Don’t Wait ‘This’ Long…

I’m sitting in the airport in Austin, Texas. Awaiting a flight.

It’s more than just a flight – I’ve flown many times. Always to destinations like Detroit, Phoenix or Seattle. Those are all nice places. I’m happy every time we start our approach to SFO and I’m very familiar with the terminals there. Rob and I frequent California to visit friends and family.

Also, the benefit of being asked to attend many conferences, I get to see much of the country and am always happy to arrive (and depart), even when the destination doesn’t sound, at least initially, particularly exciting. Omaha, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, etc.

Why this flight is different is because we are flying to a far away destination (Amsterdam). There’s no host on the other end to usher me to a hotel in preparation for a presentation, there’s no conference to attend, or work site expecting Rob to come in and do his thing, there’s no family who we adore and anticipate spending time with – this trip is for – us.

So much of my time is spent in the company of others, and I sincerely enjoy it. As a hyper extrovert, I get energized by exchanging spiritual energy with those I meet. Shared experiences and laughter is the highlight of my life.

But there is a primary relationship that has at many times been overlooked in that hustle and bustle of daily living and trips associated with a destination with a demand – and that’s my husband, Rob.

This trip is way overdue. Together 28 years and we have never taken a trip, just the two of us, that didn’t have a purpose or labor associated with it. This time we will be laughing together, and exploring parts of the world and culture neither of us has visited, and taking time to restore and renew our commitment that is so important to us. To each other.

Thank you all for all your support and understanding. I’m missing several important events during my absence, but truth is there is ‘never’ a ‘good’ time for me to leave my life. But, that’s what this vacation represents for me. A break from my own life. It took over 50 years to do this. Don’t ever wait that long.

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I don’t think you’re gay.

This year Facebook rolled out the little flag-icon as an option to comment on others posts, pictures and the like. I was so happy to see this during traditional pride month, June as a way of acknowledging a month of reflection on the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

What on earth could be controversial about that?

Well. Quite a bit it would seem. For those who don’t have guidelines on how it’s used or what it means in the Facebook context it seems it has the possibility to be mean all sorts of things. Let’s run through some.

  1. It does not mean I think you’re cute and want to “F” you.
  2. It doesn’t mean I think what is portrayed in this commentary or photo is particularly garish, fabulous or faggish.
  3. It’s not meant in any way to intentionally inflict distress on you or make your friends laugh at you
  4. I’m not questioning your ‘masculinity’ or whatever that means as masculinity is a continuum of broad types. I myself am masculine. Just in a feminine way.
  5. It does mean I am disrespecting your different views or that you choose not to celebrate or recognize the civil rights movement of the LGBTQ Community.
  6. Lastly, it does not mean I think you’re gay.

These are important points to note. But, what this experience brought up for me was that “Wow”. Really?

We have come such a long way for those of us as part of this movement for a long time. It also demonstrates that we have such a long way to go. The idea that your friends would judge you for this little flag and that make a presumption that you must be gay because it shows up on your timeline says a lot about the folks you may be choosing to surround yourself with.

If they make fun of you and call you names – I’ll admit – that must be terrible. I guess I would have no idea what that’s like.

The idea that they would question your masculinity or demean you in any way because your timeline looks different than theirs, and your timeline doesn’t conform to what they think a timeline should look like or how you should act. That too must be heartbreaking and you must feel a little less than. I wouldn’t know.

Here’s a suggestion. Before you accuse people of what you interpret or believe their intentions to be, why don’t you ask them? “What did you mean when you placed the little rainbow flag on my post?” Give a person an opportunity to say that for some people who celebrate pride is synonymous for happy. And, seeing this post or picture made me happy. Or that you look happy. Or, I wanted to spread happiness.

Then, you’re free to say “how could you?!”

In short, because I am sure I could write substantially more on this – it doesn’t mean that I think you’re gay. And, heaven forbid that folks have a presumption about this terrible conclusion about you. Because – well – that would be just about the worst.

My, how much farther we need to go to continue educating folks within and without the community about symbols, what they mean, the power of self identification and not putting labels on each other. I respect that you’re straight. I respect that you don’t view the rainbow flag the same way I do. I always want to be respectful as my intention is not to inflict harm on another person. I’ve done too much inadvertently in this lifetime. My plan is to not to intentionally do more as I likely have exceeded my lifetime allowance.

Thus, I’ll apologize. Sincerely. I would never want to cause you distress. I’ll remove the flag. And, to make extra sure that I don’t inadvertently harm you again, I’ll likely remove you as a friend on Facebook. It’s not meant as retaliatory measure. I’m not trying to smite you for being different from me. I’m not hurt that you brought it up if it was bothering you. But with the limited amount of time that I (and all of us really) have on earth, I’m choosing to surround myself with folks with people who don’t get pushed out of shape, or misinterpret so quickly what was intended to be an act of kindness in acknowledging your happy post or picture.

So if you see me on the street, don’t presume, make quick judgements, pass over broad interpretations to my actions.  Just ask, and I’ll be happy to tell you – without harshness, without vile and in the kindest way I know how – – I am unfriending you because I wouldn’t want my gay timeline or inadvertent use of a symbol to offend you. Really.

Or you can just conclude it’s because I thought you were gay. And, you’re not. That may bring you comfort somehow.

 

1st Semester. Done.

I’m certain what I learned in class might equal what I learned overall this semester about myself, who I think I am, or who I thought I was. There were several highlights of my very first semester in college this year that helped highlight how far I’ve come, how far I have to go, and how little time each of us actually has.

How did I get to this age? It seems like not that long ago I was the age on earth as many of the young people I was surrounded on that first day of class at Austin Community College Riverside.  Professor Alvarado was asking us to introduce ourselves and being, likely, the oldest student in the class I felt awkward.

Awkward in class is not an unusual feeling for me. Contrarily, it’s the norm. However with over three decades since I’d had the last experience – I’d forgotten. Until, it all came back of course.

Introduction to Social Work cemented what I’ve known about myself for many years now. That quite frequently my desire to help others and be of service to my fellow man has been a passion. Parallel to that I’ve been on a path of self-discovery that is showing me that at times it’s been all consuming, sometimes even to my own detriment and has evolved into an element of my personality that has at times left me bitter and resentful.

At no one in particular. And, at everyone.

The idea of being a resource for others, a shoulder to cry on, a sharer of my own experiences, an assistant to help others see how they might be able to get from here to there is certainly a noble cause – but at times has been an ego-feeding one too. I like being the answer guy. I like being the one folks can sometimes point to and say “ask him, he knows everything”.

It is the nature of most of us to be liked by others. Those who say they don’t care, are likely lying.

But for some of us, it’s an all consuming proposition, for which we convince ourselves that our very lives depend on. I once found myself sharing in a conversation, sleep with my husband, drain my bank account, kick my dog, but don’t tell me you don’t like me, because I don’t know what to do with that.

Thankfully, that was a long time ago. I’ve come farther than that now and am thoroughly convinced that some people will never like you. No matter what you do. Or, what you won’t do. Knowing that though, rather than been disheartening, has offered a new kind of freedom. There is no ‘real’ reason to kill yourself in an attempt to get others to like you because either they will – or they won’t. It frequently won’t be dictated by how much you do for them, care for them, respond to their requests or demands – but simply because they are caring people or they are not inclined to care.

I say this without any trace of cynicism. Really.

During one of our assignments we had to conduct a counseling session with a fellow student. It had to be unscripted and we were videotaped. One day in class was dedicated to reviewing these recordings of one another and we were asked to critique our peers for their performance as it relates to what we were learning in our academic studies about the approaches of social work and how to conduct an assessment/session.

Since it’s Intro to Social Work, I had no high expectations of myself or of others. Most of my contemporaries in class are straight out of high school. Many of their attempts at a counseling session were of the level you might find in a discussion you’d have after class walking to your next class.

On that day we were reviewing, the Professor said she wanted to jump forward to another session for illustration and wanted to end the class on a different note. Suddenly my session was on the large screen for us all to review. She started the video and we watched me welcome the student and sit down and have a discussion about an eco map and what that entailed and how’d we approach the process. The video paused. The professor asked for a critique. She asked for folks to not hold back and give an honest assessment. I began to shrink in my chair. Not because I felt I had not done a good job. But, surprisingly, precisely because I’d felt I’d done a good job. Why would someone shrink in their chair for thinking they’d done a good job? That made no sense. I felt sick to my stomach.

The professor’s request for feedback was met with silence, as we sat there in the large auditorium, that had reduced lighting to make the videos easier to see. I sat in the back and when I had the courage to look up and glance around, I saw no hands raised. And she said ‘precisely. you cant’t find anything wrong here. This is text book. This is how it should be done’. People’s hands began to raise and they offered different accolades on how I conducted the session. And, with each successive compliment, rather than feel better or more reassured – I sank lower.

When I was in high school many years ago, I had one goal. Be – – – – – invisible.

Drawing attention to oneself was bad.  Because people made fun of the way I walked and talked and frequently called me “faggot” or pushed me around, I felt safest when I wasn’t being noticed at all.

Answering questions in class, or raising ones hand because you could solve the problem or just participating in class with any level of enthusiasm garnered “attention”. So, I learned to be quiet. Do not participate. Do not be smart. But, do not be stupid. Just be “invisible”.

When I took my transcript from High School to the college I hadn’t recalled how poor a student I was. I knew I wasn’t an “A” student. I wasn’t sure that I was an “F” student either though. It’d had been so long I genuinely couldn’t recall. I was astounded to see C, after C, after C. Middle of the road. Not too smart. Not too stupid. Invisible.

It was in this moment in Professor Alvarado’s Introduction to Social Work class that I discovered, I wasn’t a bad student, and I wasn’t a stupid student. I was an invisible student. I became very emotional following class. I sat in my car afterwards a little shaken. Not unlike I was on many days all those years ago following being thrown into a locker or put in a trash can. This time though, I was shaken with an overwhelming sense of COMPASSION. I felt more compassion in that moment that I’d felt for any of the scores of people I’ve tried to help over the many years of my life being a layman social worker. I felt compassion for myself, or for that 16 year old awkward kid at Del Camp High School, with acne on his face, who knew little about hygiene or how to talk to people. The one that rarely laughed, and walked fast everywhere because it was harder to hit a moving target.

The most important element to be a successful social worker is empathy. The idea to be able to put yourself in another’s situation and find a way to convey hope, and the promise of a potential solution, without judgement.

In that moment in my first semester of college – I knew. I’m going to make a kick ass social worker.

 

The Fear of Being Worn Down

It hasn’t been 14 days since the inauguration of President Trump, and I must say, it’s far worse than I had anticipated. I say anticipated, rather than I feared, because I made a decision, the morning I woke up following election night that I wasn’t going to take a “Chicken Little” approach to the news.

I had voted, I had contributed in manpower and money for the other candidate, and my side lost. I can be a good loser. I believe in democracy, and although I now seriously question the validity of the Electoral College, currently it is the law of the land, and each side was working with the same set of rules. Thus, I’m willing to concede to the minority of the country that voted for Mr. (and now President) Trump.

So that long period between election night and inauguration, there was a flood of comments coming from the President Elect which did little to reduce my concerns. Perhaps – tomorrow he’ll be more presidential – I thought.

But it never came. After 8 years of having a highly diplomatic, intelligent and a President who was an excellent communicator, I was beginning to see that the new selection was going to be not just a departure from the previous administration, but quite possibly a complete 180 degree polar opposite.

I’ve been on the losing side of an election before. My candidate isn’t victorious and we deal with the disappointment and we move on. Yes, I’ll take the opportunities when they come up to point out the shortcomings of the winning candidate. It’s my right as an American and the society we live in that “I can”. I don’t take it for granted. It’s a solemn responsibility. Speaking of the other side in less than flattering terms is something that both sides do. Sometimes it’s vitriolic and that’s always unfortunate. I think, I hope – that everyone would like to love their President of a country that we cherish.

That’s my hope anyway.

But, not only did our new President not make the transformation into (traditional) presidential, he has set out to upend completely the definition. I can’t say in a positive way. The stream of actions and language coming from the Whitehouse is nothing short of shocking to me. I won’t list all of the questionable comments here, we know what they are – and in all seriousness, without hyperbole, there are seriously are just too many to list.

But, what I’ve been seeing already, in just 12 days is that some of my friends are shutting down. The constant firehose stream of statements, directives in word and actions which could be characterized as unkind, but also questionably legal – have left have the country in shell-shock.

And, what I mean by “shutting down” is becoming so overwhelmed by the news and all the updates that we are becoming desensitized to all of it. My phone alone sounds like a slot machine all day. I’ve had to turn off the audible reminders for breaking news, because quite literally some days there has been been breaking news throughout each hour of the day.

To that degree, I too am part of the worn-down phenomena which i see occurring. Information Fatigue is setting in. Where folks are becoming desensitized to the outrageousness of this administration. It’s an assault on our sensibilities. Each progressive statement and action more offensive and disgusting than the next. I can use that word – disgusting. Because when I speak about an assault on our sensibilities it is precisely that. The parallel that some of my more conservative friends might want to insert at this juncture by saying “well, now you know how we felt for the last 8 years”. It is with complete restraint I must bite my tongue from issuing a string of expletives followed by the word “you”.

While our previous Presidents, all of them, Republican and Democratic have been flawed, and many have exhibited stands on matters that differed from my own – not one of them, not one, left me feeling as though they were completely disinterested in a majority of the country. Nor disinterested in our countrymen’s values or feelings, or civility or even at times, decency. No. You won’t be able to find an example. Because while many of them held positions I found objectionable, I never found their worth as a decent, caring, loving human being without merit.

That all being said, I’m more concerned in this writing about the fatigue setting in among my friends. Those who are turning off or backing away from social media. While limiting one’s exposure to news sources to to keep from going mad might be a good strategy, we could become overwrought with bombardment on so many human rights and human decency fronts – becoming non-reactive creates a worse environment.

A worse environment would be where we become so desensitized that we simply have an internal conversation that goes something akin to “let him do whatever he wants, because I’ve become powerless to do anything anyway and nothing surprises me anymore”

I don’t know where this journey will take us. There’s everything being spouted from successions, impeachments, lawsuits to civil war. I hope for none of these things. But, what I do hope is that we take up voices over arms. Action over apathy. Empathy over indifference. Ultimately, we must take back the house and the senate in just less than 2 years. That would be a herculean feat but a necessary one. Someone must stand in this man’s way or our way of life as we know it is imperil. And, I mean this in all sincerity.

Introspection

Definition: observation or examination of one’s own mental and emotional state,mental processes, etc.; the act of looking within oneself.

Periodically we are reminded that we need to take a closer look. This is true even if we think we’re on a path of improvement. We have a conversation with someone, or make a needed but sometimes dreaded amends, and the result is another opportunity to pause – and do a self-check.

Self checks are rarely fun, but frequently necessary. It’s not as a friend recently admonished/reminded me about wagging a finger at one’s self, although sometimes admittedly, that’s warranted. It’s more about taking an opportunity to see how my faults have been a drawback or drag on an otherwise helpful demeanor. Causing harms is not something anyone ever aspires for, but we sometimes create harms nonetheless. The important thing is to not continue to do that. It’s important to remember that each of us has the power to change, alter course, correct our trajectory and fly right.

Regretting the past or wishing to shut the door on it, is the emotional equivalent of the proverbial ostrich routine of the head in sand. It serves no purpose, it is not taking stock that I need to do to really see how to set about a path of improvement and thus not repeating past mistakes. I encourage each of us to take advantage of the opportunity for introspection whenever it avails itself. Attend a meditation, look at one’s self, but also have that very important conversations with the those who could help guide you to improve your condition, outlook, line of thought and ultimately action.

I hope you find it within yourself, to have the courage to really look. Sure, it’s sometimes not a pretty sight. But, only through examination and acknowledgement can we change. Change = good.

 

A Byproduct of This Election Cycle

I have always fancied myself an Independent…

I used to be a Republican. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. (1984 – Detroit). I always liked to think of myself as a very liberal Republican. Conservative on finances and military/security and liberal on social issues.

Oh these many years later, I’m now a Democrat. A fiscally conservative, socially liberal Democrat.

But, I’ve taken great pride to actually read the ballot in advance of entering the booth. My Mother, Esther – the most staunch Democrat in this hemisphere taught me that. Read the ballot initiatives. If you don’t understand something about them, ask questions or do the research. We’d sit at the dining room table into my adult years and go through the measures. We sometimes agreed whole heartedly and cheer that we were in concurrence. Then sometimes we’d debate, until one of us gave in to the other (there were those times when we agreed to disagreed – I am my Mother’s son after all, but more frequently we came to one mind on matters political) and then we’d move on to the next.

Now that we live states apart, we have drifted from going over our ballot initiatives. The things that matter most in Texas aren’t always the same in California. But it was delightful to just get off the phone with her a moment ago. I could listen to her for hours rant about those “Damn Republicans”. In her advanced age, I wonder if she thinks the party name has actually been changed to “Damn Republicans” because she doesn’t seem to be able to refer to them without adding that prefix.

So goes this election cycle.

Being a ballot reader, in advance of the booth – I also have had an independent streak. I don’t always vote Democrat down the line. I take the time to learn about each candidate, even the minor party ones. I am certainly not adverse to voting for a Damn Republican, er – or just Republican. Certainly there are good ones! I know this to be true. Mostly I’m interested in the individual. The one I get a sense really does want what is best for the country, State, District, Precinct, Parrish, whatever.

This cycle though, has created a jaded view of the process that I hadn’t anticipated. And, perhaps it is another by product of this election that some of us might not have seen. The death of the Independent-streak in some of us who are happy to cross party lines for the right candidate.

I have to say, with all the vitriol that we’ve seen coming from both sides, it’s been a challenge to not be dissatisfied with it all. But in the end, the litmus test I applied is which candidate seems to have a genuine concern for the country. I don’t believe this to be Trump. At all. No.

Just looking at their history one has dedicated her entire life to the assistance of others in a very direct way, the other only in an indirect way and mostly from a non altruistic perspective. You can argue this I know. The point isn’t to make you wrong, and me right – I’m merely discussing how I came to my own conclusion.

But in these pronouncements and conversations during this cycle, the idea that Mr. Trump would pander to the lowest base of human fears and bigotry, the idea that he would intentionally seek to appoint a judge that would revoke Rob’s and my marriage is an affront to human rights and liberty. You can argue of course, that – that would never happen. But, the suggestion of it, is no less offensive. And, what change that has evoked this election, different from all the others is that it’s caused me (and some others I know) to go “All In”.

I’ve not taken the time to seek out the differences in some of the down ticket candidates. I made my mind up before entering the booth that I was voting straight ticket down ALL THE WAY. (I couldn’t actually hit “straight ticket” because some of our elections, like city council are non-partisan and I wanted to see http://www.jimmyflannigan.com/vote our friend Jimmy Flannigan elected, he’s a tremendous friend to our community. But nevertheless, I merely went down the ballot, check, check, check, Democrat, Democrat, Democrat.

That had never happened before. And, it left me feeling somewhat robbed of the overall political participation experience. Now. I know I wasn’t ‘robbed’ in the truest sense – I could have continued my tradition to be an informed voter and make selections the way I “usually” have. But there is nothing “usual” about this election. And, drastic commentary and flagrant disregard for human rights has required an equally drastic approach.

For my part, I’m sorry to all the qualified Republican, Libertarian, Green-party or otherwise candidates that would make good elected officials. I think perhaps you ‘were’ robbed during this cycle. My hope is that somehow, no matter how this turns out, we can restore whatever, if anything might be left of civility in our society and not seek to obstruct or otherwise derail progress or productivity. It appears that has been horrible for the country and all of us. I hope my hope isn’t too hopeful.

Prayer. What’s the Use?

“I’ll Pray for You”

I had a friend whose an atheist post online regarding prayer. I am a person of action, so while I’m not the type of person who wouldn’t pitch in to help a neighbor, I certainly am the type that would also add that I’m praying.

Prayer, for me is also an action. I suppose to some it might appear to be a meaningless exercise in futility. But, for me there is no more sincere form of expression of my deep caring for your situation or circumstances.

I’m seeking to understand here. Can someone explain to me why people feel the need to pray about things getting better? A little girl is missing near my home town and this is the headline article. How does praying help find this little girl?

It has always bothered me when people say “I’ll pray for you” because it’s a cheap way for them to pretend to have sympathy without actually doing anything to help. Call me a jaded atheist but I’m seeking to understand here.

I get praying may be calming or a form of support but when it’s framed like you’re prayers are going to bring a missing little girl home, I don’t see how you’re helping. Praying does nothing. Get out and form a search party. Go door to door asking people noticing anything strange. Make food for the family so they can focus on the search. Raise money to support the search. But don’t pray about it and pat yourself on the back for doing nothing.

When I indicate I’ll pray for you, I’m calling on a God, personal to me, the energy of the universe to bring about a resolution. Calling on the power of all that is good in the world, in the universe, and in humanity itself is a powerful expression of my concern, care and love for you.

From the days when I was agnostic, a simple “I’m sorry” and walking away -seems by comparison now, so heartless and non-compassionate. When you are hurting, it may not seem like a strong enough gesture. I get it. But what would be? Certainly for circumstances like these, if I searched 24 hours a day until the end of days, and your daughter wasn’t returned – that too would not be enough.

Because of my faith and believing strongly in the power of prayer, I’m committing my energy to bring comfort to you in this time of need. Sometimes through action, sometimes through deed, or just my presence to remind you that in the most difficult times you’re not alone. But, regrettably I’m a human power. My abilities are finite. I’ve accepted that about myself. But, because I conversely think God’s power is infinite, I have hope that your situation will resolve in a way where hope is preserved. I don’t know how that will look. None of us does. But I hope it looks in a way that has you reunited with ones you love. That allows you to live out the remainder of your days with some semblance of happiness and joy.

People often remark about the text messages I send them (I send – a LOT). That comes from God tapping me on the shoulder throughout the day to remind folks that someone is thinking about them this very minute. That they are thought of. That they are loved. That too is an extremely small gesture. I get that. Again, my power is finite. Some people are even not happy with the gesture and tell me to stop, or even F’off. That’s ok too. I wasn’t doing it to remain in your good graces. I was doing it because everyone needs to  be reminded at random times throughout that their life that their world is much bigger than they think – that the impact that they have on others is much more profound that they thought – and that their presence in the lives of others is much more important than they realize.

I’ve been asked what “app” is that – that I’m using to insert a persons name into the text I’m sending them. I always laugh at that. “No. That’s me. Reminding you – that you are thought of, and loved”. It’s often met with a blank stare of disbelief. The worst thing you can say to me in these instances is that I’m being insincere. Alright. That may be your perspective but it saddens me that you have been so hurt, jaded or mistreated that you could be incapable of believing in the kindness of others, the goodness of humanity and that I just wanted to say “hello”.

If we ever evolve as a species where we all think like that – then hope really is lost. In the meantime I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray you get everything you ever wanted, or the acceptance to be alright if  you don’t. Those really are the only two choices.

Zorra. Someone loves the new black mulch. Side note. Our couch now looks darker than her face

Post Gay, Post Apathy

I once wrote sometime ago about the topic of Post Gay. It was this concept back in the late 90s and early 2000’s regarding an apathy-like state where folks were expressing ‘fatigue’, for lack of a better descriptor, about the state of affairs as it relates to activism for LGBT causes.

There was a section of our community that was giving a shrug at the idea that activism was even necessary. Many had gone on from their teens, and 20’s into their thirties, with sights changed and moving on with family/partnering and getting on with the business of careers, accumulating material wealth, paying taxes and dying.

I, moving from my 30s into 40s at the time could certainly understand this sentiment, although I cautioned against it during the time during an interview with the media on the topic. At the time, I was the interim Director of the LGBT Resource Center at UC Davis, and the reporter wanted to talk about this idea that simply made her aghast. (To be fair, she was a 20 something, so I could see how this might be perceived).

In our discussions with college students at the time, it sparked heated discussions about what is being resigned, versus moving on to advocacy from an evolved or mature perspective and what is apathy, or just plain “sloth”. These are all intelligent questions for comparison but elicited, from younger members of our group, outrage at the lack of outrage.

We even invited a dignitary from state government to come speak with us on activism and how he assisted our state governor on remaining abreast of issues facing the California citizenry and what he should advocate for.

Now, because most of us don’t have a press secretary, we have to decide on our own on what is pertinent, important and worth leaving the couch for. I would assert that it might be actually harder in the modern age with all manner of media resource. We are bombarded by reputable, and far less reputable outlets of information hitting us with stories from every angle. It used to be that if it were the “Star” or the “Enquirer” you’d likely raise an eyebrow with skepticism about the level of truth in reporting. Now with Fox, and other outlets all putting their less and not so less obvious spins on reporting, it’s hard to garner what is trustworthy information. It becomes even harder so when the old-school traditional sources of NBC, CBS, ABC and to a lesser extent CNN all have news stories that are marked “promoted” right on the same page as the “legitimate” news. Heaven forbid you mis-click and you’ll be reading about why the country has gone crazy for a new anti-wrinkle skin cream written in the style of legitimate breaking-news.

There was a time when advertising was kept completely separate from the news. Having worked in the media (old school newspaper) during the advent of the Internet, that line was becoming blurry. Now, some might argue, it just doesn’t plain exist. The old-school media brands protected their reliability and perception of being trusted purveyors of news with all the fierceness that a dog would protect the proverbial bone. Being a trusted source of information was everything. Now, everything is open to suspicion. Whether because of the corporatization of the media, or the competition to drive people to their sites with clicks, rather than doorstep delivery, the media goes to great lengths to get you to visit their URL.

To our detriment, we are bombarded. Which, could conceivably, exacerbate our fatigue and apathy.

I don’t think this has happened so much in the LGBT community as it might have. We constantly have a flow of energized and outraged community members who keep up the fight, and advocacy on all issues. Our most recent and long-fought for prize being gay marriage, now known in our household simply as “marriage”. In our glee, we paused to catch our breath. We collectively sighed a sigh of relief. We slapped each other on the back, raised our glasses to toast our work – find whatever metaphor works for you, we’ve taken our eye off the underlying oppression that exists in this country and around the world.

There are simply people who don’t accept us, and never will.

That statement might sound defeatist. I assure you, it is the opposite. It is with newfound energy and vigor that I’ve arrived at this newest stage in my association with my role in the community as an activist.

My speaking engagements have dried up. I was afore invited to speak to large groups of young people. Please sir. Tell us of homophobia in your day as a young person? What was it like to be gay BEFORE don’t ask don’t tell? What? You were arrested? For Homosexuality? Is that a thing? And, energize our outrage with your tales of disparage you’ve endured, the discrimination you face every day as a couple together for 20 years (at the time) and unable to enjoy all the benefits associated with being a straight married couple. How can that be?

Truth. Gays now serve. (Out. They’ve always served). Even our neighbors have lost their interest in our novelty of being a gay-married couple on our street. (There are now four other couples, and folks have discovered we’re as boring as they are).

In the interim, Transgender has become the new Gay. In novelty terms, folks want Transgender speakers, or representation of the “T” on their board. What? You’re not intersexed? Um. Never mind.

This is neither a complaint, nor an indictment. It’s actually a wonderful thing. Trans friends certainly are the underrepresented in the group of the underrepresented. Nothing pleases me more than seeing the spotlight shined on their struggle (Well. Except Caitlyn Jenner. You can dim that spotlight. But, let’s not go there).

The events of two days ago in Orlando Florida; the largest mass shooting in America. 49 people killed.

There are folks who will say horrific things coming from a place of hate, which I would argue is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand, fear of the questioning of their role in our society and the challenge of the long-standing perceptions of normal and the perceived question of their self-superiority. Horrible things said.

Even politicians or would be politicians claiming that the true tragedy is that our President won’t say a string of words “Radical Islamic Terrorist”. I have yet to hear one of these folks attempt to call-out our president for not referring to Dylann Roof, perpetrator of the Charleston Church Massacre as a “Radical Christian White-Supremacist Terrorist”. No, their hate (fear) of Islam ranks right up their with their homophobia. So, it’s not likely they’d apply the same argument, which might reflect on a group they’d belong to. So, it’s why I don’t take them seriously.

And, herein lies my point to this writing. Advocacy comes in many forms. Some march, and shout, block traffic, blow whistles and otherwise bring literal attention to a matter. I applaud them. Any manner in which you can constructively argue peacefully your point, I support – even if it’s opposite of mine. The entire cause of dialogue starts with you conveying your point and allowing me to respond. Unfortunately, dialogue in this country doesn’t occur so easily.

The other form is to blow things up, incite riots and violence or otherwise bring harm to people and property. This I can’t support. Even if it’s for a cause I believe in. My fear isn’t as much as the bigoted (fearful) people who are exclaiming queers get what they deserve, it’s that in each instance of rhetoric it seems to escalate.

It’s escalated now to a point that the (by the numbers alone) is the most heinous act of massacre has been committed in America. There. But, I don’t believe it couldn’t become more terrible.

So, I examine my own response. All day I’ve been in conversation with folks and friends here in Texas an all over the country. Some angered. Some saddened. Some vowing to a new found verve for advocacy. Some resigned to stay in bed this Monday and not work, or look outside.

I for one will likely do what I continue to do…

Being an example of what it is to live as an American. To go to work. Go come home and kiss my spouse, and make a cup of tea. To give to causes which are important through monetary resource, or more importantly (and becoming more precious with each passing year) my time and effort. Administering to people who are sick and suffering with the disease of addiction is my passion, I’m not likely to forget they need help even with headlines printed in large print next to the latest celebrity gossip, which may or not be a promoted story on this info-tainment-news site.

As I sit and write this, my dog is snoring next to me, my husband is listening to Captain and Tennille (oldies for most of you) while he clips family photos for a Fathers day collage he’s working on. I’m at my laptop typing away while I let out a yawn at the end of the day. A normal day. An average day – – for me. Not for our friends and family in Orlando Florida. I grieve for them. I was saddened to the point of disgust looking at the photos of lost lives and learning their back-story, but in summary it comes to this.

What I want most from the bigoted (afraid) masses, from those who don’t like me, agree with me, or may even despise me is acceptance. Acceptance for me just the way I am. They don’t have to like me. Sure, it’d be great to be embraced, but I’d settle for tolerance. My experience tells me that there isn’t a way to get much more than that from some of these people.

But here’s the deal. If I want that from them, I’m going to have be willing to provide the same. Otherwise, I’m quite likely the hypocrite and have the same disingenuous motives that I sometimes readily spout that I despise them for. I can’t expect something from them, that I am not ready to deliver myself. That’s just selfish – which is not an attractive human trait no matter how you view the world.

So, while I may not have the power to change the entire view of the world, or even America, or even Texas, or even Austin in the time I have left on earth, I will focus on the neighbors I have right here in Copperfield neighborhood. It starts here by demonstrating to them that I have ideals of what is important in my life and the life of my family – ideals of community, faith, love and support.

It’s been my experience in in this life and my work with sick and suffering addicts and alcoholics that anything I do or demonstration I provide, is far-far more powerful than anything that comes out of my mouth.