In 2008, Michelle Obama spoke of Hillary Clinton as one of many who “put those eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.” And although the glass ceiling is typically an economic term, some would say that, as gay men, we have our own glass ceiling of sorts- a barrier that society or we impose upon us that either limits us or provides the motivation we need to shatter it. But perhaps- as baritone Dave Wilson’s experience might suggest- we can redefine the metaphor completely.
Dave works as a corporate trainer for a property management company, having successfully moved up the organizational ladder over the seven years he’s been there. He’s been in a committed relationship with his husband Zack for over ten years. They had gotten engaged in 2002, and once California briefly recognized gay marriage in 2008, Dave and Zack married. He says “having the opportunity to stand in front of my family and friends and say ‘I do’ to someone who has been my best friend, my confidant, and my partner is something that I will never ever forget.” He has a great relationship with his in-laws and enjoys spending time with his friends and family, especially his niece and nephews. It seems to be a family and work dynamic that may not sound out of the ordinary, but since he is the only one in his family living in California, it takes flexibility and resolve to make it work.
Breaking through barriers requires perseverance and patience, and nowhere does Dave demonstrate that better than in reaching one goal as a performer. He’s sung and performed most of his life, including with the Turtle Creek Choral, but his long-standing aspiration had always been to play the Cowardly Lion in a production of “The Wizard Of Oz.” “I'd loved the Lion in the movie, and had always enjoyed watching his scenes. When I was in 6th grade, I saw a production of the Wizard of Oz, and realized that I might someday get the opportunity to play that character, if I worked hard enough.” Finally, in 2009, Dave was selected to portray the lion in MenAlive’s “Wicked to Oz” show. It required Dave to sing a solo, something he had been told in younger days he would never achieve. “When Rich Cook said ‘And our Lion is Dave Wilson’, I was just over the moon. I don't recall what I did, or exactly how I reacted, but I knew that, no matter what else happened, I was going to finally get the chance to play the role I'd wanted to play since I was 12.”
Now after accomplishing that goal, he says the only thing holding him back from further dreams is himself. “The more I can trust myself, the further I can go.” Dave is looking toward returning to college to have the type of experience he missed before. “I went to the school my parents wanted me to go to and studied what they felt was the right thing for me to study at the time. I'm not angry with them about it; they just wanted me to be happy and make money, and I didn’t have the sense of self or self-confidence to fight for what I wanted. Now that I have a better understanding of who I am and what I missed out on, I want to fix that.”
Whether a glass ceiling or another cliché, barriers exist as all types of metaphors. But we determine if they will affect us- or even if we acknowledge them as barriers at all. It’s clear that Dave has chosen to use his experiences to illustrate that life doesn’t necessarily provide barriers- just opportunities.