The last year of my life is a blur, a series of events that feels like one long day. Sure, there are highlights and landmarks, events that stand out and memories I’ll never forget; but still, all the days run together and I often find myself remembering having a conversation, but not with whom or when. Or, I remember an event, but not when it took place. It’s almost as though I’ve lost all sense of time.
This occurred to me a few days ago when I was leaving a meeting at the Hagerstown Hopes Hub. We had met to discuss ways we can better serve the community and, as we were gathering our belongings and saying our goodbyes, we realized something: it was May first.
May first is an important day for Hagerstown Hopes. It was on this day, a year ago, that our community center, the Hagerstown Hopes Hub, first opened for business. Back then I wasn’t formally involved with Hopes. Instead, I was the writer/reporter who covered Hagerstown Hopes and their work with the community. I was also hungry to get involved. I had a degree in social work I wasn’t using, and somehow just seeing that a small group of dedicated and concerned citizens had been able to acquire and sustain its own space for the LGBTQ community made me realize that there was real potential here. Maybe we could make a difference after all, and I wanted to be part of that.
It wasn’t always that way for me, though. My experience, which I think many of us share in one way or another, is that of the outsider. I grew up in a rural area before LGBTQ persons were visible in the media. No one I knew had any openly LGBTQ friends or relatives, and as a young adult I often felt like I was the only one. I knew that there were other people like me, I just didn’t know where to find them. There was a community, but I wasn’t part of it. I was on the outside.
Being the outsider isn’t easy. I had to conceal parts of myself to stay safe, and during that process I learned to internalize a lot of things that weren’t good for me, things like shame and guilt and self-hatred. The world was a different place then and I felt it was my “fault” for being different. I knew I wanted to belong, to be part of the community, but I also thought that would never be possible.
That was half a lifetime ago and things are different now. I’m happier and I love the work I get to do with Hagerstown Hopes. It doesn’t bother me that I’ve lost all sense of time because a lot of my time has been spent building and supporting the community that I always wanted to be part of. And, along the way, I’ve met so many others who have always wanted the same thing for themselves.
As I left the meeting I realized that I (and we) have been busy because the world is now validating us for these negative experiences. Organizations, including the city and the police department, want to work with us so that others won’t have the same negative experiences we’ve had. They recognize that a world that isn’t inclusive is a dangerous world for outsiders. Times have changed, and we play an important role in shaping the future of our communities. The outsiders are being welcomed in.
Only one year later, the community we are a part of and the community we call home are in a better place. Our resources have grown, opportunities have opened up, and we’ve accomplished more than many (sometimes including ourselves) have thought possible. The community is here, and we hope you’ll be a part of it.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.