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Occupation and Gender

Posted on 2016.06.29 at 12:33
While working on one project and thinking about another, a completely different random thought crossed my multi-task brain the other day, which I would like to comment upon – gender and occupation. (Welcome to how my brain works!)

I think for the most part, we as a society are making a point to move away from attaching particular gender descriptors to particular occupations – at least moreso than we used to be. As an example, when I was a kid, it was not unusual within a restaurant to hear, “Good evening everyone. My name is Brandi, and I’ll be your waitress tonight.” But nowadays, the gender-specific terms “waiter” and “waitress” are being phased out in favor of “server”, which is gender-neutral. Such a shift in terminology is subtle. But it is extremely important. Why? Because I believe many of us (myself included) have been taught from a very early age that particular occupations and roles are more suited towards a particular gender. Thus, before many of us even understand what bias or prejudice is, we are taught to perpetuate it.

When you think about it, we’ve all experienced this sort of a thing in one form or another. Take the medical profession, for instance. How many times have you heard the phrase, “Doctor” as opposed to “woman Doctor”? I cannot say that I have heard this sort of a thing recently, but I HAVE heard it a lot. Such phrases are subtle. But by placing such emphasis on gender, it implies how weird, exotic, unusual, or perhaps even WRONG it is for a woman to take an occupation that is supposed to be for men-only. Using another medical reference, if you hear the phrase, “Nurse”, do you immediately get a flash of a woman dressed in white wearing a cap? Can’t a man be a nurse? Sure – and in the not so distant past, he was referred to as a “male Nurse” – which carried all kinds of negative implications. Maybe he wasn’t smart enough to become a doctor? Maybe he is lazy? Maybe he is gay? Etc., etc.

I think back to when 2 of 5 was promoted to police sergeant. She was a “woman sergeant”. And that pissed me off! Because while some viewed it as a breakthrough for women in the good-ol-boy society (and indeed it was), I just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just be viewed as one of the many who had risen to that rank – no more and no less. What did plumbing have to do with anything? Why wasn’t she just a “sergeant”?

I think American society is getting better – at least moreso than it was in the 20th century. But it certainly is not the same across the country. And heck, even in liberal areas, we still have holdovers of this subtle behavior that, whether we mean it to or not, teaches gender-bias to younger people.

Certain occupational titles have slowly started to fade away because of their implied gender-identification. “Secretary”, whether we meant it to or not, implied a woman who could take short-hand and type for the bossman (think Mad Men). To have a male-secretary would be… odd. So now, often enough, we don’t have secretaries. We have “Admin assistants” who can be male or female. When you think “barber”, what image do you get in your head? Heck, it wasn’t all that long ago that we still had policemen and firemen. When you hear the phrase, “Coach”, do you apply it equally between men and women? Are coaches who happen to be female branded with any particular stereotypes? (Be honest!) How about “Tailor” vs. “Seamstress”?

Here is what I would like you all to think about – while I think it is important to recognize that we have made progress (and we certainly have!), are we still perpetuating gender-bias in occupational titles? Am I missing some really obvious archaic gender-biased titles? Do you still hear, on occasion, some of the older descriptors which imply gender? And most importantly – were you aware this even happened and the potential damage caused by it?

Pulse Shame

Posted on 2016.06.28 at 12:42
So in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, many people are still processing what happened. This horrific tragedy can be used to really highlight many issues that we face in this country today, including but not limited to, homophobia, gun control, extremism, mental health issues, police response, racism, acceptance, etc. But one thing is for certain – none of the victims of this tragedy did anything to deserve this. They didn’t ask to be put into the spotlight. They did not ask to be martyrs for a cause. Heck, not everyone who was attacked was even necessarily out to their friends and families. And why is that, you may be asking yourself. Because, to put it bluntly, it just isn’t always safe. To me, it is so simple. Sexuality is something everyone has in some form or another, and we’re all different. Some people have blue eyes. Some have green. Some have hazel. Some have brown. And there are all kinds of shades in between. OK. So what? So we’re different. Big f’ing deal, right? But when it comes to sexuality, there’s still such a huge problem. Imagine being rejected by your family and/or friends because of your eye color. It sounds ludicrous, right? It should! But for whatever reason, in our uptight culture, sexuality seems to be something that many people feel MUST exist only in one form. And worse, these self-same people feel that they can dictate it to others. Imagine having your eye color dictated to you by others.

As tempting as it can be – particularly when I see someone do something truly atrocious – I try my best not to wish any harm or any ill upon anyone. But when I read of the father who refused – REFUSED – his son’s body because he was gay, it just made me so angry. Talk about adding insult to injury! How could a family member be so cold, judgy, and heartless as to do that? Much less a father for his son?! It’s like the AIDS epidemic all over again – families turning their backs on their dead and dying children because of ignorance, phobia, and hatred. And ya know what – this type of behavior not only exists, but it will continue to exist until we as a society stand up and emphasize that such behavior is unacceptable!

SHAME on the sperm-donor who apparently has more caring for himself and his own code of morality than he does love for his son. What kind of moral or ethical parent puts conditions upon loving their own offspring? Hasn’t there already been enough suffering? Hasn’t evil prevailed enough without adding more fuel to the fire? How many times must the victims be forced to suffer? And how many times must the GLBT community have to put up with another slap in the face on top of the latest injury? And most importantly - what can we – as a society – do to fix this problem going forward? The answer really is simple…

… love.

Tell your friends and family that you love them. No conditions. No escape-clauses. Just love. When you see hate rearing its ugly head in the form of intolerance, judgment, bigotry, racism, or whatever; stomp it down. Never again, another Pulse shooting! The GLBT community will rebound.

But we need your help!

LivesMatter… an apology

Posted on 2016.06.24 at 20:20
In both the distant past, and not so long ago, I have written some posts about BlackLivesMatter, and other various hashtags, emphasizing that I don’t really care for that hashtag, and instead believe that AllLivesMatter. Some have agreed. Others have not. And gods only know there has been a lot of debate and discussion on my page from it. Some of the discussion I have appreciated. Some I have not. But upon some serious reflection and side-bar discussions with a few calm people, I have come to a conclusion – I was wrong.

Let me repeat – I WAS WRONG!

And I’m hoping that the many of you who commented in the past are willing to read through the rest of this post to consider why my position has changed.

I was raised without prejudice. Very simply, for as far back as I can remember, I have never cared what one’s gender, color, religion, age, language, religion, or whatever. In my opinion, all people deserve respect unless and until they (as individuals) do something that makes me lose respect for them. Thus, I have already naturally been an ally. When it comes to religious freedom, I’m right there with ya – I believe that people should be able to believe whatever they choose. When it comes to equality, I’m right there with ya – I believe everybody should be given a chance. At the most basic level, I’m all for equal opportunity and equal support.

But when specific hashtags began to appear such as ElmTreesMatter came into being, I was bothered. Why? Because from my perspective, ALL trees matter. And the hashtag appeared (to me at least) to imply that ONLY Elm Trees should matter. And I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the idea of putting myself 100% behind just Elm trees and only Elm trees while some Pine trees and Palm trees might also be suffering. And I hope that those of you who were so annoyed with me before can take my thinking into consideration and try to understand why I took such a strong stance. To me, the hashtag implied exclusiveness – which is something I don’t support.

Now, for those of you who agreed with me that AllTreesMatter, chances are you were of the same thinking as I was. You too are naturally allies and ready to sign on and march on the behalf of the downtrodden. But what you may need to realize (much as I came to realize) is that those who highlighted the plight of the ElmTrees ALSO believe that all trees should indeed matter. The difference, though? What they have been trying to do is to effectively communicate, “sure, all trees matter. But right now, Pine trees as a genus aren’t threatened. A few might get chopped down now and again, but as a class, they aren’t threatened right now. Palm trees are doing fine, as are Maple trees. But loggers are after Elm trees and there is a significant threat right now in this current day and age to Elm trees, and if we don’t wake up and smell the coffee, we are going to find a scarcity of Elm trees.”

So here is my request, one and all. We shouldn’t be fighting and bickering among ourselves over the semantics of annoying hashtags. We are all allies, and are much stronger if we all work together. So I don’t care if one person calls it robin’s egg blue and another calls it cerulean blue. Let’s just all join hands as “team blue” and fight for what it is right. And for my part, I pledge that going forward, I will step away from things like, “AllLivesMatter”. My beliefs have not changed one bit. But I get it – some groups, from time to time, need our help a little bit more than others and need the spotlight cast on them. So that is what I am going to do.

Orlando - as the story unfolds

Posted on 2016.06.15 at 12:30
Throughout the nation, emotions are still very raw over Saturday night’s massacre in Orlando. So many young lives were snuffed out in their prime in a violent and terrifying catastrophe of hatred, judgment, misunderstanding, and horror. As the survivors still hang on in hospitals, and families try their best to put together the pieces of their shattered lives, America still reels in horror and shock. How could this happen? This is America, land of the free! How could this happen HERE? While plans are made to bury and remember the dead, so many find themselves angry, upset, and jumping to extremes demanding answers that are either too slow to surface or (more realistically) will never appear.

What caused this horror? Well, as the news reports flood the mass-media, different theories surface:

The shooter was Muslim. Clearly, he must have become radicalized. So this is obviously a mastermind ISIS plot against the great Satan that is America! To arms! To arms! Block the borders! (At least that is what some believe).

The shooter frequented gay clubs and was on gay apps. So clearly, he was a self-loathing queer who decided to take his self-hatred out on the very group that he simultaneously loved and hated! (At least that is what some believe. Gods only know the extreme right-wing who hate our guts will have a field day with this possibility).

Gays are horrific sinners and deserve to die horrific deaths! Clearly, the shooter was an agent of an angry God, and this travesty should be rejoiced! (At least that is what a few extremists believe).

The shooter had a history of abuse and mental issues, but was easily able to obtain weapons of mass-killing. This is just another example of lunatics getting access to guns and killing random people. So clearly, the problem is with guns and America, and we should just take away all the guns. (At least that is what some believe).

What is the REAL truth? I don’t know. One of the above? Some of the above? I just don’t know. I don’t know all the facts. But neither does anyone else. Nor do I know if anyone really ever will. When it comes down to it – what does it matter now why the shooter did what he did? It won’t bring back those who have fallen. It won’t ease the pain of the families who now must bury their dead. Sure, if we can gather intelligence or take some actions to prevent such things from happening in the future – wonderful! Please GODS, I would love nothing more than if this horror did not simply fade into the history books in vain. It would be a blessing if something good could come out of this. But today is not the day to discuss this. Today is the day to mourn. And it is with that in mind that I address the subject of this post.

In one way or another, everyone has been touched by this tragedy. For those of us in the GLBT community, this is very much a personal tragedy. Just as we make so many strides forward, something like this happens to remind us in an all-too-real way that we are NOT safe. And lemme tell ya, that is a sickening feeling. It is utterly sickening to know that some homophobic asshole could throw a bottle (or worse!) at me and my husband because we walked down the street hand-in-hand like we usually do. And that’s a fear that we face – every single day that we live.

Going to LA Pride on Sunday did not feel anywhere near as much fun as it normally has in the past. Rather than feeling like it would be a fun day to just kick back and relax, it felt to me like I was strapping on a soldier’s kit and that I was destined for the trenches. Sure enough, by the time that I arrived in LA, the news reports were talking about a guy who was arrested with a backpack full of explosives and weapons – and that he was headed to LA Pride. I don’t know what his intended plan was, but I’m all too well aware – I could have been one of the names on the next list of a massacre. Will I let that stop me from living my life exactly as I want to? Excuse my German, but FUCK NO! I refuse! I WILL live my life as I see fit, and I will not give in to the threat of terror! Nor should ANY of us!!!!!!!

But at this time of mourning, I have a request: please show each other respectful

•To my LGBTQXYZ brothers, sisters and everything in between who get angry and lash out at people who want to show sympathy, please don’t. As much as you possibly can, please don’t. No, they may not themselves be gay or lesbians or bi or trans or have ever personally felt stigma or rejection. But that doesn’t mean they can’t feel bad that this happened. It doesn’t mean that they can’t view this tragedy as the tragedy that it is. They are allowed their feelings, and we should respect that.

•To those who are not part of the LGBT community who tell us things like, “I know what you’re feeling and I mourn with you,” or “You’ll get through this. I just know,” please understand – we know – we KNOW that you mean well. Truly. But the fact is, you don’t understand from a personal level what we are going through. With a tip of the hat to Gaga, “Tell me what the hell do you know? Til it happens to you, you don’t know how I feel. Til it happens to you, it won’t be real.” This sentiment is very true. And I won’t be a hypocrite – the fact is that I too don’t know to the full extent how this feels. I have not been dancing happily in a club only to feel the sting of a bullet striking home. I would not presume to say that I know what the victims and the families and friends are going through. My traumas are different. I DO know what it is like to be terrified while standing up for one’s religion even as people who don’t understand are quite literally shooting at you. I DO know what it is like to fight for equality and to open your mail one day only to read a form letter from the government telling you that your marriage to the love of your life has been invalidated by the courts. I DO know what it is like to have bible-thumping radicals screaming on bullhorns and yelling the most hateful things at me just because I love a man. If you asked me to describe to you how any of these things felt to me, I couldn’t. It is physically impossible! I can’t tell you or share with you how it made me feel. Until it happens to you, you won’t know. So please… be sympathetic all you want. Be supportive all you want. Offer lots of hugs or tissues. Make chicken soup if your LGBT friend is crying so much that he can’t cook. But please – be aware that our nerves are very raw right now and that if you come across as “one of us” when you aren’t, you may receive a lash-out simply because we just can’t take it anymore!

•To absolutely EVERYONE out there – when the dust has settled… when the bodies are buried… when we all have finished sweeping up and returning to lives, let us not allow this horrible chapter to further divide us. It is time for us all to come together and embrace what we all have in common. We all love our freedom. We all want families and the ability to love whomever we want. We all have rights, not only as Americans but as human beings. None of us like being told by someone else what to do, what to believe, who to love, how to pray, what to eat, etc. Let us learn to be more civil, more understanding, and to embrace our differences while also respecting them.

Let’s all make a pledge to show each other more love, more compassion, and more understanding.

That and ONLY that is how we should measure the PULSE of America!

Our step-down

Posted on 2016.06.14 at 12:37
I’m going to take a break for a moment from the events in Orlando to talk about some happy stuff, if for no other reason than because I just really need a break from crying.

This past Saturday afternoon saw the culmination of four years (more if you count our unusually long tenure between being announced and sitting as Reeves), as Barons of Gyldenholt. I’m stunned that so much time has gone by, truth be told. What I initially looked at as a very trying and very physically and emotionally draining job turned into one that I quickly began to love, made so not only because of my husband but because of the Barony. I really don’t mean to harp on this point, but it really is important to note that I was so incredibly apprehensive about taking on this role in the beginning – not just because we would be the first same-gender couple (which had its own unique pressures), but because when I sat a Baronial seat in Trimaris, I had such a miserable time. When you suddenly go from being the golden boy to being a social pariah and you find that people whom you once regarded as friends have stabbed you in the back, it leaves you questioning everything – including yourself. So many nights I lost sleep, tossing and turning and wondering, “Was it me? What did I do?” Gyldenholt has given me so many gifts – but I think the single most important one was the gift of healing. I have learned a lot about myself in the process of these past few years. I CAN lead. I CAN inspire. I CAN face my fears of speaking in public. I CAN turn problems into non-problems. Sure, many things are different. That was 18 years ago. I’m older and more experienced. I have had a very different partner than I had before. But ultimately I think it came down to the people. Wyvernwood at the time was full of… well… kids (and I count myself as one of them). So many of us reacted and overreacted to things like kids often do – more interested in the drama than in solutions. But here in Gyldenholt, the drama has been minimal, if at all existent, and adults have been interested in adulting.

Court on Saturday was pretty tough for me. I was not feeling well at all, and I just didn’t have the energy that I had hoped I would have. When it came to speaking, I asked Giles to do most of it, as my energy levels were just completely shot. But when it finally came time for final words, I mentally organized the thoughts in my head and just went pretty much off the cuff. Sure, I rambled a bit. And annoyingly, I broke down a few times just from the overwhelming nature of the moment. I have felt such love, such support, and such strength from the people of this Barony over the years. And when all was said and done, and the gonfalons flew in the breeze, and we unfolded the ground cloth, and we revealed the new coronets – I felt such closure. We did it! We accomplished absolutely every single goal that we had set out to do! And that feeling was priceless.

And ya know what else is pretty danged cool? Sitting in court later on watching our “children,” Ilia and Vitasha holding court. With the coronets on, sitting in the baronial seats, they looked nothing less than completely noble. I am proud of them, and have no doubt they will continue to lead Gyldenholt well. I look back at the time when they arrived here in Gyldenholt – many people had no idea who they were, and I don’t know how thrilled they were to have moved to the OC. But in time, the awkwardness faded, and they became a critical part of our family. I’ve watched their daughter blossom from an upset and sometimes challenging hyperactive kid into a beautiful and contributing young lady. I have seen Ilia turn from stick-jock dude into an artist and a truly chivalrous Knight. And I have seen Vitasha go from a sometimes shy and insecure lady into an engaging, smiling, and welcoming leader.

I have so many things to be grateful for. I am grateful for our successors. I am grateful for our entire court and guard and all of the officers who have supported us over the years. (We would be NOTHING without all of you!) I am grateful for all of those fighters who, over the course of years, have pulled us aside to say, “If anybody ever even THINKS of giving you guys trouble, you tell me and I’ll kick their ass!” I am grateful to those people outside our Barony who have always been so encouraging and supportive of all of the wacky things we have done. (did someone say, Palio??!!!) I am grateful to the Ladies of Gyldenholt who supported our crazy idea for doing the Anneaux de Gentillesse and who surprised us at our final court by inducting us into the order. I am grateful to everyone who gave us this opportunity and supported us. I am grateful to the society for being open-minded and for continuing to embrace change (which I know is very difficult in a society so firmly entrenched in tradition). I am grateful to all of the Royals who have sat the thrones over the years while we have been Barons, and for working so well with us through thick and thin.

And most importantly, I am grateful to my husband who made this worth doing. I love you so much honey! More and more each day.

Gym fails

Posted on 2016.05.25 at 12:37
Pulling into the garage this morning at work, I had to take a moment after parking simply because I was giggling far more than I should have been at the conversation taking place on the radio. Today’s topic happened to be “gym fails”. This wasn’t a judgey conversation. Rather, it was an invitation to make fun of oneself. The dj’s talked about embarrassing moments that they had experienced, and they invited people to call in and fess up to their own gym oopses. And I just couldn’t stop laughing!!! Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. One, because I think one of the most therapeutic things in the world is to laugh at oneself. And two, because I’ve had my own share of said fails. Like what? Oh I dunno…

1.Sweat – Ya know those Rorschach tests? (the ink blots that supposedly unlock subconscious images in your head). Well, when I sweat at the gym, the sweat on my chest forms a rorschach – of ovaries. I’ve had a few friend comment to me how when I sweat, it looks like fallopian tubes, etc. And I can’t argue that.

2.Wall-smack. Ya know when you are strolling around the pedestrian section of the gym, and a Really, Really, Really hot guy jogs by you? The moment is perfect… until you smack right into a wall losing all sense of dignity in the process. I’ve smacked into a wall… stumbled off the treadmill, and once almost fallen down the stairs.

3.Joint-CRACK! There’s nothing like being in your own zen moment during yoga. There you are, in the middle of the classroom, slowly twisting yourself into a pretzel with the rest of the class. And you just KNOW you are the star… until in a moment of total quiet, something in your body gives and you hear this CRACK bounce off the walls, even to the point where the instructor says, “Ouch!”

4.Dumbbell tripping over the dumbbell. Always remember where you put your weights – especially if you JUST put them down on the floor and foolishly you take a step right into them and…. Faceplant!

These are just a few examples of how I have almost seriously hurt myself on more than one occasion just being silly, not paying attention, or from suffering temporary blindness as a result of Hot Guys (which I believe is a serious and yet-undiagnosed medical condition). But more importantly, this illustrates something important that I think I need from time to time – I need to remember not to take things so seriously and to just laugh at myself.

So how ‘bout you? Ever done something absolutely preposterously silly in public that you feel like sharing?

Behold! The Princes of Northshield!

Posted on 2016.05.16 at 20:39
When I heard the news, I tried (unsuccessfully) to fight back the tears. The Kingdom of Northshield had held their Crown Tourney. And low and behold, when one fighter stood alone in the middle of the field, thus becoming heir to the throne, his inspiration stood unique within the known world – for the first time, a Kingdom has two Princes and will soon have two Kings.

As I look back to the very lengthy and contentious discussions within the SCA about Inspirational Equality and whether we should consider lifting the ban on same-gender entrants into Crown Tourney, I cannot even begin to recount how many hours I spent drafting letters, writing posts, replying to questions, etc. While I hoped, I dared not put too much hope in change. For these discussions coincided with our own step up here as the Barons of Gyldenholt –also a new concept for the SCA, and one that has come with its own unique responsibilities and challenges.

When the Board decided to allow a change to the wording in corpora, I took it as my personal task to try and set minds at ease as much as was within my power. Some believed the wording went too far. Others believed it did not go far enough. And while I myself wasn’t 100% satisfied with the compromise that was reached, it did allow for the possibility of future change. And that was enough for me. After all, such a thing would most likely not happen for years and years, right?

In my head, I had a vision of what a crown tourney in some kingdom somewhere would look like. There would be a fighter inspired by his or her true love who just happened to be of the same gender. Then, as the final blow was struck, the crowd would rejoice in happiness for the two. There would be a hug and a kiss. And the crowd would cheer. Sure, this image may strike some of you as a bit too full of bluebirds, unicorns, and Hollywood orchestral accompaniment. But a guy can dream, right? Well, as reality would have it, the SCA now has its first ever pair of same-gender Princes. I do not know the gentlemen whatsoever, other than by excellent reputation. I know that they are not a romantic couple, so I can only assume that they must be good friends and good working partners.

So… is this the end of my dream? Absolutely not!

For me personally, this whole entire discussion was never about sexuality. Nor is it about what I personally want. Heck, if the dream were up to me, the SCA time period would run from 1450 – 1520, be strictly Italian, and every event would feature dance and period food. Add on that the Kings would be a romantic couple who just happened to coincidentally look like Hugh Jackman and Joshua Sasse. But here’s the thing – it isn’t about me, or you, or any one person or group or household or barony or even an entire kingdom. It is about all of us, and having the opportunity to experience different perspectives, different ideas, different cultures, different insights, different interpretations, and different aspects of history. Don’t care for a particular reign or pair of monarchs? You don’t have to – skip that reign and come back next time around. It really is just that easy. The calendar of monarchs is much like a huge buffet – nobody expects you to want to try absolutely everything that is on offer. And even if you do, you won’t like it all the same.

I can’t help but find it just a little bit wild that as Giles and I approach the end of our tenure as the first same-gender Barons that Hrodir Fyrste and Yehudah Tarkhan will begin their reign and thus, the next chapter of Inspirational Equality within the SCA. Is there any guarantee that Their reign will be smooth? No. Will absolutely everyone be happy about it? Certainly not. Might some people even decide to disappear for a reign? It is possible. And this is different, how?

The fact is, the sun will still rise. The Heralds will still announce court. And the pressure will be on them just as it is every other combination of people who sit in thrones to inspire and to remember to do what is necessary for the good of the group. And I have absolutely no reason to believe that this pair will do anything other than that. So has my dream of “the first same-gender Inspirational Equality royals” been shattered? No. Much to the contrary, I believe it is about to be realized.


Posted on 2016.05.11 at 12:48
Something I’ve been thinking about in recent times is the concept of privilege. In a lot of ways, this phrase has become a rather foul word to me, simply because it is used so dismissively by a number of people. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say I become involved in a discussion with my co-worker, “Mike” who happens to be African-American. Mike believes he was turned down for a promotion because of his skin-color. I say that while anything is possible, I really doubt that is the case because the person who got the promotion has more experience. (Makes sense, right?) Mike then turns around and utters some complaint about my white privilege showing. WTF?!!!! Yet, for me, there really is no rebuttal once the race card has been played.

I’ve run into this frustrating situation more than a few times in the past because I appear white, because I am a male, because I have an education, etc. And what am I supposed to do? Apologize because of my skin color? Apologize for being male? Apologize for working my ass off to get a degree? The thing is, I get it. I know that there is inequality out there. I really do see it. I know that women are treated as lessers and often don’t receive equal pay. And if and when I see injustice before me, I speak up about it. The same goes for any BS inequality that I see. But it is critically important to view each potential instance of abuse on a case-by-case basis. If a white person is promoted over a black person, is it racism? Or is it deserved? If a man is promoted instead of a woman, is it because of sexism? Or is it deserved?

I’m well aware that our society does tend to bestow some individuals with an inherent privilege based on things like gender, age, skin-color, religion, and other factors. I don’t like it, but I recognize it. And I think it is important to educate people about it – not by attacking them when the privileged person is able to move up; but by encouraging people to be aware of privilege and simply treat everyone as equals. Take a promotion, for instance. I just want the most deserving and most qualified person to get the promotion. Whether that person is male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Jewish or Muslim, or whatever is none of my concern!

But then there are some people who still don’t get it. Are they being stubborn? Are they stupid? Are they jerks? Perhaps some are. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that some are!) But IMHO, I think it is much more simple – there is no reason for them to understand it – it is nothing they have ever experienced, and nothing that they relate to from a personal perspective. Is it fair or logical or right to expect people to understand something that they have never really learned, experienced or witnessed?

As controversial or horrible as this might sound to some, I’m really curious about conducting a social experiment. What do you think would happen if some Hollywood director out there took some snippet from history and simply reversed the roles? Take a movie about the women’s suffragette movement, for instance. Imagine if the movie covered a plot from history exactly as it happened, but changed one detail – have it be women who always had the vote, and have men be the ones fighting to have it. Do you think it might drive home the point? What if someone remade “Roots” exactly as the original, but changed it around such that blacks were free-men, and whites were slaves? How would people react? How about a holocaust movie where it is the Jews running the camps and the blond-haired/blue-eyed Germans are sent to the showers?

Some of you reading this might instantly have a kneejerk reaction that such an idea is stupid or tasteless or wrong. But ask yourself – why? Such stories all have one thing in common – some segment of human population treating another segment of the population unfairly. And I would argue that one of the reasons that some people don’t understand the concept of privilege is simply because they’ve always had it and never experienced an instance where they didn’t. But if the shoe is put on the other foot, things might be different.

Maybe… just maybe… this kind of a concept might provide that experience.

What do you think?

Coming Out – the Aftermath

Posted on 2016.05.10 at 12:41
In the past, I have written a bit about my late and unique coming out story. All of us who have tried really, really, really hard for years to be “normal” and “just like everybody else”, only to finally be true to ourselves have had our own version of this story. Some have been moving and heartwarming tales of unconditional love and acceptance (such as mine), while others have been truly tragic and devastating. The fact is, the fear of stigma is what keeps so many of the GLBTQIXZYETC community in the overly crowded closet. And ya know what? That closet is suffocating. So why would anybody ever want to be there? Simple – fear. Fear of what? Anger, violence, judgment, rejection… the list goes on and on. Even those of us who felt really confident that our friends and family would be accepting, the fear of the unknown is paralyzing, as is the fear of change. Because let’s face it – once that closet door busts open, it can never be shut again.

When I came out, I don’t know if it was really what I wanted to do. But the pressure had been building for so long, I didn’t know what else to do. My marriage was in shambles. Divorce was simply waiting for the judge to make it final. And my life really carried no meaning for me. I was in a career that I detested – but I was there because I believed it was where I was supposed to be. I was living in a nice house that was too big for just one person – it was meant for a family that I no longer had. So what was I supposed to do? Start looking for a new one? Already downtrodden and feeling like a complete failure, the pressure to start again down that same path was too much. But I didn’t know why… until suddenly I did.

The fear of coming out was so real to me. I knew my friends and family well enough to know that everyone would be supportive. But still… does anybody really KNOW how someone else will react until it actually happens? Look at how many teens outted themselves to their “loving” families, expecting support, only to have said families throw them onto the streets. I really didn’t believe I would run into any rejection. But until the conversation is had, I was a basket case of nerves. But even after the difficult conversations took place, I noticed something that made me incredibly uncomfortable – change.

Change in just about any capacity always makes me squirm. Heck, I am an Aries with a control-freak streak a mile wide! But I couldn’t control the changes that I saw around me – changes from within, changes in how my friends and family behaved, changes to my life in general, changes in social circled. It was all a bit weird and a bit much. Almost immediately, I noticed all of my friend-dynamics changing. Many of my acquaintances were the same. But when it came to my real circle of friends, I began to grow a little bit apart from some while I grew closer to others. And it seemed almost random. Suddenly, a few straight friends that I had known for years seemed to view me differently. I was no longer their friend Joe, but their gay-friend, Joe. And in some ways, I understand that. But in other ways, it bugged me. I’d like to think there is more to me than just that. But I get it. Because I was more open about myself, they saw a different side of me that they had never seen before. And apparently, it really stood out.

The post coming-out transition was not comfortable. It wasn’t bad. But for me, it really was a journey through an unknown forest. I had some very good friends who were there to talk and to watch over me. But I had to travel it alone. Going through a second puberty in one’s 30’s is NOT fun! But there I was, once again as a geeky teenager trying to figure out social norms. I visited bars. I met new people. I asked a lot of really embarrassing questions. And I awkwardly laughed a lot – mostly at myself and my own clumsiness with this new culture and new set of behavior. But who was I? Was I still me? Was I now this new “Gay Joe”? Who was I supposed to be? I remember one time walking through a hotel lobby on a late Sunday afternoon still wearing the tight fitting clothes I had been wearing in the bar the night before. A throng of Japanese tourists were flocking into the hotel, and several of them just stared at me and giggled (Oh so subtle!) That was when I too laughed at myself as I learned the oh-so-important-lesson that “Saturday night’s clothes just do NOT look right on Sunday morning”. So… was that the guy I wanted to be? I just didn’t know. I don’t believe in shame. I don’t believe in regret. There are merely life lessons. And this was a new crossroad for me. Who was I? Who was I going to be? There was no way in hell I was ever going to go back into the closet. So now that I was out, where was I going to go?

The rest of my story you all know. Giles and I cemented our relationship. I made the crazy and incredibly risky decision to tear up my roots and relocate cross-country, and I haven’t looked back since. I count myself one of the truly lucky ones in that right off the bat, I found what I was looking for. But that is a very rare instance. So many other people – wonderful, loving, caring, nurturing and productive members of our society face adversity because of fear – some of the fears are strictly internal and irrational, while other fears can be very, very real.

Please friends and family near and far – please help remember this. There is no cookie-cutter for people. We are all different and unique. And it is our differences that make us all wonderful in our own ways. Only when we end fear and stigma can we all be free. Who cares if someone loves another of the same sex? Who cares if your neighbor wears a turban or a yamaka? So what if someone else’s skin color is a different shade or if they speak different languages? And if your neighbor, “Bob” walks out of his house in a dress, and you wrinkle your nose and gasp, I hope it isn’t because he is wearing a dress, but rather because he chose one that is the wrong shade of blue for his complexion even after you repeatedly told him to go with something more sky-blue to bring out the jewel tone in his eyes.

There’s so much hurt in the world – so much judgment and so much shame. I think it is time instead to embrace love. Let’s all learn to laugh more – at ourselves, at our mistakes, and at the gentle-natured humor of our supporters and friends. Let’s learn to differentiate between a joke and truly mean-spirited actions so that we can concentrate our efforts where they really should go. And for heavens’ sake, let’s celebrate our own unique abilities to express ourselves, and our ability to love others.

ADD Brain and Insomnia

Posted on 2016.05.03 at 19:43
I often joke about having “A.D.D.Oh Shiny!” That would explain how and why I am constantly on the go, and working on different projects and thinking about how to fix or improve or cook or whatever. On the one hand, it has some advantages – I get a lot of done in the course of my day. But on the other hand, it can be a massive pain in the ass! How, you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya!

Some nights, I will go to bed physically exhausted but I can’t turn off my brain. And thus, I don’t sleep. Take yesterday, for instance. It was a very intense day at the office! Working in County government, it seems like we have two modes: “Calm and quiet”, or “Put out a massive fire” mode. Rarely is there anything in between. And because of the time of year and where we are in the fiscal cycle, right now is the latter in more ways than one. And when you add on the fact that we are understaffed… let’s just say it is intense. Following work, I figured I would head to the gym to a yoga class. Yoga frequently clears my mind and works my body enough so that I can sleep like the dead that night. Um… not so much. I had a new instructor. And let’s just say, she wasn’t at all my favorite. She mumbled through the entire class so much that I could not understand a single thing she said. I would frequently have to turn around or look up to see what she was doing – not always easy when you are faced the other way bent into a human pretzel! So by the time I left, I was a sweaty mess, but feeling extremely frustrated and tense.

By the time I got home, I had a pretty full list of items on my “to do” list. So after having dinner, I quickly got to it, and worked on chipping away at my list. So by 10:00pm, I was finally done with all my errands for the day and ready to go to bed, so tired I struggled to get up the stairs. And as I collapsed into our uber-comfy bed, I welcomed sleep. But…. No. Why? Because my five-year old brain was still so hyped up from the day.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but here is what happens to me. When my brain is on hyperactive mode, one of a couple of things can happen. Sometimes, I will replay an entire instance from the day, with every painstaking detail, as if I am reliving it. It doesn’t matter if it was a negative experience, or even a boring experience. If that is where my brain takes me, I am held captive. Other times, I will get stuck on a song. And it will play over and over in my head for literally hours. And as time goes by, sometimes the song will play FASTER in my head than it should be (for us old folks, it is like playing a 33 at 45 speed). And when it is REALLY bad, I can turn physically nauseous just because of the speed that my brain is travelling. It is like the picture in my mind’s eye is going so fast that I give myself motion sickness.

To my completely uneducated mind, this sounds like I have A.D.D. And ya know what? They have meds for that! So I went in for an evaluation a couple of years ago. And the result? No. The doctors effectively said that if I didn’t have it as a kid, it is impossible to have as an adult. Um…. I ain’t no doctor. But I can tell you that this didn’t happen to me as a kid, but it happens to me as an adult, and I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!!

I don’t like the fact that booze keeps me awake and that caffeine calms me down. Why? Because frankly, I can’t have booze at work. That’s why! The caffeine helps to wake up my BODY (circulation, heart rate, etc.), but it slows my brain down. Booze does just the opposite. My internal chemistry is not being my friend, and it frustrates the beejezus out of me sometimes!

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