Category Archives: Life

The Joker

Whenever I’m in a training class or a conference or really any situation where I am in a room of people who are mostly unknown to me, I always cringe inside whenever the facilitator begins the session with the word ‘icebreaker’. The anxiety of doing an unknown activity that is designed to force me to interact with other people is not really how I like to start a day or training session. Any activity that is designed to force me to meet and interact and communicate and socialize with some other ‘learning’ goal is always something difficult to initiate.  But, that is one of the many experiences that a person with a neuro-social deficit, such as someone on the autism spectrum, must always find a way to navigate.

So it was during a recent training, on the second day of an otherwise excellent training on Community Engagement and after spending time the prior day in discussions about recognizing the many identities each of us posses using our diversity and inclusion lens, this second day, we were each given two playing cards, face down as the beginning of another ‘icebreaker’.


We were instructed to not look at the cards and file in to the the conference room next door to the one we were in so that we could move around.

Once we were in the room, we were given the instructions.

  1. We were not supposed to look at our own cards.
  2. We were supposed to show the red card to everyone else in the room.
  3. We were supposed to respond to others as we moved around the room according to the ‘value’ of the card they were showing:  Cards with numbers 1 through 4 were ‘low value’, 5 – 10 were ‘middle value’, and Jack through Ace were ‘high value’ — we were supposed to interpret what that meant.

So, we begin walking around the room. I’m holding my card, acknowledging others ‘according to the value of their card’ as I walk around the room.

The first person I encounter looks at my card and says, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond to that one”.


Well, OK, I reluctantly continue to walk around the room.  The next comment was also mysterious, “I wasn’t told how to respond to that one”.

Other comments I received were similar.

OK, so I really do not like this activity.

After doing this for a few minutes, we are told to put that card away (without looking at it) and now display the other card.

And the activity continues now with the other card.

Immediately, I new that I must have had a face card, as all the comments I received were very nice, like everyone wanted to be my best friend.

After doing this for a few minutes, we were then told to now bring out the first card again and then display both cards as we walked around the room.

At this point, I really just want this activity to be finished so we could go back into our training room and back to my ‘safe space’. But anyway, I walked around the room now receiving mostly positive feedback with only a little confusion.

As we walked back to our training room, it occurred to me that this is how I navigate through my life. I am a middle class, professional, middle aged white male, so I am very much aware that even as a gay male, I walk through the world with a good bit of privilege. That would be the second card.

But, at the same time, I often receive comments or reactions similar to the ‘I don’t know what to do with that’, as people might discover this underlying identity I try to hide, as a person on the autism spectrum.

This duality of identities, the visible and seen combined with this unknown identity does catch a lot of people off guard as they try to get to know me.


I do understand that many other people who may have any combination of ‘hidden’ identity might have similar responses from others as they reveal themselves. But for me, I am even more aware of the need to talk about my reality living as a person on the autism spectrum.

Oh, and that first card, it was the joker.


Searching for the light of the New Year

As the final few hours of 2016 go by, I am sitting here trying to review this past year and make plans for the next year.  This was a tough year. Not specifically for me, but for many around me, and most definitely for anyone living and working for progressive causes and values. I know many who have experienced loss this year—loss of a loved one, loss of an idol who might have helped them through tough times through their music or art, loss of a relationship or job.

For me, personally, as I say goodbye to 2016, I know I’m exhausted. I have been an activist for LGBT equality and progressive causes for several years and seen so many amazing successes in the past eight years. Through this, I have worked on local issues in Portland, Salem, and all of Oregon, and national issues in Washington, DC.  I have long pleaded with those around me to get involved, to call their representatives in Congress, to show up to Town Halls, to even travel to DC to meet with their members of Congress or their staff.  I know that this is the way to get things done, this is the way to move forward. This is how we resist. This is how we get things done.

OK, let me get back to the reason for this post, to look back at 2016 for me and prepare for 2017.

2016 began so wonderfully and peacefully for me. I was in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, ringing in the New Year with the man I love. James and I had brought our dogs with us for a weekend at the beach. As an Oregonian, where I have celebrated many holidays on the beach, walking along a quiet beach on New Year’s day was very enjoyable and peaceful.

2016 was the first time I have lived through a blizzard. For someone who loves the snow and loves storms, this was a great adventure, watching the snow pile up for over 24 hours from my apartment window and then going out in the deep snow once the storm had passed was so enjoyable.

In 2016, I began to explore photography through the lenses of old, vintage cameras. I very much have enjoyed walking around wherever I may be, with one or two of my old cameras and looking for images that might translate well through that lens. I know that exploring new places with different cameras has helped a lot to keep my mind off the negativity around me this year.

I was able to travel a little this year, though not as much as I would have liked. We made a couple of trips to New York City, primarily for theatre adventures and I did make one trip to Oregon in the Spring.  In New York, we saw Hamilton—every bit as amazing as the hype behind the show. I also had front row seats to see John Slattery, John Goodman, Nathan Lane, and many other fine actors in Front Page. Broadway and Lincoln Center in New York; Kennedy Center and Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. So much fine theatre and so happy to have a partner who enjoys good theatre as much as I.

For the first time in many years, I have ended the year working the same job I started the year with, and no thought of needing to renew a contract or search for new employment because my current employment was ending. I am finally able to plan once again for my future, to plan for an eventual retirement in several years. I have been able to begin investing in an IRA and also once again starting a 401K through my employer. Additionally, I have begun some initial investing in a few funds, hoping the market continues to grow in the future, despite the incoming government.

Overall, this year has been a good year for me. I have a good job, a beautiful partner whom I love, and I live in a great city.  As I prepare for this new year, with a new President moving in a few miles from me, and so many unknows, I know it is important to keep these things in perspective, even when I know it might not be as good for everyone else.  I will always turn to photography to help me frame the world around me.

I may be tired, but I know that I cannot stop. I cannot rest. It is the responsibility of every concerned citizen to be engaged, to speak out, and to listen, but question, our leaders in government. Together, we can get through anything that is put in our way. Together, we will make it through another year stronger.


So many thoughts and emotions remain.

I think about myself, as a much younger man, trying not to be gay, but venturing into the darkness of a gay club for the first time. Nervous, scared, but also a growing sense of safety. Safety, even when, in the early 90’s, the clubs in Portland would thoroughly pat everyone down because of a real threat of people bringing in weapons.

I think about 2004, when Alex would call me up whenever he needed a safe escort to Latino Night at Embers. The energy and emotion of the young latinx gays and lesbians dancing to the beat of the music. The sense of safety I saw as they would celebrate life with their chosen families.

I think about now, with my African American boyfriend, still having to navigate every situation to be aware of who is around us when we hold hands in public or when we have (almost) kissed in public.

Knowing where to find safe spaces as a gay man is important.

I see and hear the political leaders who have long spoken against LGBTQ people, now trying to backpedal or ignore or deny that Pulse was a gay nightclub. With all the recent anti-immigrant and anti-gay rhetoric, isn’t this convenient?

Latinx men and women, LGBTQ people mostly, shot down by a Muslim man.

Ignore the specific details (racial and sexual orientation/identity) of who was killed and injured.

Ignore the fact that he obtained a high powered weapon legally, so easily, when, from his background, there should have been at least a few more hurdles for him (I won’t begin to discuss the inappropriate nature of the specific weapon used, which has no purpose except to kill a lot of people quickly).

No, ignore all of that because it is too convenient to focus on the fear of Muslim people.  Focus on that fear and hatred, so as not do deal with your own failures or shortsightedness. After all, the politics of the presidency are much more important than the humanity of who was affected. More important than the politics of community responsiblity.

I am angry. I am sad. I am numb.

I read the pain of close friends who knew some of the people killed. The stories of each of the 49 people matter.

These are all part of the thoughts and stories that surround me.

Celebrate Freedom, Celebrate As A True American

For some of us who identify as LGBT, we can fully celebrate freedom as a full citizen in the United States, with the US Supreme Court once again acknowledging that we are equally able to marry the person we love as any other American. But for some, there might still be a sense that we are second class citizens. I’m thinking here about our transgender brothers and sisters and our non-white brothers and sisters.

Today, I won’t write about any of the statistics or tell any stories about these groups and others who still do not feel that they are fully American citizens. No, today I look at the promise that was given to all Americans when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and ask everyone to remember that each of us was created equal.

I think about the day when I can walk hand in hand with my future boyfriend (husband?), who is a beautiful black man, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, by the White House or anywhere else in Washington, DC. Two men, hand in hand, biracial, walking proud in the nation’s Capital, showing that we are just like every other couple (assuming that we will also be in love at that time).

The promise of freedom for all Americans is in reach and it is now time to celebrate that. This is what is called patriotism. It will still be a fight and challenge for many years to come, but on this Independence Day, I want to celebrate the possibility, especially since we have just been reminded of our full humanity.

Happy Independence Day!

Approaching mid-life…or am I already there?

A week from today is my birthday. My 49th birthday. This past year has been an amazing year, with any highlights. Awards from HRC for the things I have done, being a part of history in Oregon as I helped get the Youth Mental Health Protection Act passed (this is the ban on conversion therapy for minors) and eventually even having the honor of standing behind Governor Kate Brown as she signed the bill.

My life is lived in circles, many repeated places, but the experience each time around always depends on the quantity and quality of lifetime investments I make.

Last June, I returned to live in the city of my birth, still with a little bit of trepidation about my work situation, but with much more confidence in myself and the decisions that I made–an equal amount of reflection of my past experiences and attitudes and conviction in everything I do.

I am once again thinking about my life and career and future loves. I know that my current work contract will end in early August and I am unsure if it will be renewed. At the same time, I recently stepped away from some of my leadership roles in the community, while I figure out what is next.

I have hinted to some that I might contemplate a cross country move create even more change in many ways. I know the job prospects are very different elsewhere and in certain places, like Washington, DC, there are many other opportunities for social justice and political involvement that might be a good change.

Then, there is a man I have met who also happens to live there. I won’t discuss much about that, other than I am currently enjoying getting to know him. I won’t try to guess how this will turn out, other than I know that I will have a great new friend.

Next week, on my birthday, I am unveiling a new set of photos I am calling “Not Human, Born Perfect”. This is a very new and different direction for Mae and the photos I display will be only the beginning of this project, as I plan on freaking 41 additional images, telling stripped down stories of LGBTQ people of all races, ages, and body types.

49. The start of my 50th year on this planet. I really do not feel that old, but I have to admit that I don’t know what it is to feel like ‘that age’. I have so much life ahead of me, even if I have recently spent a lot of time reflecting on the life behind of me. I know that even better things will come, even when I shake things up a little.

One year of living honestly

The title might imply that I didn’t live honestly before, but I actually tried.  The title is in reference to this, where I revealed that I had recently learned that I am living with Aspergers Syndrome, on the autism spectrum.

Where I might have failed in ‘honesty’ was in not having the knowledge or tools to present myself to others as a whole person, fully aware of my presence.  I know now that there are many things I did and said where I was not fully aware of myself.  I now know where my known limitations are and I am even learning how to pay attention to my trigger points.

What do I mean by trigger points?  Well, for instance, when I have explained a solution to something or a debate point and the other party still does not understand or see my point after a couple variations of explanation, I have learned to let it go (no, don’t queue the song..)  When I have said something that I thought was important (because, really, anything I say is important and shouldn’t be ignored), and realize that no one was paying attention, well, while it still greatly disturbs me, I know now that I have to just let it go and let things move on.  Really, it is difficult, but I have far fewer times when I want to march out of the room in frustration and actually I’ve been told that I appear much more at peace and much more pleasant to be around.  I know that I feel much more confident in everything I do and definitely finally know what it truly means to be present.

While I can attest to meeting more guys, going on many more dates than before, I still find myself single and as I approach the age of 50 in a little more than a year, I really am starting to feel alone than I have in the past.  I tire of the comments from well-meaning acquaintances that I will eventually find the man I’m supposed to be with, because really none of us know what will happen in the future.  But as I approach 50 and find myself alone, I think back to a conversation I had with a friend many years ago.

My friend had asked me, “What’s your scary age?”

I asked what he meant and he said it was the age that I’m most afraid to reach.

While I really never have had any issue with age, mine or anyone else’s, I told him, just out of the air, “50–but at that time I will have been celebrating the 10th anniversary with the guy I will be with for the rest of my life”.

Of course, that never happened, and as I get closer to that ‘scary’ age, and I’m still single after all these years, well, I have to honestly say that it disturbs me.

But, I understand it somewhat. As long as I was unaware of how I pushed people away with generally how I presented myself and as long as I was unaware of why I was told many times that I was too stiff or too emotionless, then I do understand how guys who were looking for that perfect guy and never took the time to really get to know me, then I understand why those didn’t work.  I am still holding out hope that someone will come around, but in the meantime, I am working on strengthening my friendships, even while I see many of my friends getting married (since gay men can now marry the person they love in Oregon) and therefore focusing their energies more on those relationships, as appropriate, than on their other friendships. But those things I understand.

I also understand when some people who used to invite me to parties no longer invite me.  They haven’t really spent time with me since I have learned that I have Aspergers, so I understand why they might not want to spend time with me. But another thing I’m learning is how to move on.

Hopefully those people who matter will see that (for those who have not yet seen it).  Good things will come. Great things will continue to come my way. I have an amazing life ahead of me, no matter what.  And it is even better now that I know how to work around something that was previously an unknown weakness.

Discrimination has no place in Oregon

Religious freedom to me is a personal thing. Religious freedom is to have the freedom to love and worship God without persecution. Religious freedom is the freedom to love my neighbor unconditionally.

When I read about the different business owners who have turned away some sex couples in the name of Jesus, it greatly disturbs me.

“Everything I do, I want everyone to see Jesus through me, ” I have heard being said.

The problem there is that Jesus would not turn anyone away.