by TODD BOWMAN
MARTINSBURG, West Virginia – Years after officially coming out, a friend and co-worker joked that I never hid it well. It was never my intention to hide my sexual orientation. It was actually refreshing to come to an area, work for an organization, and be around fellow paramedics and EMTs that were supportive and cared about my life.
My first post was at the agency’s west-end, day-work station. I remember driving to work that first shift and being worried that my partner and I were going to clash. I had only seen him in passing at the hospital. He was quiet and smiling was limited. Several shifts went by and I learned a little more about him. He seemed rugged and generally had a lot of life experience. It still made me nervous that if he knew I was gay, something would change.
One afternoon we were dispatched to assist the police department. When we arrived on the scene, officers directed us to the patient who was sitting on the sidewalk. The patient called me “fag and faggot.” I brushed it off and continued my assessment. The patient began yelling, “I don’t want a faggot working on me.” Then he raised his arm, made a fist, and started to swing at me. My partner stepped in front of me and stopped the patient from hitting me. From that second forward, there was never a doubt in my mind that he had my back. All the anxiety that I had about telling him I was gay was gone. We became very close over the years we worked together.
Working in the fire service, you develop bonds with your co-workers. Much like a family, you don’t mess with one, because there is likely four more standing behind them, ready to defend.
This week a meme appeared on Facebook that showed a photo of Stormy Daniels and Anderson Cooper with the text “so, a porn star and an openly gay man sit down to discuss morality.” I would encourage viewers to take ten seconds to read and comprehend posts like these. The post isn’t funny and degrading on many levels, not to mention, factually not correct. The interview between Cooper and Daniels had zero to do with morality. The interview was an attempt for Daniels to tell her story and the alleged threats she received if she told her story about her relationship with President Donald Trump. What does Cooper’s sexual orientation have to do with morality?
Morality. Let us talk about morality for a minute. The difference between what is right and wrong. It is extremely disheartening and upsetting in today’s society that in an attempt to discredit a respected and award winning journalist, we have to bring his sexual orientation to the forefront.
I grew up in a small town in Western Maryland. I was raised in a religious family. My parents taught me to treat everyone equally, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. My parents taught me to respect my elders and to say please and thank you.
Growing up gay wasn’t easy. I always knew something was different with me. I suffered from anxiety. As I got older, I never acted on any of my feelings or told anyone because I was fearful of the repercussions.
TV shows like NBC’s Will & Grace and Friends exposed me to the gay community and that it was okay to feel the way I did.
It wasn’t until finishing college and starting my first job as a paramedic that I became comfortable enough with my sexual orientation and myself. I started telling people and most people had already suspected it for years and had treated me no differently. Many of these people still remain supportive.
To be candid for a moment, anyone out there that is struggling with his or her sexual orientation, remember, it gets better. You have to stay strong and keep moving forward. It might not be tomorrow, it might not be in a week, but one day you will look back, be completely comfortable with yourself, and be able to help someone else.
Thank you to my friends, family, and co-workers for being there over the years. You were there for me through the bad haircuts and colors, poor shoe choices, boyfriends, terrible taste in clothes, acne, and braces. When I thought I had reached the bottom, you were there to pick me up again and make me smile.
Todd Bowman is a senior staff writer for Shock-Advised.com. Follow him on Twitter @_toddbowman for up-to-the-minute, breaking news and personal interest stories related to today’s public safety workers.