Before we get started, I’d just like to state (as I did here at the top of the post) the purpose of this series: this series is to open our minds and our hearts to the ideas, feelings, and lives of others. We don’t have to agree with one another, but I do pray we grow in our compassion, our willingness to acknowledge one another’s humanity, and our enthusiasm to build bridges and relationships with those with life experiences that differ from ours.
Alright! Without further ado:
Nick is orginially from Norfolk, VA. He currently lives in DC with his husband Cory and their puppy Tanner.
1. Hi there! Nice shoes. Let’s just jump right in: how does your walk differ from mine? I always knew I was different – for so many reasons. I was (and am) the black sheep of my family. For starters, I’m biracial/multi-ethnic/a person of color, whatever you want to call it, haha – basically half Asian/Pacific Islander and half white/European-American. Sounds complicated, I know. I grew up without knowing my biological father (who is Filipino) in my mother’s entirely “white” family. I was very loved and was never made to feel like an outsider, but I always felt different. From a very early age, say 5 or 6, I knew I was not like the other little boys that had “girlfriends.” I didn’t fully understand it then, but I was attracted TO one of those other little boys. I wanted a “boyfriend.” I didn’t know what it was called then, but I was gay. I AM gay. A homosexual. I like the menzes, haha. I’m emotionally and physically attracted to men. This past October, without a lot of fuss, I was lucky enough to be able to legally get married in my home state of Virginia – to my love and my partner in crime, and he just so happens to be of the same gender as myself.
2. What do you think people would be surprised to know about you? I think most people that don’t know me well would be surprised to know that although it seems like I’ve got it all figured out on the outside, I struggle on a daily basis to find balance and my place in the world. I struggle with what it means to truly be happy. I’m talking that deep in your soul happiness, ya know? I struggle with perfection. I’m a perfectionist and if it isn’t “perfect” then I don’t even want to deal with it. And I struggle with finding that peace within myself. This past July, the weight of the world became too much for me to handle and all of my sorrows came to a climax. One night, I came home drunk and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. Luckily, G-d or a higher power or whatever you believe in had different plans for me, and gave me a second chance. I spent the next several days in the hospital and psych ward. It changed my life. It shook me to my core. I didn’t really want to die, right? No, I didn’t, but desperate people do drastic things. It does get better though, folks. After reaching the bottom there is only one way to go, and that’s up.
3. What breaks your heart? There are a lot of things that have the potential to make me sad. This most definitely coincides with what I was just talking about. I would say that inequality and injustice in the world are what weigh heaviest on my heart. Seeing people, especially my beautiful mother and others whom I love, struggle to make it in this world – seeing people, including myself, not reach their full potential, breaks my heart. This is the weight of the world that I spoke of.
4. What heals it? As cliché and corny as it sounds – LOVE. I’ll explain. Giving and receiving kindness, compassion, and admiration is love. Being proud of who you are, passionate about everything you do, successful, and wanting and working everyday to be a better person is self-love. And humor. Laughter is the gift that keeps on giving, not only because it has the potential to lift someone else’s spirits, but maybe even your own in the process. Let’s say comedy or being funny is a talent and a passion of yours – something for you to be proud of and share with others in the form of laughter. This is giving and receiving love. According to a psychologist named Maslow, all of this leads to self-actualization, or reaching one’s full potential. The pinnacle of true happiness in life is self-actualization. Striving to reach it and watching other people work toward or reach it is what mends my heart.
5. Jesus’ commands were to love God with all of your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m on a journey to see what that looks like. In your opinion, what could the Christian community do to better reach out and love their neighbors, maybe others walking in shoes similar to yours? I think it pertinent for certain sects of the Christian community to step outside the box and stop shutting out the world around them. You can’t love your neighbor if you don’t even know them. People are naturally afraid of and resistant to things that they don’t know or understand. Get to know the person. Care more about the relationship than the religion. PEOPLE should matter more to you than what a book, written by man thousands of years ago, has to say. It is a symbol of that volatile time period, written by humans. Humans who had opinions, feelings, and an agenda. This isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t be religious by any means, but I say challenge the status quo and spread more love through tolerance and acceptance than hate through fear, bigotry, and lies. This is the way, I believe, our maker intended for us to achieve a happy and successful eternal existence. Saying that you “hate the sin, but love the sinner” is still bigotry because this could very well mean that you hate someone for loving in a way that doesn’t fit your mold. Think about it. What you put out into the universe, the universe gives back. Open your eyes and see the world not as you want, but as you should.
6. How positive or negative has your experience been with Christians, and what has contributed to that? I would say my experience with Christians has mostly been very negative. I grew up in a secular household celebrating Christian holidays without the influence of religion. I feel I was blessed in this way because I was able to form my own opinions about what religion means to me; and I had the opportunity to forge my own spiritual path without the influence of the evangelizing institution that the Church has become. I am happy and proud to say that I am a believer in G-d, but I am not a Christian. I identify as Jewish. I’ll be honest and say that I cringe inside when someone says, “I’m a Christian,” or “the Bible says,” because these phrases have been used to justify the horrible and barbaric (“unjust” seemed repetitive) treatment of others for centuries (and Christianity isn’t the only religion guilty of this). I feel like a lot of Christians and “religious” people alike use religion as a crutch to further their personal agenda; whether it be a minister stealing money from his congregation under the auspices of G-d or a bigot saying they “don’t believe in homosexuality or gay marriage because it’s against the Bible.” In my opinion, religion is successful when it’s used as something to enrich your life and the lives of others, and not as the end all be all. I’ve also had many experiences when someone came up to me and asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “No.” “Well, why not?!” How rude! I do understand that people only know what they’ve been surrounded by their entire lives, but there is a whole other world out there. Being aggressive and judgmental is not the way to “spread the word of G-d.” It goes without saying that not all my experiences with Christians have been negative. I am happy to say that I have met one family that embodies what I believe means to be a true believer and a Christian.**
7. What, if anything, makes you hopeful that things are changing in a positive way for those on the same path as you? I see that things are changing in a positive way for LGBT all around the world everyday. We still have a long way to go, but as more and more states and countries allow same-sex marriage and as laws are being passed to protect LGBT individuals, the gay rights movement has never had more momentum. I attribute this to people’s changing minds, but it starts first with their hearts. People are actually getting to know LGBT, whether it be on a screen or in real life. We have more visibility than ever as celebrities come out and movies and television feature gay characters in lead roles. More and more people have relatives and friends that are openly gay. They see that we are not very different from straight people and that we want the same things as them – admiration, success, acceptance, and above all, to love and be loved without persecution.
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know? I’d like the readers to know that people are born gay, that I did not choose this, and that the maker intended me to be as I am, but it is not all of who I am. One’s sexuality is only one aspect of what makes up who we are. Gay people have depth, just like you.
**Nick wrote some really sweet words about our family. I wanted to share them here, separately, so his interview could really focus on him: “…and that is the beautiful Burchette family. You and Branden seem like very tolerant people, but more importantly, y’all ooze love and acceptance. I can see it and I felt it when I first met y’all. You are raising your children to see that there is more than meets the eye and that love and laughter are what make the world go ’round. As weird as it may sound, I want to thank you because they are the future.” (Thanks, Nick!)