“What does it mean to be gay?” A seemingly simple question, but one that's not often asked. With Los Angeles Gay Pride starting this Friday, various gay folks give us their answers in a weeklong series.

James Brandon has played the title role of Joshua in Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi internationally for the past six years. He is co-founder of the anti-religious-bullying movement I AM Love Campaign. Brandon shares his story and his thoughts:

It's pride week in Los Angeles. Pride is bustling through the streets, coloring the smoggy-sky with rainbow love on every corner. Standing on the corner looking down the sea of color, I feel the life of peace whispering through the willow trees and the pump, pump, thumping of music is the heartbeat we all share. Together. Right now. This moment. We are one. It is such a journey to feel Pride…

To embrace a feeling, to know a feeling fully for your self, you must first experience the opposite. It is in the contrast true desire is born. It is in the contrast we learn what it is that makes us feel elation and supreme joy in the moment — which is, to me, my ultimate desire in every inhale and exhale of my waking dream.

To feel pride, then, one must have felt shame. I have felt shame to the core of my being. My mother was ashamed of me.

We create relationships in our life to reflect back to us what we are truly feeling about ourselves. If I am feeling my mother is ashamed of me, then really it is ME who is ashamed of me. And my mother is simply there to open that door for me, allowing myself to peek inside the dusty, dirty, moldy attic I have locked shut for so many years.

It is safer that way, if there is a safe way to look inside oneself. Safer because it is a person outside of you letting you in; the challenge being to not put blame on the outside force that has opened those floodgates.

Back to my mother. She hated the fact I play a “gay Jesus.” She is embarrassed for me.

It's blasphemous she says. Do you really care? Or do you care that I'M gay instead? A long silence ensued. And I sat there.

Finally…Yes, you're right.

I'm not sure if anything stings a son more than his own mother admitting shame for that which sprung forth from her own loins. There is nothing tighter than a connection between mother and son and yet I couldn't feel more separate from her than I did right then. Those words hit me to my core.

I went through years of self discovery and learning my own way through the gay community — from first coming out to the initial excitement and orgasmic release with another man to when the honeymoon starts to dissipate and you realize the levity of those two words “being gay.” You then try to understand where you really do fit into society, entering the activist phase, demonstrating in frustration and anger and an underlying sense of fear that you will never be equal.

And now suddenly, as I sat with my mother, I entered a new phase that I didn't even know existed. One that tore open my heartstrings and pulled them apart to shreds of sinewy muscle.

I felt alone. Isolated. Fearful. Ashamed.

And it all led to this moment of standing on the street corner, watching the rainbow waves of grain and purple drag queen majesties above the fruit-filled plains…my hand on my heart, I cried.

Not just for me.

But for all the men and women before me, now and after me; the “matrix of gays” in that one split moment opened those doors and showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw laughter and love, hands holding hands, embracing touches, openness filling the once desolate streets and in that moment, I felt proud.

My mother's voice suddenly became my own voice screaming to deepen the connection to my self. I was the one who really felt ashamed of me. I was the one who didn't love me the fullest I could love me, because I was scared to love me fully.

To love me fully meant I could no longer do things to hurt me — I could no longer knowingly act a certain way to simply make someone else feel better, I could no longer knowingly disappear under the sheets of shame and hide myself from society, I could no longer knowingly sit back and accept someone calling me a sinner when I know the opposite to be true.

Because I have a voice and this voice wants to be heard.

And this voice is full of love for this world and loves being in this world.

This voice loves to give to others and share with others and be with others.

This voice is love.

This voice is proud.

James Brandon is also the co-founder of 108 Productions, the producing company of the revival tour; co-director of the documentary film Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption.

Read essays by Robert V. Taylor, Michael Weinstein, Tim Sullivan, Vincent Jones, and Robin McGehee.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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