Michael Hamar

A Day Of Desperation - One Year Later

Filed By Michael Hamar | September 28, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: gay bashing, gay suicide, Virginia

I have debated whether or not to write about the events of a year ago today. Given the recent gay teen suicides I decided that I would because suicidal thoughts and actions are not reserved to the teenage set. It is all too easy for many of us to feel that things will never be better and that real happiness will never be ours. In this mindset, ending it all can seem the best solution - or at least according to one's clouded thinking at the moment.

As long time readers of my personal blog know, my coming out and divorce process has been tumultuous and drama ladened. What is already a difficult process was made far worse by the readiness of attorneys in Virginia to use homophobia as a weapon to bludgeon a gay spouse in divorce proceedings and the willingness of judges to allow it - even though a plain reading of the Canons of Judicial Conduct bar such behavior and require homophobic judges in theory to recuse himself/herself from the case.

I say in theory because from my experience and that of others I know gay bashing and gay baiting is a thriving sport in Virginia's courts. And sadly, the Judicial Review Board does nothing to punish or reprimand judges that violate the Canons by allowing such conduct.

Last year, after ten months of seemingly non-stop drawn out hearings in my divorce where in all but one instance the judges involved allowed gay bashing and opposing counsel seem to almost get off sexually in debasing and abusing me for being gay, efforts at a global settlement collapsed. I received word around 10:00 AM on September 28, 2009. The only way that I can explain what happened after that is that I snapped emotionally and my only focus was on making it all stop.

I left work, drove back home - the boyfriend wasn't at the house - got very drunk and parked my car in the garage with the door closed and the engine running.

My office and the boyfriend had called the police when they could not verify my whereabouts and the police showed up at the house while I was still conscious. I ended up being transported to the hospital via ambulance - none of which I remember - after which I was subjected to two days of involuntary treatment and counseling.

It's an experience I would not recommend to anyone for many reasons, not the least of which is the harm it does to those who love you. The problem is, of course, that at the point I took the actions I did, I was truly thinking of nothing more than making the nightmare stop. Nothing else mattered.

A year later, I am glad that my efforts failed. Things are much better emotionally and psychologically and while still difficult, financially I am managing to survive. I have had a wonderful year with the boyfriend (who has been a saint through last year's meltdown) and my youngest daughter and I have re-established contact with my other two children.

The experience has taught me, however, that as a community, LGBT Americans - indeed LGBT citizens of the world - must redouble our efforts to (1) support each other and (2) stamp out laws like DADT which have as their underlying basis the goal of making us legally inferior and re-enforcing the Christianist message that homophobia is fine and that, indeed, LGBT individuals are deserving of mistreatment. At the national level, this is a huge task and one of the reasons I continue to embrace LGBT activism.

But not all of the work needs to be done at a national or even state level. In our communities, we need to be visible as LGBT individuals and not hide in fear of judgment. We need as many positive role models as possible - and not just for the benefit of gay teens. And we need to be willing to open our ears and hearts and listen to and give moral support to those being brutalized by the courts and larger society.

As for the judicial system, whenever a judge ignores the Canons of Judicial Conduct, we need to file a complaint. Even if it goes nowhere, hopefully over time a significant volume of complaints may impact a judge's reappointment prospects.

As for attorneys who gay bash and stoop to horrific tactics anti-gay tactics, have friends go to court with you so that you have independent witnesses and then have them file complaints with the State Bar. Base homophobia needs to be called out and condemned whenever and wherever it occurs. Better yet, boycott the law firms of such attorneys and make sure everyone you know is informed about the need to totally avoid such firms.

Hopefully, in time an anti-gay reputation will hit them where it hurts most - the financial bottom line. Locally, in my opinion such firms/attorneys include, but are not limited to Brandon Ziegler at Wolcott Rivers; Huff, Poole & Mahoney (Taliban Bob McDonnell's former firm); Elizabeth K. Barnes; and Willcox & Savage. These law firms and attorneys - and the same applies to homophobic firms elsewhere - need to become pariahs to the local LGBT community and not receive a dime of LGBT money.

The one caveat to the foregoing: for local gays contemplating divorce, you might want to nonetheless have an initial consultation and talk to these firms/attorneys early on (even if you know full well that you will not be retaining them) so that they will be conflicted out from representing the other side in your case. If they thereafter try to represent the opposing side, file a State Bar complaint.

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I remember this day last year well too, Michael. I got a panicked phone call from DC asking me if I'd talked to you today and the person was extremely worried about you. Since I was in Indiana, I called Michael Crawford to ask him to check in on you.

I was so relieved to find out you were okay and would be getting some of the help you needed. When you're in that headspace it's hard to see that you need the help let alone reach out for it.

I know. I've been there.

Thank you for sharing your story. It was extremely helpful for me to read your thoughts of desperation when you "snapped emotionally and [your] ... only focus was on making it all stop."

My partner of 29 years succeeded in taking his own life. That was eight years ago this week and the pain does not get any easier (you just get used to it). The "whys" don't adequately get answered; yet, life goes on.

I am glad you were found in time to save your life. Your GLBT activism is healthy and more of it is needed. Please don't stop.

Best of luck to you and your boyfriend.

Good luck as you continue getting through the family situation. I hope that you can focus on the freedom of being true to yourself, and that you find that liberating as you move ahead. I know that Virginia can be tough on the gay soul.

Thank you for sharing your moving story. Best wishes
for both you and your Partner in the future.

Let me first of all say that I have really enjoyed your posts for quite awhile. Even in much more liberal Northern Virginia, we are still plagued by the state laws and policies that cover the entire state, especially under a Republican governor, and a unique asshole of an Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli. I finally had to get out years ago, and moved across the Potomac River into our glorious Nation's Capital. I had hesitated for some years in doing this, because I did not want to be loosing my alleged representation in the US Senate and US House of Representatives (DC has not votes in either chamber of congress) However, in DC, for gays and lesbians, the real political action (and rights) all comes from the City Council and the Mayor. DC has been gay friendly for generations now, one of the best places in all of the country. I can not believe how much better it feels to live where public opinion is almost 80% in favor of same sex marriage (we have it), and where you know that most of the people whom you interact with are not very likely to be homophobic. As a matter of public policy, the homophobic arguments can not be used in Court, especially since our several gay and lesbian judges would be the leaders in squelching it.There are a number of very out members on the City Council. We have so much support all around. There is a HUGE stress in living under homophobic pressure as in Virginia, and I hope that after you finish your divorce, that you find personal peaceful space. Safe space, psychologically and spiritually.
Likewise, it is also important to work in a supportive, or at least a tolerant , environment. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that things are working out, and that you are able to value each day.

Thanks for the supportive comments and the great e-mails from readers.

I realize that my situation has not been in any way unique, but I do hope it may help others feel less alone and avoid attempting what I fortunately failed to accomplish a year ago.

As a community I believe that we need to find a way for those coming out in mid-life after marriage and children to find support resources. With yet another gay teen suicide, our yoth needs help, but so do many older gays. From the e-mails, it seems most of us are brutalized by the courts in our divorce cases. To make matters worse, often our former social network evaporate once we come out.

Finding a non-threatening work environment is also essential. In my case, I opened my own firm since, being openly gay, I became unemployable with any of the larger local law firms such as the ones I had worked with throughout most of my career. The money is considerably less, but I can engage in activism and serve LGBT clients in a way not otherwise possible. Fortunately, my diverse client base seems to care less about who I love and make my life with.