Social Media Constricts Communication and Activates the Fight Response.

Recently, someone I follow and highly respect on Facebook, whose training programs I have paid to take part in, posted praise for an author and so-called intellectual for whom I have no respect – Jordan Peterson.

In the post, my colleague praised both Peterson’s character and his book, “12 Rules for Life.” I wrote a comment to suggest that Peterson’s moral ethics were questionable, and that just because he’s published a popular book doesn’t he’s an expert in that genre, or that he’s someone that others should emulate.

What if someone has something of value to say in one area, but on other subjects you vehemently disagree?

In the case of Peterson, he refuses to respect the rights of trans individuals to be called by their name and pronouns of choice. He’s gone so far as to call for the abolishment of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Given the work I do – my LGBTQ advocacy and the fact that I am an out gay man – it behooves me to stand up to this kind of intellectual bully. Peterson is a white, cis male who refuses to give up an iota of power (that he falsely believes is being threatened) when it comes to respecting human rights. In all seriousness, why is it so difficult for Peterson to call a person by their preferred pronoun? This goes beyond human rights, landing squarely in the realm of personal arrogance.

Peterson calls the Ontario Human Rights Commission a kangaroo court.

He makes this general statement in his classroom citing unnamed lawyers (clearly he picked points that he wanted to hear without a shred of opposition). This alone should cause one to be concerned about the man’s intellect and ethical fortitude. The Human Rights Tribunal operates effectively and fairly because it is, in fact, a real quasi-judicial body operating under clear and defined rules and procedures – quite the opposite of a kangaroo court. Peterson has a clear agenda to undercut the authority of the Tribunal and the desire to do away with the Human Rights Act itself because he doesn’t want to be “forced” to call another human being by their preferred pronoun.

Canada is not a militaristic country. Canada is not an oligarchy. Canada is not a communist state. Canada is not ruled by a dictator. To compare the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to a kangaroo court does a disservice to what it means to be a Canadian. If anything, Peterson has taken a page from the capitalist, American approach to power and is acting in a very unpatriotic, un-Canadian way. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech but everything to do with respecting the rights of the individual to be treated fairly and equally in the county of Canada.

But I digress…

I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Dangerous

How to interact with friends, colleagues, or a mentor who praises someone you know is highly problematic or controversial?

The first step is to know the medium. Where did this happen? In this case, the correspondence took place on Facebook. Social media presents significant challenges when trying to make a specific point. The medium itself restricts and constricts how you can get your point across. People leave comments, memes, or icons, and then comment upon comments. At some point in the thread, the original line of thought is no longer the intention of the message. The medium serves the purpose to distract from learning something new or thinking differently. Each comment potentiates serving the ego by making a point to defend your point of view. This presents a serious problem for effective communication.

This is what I attempted to do. I offered the suggestion that we need to understand that our mentors are just as human as we are. I shared a link to my podcast, The Hateful Prejudice and Elitism that is Jordan Peterson – LOP056, in which I criticize Peterson because it was clear my colleague didn’t know this information. That doesn’t make my colleague a bad person, nor did it make me think any less of him. There is so much information available to us that it’s easy to be ignorant. This ignorance is not neglect or bad behaviour, it’s a fact of life. Thankfully, my colleague was willing to look at the information I shared. What became problematic were the other people who decided to jump in with their opinions.

I did not want to start a fight, which is why I made some statements and backed it up with a link to my podcast, and a link to an in-depth article by someone else who backed up their research with references. What I soon discovered was that trying to change minds on Facebook (which is even harder to do on Twitter) is exceptionally difficult. One person made reference to how people on the left get upset when they don’t feel included around issues of equality and that they then act like snowflakes.

I’ve heard it said elsewhere that people on social media who use general and undefined terms like neoliberalism, the left, or snowflakes want to appear intellectual. Essentially they don’t have to do the hard work of thinking for themselves. They want to have one creed, or one leader, that allows them to prejudge the world and everything easily.

It only took me a moment to click on this person’s profile page to see that he was a white male. I cannot assume his privilege, but let’s just start with that first fact: white male. How easy is it for someone to call other people weak – a snowflake – when they have never suffered prejudice, racism, sexism, etc. for wanting to be an equally respected human being? This is a careless and thoughtless reaction which results in indirect bullying.

Social media is the perfect place to demonstrate the absence of empathy.

I chose not to participate any further in the discussion and turned off notifications to the post. I could have created a steel-man argument, summarizing the other people’s arguments to help them see that I understood their point of view. From there I could’ve suggested how they could use empathy to understand my viewpoint. What I decided is that, as the comments on the Facebook post became more deeply nested, the more difficult and unlikely it was becoming to change hearts and minds. There was only one solution: use a different medium (this article and a podcast).

Changing hearts and minds requires patience, time, and either face-to-face interaction, or a longer form medium like a podcast episode or an article that someone can read and reread to dissect the ideas presented, and to understand and evolve their own thoughts and ideas.

To think critically, you have to first think for yourself.

In the first instance, this means getting off platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I don’t mean deleting your profile, rather step away from the discussion or argument and take some time to reflect. If there’s something you don’t understand, do your research and look for both supporters and detractors on the subject. If there’s something you’re telling yourself that you refuse to believe (because you think you’re right), ask yourself, “Is this true? Could I be wrong?” Or, “Is there something I don’t know that might change my mind?”

mindset-reset

A growth mindset requires both the time to evolve, but more importantly, the willingness to seek out new and possibly uncomfortable information along with the willingness to contemplate what that means to you. Notice how your body feels as you challenge your thinking. Is your heart racing? Are you getting upset? Are you furrowing your brow not wanting to accept this new information or different points of view? The more emotionally attached you are to an idea, the more difficult it will be to change your thoughts and beliefs.

Beliefs are not reasonable

A belief in something, which can also be called faith, has no factual reasoning. There’s no proof that God exists in a comparable way to how we substantiate things with scientific reasoning and discovery. If you simply believe something to be true that does not make it so. The more your beliefs are built upon faith or emotions, the more easily you will get sucked into believing what other people tell you, groupthink, and other potentially dangerous patterns of behaviour.

Evolving how we think and modifying our behaviours and opinions is challenging yet rewarding work. The more you can substantiate your point of view, the more of a critical thinker you will become. But beware the lack of empathy for others, and the social media default to immediately defend your point of view, before doing your homework to determine the source or the origin of the message in question.

Further Critical Thinking

Header image: magro_kr

Bareback Privilege and the Demise of Risk-Aversion

There’s a new kind of gay male sexual privilege, one that’s entering dangerous areas of health, disease control, and prejudice: gay men who are on PrEP and only have bareback sex.

There Is Risk in Everything We Do

“As renowned PrEP educator and marriage and family therapist, Damon Jacobs, thoughtfully pointed out in a piece for The Advocate titled, “Sex With PrEP, Like Life, Is Never Without Risk,” 133 pedestrians are killed in New York City each year by cars. Just walking out on the street is dangerous. There’s risk in everything we do.”

Source

This period in history – the use of PrEP – reminds me of HIV shaming that happened in the 80s and 90s. Gay men who were negative (or thought they were) would shame HIV+ men by shunning them, which was most visible in online dating profile. You could read ads that said, “HIV- only”, or “Only safe and clean”, etc.. The truth is that anyone could lie and say they were HIV- or simply not disclose if not asked.

I remember having sex with a guy I met sometime early 2000s. I was fucking him with a condom and I noticed he had a tattoo of an AIDS ribbon. It was in an innocuous place that I only saw because of the position of his legs in sex. It took me out of the moment and confronted me with my own prejudice, but we keep playing and the sex ended well. It was a reminder to me that if I was protecting myself, I could relax. I hadn’t asked him prior to meeting about his status, probably because HIV had been around for over 20 years and the routine of asking, or being freaked out about someone having HIV had diminished – but clearly my fears and prejudice had not.

Human Behaviour and Unconscious Choices

We often make choices that are not in alignment with our best judgement, let alone our values, when we are denied something we want. In this case, the denial of affection and sex based on prejudice can lead to unhealthy choices and behaviours. In the late 90’s I witnessed the rise of so-called “bug-chasers”; individuals who actively sought HIV+ partners to agree to fuck them raw in the hope of seroconversion. Their desire was to have what they felt was denied them, the freedom to have sex “the way nature intended”.

Basic Human Needs

These choices – that of the bug-chaser to seek seroconversion – were psychological, based in human need and self-worth. Add onto these choices the social fabric of exclusion, being “othered”, not feeling accepted for who you are as a gay or trans man, and so on. Many of us took a self-righteous approach, assuming a higher moral ground, when in fact, there were many of us who secretly longed to ditch condoms and just “get it over with.” This is part of what lead to the term, “condom fatigue”, which sadly misses the real and deeper human truth entirely. As an already oppressed and marginalized group, now you’ve taken away our freedom to have sex however, and with whomever we want. The golden age of free, uninhibited gay sex was over. We had lost, what felt like, our only privilege.

What is this universe we live in now?

For the longest time you were taught to ask about your partner’s status, and many HIV- men had to face rejection on an all-too-regular basis. Then dating apps allowed users to select HIV status, sexual preferences, last testing date, and options like “negative on PrEP”, etc.

While those options are useful for making choices – having too many choices is problematic. Psychologically, when we are faced with too many choices, we have a hard time making a decision. We see this in supermarket research on consumers buying behaviours. If you have a shelf for jams and you have 10 flavours, with five companies offering the same 10 flavours, how do you choose? What if three of the brands are all on sale? Now make the comparison to the list of labels on a profile on Grindr or Scruff. Sometimes there are so many variables, not including the personal description that may be seeking or excluding other variables, you wonder if you will even be considered. What do you have to compromise on to get what you want?

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore

What scares me about these conversational interactions about PrEP since it’s become so popular and normalized – and since cheaper generics were introduced in Canada – is the laissez-fair attitude towards bareback sex. A couple of years ago I couldn’t figure out how guys in their early 20s could afford PrEP when it was $1,200 Canadian per month or more. “They get it off the black market”, a friend told me. “What? And they trust this pill with their life?” That’s like going out to a rave and buying drugs, not knowing if the pill contains fentanyl or something else that might send you to emergency or an early grave.

Many men on PrEP wear this choice as a badge of honour, like an over-zealous, flag-waving patriot. I’m on PrEP and I’m invincible! But are they really and what about the long-term side effects and compliance?

What about Long-Term Side Effects?

We are only a few years into this “PrEP experiment”. What happens in 10, 20, or 30 years of people being on this medication?

“The main adverse effects observed with PrEP are gastrointestinal related; basically mild to moderate nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other adverse drug effects worth monitoring are liver enzymes, renal function and bone mineral density. PrEP as an intervention to reduce HIV transmission appears to have a safe benefit-risk profile in clinical trials. It is recommended for widespread use but adherence monitoring and real-world safety surveillance are critical in the post-marketing phase to ensure that the benefits observed in clinical trials are maintained in real-world use.” (Emphasis mine)

Source

What about starting PrEP in your early 20’s?

What are the psychological and physiological factors or taking PrEP earlier in life when your body is still developing, like taking steroids or testosterone in your teens or early 20’s? The younger we are, the more risk averse we are, thinking we will live forever, or that our choices won’t have consequences.

“PrEP can also reduce bone density by 1–2%, causing slight thinning of the bones. This loss reverses after PrEP is stopped.

This side effect might be more important if you already have low bone density related to other factors.

It might also be important if you are younger than 30 as your bones are still developing.

Source

Personal responsibility, self-care, and inclusion

The choices that we believe we are making for ourselves may sometimes have a butterfly-like affect. My concern is that the sexual politics of PrEP exclusivity (taking PrEP = only bareback sex), not only reinforces a form or privilege but may lead to yet another health crisis, be that viral or further psychological “gay shame”.


PrEP, PEP, and Safer Sex Resources

Image credit: torbakhopper

If there was no prejudice against LGBTQ people, we wouldn’t need to hold Pride parades all over the world during Pride month in June.

We would be part of every day “straight pride”, which is the freedom to walk out and about without ever having the concern about your gender or sexual identity coming into question.

Protests change in size, meaning, and voracity.

To celebrate Pride – to revel openly as who we are, in public out on the streets, holding hands with the person we love, kissing our same-sex partner, making out with our trans lover, dancing in the ecstasy of the freedom of a single day surrounded by our “people” – is not only an act of celebration, but a public display and affirmation that we are here, we are queer, and we require/desire the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.

That in itself is a powerful statement, and while most large North American Pride celebrations might not look like a protest, I argue that they are – albeit for the most part peaceful and celebratory. Pride make a statement about the state of LGBTQ people because of its very existence.

How do we reclaim what Pride originally stood for?

The Reclaim Pride Coalition answered that vital question with an alternative march to this year’s Stonewall50 and World Pride Parade in New York City, June 2019. According to their “Why We March” statement,

“We March in our communities’ tradition of resistance against police, state, and societal oppression, a tradition that is epitomized and symbolized by the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion.”

In episode 89, I shared Why Black Lives Matters was right, that uniformed police have no place at Pride, because of the history of violence and oppression by police forces against our community that is visually represented and triggered by the uniform.

On the question of the commercialization of Pride – something I discussed with Jeffry Iovannone in, “Deconstructing the Myth of Stonewall and its Influence on Mainstream Society – LOP091” – the Reclaim Pride Coalition continues with,

“We March against the exploitation of our communities for profit and against corporate and state pinkwashing, as displayed in Pride celebrations worldwide, including the NYC Pride Parade.”

“Denial of equality is immoral.”

As queer people we need to work together for the rights of all – against ideologies, restrictive and fundamentalist religions, racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice. What hurts us, hurts other, and vice versa. Equality for some is not equality at all.

When we celebrate, we marginalize.

There will always be someone left our of our Pride celebrations. When we celebrate, without historical memory of where Pride came from, we risk marginalizing members of our LGTBQ collective. As much freedom as we feel we may have gained, we still don’t have humane rights for all – we only have human rights, which can be taken away by whoever is in power.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Wayne dyer

Know your history. Know why you chose to celebrate or party. Is it time for you to stand up and reclaim your pride?

Resources

Image credit: Mary Crandall

A Living OUT Leadership Interview with Jeff Iovannone and Ken Gault

In this special “Pride” episode, we discuss the “Stonewall origin myth” and why the mainstream assumption that “gay liberation” started with Stonewall is both problematic and harmful.

According to Jeffry Iovannone, one of the two commentators on this episode,

“The danger of the Stonewall myth […] lies in the fact that it has become not only one story LGBTQ people tell about themselves, but the story we tell about ourselves. Stonewall is not just a narrative, but a meta-narrative: a totalizing account regarded as a universal truth that excludes other narrative threads and possibilities.”

Source

Ken Gault – our “Gay Elder” commentator this episode – was born in 1951 and has the lived experience of growing up in the time preceding the singular event known as the Stonewall riots. He remembers going out to the bars before 1969 and seeing people who were happy to be among others like themselves. Surprisingly, Gault didn’t hear about the riots until five years after the event. So what does that tell us about how Stonewall has been configured in our collective psyche as a “tipping point” in our LGBTQ history?

We move through history, not to discuss the events of Stonewall themselves, but to better understand all the other layers of history that have brought us to this point in time. We consider the origins of what we call Pride today, the examples of bravery, empathy, and the human strength of those who fought, gave care, and died during the AIDS crisis, what we have fought for over the past 50 years, the commodification and commercialization of LGBTQ Pride, the issues of privilege, visibility, the ignorance of history, and police at Pride.

Speaker Bios

For over 50 years, Ken Gault has been an active participant, observer and raconteur in the gay communities of Montreal, Baltimore and New York: the turmoil of the ’60s and Stonewall, the excesses of the 70s, the harsh realities of the 80s, miracles of the 90s. And this millennium: a new beginning or business as usual, political power or personal growth? Stay tuned, “GUncle” Ken explains it all for you. Follow Ken on Medium where he pens his “On This Day” series at Th-Ink Queerly and on Facebook.

Jeff Iovannone is an activist-scholar, writer, educator, and researcher from Buffalo, New York who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and specializes in gender and LGBTQ studies. He is the creator of the blog Queer History for the People, a columnist for Th-Ink Queerly, a member of the Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project, and is a founding member of Body Liberated Buffalo, a volunteer-run activist and advocacy group that works for body liberation in Western New York. He first appeared on the Living OUT Podcast in, Jeffry Iovannone: Deconstructing the Ideal Gay Male Body – LOP077.

References

Image credit: yosoynuts

Why Saying “I Can’t” or “No” Won’t Help Change Your Behaviour

Some time ago I was following up with a coaching client about his challenge of saying “Yes” to too many opportunities. He was getting bogged down in commitments which were distracting from what was most important in his life and career. He felt very uncomfortable saying “no” to someone who asked for his help or advice – which on the one hand is a compliment – but on the other hand, he needed to say “yes” to his own needs, before anyone else.

I’ve spoken about this before in the episode, Saying Yes to Everything Will Get You Nothing You Want – LOP068. I wrote,

Say YES to get your own needs met first. Say YES to what you love about yourself that makes you feel that you are enough. Find ways to say YES to yourself first, when others are used to you saying YES to what they want.

My client and I discussed how to deal with the short term discomfort of saying “no”, versus the long-term regret of saying “yes” to an opportunity or a request for help. It can feel easier and less emotional to say “yes” to someone; they won’t feel bad, upset, or disappointed – if that even bothers them at all. But if you commit to something you don’t want to do or don’t have enough time to do well, you will feel the pain of regret; of having not been able to bear the discomfort of saying, “no”.

Shortly after our exchange, I read a helpful article on the more successful outcome of saying, “I don’t” versus “I can’t” or “No”. In The Simple Neuroscience Of Saying No, Dax Moy explains why saying, “I don’t” is more powerful in the mind.

“I don’t” is a form of self-definition.

Saying, “No” is the other side of saying, “yes” and saying, “I can’t” potentiates self-judgement, weakness, limitation, and denial of something you still believe you want.

While this article is written about the choices you make for yourself, we can expand the use of, “I don’t” into social, academic, or work environments when you face the immediate pressure of someone asking you directly for your help or involvement.

In my client’s case, I suggested what we have previously discussed: know your schedule, your current commitments, and what matters most to you. With that knowledge, practice knowing and feeling what you “don’t do” or “don’t have time for”.

A mentioned in Moy’s article, simple is best. No detailed explanations are required. For example, “Hey Randal, I think you’d be a valuable addition to our board of directors. We just lost a member and we all want you to take her seat.” To which you could respond, “Thanks for thinking of me. I don’t have the time to help this year.” Then change the subject, perhaps asking about their next project or something that immediately deflects into another discussion.

To what have you been saying, “I can’t” in your life? How different would that feel for you to instead declare what you “don’t” do?

Image credit: “Don’t” by Paul Sableman

Why Black Lives Matters was right: Uniformed Police have no place at Pride.

Imagine watching the Pride Parade on a gorgeous, sunny, summer day in Toronto, 2016. You’re smiling, laughing, and feeling part of something bigger than yourself, celebrating love and diversity marching down Yonge Street in Toronto.

Suddenly you hear whistles and a voice on a bull horn shouting demands. A group of people calling themselves Black Lives Matters (BLM) stops the entire Toronto Pride Parade by sitting down on the hot asphalt on Yonge Street, halting the parade for about 45 minutes.

Why did this happen and why does this matter?

Black Lives Matters had many demands that had to do with safety, diversity, representation, and inclusion. They were tired of waiting for Pride Toronto to make things better. Their biggest demand was for Pride Toronto to deny uniformed police to participate in the next year’s Pride – be that marching, being on a float, or having a table at the Pride Street Festival while in uniform.

This week, Doug Ford, the Premiere of Ontario stated that he will not attend Toronto Pride this year until uniformed officers are allowed to participate. The problem with this statement is based in Ford’s bias, prejudice, political posturing, and a complete lack of awareness of his privilege as a white, straight, rich man who has never suffered injustice for freely expressing his identity.

Today’s episode is not for those easily offended.

I hold nothing back, I’m highly critical, but more importantly, I get to the root of the problem and explain why it’s still important that uniformed police not be allowed to attend Toronto Pride – and what LGTBQ members of the police “force” can do to feel included at Pride.

Dive Deeper into this social justice issue:

Listen to the ON Point with host, Alex Pierson, in which she interviews Shaun Proulx: Premier Doug Ford will not attend the Toronto Pride parade.

Read this excellent opinion piece by Joey Viola, SOCIETY :: Black Lives Matter – Toronto Pride 2016


Correction

In the episode, I mistakenly state that Rob Ford always used the excuse that he would not attend Toronto Pride because of his annual Ford Nation BBQ. That was, in fact, held at a different time. Ford never attended Pride based on the excuse that he and his family would be at their cottage during Pride weekend.

Image credit: Tension by Loozrboy

In the last episode, I mentioned I was considering changing the name of the Living OUT Podcast. I’m happy to say that Living OUT is the right name for my podcast.

This all has to do with my core message. I’m about challenging the status quo – both other people’s beliefs, as well as my own. I help people use their difference to make a difference. I want to help people Live Out the best of who they are, to live out their authentic self that they may only share with people they trust. Why should we hide the truth of who we are in the shadows. Live out, live proud, be who you are feely, bravely, and honestly!

The definition and etymology of the word, queer

queer (adj.)

c. 1500, “strange, peculiar, eccentric,” from Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer “oblique, off-center,” related to German quer “oblique, perverse, odd,” from Old High German twerh “oblique,” from PIE root terkw- “to twist.”

queer (v.)

“to spoil, ruin,” 1812, from queer (adj.). Related: Queered; queering. Earlier it meant “to puzzle, ridicule, cheat” (1790). – source

What these etymological definitions show is that being a consciously queer person is radically different from the status quo – or who the dominant hegemonic culture and patriarchy attempts to control.

I’m a strong defender of the words gay and queer to indicate identity and acceptance, not exclusion. We can use these words to loosely incorporate variation and we can use them to sharpen our focus. What matters is allowing the individual to choose how they wish to be labelled (if at all), to understand what these words mean in the larger semantic field, and to embrace/reclaim words others have used to harm and disenfranchise us.

Are We Not Homo?

Do you drink homo? Source

We are not a homogenous community, nor are we a single, cohesive one, quite thankfully, for that is our strength. This is why the word queer works so well, perhaps even better than LGBTQ (and similar), because there will always be someone missing from the acronym.

We give away our power if we try to fit into the expectations of the status quo. This restricts our authenticity and well-being. Stop putting emphasis on what others think of you, focus instead on living out what’s inside of you, your truth, and that is the best example of authenticity.

Queer Spirituality?

Ram Dass suggests in and episode of, “Be here and now”, that,

“The minute you define yourself as something, you’re constantly manipulating the universe to reinforce the reality of that. I’m a beautiful woman. I’m an ageing man. Whatever it is.”

“Most people are carrying their history so heavily on their backs, their childhood abuse, their ethnic oppression, their something, that they can’t come up for air. They’re too busy being somebody the result of all that.”

Can we peacefully coexist without ego-definition?

Looking at the world today you might think that we have all lost our way.

”My commitment must be to truth, not consistency.”

Ghandi

By conforming, trying to fit in, posting countless selfies online in search of external approval, we are seeking validation from the status quo. But queer thinking challenges that. Thinking queerly looks at difference as uniqueness, as the quality that defines the individual. The only way we can be fully realized individuals is to know our true nature.

This is exactly what the status quo is afraid of – our true nature.

Not dissimilar to religion I posted a tweet the other day, in which I wrote:

The purpose of religion is to de-individualize, thus giving power to the patriarchy, the priest, preacher, Rabbi, or religious zealot. If you allow people to think for themselves, they will reject religion and the person with all the power.

Religion is the most dangerous form of power when associated with the patriarchy.

It seeks to control minds, to limit free thinking, and to create a heard of sheep who group-think as they are told, and demonstrate belonging by their amount of unwavering belief (faith) in an unsubstantiated, non-factual, and unprovable imaginary being. These patriarchal “gods” are nothing more than an allegory for a single man or a group of men who seek absolute power and control.

Can queer fit into the capitalist model of our world?

“Fitting in requires that he join the consumer society, and this, in turn, puts pressure on him to place income ahead of other considerations when determining career choice. This comes at a cost to individual human dignity and, in the aggregate, means that social responsibility is abdicated in favor of social conformity.”

Laurence G Boldt in The Tao of Abundance

Capitalism is yet another aspect of the status quo we have to work with or work around as it attempts to add us as another de-humanized commodity to buy and sell.

What’s most important to you as an LGBTQ person?

Who do you want to be? What is the change you want to see in the world? How can you use your difference to make a difference in our world?

Use your unique perspective, the one you learned having lived in the closet, having had to hide your true self, always on the lookout for the ever-controlling watchful eye of the limiting confines of the status quo. This is our gift, having seen the world and still seeing the world through the lens of the “other”. We see differently and we see queerly. Embrace your gifts and Live OUT the best of who you are.

Follow the LivingOUT Podcast

Header image: Eddie

One morning about four years ago I was feeling sorry for myself. I had been wallowing in self pity and I suddenly “woke up” and decided to journal about what I was feeling so that I could change my emotional state.

What was I feeling sorry about?

I was feeling sorry for myself that I was tired, emotionally drained, that I was working so hard, that I didn’t have enough money, and that I was about to make a shift in my business focus yet again. I was also incredibly sore from my workout the day before, taking a hot bath, too tired to get any work done that morning.

“Shouldn’t that be a good thing?” I asked myself. “I’m working out! That should make me feel fantastic.” I’ve discovered a pattern about myself. Often when I have a strenuous workout, I’m a little bit cranky later that day and the next morning. Perhaps it’s the way my body reacts to the increase in testosterone as a response to strength training, including how I physiologically respond to those chemical changes.

As often happens when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I was over-analyzing a client situation and considering future actions based on those worries. Then there was the discussion with a friend about a new business idea that felt precarious. When I added those things on top of each other, like a snowball rolling down a hill gathering momentum and size, I only felt worse.

But then I asked, “Why are you feeling sorry for yourself, Darren?” I realized the problem was my perception. I decided those events were somehow negative. From that awareness I decided to reframe my perspective.

Some of the situations were indeed challenging, especially the ones around making possibly changes to my business, wanting to have an impact, and my concerns about financial profitability and stability. My physical response to working out was another issue. I’ve seen the pattern many times before. The solution was to be prepared: to properly hydrate, get more recovery, and eat enough protein to help me feel better.

Is there a situation in your life where you constantly feel sorry for yourself?

The way to come out on the other side and feel better about your situation is to start by looking backwards. First, grab a pen and a piece of paper or your journal. Next, ask yourself the question, “What specifically am I feeling sorry about?”

Then look at events in your day so far. Perhaps go back in time to yesterday, or the last week. How did those events influenced your thinking? Do you feel positive or negative in relation to those situations?

Consider each event individually. Can you re-frame your emotional and intellectual responses and perceptions to each situation? How can you make each one a positive learning experience? If it’s something you’re struggling with, what can you learn from it?

Write down 1-2 action steps to change your thinking

Ask yourself, “What can I do, right now, that will make me feel better about this situation?” A gentle warning: this is not always easy. Finding the positive in situations can be challenging and sometimes downright daunting. This is also not about faking it – you need to find the truth of what’s good in the situation.

What I learned that morning about myself, was that my concerns are valid, but that they had been repeating unconsciously, and without thoughtful consideration. I made a list of actions, which included challenging myself to talk to new people as a way to expand my network and to discover their needs. I posted reminders in my work area to focus on finding the positive. I also prepared to better manage my mood and energy levels on days when I had a strenuous workout.

Take a moment, now, if you can, and consider what’s dragging you down, how you might be feeling sorry for yourself. How can you re-frame each situation to make it a positive learning experience? What single action can you take right now, to evolve?

Dive Deeper

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Inside Out is a not-for-profit registered charity that exists to challenge attitudes and change lives through the promotion, production and exhibition of film made by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people of all ages, races and abilities.

For more than two decades, Inside Out has brought Toronto’s LGBT community together in celebration of the best queer film from Canada and around the world.

In 1985, I saw my first “gay” film at TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival), No Sad Songs, a Canada documentary film directed by Nik Sheehan. I had come out the year before, in the summer of 1984, not yet 18 years old, and months before AIDS got its name.

Executive Director of Inside OUT, Andria Wilson

The film was billed as the first documentary film about the HIV/AIDS crisis, the film explored the LGBT community’s early response to the issue through the personal testimony of Jim Black, a man with AIDS who died several months after the film’s release, and Catherine Hunt, the sister of another person with AIDS (source). This was the start of my interest in LGBTQ representation in film, and LGBT film festivals.

In today’s Living OUT episode, I speak with the Executive Director of Inside OUT, Andria Wilson. We discuss why the Inside Out LGBT film festival is relevant and still necessary, almost 35 years later in 2019.

Inside Out is committed to helping queer creators use their difference to make a difference.

Inside Out supports various community initiatives like New Visions, Pitch, Please!, the RE:Focus Fund, and in November 2018, Inside OUT launched an Online Resources Catalogue aimed at providing support for LGBTQ youth.

Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival

The Festival runs from May 23 to June 2nd. To learn more about Inside OUT, what’s showing at this year’s festival (and watch trailers), or how to become a supporting member, go to https://www.insideout.ca.

Connect with Inside Out

Omar’s story and his journey to Canada as a refugee

Imagine living in a country where, if you were found out to be gay by ISIS, you would be thrown off the tallest building around, while your family and friends were forced to watch.

This is the story of Omar and two of the people who have been part of a very long process to bring him safely to Canada. As part of Omar’s application process for Rainbow Refugee, he wrote,

“My name is Omar. I’m from Iraq and I’m gay. I left my family in Iraq and fled to Turkey in July 2014 to avoid dying at the hands of ISIS.” – Omar’s letter to Rainbow Refugee

Last year, one of my closet friends, Ron Walker, asked if I would be one of Omar’s sponsor for him to come to Canada as a refugee, with the help of the Rainbow Refugee. Ron suggested that, as a gay coach, I would be an invaluable resource for Omar to begin his journey as a gay man in a place where he can actually pursue his true identity.

As we talk about the different parts of Omar’s life over the last five years it might seem like this was a quick and easy process. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Ron explains that the UNHCR process is long, arduous, and leaves the refugee as a non-person, without income or a way of supporting themselves in their temporary host-country.

Omar arrived in Canada as an official refugee on May 7th, 2019.

On Omar’s first weekend in Toronto, he celebrated his 31st birthday with many of the people who were instrumental in getting him out of Iraq and into Turkey, and eventually to Toronto, Canada. People came by airplane and car to greet Omar when he arrived at Toronto International Airport, and then to help him settle into his new life in Canada,

One of those individuals is Michael Failla who has made it one of his missions in life to help gay men safely escape countries like Iraq for being gay, as well as other lesbians and trans people who are persecuted and living in countries where they fear for their lives.

Omar’s story is a reminder of the freedoms and liberties we take for granted in North America, like for example the upcoming LGBTQ Pride in Toronto, which will be the very first Pride that Omar will attend. That’s worth celebrating!

Refugee Resources

About Ron Walker

Ron is a retired lawyer who for many years has worked with charitable and non-governmental organizations seeking to improve the situation of individuals in developing countries. Ron lives in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at ronwalker223@gmail.com.

About Michael Failla

In 2012 academy award winning documentarian Eva Orner was at a party in Hollywood and heard about Michael’s refugee work. She accompanied him on a trip to the middle east and in conjunction with World of Wonder made the documentary, “Out of Iraq.” The movie is a love story about two Iraqi soldiers who fall in love during the invasion of Iraq, their immense commitment to each other and their struggle to escape Iraq and become resettled in a safe country. Theirs is a story of two of the many refugees Michael has assisted.

Michael is currently assisting several LGBTQI people in difficult situations who are seeking resettlement. Due to the changes in the US administration he has shifted his focus to Canada and is working in concert with Canadian LGBTQI Refugee organizations to get those he is helping into Canada’s private sponsorship resettlement program.

Michael lives with his husband, Gary Hamer in Seattle, WA. He can be reached at mfailla@aol.com.

Out of Iraq Trailer

Image credit: Patricia Barden