Popped Culture: Interview with Big Mike

By: Robert Stinson

“Now LGBT men and women soldiers fighting for every American’s freedom no longer need or have to hide who they are. They have and always will be like every other American that is willing to sacrifice their life for the great of this country, they are truly American Heroes. I’m personally grateful that these LGBT members of the service have always loved this country enough to die for our freedoms. It’s about time we give them the respect they deserve. Thank you to the President and all who voted to repeal DADT. For those who did not feel these Americans deserved this right, let’s take names as Joseph Rocha suggested and make sure those 206 that did not vote to repeal DADT lose their seat in the next election. Nevertheless, it is a day to celebrate and rejoice. Free at last, Free at last!” This quote by Big Mike was submitted to us right after the repeal of DADT was ratified, which happened shortly after this interview. This monumental accomplishment in our nation’s history was made possible by grassroots advocacy and concerned citizens who united their voices against the injustices dictated by the bully pulpit. Big Mike is a shining example of what one man can do to better his community and the world around him.

Could you talk about some of the charity organizations that you helped to create?
My first project started with my best friend Nigel Mayer, who owns Flicks. I took him to a restaurant in Coronado for his birthday and we started talking about things. He said I’ve always had this idea to give back to the community because people believe that bartenders don’t give back, so I thought it would be great to have all the bartenders in the community donate half of their tips to Special Delivery. That led to an Employee’s Christmas Charity event that was renamed Ordinary Miracles. Within five years, our contributions totaled over $300,000 with the help of many people in the community. We started donating money to different organizations throughout the city, including children’s charities, cancer, women’s organizations, breast cancer and animal advocacy groups.

San Diego has so many incredible individuals who support gay rights, how does it feel to be a part of such an elite group?
I think it’s exciting! It has helped me to be a more boisterous person as I join with members of the community that are fighting for equal rights on a daily basis. We always work better as a group than as individuals. So it’s all about learning to compromise, learning to understand, and not to be fearful of what you don’t know. The more we come together as a community, the more we can join in and help each other with things such as hunger, health coverage, and all the issues that should be the focus of our country. We’re so busy working for equal rights and protections when it should be a given. However, I do feel that more individuals are getting the bigger picture and coming around. What scares me are the people in this country who use God as a political weapon when they could be focusing on love, acceptance and compassion.

What turn of events led you to step up to the plate and take action in the community?
It started 20 years ago when I moved out here to be with my friend Tino, who was dying of AIDS. I came out to visit him on a Saturday and while I was here, I was taken into organizations like The Gay and Lesbian Center and other places that were helping my friend, who was a complete stranger to most of these people. I was coming from Texas, where they didn’t provide those kinds of services, so I was really blown away by the kindness these people were showing my friend. I was so moved that I gave up my life in Texas and moved out here. When Tino died, I promised myself that I would somehow give back to those organizations that were helping my friend to live a peaceful life and to die with dignity. So over the years, I have continued doing just that.

I know you’re an avid photographer, what shots do you find the most gratifying?
I love taking pictures of people because I like to capture their best moments. I get people all the time who say they’re not photogenic, but I tell them, “You need to stop saying that because everyone has a photogenic side, so let’s have some fun and bring out who you are through the pictures.”

Could you talk a little bit about your experience working alongside Bob Filner and Dick Murphy in an advisory capacity?
Oh yeah, I think those were great moments. It was an honor to be in a political environment with elected officials who actually listened to what I and other activists had to say. It was an incredible experience being on their advisory boards because they not only listened to what we had to say, but they followed through and took action on our suggestions.

Would you tell us about your campaign for That’s So Gay Live?
That’s So Gay Live is an online reality show featuring people in the LGBT community. All you need to do is tape a short video about your thoughts, ideas, and how you’re trying to make a difference in the world, and then submit it to www.thatssogaylive.com. It can be anything, like instructions on how to cook, a comedy act, news, or whatever. It’s a voice for our community, and people who go on the site will see that we’re just as human and American as anyone else.

How do you feel about the House of Representatives’ repeal on DADT? Do you believe it will have a majority vote in the Senate?
We have a track record in this country if we stop and look at our history. Gays and Lesbians have been fighting in foreign wars for generations and it was never a problem when we kept our mouths shut. Now that we have the opportunity to speak out, there are a bunch of straight, white men sitting up on Capitol Hill trying to keep us in the closet when it’s obvious we should just move on. If someone is willing to die for this country, it shouldn’t matter who they are.

Do you believe that marijuana is a feasible option for patients?
Most definitely. The only thing that kept my friend Robert going when he was dying of AIDS was smoking marijuana. He was able to sleep, eat, and it made him feel alive. When I listen to people tell ing me that it is a dangerous drug, I think of all the pills that are much more dangerous. Once again, we fight the dumbest fights in the country when it’s obvious how many health properties this plant has.

What can concerned parents and citizens do to prevent LGBT suicides from occurring in our city?
Through education and listening.  It starts with the parents and school districts, and this is what I think the Trevor Project is trying to do. They go to different schools and teach administrators how to prevent situations like this and how to protect these kids from bullies. They show people how to get involved by being a friend and standing up for what’s right. It is my personal belief that churches need to be more involved because this is where a lot of the hatred is spewing from, when they say that homosexuality is wrong and they’re not God’s children. This just translates onto the playground, so the change really has to come from home. I always say that Christians were in the lion’s den, now they’re the lions!

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