Posted in Gay Stuff, In The News Stuff, Political Stuff, Society Stuff

RANT

 

 

I remember when the news first broke some time ago that Donald Trump was seeking the Republican nomination.  Like many others, I thought it was a joke…some elaborate hoax dreamt up for popular consumption.  Maybe the Donald was trying to increase his Twitter following since his usual bickering had become stale and Cher stopped biting back, or perhaps he now hoped to launch some twisted new reality show idea (the Apprentice goes to Washington anyone?) But soon realization dawned that he was actually serious, and we watched as his terrible Trump train left the station with all its “deplorable” and “degenerate” followers hanging on tightly, as it bulldozed its way over anything and anyone in its path.  Our attention then turned to the conspiracy theories as a form of explanation.  The one I clung to most was that he’d been a friend of the Clintons once, so perhaps he was now somehow working for them in some devious, underhanded, and convoluted plan to elect our first female president by making a total asinine buffoon out of her only competition.  And what a friendship he and Bill Clinton must have made.  When the “grab her by the pussy” debacle broke, also known as Donald’s version of locker room talk, he noted how he and Bill Clinton had engaged in “worst conversations on the golf course” (please don’t let there be a recording, please don’t let there be a recording…) But then I started following the news stories and the media as they chronicled his rise to political power and “glory”.  I saw the meanness and cruelty and the hatred that seemed to underlie much of the commentary – HIS commentary – and with that look in his eyes, one of scorn mixed with contempt and a lack of awareness of just how damaging one could be, I knew he was serious.  And so I started to worry.  And then, as I watched the polls and saw how close the race seemed to be, I was scared.  And this past Tuesday…well, by then I was pretty much out of my mind.   I guess the stress clearly showed on my face, as I had stopped at a local grocery store on the way home from work and this older gentleman, a total stranger, walked up to me and shook his head, and whispered “it doesn’t look good.  It really doesn’t.  I think they’re actually going to elect that guy President”

So what went wrong?  We can spend weeks and months analyzing it.  We can blame Hillary for being unlikeable or unrelatable.  We can say that Donald stood for outright change, and that people were tired of the same old politics and feeling ignored and forsaken by their leaders.  We can lay fault with a flawed electoral process that sees the person with the popular vote lose, as was the case with Al Gore in the 2000 election.  We can hate on social media, for spreading ignorance and lies like some absolute truths, and a biased, jaded media for only reporting or questioning what they judged important and newsworthy, based on their own bloated self-interests.  We can consider all these things, but what we can’t seem to consider is what this entire experience – this nightmarish ordeal – says about all of us.  Now some would argue that we’ve become so politically correct as a society that many are afraid to express what they want to say, or challenge what they believe needs to be challenged for fear of being wrong or ostracized. And that because of that, the rise of Trump – this man that could say what no one else could say like no one else could say it – is the logical and inevitable outcome of that.   But you know what?  I say FUCK that.  I believe that is absolutely unfair and categorically untrue. Trump is a bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate mongering, law breaking, politically regressive, serially lying, morally corrupted monstrous bully of a man in an ill-fitting toupee who will set, not only his country, but this entire PLANET back decades in his attempt to crush the spirits of anyone who is against him.  In the last few days we have seen what a post-Trump world will look like, and it is uglier than we likely could have ever possibly imagined.  We have seen an increase in acts of hatred, aggression, and outright violence against people of colour, immigrants, and LGBTQ communities, and I fear that’s only getting started.  You see, those that supported him – those that secretly wanted to support him – feel that Trump speaks for them, that he says what they can’t say, and with Trump in the White House, holding the biggest megaphone of all, he now gives people some self-perceived onus or privilege or freedom to act out how ever and towards whoever they see fit.  It’s a Trump World, and in it women are to be played with, abused, and discarded; gay people are immoral and the cause of many of the world problems; people of colour are criminals and misfits who do not belong in the US of A; disabled people are to be made fun of or ignored.  And the list could go on and on and on.  Trump ran and won on what’s been described as the most extreme and regressive platform in the history of the Republican Party, one that was undoubtedly tailored to match his bluster, to go to the most extreme in any conceivable way on every issue. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and his Mexican border wall are front and center, along with his pro-life, anti-abortion stance (which will make no exceptions for rape or the mother’s health).  The platform will require the Bible to be taught in schools and make religion a central part of legal decision-making.  Trump has promised to appoint family value judges to uphold family centered values, aka anything not white and conservative, and he rejects any need for stronger gun control laws, despite the mass shooting epidemics that face his country.  And this platform makes as its centerpiece the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people. It repudiates same-sex marriage, and believes a “natural marriage” is only one that between a man and a woman.  It also defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers and legitimizes their right to discriminate.

Yet with this in mind, we’ve already seen the Donald, who campaigned on promises of everything and anything to get elected, reverse his stance on things like Obamacare and taxing China and jailing Hillary (I think the return of waterboarding still stands though).  His transition team is full of the very sort of Washington insiders and lobbyists he campaigned against, so it appears that  his “draining the swamp” of career politicians must now wait.  We’ve seen Trump name three of his children (Ivanka, Eric, and Junior….um, sorry Tiffany!) to run his global empire AND he has given them prominent roles on his transition team (because clearly there’s no conflict there?)   As for his Cabinet plan, there are rumblings of Ben Carson as a pick for either Secretary of Education or Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Now, Ben Carson is a retired physician who is a creationist and believes evolutionary biology is essentially a fairytale, and that being gay is a choice because people “go to prison straight and come out gay”.  So yeah, THAT guy could lead all education or health/human services initiatives in the country.  Then there’s talk of dear old Sarah Palin as possible Secretary of Interior, overseeing federal lands and the national park services, which means – “drill baby, drill!” – it will now become open season for oil and gas drillings on public lands.  And since Trump has already loudly proclaimed that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by “the Chinese”, what does any of that silly environmental nonsense stuff really matter?  Now as dangerous as all that really sounds, the one to really watch out for is vice president-elect Mike Pence.  He who is “a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican, in that order”.  Pence has been at the forefront of the GOP’s battles against birth control access and abortion rights for years, and cuts that led to the closure of Planned Parenthood and an unprecedented HIV outbreak in rural areas of the state where the family planning provider had been the only HIV testing center. He signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill into law that licensed discrimination against LGBTQ people, which following some significant backlash he later revised.  Most concerning of all, Pence supports conversion therapy, a contoversial “treatment” used with LGBTQ people to “turn them straight” that has incorporated electric shock treatment and chemical castration in the past. Together, he and Trump have been described as the “perfect storm of classic, out of touch, Grand Old Party extremism.”  And what’s most frightening about all of this is that, with his sort of cabinet in place, Trump may truly become the most reasonable person in the room.

But here’s the thing.  We don’t get to admire Trump for his “remarkable rise to power”.  There’s nothing to admire here.  What Trump did was tap into every dark and insidious place he could find to promote white extemism. He turned over every rock to find it’s ugly underbelly.  He fanned the flames of hatred and ignorance and intolerance and from it sprung forth an inferno that consumed the country.  And as much as we can’t admire Trump, we don’t get to blame Hillary. She didn’t lose over some corruption scandal.  She didn’t lose because she’s unlikeable, stiff or cold.  She didn’t lose because she didn’t appeal to the poor or the working class.  She was the ONLY choice. And she lost because she’s a WOMAN, a strong, opinionated, determined woman, and our patriarchal and misogynistic society could not deal with that.  And what we should have known is that these attitudes and belief systems were there all along.  We have grown complacent and soft.  We thought the great U.S. of A a country so progressive it had elected a black man for two terms, so surely there was a place at the head of the table for a woman in power.  We thought we’d achieved so many of our goals with LGBTQ rights, and we believed we were opening our hearts and minds to the plight of immigrants.   And yet there were some pretty big goddamn signs we weren’t quite there yet.  The rampant racial profiling, the abuse of black men by law enforcement, the mass shootings targeting people of colour or LGBTQ communities.  Maybe Donald’s promise of change reached out and touched those people affected by all those things we didn’t see, or didn’t acknowledge, or chose to ignore – the disenfranchised lower class and the working poor.  But in the end, we were fooled by a great con man.  The only change we will see will be a dangerous, ignorant, regressive one.  Trump is most dangerous in that he is an arrogant, selfish, small minded man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and will be far too proud to ask for clarification.  A Trump government will strip away rights of those most marginalized and oppressed.  It will disregard serious concerns for our already fragile environment, and eliminate any policies and structures we have safeguarding wildlife and ecosystems against climate change.  It gives voice and reason to the irrational, and it will allow ignorance, intolerance, and hatred to thrive and grow virtually unchecked.

So do we just give up and say that evil has triumphed? Do we shout out platitudes like #LoveTrumpsHate or continue to tell our children that bullies never win (because clearly they do), and then call it a day?  Do we check out and check back in four years later?  Will we still be here four years later if we do?  And as a Canadian, why am I even concerned?  Well, as citizens of this planet, as someone who believes strongly in social justice, and with our neighbor the US as a daunting influence with a  looming shadow, we have a LOT to worry about.  So here’s what I’m going to suggest: When you go to social work school like I do, you spend much of your time thinking and talking about oppression, and about privilege, and about one’s social location – where they are positioned in society in terms of one’s gender, race, orientation, class – and how we manage the resulting privileges and oppressions we face day to day. As a white male living in a middle class neighborhood, I have experienced privilege.  As a queer person who grew up in a lower/working class neighborhood, I have experienced oppression.  If you’re wealthy, or have access to higher education and health coverage, you have privilege.  If you’re a woman or a person of colour in our world today, its damn sure you experience oppression.  In her book Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression (if you’ve never read it, DO!), Anne Bishop displays very simple wisdom in telling people that in order to fight oppression we must be willing to fight ALL oppression, and recognize that my oppression is not worse than yours, and so on.  It’s good advice, but there is one chilling line I remembered from this book in the days since the Trump win that that’s given me some clarity in the chaos.  Bishop said “we carry with us the blueprint of our culture’s oppressive patterns to be reproduced wherever we have influence”.  We carry it with us, the ugliness and the hatred and the ignorance we have seen.  It is generational, bred within us to the very core of our being, sometimes buried, often hidden, but in times like this given power and influence and life. But we can challenge that terrible birthright.  We can recognize that ALL oppression is bad.  We can stop caring about our rights or the rights that affect us most – women’s rights, gay rights, black lives matter, all of it – and start caring about them ALL.  We can stop thinking that there is some hierarchy to oppression because there isn’t.   OPPRESSION: IT. IS. ALL. BAD.  When we see someone being bullied or harassed, we can help.  We can side with the victim, comfort them, acknowledge that not everyone feels THAT way.  We can make certain they know that some of us are different, and that some of us are better.  We cannot let racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry become more normalized than it already has.  We cannot become more desensitized to violence and sexual exploitation than we already have.  If you witness acts against others, be sure to stay safe but at the same time don’t stand for it.  If you experience acts against yourself, reach out for safety and support, because you will find it. Seek out allies that share  your beliefs.  If someone is ignorant than challenge that ignorance with knowledge and awareness and even understanding.  You don’t know what their experiences have been.  You don’t know what dark paths they may have walked.  But you know what can and are willing to tolerate, and you know what you’re not.  Stop using Facebook and Twitter as you’re ONE source for news and information.  Start challenging our media to be less sensationalized and more inclusive in their coverage.  We have differences.  Acknowledge them.  Educate yourself if you have to.  Educate others when you can.  Be KIND to one another.  Be KIND to yourself. If we do all of that, maybe somehow we can survive what’s yet to come.

I’m up for the challenge. Are you?

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Posted in Gay Stuff, In The News Stuff, Society Stuff

Love VS Hate, Hate VS Love

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Senseless.  Tragic.  Unfathomable.

Those are the words we hear during times such as these, as sombre politicians and law makers parade before the cameras offering their sympathy and support while they ask people to pray for the victims and their families during such unimaginable grief…as if sitting somewhere in silence and praying to no one in particular is our greatest call to action.

We hear these same leaders say things like “this could have happened anywhere….but today it was our city’s turn” as though we’ve come to expect shootings such as these like we might anticipate rainfall for the weekend.  We watch as people come forward, giving exclusive interviews to the media and gaining their desperate fifteen minutes of fame as they claim some expert knowledge of the shooter.  They tell us how unhinged this person seemed for so long, how angry, violent and unpredictable was their nature.  And how they needed serious psychiatric help and no one would listen..and yet this so-called cry for help on their behalf always comes after the true horror of these events unfolds.  Never preemptively, never proactively, and almost always posthumously.

As I reflect on the past few days in Orlando, so many things run through and rattle about in my mind.  First, the staggering realization of such a profound loss of beautiful young lives, cut short in their youth and their prime, as they gathered together as a community, to laugh, to celebrate, and to dance.  To live, and to freely love.  If you’ve ever been to a gay dance club, you’ll understand, at its core, what an unabashedly joyous and fun-loving place it can be.  A place where people are free to let loose and be themselves without fear or recriminations, to let all thoughts and worries and sometimes even reason  get swept away as they lose themselves in a crowd of positive energy, flashing lights, and pumping beats.  Clubs such as these SHOULD be a safe haven for our community, and a celebration of love and acceptance for all who enter it’s doors…but early Sunday morning past it became a literal hell on earth, only our latest example of how terror and hate continue to wreak savagery in our modern world.

As a society, we’ve become desensitized to this degree of violence and mayhem.  For many, we shut it out completely and become almost numb to it, while others acknowledge it briefly before we quickly move on to our daily routines, with our Pinterest finds or the latest Game of Thrones spoiler, or some new fad diet or workout routine.  Or, for some, perhaps we truly become overwhelmed by it and are unsure of just what to do with all of our grief and our upset and our rage.  Most of all, that is where I find myself these days.

I question what I thought I knew.  I once again am left to wonder if we perhaps we haven’t come nearly as far as a society in our acceptance of LGBTQ people as I once thought we did.  With this singular terrible act, I am left with the possibility that I have only been deluding myself, convinced that the world had changed and that my rights and my beliefs, and those of my “family” of brothers and sisters,  were as valid and as important as anyone else’s.   That I was embraced and accepted by society at large, and that I was free to love whomever and however I choose.   And more than anything, I HATE that this self-doubt has come creeping back in, to take up residence in some dark, dusty corner of my mind.  Someplace I thought I’d locked away and banished forever.

So where do we assign blame for this latest tragedy?  Where do we focus our frustrations and our sadness and our anger.  There seem so many places.  I’m angry at today’s pop culture, and how we continue to glorify mayhem and violence in our TV shows and our movies, our music and our video games.  We rest easy at night thinking of the fun and the entertainment value of it all, and convince ourselves that no rational or sane person could truly be motivated or inspired to carry out some heinous act through the influence of Call of Duty or the Walking Dead.  But do we stop to consider how these games and movies and music we become so addicted to absolutely sensationalize and glorify violence,  paint unrealistic portraits of sex and incredible distortions of body image, and promote misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia?  Who truly profits from this?  When we try to justify or rationalize it to ourselves, do we stop and consider those less rational than us?  What about those significantly less rational and dangerously more radical?

I’m sick over the lack of gun control laws and the pervasive influence of the NRA on the political landscape in the US, particularly the power and influence it seems to wield, supporting the very politicians who built their careers around stomping all over the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community, women, and minority groups everywhere.   Consider these statistics: In the US there have been over 1200 was mass shootings (defined as incidents where 4 or more people are shot) in the past 3 years.  And in these past two weeks in June there have been 74 deaths and 125 people wounded that are attributed to gun violence.  That’s 199 people in less than two weeks!   Let that sink in for a moment.

I’m saddened for the young members of our LGBTQ community.  What does this absolutely horrific and devastating hate crime say to them?   What happens when what was once considered a safe and welcoming space becomes a literal hunting ground of terror?   And now we are forced to bear witness as the  world media avidly works to downplay the idea of this as a “hate crime” against gay people everywhere and promote it more as some insidious plot stemming from ISIS and other terror regimes, as though our response to one should outweigh the other?  Or is it because the political gain is so much greater when we can invoke the fear of terrorist attacks?  How much does it sting to hear of blood shortages but know that, because of your sexuality, you are unable to donate to your very community that so desperately needs help?  How must it feel to hear these latest reports that the shooter was gay himself, and was perhaps facing some profound and terrible internalized homophobia that led him to his actions that day?  Are we suggesting that being closeted and conflicted can therefore lead to murderous thoughts and rampages….that we as a community somehow ignored and rejected this man, and in turn created our own monster?

So are these the messages we must take away?

No.  They are decidedly NOT. But in order to make sense of the senseless, in order to find meaning in the tragedy, we HAVE to learn something.  We have to find something that makes us better and stronger and more united than before.   Once again, we are forced to look for meaning in the darkness and the chaos.

And so, the message is this:

Stop glorifying the shooter.  Don’t try to understand their motives by giving them some international spotlight they do not deserve.  Remember that often these actions are fuelled by some sick need for attention that’s gone unfulfilled,by their desire to leave some terrible mark on this world and incite others to do the same.

Do not give him – do not give anyone – that sort of power.

Stop trying to process the fact that some unhinged individual with violent tendencies and a history of spousal abuse, someone who was investigated by the FBI TWICE for possible terrorist connections, was still readily able to buy assault rifles and handguns within the span of a day or two and then use them to such terrifying ends.  There IS no logic there.

Remember and honour the victims.  Celebrate their lives and let their spirits live on by holding close the ones we love and reaching out with compassion and tolerance to those that we do not.

Accept the simple fact that gun control laws save lives.    Australia adopted stringent gun control laws in 1996 following decades of violent outbursts and has not had a single mass shooting SINCE.  Not one.  Let that be our statistic.

Stop using religion to promote hate and intolerance.  Let our religious teachings centre on love and acceptance, not some warped interpretation of some loose guidebook allegedly written hundreds or thousands of years ago.  They were meant as a reflection of that time, not ours.

Stop attacking Muslims and immigrants and refugees.  Stop vilifying people who are probably more frightened than you are. Stop equating all Islamic people with terrorist and radicals, and acknowledge and accept the fact that a small faction has  perhaps perverted the Islamic religion to their own sick and twisted ends and means.

Accept that this was undoubtedly a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, carried out by an AMERICAN citizen…a mentally ill and repressed homophobic man, radicalized by a father who appeared more concerned his son would be considered gay than his newfound infamy as a mass murderer.

Don’t let a hateful, knuckle dragging, fear mongering and all around repulsive human being such as Donald Trump actually have a chance to aspire to the “highest office in the land” by allowing him so spew venom and hate and actually use this tragedy for his own personal political gain.  It sickens me to the core that a tragedy affecting LGBTQ people could be a true catalyst to his rise to power.

Be mobilized, demand change, fight oppression and hatred in ALL its’ forms and promote peace, acceptance, and harmony.  Embrace diversity in all is beautiful forms in this world and stop marginalizing others.   Accept differences and worry less about these stupid conflicting opinions.

Realize that ALL life is precious, and that our time here is simply too damn short, and enjoy each day as some kind of blessing.  And know forever that love is love is love is love….

 

 

 

Sissy That Walk!


I love RuPaul.

I  love that I live in a world where a working class  6’5′ tall gay black man in a wig, makeup and a fancy dress can grow up to become a truly iconic pop legend who now arguably stands, at the age of fifty four, at the height of an already long, enduring and impressive career.   Currently storming the Billboard charts with a new album (Born Naked) and single (Sissy that Walk) and ruling the airwaves as creator of  a truly unique “what the hell were they thinking, and yet DAMN it works!” television show called RuPaul’s Drag Race, the original Supermodel of the World appears to be, as always, an unstoppable force of nature.

If you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, now in its sixth glorious season (well, seventh if you count All Stars!) then you’ll know it’s one of the most endearing, funny, smart, creative, and entertaining hours of reality television around.  What you probably don’t know is that RuPaul and his/her show (pick a pronoun….Ru don’t care!) has done much to give the art of drag a new and enduring visibility and open acceptance in our modern culture.   For the uninitiated, Drag Race is a competition show centred around the search for American’s next drag superstar, starring RuPaul as both mentor (as the suited, bespectacled, and very male RuPaul Andre Charles) and host (as the utterly fabulous, beautiful, and beguiling RuPaul).   Fourteen drag queens from across the US compete, using all the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent they can muster (did you catch that?!) to bring their soccer mom, business executive, or party girl “realness to challenges that use their comedic skills, acting chops, designer sense, and runway fierceness.   As they “lip synch for their lives” to avoid extermination….I mean elimination (it’s as exciting as it sounds!), the one who outperforms gets to “shantay” (that means stay) while the other sashays away. (Side note- I swear RuPaul and these catch phrases has practically given me an entire new language!)  What’s striking about some of these colourful exits is that competitors leave, not with hard feelings and recrimination, but on an almost transformative high note, with our esteemed host singling out their strengths and unique talents before sending them off into the world where they might step into their own very special fabulousness.  In other words, no one’s flipping the bird and dropping the F bomb before they go back to being a poor loser in the real world.   (And maybe THAT little fact has something to do with why so many eliminated queens have gone on to foster some pretty fabulous careers of their own, like Willam Belli, Detox, and Shangela to name a few, while past winners like the almost otherworldly Sharon Needles, have carved out iconic careers themselves….while those seeking their fifteen minutes of fame on Survivor and Big Brother are usually both disposable and forgettable.  Like, pass the mind bleach so I CAN forget kind of forgettable!)

Sure, at times things get formulaic, with certain “characters” or archetypes showcased each season….someone inevitably “plays” the ingenue, the villain, the front-runner, or the dark horse.  But regardless, Drag Race pulls the curtain back on the great illusion by showing us the true lives of the real honest to goodness MEN that live behind the glittery makeup and the sequined gowns.  For some, it’s a passion and a calling, for others its a form of creative expression and for others still it’s  simply how they make their living, a job like any other, even if it’s unlike anything we’ll ever know.  What’s often remarkable about the show is that it finds the balance between showing the light and not taking any of this all too serious, and yet uncovering the dark corners and the earthy realness of it all.  While it pokes fun at its subjects, it never makes fun of them, and it always presents the queens in a very real, very human light.  These queens have experienced their fair share of trials and hardship, with many facing hatred, discrimination and non acceptance on an almost daily basis n their “real” lives.   Some are very forthcoming about their stories, while others more guarded….but eventually everyone tends to break down in what’s proven to be some pretty vulnerable and refreshingly unscripted moments.  Well, that and the vodka helps!

For all it’s participants, Drag Race is a study in fearlessness, strength, and resiliency .  It portrays a group of people who are true survivors –  battered but never broken – and we see an evolution for many as they discover things about themselves as yet unknown, and have the chance to form an even stronger and fiercer persona before unleashing it upon an often cruel, ignorant, and now unsuspecting world.

As impressive as it is for a fifty something gay black man to create such an iconic character as RuPaul- an achievement so staggering to me it bears repeating – it’s equally impressive that a show in theory by a man in a wig in a dress ABOUT a bunch of men in wigs and dresses can even find a place on network TV let alone carve out such a large and faithful following.   Someone took a pretty spectacular risk to make this happen, and we can all be thankful they did.   Such role models as these queens – and yes, they’re role models – could not be found when I was younger.  I grew up surrounded by Rocky and Rambo and the A Team, where men were men and guns and fists stood in for mid-life crises, receding hairlines, and erectile dysfunction.   As nostalgic as one might get for Three’s Company and Chrissy, Janet and the gang, the closest touchstone I had to “queer” personalities on television were the comedic stylings and yet so homophobic antics that went on between Jack Tripper and Mr. Roper on Three’s Company.   With that as my mirror on life, I shudder to think how unfabulous I would’ve turned out minus my sister’s Donna Summer and ABBA records!)

I didn’t always understand drag queens, or the desire to dress up (I haven’t always been this enlightened creäture before you, you know).  For one thing, these shoulders would not look pretty in anything spaghetti strapped, I can barely walk a straight line in sneakers let alone heels, and don’t think for a second you can ever tame these eyebrows.  But in all seriousness, I suppose my not understanding came from a place of fear, or perhaps some feelings centred around some  internalized homophobia once upon a time.  But not anymore.  RuPaul and Drag Race helped change that….helped change both my understanding, my perception, and my world view on what drag really means. On what being gay really means.  On what being YOURSELF really means.

In our world today, there are literally millions of school age LGBTQ children.  And among that staggering statistic live an inordinately large number of scared, helpless, hopeless children who spend their day planning – not what they’re going to wear or what team they might try out for or what movie they might like to see – but instead how to survive from being bullied, harassed and shamed for being who they are, or how to hide and suppress what they really feel inside just so they might find some peace on the outside.  They have to plan for their safety each and every day, how to look, how to talk, even how to move…and those that love them need to equally fear for the harm that might come.   How awesome is it that some weird gay kid who’s struggling to find their place in the world – that are being bullied for being too femme or too butch, that are being tortured because they were born a boy when inside they feel like a girl, or vice versa – can now turn on the TV today and see this colourful cast of admirable characters living their lives out loud, leading the charge for the rest of us as they do what we all want to do…be their own true masters of  their own true destinies.  And if you disagree with that, then I guess you’ve never felt that pain or been that scared kid…or had to worry about one.

I hope RuPaul’s new single Sissy That Walk, in all it’s success with its huge dance beats and simple yet catchy lyrics, becomes an anthem for those leading the way, for those that have walked the road already, and for those about to head down the path.   Not “just” a gay anthem, but an anthem for us all.

 

“And if I fly, or if I fall
Least I can say I gave it all
And if I fly, or if I fall
I’m on my way, I’m on my way…

Now SISSY THAT WALK”

 

Sissy that walk, butch that stroll, glam that runway.   However you do it, just be that beautiful, unique creature, unlike ANY other,  you were born to be.

THANKS for that message Mama Ru.

 

 

Sissy That Walk

 

 

Go to YouTube to watch the official Sissy That Walk video starring RuPaul and legends in the making Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, Courtney Act, and Darienne Lake.

 

SISSY THAT WALK!

Posted in Gay Stuff, In The News Stuff, Society Stuff

Not My BIG BROTHER


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Racism is stupid. Abuse towards women, on any level, is wrong. Homophobia is just another word for hatred. In our modern world today, what is it about race that defines a person’s worth? What does gender or sexual orientation really have to do with equality anyway?

It seems these days that CBS’ Big Brother believes they have the answer – some quantifiable truth about what makes HIM better then HER, or YOU better then ME. Anyone who’s read this blog, and anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge fan of the Big Brother series (I even sent in an audition tape for the Canadian version of the show). As entertained as I’ve been by the show in the past, I’ve always been most fascinated by it from a social experiment perspective. A bunch of strangers, forced to live together in a house, cut off from society and the outside world, from all the things they know and love…video taped and audio recorded…as we WATCH and LISTEN to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…. until one by one, through some wacky competitions, tests of endurance and trying (and crying!) emotional games, you eliminate them all until one player is left standing, crowned the winner, given a prize of $500,000.00. I’ve both cheered and despised characters in the past such as Rachel and Brendan, Dr. Evil, Brittany, Mike Boogie, Janelle, and Dan. And as memorable as they are, this year’s cast will likely become the most famous of all…. and all because of the toxic, harmful and hateful environment they bring. Big Brother’s no longer fun…. it’s just mean.

Social experiments by nature can have strange outcomes given that they involve humans, those unpredictable and complex creatures that we are. Sometimes social experiments can expose more then they bargain for due to the nature of the individuals involved. And so if you consider BB a science experiment, it’s safe to say it’s one that’s now gone horribly, even viciously wrong. It started out innocently enough. Aaryn, the worst offender of a pretty damn offensive bunch, started out sort of Lindsay Lohan Mean Girls like, but then quickly turned…some sort of Amanda Bynes, pre Civil War maybe. Aaryn viciously makes fun of Asian and African American houseguests by resorting to cruel and untrue stereotypes, and mocks a gay houseguest while constantly attempting to out another she suspects is a “homo”, all the while denying she does any of it. Her surfer boy toy David complained his dirty sheets were the result of African American Candice sleeping in them. Her klansmate…I mean housemate GinaMarie is just some awful caricature of what Brooklyn pageant queens would be (I’m sure there MUST be some nice ones -it’s a big city and a big industry, right?) who perhaps has watched one too many Sopranos episodes and thinks she now lives in one. Big dumb Jeremy, a Native American himself who seems to laugh loudest and longest at the racial jokes, has introduced the lovely word “meat wallet” into our collective lexicon. We can thank him for that, along with “don’t trust the queers” Kaitlin, for sharing said meat wallet with that ol’ romantic test-driving Jeremy. Then there’s Hitler lovin’ Spencer, who admits to bruising his girlfriend, and waited for an audience to call gay housemate Andy “Faggot Andy” to his face. Andy himself has made fun of Asian American houseguest Helen, although at least has had the sense to look pained and uncomfortable during a few others’ racist tirades, while Amanda, self professed fag hag and lover of all things queer, likes to poke fun, a.k.a. humiliate her best gay pal as often as she can. It seems, from what we’ve seen, that perhaps Howard, Elissa, Helen, Candice, Jessie, MacRae and Judd as the only “decent” people in the house (with Judd noting “don’t these people know they are on TV and there are things you shouldn’t say”). At the very least, they haven’t felt the need to demean and disrespect their fellow houseguests over and over again and instead seem to have chosen to take a higher ground. Or wait…. is that their actual stance, or is it game play?

If you were to consider – and stay with me now – the game, as a microcosm of American society today, is a higher ground what we truly need to see represented? As a strong African American male, does the fact that Howard knows how rampant the racism runs in the house yet chooses to do nothing about it, keeping his head in the game and the eyes on the prize, make him weak? Is the end result, the prize money, the endorsements, whatever might come…. worth all the hurt and the hits his pride must take time and time again? I suppose the same could be said for all the houseguests under Aaryn and gang’s vengeful wrath. What does it say when Helen puts aside her feelings and tries to form a secret alliance with Aaryn, the woman who condescends and viciously makes fun of her at every turn? I wonder first what it does to her psyche, but then I wonder what it does to ALL of our psyches. I watched a teary eyed Julie Chen respond to the racism controversy the other day, stating that hearing Aaryn’s comments brought her immediately back to the ‘70s and being teased and verbally abused by her peers, and how shocking it was to realize that those ideals still exist today. I remember hearing Spenser use that charming term “Faggotty Andy”, which quickly brought me back thirty years to a couple of female classmates pointing at me and flailing their limp wrists and mouthing the word “fag.” But not like it happened thirty years ago…. but as though it happened just yesterday. Somehow I doubt Julie Chen and I are the only one flashbacking amongst all of this. CBS seems to feel that these contestants will suffer consequences for their behavior on the show and in real life, and that whatever those consequences will be will somehow be enough. And sure enough Aaryn, GinaMarie, and possibly Spenser will all find themselves jobless upon exiting the house, and unless the KKK is recruiting poster children I doubt we’ll see many endorsement deals. But even that doesn’t satisfy me, or seem quite enough, and it shouldn’t satisfy you. I believe they need to set a reset button on the whole thing. Cancel it. Or if the show must go on, start over, fresh and new with a whole new group of people. Or as a ratings grab, bring back some old favourites. Bring back the Brittanys and the Dans – hell, bring back Rachel – but get these vicious, dangerous people out of the house. They won’t lose viewership. Fans WOULD watch that. Stop giving these terrible people airtime to spew their horrible, hateful beliefs. There is a precedent. A UK version of Big Brother has done this in the past, cancelling the show after a large public outcry against blatant racism towards an Indian contestant which eventually resulted in both a lost season and sanctions against the network responsible for airing it. But of course CBS won’t do anything of the sort. Ratings of a once struggling show are on the rise, and everyone (including me, obviously) can’t stop talking about Big Brother these days. Part of me wonders if CBS KNEW the firestorm that would likely erupt in the house. How could this many bigoted, self centered, ignorant people get past network censors? How could someone like Aaryn possibly screen as SANE and pass a psychological exam? Perception once was that CBS was hiding the racist, editing people like Aaryn in a positive way until outcry began over the live feeds. But was this a strategic move by the network to spark the controversy, and light the flame? Controversy brings attention, attention brings ratings, and ratings bring money. Period.

I feel sorry for these people, both the victims and the perpetrators. I guess, unlike them, I count myself lucky in that I grew up in a family that taught me good ol’ right from wrong, in a house with very strong female role models in my mother and my sisters. I’m blessed to have attended a school with children of many different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, from whom I learned how rich and diverse our world could be. I’m so fortunate I reached a place where people of the same sex could feel safe and discover feelings or explore relationships with another in an accepting environment. I’m not racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic….you won’t find an “ist” or an “ic” here, no matter how hard you look, and I’m proud of that. Big Brother’s a train wreck, yet I can’t look away, as much as I wish I could. Part of me wants to see the day when Howard or Helen finally snap and right all the horrible racist wrongs that have happened. Or that ultimate comeuppance or just desserts that will fall people like Aaryn, GinaMarie, Jeremy, and Spenser. Because surely that day will come, right?

Kudos to Big Brother Canada for avoiding this kind of drama and playing the game with a bit more class. I mean, they made a breakout star out of a 6 foot queer black man with a love of cross dressing and glitter….let’s see BB US try THAT.

It’s sad that in 2013 THIS is the world we’re shown. And I for one am so glad it’s NOT my world. I truly hope it’s not yours either.

Posted in Gay Stuff, In The News Stuff, Pop Culture Stuff, Society Stuff

Dear Jodie

Jodie-FosterI love Jodie Foster.

Some people quote the Bible, or lines from their favourite books, or lyrics from a song. I quote Silence of the Lambs. I mean, just the sight of sunblock has me screaming “it rubs the lotion on its skin and puts it in the basket!” I’ve followed Jodie’s career most of my life, and along with cheering all her amazing accomplishments, in roles like my beloved Silence, Taxi Driver, The Hotel New Hampshire, and the Accused to name a few, I’ve forgiven her for the seemingly unforgiveable, like continuing to hire Mel Gibson when no one else would touch his racist, homophobic, misogynistic ass, and for Panic Room, a movie I actually liked but one that will forever be marred for inflicting the wooden depths of Kristen Stewart’s “acting chops” upon an unsuspecting world. So as I watched her rather mesmerizing speech at the Golden Globe awards, I wondered was THIS something for which I could proudly cheer her on, or scream in horror “oh no, she’s pulled a MEL… again!”

Seems the answer’s actually both

See, as much as I love Jodie, I love lesbians. Over the years, lesbians have been some of my bestest friends. Those gals can drink like truck drivers, make great wingmen at bars, and are wicked spotters at the gym. And truth be told, I’ve been accused more than once of having some pretty strong lesbian sensibilities myself, with my love of short hair and hoodies, cargo shorts and aviators, beer samplers and junior hockey, Wonder Woman Barbies and She-Ra, Princess of Power, and the musical stylings of Alanis and la Goddess Tori Amos…. but come on, DAMN, you have to admit, those sapphic sisters know where it’s AT.

Just this past year, we’ve had a rush of casual gay MALE coming out stories in Hollywood (I’m looking at YOU Zachary Quinto!). Celebs like Zachary or Big Bang’s Jim Parsons will now suddenly drop a line or two seven paragraphs into a small magazine story (something about their organic vegetable shopping spree at the local market with their male partner of a zillion years, then shrug it off and talk about their next indie role). Now with all due respect to Ellen and Portia, the way I see it, it’s the ladies turn. And after a near miss a few months back (I’m looking at YOU Queen Latifah!) I held my breath, thinking Jodie was going to do IT. You know, become this year’s Anderson. Sort of.

And then she did. Sort of.

Yes, in a six and a half minute rambling yet elegant, “am I missing the inside joke here?” to “she really gets me!” kind of speech, Jodie gave up one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood and “came out”, noting she’d first done so back in the stone age to “trusted friend and family….then gradually to everyone who knew her, everyone she actually MET.” Now to me, that sentence alone says a lot about our society and its’ celebrity obsession, and our need to know the most intimate and secret details of the Hollywood crowd we so admire. Our Jodie is NOT Honey Boo Boo as she noted….her life and the life of her family is not some goofy reality show for our daily amusement and consumption. So bugger off, she’s saying, let me live out my fifty but still smokin’ and currently single life in peace.

Now some people are of the mindset that, as a celebrity, one gives up the right to a private life….that everything you do, everyONE you do, should be public knowledge. Not so I say. I work with kids with behavioural issues and with their parents on developing strategies to deal with said behavioural issues. Most days I love my job, and if I must say so myself, I’m really good at it. But that doesn’t mean that, when at Costco let’s say, I should drop my jar of pickles the size of my head and rush over to intervene when some little seven-year old darling baby boy is screaming he wants the new rated M for mature Call of Duty game while his mama is screaming “STOP THAT OR WE’RE LEAVING RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!” even though I know 1) she has no intention of leaving ’til she gets that latest Fifty Shades knock off and 2) junior will smugly get whatever he wants just to SHUT HIM UP! And sure enough, fifteen minutes later baby boy is clutching his killer game while machine gunning the massive hot dog lineup mama has dropped everything for and is now waiting in, just to get him a jumbo sausage with extra ketchup. No, as much as I sometimes want to, I won’t step in. I gave at the office, so to speak, and so, in my twisted logic kind of way, has Jodie.

I want to celebrate Jodie’s speech. I want to say “Hey,my sistahs! Finally you can give Ellen a break and get a new poster girl! For realz this time!” But there’s something about the vagueness of her message that doesn’t sit well with me. Because being vague implies that maybe there’s something there that should remain hidden, something that is still shameful to just admit. By flirting with the rumours, then addressing them in such a roundabout way, doesn’t make Jodie the role model I want her to be. But only part of me feels that way. Because listening to Jodie’s message, really LISTENING, I realize her words just make her seem more human, more real to me. And it makes me think of my own experiences and those of friends and how, as gay people, we’re almost constantly “coming out” to people. We constantly feel this pressure to take the spotlight and make this great proclamation about our lives. A need to explain away the important people in our lives, to defend who and what we are. To define our own “modern families”. Scarlett Johanson isn’t pressured to grab a mic and shout “I am a man-eating HOE and you are my next victim!” Ryan Gosling isn’t forced to say “watch out! I WILL sleep with your woman cuz I’m a big ol’ hetero STUD!” So in that respect why must Jodie shout from the mountaintops that she not so secretly wants to do Megan Fox? It’s because we insist upon it. We save those precious moments of full public disclosure for the queers among us. And so, on that note, BRAVO to Jodie for taking her own road. I’ll respect her coming out story. Because it’s her story, and all stories are different. And I won’t treat her life as a reality show, because unlike Honey Boo Boo, that’s not how Jodie rolls.

To be honest though, I can’t promise I won’t obsess over Jodie’s love life, especially if she soon bags a hot celebrity girlfriend. Because, after last night, one thing Jodie truly confirmed….she is one fine smokin’ hot single lesbian. And an “on the market” available one at that.

Posted in Gay Stuff, Me Stuff, Political Stuff, Society Stuff

The Light

October is National Anti Bullying Month, a cause that’s near and dear to my heart. I work in child and adolescent mental health, and over the years, I’ve come to know well those that would qualify as bullies, and those that would suffer as their victims, My team and I work hard to, in a sense, “rehabilitate” the bully, source out that negativity, reinforce positive behaviour with positive attention, uncover the deeper reasons that invoke these behaviours, and instead promote and encourage better, more positive peer relationships. With the children who are bullied, we work to build resiliency and better self esteem, to help them find a voice, seek support when in despair, and perhaps most importantly to do whatever they can to hang on to that thing that makes them most special, worthy, important….that light that we all have inside. Most times we’re successful, sometimes we’re not, but we’re THERE, we’re present, we’re listening, and we’re eager to lend a hand, to guide a way. I’ve come to find that people think they know the answers to bullying, that we believe we can sum things up in few short lines – poor parenting, teachers that don’t care, an entertainment industry glorifying sex and violence, kids that are just born mean. It’s easy to blame the wondrous technological advances of this era, and look to social media as the villain, with the magnitude of unfiltered garbage free to flow into our living rooms, onto our laptops, via our mobile phones. As a society, we don’t “talk” anymore. We text, we tweet, we post funny or revealing Facebook updates. One quick sound bite, 140 characters or less. And in that short time span, we go for impact, we try to be provocative, we try to get the best laugh or the biggest shock value. We don’t make those simple human connections we once did. And through this social media we can be anonymous, we can be outspoken, though provoking, even inflaming. But what we don’t recognize, what we fail to realize, is the damage those “words” can do, and, as adults, the lessons our actions can teach, the impressions we can leave behind to those who look up to us the most.

Aside from my passion for my work, this epidemic of bullying has touched me on an even deeper, more personal level. I have a 7 year old nephew and a 17 year old niece who have faced struggles with issues like these often in their daily lives. My nephew is a shockingly bright, incredibly well spoken, handsome little guy, small for his age but with a personality bigger than life. An only child, unlike his uncle he didn’t grow up with four siblings and one Monopoly game and have to figure out how to share and play together NICELY, DAMN IT, and so school is where he learns, like most kids, how to maneuver his way through those minefields of childhood relationships. And so this perfect little child, so charming with adults, has he’s always struggled fitting in with kids his age, so rule bound and precocious as he can be. This struggle, almost comical at first in his description of it when some other child just wasn’t LISTENING, turned frighteningly real last year, when he started coming home with cuts and bruises and torn clothes due to tussles on the playground –well, not so much tussles as his running away in fear for his safety, being caught, pummelled, and having no one around close by to help or intervene.

My beautiful niece’s struggles have been different, yet no less severe. She has always been a very warm and loving little girl, who easily wins over friends with her engaging personality. A strikingly sensitive soul, she empathizes easily with others, so much so she’ll often take on their problems and champion them as though they were her own, not recognizing the toll at times that might take upon her. Like lots of young people her age, she’s gone through those awkward early adolescent and teenage years questioning the confusing world around her, and one particularly important question she’s faced is in regards to her own sexual identity. She’s still just figuring it out, and like so many others will likely continue to do so for many years to come, but gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, trans….to her, the label doesn’t matter, she just hopes to find someone to share common ground with and then later to fall in love. To find someone who truly and genuinely loves her, regardless of their age, their race, their shape or size, or their gender. A rather enlightened and self assured attitude for a teenage girl, it’s not one necessarily shared by other people her age, and so, as a result, she’s encountered some gossip, innuendo, teasing, and cruelty. And because of her belief system, she’s been forced to hold her head high and carry on during some rather trying, difficult and downright painful times.

My nephew and niece are already heroes in their own fight, and don’t even realize it. My nephew would cry himself to sleep at times, so fearful of these school yard bullies, but then shake it off in the morning and be first on his school bus, excited to face the challenges and rewards of a new school day. With concern for his well being, his parents (my sister and brother in law) brought him to his pediatrician, who, after hearing their concerns and some description from my nephew, had this strong message for them– “don’t’ you DARE let these bullies stomp that bright light out from inside this child. Go to the school, fight for more supervision, transfer districts if you have to…but do NOT let them take away his light”. As for my niece, with her mother and step-father’s support, she was able to make a very grown up decision to cut some negative peer influences out of her life and find some truer friends, and from there slowly make her way out from underneath some darkness that had surrounded her. My nephew and niece are lucky. They have mothers and fathers that love them and have instilled in them so many of their own good qualities, qualities passed down by our parents, that I’m confident they’ll find their path. My sisters will protect their babies like all good mama lions would, but I know aside from that fierce protective nature they’ve already given them the strength of character and the strong sense of family that they will need to see them through whatever difficult or trying days they might face ahead. But one thing that these two, and in fact my other niece and nephewall share in common, the one thing that makes them all so very precious, is how sensitive they are to their surroundings, how deeply – how BIG – they feel things in this world. But instead of being celebrated, this sensitive nature will likely something they’ll need to learn – to be expected -to somehow overcome.

 

I read in horror and dismay the fate of Amanda Todd, a 15 year old girl from British Columbia who committed suicide days ago after years of struggling with cyber bullying. Years earlier Amanda had made a seemingly harmless but devastating mistake. She flashed a stranger on a webcam, a stranger who took that image and used it in an attempt to exploit her, and when this exploitation proved unsuccessful in gaining what he wanted, he released the image, posting it online and forwarding to Amanda’s friends, her family, her neighbours, and her classmates. And so this embarrassing picture became widely distributed, and this girl who made a simple mistake became the subject of scorn and the victim of terrible abuse, until ultimately In an effort to escape her pain she took her own life. And with that news, my mind flashed to the kids under my care, to my family, to my own experiences. Cyber bulling itself seems its own vicious animal, in that at least with physical bullying there are scars and marks and the visible evidence of the abuse, and with it the chance of police involvement and the possibility of charges laid, of justice done. With cyber bullying the abuse is pervasive and ongoing, and it invades the places we should find safest. Words hurt, and the scars and the marks that come from their use cut just as deep. For kids, the warzone isn’t just the classroom or the school yard or the movie theatre or the shopping mall – it’s their living rooms, their bedrooms, the very sanctuary that should be their homes. And as a society we have become a group of passive bystanders – we see these daily struggles but do little to stop them, but then later rush in to lend our sympathy and support in the wake of such tragedy, gnashing out teeth and pulling our hair and asking how this could possibly happen. I don’t know Amanda’s circumstances – I don’t know what her family life was like, what her school supports might have been, or what access she might have had to mental health professionals. I do know she moved and changed schools a number of times in an effort to escape her tormentors, so that tells me her parents tried to protect and shelter her, and school administration must have advocated for these “new starts” to happen. I know she was treated for anxiety, so her mental health needs, however seriously considered, must have at least been considered or raised. Certainly she must have suffered with severe depression and debilitating anxiety due to her life circumstances, and being so unwell she may not have been able to see the resources that were there, the options that she had. I am sure her family must be devastated by this turn of events, and her teachers and friends’ grief stricken and shaken in the aftermath of this terrible solitary act. But with all that, I also know that this little girl made the most public cry for help there is, posting a video of herself on YouTube, in grainy black and white, silently flipping through flash cards, telling her sad tragic tale, telling us in her own words that “I have no one. I need someone.” Whoever saw it, whoever acted upon it…whatever was offered, it was not enough. We need to stop acting like bullying is some school yard problem or prank, some rite of passage as we move through those difficult adolescent years. Bullying needs to be taken seriously and treated like the criminal act it is, with consequences and repercussions to match the crime. Whoever this man was who distributed the naked picture that was the catalyst for the sad fate of this young girl needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for distributing what was, in essence, child pornography. The “friends” who now dare to send their sad condolences on the very Facebook page they used as their platform to torment and, in fact, bully this girl to death need to be held accountable, if not possible by law then by their community, by their families, by their schools, and by themselves. We need to stop being passive bystanders and instead become active participants. Be the eye rolling, incredibly irritating parent you swore you’d never be. Be the over protective big brother, the meddling big sister. Constantly check in with the little people in your lives. Watch for any change in behaviour and act upon it swiftly and accordingly, by probing and questioning, and trust your instincts when something appears wrong. Monitor kids online, restrict their access, patrol the sites they surf, and keep their passwords close and safe. Be vigilant, and when they are in need, don’t rush to judgement, simply listen….and then help them to find some solution, some light at the end of the tunnel, some way out. Don’t treat it as some teenage drama; treat it as the life and death situation it might become, that it IS in that moment to them. And conversely, when you see a child acting out in hatred, know that it likely comes from a dark place, and strive to find inside yourself some compassion. We must strive to understand those misguided ones and help them find the support and guidance they need to find a better way of being. Because there IS a better way of being, and they CAN find that way. Remember everyone has a story, and be sure that your story is an example of how best to treat your fellow man, with kindness, compassion, a sense of moral duty, and a strong guiding hand. Bullying feeds on a person’s weakness and insecurity, and from there it fosters and grows. We must stem the tide. Bullying doesn’t just hurt…it kills.

There is NO more precious resource in this world then our children. Remember those little people in your life are always listening, always learning, always watching. Be the role model they need…be THAT person. Show them the way. This was a sad failure of a community, of a school system, of our mental health profession, and of our society as a whole. We need to do better. We need to do so much more.

Please. Take action today. Don’t let another bright light in this world go out far too soon.