Tag Archives: LGBT

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’.

cardback

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”.

Huh?

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.

Orlando

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.

Why I Am Engaged

Here is something I wrote for PQ Monthly, a local paper here in Oregon.

Why I Am Engaged (click the link)

So, how do you get engaged? How do you tell your story? Where do you tell your story?

To start off, connect with Washington United at http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org/

There will also be opportunities to volunteer here in the Portland area. Contact Basic Rights Oregon at http://basicrights.orgto find out more.Not able to volunteer your time? Perhaps you want to donate instead? The best way to do that is to donate through the special PAC that HRC has established. http://www.hrc.org/wapac

Any questions? Contact me. I can direct you to whoever you might want to talk to.

What are your thoughts?