Michael has transformed his catastrophic childhood into a passionate devotion to helping traumatized and disadvantaged children around the world.
"We keep a lid on it, and we keep it on tight."
"Around 7 or 8, the sexual abuse started with my brothers, and I didn't really think it was sexual abuse at the time."
"I probably am not in control half the time I feel like I'm in control, but I don't behave like I'm out of control ever."
"I really have this unabashed freedom from this fear that I carried around—and not fear of her, but fear of fear."
"I just started having sex with men and women, just anyone who would ask...I had no sense of that was something you said 'no' to."
"I think now, in hindsight, that it's what I needed and was looking for, you know, was safety...All I had was tumult up until that point."
"There's maybe 3 pictures of me as a child...but your medical records, if you've gone to the same pediatrician, tell a story."
"I'm walking alongside them, you know? And really each time, over and over again, walking alongside myself...and healing a little bit."
An enduring human mystery: how does a child suffer horrific abuse at the hands of his own family members and yet somehow preserve within himself the capacity to experience intimacy and attachment?
Michael is a walking example of this mystery. He and his husband have celebrated their 34thanniversary. Together they have raised a wonderful daughter. And yet the first decade of his life was a cataclysm of misery. His mother was viciously physically abusive. His three older brothers took turns raping Michael, for years. The sexual torment ended only when Michael, age 13, suddenly found within himself the channel to his reservoir of rage. It must have been compelling. His brothers backed away, and left Michael to the decades of inner suffering and healing, healing and inner suffering.
There is no easy course, no magic involved in healing from such unrelenting abuse. It is work, and it requires persistence. And that is something that abounds in Michael. Persistence to spend decades in therapy, plumbing the depths of his pain, finding the places where his pain still lurks, where his pain still interferes with the life he now wishes to live. A life of intimacy, of connection, and a life devoted to helping children who suffer the kinds of abuses that he suffered. Kids who are looked over, or away from.
For many years Michael tapped into his anger and persistence and applied them in the service of children caught in Los Angeles’ massive foster system. He is an unrelenting, and often uncompromising, advocate. And unapologetic.
Today, Michael channels that drive in the service of children worldwide. Children who need an education, need books, need computers, need water or electricity in their villages, or just a friend to hear their stories in Indonesia and Central America.
Perhaps one answer to that enduring human mystery is that profound trauma and its thousand scars cannot be erased, but they can be embraced and transformed.