Saturday, September 18, 2010

Supernatural Spotlight: Ryan Buell

It's been a while since I've mentioned Paranormal State here on my blog. I know it'll sound terrible but I rarely ever watch any television at all, even the paranormal shows. There is a certain level of drama set up in every episode (not to mention the suspense before every commercial break, which could either be an amazing discovery or turn out to be a ploy to make you believe there's something exciting waiting after advertisers fill your head with products you probably don't need). But--especially in light of recent events--I felt it was high time I said a little about the star of the show and founder of Paranormal Research Society, Ryan Buell.

Hailing from Pennsylvania (so practically my next-door neighbor) the 28-year-old is known across the country for his "directors log" speeches on the hit television show which is entering its fifth season on A&E. He was just 19 when he founded the paranormal group at Penn State where he majored in journalism and anthropology. It wasn't long before he was launched into the media along with his team and psychic medium Chip Coffey from Atlanta. Some people love him while others loathe him. Like anyone who steps into the limelight he became easy prey for rumors and speculation, praise for his work and scorn for finding so much demonic activity in houses and businesses.

Given his background in Catholicism and the religion's disbelief in ghosts, it's possible to postulate that a demon is more acceptable to the Catholic psyche than the spirit of a dead person. Every belief system labels good and bad in a different sense. However, this hasn't been the only dark shadow looming over his life. Buell has spent the last few years with a buzz murmuring through the audience regarding his personal life. People always want to know the little details and that can detract from anything else about who you are as an individual. The paranormal investigator has finally broken his long-standing silence on his private life and the paranormal in a new autobiographical book, Paranormal State: My Journey into the Unknown.

So... is he or isn't he? You know what I mean. "I’ve decided to share my sexuality and struggle over faith," Buell wrote in his new book, publicly announcing his bisexuality, "in hopes that others will no longer feel as though they are alone or that they can’t be religious." There has been an outpouring of both support and condemnation on his Twitter page as one might expect. He recently made a $2500 donation to The Trevor Project which promotes the acceptance of GLBTQ youth. This marks the first time anyone on paranormal television has openly acknowledged being anything other than straight. And he seems to go about it in the right way.

Sadly, there is the risk that like so many others who have "come out" in a public forum Ryan's sexuality could become the forefront of all focus and attention. Hopefully once the frenzy dies down everyone will realize the one thing so many of us try to get people to understand: we haven't changed. We don't suddenly bust into Barbara Streisand and wear make-up. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is just another identity or label like being tall, French Canadian, or near-sighted. It may make part of our life different from our heterosexual counterparts but it is not all we are. As a paranormal investigator who happens to be gay, I can understand why Buell has been quiet about his private life. I've been fortunate to be accepted by nearly everyone in the ghost hunting field I've worked with over the past 15 years but that doesn't mean I haven't experienced plenty of homophobia and rudeness as well. We all hope for the day when making a statement about our sexuality will be answered with a "so what" instead of shock and awe.

Kudos to you Ryan for having the courage to speak up. And I believe I speak for him as well when I say, "Now, let's get back to the ghosts, shall we?"

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