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Festival of the Rose

Posted on 2016.08.22 at 12:36
I will admit, I have not been to a Festival of the Rose in quite a few years. Why? Because, to be perfectly honest, I just have not enjoyed them. Yes, I love historical dance and other types of historical performance. Yes, I love arts displays. But in the past, this event just hasn’t done it for me. Why? Because truthfully, I just wasn’t seeing quality. Most (and sometimes all) of the performances were not at all based on history, and the arts displays were, to be honest, pretty poor. And when it comes down to travel, time, and money; I really could never justify going.

HOWEVER, this weekend changed my view of this event. And for that, I am grateful not only to the staff who ran the event, but all of the wonderful artists who made it happen!

Arriving with Adelheit mid-morning (which I LOVE being able to do nowadays!), I gotta admit I was immediately swept up in things. Between court activities, scheduling, classes, some on-site to do’s, art displays, and conversations; the event turned into a surprisingly BUSY AS HECK event for me. I enjoyed seeing people, but on more than one occasion, I found myself feeling a sense of unexpected crush. (I was kind of expecting and counting on fading a bit into the background now that I’m no longer a landed noble.) Apparently, that isn’t quite the case. Hmmmm…

The most emotional part of the day was, of course, the dance performance that Caterucia and I performed. Why emotional? Because I choreographed the dance years ago to the wonderful music of Owen Phyfe and the New World Renaissance Band. I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with the uber-talented lead singer well over 20 years ago, and still feel the sting of his passing a few years back. I haven’t been able to perform that dance in front of an audience since his passing, and the time just finally felt right. As much as I really, really, really tried to hold it together as I gave my background story of the dance, I just couldn’t. I broke down and cried a few times. It’s funny – you run into some people in the SCA only on rare occasions – maybe once or twice a year, if that in some cases, at events far, far away. Yet, in those few moments, sometimes you can attach such a strong bond that you become a kindred spirit. Without thinking about it, I guess that I how I feel… felt… still feel… about Owen. I am not even the least bit musical – but I can dance. And in my mind, the music just flowed so easily from him that it made dance easier for me. He was such an inspiration and a muse. THANK THE GODS that he recorded so much music as a gift to the world! It is a small consolation for his loss, but at least his voice will go on, and will hopefully continue to inspire more and more as time goes on.

Dear Owen, thank you for being such a wonderful muse and for inspiring me to be better. You will always be missed.


Posted on 2016.08.10 at 12:24
The other night, my hubby and I watched a documentary called, “Outrage”. Filmed in 2009, Outrage is a documentary about key high-level politicians with a track record of voting against LGBT rights while all along being closeted homosexuals themselves. In short, it is a documentary about total hypocrites who are actively working to hurt the very people like themselves.

Does such a thing make any sense?

Who would do such a thing?

What would make someone fight so hard not only to (unsuccessfully) suppress their own urges and natural feelings, but also battle against others of like-mind?

I’ll tell ya. The whole situation makes me angry. It upsets me that we have so many people trying to force – FORCE – some artificially-created version of overly conservative 1950’s American family values down the throats of the majority. It upsets me that homosexuality is still viewed by so many Americans as a “sickness” – so much so that some people feel the need to hide this aspect of themselves as much as possible. It angers me that in different parts of the country, my rights as an American can be thrown out the window because of whom I love. It angers me that some of the biggest enemies to GLBT rights and equality in the Senate and the House of Representatives are closet queers themselves. And… in a lot of ways, I’m still really angry with myself. Why? Because as much as I would love to be able to say that I have always been on the right side of history fighting the good fight and standing up for myself as I truly am, that isn’t the case. I had a long and hard road getting to this point in my life, and I’m not proud of how long it took or the hurt caused along the way. And that is something that I will own for the rest of my life.

The fact is, from as far back as I can remember, I always preferred men. I just didn’t understand it. You see, I had a bit of a weird and unconventional upbringing. I grew up in Provincetown, MA. For those of you who don’t know about this beautiful New England town, it has many reputations – quaint New England small town, old fishing village, Portuguese ethnic center, oh… and MECCA of gay tourism. You see, every summer, Provincetown has more gays than Disney had kids. And growing up in that environment is… well… weird. I really don’t have anything else to compare it to since it is my only experience – but in talking to anyone else I’ve ever met outside of my own family or old classmates, their experiences growing up were not at all like mine. I saw gay culture everywhere at a young age. And to my young, impressionable, and dangerously naive eyes, because I saw guys who may very well have been closeted back in Kansas, but who were out loud and proud on vacation, I saw the extremes of gay behavior. I saw gays dressed like showgirls. I saw guys walking down the street in the skimpiest of jean shorts, boots, and bandanas showing off their bodies as much as they legally could in public. I saw super tough looking hairy and scary looking guys who appeared tough, but would let out the most girly shrieks when they saw their friends across the way. In short, I really didn’t see anything that I identified with. I was very vanilla in comparison. So… in my young pre-pubescent little gay mind, I wasn’t like them. So I clearly had to be like everyone else. Right? So I guess my feelings weren’t what I thought they were. There had to be some sort of a confused misinterpretation. And… there was something wrong with me.

When people nowadays find out that I came out late and was married to a woman, they can’t wrap their heads around it. “Didn’t you know?” is the most common question. And the answer, very simply, is yes n’ no. I kinda did, and kinda didn’t. I was so confused! For instance, if I went to see a movie with some big sexy star in the leading role, and he took his shirt off, what was going on in my head? Nowadays, the answer is simple – “dayummm! What a hottie stud!” I think to myself. But back then, it wasn’t so simple. Sure, my heart raced. Sure, I felt myself get flushed. But… what was it? What was causing those feelings? What did it mean? What really was sexual attraction was coming through in confused signals – much like static on a radio interfering with your favorite song. So I convinced myself that these feelings were in fact a fraternal type of attraction – an admiration if you will. When I saw that guy on the big screen take his shirt off, and my heart began to race, I convinced myself that what it meant was that I was inspired by that guy. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to look like him. I wanted to be more like him. Maybe if I worked out? Maybe if I lost weight? Maybe if I… Maybe if I… if I changed absolutely everything about myself.

This happened all through high school, and all through college. I had my share of girlfriends – all of whom I really imagined settling down with eventually. BUT, there was always some reason that wouldn’t happen – always some deal-breaker or some issue. At least up until the time that I met Becky. I don’t often talk about my ex-wife because there was soooooo much drama involved in our relationship. But the fact is, I have to admit that times were not always bad. Heck, we dated for a long time before we got married. And when times were good, they were really good. We had a good chemistry in a lot of ways, and I felt complete. But the fact is, I wasn’t complete. There was something VERY wrong with our relationship and something VERY missing from our relationship. I didn’t know what it was, but the stress began to mount. The failure of our marriage really cannot be attributed to any one thing. Not long after we got married, things began to fall apart. Each day brought another stress-factor. But I have to be honest – it wasn’t all her. And it has taken me a long time to realize that. I think in some ways, some of the things she did were in reaction to the elephant in the room that I would not allow my brain to even consider. Heck, even when I filed for divorce, I still was not acknowledging the truth about myself. I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t like the faux image that I had created of myself. If anything, I was still entertaining the idea of starting over, finding a nice woman to date, etc. But it wasn’t until the pieces of my marriage came crashing down around me that I finally felt rock-bottom enough to face reality – I wasn’t interested in a woman – furthermore, I never was!!!!!! That was a VERY difficult pill for me to swallow – and I felt ashamed – so very, very ashamed. I felt like I was letting down my friends, my family, and everything that ever meant anything to me. I felt like I was a failure. Heck, I couldn’t even imagine facing my father (who had died years earlier). The last thing in the world I could handle at that time was seeing my dad turn his head away from me in disgust one more time because I wasn’t what he wanted out of a son.

Over thirty years of repression, guilt, shame, and self-loathing did quite a number to my self-esteem. I had hurt people along the way in trying to be something that I wasn’t. And I have to wonder – isn’t that exactly what a lot of these closeted career politicians are doing? Trying hard – oh so hard – to do what they THINK other people want them to do, not even knowing themselves anymore? I’m not defending the harm done by such politicians, any more than I am defending the harm that I did. But I think I understand it – just a little.

Coming out was the best thing in the world I ever did. In some ways, coming out felt like a weird type of suicide. I was killing off this image and persona of myself that I had been for over 30 years. And once killed off, there was no going back. And there was no certainty for the future. But luckily for me, my future was bright and I am in a wonderful place. My hope is that American society will get to a point in the not so distant future where there is less pressure on people to be any one particular image of American. I hope that in the future, we no longer hear of more gays doing damage against other gays to help strengthen their artificial image of being a tough, conservative straight man. I hope that the mistakes that I made can encourage others NOT to make the same mistakes. Because nobody – NOBODY – should have to live a false life because of shame, or fear, or out of an attempt to do what they think they are supposed to do.

Shakespeare said it best – to thine own self be true. Sadly, it just takes some people longer to get there than others.

And to those whom I hurt along the way (and to myself), I’m sorry. I’m so, so, very, sincerely sorry!

Manners - are they going out of fashion?

Posted on 2016.07.27 at 18:21
Imagine for a moment that you are relaxing in your favorite chair, laptop open, and you are scanning through your favorite sites. Perhaps you are looking at Facebook memes. Maybe you are watching funny YouTube videos of kittens doing the darnedest things. Or you might be e-shopping. By a stroke of fortune, you run across something that you just know your friend Jane would just love. It is so very Jane, and even though you are not typically in touch with Jane, you just know she would love it. So you contact Jane and forward the information. You did a good thing, right? Naturally, you expect that Jane will love it and appreciate your gesture, right?

A day later, you receive a rather short (perhaps flip) comment from Jane that informs you that she posted that very thing on her wall a couple of weeks ago - nothing more.

How do you feel? Dismissed? Told off? Annoyed? Scorned? Does Jane REALLY believe you have nothing better to do with your spare time than to scan through all of her postings JUST IN CASE she already ran across the video of a sneezing kitten? More importantly, has Jane actually forgotten the importance of saying, “thank you for thinking of me”?

While most of my friends are courteous and polite, on several occasions, I have gone through this type of situation where “Jane” has acted pretty darned flip when I have sent her information that I really believe she would like. And ya know what? No matter how you look at it, it is rude. You could make up all kinds of excuses for Jane if you tried hard enough. Maybe Jane was having a bad day? Maybe Jane was in a rush? Maybe Jane had a ton of friends sending her the same video of a sneezing kitten, and she was just over it? Or maybe, “that’s just Jane”. But still… what does any of that have to do with the fact that I took the time – took my VALUABLE time – to think of Jane and to try to improve her day, only to be met with a rude reply? No matter how you look at it, the next time I find something that I think she would like, I am going to be hesitant to send it to her. Why bother? She clearly won’t appreciate it, right?

So what’s the point of this post? To remind everyone (myself included) that it really doesn’t take much effort to be kind and appreciative of someone else’s efforts. When a friend sends you a link or a meme or whatever, it may appear silly or unimportant to you. But when you think about it, what that person is really doing is giving you their time and attention – however brief. And that is a very valuable and selfless gift, which deserves your courtesy.

Family rituals

Posted on 2016.07.25 at 12:46
Some people get hooked on soap operas. Others get their daily dose of mind fluff from novels or reruns. For me, over the span of years, I found myself addicted to reading the daily “For Better or for Worse” comic strip. For those of you unfamiliar with it, FBofW was a Canadian syndicate that ran from 1979 until 2008, opening up a window into the lives of the fictional Patterson family. I fell in love with the Pattersons early on. They were not a perfect family. They bickered. They made mistakes. They were silly. But somehow, there was almost always something funny about each struggle or each mistake, exposing the absurdity of life in general. Sometimes the strip took a dramatic turn, but typically they were funny or occasionally reflective.

One of the strips that I recall fondly involved something as simple as brushing one’s hair. Elly, the mom, had taken a shower, and then stepped out on the family deck still in her towel, to brush her hair. She was alone, and the warm breeze blew all around her. She recalled how when she was a girl, her mother had long hair, and how her mother would take advantage of the clean Canadian breeze to brush her hair and let it dry. As she did much like her mom used to do, she felt a sense of connection and reflection. Now, she was the mom. Times had changed and she had grown older. Yet, she felt that connection to her mother. And most special of all, peering at her from within, her own daughter watched, transfixed by this ritual. And reading it, you couldn’t help but get a sense that her young daughter would also eventually grow up and carry on this simple little tradition, and think about her mother. And thus, I come to the point of this post – what are the inadvertent little rituals that you have learned from your parents?

When I asked myself this question, naturally I thought first about food. But in this case, it isn’t about recipes, but rather about things that you do in your life that you don’t necessarily think about – but rather just do much as you saw your parents do. I’ve caught myself more and more as time goes by noticing little things. If I’m trying to make my way through a dark room and I stub my toe, often the first word out of my mouth is, “Kudishka!” I can’t say that I know how that is spelled. I don’t even know what it means. All I know is it is Portuguese, and an all-purpose word of disdain. In recent times, when I’m somewhat half-tuned out from whatever is going on, and I notice a funny moment, I laugh. But the laugh is not my laugh, but that of my dad. When did THAT happen? When I get upset at home because I just finished cleaning an area and after turning around I find it messy again, I go a bit explosive. But the words that come out of my mouth aren’t mine as much as they are my mother’s. When did THAT happen?

Do you ever find yourself doing something without even thinking about it, and realize that through you, you are carrying on some sort of familial ritual or tradition that you never even really thought of before? If so, what might that be?

Get Your Geek on

Posted on 2016.07.22 at 12:28
I have some confessions to make that will probably surprise a few of you. Ready?

- I have never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones

- I don’t collect comic books

- I do not play Pokemon Go (or any other phone games)

- I don’t participate in D&D, role-playing, or board games

- I have no interest in attending sci-fi cons;

- I don’t read novels; and

- I’m so out of date on Star Trek, I have no idea what alternate universe or actors are involved in

any of it.

“But, but, but, but… Guppy!” some of you might be thinking. “You are a die-hard member of the SCA!

That is pretty much the geekiest of the geeks! So why are you h8’in on the other things?” I find it

surprising just how many times I have gotten this type of question or casual comment. Because the fact

of the matter is, I’m not hating on anything. And this is today’s lesson –

Just because I don’t personally choose to partake in an activity doesn’t mean I’m judging

someone else who does.

Here’s the thing. The world is a pretty scary place in many ways. As adults, we have all kinds of daily

pressures – bills, responsibilities, family, drama, job stress, non-job stress, politics, health scares, etc.,

etc., etc. And in one way or another, we all need a break from the hardships of life. Gods only know,

some people turn to alcohol and/or drugs – a sad choice, as they have horrible long-term effects. Others

turn to religion – which is perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t A. alienate them from interaction with

people outside their own faith; and B. doesn’t turn into radicalism. And then there are all kinds of other

hobbies. Frankly, whether you become a sports fanatic (as a fan or as a player), or a role playing gamer,

or a sci-fi nut, or a movie-watcher, or a writer, or a reenactment geek or whatever; that is your own

personal way of not only entertaining your inner child, but providing your outer adult a much-needed

break. And ya know what? I think it is wonderful! And heck, if you can find a way to combine your

own personal down-time with sunlight and exercise, creativity, brain-challenge, and a sense of

accomplishment; all the better.

Don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER be ashamed of your own geekiness! Find your geek! Embrace your geek!

And let your geek lead you through life!

But please… if you ARE a Pokemon Go Geek, just be careful before you chase a monster out into the

middle of a highway. OK?

NMD – Not My Drama

Posted on 2016.07.21 at 12:22
This has become a year of realization and clarity for me in a lot of ways. So much has happened in the world, in my circles of friends, in my communities, and in my life. In the process of navigating life, and getting to this point, I’ve reached a conclusion about certain things – sometimes… I just cannot be made to care – not even a little.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still very active. I still get involved in things. I still stand up for what I believe in. But more and more, I find that when someone comes to me trying to convey that there is a Great Big Huge Problem or that we are having a Great Big Huge Disagreement over something, rather than get dragged into it much as I used to, I am finding more and more that I just roll my eyes (if I even do that), and refuse to get riled up. Why? Because I have realized an important life-lesson: Just because something is a Great Big Huge Crisis for you doesn’t mean I have to drop everything in my life to get pulled into it. I’ve become much better about picking and choosing my battles. Sure, I still have more to learn. But I’m getting there. And every now and again, I find that …

A.It isn’t a battle that I feel like I should get pulled into;

B.It isn’t worth my time/effort to get involved;

C.It isn’t something that concerns me in the least; or

D.I refuse to be emotionally blackmailed by a “friend” to do or not do a particular thing for fear of having said conditional “friendship” yanked away.

This last point has really been working my nerves a lot as of late. I have a number of acquaintances that I’ve met over the years who act like I’m just the bees’ knees… as long as we agree on concepts and strategies. But GODS FORBID that I disagree with said individual – either in whole or in part. Because then, I suddenly am treated like the enemy or in the very least with a very disrespectful tone. And ya know what? THAT IS UTTERLY UNACCEPTABLE - particularly in a friendship. To me, part of what makes an actual friendship means that from time to time, you can bicker. From time to time, you can disagree. From time to time, you can both look at a situation and reach different conclusions. And most importantly, you can agree to disagree. Why? Because a real friendship is based on respect. But sadly, that is not the case with all people. For some people, it is all or nothing. If you are not 100% of like mind, clearly you must be the enemy. And ya know what? I just don’t have time or interest in my life for such high-maintenance individuals. Not anymore. Emotional blackmail is just not acceptable.

I’m pretty darned content with my life, and I really don’t need anybody adding unnecessary drama to it. So let it be known – if you and I disagree on something, either in whole or in part, I don’t have a problem with that. I can agree to disagree and I would hope that you do as well. But if in your world, there is some unwritten rule that disagreement MUST be settled, MUST be solved, MUST be discussed to death, and MUST be addressed until somebody backs down; you will probably be met by an eyeroll and little to nothing else.

Sometimes… people are just jerks

Posted on 2016.07.13 at 12:23
College for me was not a particularly fun time. For most of the core classes for my degree, I struggled. I stuck out like a sore thumb in the engineering college and looked like the one tree-hugging hippy in a room full of long-sleeve-wearin (in Florida summertime, mind you) , pocket-protector-donning self-dubbed nerds. Looking back, in many ways, it seemed like some sort of twisted Green Peace meets Big Bang Theory cosplay. As completely useless as my Computer Science degree turned out to be, it did help me to get to where I am today – so I guess I shouldn’t complain. But looking back at that time of financial hardship, extreme anxiety, working, and regular struggles with my homework; I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned in college was that sometimes… people are just jerks. And there’s not a damned thing I can do about that, other than to perhaps just entirely avoid them.

I think I was in my sophomore year when I really got hit with this dose of reality, as I was sitting in one of the student lounges. In walked one of my classmates – a woman whom I didn’t really know well at all. But I wanted to know her simply because she and I had a lot of friends in common, and it only made sense for us also to be friends. I said hello to her, and she didn’t respond. Maybe she didn’t hear me? So I said hello again. No response. By the time I called her name, she yelled loudly, “I heard you ok! Sheesh, can’t you just leave me alone?!” W…T… F…? I just froze, as she had effectively just given me the triple whammy:

1. She yelled at me and I had no idea why.

2. She embarrassed me in front of other people (which frequently makes me freeze).

3. I felt that if I tried to defend myself, others would step in to defend her by default because… woman.

Things never got better with her. Around our mutual friends, she would act cordial (or at least not so obviously prickly) towards me. But the fewer people around, the more angry and down-and-out mean she would act to me. She made incredibly rude comments. She gave me horrible looks. There was no mistaking her rudeness. And what I never understood was – why? I never once did anything to her. I rarely ever got to interact with her. Perhaps there was some misunderstanding? Perhaps I did something in front of her that gave her the wrong impression? I actually did lose sleep at the time trying to figure it out. Clearly, if I had done something wrong, I wanted to make it right. But no… she would have none of that. In her eyes, I may as well have been wearing a plague costume running around saying, “Unclean!” It wasn’t until years later, after I learned a bit more about life, people, rational behavior, and a stronger urge to stand up for myself when being treated like crap that I realized something – she was an ass who really didn’t deserve the time of day from me!

Of all of my human flaws, one of them that drives even me completely up the wall is my obsessive need to analyze things and have closure. OK, she clearly didn’t like me. I get that. I understood that loud and clear. But WHY? I just wanted to know WHY!!!! After all, if there was something bad resulting from a simple misunderstanding or confusion, it is imperative to fix the problem, right? Apparently not.

For much of my college time and even after, whenever I ran into people who acted out in an irrational manner, it was almost like I would try to seek them out, just to see how many good days I could have without experiencing some sort of a negative reaction. I would sit there and mentally compile notes of what made for a good day versus a bad. Maybe I could manage to improve myself as a human being while also helping to heal the other person who was clearly hurt in the past. But over time, I realized that such interactions didn’t reveal any type of logical pattern whatsoever. One day, things were fine. The next day, I was Satan because I didn’t enjoy one movie as much as another, or something equally as stupid, if not more so.

It took a long time for me to reach an important conclusion. I may never ever gain insight into why person X behaves the way that they do. It could very well be that person X endured some horrible trauma early in life that makes them act the way that they do. But ya know what?

NOT my problem!

NOT my burden!

And most importantly, NOT my job to fix!

Just because someone else treated you poorly at some point does not – repeat DOES NOT - entitle you to treat me like crap. I’m a nice guy. I’m reasonable. I’m intelligent. I’m a good friend. And I deserve to have quality people in my life. And if you are the kind of person who lashes out at me randomly, loses your shit simply because we disagree, goes out of your way to create conflict and argument, or lives to create drama and chaos; you’ll find yourself not so politely escorted out the door. I’ve wasted – WASTED – too much time in my life on toxic people who did not deserve my time and attention. Such people have taken time and attention AWAY from good quality people who truly did deserve it.

It may never make sense to me why some people act like this, but that’s ok. Through time and experience, I have learned an incredibly important life lesson. For whatever reason (and the reasons may never be known), 2some people are just jerks. And they do not deserve my attention, my time, my focus, or even my pity.

On privilege blindness

Posted on 2016.07.07 at 12:17
This year has been very eye-opening for me, I must admit. While some truly wonderful things have happened, we’ve all witnessed some real horrors as well. And short of completely disconnecting oneself from all forms of social media (good luck with that), we have all been bombarded with daily reports of injustice, inequality, and an overwhelming sense of upset at feeling powerless. And that can be overwhelming for everyone.

So what do we do? Gasp in shock? Act out offensively? Become argumentative and defensive? Ignore things and turn the page? While any and all of these things may be a natural reaction that many (if not all) people feel at some point in light of a negative situation, none of these things are particularly effective. What IS? Education. The most significant changes in this country have occurred historically as a result of social pressure – whether it be the people making an election decision, a march on Washington, an uprising in a small bar in New York, or a powerful and successful hashtag. It isn’t the victim of a crime who has the power to cause change – it is the pressure of the masses who were not personally involved in the situation who can make the change – but only if they become fired up enough to take action and work together as a group. But that’s the tricky part – what is the best way to fire people up? Or, more specifically, what’s the best way to fire people up in a productive way to help aid you in your cause? People may very well get easily fired up – but if they all take separate actions and don’t coordinate, it is little more than a chaotic mob – and I think we’ve all seen enough of these for several lifetimes. While I am by no means an expert on this, I will tell you what works to get me involved – patience and dialogue.

When it comes to American social issues and the problems that we see happening repeatedly, one common factor that we need to consider is what I refer to as “privilege blindness”. By “privilege”, I am referring not to the Webster dictionary definition (which is how I always understood it), but rather the newer social definition as it is applied to gender, race, religion, color, etc. Privilege blindness is something that most people – yes, MOST people - experience in some form or another. And if there is no other point that you take home from this post, I hope you really reflect upon this –

it is NOT the fault of the person who is blinded by their own privilege for being incapable of immediately see the problem on their own.

The person who is privilege-blinded generally has absolutely no idea that there is a problem. Why? Because it is just not visible to them (thus, blindness). I am in no way trying to make excuses for those who are privilege-blind. In fact, I’m not addressing them at all. I’m addressing YOU – the person who is reading this, and the person who is trying to make positive change. The person who is privilege-blind may very well have the potential to become one of your staunchest allies in the fight and struggle for equality. But that depends on you and what you do next. Are you going to just throw up your arms in disgust and write that person off because they don’t immediately agree with you or jump on board with your stance? Are you going to lash out at that person and try and make them feel as bad as you feel over the situation? Are you going to dismiss everything that person says because, his “privilege is showing” (a seriously annoying line that I myself have received), or are you willing to take the time and patience to grit your teeth, hold in your anger, and talk to the person calmly and maturely to help her (or him) to open up her (or his) eyes?

I admit to my own faults. I’m only human. I make mistakes. I have not always been aware (and I’m sure am still not fully aware) of all of my own privilege-blindness. I’m also very stubborn. I do not take kindly to people who treat me with disrespect. In the past, there have been times when I have stated my opinion on an issue, and not everyone has agreed. OK, fine. Of those who disagreed, most people simply expressed a difference of opinion, which is totally fine. A small handful have been very respectful and have walked me through my thinking but then also walked me through their thinking. This has been AWESOME! And sometimes, I have modified my position based on a new perspective that I have gained. But then there are the rest of the people - a small but LOUD minority - who are just down and out rude. I’ll tell you this – it doesn’t matter how right you might be, and how wrong I might be – if you come at me like a screaming and accusatory child, you’re not going to get far. If your goal is to just piss me off, congrats. Your slacktivism succeeded! But if you have a bigger goal in mind of trying to get me to change my mind and join your cause, you should try honey instead of vinegar. Is it more work? Yes. But it is worth it.

When an injustice happens that has you all fired up, it is natural to want to kick and scream and break windows and smash things. And yes, I do believe there is a time and place for that. But in general, lashing out is not the best tactic – particularly with people who appear neutral or perhaps speaking from some sort of ignorance (which includes privilege blindness). Such people may frustrate you – particularly if the issue is so very clear to you but not to them. But if you think of the bigger picture and you remind yourself that there is strength in numbers, it will seriously behoove you to suck it up, be patient, and work with that potential diamond-in-the-rough so that you will gain an ally. Remember gang – all minorities have one thing in common – being a minority. And no minority will ever have the sole power or ability to create social change leading to their equality. It takes strength in numbers, which means educating and enlisting the help of people who are NOT part of that minority. How did marriage equality come into being? Was it solely the result of white, blond-haired, blue-eyed gay men? No – it took the power of social change and social awareness of a much larger body of people.

So on yet another day where we open the paper and read about another victim of some injustice, whether it be as a result of race, religion, age, language, sexuality, etc., I would ask that we all be patient. Be patient as other members of said minority express their upset. They have every right to feel upset and angry! Be open-minded to what people are saying. You might agree. You might disagree. But be open-minded to what they are saying. Ask yourself – why do I believe what I believe? Do you have a logical reason for believing as you do? Do you see the issue as a real problem? If the answer is “no”, accept the fact that it is possible that you reached that conclusion logically… or maybe it is because you experience privilege blindness. But above all, Talk! Communicate! Educate! Keep the dialogues and lines of communication open. And accept that fact that, whether you ever intended to be or not, you might just be part of the problem because of your own ignorance. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It just means that you didn’t know any better. But now that you do, what are you going to do next?

May love guide you.
May we all show each other patience, respect, and understanding.
And may we all work hard towards peace, mutual respect, and compassion.

Documentation - a rant

Posted on 2016.07.05 at 12:26
So apparently in a few different SCA forums right now, an old discussion has risen its ugly head (yet again) regarding documentation, standards, and what amounts to “those mean ol’ laurels”. Before I even comment on this subject, I’m going to lay out some caveats: I do NOT speak on the behalf of the entire Order of the Laurel for either the society or the Kingdom of Caid. I speak only for myself and from my own experience, garnered in two different kingdoms over the past two decades since I was elevated.

OK, so now that that is out of the way, I have a two word response to the oh-so-typical complaint about the mean old laurels who want to see a high degree of emphasis placed on research and documentation. Ready? Think you know what I’m gonna say? Here it is…

Stop Whining.

I don’t mean to sound rude or flip or to hurt anyone’s feelings. Nothing could be further from my intent, and I am not dismissing anyone’s legitimate concerns. But every time I hear people complain about the laurels wanting high quality art and research, I have about as much sympathy as I would have for any teenager who complains about having to do homework or that “my teacher hates me!” The fact is, if you don’t want to do the research, you don’t have to. But don’t expect to have my support if you are ever discussed in a Laurel council. I will tell you all this – I have extremely high standards – and am much more critical of my own work than I am of others. I understand how daunting research can be – particularly because I have gone down several rabbit holes over the years in terms of trying to find that missing pieces of the puzzle with one of gods-only-know how many different projects. But frankly, if you don’t understand how critical it is to have a solid foundation of research behind your historically-based artform, then I’m afraid it isn’t me who is being unrealistic. I can’t imagine the Knights would seriously consider someone who viewed practicing to be “too much trouble”, or putting on armor “an unrealistic fighting expectation”. Such is the case in our arena as well. I’m not about to score anybody extra points for “creativity” (a word that is sometimes sadly used to mask what really amounts to “pure laziness”) in making something that you are “pretty sure must have existed” even though you can offer no proof or even speculation.

The fact is, over the past 50 years, SCA artists have made incredible strides, not only recreating some pretty spectacular items at a world-class level, but also in applying research in a practical and experimental-archeology type of situation, which has furthered people’s understanding of history. And this is awesome! And that is where we really accomplish things! But at the core, it all comes down to one key point – research. In a game about history, I am not personally interested only in how YOU did the thing. I want to know what you can tell me about how THEY (people from pre 16th century Europe) did the thing. Absolutely, sometimes we really do NOT know all the details about how something was done, and as modern reenactors, we have to speculate. Great! I love speculation. Truly I do. But even speculation has to start somewhere. If you are filling in the missing pieces, fine. But start off with the pieces that DO exist. Make a good case argument for what the thing is, and why you are doing it that way. If you can’t, I have to question why you are doing what you are doing and if it is even appropriate to our game.

I know we won’t all agree on this, nor do I expect us to. I also know that there are some people out there who will choose to dismiss my points and just categorize me as a “research nazi” or as “one of those mean old laurels”. And if that’s the case, fine. So be it. The fact of the matter is, not everybody who wants to become a laurel some day is going to make it. In fact, most won’t. I can’t say what the Order (in any kingdom) will decide upon as a group for any one candidate. I can only speak for myself. And if your reaction to doing research on your art is akin to that of a whiny teenager, I’m afraid your candidacy may find itself in a significantly long Time Out. And you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.

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?

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