When you don’t name LGBTQ people, we don’t exist.

We are not immune to populism, the rise of the right, and the far-right in Canada.

We are seeing spread in the prejudiced and hateful mindsets and discourse in Canadian opinion and politics. In the recent Alberta election, Jason Kenney and his United Conservative party (UCP) won, seemingly without any concern from his supporters that Kenney worked to overturn a spousal law that permitted gay men to visit their dying partners in the hospital during the AIDS epidemic while studying in San Francisco.

Those who support Kenney hide behind platitudes, making nonsensical, meaningless statements like, ‘the times have changed and so has Kenney’. Kenney has never apologized for his heinous actions, which (in his words) brought him closer to his church and his ‘god’. To me, this means he is still guilty of prejudice against LGBTQ people.

For a dirty laundry list of the anti-LGBTQ choices Kenney has made over the years, including his affiliations in prejudice, read, Jason Kenney is Alberta’s new premier. What does it mean for LGBTQ2 people?

Kenney’s election win of Alberta was probably fuelled by the hateful, prejudiced, and province-wide rape of Ontario’s health care and social welfare currently happening under the disdainful and draconian rule of Doug Ford and the Ontario Provincial Conservative party.

Ford has put in place a cabinet of Yes men (and a few Yes women) who are all white  – but for a token Asian male. A number of these ministers have little to no training in their posts, including little to no empathy for anyone who didn’t vote for them.

Privilege is not a licence for gender and sexual blindness.

In the Ontario Legislature on the International Day of Pink, April 10, 2019, “Ontario’s NDP LGBTQ+ critic Terence Kernaghan called on Minister of Education Lisa Thompson to speak about protecting queer and trans students.”

“The Day of Pink is the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Transmisogyny across the world. We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, schools and communities.”

International Day of Pink

Thompson is not an ally or a friend of the LGBTQ community.

Here is part of the conversation that happened in the Legislature between Kernaghan and Thompson:

Kernaghan: Speaker, it would be nice to hear the minister be able to say the words “homophobia” and “transphobia” on this Day of Pink, because that is what this day is about.

Thompson: Actually, those words don’t exist in my vocabulary because it’s about the actions that really matter. I’m thinking of my friend Craig; I’m thinking of my friend Frank. I am thinking about my family members whom we embrace. We don’t classify and we don’t use terms to label. We embrace relationships. We embrace healthy relationships and that is what our curriculum is going to reflect when it’s released in September next year. 

DailyXtra

Thompson use of language is exclusive and excluding.

By refusing to name, to identify, and to label individuals who are oppressed and marginalized, she is seeking to oppress LGBTQ people by making us invisible and dismissing us as part of the human collective. By not naming us directly, Thompson is also setting up a politics to deny us our rights and to potentially modify or remove the rights we have worked so hard to achieve in both Ontario and Canada.

It’s important to remember that during the Ontario PC Party annual convention in November 2018, the Party passed the contentious “Policy Resolution R4  –  Education and Community Safety” which was a slap in the face for human rights in Ontario. Ironically, they did this during Trans Awareness month:

Be it resolved that an Ontario PC Party recognizes “gender identity theory” for what it is, namely, a highly controversial, and unscientific “liberal ideology”; and, as such, that an Ontario PC government will remove the teaching and promotion of “gender identity theory” from Ontario schools and its curriculum.

Source

Thompson DOES NOT have the right or the privilege to take away our identity or to “dis-label” us with the arrogant claim that, “those words don’t exist in my vocabulary”. The only people who get to name or reclaim labels ascribed to their identity are those who are so labelled. The only people who make statements like, “those words don’t exist in my vocabulary”, are the oppressor.

For example, I call myself queer, gay, and a fag because I have reclaimed those words. I recognize that queer and fag are contentious terms for some gay men. Yet the reclaiming of and the ownership of those labels are similar to the Black community’s use of the “N-word”. Only they are allowed to use that word (even though many within their community don’t appreciate it).

If Thompson had refused to identify a person of colour (POC) in a statement about something to do with the rights of POC, she’d have a PR nightmare that would have had her kicked out of caucus. I do not have to like Thompson or appreciate her politics, but I demand that she apologize for her abject and arrogant exclusion of LGBTQ people in her speech cited above. Her choice of words  –  her choice to EXCLUDE  –  is no different than a white person saying, “I don’t see colour” when referring to race.

Unless you are medically colour blind, saying you don’t see colour is white, privileged racism. You cannot deny what is right in front of you unless you chose not to see reality for what it is  –  a worrisome trend we are seeing more of with the rise of populism, the far-right, Evengelical Christians, and flat-earthers.

“Choosing our own comfort over difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion is the epitome of privilege. It erodes trust.”

Brene Brown

LGBTQ people exist and we are visible.

We are also bullied, beaten, locked up, denied visitation rights to our dying partners, tortured, murdered, and stoned to death for simply being human. This is why we still need our labels. If we are still prejudiced against, we need to remain visible until at such time we are loved and respected in the human collective for being who we are.

Resources


Originally published on Th-Ink Queerly. Cover image: Marco Fieber — “Enough is enough — Open your mouth!”, Demonstration against homophobia in Russia

Behold, these are the 10 Commandments of the Heteronormative Patriarchy for gay men who want to blend in, fit in, act like everyone else, and be respectable!

  1. Thou shalt judge other gays.
  2. Thou shalt hold your voice silent when others make homophobic comments.
  3. Thou shalt minimize talking about your sex or love life, if at all.
  4. Thou shalt control your mannerisms, never flamboyant or feminine.
  5. Thou shalt never make a straight man feel uncomfortable with your eyes.
  6. Thou shalt act like “one of the boys” and fit in.
  7. Thou shalt keep conversations safe and inclusive for straights.
  8. Thou shalt wear clothes that don’t make you stand out.
  9. Thou shalt keep silent when men degrade and objectify women.
  10. Thou shalt never break the rules.

Follow the Rules of the Status Quo at Your Peril.

Keep yourself boxed in. Mind the door of your closet. So long as you don’t come too far out, you’ll have a place in privileged society and you won’t ruffle any feathers.

Stand Up, Speak Out, and Live Proud!

If you’re not visible, if your voice is silent and you’re not heard we can’t make progress and we won’t change hearts and minds. If you keep playing by the rules — the rules the status quo wants you to follow — nothing will every change and nothing will get better.


Originally published with video as, The 10 Commandments for Being a Respectable Gay Man.

Image credit: Kevin Trotman, Georgia Guidestones

Brene Brown is considered an expert in her research on vulnerability and shame. What she teaches in her program, The Power of Vulnerability provides a powerful foundation to how we, as gay men and LGBTQ people, can use our difference to make a difference. Vulnerability helps us deal with our own gay shame, and in the process lead others in society on how to cleanse shame.

In this episode, I bring together Brown’s insights on vulnerability with one of the 14 gay male gifts – as taught in Raymond Rigoglioso in Gay Men And The New Way Forward – namely, how gay men are “models of authenticity and courage, and cleansers of shame.

What is Shame?

Shame encompasses the emotions about who you are and how you feel about yourself when you have done something wrong, e.g. that you’re not good enough, that you’re a bad person, or that you’re broken. You can make yourself feel shame, and others can shame you (if you let them), diminishing your self-worth.

Guilt Is Preferable to Shame.

When you feel guilt, it’s an awareness in relation to your choices or behaviours, and not about who you are. When you feel shame you feel bad about yourself. With guilt, you recognize you made a bad choice, which you can correct or apologize for, but it has nothing to do with your self-worth.

Empathy Is the Opposite of Shame.

Empathy is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”, to attempt to feel what they are feeling. And if you can’t do that exactly, you let them know that you don’t know what that feels like, but that you are here to listen and to help. Being open without trying to fix the person’s problem is vital to allowing them to work through their feelings of shame with love, respect, trust, and kindness.

Vulnerability Requires Trust Built Up Over Time.

Trust requires social support which is built up over time. The more you trust someone else, the more you feel free to be vulnerable with them. Trust also requires visibility, which is difficult when you are used to hiding your emotions, or if any part of who you are is still hidden in the closet.

The More Vulnerable You Are, the More You Experience Joy.

One of the best ways to experience more joy in your life is to practice “active gratitude”. Start a gratitude journal or simply write about what you are grateful for, at the start or the end of your day in your journal.

Resources

Image Last Ripples by rpphotos

Why be normal when you can be different?

How do you exist in the gay world that prioritizes the “normate gay” (white, cis-male, physically fit) when you are disabled? One way is to lead with humour. This is exactly what Ryan O’Connell does with his hilarious and powerful new show on Netflix, Special. O’Connell wrote the script and plays the main character based loosely on his own life, who is also called Ryan.

Show synopsis

Special, is a distinctive and uplifting new series about a gay man, Ryan with mild cerebral palsy who decides to rewrite his identity and finally go after the life he wants. After years of dead-end internships, working in his pajamas as a blogger and communicating mostly via text, Ryan eventually figured out how to take his life from bleak to chic and began limping towards adulthood. The offbeat comedy is based on series creator and star Ryan O’Connell’s memoir, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.” O’Connell also serves as executive producer alongside Jim Parsons.

Netflix on YouTube

In the show, Ryan plays a character who is a virgin.

In one of the episodes, his best friend suggests that he hire a sex worker to fix this problem. What happens in the episode is a best-case scenario representation of empathy, respect, and a love of humanity.

Watch the trailer below, and enjoy my take on what happens in the episode and why O’Connell’s message is so important. If you want to watch a show that questions the status quo, is refreshing, intelligent, funny, and shines a bright light directly on belonging versus fitting in, block off two hours and binge watch Special, now!

Resources

Header image courtesy Netflix.

One truth I know about gay men is that many of us don’t know how to be men.

How can we live out our most authentic gay selves when we are faced with challenges like toxic masculinity, which attempts to regulate the feminine in all men?

In our own community, we face toxic gay masculinity that’s manifest in gay men who identify as straight-acting (who, for example, advertise as “masc seeking same” on dating apps). Nor do we live in the world of a simple binary anymore. We have trans men and women, and people who choose to identify in their own, unique ways that challenge social norms and rigid gender constructs.

In the end, we are all just people.

True equality depends on every one of us accepting and embracing others as human beings. No one is less than any other person or in any way less deserving of equality.

We also talk about miracles and why I don’t use the word. Listen in to find out how I describe the “truth about miracles.”

For those of you who don’t know, I wear many hats – but they are all gay! I’ve been the editor of TheGayGuideNetwork.com for about a year now. GGN is described as, “Your gay guide to the good life shares high-vibe conversations about true LGBT personal empowerment. Canada’s #1 LGBT digital magazine, online since 2002.” GGN is run by my friend and colleague Shaun Proulx, whose show on SiriusXM Canada is now in its sixth season!

Enjoy this special edition of the Living OUT Podcast, originally aired on April 13, 2019, as the Shaun Proulx ShowSiriusXM Canada 167.

Resources

Following the taping. which was just before Easter, I promptly found chocolate Easter eggs and made Miss Ellie earrings for the show’s guest picture with the host, Shaun.

Were Religions Invented to Control Fear of the Other?

Witnessing what is happening in the world – how angry, defensive, and fearful people are of “the other” – I have to wonder, did any form of ego-based prejudice exist against another person’s sexual or romantic expression before religions existed?

Consider the latest news out of Texas:

“The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave its initial OK to a bill that civil rights advocates say would give state-licensed workers — including doctors, child care providers and counselors — a free pass to discriminate, especially against people in the LGBTQ community. Senate Bill 17, filed by state Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would bar state agencies that issue occupational licenses from penalizing workers who refuse to provide services based on “a sincerely held religious belief.”” (Source)

How is it possible for “a sincerely held religious belief” to be used as an acceptable form of discrimination? The answer is simple. There are far too many powerful egos in power pandering to far too many fearful egos who scream the loudest and also throw the largest amount of cash and support behind any politician who helps them get their way.

To create a framework in order to address the core question, “Were religions invented to control the ego”, and to show how most religions are dangerous for society, let’s define the various meanings for both ego and religion.

The “ego” defined:

  • A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
  • In psychoanalysis, the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. (Source)

Religion defined:

  • The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. (Source)

The above definition of religion is incorrect. Religion is not a “belief” in and of itself. Religion is a system of teaching and ideologies organized by an individual or a group of people. Each religion espouses a particular “belief” and type of worship. The more fundamentalist a particular religion, the more dogmatic the “…set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true” (Source). The more dogmatic a religion, the more that the role of ego plays into the rigid, binary-based belief systems like right versus wrong; man or woman; good versus evil; straight versus “the other”; religion versus science, and so on.

Hello Ego My Old Friend…

When we are relaxed and comfortable with who we are, we are open to new experiences and people, and understanding of different values and opinions. When we are tense, upset, fearful, or angry, the ego flares up to protect and deflect us from everything external.

A fragile ego seeks to control, to possess, and fight for its existence. The ego alone can take care of itself, but when a single ego needs to coexist in a group of people, a tribe, a society, how can everyone function without chaos or anarchy? I wonder if religions became the simplest solution to manage and provide rules for multiple egos vying for attention and control.

Religion Makes Spiritual Practice Easy – But not Necessarily Authentic

Practicing meditation as a method to understand the nature of consciousness and how to coexist with other beings on this planet requires grace, dedication, openness, and a willingness to bear witness to one’s one truth; to one’s own ego, however fragile, defensive, or well managed it may be.

The results of meditation are not immediate. It is a solo practice that takes time the acceptance that progress is subtle and qualitative. The ego-mind will do its best to play tricks, like telling you it’s fine to take a day off, or that you don’t need the practice anymore. Going within is private and personal practice. The ego will try and convince you that doing this alone is a lonely thing - ”Wouldn’t it be more fun to join a group and have someone else tell you what to do?”, says a soothing voice in your head.

Surely following a system, reciting chants and prayers, following rules that project an attainable outcome (salvation through dedication to the “one true path”) is so much easier for the monkey-mind to latch onto than trusting one’s own consciousness.

Religion Alleviates the Need for Patience and Tolerance.

Follow the rules, become born again, and you will be saved for eternity. “I’ve done my penance. Look at all those heathens suffering needlessly. I feel so sorry for them, knowing that I will be pitying them burning in the fires of damnation, while I am comfortable resting in heaven with the saved.”

“Look how good I am going to church and following the rules” – something I used to think when I was young and piously Catholic. But are you only mouthing the words, the hymns and the prayers, believing those “sacred words” will save you? Repetition of words without experiential knowing doesn’t lift the veil of ignorance or engender spiritual awareness.

Going into the darkness of your consciousness and being responsible and responsive to the inner light of your humanity and connection with the universe is what will truly “save you”. And by save, I mean, you will wake up within the limitless nature of your own consciousness, not someone else’s limited and dogmatic construct in the form of religion.

Religion supports tribalism and it’s human nature to band together for social security and safety. The ancient religions supported the base needs of human nature at a time when life was truly difficult and severe.

In this modern world, ancient religions show their weakness in the form of superstition, especially in light of what we know from science and the technologies we have created that alleviate the problems many religions attempted to once solve.

For tribalism to work, it needs a leader, thus the anthropomorphizing of the understanding and concept of “god” into a person. And every deity or god was given human characteristics, both good and bad. For example, Zeus was a power-hungry womanizer who would deceive, rape, and punish his own children (other gods) to get his way. The god of the Old Testament would punish, flood, and force people to sacrifice their own children to demonstrate their allegiance.

Believing in a Higher Power Represented as a Being Creates Ethical Quandaries

Those who believe in a god or gods as described above, or something similar, are creating fictions based on the problematic manifestations of their own unchecked egos. The belief in imaginary beings is a questionable moral jump to circumvent taking responsibility for one’s own actions, leading from a place based solely on mirroring humanity at its worst.

How often have you heard or read, “believe in god and you will be saved, healed, find love”, and so on? Today we have modern medicine, social systems, and dating apps. While the answers to all of our questions and problems, and “how to save the world”, will not be found in the religions of old, or the individual modern technologies and sciences, bearing witness to the nature of our individual consciousness on a mass scale will connect more of us that the internet ever has.

We Can Find Truth in Our Own Darkness

Today, we have the power and freedom to express ourselves, to learn more, to understand what once seemed mysterious, to revel in and laugh at our past ignorance. To deny what is obvious and right in front of us, that which can be easily proved (e.g. the earth is round; the earth was not created 5,000 years ago by an egotistical, maniacal god who placed dinosaur bones in the earth to trick humans) is not only sophistry, it’s a display of willful ignorance bordering on intellectual impediment.

We are no longer living in the dark ages of superstition. Holding onto ancient narratives of a vengeful god continues to feed the needs of weak egos to be right (power hungry; saved) and in control (tribalism; status quo). We don’t need god or a religion to be spiritual. We only need to look within ourselves to study the nature of consciousness and discover that we are all connected.

History has documented countless wars and crusades over millennia because of “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Translation: if you don’t believe my dogma, you’re dog meat.

Expand your consciousness – more about the ego:

Originally published on Th-Ink Queerly. Cover image: Dave MacFarlane

Living OUT Leadership Interview Series

Jeffry Iovannone

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.

In this episode, we discuss the multitude of issues that create the “problem” of the idealized, perfect gay male body, and the affects of masculinity, toxic masculinity, capitalism, sex, and diet culture for many gay men.

Snippets of insight from Jeff in this episode:

“A preference is never just a preference. It is always political. Replace the term preference with a politics of desirability. Who and what we desire is not individual, is not solely personal, is not neutral, but is shaped by the context in which we live and therefore it has political implications. It is enacting and reinforcing larger systems of power and oppression.”

“Research has shown that use of apps (like Grindr or Scruff) changes our neurobiology and predisposes us to objectify each other – particularly sexually objectify each other – and that has real-world consequences. The images and representations that people post online (shirtless selfies; workout selfies) are not merely representing reality, they’re actively constructing reality. They are teaching us to think about the world and other people in a particular way. They are creating what the norm is.”

“If we’re choosing our leadership or only representing perspectives of a select few, more often than not that select group is going to frame the issues and do the work in terms of what most relates to their experience and the way that they see the world. If we’re defining representation and leadership on the basis of physical appearance that limits our political efficacy as a community; our ability to create change within politics and society because we don’t have multiple perspectives to draw from and therefore we have fewer tools to create change.”

“When we’re talking about mainstream gay male culture and diet culture, they don’t just overlap or intersect, they are in fact one and the same.”

Enjoy this deep-dive conversation into one of the more complex, yet interesting challenges that affect not only gay men but also the future of LGBTQ activism.

Articles by Jeffry Iovannone:

Further reference

The Living OUT Survey

Your opinion matters! Would you take 5-10 minutes now to complete the survey below to help me choose what to create next, and how to improve the podcast? Your help is much appreciated!

 

Header image: torbakhopper

We Are Living in Troubled Times.

Many of us feel compelled to do something, to affect change, but we might feel powerless, disconnected, or unsure how a single person could change the world for the better.

I’ve been working on creating and describing the foundations of personal leadership for myself, and by extension other men who identify as gay. I’ve been working on this idea since February 2018, which eventually lead to the launch of the Living OUT Podcast in June of that year.

At the start of this year I came up with the idea of Living OUT Leadership. So many ideas came together and everything made sense, but while there was a large amount of material I could teach, a core idea was missing: spirituality. I define spirituality as our inner “knowing”, understanding who we are in a shared moral responsibility with all of humanity.

The Paths that Make Up the Way of Living OUT

Forgiveness

Accepting past transgressions as markers of who you are and letting go of your emotional attachment to the event.

Self-compassion

Accepting yourself as wholly complete and human without internal or external judgement. You are.

Empathy

Experiencing the truth of others in humanity to feel that we are all connected.

Witnessing

See the truth and fragility of one’s ego for its identification with external things, possession, and separation.

Life Purpose

What you feel compelled to do, out of all that you are, which is the joyful expression of your true nature.

Awareness

The state of being in which you recognize and honour the intersecting paths above, and assume personal responsibility to take part in evolutionary leadership: to connect humanity.


References

Discover the Benefits of Becoming a Living OUT Member.

Imagineer credit: sheldon0531

How is it possible for “a sincerely held religious belief” to be used as an acceptable form of discrimination?

The answer is simple. There are far too many powerful egos in power pandering to far too many fearful egos who scream the loudest and also throw the largest amount of cash and support behind any politician who helps them get their way.

Last week LGBTQ lives and rights were yet again put into question:

The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave its initial OK to a bill that civil rights advocates say would give state-licensed workers — including doctors, child care providers and counselors — a free pass to discriminate, especially against people in the LGBTQ community. Senate Bill 17, filed by state Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would bar state agencies that issue occupational licenses from penalizing workers who refuse to provide services based on “a sincerely held religious belief.”

Source

In today’s episode I talk about,

  • The value of meditation versus religious practice;
  • How religion makes spiritual practice easy but not necessarily authentic;
  • How some religions alleviate the need for patience and tolerance;
  • Why god is personal, not a person, and;
  • Why believing in a higher power represented as a being creates ethical quandaries.

Read the complete post on my publication, Th-Ink Queerly

“Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs” — A Specious Defence of Prejudice

Header image: yumikrum

There is no in-between. Life is ephemeral. Everything is temporary. We only have this moment now, so if you are not consciously doing something that serves you or makes you happy, how does waiting serve you?

When challenging things happen – and they will – ask yourself, “What’s the opportunity here?”

Rich Litvin

A Coaching Client Story.

One of my clients felt like it was wrong to have a goal around money. I asked, “What’s wrong with money for you?” He said, “I judge money for not being there.” He felt that he was showing up more in the world and trying to be fully engaged, but he still wasn’t making any more money.

He was anthropomorphizing money, giving it too much power over him. I asked how he could reframe his current perspective in an attempt to see money as a balancing out of energies. The more value you offer without expectation, the more people want to give you another form of value (in this case, money) in return.

We dug a bit deeper into his “money narrative” and he told me, “For anything that’s coming, I’m fighting it. I chose to not work even though it felt like I should have been working.”

This is when I suggested that everything is temporary and I asked him, “How does waiting serve you?”

We Wait Or We Create!

Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity or your next big break, ask yourself, “If I could no longer be an X, what would I do?” What are your skills, talents, and training/education that you could use that are related to what you most want to do? That’s the opportunity at this moment. Instead of waiting, you create.

What Are You Waiting For?

Waiting is a recipe for disappointment based on expectations. Waiting is also something you cannot control, namely, you cannot control the outcome. Desire paired with action is a creative activity and the fullest outward expression of your uniqueness. Even when you take action, you still can’t control the outcome, but you can control what you do which creates the potential for what you want.

Header image: Robin Jaffray