has opened up healthy dialogues about sexual assault in our LGBT communities. For more resources, go to https://www.thehimmproject.org/other-resources/.)
Five thousand miles and 914 days later, I’m still on this quixotic cross-country journey to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder from a sexual assault and to become a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – the show that made me laugh on a night in 2015 when I felt suicidal.
That light moment led to my decision to stop isolating myself. Instead, I would approach complete strangers to gain support for getting on The Late Show as a guest to help others see that hope exists after sexual assault. With lots of Sharpies and white foam boards in hand, I’ve gathered these folks’ encouraging messages.
My long road to recovery led me one afternoon to my neighborhood Chipotle restaurant. It was a most unusual place to realize something vital about my healing process.
A woman working there recognized me as a frequent patron and asked me whether I ever grew tired of eating the same food so often. My response came very quickly. It was as if I’d waited a lifetime for someone to ask me that question. Out poured the answer.
I told her that I had gone through a trauma that almost killed me one night and that I was just happy to be alive and eating … any kind of food.
That might seem like something insignificant to say. It wasn’t.
Everyone within earshot of me at that busy restaurant paused for a few seconds. All of the workers. All of the customers in line. All of the people at the adjacent tables. All eyes were focused on me. My words were simple, but powerful.
A man behind me broke the silence. He patted me on the back, nodded, and said, “thank you.” His words spoke for everyone there: Thank you for letting us all know what is truly important in life.
During our summer Pride season, let’s all embrace change through simple and powerful words. Remember what is important. Remember who you are. Remember to be proud.
Pride festivals give us the chance to look at all the accomplishments we’ve created together. Pride parades give us the opportunity to let the world see that we still need to make changes to help people who are marginalized.
Gay men like me who have experienced sexual assaults are especially marginalized. We are treated as peripheral in our society, and that means we are seen as insignificant.
We aren’t going to let that happen to any member of our community. We all deserve to be heard and helped.
We were all invited into this world for a reason – so we could dance.
Dancing can be elegant. It can be fast. It can be smooth. It can be short. It can be sexy. It can be loud. We each choose a style that fits who we are. The variety is what makes life so amazing.
During this awesome Pride season, let’s reach out to our brothers and sisters in our LGBT community who have experienced sexual assault. We can’t let these friends sit in a corner while the rest of us dance. We take care of each other. Our community is powerful when we are all on the dance floor.
What began from a moment of laughter for me has become a story of hope and support for lots of us. I have traveled across this country and I’ve taken the hands (and messages) of 25,112 complete strangers, and they have joined me for the dance.
I am going to keep waltzing my way to The Late Show in New York City. I will continue to meet strangers each day on this incredible journey to help me and many others overcome sexual assault.
I invite you to join me on BlakeLateShow.com and share in this journey.
Together we shall heal. Together we shall stand. Together we shall dance (and laugh) with Stephen Colbert.
This article of pride, hope and support is brought to you by that guy with a lot more to share. That guy with more stories than colors in the rainbow is Ron Blake. You can find him at Blake Late Show on Facebook and Instagram.