gAy A: The Super Soberhero Show

Freedom Is... ft. Mario

December 29, 2022 Steve Bennet-Martin Season 1 Episode 118
gAy A: The Super Soberhero Show
Freedom Is... ft. Mario
Show Notes Transcript

Steve welcomes back Mario to share their experiences with GSM, the Gay and Sober Men's Conference, discussing years past and what's to come this year.

Register for the conference today at www.gayandsober.org/registration

Thank you for listening. Please join our Patreon family for the post-show, along with more exclusive content at www.Patreon.com/gAyApodcast

Reach out to Mario at chairy@gayandsober.org

If you are interested in sharing your story, getting involved with the show, or just saying hi, please e-mail me at gayapodcast@gmail.com

Support the show
Steve:

Hi everyone, and welcome to ga, a podcast about sobriety for the LGBT plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Bennett. Martin, I am an alcoholic and I am grateful for my newest Patreon member, mark H. As of this recording, I am 543 days sober, and today we're welcoming back Mario to talk a little bit more about the gsm. Welcome back, Mario. Thank

Mario:

you for hosting me once again. Thank you so much. Yes,

Steve:

and while I definitely recommend everyone check out last week's episode to get to know you better as a person cuz it was great getting to know you better. Why don't you give your brief introduction for new listeners?

Mario:

Sure. My name is Mario and I'm from Houston, Texas. And I consider myself primarily crystal meth addict as well as alcoholic. And today, as of this recording, I have 6,249 days sober. Thank you so much. Thank Steven for hosting.

Steve:

Of course. And before we get into the conference itself, can you talk a little bit more about what GSM is as an

Mario:

organization? Yes. First and foremost, we are a non-profit. Our mission statement is really pretty clear where LGBTQ non-profit organization and we want to provide a safe fund and enriching experience to the sober community. Our primary purpose is to encourage unity and enhance one's sobriety. And enhance

Steve:

my sobriety. You do And what is the big GSM conference?

Mario:

So since 2017, we've had a four day conference in New York City that culminates in the Pride March as well as a dance on the river. And the Congress itself is open to self-identified men. It doesn't matter. Trans queer. Fluid as long as you identify as a man, because we do have certain issues we discuss in our workshops. And then that's the other thing too. We, we include several workshops that deal with everything from mental health to community and wellness to sexual issues. We even had last year, the, the first ever leather and kink party that was nonsexual in nature, but it was like a get to know you. Which a lot of people really enjoyed, I think. Yeah,

Steve:

it was a lot of fun and I, I remember like the number of people that were there that weren't sure whether it was gonna be sexual or not, and they were like, is it, is it not? And then like, when the answer was not, I was relieved, but it was just funny that I had one friend who was unsure going into it, what the purpose of the party was,

Mario:

just to get to know each your sober brothers on that level, you know, that this is something that it's okay to be sober and kinky. Yeah, it's okay to enjoy fetishes and We're no longer ashamed of being recovering addicts and alcoholics. Why be ashamed of our, our special flavors as they were? Yes,

Steve:

exactly. And going back, describe what your first experience at a GSM conference was like.

Mario:

I was nervous. Mm-hmm. I was nervous that I knew of. I was the only Houstonian going. And then I got there and there was like about seven others or so. It was actually more than than that. And several of us from Texas. And I've been to several of the Texas Roundup conferences, so I knew several faces, but I felt like I was going alone. Right. And I really did. And then not only did I see my Texas brothers there, I got to meet wonderful people. I have friends in Canada and acquaintances, friends and acquaintances in Canada, Japan, Australia. Europe as a result of this very conference. And so it's wonderful to be connected to so many wonderful, wonderful, loving lights as they are. Yeah. What was the

Steve:

first year you attended? Was it the very

Mario:

first? The first one? The first, the first 1, 20 17, the inaugural conference.

Steve:

Excellent. And going from there, how did you get involved in the planning committees?

Mario:

So every Sunday, This year it's a little different. I'll get into that later. But every Sunday we had a business meeting where we elected the next year's officers and, and committee members and stuff. And I was so touched by what I had seen and what was done. I was like, I would like to throw my hat in the ring of something. And so I was volunteer co-chair for that first year and I was volunteer co-chair the next year. And I was volunteer co-chair the next year after that. And, Fourth conference cuz we skipped 2020. We did have an online one, so it kind of counts, but it does count, it does count. By the fourth conference I was I put my hat in the ring and I was

cocha.

Steve:

Yes. And what about this year? Drum roll

Mario:

this year. I, I am the head cheese, the co-chair, the ma, the major Domo, whatever you wanna call it. I am shepherding all the cats, so

Steve:

Excellent. I am very excited for that. And from what I understand, you also were the, the brainchild behind this year's theme of freedom is, Landon said, is that

Mario:

branch Health as well as I came up with a theme. I came up with a theme. We, we put them in a hat and voted on them, discuss them and everything. And mine just happened to, to be the one selected. And freedom is came about because I was thinking, especially, especially because our, our conference last year was the first post covid event ever at the hotel that we were, that we stay at as well as it, it felt like a certain lifting of, oh, the doom and gloom that had been happening for almost, you know, at that 0.2. And I just, I just thought about that as like, wow, you know, we have we have a lot more freedom now. And then, and then I thought about how we, we are as an organization opening the doors. A lot of people thought we were just like cis, cis, white, gay, male identified. And that is so not the case. And so I wanted to like really open up the doors and say, everyone is welcome. We are free to be who we are and as we are, and. So that's, that's how the freedom is came about and, and on priv to some of the committee meetings, but I mentioned that in one of them, I have never forgotten. Maybe it's a resentments I need to work on. I have never forgotten being told as a, as a young, young, gay, very young gay, because I like a lot of us, I knew early that I like boys and you can't express that, right? Mm-hmm. I was shushed for saying, why do girls get to wear the pretty things? Mm. I was, shit. I wanted to wear the pretty things, right? Yeah. And you know, now that I'm 60 years old and I'm definitely settled into my queerness and being, being a gay man, however that means to me, I'm like, I get to whatever the heck I want to, can I say, fuck I get,

Steve:

you can say whatever

Mario:

the fuck you want. I get to whatever the fuck I want to, I get to speak as I wish. I get to talk as I wish, move my hands as much as I wish because that's, that's the freedom I've come about to. And so that, that really has a lot to do with the. Be as in who we

Steve:

are. Yeah. And I, I feel like it's a great fit for the conference cuz I was spent the first couple days being like, I'm having the time of my life. Like what's the word for it? And then when they announced like, I think it was Sunday morning at the movie theater, like what the new theme will be of freedom is. I was like, that's perfect cuz this is like, what I felt was freedom. Like I felt more free at the conference, like in my tribe, surrounded by my people than like I ever had before. So it's. Well, thank

Mario:

you. Thank you. I, again, I, it was one of several that were put in the ring and there was a close second one, so yeah.

Steve:

well, we'll, we'll keep that on under wraps just in case it becomes a future theme,

Mario:

Oh yeah, for sure. For sure.

Steve:

Yeah. And will there be, for us, returnee, any big changes from last year's conference to look forward to?

Mario:

There is. There is. We have decided this year to put a little bit more relaxed. Relax, you know, a little bit, a little bit more leisure time in it. We used to start like, boom, right at, you know, eight o'clock with this event. Boom, right o'clock with eight o'clock with the running event. Boom, right o'clock, eight o'clock with the yoga o'clock. Everything is starting at 10 o'clock now in the morning. I

Steve:

appreciate that. If

Mario:

to sleep in, maybe. Take a little quick subway right around town, take a look at things, do, do whatever until 10 o'clock in the morning. And again, no one's obligated to make every single workshop. So again, freedom is you have the freedom to to run around New York if you wish, or stay out late and sleep in a little bit. So everything's starting at 10 o'clock. The first event of the conference, the first official event at the conference is a bus tour ride. We've had that before. This one's happening at. So we get to see the lights of, of Times Square and how New York looks at night. And also again, just not that rush, rush brush. You know, you can't check into the hotel, so drop your bags off and then, and then go, go catch a bus ride to enjoy the, the tour. We wanted people to really relax and enjoy the city and enjoy their time and enjoy their brethren and get to know each other. And so we, we Used to like push doing 15, 17 workshops in, in the schedule in a weekend. And now we're, we cut that down to nine. Mm-hmm. Yes.

Steve:

Well, I look forward to the, the quality over quantity and that's exactly, I appreciate the, the best writing a little bit later cuz I. And especially like post Covid this past conference, I, I knew almost everyone had like, flight issues of getting in or getting outta the city. And so I, I had missed it cuz my flights were delayed or canceled and so I'll be excited to do it in the evening this time.

Mario:

Exactly. And, and it's, it, New York at night is so different than New York and day and they're both, they're both wonderful flavors. So, you know, we hope everybody gets to enjoy.

Steve:

Yeah. And for those that are listening and are interested in the conference, what's the best way to get more information, sign up and maybe even get involved?

Mario:

Easiest way, www dot gay and sober in with the a and d, gay and sober dot orgs slash registration has a lot of information in really useful links how to get to and from the airports. The hotel link for reservations the, a link to the agenda. A link to frequently asked questions, all kinds of things. So it all starts at slash registration and so.org.

Steve:

Excellent. And one thing that I love that we do is the scholarship program and room sharing options to make the conference a little bit more affordable for everyone. Can you talk a little bit more about those? Yes.

Mario:

So we do have a roommate pair. Chair we call it, we call it housing. Mm-hmm. and Ron is his name this year. And Ron is going through the 30 names so far that are submitted and carefully checking for like, arrival dates and things like that to match people up that if you're both coming in on Thursday and leaving Monday morning, y'all both share the hotel room. So as much as possible, we try to match up people with the same dates. Hotel is going for 2 89 a night. Doesn't matter if it's 1 5, 10 people, it's, it's 2 89 a night. So if you split that by as many people as you can, It gets a little cheaper that way, So there's double rooms available. There's single king rooms available. So there's definitely a lot of options there. You can, and, and yeah, yeah, that's how I met my friend from Ireland. We, we agreed to be roommates, and it jokes John,

Steve:

it's, it's certainly also great not only for the cost factor, but so that you also kind of have a buddy right from the get go.

Mario:

from the get go. Exactly, exactly. Thankfully it is not like fraternity rush hour, something like that. yeah. Rush week. But it'll, it'll be okay. Yeah.

Steve:

And what about the scholarship program to help people who might not be able to afford the, the regular registration fee? Yeah.

Mario:

We fundraise heavily throughout the year to be able to afford 50 scholarships to the conference. And that's for the conference home. It doesn't include. Or hotel stay. We're not there yet. we're not there yet. But so we, we do allow for scholarships and that includes a commitment for at least four hours of service during, during the conference itself. And which is really, that goes by so fast. I mean, it goes by really, really fast. So four hours of service during the conference and and then you're free to enjoy the conference. And, and we do allow for 50 if we have more. Or like, say for example, somebody bought a registration, they can't make it. They have the options of rolling it over to the next year, or they can donate it back as a scholarship. Yeah. So sometime it's a little bit more than 50. Yeah.

Steve:

Yeah. And what's something that you're planning that you're able to talk about that you're really looking forward to for this year? I'm on that

Mario:

committee. Hold on. Mm-hmm. There's a lot of layers to this cake baby. So yeah, there's a lot of layers. One of the things I I am really looking forward. Is that we do have I gotta, now you asked me something. I gotta, I gotta look at the agenda for, hold on one second. Can we circle back to that? Yes, of course we can. Right, right. Sorry. I'm sorry, y'all. I should know this by the back of my hand, but I'm embarrassed. Oh my goodness.

Steve:

It's all right. I went off script for that one. Well, while you're looking into that do you wanna talk a little bit about the Pride parade and the dance on the.

Mario:

yes. And let me correct something. And New York City pride is very adamant. That until everyone is truly free to be queer, gay, lesbian you know, there's still a lot of injustices in the world. We, my heart's breaking still a bit what happened this week in Colorado. Mm-hmm. So it's a pride. Still want to get that that out there. And I agree with them. It's a pride march until we are totally free because the parades are celebratory and you know, woohoo glitter and everything. Although believe me, there's a lot of glitter at this one. But the Pride March for NYC Pride really signifies it. We're still working on that aspect of being truly accepted and truly free. Yeah. And one, okay, one, let me go back to the. Say one thing that's always been a big hit in we just keep bringing it back, is the pool party, the rooftop pool party. Mm-hmm. that's gonna happen Friday night. It's at a sky Gym in New York City. Beautiful. It's by the harbor. They have a awesome rooftop pool. Yeah. And it has been a big hit and. That's something I always look forward to. And then then the Pride March itself. The Pride March itself too is something, there is something about walking down the avenue, the gay and sober banners in front of us. You know, we're marching down through it and the reception we get and, and the kudos for, for being who we are and being part of the Pride march, celebrating our sobriety as. There's no feeling like that. There's just no feeling like that to be part of that. So solidarity with your brothers and, and feeling that the energy come back from the crowd watching the parade.

Steve:

Yeah. Incredible. It was excellent. Especially being that, you know, being a pride march for everyone, you know, I was. Normally without gay and sober, be hesitant about going to a march like that because of the alcohol around and present. And so it was nice that even if there were people drinking on like the left and right of us, that we were in our own little sober bubble and just being celebrated. It was a great feeling.

Mario:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I I loved that

Steve:

every year. Yeah. And what about the dance on the river after the parade?

Mario:

So that's a very unique item too, for gay and sober. It's not unique that there are other dances and there, there's somewhere on the river, some are not. But we, we charter a boat that can hold up to about 600 people and everyone that registers for the conference, you already have a ticket for the boat. Mm-hmm. you're already in. And you have a ticket for the boat. And we leave the docks at eight o'clock and it's a four hour dance party, which is really kind of cool because. We had debated about this for several years. Like, do we go back early so people can go back to the bar, whatever, and it's like, you know what, let's just enjoy, cuz it's gonna be a four hour minimum anyway. Mm-hmm. It's gonna be, so why don't we just go for it? Do the, the full four hour tour, get off at midnight. And by that point, I mean it's like, okay, I've done, I've done the march, I've done the parade and I've danced my little booty off. Not for forbid, right? Yeah. Like the next Right. Me, some folks still have the energy to go out. Good for you boys. Good for you. Me. Good night. I'm done. I'm tapped out. Yeah,

Steve:

I was gonna say, my friends and I had like the time of our lives dancing for probably that first like three and a half hours, and that last half hour, we were all just like slumped in the corner, like we're ready for bed.

Mario:

Right, right. But even though for all the snackies and, and red Bulls that are available through the catering service on the boat, it's like, okay, I'm, I'm done. And that, and you know what, and that's fine too. You know, either way that it works out for people, you still wanna go out and have a fun time. Do it if you're, if you're done and part it out. Piece out. Y'all enjoyed my pride, you know?

Steve:

Yeah, for sure. And one thing I really love about the the parade as well as the dance on the river, is that people who might not have signed up for the entire conference are still able to get tickets and that it's open to all b t plus, correct.

Mario:

Thank you for mentioning that. Yes. Yes. So like I mentioned we have 600 spaces on the boat. Our conference usually maxes out at right about 4 75. We max at 500 sold tickets, so we have some leeway and we offer tickets to the entire l t community as well as marching in the Pride March. People are welcome to join us behind the Gain sober banner. cause it doesn't say gay and sober minutes. It says Gate and sober. Mm-hmm. Any, anybody that's b t identified or an ally is welcome to march with us in the march. Will post out that the gathering spot for it. Cause they're pretty strict about who, where you get to gather and stuff, which is cool. I can't imagine. What they plan Yeah. Like, oh my God. Their planning has gotta be incredible. Yeah, it is. Must be. So those two things are open to all members that identify as L G B T, QIA and Allies, the dance in the river and the pride marsh. Everyone is welcome to join us the conference again because we wanna deal with men's issues in some of the things that are particular. We would like to have that space for just, for just male identified

Steve:

members. Yeah. And, and even the male identified members. Like I know I had two friends from my home group last year that were on the fence at the conference, and I, you know, I was like, you should go, you should go. You should go. But they were like, I, I'll do that next year. This year I'll just start with just the, the dance on the river and the pride parade. So it was a good way to kind of dip your toes in.

Mario:

Good. Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Steve:

Yes. Yes. And I mean, I can't go on, I mean, I can go on and on about the conference cuz I do as an area delegate. But in addition to the conference itself, what other resources does GSM

Mario:

have? Yes. On our main website we also have a meetings directory. Mm-hmm. which is now fully updated for I guess the best word is a clearinghouse link. So when you go to, like, when you go to like the, the Texas area, you'll be able to see Houston's intergroup mm-hmm. and all the. Gay friendly meetings are filtered in to, to show up on our, on our website. So I mean, a meeting is, a meeting is a meeting in my book. That's, that's the way I work my so society. But any meeting I go to is a, is a gay meeting. Anyway, it doesn't matter. But that being said we, we, we try to filter up to the top those gay friendly meetings that happen in, in Houston, for example. So we've, we've gone to a lot of work to. We also offer a community calendar, which is open to all L G B T Allied groups that are sober or or otherwise like, like, you know, pride Festival in Atlanta Pride Festival. So we, we post those on our community calendar. There's a link for that as well. Sorry, kids are acting up again, and I, I know that the two biggest resources, I'm very proud that we. For, for other people. Oh, yeah.

Steve:

I, I can't go a couple days without citing the, the meeting directory just because I talk with so many beginners that are looking for like safer spaces and feel, you know, you're right that a meeting is a meeting, but I also know a lot of people, you know, we've spent so much time feeling other to begin with it and might feel more comfortable in a LGBT plus meeting. And so

Mario:

thank goodness for that 35, 40 years ago now with AA having that at their general conference, I was. You know what? This, this, this is, this is part of our membership and they're allowed to have their space. Thank goodness for that. Yeah. Thank goodness. And still call

Steve:

themselves aa. Yes. And one more time, how can people sign up or register? What's the link? Gay and

Mario:

sober.org/registration.

Steve:

Excellent. And if they have any questions for you, what's a good way to get in contact with you? Chair,

Mario:

gay and sober. Dot. Perfect.

Steve:

Well thank you so much for coming back. Stick around cuz We'll go to our post show where we can talk about some of your favorite memories of past conferences. Thank you and thank you listeners for tuning into another episode of Gay. Be sure to join our patron family today. You can head over to get this post show as well as post shows for every main episode we do. Meanwhile, if you're interested in sharing your story, you're getting involved with the show, I may email away at gaya podcast@gmail.com. Lastly, be sure to follow us wherever you're listening so you can get new episodes when they come out every Thursday. And until next time, stay sober Friends. Thank you again.

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