March 29, 2022

Michael Ward makes an inspiring comeback after multiple sexual abuse experiences


If you have experienced rape or sexual assault, this is your episode.  My guest, Michael Ward, was raped and later sexually assaulted by the same perpetrator.  A few years later, he endured sexual assault again, this time from a man he was in relationship with.  With no real support from family of other gay friends, these experiences caused Michael to take a long hard look at his life and the choices he was making.  At one point, he considered taking his own life.  Instead, he got creative in ways to feed his spirit in a manner that would ultimately lead him to seek professional help with a trauma counselor.  Today, Michael has made great progress on his journey of healing and is following his passion of empowering marginalized communities.

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Transcript

Coach Maddox  0:03  
Hello, Michael Ward, I am so thrilled to have you as a guest on The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. Glad you're here.

Michael Ward  0:11  
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. I've been very excited for this.

Coach Maddox  0:15  
Yes, I've been excited as well. And I think that the the discussion, the story that you're going to share today is going to be a really great story. For the listeners. I'm very excited about this. It's a heavy story, but it's a great story. So Michael, and I, like most of the other guests so far met in a large online group. We've known each other for maybe about a year, and unless you have anything else to add about that, Michael?

Michael Ward  0:47  
Yeah. So I guess I'll start by telling a little bit about myself. My name is Michael, as Maddox said, I am originally from Tennessee, from a small college town, and the university would be the only thing that would bring you there. I'm now currently living in the Washington DC area. I am in the military. And that's what brought me up here. And yeah.

Coach Maddox  1:17  
Beautiful. All right. Well, let's dive right in. So before we get into your topic, I'd like to know, what does being an authentic gay man mean to you, Michael?

Michael Ward  1:32  
Yeah. To me, personally, I think it's just loving who you are. And I know that sounds so cliche, but I feel like there's so much our community puts on us sometimes of like, you know, dressing a certain way and having living a certain lifestyle. And I think it's simply just loving you. Whether that be you're this, you know, country gay, man, you're more of an urban gay, whatever it may be. You we all have different interests and hobbies. And that's okay. And being confident about that and not dimming your light. To appeal others, you will find your tribe by being your most authentic self. Oh,

Coach Maddox  2:27  
that was it. Dang. Dang. Dang, that last sentence was epic. I love it. Say that again, please.

Michael Ward  2:34  
Yes, you will find your tribe by being your most authentic self.

Coach Maddox  2:38  
I couldn't agree more. Wow. Mic drop. Yeah. Okay, so tell me, Michael, what has been the biggest challenge in your life that you are have overcome or are in the process of overcoming?

Michael Ward  2:56  
Okay, so the biggest challenge that I have overcome, and that would be my sexual assault that ultimately ended my last relationship. And it was such a tragic time, mainly because just because it wasn't the first time this was my second time, I was also raped in 19 and sexually assaulted by the same man that raped me 19. So yeah, yeah, it was it was a very traumatic experience, mainly because for the first time in my life, I had moved across the country, I was so far away from family. And I feel like it was to growing time simply because of the fact that I really had to learn how to stand on my own two feet. And then alone, if I had to, I was not in a very supportive work environment to where I could go and report that disparity because I've watched two other sexual assaults get desperate under the rug. And so I

Coach Maddox  4:17  
Are you referring to the first one at 19?

Michael Ward  4:21  
This would be in Alaska. Yeah. And I'll go into the, the rape in one in 19 here in a bit. Okay. But yeah, I so I wasn't like I said, I was in a very toxic work environment. And so, you know, it was also what kind of in tying this into the 19 year old experience was because this was the second time that this has been sexually assaulted. And I was just like, you know, I think what made it such hard because it was like, What am I doing wrong? What's making me unlovable? You know, I felt like I was a respectable person, you know, I was spoken about my boundaries. You know, I ultimately, you know, I did think there was some communication errors. And that is ultimately what led to that situation that I was putting about now overcome, and also just the trauma, relieving that trauma of being, you know, raped and sexually assaulted by the same man, which is a different occasion, the one that happened up in Alaska, but just because, yeah, I had to really take care of myself, you know, because at 19, you know, I really can't talk about it. Just because of the situation that I was in, you know, I was young, I had been partying and do some things that shouldn't have been, but ultimately, the individual, Robert 19, took advantage of me and took me around back and had his way with me, so. Yeah, yeah, it was, it was a tough thing to get through. Just because I think also because at the time, I was so naive, you know, at 19, I'll be honest, we medics, there was really no education for me about what to do in case sexual assault or rape happened, or harassment or whatever. So

Coach Maddox  6:35  
you know, Michael, I'm, I'm not sure there's still much protocol for that. I don't know, even in this day and age. If there is I haven't been exposed to it, how to handle what to do. Should that come up? It's a topic that we we avoid. This is a topic that we just avoid as gay men. We don't talk about this because it's uncomfortable. It makes us easy. And so there's not really a lot out there about this.

Michael Ward  7:05  
Right? Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think something that think is so important. You know, it's like, there's so much out there talking about, like, how not to get sexually assaulted or raped. But there's not really anything out there that we discuss about fostering an environment to prevent that ever happening in first place. And yeah, you know, because especially up in Alaska, what happened the second time, you know, it was just kind of like, I guess, because it was just like, a one thing that I was really shamed for speaking up for myself, by my peers. And

Coach Maddox  7:52  
were these tears gay or straight? The peers that shamed you,

Michael Ward  7:59  
gay, or gay,

Coach Maddox  8:01  
they were gay, and they shamed you for speaking up about your assault?

Michael Ward  8:06  
Yeah, yeah. I tried to like, confide. And, um, you know, it was more or less made to feel like, I should have been the one apologizing. And so yeah, and I will say, for the first time, I really found myself suicidal. Which, and being the closest I've ever been on that brink of making a decision, and I was, and there was a lot that kept like, I thought, like, oh, I can breathe, and then like, just just reopen that wound. And it kind of pushed me back to that brink. And so three things that I say that really saved me personally was prayers. Because I was like, praying to God, I was like, God, please do not allow this be the way that I go out. In this world. I mean, just let it be old age, I'll be so happy if it's just old age, whatever. But secondly, the music. So I am southern. So I went back to my roots, if you will, and listened to like country music, and also I went through other genres as well. That helped me sort of cope with that and get through distillation. And then lastly, I will say that going back to my roots, I went back to Tennessee back. I went home for a month, just because I was like, I need to go there's toxic work environment that was not being supportive, and that was not creating a supportive environment. And a lot of other things too, you know, because it wasn't a it wasn't environment that wasn't very inclusive as well. So I will also say during that time, it's where I learned how to speak up for others and other marginalized communities. Just because I was being shunned for speaking up for others. And so, yes, so I went home for a month, and I just spent the whole month capturing everything that I loved about home because I know a ton Alaska, I definitely missed home a lot. Just because like I said, I felt like I was unknown. You know, I mean, sure, I had friends, whatever. But the job I have, you know, I don't have the typical Monday through Friday, you know, nine to five type schedule like they did. So I was a loner. And so it also didn't like I couldn't express that. So I, yeah, so I went home for a month, and I did everything that I loved out while when so were my personal favorites, Willie Nelson and concert along with Alison Krauss with my aunt. And that was an amazing concert. I just took pictures, I did all the things that did feed my soul. So like being on nature, I'm going to stay parks went down yet to Nashville met friends and I captured just those special moments that I cherish so much. And I think ultimately, the little things that I didn't miss about home. And that's what healed me in a way. And so

Coach Maddox  11:20  
it's truly amazing. Michael, I want to kind of just be with that for a minute. And you know, the fact that in the midst of of crisis, you stepped back and thought about how can I feed my soul when my soul feels like it's being ripped out of me? How can I feed my soul? And you've very carefully selected? ways to do that?

Michael Ward  11:44  
Yeah, and

Coach Maddox  11:46  
I, you know, I don't know that I will. I have to wonder how many of us in that, in that same situation would have come to that, that place of of choosing to do that? I think that's phenomenal. I and I want to acknowledge you for that, you know, you you took some responsibility for your life and your experience. That's beautiful. I want to back up a little bit if we could, yeah. When you talked about speaking out about the sexual assault, and your gay friends shaming, you mean this, this podcast is largely about, you know, how we become more authentic and vulnerable. So we can draw really quality relationships to ourselves. And I don't mean just romantic, I'm talking about relationships in general, whether it's family, co workers, friends, neighbors, whatever. And I want to know, you know, how it, how it affected you how it landed? When your so called friends didn't support you and and shamed you for speaking out about your assault? How did you navigate and deal with that?

Michael Ward  13:10  
Oh, God, it I mean, it was it was shock. I was just like, this is such a legitimate issue. And you know, it I just unfortunately, it hurt. And I there was I don't know, I guess I had explained or something. And they just like Michael, just keep pushing forward, keep getting through one more day and just don't allow this moment to tear you down. Because essentially, what I for the ones that did shame me, I just said, Okay, now I know who's in my corner. You know, so, yeah, yeah. And so I just, yeah, and I continue to pull from those sources to help me get to those things those hard times, you know, so yeah. And it's

Coach Maddox  14:06  
in moments like that you we all in moments like that, learn who our friends are, and who and who are not our friends. So those people that shamed you that didn't support you. What did you do with them?

Michael Ward  14:23  
I have for many of them, I'm not even friends anymore. I've deleted them on social medias blocked them by phone numbers, whatever. Yeah, yeah, I just I just said, Okay, this is this is I you know, I should have been turned out to know that like, look like don't go back to what poisoned you and what brought you down, you know, that's just me killing myself. And so, yeah, yeah, I don't have them anymore. And the friends that I still have in Alaska who Whoever who were supportive and loved me still and we still keep in contact with. Yeah, they're still wonderful individuals and keep in contact with today.

Coach Maddox  15:13  
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. You had to go through hell to get there. But that experience helped you define your tribe? Mm hmm. Yeah. And it cleared away the unnecessary clutter.

Michael Ward  15:31  
Yeah, absolutely. You know, and, of course, you know, it's kind of funny, because the things that I pulled from, you know, I say, going back to my roots, well, you know, it's so weird, because, essentially, that was the part of me join the military was to escape where I was from, you know, so, but then it came back. And it was sort of kind of like a nest, if you will. And so just security and all that. And so, yeah, so I guess we'll go fast forward, I move to DC.

Coach Maddox  16:02  
Before we move on, I still have one or two more questions for when you had the assault back in in your age 19. Did you talk to your family about it? Did they know about it?

Michael Ward  16:18  
No, no? No. I know, my family didn't know about it. Well, I guess that yes, I did discuss it. And, and there wasn't anything like they were very heartbreaking. But what to say a family member of mine, when I confided, or let's say they found out about it through I know in our family member. The response was, Well, man rate man too. And I was just like, and so I,

Coach Maddox  17:07  
this was your family. If that was their response was men right? Men too. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Compassion. No.

Michael Ward  17:18  
No, I mean, and also, I didn't really put it out there that kind of said it kind of randomly, whatever. And, yeah, no compassion, no compassion whatsoever. So I just moved on with life. And I, in a way, I felt like I kind of buried it, because honestly, afterwards, I just because as I recall, you know, I kind of went through life, I just put a smile on my face said, You know what, this is what's happened. I'm gonna move forward. And I'm stronger because of it. Because I overcame it. And so, yeah, yeah, it was, it was definitely a very it was, it was a hard time because I was living by myself too. And this time, and, you know, I was young and wild. And because I grew up in a very ultra conservative and sheltered strict household. So when I got out, it was just common, like, a bowl being released out of a corral. You know, I was I was Buck Wow, there for a while, for sure. So I got all my wellness out of me, you know, but I yeah, I mean, thinking about it. You know, I really, I think also I just buried it on us. Yeah, I buried it and think about it, and I just move forward. Because honestly, like, being this was awesome in my hometown still, and my hometown is not very big. And so, you know, at the time, I was working a lot, I was in school, I was going school off and on, I didn't really know what I want to do with my life. So I was going to school for multiple BA degree plans. And, you know, outdated, outdated, but a lot of times where Cookeville was so small. And I will say I have met some very bad people during those times. LA times our day, you know, in Nashville and disk drive down there. Meet the guy that I was seeing. And, but unfortunately never could work out just because I was working so much from school. I didn't have time to really invest in that. So yeah, yeah, it was a very, very lonely time.

Coach Maddox  20:01  
Well, you've, you've said a couple of times that you feel like you buried it. Have you ever sought out any professional help with this issue?

Michael Ward  20:13  
Okay, so that's fast forward here. So yes, so I tested, I came to DC. I was so broken spirited, I was brokenhearted. And after that last sexual assault, I was on a journey of just finding myself like who is Michael ward. And so I was here for about six months, I went on a deployment. And also it was a great thing, because it got me out of that toxic environment. I was with a wonderful group of people that I will forever cherish and many I'm still friends with today. And follow through social medias. Of course, the military was all over the place. So social media is our connection, but we chat and whatever. And yeah, it was a wonderful just because I met some people. They, they breathe some life into me as well, just being about just being good people and making some awesome friends. And so I had, it led to me my initial connection with gay men thriving. And so I was I was talking about a friend, and I was just like, who I know from my hometown, and I was just like, you know, I'm really frustrated with dating. I just feel like I'm making stuff presentable. I have, you know, great qualities and characteristics. You know, it's like, what's up. And so he just like, invited me join this group called gay men thriving. And so I did not initial phone calls, and did one of my first programs with them. But then it was with a woman named Nicole Gangloff. And she was added to the group as one of the mentors and God and guides. And so she added me on Facebook, and I checked her page out, and I've kind of just, you know, no, you won't get to you for any kind of talk or page, maybe a little bit, because you will get to know them. And just saw this post where she has counseling, training, whatever you want to call it on sexual assault and sexual healing. And I was like, This is what I need. Because even after the deployment, I felt like I was stronger. But I still felt like in my heart, I needed some glue to hold me together. And so yes, so I took upon myself to reach out to her and discuss my situation, and I'll work with her for a year. And she, she did wonders for me. You know, she did a lot open discussion. Her approach to counseling. Essential oils is one tool she used and meditation. And so, yeah, yeah. And I

Coach Maddox  23:40  
said, it's not married anymore, is what you're saying.

Michael Ward  23:43  
Yeah, yeah. It just all came out. And she she, she, you know, thing about therapy is that it can be good. It can also be so painful to because so much comes up. And you're like, wow, it makes you laugh. There's so much that you have not addressed,

Coach Maddox  24:06  
we're often called to look at so many things that we don't want to look at or have never looked at.

Michael Ward  24:13  
Yeah, the same. So very challenging. Yeah. And so now I'm much happier, man. I'm good. I'm healed. And felucca more confident than ever, through the game and thriving. They help it it's provided and her and so yeah.

Coach Maddox  24:35  
So, Michael, as you've done your work, what would you say? has been the biggest shift for you? What What was it that got you to the other side of it and what has come about in your life as a result of doing your work?

Michael Ward  24:54  
Hmm, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I think The shift would be that I became a stronger, more confident person. And I was unapologetically me, and that's a Michael word. I'm southern. I am a gay man. And that's okay. And I know for me, especially one thing I've seen is in finding my tribe and like friendships, you know, I have found people gay and straight, that do along with my values, and share my viewpoints and and support me and want to see me succeed. And that's something that I think I never felt like I really had. Until here, you know, there's just, I mean, I had friends, Alaska, for sure. But I mean, we hung out. And we hung out some, but I just feel like here has been where I've found a solid group of men, that are just incredible individuals, and not only challenge immunity better, either professionally. Because like, for me, one thing is awesome getting an education. Because I've, as I say, going throughout what I want to do when I grow up, and that's going to be social work, just because I want to we'll just be the change that I want to see which one being helping building some bridges between law enforcement and minority communities. Because, as we've seen, there has been some big tensions there. And so and also seeing those types of discrimination within law enforcement and how we can create a working relationship, a loving relationship between these communities to understand each other, to where as cops, they can truly protect and serve their communities more efficiently, professionally. And start healing those ones between those communities. Because unfortunately, a lot of this, this is not all of a sudden, this has gone for in some cases for centuries. And also getting back to my home region. So because eventually I do want to go back to Tennessee and make some change down there. Because because, you know, it's like I said earlier, you know, it's funny, because my roots are what actually healed me and but that's also what made me run away, because I was so frustrated with all the bigotry and small mindedness that is the American South. And so I just said, I wanted to be part of my social worker, just because I just said, Michael, either you can bitch about it, or he can be the solution. And so I'm going to get education done, and continue to educate myself. Some recent opportunities that fall into my lap, which have been great. And also, some people in my work, work life have really had helped me grow even stronger. As a soldier and as a human being. And I'm so grateful for them. So, yeah.

Coach Maddox  28:56  
Well, I'd like to call out that one of the things that I'm seeing here and I want the the listener to really pick up on this is, you know, when we have trauma, or wounds that we're having to deal with, the focus has to be on us. It has to be on us. But there is a point and one of the ways we know that we have done our work, at least to some degree will always do our work. Our work doesn't end until we take our last breath. Yeah, but one of the ways that we know we're on the right path, and we're and we're farther along the path is when we realize that we're being drawn to focus on others rather than on ourselves. You know, when there's work to be done, you focus on you, but when you get some of the work under your belt and you get some of the healing done. Then there's this natural emergence that happens I believe, where we want to help others heal, whether it be individuals or community and that's what you're describing here, you said something a few moments back that I kind of want to touch on again and you made reference. I'm paraphrasing you made reference to how did you word it to be unapologetically you? And I would love to have you unpack that a little bit and tell a little bit more about how that showed up. And when you when you became more unapologetically you what did it look like? What did it look like? What did it smell like? What did it taste like?

Michael Ward  30:40  
Huh? Yeah. So I think for me, especially moving out of my home region, I know I got really I actually got called, like a racist white southerner. They just saying that that's what I was. And one part of my, I think, I'll say my journey, but also my travels, my adventures and meeting new people, is also breaking down some those preconceived notions about southerners, just because I've had a lot of those notions directed at me personally, either being said or through action. And, and also to, because I will say, you know, the military has most certainly made its strides and helping marginalized communities. But there is still so much work to be done, you know, because I will say that I've I've experienced some of the strongest forms of discrimination and bigotry in the military. But it's also where I have found some of my biggest advocates. And so yeah, yeah. And, being apologetically me, it's also just being a person that loves others. Discard said, you know, I was really shocked for speaking up or others, you know, I really I've had my eyes opened to help women are treated in the workplace and what sexism and misogyny looks like. And sounds like what racism looks and sounds like, because I've seen some very blunted forms of that. And yeah, yeah, and, you know, here where I'm at now, I feel like it's kind of more found to be charming, and people want to know more about where I'm from. And. And I feel like here, it's a little more widely, widely accepted, just because of the area that I'm in. Because I thought there's more of a scene here, there's actually a bigger demographic. And so, yeah, and I found an I found somewhere who advocates in the military too. So yeah, I think just being authentically me is just, yeah, I'm southern. I love myself. I, I loving my accent. That's one thing I even struggle with as well. Because the middlee before I left the South, I want to do I would, I said to myself, when I put them on first base, I'm going to go to like a speech therapist, whatever, and just have the individual erase it and not have one at all. So yeah, just truly loving every aspect of myself. Yeah,

Coach Maddox  33:44  
I love it. That is absolutely beautiful. So I'm a little curious. You've talked about kind of your your being drawn to address marginalized communities. You mentioned women, you mentioned people of color, you know that racism and misogyny were the words you used. And I would love to know, what has drawn you to those causes. What what did you experience in your life? Is that drew you to take a stand and want to be in support of those marginalized communities?

Michael Ward  34:25  
Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm just because, you know, speaking up, it didn't be popular at all whatsoever. But I, you know, especially you know, the one thing you know, it's interesting is that a lot of women when they experience harassment or because one thing that unfortunately is so unfortunate with women is that their value is how hot they are. and they're pretty much one thing I learned from day one is that women cannot win an award or get a promotion, without some rumor being started that they have slept with some man to get that promotion, not because they worked hard or they studied. That was it. And so that also led to me also being shined by straight males, just because I wasn't a part of the good old boys club. And also, because people were in those marginalized communities have really been a shelter for me, and a safe haven. So you know, one thing I think all gaming can agree is that usually our biggest friends are heterosexual women. And so in the military, though, it has actually been predominantly black women, and have been Savelle most fierce protectors and advocates and have not let anyone mess with me. And so yeah, yeah, and also just seeing some of gaslighting. Because usually when I see a person of color, you know, call it out. I will say it is white cisgendered heterosexual males. That to the gaff Adam, they can't they're crazy. Even they made me like, I'm crazy. I'm just making it up. And I'll we'll go further to say that is that ultra conservative Republican type a male as well. And so yeah, and also because I'll speak on experience an individual that really had impact on my life. A gentleman his name is, like Keith Manson. And so I went to honor guard and to explain what that means. That's military lingo. That is you providing military honors, for funerals for a military member that has passed on. And it was such an awesome opportunity. I love it so much. And so what made him so great, was because I think he had to see my humanity. And that's something that I never imagined. Because for me, personally, you know, my two biggest perpetrators have been ultra conservative, white cisgendered, heterosexual males and straight black males. And so, that was actually the first time in my life in honor guard, where I found myself working under an all colored administration. But it was truly the most beneficial time with my trainers and the leadership there because they especially can especially we have we've had conversations and about things and they said, we are going to make you as an Air Force, Air Force strong, make you a a honored guardsman with precision with professionalism. And because when I went into it, you know, I felt like, my career was, you know, getting to be very stagnant. I didn't know because I'm not really in Java want to do so much is what I'm working on and getting to a career that I want to be in. And this breed that those type time being in there breathe life into me about just being in the military and gave me a new lens, if you will, about why I'm doing this and which of course is for a lot of patriotic things and serving your country. And that this can choose be a beneficial decision because therefore a lot of thought got I just felt stuck. I didn't know where I went to go with my career because that's actually why I joined as well was to get unstuck out of my small town where there was really no opportunities anyway. And yeah, he was he was truly a a role model for me. You know, because he really challenged me and said, Yes, you can. You can do this. And so I sort of spending myself like winning awards.

He instilled drive back into me again and and you know, he doesn't make it easy for me, but he definitely put just mean, and that's a wonderful,

Coach Maddox  40:01  
he held space for you and believed in you when you couldn't believe in yourself.

Michael Ward  40:06  
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He's He's a

Coach Maddox  40:10  
powerful to have a an advocate on are an ally or an advocate on our side like that. Yeah, it's true true. Very fortunate to have had that. Yeah.

Michael Ward  40:24  
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I'm very grateful for him and we still keep in touch. And yeah, he's still just a mentor. And so questions. I'm like, Oh, God, how do I go back through this? And you know, and he's even said, you know, Michael, you've given me more self growth and how I can be a voice for quality for you, and help stand beside your community. And you know, and I've definitely been outspoken on my social medias about, you know, racism and calling it out. And I did. Well, I lost it on my last Instagram, but I did a video from Martin Luther King Jr. Day about talking about my journey of being an ally to be a POC individuals. And just some tips on how to go about that, because I think some people, especially in our country, even though we know this has been going on for a while, I think these last two years, we've been having a reckoning with that. And so I think a lot of people are like, what, how do I start becoming anti racist? How do I help these communities and lift them up and make it where we are all equal, and we're creating a more equal and equitable society? And so I definitely took time to share that and and just being completely honest about it

Coach Maddox  41:50  
sounds like a passion to me.

Michael Ward  41:53  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Coach Maddox  41:56  
Beautiful. Well, what would you like to share with the listeners about if there's listeners out there that have been through something similar to what you've been through? Right, the sexual assaults? What would you like to share with them? As a result of that experience in the journey that you've made? Since that those experiences? What would you like to share with them?

Michael Ward  42:26  
Yeah, I think what I'll just share is, as you're going through the process of healing, and finding yourself, again, is finding what heals you, you know, so many people pull from like, their face. Why, like, for me, especially, it's like being out in nature. You know, I, there's something just medicinal about it, you know, just being out and bringing out fresh air, the silence, and especially even more, so now. They grow from the hustle and bustle of the city. And yeah, fine wear heels, you would be just, you know, music, prayer. That that's, I think that's what saved me was going back to things that said, My soul and nourish it, and also getting yourself in environments that help progress that healing. And finding those people that you know, that you come across that say, Hey, I see you're going through this, but no, this is not where your journey ends, and you have a bright future ahead. And, and what gave you those words of encouragement.

Coach Maddox  43:42  
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate your your your very openness with very tender moments of your life.

Michael Ward  43:54  
Yeah, sure. Yeah. Okay. I'll help somebody out.

Coach Maddox  43:58  
Absolutely. That's what it's all about. So are you ready for some rapid fire questions?

Michael Ward  44:05  
Oh, boy. I don't know to expect so here we go.

Coach Maddox  44:10  
All right. What is the one thing that you most wish you could change about the gay male community?

Michael Ward  44:20  
Oh, god, that's a big question. And a good question.

Coach Maddox  44:24  
Um, I think

Michael Ward  44:28  
the way we eat each other, and I know, there's a lot of factors that go into that. You know, I think ultimately, it's the bigotry and hatred that we received, which is a lot of homophobia. And also keep in mind, for listeners who are of the heterosexual community that the LGBTQ community we truly are for two huge democratic people. And so we have different faith groups, racial ethnicities, and what have you. It's a lot what Sarah explanation those areas applies to one of us. Not all of us, but one of us. And so yeah, I wish we would I wish we wouldn't be in a competition with each other, you know? You know, because I know especially here like in DC it is so brutal there is a lot of classism and elite ism. And, you know, like, because for example, like I live in Virginia area, because I people dealt with actually MDC, they can live like a Maryland or whatever you, you know, like, to certain, you know, DC people like on my trash. And so I think one thing I've always said is that we don't have to be best friends, but we should all be a brother to each other, and support each other and know that we're all going through the same thing in one way or another. And that, ultimately, I think, that's what the oppressor once this is to be, you know, divided. And we should be more unified, and learn to just understand each other's quirks and hobbies, and likes and dislikes, and walks of life. And because I know for me, when I've leaned in, especially to understanding others, it's made me a more compassionate person, and a more open minded person.

Coach Maddox  46:27  
Beautiful, well said, Very well said. What is the one thing that you clearly need to take action on? In an effort to be a more authentic gay man? Oh,

Michael Ward  46:42  
gosh, I'm gonna need to work on

Coach Maddox  46:50  
one thing.

Michael Ward  46:52  
I think sometimes, you know, especially I think social media has to do with this too. And I've gotten very good about pushing them away when they want to come is just as we call in gaming, thriving those Gremlins of always winning by compare myself sometimes. And I, it's something I definitely I will say that I am currently working on and I've gotten better at so I just realized that you know what, this is not my path. This is not my life. And that's okay. And so what I've done to beat those Gremlins is create a life that I want that I'm proud of the hobbies that I enjoy, and just doing what I love.

Coach Maddox  47:40  
Awesome. I love it. Many years from now, you're a ghost that your own funeral? What would you like for the other gay men to say about you at that funeral? Your survivors?

Michael Ward  47:58  
Oh, what a deep question. Um, who I think something I like to people say is that

just talk about the impact that I made in their lives, you know, if I helped them get through something, if how I was a soldier for them to lean on. Top of things they love about me. And hopefully, share something that they can take away from me that they can encourage others, like, be more like Michael, take this strength of his and apply it to your life. And until the day that you take your last breath.

Coach Maddox  48:50  
I can feel your compassion and empathy. It's beautiful. Beautiful. Well, Michael, it's been a complete pleasure having you as a guest on the podcast. I so appreciate your willingness to be so open with your story. Yeah, and I want to leave you with one thing. Okay. I want to tell you that I do see you as an authentic gay man.

Michael Ward  49:22  
Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Yeah. I guess I'll tell folks what I said about you before we not because I was I told you before we started recording and all this I was like I was really sad to be on your show because you were one of my favorite people. We met originally during like a gay man thriving retreat. And I was just like, he is just like such a classy individual. I was like I could get on his level. That's that's stuck. So well.

Coach Maddox  49:52  
Thank you. Thank you. Once again, I am receiving that.

Michael Ward  49:55  
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no problem.


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Michael Ward

Uncle

Hey there! I was born and raised in a small college town in Tennessee. I’m currently living in Virginia due to military service. I absolutely love the outdoors, live music, and a good beer.