(Thanks to Zack Ford for the gif idea)
This was my second time attending the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association Media Convening, held this year on the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Md.
Twenty years ago, Wendy Lachs invited me to fly up from Tampa, Fla. for a date weekend. I was presenting male and not out; we were bordering on serious, I was falling in love and not thinking about how different I was from her prior boyfriends. She invited me here, to see the Orioles play in the nearly brand-new baseball palace of Camden Yards, risked seasickness to rent a pedal boat on the harbor and romanced me like no woman had ever done before, or ever will.
She’s on my mind today as she is every hour of every day, and not just since her untimely passing in January, as I try to concentrate on the important topics of this convening. Two decades ago, Wendy was a journalist who later became my wife. And I was a television news producer who later became her wife, although she preferred to call me her spouse, or “the kids’ dad.”
This morning, we were asked to sum ourselves up with three words. Zack Ford wisely chose “Good morning, Baltimore!” from Hairspray. My words were “Widowed. Relaxed. Trans.”
Our session right now is about LGBT families, homelessness, imprisonment and foster care. And while I’m moved by the stories of perseverance, of dedication, of injustice and of discrimination, it’s very warm in this meeting room and I’m beginning to feel myself fade.
Earlier today we discussed online journalism and the preponderance of work that goes unpaid, learned about the politics of PrEP, covering the black LGBT community and the movement to enact religious freedom reform legislation.
They’ve fed us, informed us and entertained us with Baltimore natives Deray Mckesson and director John Waters — whose off-color and downright offensive standup routine upset some attendees, enough for them to walk out. I stuck it out, and endured his ribald comedy mainly because I expected him to offend and that he intended to offend. He did not disappoint. For my stamina, I got to ask Waters a question, pose with him for a photo and he autographed a copy of his book. I sympathize with those who took offense, and hope they don’t see my ability to withstand offensive material as an endorsement. It’s not.
I was truly impressed by Mckesson, who is clearly an intellectual, politically savvy and a rising star in the gay community. He was kind enough to engage me in conversation and pose for a picture.
The booze flowed freely at this event, and after my third glass of wine I was feeling no pain. It was wonderful seeing familiar faces, meeting new people and being welcomed among my peers. Every hug offered felt like I won the lottery.
And I got a lot of hugs.
In my 30 years as a journalist, I’ve received trophies, certificates, accolades and pats on the back for a job well done, but nothing’s meant as much to me as these hugs. If you’ve read this blog or know me IRL, then you know that for me, it’s been a rough couple of months, and I am so very grateful for every embrace I can get.
A trust has been established by Wendy’s brother, Robert Lachs, to assist with furthering the education of the Ennis children. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund may click here to donate via GoFundMe.