The interview we have for you this week is a little on the wordy side but I think it’s worth the read. We were approached to interview Jed La Lumiere, an interesting and entertaining man from the other hemisphere who has recently released his debut novel, Patience – A Gay Man’s Virtue. He tells us about his life growing up, his book and his beliefs, and I am thrilled to be able to share his story with you. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us Jed.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
You know, I’m not really sure. I kind of fell into it one day, and then I fell in love with it. I guess it all started in 1999 when I wrote the first few lines of “Patience”, but at the time I didn’t think that I was going to do anything with it. I stopped work on the book for about nine years, and when I picked up again in 2008, it just seemed to come together, and I liked writing it. I am currently working on two other books, so I guess I am hooked.
What prompted you to write this particular book?
This book stems from decades of being mistreated by members of society and baring witness to other minorities being taken advantage of and shunned as well. I had something to say, so I thought it was time to write it all down and get it out there. So many people are blind to the injustices that happen to women, people of colour, the LGBT community as well as many other visible and invisible minorities, on a daily basis. I wanted to write something that would bring people together as a global community, which is something that needs to happen.
You have just released your debut novel, Patience – A Gay Man’s Virtue, can you tell us a little about the book?
It’s a hybrid of sorts, really. It is stand-up humour in a new medium—sit-down humour. Like all persons of satirical flair, I have my political platform, but I am also lighthearted about it. Life is funny…really funny if you just take the time to look at it that way. Yes, it’s written by a gay man, and I discuss topics surrounding issues in the LGBT community. However, I also discuss how those issues affect all facets of modern life no matter if you are gay, straight, black, white, male, female or a unicorn for that matter. The issues are real, and they are very serious in nature, but I approach them with humour. Our differences are what make us all the same. We are all different. For me, living in a world where society pins this group against that group or this person against that person, there is just too much negativity between people and it has to stop. I feel that as a global society, we have become spoiled and bored, and as a result of having fewer constructive things to do with our time (thanks to technology) many people have returned to racism and bigotry as means to get their kicks and pass the time. Our goals as humans living in the 21st century should be to bring the world closer together to work on real issues: hunger, disease, environmental emergencies, etc. Making a more efficient automatic toilet, trying to decide who should marry or who can’t, and turning holidays into political bloodbaths isn’t where we should be.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your debut novel?
My goals are to make my readers laugh, get them to think a bit, make them feel more comfortable in their own skin, and have them relax in the world that surrounds them. We’re all linked somehow, and when more of us are relaxed the better off we are as a global community. With six degrees of separation connecting us, we’re bound to know someone, who knows someone, who knows—well you get the picture. My point is that I’d like all of the people in my six degrees of separation to be as serene as possible.
When I started out on the journey to write the book, the first thing I wanted to be sure of was that the book was not all doom and gloom. I love to make people laugh, and this world has a severe shortage of smiles, that’s for sure. So, while my messages are clear and concise, they are delivered with humor despite the gravity of issues at hand.
In getting my readers to think a little bit, my hopes were to reach the LGBT community, the supporters of our community, as well as people who are in need of a bit more education and enlightenment as it pertains to LGBT persons. As I stated before, while the book was written by a gay man, and it includes some of my experiences, the lessons and the happenstances can be related to just about any person or community. Many of the issues that surround the LGBT community are easily relatable to equal rights for woman—still an issue despite what many may think—people of colour and people with disabilities. I ask people to look beyond their noses and their comfort levels to see the world through the eyes of another.
Getting comfortable in a society that constantly tries to make you into something you are not, is another hot topic, and goal that I want to reach with my readers. Whether you’re short, tall, black, white, gay, straight, male, female, rich, poor, whatever…someone, somewhere is going to have an issue with you, eventually. No matter what you do as a person to fit in or please other people, you are always going to fall short. That’s why I think it’s a damn shame when people do their best to conform to a society just to feel safe. The two main reasons this disheartens me is because one: Some people spend their whole lives pretending to be something they are not, while missing out on what it would be like to live as the real them. And two: People who let society dictate the direction of their lives end up being spectators to the most wonderful thing we will ever experience—the gift of life. People are born into what they are as it pertains to sex, sexuality, and gender. Love yourself for who you are. That’s my message. We are born that way…take it away Lady Gaga. I love that crazy woman.
In short, we all need to relax in the world around us. Anti-gay extremists need to chill out as do the churches and governments that favor anti-gay legislation. First and foremost, allowing same-sex marriage will not infringe on anyone else’s rights, churches will not spontaneously combust, and countries will not fall because same-sex marriages are permitted. Canada, The Netherlands, and Denmark have all proven that—as examples. Many of my friends in these nations are gay (myself included), have married, and the flags still fly and the peoples of these great nations are still free. Teaching hate is not the answer. It is a problem. It’s a problem that is a growing epidemic, which transcends the LGBT community and seeps into the facets of everyday life, for every person. When people are taught that it’s OK to hate one person because of his/her differences it becomes very easy to keep adding to the list.
But members of the LGBT communities are not off the hook either, in this regard. As a community, we have to show the world that we are comfortable enough with ourselves to come out as the people that we are meant to be and to fight for the rights that are wrongfully withheld from us. Our communal voice needs to grow in numbers and in volume. The time for complacency has passed and all members of the LGBT community as well as our supporters need to join together to put anti-gay hate crimes and anti-gay legislation behind us, finally. In all states, countries and nations, it’s time for true equality among all persons—without exception.
You grew up in the United States, in a small town I believe, can you tell us a little about growing up gay in a small town?
In short, it was hell. Growing up in a small town is hard enough for many people, but when you are young, struggling with your secret, and you have people openly hating you—peers and elders alike—life is just horrifying. In the wake of equal rights for people of colour and increased equality for women, bigots—most times—will keep their thoughts and comments to themselves, while in public. However, LGBT people are invisible, in more ways than one. With that, anti-gay persons will hate us right to our faces and there is still little protection for us. It is getting better, but until the LGBT community is recognized as equal in all countries—as complete and whole people and citizens—the door is left wide open for support of extremist organizations and anti-gay individuals.
When I was growing up, there was no internet, no way to learn about being gay, and there were very few people that I thought I could talk to as being gay was not something that was openly talked about—at least not safely—where I lived. If people even thought you were gay, the taunting and the name-calling would ensue to the point of insanity, and that was the case with me. People did not know I was gay while I was in school, as I had never told anyone. They all just assumed and took it upon themselves to torture me. Sadly, the adults were just as bad as my peers were. Grade school was no walk in the park, but high school/secondary school was a 4-year nightmare. I remember the day that I graduated, as soon as they called me for my diploma, I held back tears as I could not believe I survived high school, literally and figuratively. When the ceremony was over, I clearly recall walking off the school grounds, in tears of joy and relief that it was over, finally over. It has been 18 years since that day, and I haven’t even so much as driven passed my former secondary school.
In 2008 you moved to Canada, how does living in Canada differ from the US from the perspective of a gay man?
There are many differences between the US and Canada despite what many may think, especially when it comes to diversity and equality. Unlike the US, all persons are considered equal under the eyes of the federal law as is written in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, all persons are free to exercise their rights without fear of discrimination. Are things perfect, no…but at least we have federal documents clearly stating that all persons are equal and it’s against federal law to discriminate for any reason. With respect to Canada’s youth as a sovereign country, compared to the US—Canada being ninety-one years younger than the US—Canada has always been leaps and bounds ahead of the US as it pertains to equality, for all people.
While many provinces had leveled the marriage playing field on local levels prior to 2005, Royal Assent was granted on July 20 2005 making Canada the fourth country in the world—the first in The Americas—to legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level. Given that Canada has recognized same-sex love for so long and made same-sex unions legal so many years ago, living in Canada as a gay man is not really a big deal at all. The LGBT community is more openly accepted here both socially and politically, and unlike the US the LGBT community is protected under law from decimation so we do not have to worried about being dismissed from our jobs or denied access to civil services.
Canada has a mosaic culture in that our differences as people make Canada the culturally rich and diverse place that it is. This is very different from the US as the US has a melting pot culture where people are expected to conform and to become “Americanized.”
The biggest difference between the two countries is the treatment of LGBT persons by local and federal governments. As an example: When I applied for a Civil Union license (the highest level of recognition for same-sex couples in the state that I was living in, at the time) the person at the courts office looked at me as if I had three heads when told her that I wanted to apply for civil union license. After I asked for the application, she told me that civil unions were only for the gays. I told her that I was aware of that and that I was gay. She pushed the paper toward me, rolled her eyes and walked away.
That being said, when I applied for my marriage license, in Canada, it was business as usual. A marriage is a marriage here—gay or straight. All the laws and procedures are the same.
Another example is same-sex marriage is recognized federally in Canada, so when taxes are filed same-sex couples can file as married on both the Federal and Provincial level. In The States if you have a same-sex marriage, you can only file as married in the state that allows the marriage but you have to file as single for federal tax returns. It’s a mess. Even traveling to the US as a gay couple is still a bit of a hassle. Not that long ago my husband and I were traveling to the US and when we got up to the US customs desk the agent asked us how we were related. We told him that we were married. He looked at us and said, blankly, “Your marriage doesn’t count here.” Then he proceeded to process us as single individuals, making us fill out additional paperwork. The experience was degrading and embarrassing.
What advice do you have for someone struggling to open up about something personal, to ‘come out of the closet’?
DO IT! Whatever your secret, whatever you are hiding, there’s no time better than today to come out with it and start living the life that you were meant to have. I have helped many people come out of the closet, and no matter how scared they were beforehand, as soon as they did it, they were so relieved and their lives, and loves turned around. That is not to say that there will not be some turbulence as you rise up to meet the person that you are meant to be, but once you reach cruising altitude you will be glad you put things in motion.
I, like some people, was outted by someone, a stranger for that matter—a story for another time—so I did not have an option to come out when I was ready. I was forced out, and that is not an option that I would suggest for anyone. What I have found to be most common is that people are their own worst enemies when deciding whether to come out, or not. They build these fantastic allegories and horrible outcomes in their minds when the reality really is not that bad. Many are afraid of losing a job, family members, friends, what have you, but none of those things are worth a lifetime of hiding. There will always be another job, and you can always make new friends. Concerning the family…if they do not love you for who you are, you don’t need them. Harsh, but true. Whoever said you can’t pick your family could not have been more inaccurate.
In my life, I have lost two people very dear to me because they were afraid to come out to their families. Their fear was so great that they decided to end their own lives versus talking to a family member about their sexuality. If someone does not feel comfortable talking to a family member about coming out, I suggest they find a friend, or professional to talk to—someone they can trust. Many early teens and young adults feel trapped, they need an outlet, and talking to someone is a much better route to take, over suicide.
Often times I have heard the excuse, “Why should I come out? It’s my business.” Yes, that is true. It is your business, but as a business, if you are not true to the product that you are selling (yourself), your marketing is going to suck. It may not be anyone else’s business what you do in your spare time or with whom you bed down with in the evening, but it is your life and a life of running from friends and family is not a life at all. Always living in fear that someone will find out your big secret is no way to go on day-to-day. All of that fear and tension is going to harm the body, mentally and physically. Lighten your load, get your secret off your chest and live life. Believe it or not, the very secret that you are hiding…many people may already know, and in some cases they are just waiting for you to come to them.
Same-sex marriage is a hot topic at the moment, in many places across the world, what can you tell us about your beliefs on the issue?
My belief is that the governments and religious institutions of the world have no right to dictate, mandate or regulate the bedrooms and households of private citizens. What many government officials have seem to have forgotten is that marriage is a civil, secular agreement, binding two people together by law. It is a legal contract. As such, any person of sound mind, who is old enough to sign a legal document as it is stipulated by his/her government should have the right to do so without interference from bias legislation or the Church.
It is time for lawmakers and religious sects to stop hiding behind God and religion as a scapegoat to their fears and prejudices. The personal beliefs of some people should not be used when deciding legislation for an entire populous of a country. As a human, I don’t care what other people do with their time in private or out in public, as long as they do not infringe on my ability to work, live, and exercise my rights within my country. As a member of the LGBT community, however; I find it utterly offensive that in the 21st century, as a global community, we are still picking people apart and segregating whole communities. There is enough tension and separation between nations. The last thing that global people need is contention and division within the counties in which they live.
You started your career in IT and moved on to become a personal trainer – can you tell us a little about what prompted the change?
I started out in Information Technology (IT) because it paid the bills. It was something that I liked to do, and I did it for many years. Throughout my IT career the largest underlying role that I had was that of an educator. I taught computer education courses, ran seminars, answered helpdesk questions and wrote training manuals as well as many other things. I loved IT, but what I did not love about it was the “good ol’ boys club” that went along with it. Again, given that I was working in the US, and LGBT persons do not have many rights there—still to this day—the discrimination and harassment that I faced on a daily basis was just inexcusable. So, over time I was looking for a way to still be able to teach, but not have to deal with the day-to-day travesties of Corporate America.
When I moved to Canada, from the US, I decided that I was not going to go back into (IT). While my move brought me to a place where I had equal rights and protection under the law, I feel that my life in the technical world had run its course, and I wanted to pay forward a kindness that someone had shown to me many years ago.
When I was nineteen, I was a smoker, and I was very overweight. Given that I was fed up with the small town mentality, I moved to Miami, Florida for a fresh start. While in Miami, I met a young woman whom I befriended rather quickly. She was a personal trainer. Early into our friendship, she told me that the cigarettes and the junk food had to go. She told me that I had the potential to be a very handsome person, but no one was going to see that through the cigarette smoke, and my body image issues. Within six months of our meeting she had taken me under her wing, I had quit smoking and I had dropped nearly 100 pounds. Without her love, I would not be the man that I am today. Heck, I am not even sure that I would be HERE today if it were not for her. Given that she had impacted my life in such a profound manner, I wanted to do the same for others. So, personal training seemed to be a good fit.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? I have two dogs, a husband, a business and a home to run. I haven’t had spare time since the Clinton Administration! In all seriousness, when I do have spare time, I like to travel. I have always loved Europe, so I go there often. I am trying to convince the hubby that it’s time to take the dive down under because I have been longing to get to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tasmania for over twenty years. So, I hope that soon we will be able to scratch those off the travel list as well. I also love to cook, visit wineries, camp and work in our gardens.
What do you like to read, what are you reading right now?
I like to read anything that I can get my hands on, with the exception of textbooks and user manuals. When it comes to books, honestly, anything goes. I’m not one of those folks who has to finish a book in the event I start it and realise that I do not like it. If I start reading something and it turns out that it’s not for me, I will set it down and pick up something else. I will give any book a try.
I have a touch of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). As result, I usually have more than one book going at a time. Currently on my nightstand are the following books: Sparkle—Scott Rosen, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat—Simon Doonan, The 6th Target—James Patterson and Character Development—Scott Morgan. I rotate through them depending what I feel like reading before I take a nap or turn in for the evening.
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with me. This has been a great experience, and I loved the author feature bit as well.
Take care and be well.
Thanks for your time Jed!