Pride has many different emotional meanings to everyone, because everyone has a unique story that is all their own. In this video series I sat down with various prominent figures in the community both LGBT+ and allies to hear their story and what Pride means to them.
To say that Terry Loftis is a skilled musician and one of the most charismatic people I have ever met is an understatement. If you have the opportunity to see a performance of his, do no miss it. Having the change to sit down with Terry and get his views on what Pride Month means to him and why it is so important was truly a treat.
Terry: My name is Terry Loftis. I work in theater. I work for an investment firm in New York called the Broadway Strategic Return Fund. We're an investment firm that primarily invest in Broadway shows. Here, locally, I've been involved in the community for most of my adult life. I currently serve on the board of directors for the Resource Center and Black Tie Dinner.
TMP: What does Pride Month mean to you?
Terry: That's a big question. So Pride Month for me, coming from a generation and a culture to where being gay and being proud were not two things you put in the same sentence together. For me, personally, it probably means remembrance of friends and mentors from when I came out as a teenager that sadly are no longer with us. That instilled in me the determination and desire to become involved in the community. So when I look at the achievements that we've made in our community in the last 32 years or so since I've been out, Pride for me is simply that. It's this feeling of being very proud of our achievements, and also recognizing the work that we still have to do moving forward on all front within the community. Again, the ongoing issues of equality that we have in society moving forward. So while we've made a lot of strides forward, there's still a lot more work for us to do.
TMP: For those that feel they are alone and unable to come out, what message do you have for them?
Terry: To be themselves. Coming out is probably for all of us, it doesn't matter what age, is probably the most difficult and challenging thing you'll do because of the conversations that we've had with ourselves, and that we continually have with ourselves, perception-wise, of what those outcomes are going to be. All of us have a tendency to run various scenarios in our heads on telling family members, primarily your parents and coworkers.
My advice to anyone that is a teenager or a young person that is going through this process of coming out is to want to be very confident with yourself. Know that you are okay with who you are. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with being gay. You didn't wake up one morning and decide, oh, this is going to be something trendy that I can do and it's going to be fun.
It's who you are, and so the first challenge is to accept that as much as you can. It's not easy. And be okay with who you are, and know that when you come out you're doing so for you. This is not about, as much as you love your parents, as much as you may love your siblings, this is about you and your wellbeing, spiritually and emotionally. So that coming out process has to be for you, because you're responsible for you. No one else is responsible for yourself.
So if that is something that weighs on you, talk to other people, find a bunch of old people like me who have already done it and can be there for you. But at the end of the day, it's about you being comfortable with you and celebrating who you are.
TMP: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self to help you with your coming out experience?
Terry: Be less arrogant and cocky. Probably the biggest challenge I had was being critical of myself. So I would tell my younger self that it's going to be okay and not to beat myself up so much. But I'm a Taurus. I have a tendency to do that anyway, all these years later. But it's being comfortable in your own skin. You know, not being as arrogant, not coming from my life or anyone else's from the perspective that I know everything and I'm right. But giving myself credit and loving myself, which is something that I spent years dealing with. So it's probably ... And to listen more.
TMP: For those that are not part of the community, but want to be allies, what would you impart on them so as to be most helpful?
Terry: I think the first objective, first would be to make sure to confirm that they're actually interested, generally, in being an ally. And then explaining to them, giving some perspective, of what being gay means to me being an out African-American male dealing with the cultural issues that I've come to terms with being black and gay.
But what we do and who we are, because there are various facets even in our own community that we're coming to terms with. The whole trans movement, for example, right now is not only an educational process for allies, it's still an educational process for us to fully embrace our trans brothers and sisters to where we're supporting them in the best light, and providing programmed services and resources.
But for the straight community that want to be allies, it's even more broad. It's this comprehensive ... You know, we are a complex, diverse sandbox. So you just can't put it in front of them and say, "Here." It's determining what their interest is, how they would like to be supportive in our community. But basically to tell a personal story, because people relate to people.
So I've found that in the work that I do in the community, especially for those colleagues of mine who are supportive but that are not gay or lesbian, is this is who we are, why we exist, what we're doing and why that's important, and why it's important for you to become involved and support what we're doing. Because at the end of the day it's like, being African-American, I will never check a box for an application, no matter what it is, that indicates what my ethnicity is.
So being a very spiritual person, I don't believe that the universe or God made me check off a box before I got here saying you are going to be born in this time period, you're going to be black, you're going to be gay. It's just how I was born. So I think one of the things that would be important in the education of allies is, first, probably the whole labels thing.
We're not a label. We're just as right as rain as anyone else. We're just different. So I'm not sure if that answers the question, but it's a long way of saying it's a process, like anything. But first and foremost would be who we are, why we're important, why our rights are just as important as theirs, and how they can help us achieve those goals.
TMP: What is something that you would like to say to those viewing this, that we have not specifically covered?
Terry: I think there are a couple of things that I think are still relevant, even given where we are as a community. So I'd first like to say that in my lifetime it was never something that I thought I would live to see, to see an African-American in the White House and to see marriage equality for our community. I knew that there were strides moving in those directions, but the fact that they both happened, and they happened relatively quickly, surprised me.
So I think a message that I would like to convey to the younger demographic of our community is this perception that these things are supposed to happen, and they're supposed to happen quickly. A lot of what we're experiencing has been on the backs of people my age, and years older, who have been in this battle for a long time. And it's still a battle.
Our rights are still being attacked on a daily basis, and so there has to be understanding and compassion within our own community so that we can continue these initiatives for equality for not only our community but, based on the work we do, we help instill the importance of equality across multiple different cultures and backgrounds.
And the second thing would probably be around healthcare. I think there's also a perception in our younger community right now, especially young gay men, that they can be a bit more riskful in what they're doing sexually because there are medications that are available now that weren't available when I was that age, or many friends of mine who are no longer here.
And while these advancements are important and they're helping those living with HIV and AIDS to live full and healthy lives, there are still resources and education that needs to take place to prevent anyone from contracting HIV to begin with. So I think that's why organizations, all of the SDs that are in our community, are still there, wanting to service the people who are still living with HIV and AIDS. But also to educate those who aren't on the importance of not putting yourselves at risk to begin with.
So it's the work that we're doing to further our community and, internally towards us, it's the work around healthcare that we need to continually do to educate those who are coming out and that are young. That here are the potential perils, here's how you avoid them. You know, don't put yourself in a position, despite advances in healthcare, because even though that's true, that healthcare is also extremely expensive.
So there are multiple reasons to take care of yourself to where you don't put yourself in that situation. But you do support and love those who are living with HIV and AIDS because they're still just as relevant as people who aren't living with the disease.
So our job is just never done. We have to maintain our rights as a community within our society and our culture, and also promote healthy living for our community as well so that we're basically taking care of each other. And that's all I got.
A huge thank you to Terry for coming in for this and allowing me some of his time to talk about this subject. If you would like to learn more about him you can visit his website at https://terrydloftis.com/