MenToo, not MeToo

In my last post, I wrote a bit about the hashtag #MeToo, in which many women, as survivors of sexual harassment, have bound together to claim unity. Even as I was writing that piece, I recognized that it is not a problem limited by gender, and that many men have experienced sexual harassment as well. Many experienced it as children; many have known it in the workplace as adults. It is a problem of power in our culture. Yet right from the beginning I felt uncomfortable with men joining in with #MeToo.

That is not to say that men aren’t harassed or abused sexually. In gay and straight contexts, many men have also been victims. But it is different, and the experience of binding together through social media is also different. Skylar Baker-Jordan describes this very well in an article in The Independent. We have our own issues, and our own difficulties. And we can’t understand what it’s like for women. I think it’s very important that we talk about our own experiences of sexual harassment: in many ways I think it’s harder for us than for women, precisely because of the implied power differences. We need to support women in this longstanding issue, not eclipse them.

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I Believe You

It started a couple of days ago. Women friends on Facebook and Twitter started posting “Me Too” as status updates and describing sexual harassment they have experienced. I was surprised… even shocked… not only by the stories that they related, and the number of my own friends who joined the movement.. but by my reaction. I had always thought of myself as one of the least misogynist men around. Yet my first response was disbelief. Not disbelief as in: “My gosh, I can’t believe so many women have been harassed around me and I had no idea”. That would have been okay. My disbelief more reflected: “Oh, come on. Was it really that serious?”

This attitude is common among men. And it’s an embarrassment. It is hard even to write these words. My friends shouldn’t have to tell their stories, reliving the offences, to convince me that this kind of threat and overarching violence is common in our culture. Yet my base reaction is typical of my gender and my time: the women are overreacting, they’re oversensitive. It’s what our masculine dominated society has taught me for decades, and I’ve blindly accepted it. But I hear the stories that have resulted, spread over time and space, and I’m disgusted.

So I was glad when I heard about the “I Believe You” response. Too many times women feel that their statements will not be accepted regarding harassment, and that any effort to communicate an event will come back to haunt them. I wish I could think of something to do that was a little more concrete, but this is a beginning. For too long we’ve erred on the side of protecting those who have perpetrated these crimes. But as men we need to have the discussion, we need to talk about what we’ve done. I may not have actually harassed anyone in my life intentionally, but I have quietly stood by while misogynist or male-dominant comments were made by friends and colleagues. I’ve added to the culture that has produced the harassment. I took the easy way out, and that made it harder for others.

C’mon guys. We have to change things. Not just in our culture, but in ourselves.

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Cuff Links

Yesterday I wrapped up my latest position with the Ontario government. For the last year I’ve been a Research Analyst with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. It was not the easiest of years. The work was interesting, the men and women I worked with were great. But at the same time I was dealing with some physical issues of getting older, and other concerns that had been haunting me for fifteen years. Several of the team helped me in that process, even if all they did was listen to my struggles. But I learned to trust them. We were also very busy. All of our lives were very full. And that struck at exactly the insecurities I was dealing with. Ssometimes I wondered if I’d be remembered for anything more than my intensity after I was gone.

It was coming up to the end of the last day. Virtually the entire team was working off-site. It had been very quiet: which gave me time to finish up a few things. I have to admit I was a bit sad; so I had arranged for drinks at a nearby pub with another friend to get me over the after-work hump. As I was leaving, the few people who were in the office gathered around: and they presented me with a token of their appreciation. I was a little taken aback by the simplicity and yet the degree to which it encompassed who I had portrayed over the past year.

Cuff links. A simple enough gift. Click on the image above for a better view on my Flickr site. But these are, more than any other, cuff links for me. The faces are simple, made from maps: very much reflective of my operations in geography. And the maps represented on the two cuffs are the two places I call home, Toronto (Ontario) and Little Rock (Arkansas). The place where I was born and grew up, and the place where I came out and discovered who I am. They are two very different locations: and they are indicative of two very different parts of my being. I talk about them both a lot, trying to reconcile perspectives. Sometimes that results in tension. I am glad that over the last year my colleagues and friends came to recognize that,and to respect it.

Posted in Communication, geography, Living in Canada, Personal, Popular Culture, Professional, queer issues | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Beyond Analytics

I’m changing jobs. Things are in a bit of limbo right now. My current position was cut back only a few weeks ago, and I’ve had to compensate. This is not awful; I still have a job and secure income, I’m just rolling back to my original position. I have some efforts out there for some new opportunities; hopefully I’ll be reporting back when they are successful. In the words of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: all the lower level needs are still covered. There’s no worry about income or home or safety or anything like that. But the upper level needs are being challenged. I’m leaving friends and a job where I was fairly successful. I know that this is just another phase in my personal growth: but that doesn’t make it any easier.

As I finish my last week in the Analytics Unit, I can’t help but reflect on some of how things have changed over this last year. I’ve made new friends, and developed new skills. I’ve had shifts with my family; my mom died a year ago and Tim had to find a new job. We’ve mourned and grown. And I decided it was time to deal with some of the relationships that have haunted me from my past. As I worked to rediscover friends from decades ago, I realize now that I stopped blogging. I took a bit of a hiatus. I’ve still been writing; I’m hoping those stories will form the foundation of a book to be published. It will be the story of how my queer perspective, my sexuality, has been so important in my spirituality, even within the conservative church.

I plan to return to this blog in the coming weeks. As one who is actively involved in the traditions of spirituality, I can’t help but see that this is a very important time in history. Here in Canada we watch as Donald Trump attacks human rights; at the same time international tensions skyrocket for a hundred other reasons. We recognize multiculturalism, yet we don’t understand other cultures. We talk across the divide, yet we’re determined to maintain separation. We refuse to understand others’ viewpoints. I hope that through my writing I can help others bridge some of those divides.

Posted in Beyond Materialism, Communication, geography, Living in Canada, Personal, queer issues | Leave a comment

The Chrysalids

I’m one of those people who has lots of books. One of my most significant costs when I moved from Arkansas to Canada was that of moving those tomes. Many remain packed still, but I know where they are. A few have special places on my shelves, even if I don’t remember them very well. This summer, as I reconnected with many aspects of my past, I was intent on rediscovering a few of those. One was John Wyndam’s “The Chrysalids”.

First published in 1955, my copy is fairly battered and might even be the one I read in grade 13. But even after 60 years, the book is hauntingly applicable today. In many ways I found it spoke more to me now than when I first read it in high school. It is an early post-apocalyptic novel, suited for the culture of the 60s before we had become bored by the prospect of nuclear war. The story follows several young people through the difficulties of living in a world where generic mutations are rooted out and generational “purity” is maintained at any cost.

This was my first re-reading since I came out at the end of the last century; and I was struck by how often I’ve heard the same kinds of arguments about “purity” in debates against being gay. There were several times I was taken aback by how much I could relate to the characters: how I know the feeling of being different, and feeling threatened because of it. Living when he did, I don’t think Wyndam had any idea that being gay would forge a connection so strongly with the book: but I don’t think he would be surprised, either. One of the biggest points for the novel is the necessity that human culture must grow: to change, to evolve and adapt. Even if the direction of that adaptation is unexpected.

In many ways our culture is at a cross-roads, and we need to explore and redefine our institutions. We’ve known this for decades, yet we keep hurtling forward because we’re too afraid to be honest with ourselves, too narcissistic to care for and support one another. The result is that we’re increasingly separated and isolated. We value diversity, yet we’re scared to embrace it. The result might not be a nuclear war of the extent Wyndam theorized in the book, but it will keep us from discovering what lies ahead. Unless we make those fundamental changes, we will get trapped in a future that is simply an extension of today, rather than the bright world we dream of.

Posted in Books2017, Personal, queer issues, Spiritual Growth | Leave a comment

Executive Beaches

I have to admit: when I first heard this report, I thought it was fake. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, has been under some flack today for closing state beaches in to the public and then enjoying one of those previously public locations in a personal celebration for his family and friends. I thought there must be some extenuating circumstances: so I checked it on Snopes, and discovered that no, he’s just as much of a jerk as he appears.

In my mind, this illustrates just how distant our leaders have grown from the general public. Mr. Christie obviously does not consider himself to be be one of the public masses; to him, he enjoys a perk that he does not need to abide by legislation that he has enacted. He and his family and friends are above all that. That kind of pure arrogance makes me wonder.

After all, there are no lifeguards; there’s no-one to clean up their mess on the beach; those are all considered non-essential services that Christie shut down. It is true that one of his stately residencies is located on the grounds: but to use facilities that he has denied to others is unethical. Using the house wasn’t wrong; but using the beach just flaunts his arrogance. And, honestly, his stupidity. What does he think lifeguards are for? Or did he bring his own, just in case of an emergency?

Can you imagine the the conversation of his kids, who invited their friends to visit for the weekend?

Hey dude, you wanna come to our beach house this weekend?”

Nah, your dad closed all the public beaches.”

No, he closed them for everyone else. Not for us. We can go and have the beach all to ourselves.”

Cool. Your dad’s an ass, but I’ll go along to get my own beach!”

And not only did Christie enjoy the facilities that he had closed to everyone else, he lied a about it (Independent, July 3 2017) and then he had the audacity to try to defend it. His spokesman said, “people shouldn’t have been surprised by the pictures… Christie was headed to the beach house Saturday night.” (USA Today, 2017). To which I can only wonder: how many people said they were “heading” to the park that night, yet were blocked by police? Being governor might give Christie some privileges, but it should not give him special access to state services.

Christie might believe that he is above the public, but he is not above their opinion.

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Wake Up Day 2017

Spring rolls around each year with the return of wonderful weather and longer days. This has been a tumultuous year; for those who don’t know, my mom succumbed to Alzheimer’s last September, and inside two months afterwards I had a new job, working with a new team in a new location. I’m quite enjoying it, though it has been filled with challenges I did not expect, in many different ways. All the more reason to celebrate Wake Up Day this year, and to remember that the life and loves we have in this world can be fragile and transitory.

For those not familiar with the story behind Wake Up Day: it began with a car accident in 2001, which left me in a coma for six and a half weeks (the full story). Full recovery took a several years, during which I was fully supported by the friends and communities around me in Arkansas. Wake Up Day started as a thank you for them; since I moved to Toronto it has evolved into an appreciation of life, health and friends. The event gives me a chance every year to reconnect with people from my past. There are pictures from previous years on my Flickr page; in particular the ones from last year.

Here in Toronto, every year we grill pizza and provide beer and wine. All are welcome. If you want to bring anything else, you’re quite welcome to: but nothing else is necessary. This is not a potluck, though you are welcome to add to dinner as you wish. All we ask is that you RSVP, so that we can be sure we have enough food. This year I’ve created an Evite Invitation to allow for RSVPs, as well as a Facebook event page: or you can just send me a note direct my email. Spouses and children are quite welcome, just let us know how many you will be bringing. With an RSVP we can also let you know of any last-minute changes to the evening.

Date: Saturday May 27, 2017, 6:00pm
Location: 21 Potsdam Road, Toronto: Townhouse 51 (the location in Google is approximate)

See y’all soon!

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