Why I Abandoned The Guy Who Made My Dreams Come True

A little while ago a friend reached out to me with a question.

“Have you ended friendships with those who have very bigoted opinions? I’ve had this one friend for nine years who is very bigoted about queer issues. We just kinda don’t bring things up to avoid tension. They picked a fight with me and later apologized for ‘hurting my opinion’ and wants to remain friends so long as the topic isn’t brought up. Is the communication even worth it, knowing they’re very queer-phobic/voted Trump?, etc.”

My exact response?

“OH BOY DO I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ON THIS.”

What my friend had probably assumed would be a short piece of advice ended up as a story. A story of a guy who came into my life and made all my childhood dreams come true. A guy I helped build a podcasting empire. A guy who invited me to his wedding. A guy who in just four short years I couldn’t picture my life without.

A true friend for life.

This is also the story of how my dreams weren’t worth keeping this guy around. Why I set fire to four years of our hard work. Why I excommunicated him and we haven’t spoken for three years.

All because he wanted to remain friends so long as “the topic” wasn’t brought up.

This is the story of… well; let’s call him Rocky.

So yeah, I don’t want to fill this up with too many blacked out photos so you’ll mostly be getting my face. Watch it change before your eyes!

Rocky and I met back in 2011 because of what else, Power Rangers. If you haven’t read my other Medium articles let’s just say I’ve thought way too much about how you can breathe in space within the Power Rangers universe. Look, during In Space it was shown you can ride on a Galaxy Glider without a suit but in Lightspeed Rescue the Max Solarzord decompresses when they open it to the vacuum of space.

As you can see, I’m a little obsessed.

I had always harbored a dream of holding some sway in the Power Rangers fan community. Getting my photo taken by fans. Having them analyze my every word. Maybe even working on the show someday.

I wanted fame, so the fact Rocky entered my life because he was a fan of a Power Rangers podcast I was on? That’s all I needed to know. I instantly liked the guy.

Especially because that podcast was complete and utter trash. Bad mics, bad release schedule, bad host, and next to no editing.

Somehow Rocky was able to get past all that and was a super fan of our work. So much so that he started his own podcast just to be like us. Rocky was easily the first “fan” of my work so when he shot me a message and requested I be on his show? Of course I said yes.

It was fun, easy, and the hero worship was wonderful to bask in.

Rocky was a great guy to record with. He knew when to let jokes run but also when to pull us back on topic. His editing wasn’t flawless and he always needed help with the technical end of things but overall he was a nice guy.

Pretty soon myself and several other co-hosts from that terrible podcast jumped ship and Rocky’s podcast became our home. He was overjoyed to have us full time.

That first year together Rocky and I became pretty tight friends and his hero worship fell away. We’d regularly chat over Facebook messenger about not only Power Rangers but also our lives..

He’d explain, in great detail, his love of love soap operas. I regaled him with stories of filming my web series. He’d tell me how he drove hundreds of miles to see his girlfriend. I’d bitch about my love life.

Cosplay from a Japanese Power Rangers season. THAT’S HOW DEEP I ROLL, FOLKS.

During college I was really figuring out my sexuality. What it was, how much I wanted to talk about it, etc. Rocky never said a word when I would go on for minutes at a time, on a Power Rangers podcast mind you, about how pansexual I was. In fact, we dedicated a whole episode to the cute boys of Power Rangers.

It was no secret Rocky was the most Christian guy you ever met (also straight and white). He would take time off from a convention to go to church. Usually those kinda guys don’t want to hear my pansexual ass discuss why Masaki Suda is the hottest Kamen Rider actor of all time. (Which he is, for all five people reading this who know what the hell I’m talking about.)

Rocky was always chill about it. Even over Facebook messenger I’d be talking about my latest romantic partner and he’d always respond with a smiley face emoticon. I always thought that was really cool of him.

Over the next two years Rocky gathered a team of ten co-hosts for the podcast and we pumped out around two hundred episodes.

As our numbers increased we started to get more attention. A few random people listened and commented! We moved from a dinky podomatic page to an actual website! We all started writing columns. We landed interviews with actual Power Rangers actors and producers. Our Facebook page blew up.

I even got called an asshole at a con for something I said on the Internet once!

My dreams were coming true.

Fun fact: This podcast was recorded outside because stupid internet. This is 100% not the face you want to see late at night sitting outside a poorly lit building.

Behind the scenes we all bonded remarkably well and found our rhythm pretty quickly. We formed in-jokes. Crafted dumb memes for our Facebook page. For hours after recording we’d just shot the breeze about life. Romance, school, entertainment, whatever.

We weren’t just co-hosts, we were all friends. For some, even a family.

Like every family, we had our arguments. Our first major fight concerned whether we’d cover the Sailor Moon anime. I mean come on; Sailor Moon is basically anime Power Rangers for girl’s right?

I mean seriously. Color coordinated and everything!

Rocky didn’t think so. He refused to even consider the possibility. A three-hour discussion ensued with Rocky repeating the same lack of explanation over and over.

“It doesn’t count.”

“I just can’t.”

“No.”

Eventually I decided to just put the whole thing to bed and convinced everyone it wasn’t worth fighting about. A few people grumbled but we moved on. It wasn’t worth the headache.

That argument crystallized something I’d begun to notice about Rocky over the years. He’d refuse to budge on very select topics. His mind could not be changed. Mostly it was about dumb nerdy stuff.

He swears sears the second season of the original Power Rangers is the best season of all time when it’s almost universally disliked. Kamen Rider 555 was genuine riveting drama and not full of poorly executed misunderstandings. Somehow Digimon merited inclusion on our podcast but Sailor Moon didn’t.

(This is really nerdy stuff so trust me; these are really out there opinions. It’s like if someone said, with no hint of irony, they preferred the Star Wars prequel trilogy.)

Like any group of nerdy friends, we’d have friendly discussions/arguments over these topics. We’d bring up articulated points and use things like, you know, logic.

Rocky would just throw up a stonewall and refuse to debate. He liked what he liked and it wasn’t up for discussion. He’d talk at you about his favorite things to be sure but question it? Nope, you were never going to change his mind.

I guess one could see Rocky as sticking to his guns and defending what he loved but honestly? He just didn’t know how to debate.

But hey, whatever. Those were just dumb nit picky nerd fights and didn’t really matter. If it ever got out of hand I’d just tell people to knock it off. It wasn’t worth it.

Screengrab from my appearance on the Power Rangers DVD boxset.

The podcast was growing more and more. We had become officially sanctioned by the people who make Power Rangers as “super fans.” We got to write questions for the Power Rangers Trivial Pursuit game. Rocky and I were featured on the Power Rangers DVD box set.

I was directly contributing to the actual franchise. This wasn’t just one step closer to my dreams.

I was living them.

All the issues on the podcast could be dealt with. No disagreement or argument would be worth sacrificing everything we’d built over three years. I was able to keep spirit’s high and problems under control.

Rocky would often send me that trademark smile emoticon after I resolved an issue. It was his go to sign of appreciation.

And his preferred way of softening a possibly controversial statement.

In the middle of recording an episode Rocky mentioned that he considered himself an Alpha Male. Not a hint of irony. It was said with that smile.

That look of “wtf” in my eyes pretty much sums my reaction up.

To understand what happened next, you have to be aware what connotations the term “Alpha Male” has.

It’s basically derived from wolves where one wolf is “dominant” over the others in his pack. It’s been disproven by multiple sources but dude bros across America have taken the idea for themselves. Usually as an excuse to hit on women relentlessly and be incredibly sexist.

So, Rocky? The dude who fucking LIVED for General Hospital? He was supposed to be an Alpha Male? 
 
 We all died laughing. It carried over to one of our private Facebook groups where we treated it like the joke it must have been. Rocky just didn’t know what Alpha Male meant, right?

Rocky was furious. Downright insulted. This was the first time I had ever seen legit angry. He tried to shut the whole conversation down.

Trying to mediate the situation, we all attempted to understand what exactly Rocky thought an Alpha Male was. Rocky refused to even entertain the idea of discussion. It was like the Sailor Moon argument all over again but this time Rocky was deeply offended.

At one point, when we pointed out the whole Alpha Male concept has been disproven, Rocky came back with this,

“Even if you feel that research has disproven it (which is your belief), you still have to be respectful enough to someone else’s outlook and not insult it.”

Just makes your head spin, doesn’t it? Now you have a taste of what we had to deal with. The conversation hit a dead end so we let it go.

Okay, we just won’t talk to Rocky about being an Alpha Male. Whatever. It was really weird but hey, no reason to break up the podcast or god forbid our friendships, right? Just let it go.

We were entering the fourth year of the podcast. We were the biggest game in town. I was guesting on other podcasts solely because of my “status.” The company who produced the Power Rangers DVD’s featured me in several interviews.

Pictures from that charity auction. Legit everyone was losing their minds during this shot.

When many of us (including Rocky) attended Power Morphicon we were rockstars. Random strangers took our photos! We were the stars of a charity auction. We were as famous as Power Ranger fans could get.

I had achieved peak fandom. All of my hopes and dreams was coming true. We could only soar to new heights from here. Maybe we’d get to sit down with the people who made the show! Maybe we could influence it in some way. I could even write for it possibly maybe? There were no limits to our potential.

Plus, Rocky had invited all of his to his wedding. We were hyped. It was going to be the ultimate culmination of our friendship.

Then gay marriage was legalized.

Now on the podcast Facebook page we’d often post silly memes connecting whatever was going on in pop culture to Power Rangers. On that day I posted a photo with a rainbow train from one of the shows we covered with the caption, 
 
 “CHOO CHOO GAY MARRIAGE IS COMING FOR YOUUUU!”

Dumb, hilarious, the kind of thing we always did.

Rocky deleted it the moment he saw it.

I was pissed but I sort of understood. We’d never gotten “political” on the Facebook page before. Still, I asked him why. I knew he was Christian but he always seemed fine with my sexuality.

That’s when Rocky, stumbling over his words even on Facebook messenger, admitted he was against gay marriage being legalized. He genuinely believed Christian ministers would be forced to marry gay couples. That Christian “religious freedom” was under attack.

I couldn’t believe it. Rocky had no concept of the benefits gay couples had been denied for so long. He had no idea what this meant to me, as a pansexual man.

This was one incident where I didn’t just back down or write it off. I did my best to alleviate his concerns. What gay couples would really want to be married by ministers who hated them?

After a few hours of this Rocky seemed to understand what I was saying. This wasn’t an Alpha Male situation, thank god. He sent the smile emoticon. Crisis averted.

Just kidding, HERE COMES KIM DAVIS.

Hey yeah, remember that insufferable woman who refused to hand out marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her faith? She was the worst!

Rocky was a huge supporter of hers. His Facebook was filled with articles about how persecuted Christian people were and that this woman was their new champion!

Welp, guess he really didn’t understand what I was saying did he?

Okay, this is from an interview I was in but it also perfectly encapsulates my “seriously, Rocky?” face.

He genuinely thought he was just expressing his views and it wouldn’t be such a big deal. After all, he put the smiley emoticon after every post! That showed everything was fine… right?

A war erupted on Rocky’s Facebook status. Everyone on the podcast was livid. I spent the next twenty-four hours desperately trying to convince him why his support for her meant he didn’t support myself or any of our LGBT friends.

Rocky didn’t see it that way. In his eyes, he could support Kim Davis and we could still be best friends. Personal relationships shouldn’t ride on things like this. We can just choose to not bring up the topic, right?

I didn’t back down this time. After those twenty-four hours I managed to wrangle out of him that yeah, maybe sort of possibly gay people deserved those rights and they wouldn’t be taking anything away from Christians.

It was exhausting but I felt like I had made real genuine progress. Everyone was else was pissed at the guy but I stressed that Rocky wasn’t a bad person. He had just grown up with all this ingrained in his head. We could show him how his actions were hurting us.

Throughout all of this the podcast continued more or less as normal. It was tough but we managed. After all, nothing cou-

WARNING: INCOMING ELECTION

2016 will go down as one of the biggest shit shows in politics but let’s not forget the ramp up in 2015. Where the pot really started to boil.

I had begun to get more politically active and was taking a real stance on issues. Okay, I was just reading a lot of NPR and BBC and sharing them on my Facebook but hey, it was something.

As controversial topics began to explode across the news Rocky continued to share articles that were just as ignorant and bigoted as the Kim Davis trash. Such topics included,

  • The evils of abortion!
  • How Rocky “didn’t believe in science.”
  • Why Christians were facing the REAL persecution!

Where before I would have just let it go I was now openly calling him out on every single one, joined by many of podcast co-hosts. Again, Rocky’s go to response would be to throw up a wall and end it with that damn smiley face emoticon to try and break the tension.

It never worked. What had once been a sign of Rocky’s acceptance had morphed into a “can we please not talk about this? I have no way to actually defend my worldview please let me continue to live in ignorance thanks J”.

Well, that’s my interpretation anyway.

During these Facebook “debates” I finally got to scratch the surface of how Rocky’s mind truly operated.

Rocky didn’t know how to debate because he’d never had to question anything in his life. Everything was handed to him, particularly his beliefs and worldview. He’d never had to question anything because he’d lived his whole life around people who always agreed with him.

He’d never had to argue. Never had to defend his place in the world because hey, as a straight Christian white man you aren’t exactly facing discrimination ever.

It was a safe comfortable world where Rocky could always be right. He could always be the good guy.

Then we came along.

This was Rocky’s first prolonged exposure to people who didn’t always agree with him. To people who had been challenged in life. To people who had faced real discrimination. To people who had maybe expressed an opinion or two and actually had to back them up.

It really illuminates why Rocky was so bad at debating, even about nerdy things. He didn’t have the vocabulary. He didn’t know how to deal with someone saying, “you’re wrong.” He had no way to come back so he’d just stonewall them.

Look at his response to the whole Alpha Male thing again with that in mind.

“Even if you feel that research has disproven it (which is your belief), you still have to be respectful enough to someone else’s outlook and not insult it.”

That’s someone whose mind is a house of cards. He can’t move it an inch or everything will come crashing down. Rocky’s worldview could not be altered.

This lead to the infuriating contradiction of Rocky saying he loved his LGBT friends while simultaneously supporting those who wanted to take away our rights. He couldn’t fathom why we got so angry about it because again, he’d never had anyone call him out for these bigoted views.

If he actually admitted to himself that he was a bigot, even in some small way? He’d be wrong and if he was wrong on this, what else could he be wrong about? That house of cards that made up his brain would collapse.

Rocky, unknowingly, cared more about keeping his precious worldview intact than actually opening his mind for one single moment.

So uh, if it wasn’t clear I was barely speaking to Rocky as a friend anymore. Our only communication was in Facebook comment wars and our second most popular topic after gay marriage? Abortion!

(Pro choice FOR LIFE!)

Remember when that video came out about how Planned Parenthood was supposedly selling baby parts? A video that was totally debunked?

Rocky, of course, refused to see it as anything but what he thought it was. Proof that abortion was evil! Who cares about the facts? His opinion “felt right” and that’s all that mattered. Another card for the house.

While most of our other comment wars tended to fizzle out this one was an eternal flame. It lasted for well over a week.

One by one the podcast co-hosts began to snap. Rocky was impossible. No matter how hard we tried he wouldn’t listen. Eventually the comment thread got so long, filled with nothing but Rocky’s stonewalls, that one of us lashed out and called him a hypocrite.

Rocky’s response? He was proud of being a hypocrite. If that’s how we saw him? That’s what he was.

That co-host quit on the spot. The others were wavering. I was furious. I confronted Rocky about this over messenger and he asked me, with that now infuriating god damn smiley face,
 
 “why can’t we just talk about Power Rangers and not bring up politics? : )”

I stopped for about half a second.

Happier times.

It could save the podcast, right? I could just unfollow his posts. That would fix it all. It’s not like we talked politics on the podcast anyway. This was all salvageable! I could keep my fame! My dreams!

I’d just have to compromise and not bring any topics up that made Rocky feel uncomfortable. Just tip toe around his bigoted worldview that directly said I shouldn’t have rights.

Fuck. That.

Rocky had never compromised on ANYTHING. Not on Sailor Moon, not on Alpha Males, and certainly not about abortion or gay marriage.

I flat out told Rocky I wasn’t going to his wedding and quit the podcast. Rocky could keep the show going if he wanted but I was out.

With that, all my dreams went up in flames but it didn’t matter. They weren’t worth sticking around Rocky. A guy who says he’s you friend to your face but backstabs you with his actions.

Some of the remaining co-hosts tried to keep the podcast’s spirit alive but when I departed Rocky was done. He just wanted the podcast to end.

For the fans I organized one final episode with the smattering of co-hosts who Rocky hadn’t burned. I put on my own smiley face and played nice with Rocky so the podcast, and its fans, could have a proper ending.

Once it was released to the public Rocky and I have one final conversation. I knew it wasn’t going to change anything but I wanted to give him the chance.

After being shunned by his entire friend group all Rocky could muster up was bewilderment why we couldn’t just focus on nerdy stuff and not talk about politics. Nothing changed.

He still believed we could be friends.

I was tired of getting repeatedly stabbed in the back.

That day I said goodbye and haven’t talked to him since.

Pretty much all of the co-hosts eventually broke contact with him as well. No one from the podcast went to his wedding.

For awhile I kept my distance. I blocked Rocky on Facebook. I didn’t want to ever see this guy again… But my curiosity got the better of me and I took a peak at his Instagram a few months later.

A recent post featured some new photos he’d framed. Photos of everyone from the podcast.

Blacked the other hosts out of this one.

Even after all that Rocky couldn’t see what he’d done. He still acted like everything was fine.

Whenever I bring up Rocky these days there are always two words that follow.

“Fucking idiot.”

There’s a reason I haven’t used Rocky’s real name in this piece. He’s not a monster. He’s just deeply misguided and is too stupid or indoctrinated to see it. He’s imprisoned by a house of cards of his own making.

That isn’t an excuse for his actions by the by. They still hurt, especially because if Rocky had just opened his mind a fraction of an inch he could have changed. We could still be friends.

Instead he refused to budge and “didn’t want to bring certain things up.”

Rocky hurt me more than he can ever realize.

So now I finally get around to answering my friends question. In case you’ve forgotten it after that incredibly long story, allow me to remind you.

“Have you ended friendships with those who have very bigoted opinions? I’ve had this one friend for nine years who is very bigoted. We just kinda don’t bring things up to avoid tension. They picked a fight with me and later apologized for ‘hurting my opinion’ and wants to remain friends so long as the topic isn’t brought up. Is the communication even worth it, knowing they’re very queer-phobic/voted Trump?, etc.”

Drop those friends. They’re toxic. It doesn’t matter what you’ve had together. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them. It isn’t worth it if they’re acting like that.

“Remain friends so long as the topic isn’t brought up” is garbage. It automatically puts you on the defensive in every situation. YOU have to censor yourself. YOU have to play nice. YOU have to make sure not to “offend”.

They don’t. That’s not fair to you or your mental health.

I know having a friend for nine years makes you feel like you need to stick with them. It’s been so long, you’ve invested so much time!

Drop them anyway. You can focus more on the people who support your identity.

Think about it this way. How often do you complain about that awful friend? Is it more than fifty percent of the time? Do you find yourself vague posting about them constantly?

(Wow, when did this turn into an infomercial? “Do you have a bigoted friend you want to cut out of YOUR life? Call today and you’ll receive the Anti Toxic Friendship Kit!”)

Ask yourself why this is happening so much. Try to reach out to the person. If they care they’ll listen. If they don’t, or you’re genuinely afraid they won’t, that’s a pretty good sign it’s time to fade out of their lives or cut them off directly.

It’s why I finally got rid of Rocky. I was complaining about him all the time. Our constant fights were a drain on my emotional health. He wasn’t worth the mental anguish of keeping around. He was toxic.

And hey, getting rid of any toxic friends in your life doesn’t have to be as dramatic as what happened between Rocky and I. You can legit just talk to them less and less. Don’t answer their Facebook posts as frequently. Don’t go out of your way to spend time with them. My therapist used to call it “fade to black.”

That or you know, you can tell them to fuck off and block them on every social media outlet. Whatever works for you!

This concept may sound simple but indulge me for a moment. The people in your life should make you happy. They should lift you up and make you feel good. That doesn’t mean they can’t challenge you. That doesn’t mean they have to be perfect or you need to agree on everything. But you know, you should walk away a solid 80–90% of the time with a good feeling after being with them (whether in person or online.)

And of course, they better accept your identity. If not? Not your friend.

Note: This answer would be very different if it were about family, especially if you’re financially dependent on them. I don’t have the proper life experience to give the best advice for that. I’ll leave that answer for someone more qualified to tackle.

2014 Shamus is cheering you on! You’re valid and you deserve nothing but happiness.

Just know that if you’re a toxic family situation? You still deserve happiness.

It sucks you can’t keep everyone in your life but we all change. We get new priorities. We discover new parts of ourselves. We go through experiences that shape our worldviews (for good and bad.)

Some people go in different directions while others stay exactly where they are.

Find the people who are willing to change.

Find the people who support you.

Not just a part of you. Not just the part that’s most comfortable for them.

Find the people who love you for all of you.

As a postscript, let me fill you in on what happened after I kicked Rocky out of my life.

I was quickly scooped up by another Power Rangers podcast, run by someone who actually supports gay marriage. Nice change.

At the 2016 Power Morphicon I stumbled into meeting the vice president of the Power Rangers franchise and he invited me to their corporate headquarters!

Yours truly in Power Rangers HQ. I’m holding the original Lord Zedd’s staff!

I was over the moon. I could barely contain my excitement, especially when the vice president mentioned how he loved listening to the current podcast I was on.

He didn’t mention Rocky’s show once. He’d never heard of it.

Get rid of the bad people in your life. Nothing but good things will follow.

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