Failing Forward

Did you know that being afraid to FAIL is the # 1 obstacle that keeps people from following their hearts?

We are afraid of social rejection, not having enough money,  looking stupid, getting hurt, not being physically safe, and we are especially afraid of failing!

Even if you fail—you’re failing forward!

Failing forward means that even if you’re not getting the outcome you desire, you are still moving towards your dreams. You are still learning and investing in your growth and mastery.

No one wants to fail. However, if you never try, you’ll never know. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to run for office, ran for San Francisco city supervisor three times before finally winning. Each time he ran, his number of supporters grew. Each time, he empowered other LGBT people to come out of the closet. He failed forward.

The same was true with the marriage equality movement. There were multiple losses, but with every loss, as people continued to share their personal stories, the movement gained more and more supporters for marriage equality. Finally, the poll numbers showed that the majority of Americans supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

This is what failing forward looked like for my  client, Andy. Andy was afraid of putting himself back out in the dating world. His failing forward took the form of asking women out on dates and learning how to create meaningful connection. His first attempts were met with rejection. Eventually, he became comfortable asking women out and facing his fear of rejection. He built his confidence and met a woman who became his girlfriend.

Good Fear

We all have automatic physical reactions to threats to our well-being. In moments of perceived danger, the fight, flight, or freeze aspect of our nervous system is activated. For example, when we see a snake on a hiking trail our hearts beat rapidly, our bodies fill with adrenaline and we become hyper-alert. We take action to make sure we are not bitten. This is good fear.

Good fear can keep us safe and alive, helping us identify threats in our environments. Good fear can get us to run from an attacker, get out of the way of a speeding car, or protect ourselves from an attacker.

Bad Fear

Unfortunately, human societies are filled with amorphous threats, and some of our reactions to them are counterproductive. For example, fear can get us to engage in behaviors that are unhealthy and selfish. Overeating or using substances to numb our feelings is one way our response to fear can harm us. Fear can get us to push people away or to hoard money or belongings because we are afraid we won’t have enough.

Bad fear can create a sense of competition and greediness and we can become restrictive emotionally and financially not engaging openly with the people around us.

Fear can be used to manipulate us.

Many of our fears are not our own. They are conditioned in us by social, religious, and corporate agendas. You may already be aware that mainstream society is focused on keeping you obsessed with safety and security. For example, car commercials, insurance commercials, cold and flu commercials, all designed to get you to buy products by creating a sense of fear in you. This can be true with the news and political agendas as well.

Fear can create pain in the absence of any real source of pain.

Fear can cause us to project danger on to something that cannot harm us. This is where the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real is apropos. We see a snake. Our hearts race. We sweat. We look for our escape. But what if we discover that the snake is just a twisted stick? We just expended all that energy for an illusion.

Fear can keep us from taking action.

Fear can have a paralyzing effect on us keeping us from pursuing our dreams, making changes in our lives, even leaving a bad situation because we fear the unknown or that we could find ourselves in an even worse situation. Fear can keep us from taking advantage of opportunities for growth and change. Fear can keep us focused on mere survival when we have the ability to thrive and expand.

Where is fear stopping you from taking action?

What causes you fear in your life?

What are your responses to fear?

Is fear triggering you to engage in unhealthy ways of reacting or coping?

In what ways do you feel manipulated to feel fear?

Are you aware of any fear projections you have?

Take some time to put fear into perspective and take your life back.

Hey Beautiful! Yes, I’m talking to you!

Happy Pride!  It’s time to celebrate our diversity!

When we are proud of who we are, and the beautiful beings Spirit created us to be, not only are we fabulous, we are irresistible!That’s right whatever our sexual orientation, gender, race, color, creed, body size or shape, we are beautiful and equally worthy of life’s goodness.

So, take pride in your unique beauty and the way you light up the world with your unique gifts, talents and essence.

This isn’t always easy. I know. As a gender diverse individual, I sometimes fall prey to comparing myself to others and struggle with recognizing my own unique beauty too. Times like these I have to stop and turn down the volume on that mean 8th grade girl that lives in my head and judges me and turn the self-love up.

And please don’t waste your time resisting other people’s judgement or nastiness, because what we resist persists. Instead, just tune into your self-love and pump up the volume. Take pride in you!

Below you will find links to my interviews on Understanding LGBTQ and Coming Out and the recent advances for same-sex Marriage in Taiwan with Apple Daily, an International Chinese Media Outlet reaching thousands of Chinese people around the world!

Congratulations Taiwan!



It Didn’t Seem Like Much At The Time

It didn’t seem like much at the time.

I saw a flyer taped to a light pole on 19th and Castro in San Francisco. It said something about a forum on same-sex marriage. It was 1999. I’ve always been politically aware and involved and told my then wife, Molly, of my intention to attend. She had guests visiting from out of town, her ex-girlfriend, had come to stay with us and brought her current girlfriend.

Molly dropped me off at the Harvey Milk school in the Castro and they went off to brunch. I walked in, backpack slung over my shoulder, and took a seat in the 7th grade classroom.

There were a handful of guys, two of them were school teachers, Tom Henning and Brian Davis. Tom spoke about getting signatures for a pro-marriage equality ballot initiative which was interesting because Senator Pete Knight had created a ballot initiative to pass a law taking away same-sex marriage rights should same-sex marriage be legalized in any other state.

I picked up some literature and a few copies of the petition for people to sign and we walked to the corner of 19th and Castro with an ironing board and officially started signature gathering for same-sex marriage. No one was particularly interested in signing the petition. Two hours later Molly picked me up.

“How was it?” she asked.
“Interesting,” I said, always my standard reply. “I’m going to start gathering signatures.”

I’m sure her ivory tower ex-girlfriend made some remark about the patriarchal institution of marriage. I didn’t care. I knew real rights for real people trumped academic deconstructionism.

It didn’t seem like much at the time, but going to that meeting was the catalyst for becoming a pioneer in the marriage equality movement. That meeting was followed by years of personally engaging in signature gathering, marriage equality conversations with thousands of people, public forums, marriage license counter requests, demonstrations, a marriage equality bus tour across the U.S., a marriage equality rally at the U.S. Capitol, two published books Why you should give a damn about gay marriage and Love Warriors, multiple documentaries, countless radio, TV, and news interviews, and 16 years later marriage equality across the country in June 2015. One meeting can change the course of your life. Following one intuitive hunch can launch a thousand steps in your life. Following your heart can take you places you never dreamed of going.

What is one thing you’ve felt a calling to do? Follow your calling! Follow your courageous heart

Orlando and Why We Must Continue Coming Out for Equality and Love

I haven’t been ready to talk about Orlando until now. I’ve been reflecting deeply on this and wasn’t ready to jump into the mix with my opinion. The shooting that took place at The Pulse was chilling, gruesome, shocking, and heart-breaking.

That morning when I read about it on-line I immediately went into prayer for the people who died and for protection for all who were attending the LGBTQ Pride events in Los Angeles. I feared a copy cat event.

I called my friends in Florida to make sure they were still alive. While my friends aren’t bar flies, many LGBTQ people go out to clubs once a year during Pride. I also imagined the large clubs I’ve attended and the thought of a scenario like that passed through my mind. I remembered last year dancing in a huge packed club in Denver and how crazy it would’ve been if someone started shooting people. It was a horrible thought.

It took me back to 2009 when I was getting serious death threats from a deranged homophobe. It was the year my former wife and I were grand marshals for the SF Pride Parade and we were riding in an open car down the parade route. I was afraid in the days leading up to the event bit I just had to surrender to the fact that if it was my time to go there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t going to hide or stay home. Gratefully nothing happened.

I thought about the bomb threats and crazy people that showed up at marriage equality events and rallies. One time I had to quietly slip away and notify a cop. Another time, a crazy guy grabbed a microphone and once we had to stop our March 4th rally for over an hour because of a bomb threat. That happened with SF Pride too. back then I had to look past the threats and stay focused on the importance of being out and proud. The others did too. Feel the fear and do it anyway, that’s the definition of courage.

In some ways, I went numb after hearing about Orlando. I couldn’t allow myself to feel the grief of knowing LGBTQ people were being hunted by a deeply emotionally disturbed killer. Then I learned he was a self-hating gay or bisexual man and it made sense while showing us how complicated homophobia is.

Internalized homophobia hurts everyone! That’s why in addition to my marriage equality work, I started doing How Come Out of the Closet and Into Your Power programs to help people move through their internalized homophobia and to help family members of LGBTQ people come out as allies. I even led a one day workshop called Fearless Queerness to help people be their authentic selves. It was so much fun!

I think an added layer of sadness for me was the fact that so many family members were learning that their children, brothers, sisters, etc. were LGBT after they were murdered for being LGBT. Many died never sharing their truth with the world. What if the shooter had been out and proud? What if had learned to love and accept himself? 49 people would still be alive today and contributing to our society. It’s heartbreaking!

My How to Come Out of the Closet and Into Your Power 8 hour Audio Program can help anyone step more fully out of the closet, out of the fear and into being courageously in their power!

I attended the Orlando Vigil in Los Angeles. Lady Gaga began reading the names of the first 15 people who died. Every name read left me feeling the void of that person’s life, though also knowing that because of their sacrifice their legacy would live on.

After the rally, me and Diana ran into my friends, Geoff and Peter who I worked with for more than a decade on marriage equality. When I hugged Geoff I was immediately overwhelmed by sadness, that was when I felt how personal this attack was, that someone from my community could be gunned down for being who they are. It brought the attack home. We resolved that we will continue our commitment to creating a world that is safe for all LGBTQ people to be who they are and to love who they love. I hope you will make that commitment too.

If you feel you, or someone you love, could benefit from more support please contact me. You’ll also find information about upcoming events, groups, and classes with me below and on the side of this e-mail.

Wishing you freedom from fear and love for all!

It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!

IMG_7067It’s 2003 at the Los Angeles LGBT Center

Rev. Deborah Johnson tells us to, “Get comfortable and close your eyes.”

I’m lying on the floor with a room full of lawyers, non-profit leaders, grassroots LGBT activists, and LGBT/LGBT friendly clergy collectively known as the California Freedom to Marry Coalition. Thirty of us are gathered together to discuss winning marriage equality for same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage had not yet become a reality in any place in the world, except the Netherlands. It was before Gavin Newsom, before Massachusetts, and even before I began writing my book, Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage.

Rev. Deborah asks us to imagine what it would be like if we had marriage equality. 

According to the right wing opposition it would mean the decline of Western Civilization as we know it. The end of the patriarchy.

As I lay there with my eyes closed here’s what I saw:

A saw a pink haze and the colors of the rainbow, people smiling, a world of cooperation, a world where everyone was just being themselves. Gender was more fluid. People dressed and expressed themselves as they felt comfortable. The hard and fast rules of what made someone a man or a woman didn’t exist. People were joyful, friendly, open. People mingled together without the segregation we’d always known. Same-sex couples with mixed sex couples. The vision was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes, though very little of what I saw had anything to do with gay marriage or images of gay marriage.

When I opened my eyes I had a powerful revelation. The right wing opposition was right “gay marriage” would destroy patriarchy and Western civilization as we knew it. For the past 2000 years Western civilization has been based on the subjugation of the feminine and the oppression of large groups of people. Western Civilization has focused on the enslavement or marginalization of the masses to benefit a ruling or elite class. Values of war, more, mine, competition, rape and pillage, colonize and convert, subjugate and exploit the Earth, these are the values that have been at the root of Western Civilization as we’ve known it for the last 2000 years. YUCK!

Gay marriage would be the harbinger of a new world order. Gay marriage would turn the patriarchy on its head. Gay marriage would bring equality between the sexes.  Men openly loving other men. Men who don’t “choose” to have a wife to subjugate. Women who “choose” sexual pleasure with other women, rather than obligation and sexual domination by men.  Heterosexual men and women who choose equality and cooperation over patriarchy.

Yep, that would f…things up pretty big for “Western Civilization” as we’ve known it, a civilization that has supported and encouraged the enslavement of Africans, the annihilation of Indigenous Cultures, the destruction of the soil, the water, the animals and the forests for greed and profit.

Gay marriage would actually be a part of a more loving agenda to honor all people equally, to be more compassionate and caring to Mother Earth and all of God’s creatures, and to celebrating and valuing love. Yep, they were right. I saw it and I got it. I could feel Dr. King’s Beloved Community emerging in that vision. I was in! I wanted a piece of that future.

Flash forward June 27, 2015 the day after the SCOTUS Marriage Equality Ruling

I’m sitting in Dolores Park, in San Francisco’s Mission District, named after the huge Mission Dolores founded in 1776, where 5,000 of indigenous people are buried in unmarked graves, many having died from diseases brought by colonizers and religious converters.

IMG_7066Today the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and almost every patch of green grass is covered with people. On this day, people of all ages, every color, every background, every sexual orientation, and reflecting a wide spectrum of gender and body, gather. They talk, laugh, dance, hug, kiss, drink, eat. They celebrate. They celebrate that the world is brighter on this day. They celebrate being alive. They have come in peace. They are dressed in the colors of the rainbows.  They make a human rainbow of diversity. Nothing to prove today, just being.

 My mind wanders back in time to the Freedom to Marry Coalition meeting in Los Angeles in 2003, to the vision I saw. Tears roll down my cheek as I realize I am living the vision. I am witnessing the beginning of the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.


Marriage Equality Musings

DavinaKotulski2015-0322_Web - CopyLike most LGBT people and straight allies, I am impatiently waiting the marriage equality decision. (I even sent out a premature celebration email. Whoops!) Unlike most LGBT people it is a truly bittersweet victory.
Cue sad violins.
In June 1998, Molly McKay and I put on wedding garb and got on a motorcycle. I held a sign saying support same sex marriage and she drove. Yep, I was riding backseat butch. I’d asked for a motorcycle when I was a kid and had gotten a horse instead. Not a bad deal.  Anyway, we were congratulated and cheered on and a photo of us ended up on the cover of the SF paper and the rest is history. Literally.
For the next thirteen, from 1998-2011 we worked tirelessly for marriage equality. Me and Molly were the poster couple for marriage equality, until we passed the torch to Stuart and John, who were willing to get up at 4 am to talk to reporters, while I preferred to sleep.
We organized rallies across the U.S. with other dedicated love warriors and we asked for marriage licenses year after year. We marched and celebrated every marriage equality victory in the U.S. and abroad, and we even got arrested at San Francisco City Hall one Valentine’s Day. Then in 2011 we got divorced.
Being part of the gay poster couple and getting divorced is not easy or fun! Our personal lives became public. People felt they had a right to interfere and tell us how to live our lives. It was nasty and intrusive. After having this experience I, like Gweneth Paltrow, am an advocate for conscious uncoupling.
Everyone survived in the end and we can look back on our accomplishments, teamwork, and shared history with pride and gratitude for the opportunities we were given by life to make a positive difference in the world.
I’ve learned a lot from these experiences and one thing I realized is that we, the LGBT community, have put a huge weight on our shoulders by feeling we have to do marriage better than heterosexuals to be worthy of it. We don’t have to do anything to be worthy of our rights or equality.
If our marriages last until the day we die, or until the day something dies within the marriage, it’s all good.
As we get ready to celebrate our equality, my wish is that LGBT folks don’t feel like they have to prove anything and can fully embody and enjoy our right to marry!  I also ask that we lend our support to our global LGBT family and help them secure their rights too!
And on a personal note, it excites me to no end that next time I want to get married I can do it with just one trip to the marriage license counter.
With Pride!

Earth Angels


I’m sitting in a café drinking my coffee and writing, truly one of my favorite things in life. The café is owned by a gay man who worked for the city of L.A. for many years and then got laid off. Sometime soon after getting laid off, his marriage to his husband ended, and he struggled to pay his mortgage. He’d purchased a house in an industrial part of town and the house had a store front. He turned the storefront into a café and now his life has a new purpose and he makes his monthly house payments. He chats with everyone who comes in like they are a visitor in his home, because in the truest sense, they are. He’s still in the ring championing the blows that life’s thrown his way.

I once heard a story told about what Heaven and Hell were like. It went something like this. In hell, people sit round a big table filled with good food of all sorts, but the silverware, which is chained to the table, is too huge for them to bring to their faces and feed themselves with, so they starve. While in heaven, people sit round a big table filled with good food of all sorts, but the silverware, which is chained to the table, is too huge for them to bring to their faces and feed themselves with, so they feed the person across from them.

We can bring heaven to earth by being here for one another. We need each other. Life will be filled with hard times. It’s not that there won’t be darkness in each of our lives. It’s that each of us can bring a little light to each other’s hard times. While visiting my friend, Gina, on a recent trip to Oakland, her dog, Cozy, died in her arms. There was nothing I could say or do to change the situation. I could simply be there with Gina as she felt her sadness and loss. I could be a momentary reprieve from the empty space left by the loss of a beloved companion.

When Marvin Burrow’s lost his husband of 51 years, Bill Swenor, and then lost the home they lived in, their possessions, his health insurance, and life as he knew it because of unfair laws against same-sex couples, there was little that could be done to ease the shock, grief, and injustice he experienced. However, earth angel, Frank Howell, another gay widower, took him in and provided him a home, which allowed Marvin the strength to begin advocating for the injustices he faced as a surviving same-sex spouse.  Advocacy that helped change the policies labor unions held for same-sex couples.

We are all going to experience grief and loss. Just in the last month, Marvin, my friend and fellow love warrior,  died after complications from surgery, my childhood friend, Rachel, lost her brother and her childhood home in a house fire, and my friend Sharon, lost her beloved husband, Peter, from prostate cancer. When I answer the prayer line at the Agape Spiritual Center I am sometimes surprised by the number of people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health and their relationships.

I know that at the truest level everything is for the highest unfolding of our good and our soul’s growth and evolution as we learn that we are more than our material possessions, more than our job titles and bank accounts, and even more than our bodies because our souls are immortal and our worth is inherent, not dependent on some outside condition. While knowing this highest truth, I also know that the feelings of suffering and loneliness are real. So I know that we can be earth angels to one another and that the presence of our love heals.  I also know that the love that we freely give to another uplifts and shifts the vibration of the world around us. Our love is needed. Can we be more tender, more patient, more loving? Can we open our arms and offer a warm hug or a kind word? Can we stop for a minute if someone needs are help and lend a hand? We can be Earth Angels. We can be each other’s heroes.

Angelic Troublemakers



“We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers.” -Bayard Rustin.



Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement March on Washington. Fifty years ago, Dr. King stood at the Lincoln Memorial and gave his spine-tingling “I have a Dream!” speech which gave America a blueprint of what equality would feel like and look like. Not only did he give our country a vision for what equal justice under the law looked like, he gave us the vision of a loving brotherhood and sisterhood, a Divine family, of all Americans regardless of race, religion, or other man-made forms of separation.

Bayard Rustin, an African American gay man, was a major architect in the March on Washington and Dr. King’s work.  However, because of the combination of extreme racism and homophobia of the times, Rustin was unable to be out and proud and his contributions were hidden so as not to draw attention to him.

In fact, he even made a personal spiritual choice to sublimate his sexuality, not because gay people should, as some in the extreme religious factions believe, but because any sexual activity between members of the same-sex was against the law, sublimating his sexuality allowed him to remain untouchable by the discriminatory man-made laws and to be of service to a broader cause. This was a huge personal sacrifice!! However, he made this choice because the opponents of civil rights were trying to discredit Dr. King by associating him with “homosexuals.”

He is finally being recognized for his contributions to our nation’s history and his selfless work to end discrimination. Not only did he help organize the March on Washington, Rustin had gone to India and helped bring the non-violent teachings and methods of change Ghandi taught back to the Civil Rights Movement.  Like, Ghandi, Rustin made great personal sacrifices for the over all good of his country and to be of greater service to the world.

Today we celebrate Bayard Rustin’s contributions. We recognize him and celebrate the rights of all people to be free and treated equally under the law. And we continue to hold in our vision the unfolding blueprint of what our world will look like when we see and truly embody the truth that we are all part of one human family!

Imagine Equality

Imagine Equality

Can you feel the love? What a beautiful day to get married! Same-sex couples in Delaware and California are exchanging wedding vows today!

“It’s about time!” One woman exclaims, commenting on the legal same-sex marriage ceremonies that are taking place in West Hollywood.

John Lennon sings “Imagine” in the background. It brings a smile to my face. Yes, people said we were dreamers when we started Marriage Equality California back in 2000 and now that dream is reality and here to stay!

I drove to West Hollywood to watch the city councilmembers get deputized to perform wedding ceremonies. It’s a celebratory vibe with only one dissenter, stating that Jesus would be ashamed. There’s some shouting back before she is escorted out of the council chambers.

Outside sitting in a line of chairs below a rainbow colored “Marriages” banner are David Barney and Paul Mejia who have waited 43 years for this day. Wanda Lawson and Lauryne Braithwaite together 32 years sit alongside them. The couples are exchanging stories of their lives together. They have already had long happy marriages. For these couples the happily-ever-afters are social security benefits and the long overdue official recognition of their relationship by the government. Wanda and Lauryne wear white shirts and matching rainbow-colored flower leis, David and Paul striped shirts. David holds his cane.

The county clerk is wearing a purple striped tie and wears a blue button that says “Keep Calm and Marry On.” He’s grinning from ear to ear. This is a great day for West Hollywood!

I snap photos of Ariel and Louis who have been together for 13 years. They seem shy. They’ve come alone and I’ve offered to document their historic moment. They are wearing matching white shirts, tan pants, and brown shoes. They are adorable. I watch the Mayor of West Hollywood, Abbe Land, perform their ceremony. They’re so nervous Ariel puts out his right hand and Louis almost puts it on the wrong finger. Been there! How can they not be nervous exchanging vows in front of dozens of reporters snapping photos.

Perhaps it’s nerves, or internalized homophobia, but some of the couples don’t hold hands during the service and their public “You may kiss your spouse” kisses are a little tentative. I think of all the times gay people have been shamed for showing affection, for “flaunting our sexuality.” I hope that with each day marriage equality is legal, same-sex couples will feel more comfortable holding hands and engaging in public displays of affection. “You may now kiss your bride or kiss your groom,” should be followed by a kiss long enough for a photographer to snap a photo. In Ariel and Louis’s case, I was able to capture a beautiful embrace of joy!

It’s a little weird to be behind the camera at a marriage equality event instead of in front of it. It’s unfamiliar, a little humbling maybe, but fun to document the smiles and love of these newlyweds. I’ve had my moment and now it’s their time. Someone comments “I hope that these couples will be the 50% of couples that don’t get divorced.”

Last Friday night I decided to drive into West Hollywood to celebrate the 9th court lifting the stay on the marriages. I felt a little sad that I wasn’t in San Francisco to celebrate with all the people who’ve I worked with over the years to make marriage equality a possibility in California.

Still being new to Los Angeles, I ended up turning into a residential area and then driving up some street towards Santa Monica Blvd. As I was stopped at the stoplight, I glanced left and saw my seminal book on marriage equality “Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage” in the window. I quickly put my car in reverse, parked and ran out to snap a shot. I remembered when I used to dream about being a published author and imagining my book on the bookshelves in Barnes and Nobles in Iowa (where they have marriage equality), simply because it was the first Midwestern state I thought of, and in store windows across the country. It was another reminder of personal dreams that have come true and the power of our imaginations to create those big dreams in the first place.

What new dreams will emerge as we paint the remaining 37 states equal? We still have to pass ENDA. We still have to end transphobia and make sure that transgender people have equal opportunities and access to employment and healthcare. There’s some serious work to be done in Uganda and Russia among other places for LGBT people. What will life be like in the post-DOMA era?