The idea for MAN-UPP came about a few years ago as I was about to be forced “out" and having to reveal a part of me that I had kept secret for so many years.
My life, as I knew it then, was completely changed in just a few hours one Saturday afternoon. I took only the clothes in my gym locker and drove away from a small town in Alabama to Denver, Colorado. The man I was seeing at the time was with me and we were both about to be outed to our families. This was something we did not plan, we only knew that we had to leave.
Both of our families could not accept the news they were hearing and I knew staying there would only lead to more concerns of mine and his safety. At the age of 40, I was starting my life over.
My family wanted me to get "help." They tried to convince me that I was "confused." I knew very clearly my life would never be the same and a huge weight had been lifted. No more pretending. No more trying to be who everyone expected me to be because of where I lived or how I grew up.
I do regret how it all came about because I would have liked to have told them differently than writing letters and leaving town, but in the moment it seemed the best thing to do. I was finally coming to terms with being gay and learning how to become proud, not ashamed, as a gay man.
During those first few weeks of moving I was reminded of 2 words my Dad and Grandfather spoke very often when I was growing up…”man up!” They would say those words to me whenever they felt I needed to be reminded to be stronger or "tougher" in whatever I was struggling with. Be tough, do what's right, is what I always heard them saying.
I know it was a saying my Grandfather most likely picked up from his fellow marines when he was enlisted and fought in World War II. His words passed onto my Dad and myself helped me get through some incredibly tough moments then.
If my Dad had been living at the time, I want to believe that not matter what, he would have said those words to me because that was his way of reminding me that he loved me.
As I began thinking about the idea of MAN UPP I knew one day I wanted to create something that would connect and encourage others to be themselves.
No one should live in fear of being the man or woman they were born to be.
"Be Proud, Be You!"
That is what MAN UPP is about.
Thank You for stopping by.
A Foundation I found after coming out and I greatly admire what Ben has accomplished:
The Stand Up Foundation