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By Mik Hyldebrandt

 

Photo: Tyler Ogden

 

It wasn’t just the stress of being deployed in Afghanistan and the constant threat of attack that threw Mark David Gibson into the throes of PTSD. The fact that he served under the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy forced him to remain a closeted, gay man unable to live his authentic life. His memoir, Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically, recounts his personal struggle and powerful journey to live a true life beyond discrimination and filled with authenticity and love.

 

It was during his second deployment to Afghanistan that the basis of Mark David Gibson’s memoir started. Mark found that writing his thoughts and his stories down gave him a much-needed release from the emotional trauma he was experiencing being in a high-risk war zone with a constant threat of being attacked. The act of writing struck a chord with the captain who worked as a communications officer for the U.S. Air Force and helped him deal with the challenging conditions of his deployment to a war zone.

 

But for Mark, there was an even more profound layer to his writing. A deeper struggle that equaled and even surpassed his most intense battles while being a service member abroad. His realization of being a gay man who served under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was taking an emotional toll on him. The internal battle over the fact that he was willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure the liberty and freedoms of others, while he was far from enjoying those same personal freedoms were starting to fester in him and even question his identity. In fact, he called an emergency session with a senior officer to change his will, so that, given the possibility that he would get killed in service, he wouldn’t be buried in American soil, in a country that he felt didn’t accept him as an equal citizen.

 

His struggle and immense inner debate found at least partial release in writing, which started out as musings about his childhood, daydreaming, and reminiscing about his early years. Writing became a way for Mark to deal with the dehumanizing policy that effectively kept Mark in the closet for the entirety of his 20-year military career and beyond.

 

When he returned home, he was still profoundly marred by what he refers to as living in the shadows, and he struggled genuinely with the social structures that surrounded the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. His painful reality coupled with the onset of PTSD symptoms had Mark heavily medicated on prescription anti-depressants while his alcohol consumption started to reach dangerous levels despite seeming fully functional and capable to his surroundings.

 

So, when a doctor told him that he was rapidly killing himself with his alarming alcoholism, Mark realized that something drastic had to be done. And he also realized that writing was one of the vessels with which he could make profound changes in himself and the people around him.

 

 

Mark 2.0

After decades of shaming, hating, and loathing himself for what he was, Mark has learned to tell himself three words: I love you. The process of self-love was very much aided by his ability to write and express his feelings through words.

 

Upon returning from his second deployment as a highly decorated officer, Captain Gibson retired from active duty. Shortly after, Mark moved to Costa Rica where he underwent a dramatic transformation, which is unfolded with brutal honesty in his memoir.

 

First of all, Mark is five years sober, which has given him renewed focus and a resolve to make a positive difference every day. He has discovered the joy of life, love, and living which translates into him being an accomplished triathlete, working to help small LGBT businesses thrive, and giving motivational speeches across the country. And he has found meaningful love and partnership with his boyfriend, Aaron, whom he lovingly and often refers to as ‘Mr. Wonderful.’

 

Secondly, his writing has gone from reminiscing about his childhood to being a powerful narrative about his monumental struggle to live his life authentically. The book – Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically – recounts four phases of Mark David Gibson’s journey that starts in the early years, then moves onto the learning years and wonder years to end up in the living years finally.

 

And thirdly, as compelling a read this book is about pulling yourself out of the shadows, it brings the message of Served in Silence even further by donating portions of the proceeds to the Atlanta nonprofit Lost-n-Found Youth which is dedicated to ending homelessness for LGBTQ youth in Georgia.

 

Mark hopes that Served in Silence will not only enlighten and help others in their journey to live their own life more authentically by learning from his experiences, but also that it will help pull others out of the shadows in a much more literal way. Because his journey has shown him, that although there may be struggle, there is also an authentic life waiting for you, no matter who you are.

Learn more at markdavidgibson.com

 

Served in Silence: The Struggle to Live Authentically is available now on MarkonAmazon.com.

 

 

Field Day hosted by Action Cycling Atlanta*

Join the grown-up version of the most awesome school games from your childhood: 3-legged races, hula-hoops, tug-of-war, dizzy lizzy, and plenty of other fun games on March 31 at the Emory Clairmont Campus. The event benefits Action Cycling Atlanta, an all-volunteer, non-profit, dedicated to ending HIV/AIDS. Create or join a team and register at donate.av200.org/fieldday.

*Peach is a sponsor of this event.

 

When Love Takes Over

#IAmMidtown takes over 5Church on March 10 with an event hosted by Peach Magazine to give you the latest updates. This is not a political rally but a celebration for all of us who make gay Midtown thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twisted Broadway: A Benefit for AID Atlanta

On March 14, Lips Atlanta will host a special edition of their beloved Twisted Broadway show hosted by Edie Cheezburger that will benefit AID Atlanta. General admission is $45, and VIP is $65 – tickets and info at aidatlanta.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep South: Honey Dijon

The Atlanta-based DJ collective is changing up the venue and is moving to the Music Room on Edgewood for their next installment of Deep South on March 10 that brings DJ Honey Dijon to the city for the first time.

 

 

 

Miguel: The War & Leisure Tour

The talented singer and songwriter visits Atlanta for one night only on March 27 at the Coca-Cola Roxy.

 

 

 

I Miss The Old Kanye: A DANCE party

Join the tribute on March 17 at the Basement to one of the most polarizing artists of our generation and a night of just good music before people either hated or loved Kanye West.

 

 

Party for Princess! A benefit show + dance party

A well-known community character, Princess Charles, is currently battling cancer, so on March 23 at My Sister’s Room, there will be a benefit in his honor to help cover the costs of treatment on the way to full recovery.

ON THE ATL AGENDA

 

More to Love

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, More to Love kicks off the day of hearts with their Dangerous Liaison event on February 9 at Amsterdam Atlanta. The event will celebrate love in all shapes and forms and while raising funds for Lost-n-Found Youth. With a Marie Antoinette theme, the night will bring you a riveting performance by Penni Posterior and beats by DJ Chris Gris.

 

Love on the Rocks

The Wimbish House on Peachtree will host the annual Love on the Rocks Valentine’s cocktail party on February 18 that raises funds for Joining Hearts. Your $45 admission gets you specialty Tito’s cocktails, delicious bites and dessert by Sun in My Belly, and a special performance by Atlanta’s own Peaches.

joininghearts.org

 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Share the love and discover how dance reveals our deepest humanity and capacity to endure. The Ailey company returns to the Fox Theatre for one week only February 14-18 with a selection of their most inspiring pieces.

 

 

 

 

Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet

Multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and world-renowned singer, Diana Krall will return to Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday, February 9 for her “Turn Up The Quiet World Tour.”

 

 

 

Deep South Presents Horse Meat Disco

For the first time in Atlanta Vicki Powell and Deep South present London-based Horse Meat Disco on February 17 at the Heretic. The popular disco party has revived the carefree music style and brought it back to the dancefloors all over the world.

 

 

 

Steamlounge Oysterfest

The corner of Peachtree and 12th Street is the new venue of this year’s Oysterfest on February 24-25 where you buy buckets of roasted or chargrilled oysters and eat away in a communal style social setting. Great fun and delicious but messy eating.

 

 

Joris Laarman’s Lab: Design In the Digital Age

On February 18 through May 13 the High Museum will feature the first museum survey for the Dutch designer, Joris Laarman, and his progressive design lab whose work redefines the boundaries between art, science, and technology. The exhibition will comprehensively explore Laarman’s creative prowess, and curiosity through a range of furniture designs applied projects and experiments that blend emerging technologies with skilled craftsmanship.

 

City Council candidate looks to keep Midtown District 6 seat gay

By Regina Willis

A gay Atlanta real estate agent is campaigning for the Atlanta City Council, hoping to continue a 20-year tradition of an LGBT person filling the District 6 post.

Kirk Rich confirms that he’s a candidate for the seat, which is being vacated by City Council member Alex Wan, the panel’s first-ever openly gay man. The two-term incumbent is instead running for the citywide City Council president seat.

With a background in real estate, and work as a board member of Invest Atlanta, Rich says that his primary focus is smarter development for Atlanta.

“I’ve got the right skillset, and kind of a needed skillset that’s kind of been lacking on the council,” Rich says. “To help, to be a partner, and, again, really understand a lot of the development issues when it comes to real estate.”

District 6 includes portions of Midtown, Ansley Park, Morningside, Virginia-Highland and Cheshire Bridge Road, running north to the city’s borders with Brookhaven and Buckhead. Rich is one of two openly gay candidates running for the seat. Out gay teacher Lock Whiteside is the other gay candidate in the race.

District 2, currently represented by City Council member Kwanza Hall, now covers more of Midtown than District 6, but the latter has long been considered the LGBT seat on council, providing the panel with its only LGBT member for the last 20 years. Cathy Woolard, who is now running for Atlanta Mayor, became the state’s first openly LGBT elected official when she won the District 6 seat in 1997. Anne Fauver, a lesbian, won in 2001 and served two terms. Wan won in 2009 and nabbed a second term in 2013.

Rich operates Rich Real Estate Services in Duluth. He has been involved with Jerusalem House, and he serves on the Invest Atlanta board, which oversees the Beltline and other economic development projects in Atlanta.

“I am an incredibly skilled, strong candidate who happens to be gay, but I am happy to be gay,” Rich says.

A relative newcomer to politics, Rich says that the turnover at City Hall in elections this November – with many candidates leaving their seats to pursue higher office – creates an opportunity for new voices to step forward.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “New mayor, new council president, a lot of new council people. So there’s a lot of opportunity to really have a new imprint.”

In 2013, a plan to push adult businesses, and eventually some bars including gay clubs, pitted Wan against some LGBT people who opposed the effort. Since then, development projects have forced changes along the corridor.

Rich says that he sees the changes as somewhat of a natural evolution.

“There’s a point where you can’t justify a low density club of any kind on dirt that’s super expensive,” he says. “That’s why you’ve seen several [clubs] be shut down. But what they are putting back isn’t another building that’s the same size. It’s a huge, massive, multi-unit residential development or mixed use development.”

Visit kirkforatlanta.com

Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce local members and larger mission at annual gala

By Matthew Holley

LGBT business owners of Atlanta gather each September for one glamorous night in celebration of their mission and members during the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Community Awards Dinner.

The September 22 gala, a chance for AGLCC to aid and celebrate its mission to create LGBT economic opportunities and business inroads for LGBT professionals, expands on its year-round roster of events for networking, professional development, educational programming and promotion of member businesses and corporate partners. Opening the way for LGBT businesses and professionals for AGLCC also includes political advocacy that influence individual lives beyond the business sector.

AGLCC President Daniel Dunlop describes this year’s awards as the organizations highest honors for going above and beyond for the mission.

“I think the awards are a recognition of achievement and recognition of contribution of the LGBT and allied community,” Dunlop says. “It is a remarkable achievement among your peers. Being bestowed an award at the banquet shows each individual you are a standout business, ally or partner for us all.”

Selecting each category’s nominees can be a daunting process, but Dunlop says that there is one particular thread that unites all of its nominees, year in and year out.

“The thread that ties all of the nominees together is the success component,” Dunlop explains. “I do not necessarily mean only in economic success, but an undeniable success in embodying the values of AGLCC and its leadership. This kind of success is infallible, and this year’s nominees’ success speaks volumes.”

In addition to the annual general awards two members also receive the evening’s highest awards for outstanding and significant contributions. John Haupert, CEO of Grady Health Systems, receives the Van Guard Award, and Mitchell Gold, the co-CEO of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture designs, will receive the Rosemary Jones Icon Award.

“Mitchell is doing outstanding things with a group called Faith in America,” Dunlop says. “This courageous group is intervening in religious organizations that are disregarding LGBT youth. He is helping to bridge that gap and stop that from happening.

The other nominees of the night are listed as follows:

Small Business of the Year:
Georgia Voice, DiOGi Pet Services, Transformation Journeys Worldwide, Creative Approach and 18:21 Bitters.

Businessman of the Year:
Carlton Brown of Occasional Occasions by Carlton, Bill Kaelin of Bill Kaelin Marketing, Dillard Jones of The Concierge Guy and William Duffee-Braun of Peach ATL and Goliath Atlanta.

Businesswoman of the Year:
Gabrielle Claiborne of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, Emma Foulkes of Greenwood Wealth Management, Jan Stepp of Pizazzz Promotions, Inc., JoAnn Pfeiffer of Eastern Data Systems and Jan Levie of Handy Entertainment.

The Guardian Angel Award finalists:
Georgia Equality, Pride School Atlanta, AID Atlanta, Living Room and Out Front Theatre Company.

Rising Star Award:
Courtney DeDi of DiOGi Pet Services, Kat Dyer-Wall of Gayborhood, Colton Griffin of WMSight, Richard Pope of Creative Approach and Jamieson Cox of First Data.

Corporate Ally Category:
Cox Enterprises, Georgia Power, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, BB&T and Lab Monkey Communications.

Member of the Year:
Anne Clarke of The Clarke Agency, Chip Ivie of Keller Williams Realty, Luis Ruiz of MassMutual Financial Group Perimeter, Bryon Brown of PPi and Luis Quinones of Four Seasons Hotel.

Want to Go?
What: AGLCC Community Awards
When: Friday, September 22
Where: Westin Atlanta Buckhead
3391 Peachtree Road NE
More info and tickets: atlantagaychamber.org

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