Oscar reflect

It was the Oscars, arguably the gayest night in entertainment, and I was holding back tears.
No, I wasn’t visibly moved by Penelope Cruz or her dress, I wasn’t on the brink because of the sadness of losing the talent of Heath Ledger so early, I wasn’t even farklempt at the fabulousness of Hugh Jackman’s confident singing, dancing and general over-all hunkiness- although…
Anyway, what got me all moist behind the eyes was the articulate and impassioned speech of a writer named Dustin Lance Black who was standing onstage holding an Oscar for writing the Best Original Screenplay- MILK.
These are some of his words that night:
“…When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married. I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you, thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk”

Being “less than”- that’s what got me. It is the attitude, the phrase, the feeling that permeates the hearts and minds of everyone at some point in their lives. As a therapist, as a friend, as a citizen, I’ve heard it often. I sometimes catch myself believing it.
My first response is to retreat shamefully into denial “No, no, don’t talk like that”, “That’s not true”, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”- but really, it’s a feeling, a thought, an attitude born out of experience, out of shame, out of fear and out of ignorance. And in the sense that it still happens to every one of us- especially those denied rights despite biological science and personal understanding of experience, it is true.
But it is not always going to be true.
Those of us who are denied life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the name of prejudice or religion or social distaste are simply not the same anymore. We’ve lived through too much. Hell, we’ve died through too much.
And if those words of Dustin Lance Black mean anything, it’s that guilt and shame are temporary conditions, imposed only if we let them.
And I think we’ve passed a significant mile marker on the way to true freedom with those words spoken on national television. We just need to believe them.


So, I’ve been sick.

The mother of all colds. Poor me. Waah.

It’s been humbling and kind of nice to not have any energy and have nothing to do but watch bad tv and sleep (off and on) while the vaporizer gurgles and fills the room with that lovely Vicks-sickroom-smell. I go back to my childhood every time. Really. I become very immature, very needy, very cranky and, as a result, ironically, I very much want to be alone. Don’t want someone constantly asking how I’m doing, don’t want to be babied, don’t want to have someone make me tea and toast or bring me books or, well, anything.

However, as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to allow others to do those things for me. I allow, but it’s certainly not second nature- I doubt if I’ll get to the level of encouraging anyone to take care of me.

But it’s a start.

As a person who’s always taking care of someone else, it goes to credibility if I can’t allow myself to be taken care of by others. Plus, it’s just good dharma to learn how to receive.

Even if it makes me feel like a baby.

Hearts and Humans

Last night I spoke at the annual Hearts and Humans fundraiser for the Lewis and Clark AIDS Project:

Good evening.

Many of you know me, I’m Greg Smith and I use to work in this building several years ago….


I’m here on behalf of LCAP and the people they serve. I’m here to tell you a few things that you probably already know, and some you may not. I’m here, because my life and my life’s work have been shaped by HIV/AIDS.

I am now a therapist, and I facilitate a support group for HIV+ people here in Helena which is sponsored by (paid for) by the LCAP. LCAP provides direct services and assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS in the greater Helena area. For all that they do, we applaud them.


I am also here as a human being who happens to find himself caring deeply for other human beings, even when it’s not convenient. I assume I am in the company of people who share that sentiment…. This caring that I can’t seem to shake has brought me here to talk to you about the disease we are here tonight to face.  

I don’t say fight, because I don’t believe in fighting.

But I do believe in facing. Confronting ignorance with honesty, judgmentalism with compassion and hatred with caring and love- that’s mostly why I’m here.

But we’re all here for a reason- probably a person we love, or simply because we’re compassionate. Take a moment and remind yourself why you’re here, What’s your reason?

I’d like to take a moment to pause and remember: 

For all those who have died with AIDS, especially those we love.

For all those who continue to live with HIV/AIDS, again, especially those we love.

For those infected and yet untested, undiagnosed- too scared and ashamed to take that step.

For those with HIV in their bodies, in their families, in their communities- and for all those who work to help, We Remember….



This is a time for heroes. The world seems to be unstable, the economy is a mess and we are at war- on several fronts. It is a difficult time, but heroes aren’t required in easy times.

But let’s forget about the economy, the wars, politics and even healthcare for a minute.

 People are still dying of HIV/AIDS in the State of Montana. People are still being infected here. Families are being impacted, lives are being changed forever because of this disease. Today. Right here.

It’s not pleasant to think about, but it’s true.

That’s where you come in. After all, this is a time for heroes.

Right here, right now, we need you.

HIV will be slowed and maybe even stopped when the shame is stopped, when the stigma ends.

When a kid in Townsend or Belgrade or Opheim or Browning or Busby won’t fear being tested.

Won’t fear the reaction of his family, his friends, his church or his country if he tests positive.

When everyone at risk won’t fear being tested because they’ve tried to love in ways some find objectionable or even repugnant   -Finding love repugnant- now there’s a problem… 

When people aren’t afraid to disclose their status because of fear of recrimination or losing their jobs or being ostracized.

When information is allowed to be given freely in order to prevent HIV and educate others about risk and transmission.

When the human heart becomes big enough for all people, even those we do not yet understand.

When, when, when…


We’re not there yet, that’s why this is a time for heroes.

A time to end shame and stigma and fear and ignorance. A hero will stand immovably reasonable in the face of ignorance, a hero will speak out when she hears indifference, a hero will help when people feel helpless.

 This you are doing. Thank you. But we can all do it better.

And don’t stop when you walk out this door.

Don’t put your Red Ribbon away when you get home. Confront ignorance with honesty, judgmentalism with compassion and hatred with caring and love.

We’re here to stand in the way of shame and ignorance and fear. We’re here to make it more difficult for them to get past us. We’re here to bear witness to the power of Life.

We do it with Art, with Food, with Friends, with Compassion, with Hope and with Confidence.


We won’t give in to fear.

That’s not why we’re here.

We’re not here to give in.


We’re here to be heroic.


This week a new board was formed for the AIDS organization I belong to and work for. It may just end the era for AIDS Outreach of moving along slowly, head down, trying to do some good without attracting too much attention from cowboys with gun racks in the Gallatin Valley. I was inspired.

The people who joined the board are excellent people- the cream of the crop. they’re interested in giving back and paying forward. In a time fraught with personal concerns they still find the time and energy to be concerned with others. they took the time to work for something they believe in. Eight people in Bozeman MT, took the TIME.

This was a humbling experience for me. I’ve been involved in “causes” all my life- my default setting is “How can I help?”- but after the meeting on Sunday, I felt a little less like Superman out on his own and more like part of the Justice League. 

That feels good.

I’ve sort of been a one-man-show all my life. Yeah, I’ve worked as part of teams, been involved in group planning and process, but my own childhood baggage and oldest child syndrome often wouldn’t allow the concept of teamwork to really take with me. I’ve found it easier to take responsibility, to take initiative, to take credit and blame and and and and… It just seemed more efficient. I even had a sign on my desk when I was a priest that said “For God so loved the World, that He didn’t send a Committee”. I know, Lone Ranger, Control Freak, Micro-manager- all words that people use about me and that I use about myself.

But maybe a new era is being ushered in. Maybe Greg Smith is becoming less of a control freak and more of a leader. Maybe he’s realizing that other people are just as, or (horror) even more capable than he is. Maybe he’s able to start relaxing and let things flow and go their natural course more often. Maybe the meditation stuff is working and he’s seeing his proper place with much more perspective than before. Maybe he realizes that nothing can go wrong, no matter how hard he tries to affect the outcome. Maybe he’s finally getting real.

Did I say maybe?