My Uncle Bill, who is now deceased, is my inspiration for writing about civil unions as they are signed into law in Colorado. He was gay and I wanted to share my personal story about his life, what I saw in him and how he changed my life.

Bill spent most of his life hiding his homosexuality from everyone. I believe he did this because, in his time, homosexuality was tolerated much less than it is now. Plus, from what my mom has told me, his parents (my grandparents) wouldn't have accepted him as a gay man. I don't begrudge them for this. They came from the old, old, old school. Intolerance of homosexuality was the norm. I forgive them for that.

At this point, though, I support civil unions being signed into law in Colorado, and hope that it spreads throughout the rest of the country and the world. I say this because I watched my uncle live a very sad, lonely, depressed, alcoholic life. It was painful to watch.

He made millions of dollars as a radiologist. He served America in the Korean War. He was a brilliant pianist and musician. According to my mother, all he ever wanted was to be a professional musician. He was better than good enough for this, but his parents wished him to be a doctor, so that's what he did. His life was characterized by a desire to please his parents. He became an M.D. instead of a piano player. He posed as a straight man instead of a homosexual.

Somewhere in seeing all of this pain, the question of whether or not being gay is a choice was answered for me. If there was any gay person who didn't choose to be gay, it was my Uncle Bill. In the entirety of the rest of his life, he did everything he had to do to make his parents proud. He denied his own professional desires to fulfill the ones they had for him. He was, for them, a perfect son. The only place he came up short was that he never married, and never had kids. If he could have, I know that he would have. But his intrinsic self couldn't allow that to happen. He was born that way; I am convinced. To me, it was the source of his tortured soul.

It was very sad. He was so talented, so smart, and still couldn't find happiness because most of society wouldn't accept him as he was. Later in life, after both of my grandparents died, it became understood that he was gay. I was so happy to learn this, but there still seemed to be an amount of shame in his soul. His sisters (my mom and aunt) accepted it and him, but he still struggled with alcohol until the day he died.

His life amounted to a lot. He was my greatest inspiration to stop drinking alcohol. I saw myself in him, and realized that if I didn't put down the bottle, I would end up the same way. The parallels between us were uncanny. He had two sisters. I have two sisters. His homosexuality made him different. My overall strangeness makes me different. His drinking killed his living life, though he lived to his 70's. My drinking was going to take my living life as well. I was zombified by alcohol, not really feeling what was happening around me. In him, I saw where I could be. I asked for help because he inspired me to, even if his example wasn't a positive one. He also inspired me to chase my crazy dreams of enjoying my profession. There are other things that might have paid me better over the years that I am more than equipped to do, but I don't do them, because Uncle Bill taught me not to.

My mom has all of the love in the world for her parents, and I did, too. I don't want to paint them in a negative light, they were great, and simply a product of their times. She didn't seem to approve of their control over his life, and made sure that she didn't do that to me. No matter what crazy idea I ever had, she supported me. I think it's because she saw what could happen if things went the other way.

I support civil unions. I support gay rights. I look forward to the day when homosexuals are not put into a different category, and I hope that my Uncle Bill knows exactly what a positive influence he has had on me. If it weren't for him, I don't believe I would be where I am today.

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