Gratitude Amidst Grief: Orlando’s Pulse

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How does one even begin to articulate everything that is surfacing in relation to the Orlando shooting?  If you ask me, there are so many layers, and each layer is packed with its own emotions.  No shooting is easy to process… we are always left wondering how people can be so cruel and evil, and at the same time imagining how incredibly frightening and terrible those final moments were for the victims.  Today, we get inundated with images and videos of those final moments… screenshots of those final text messages.  We get as close to living it as is possible.  We each have to navigate our own vicarious trauma, and there is a lot of that in our international LGBT+ community this week. As with many of you, I am grappling with some seriously heavy feelings on this one, let me tell you.

So how do I move forward?  I have to move forward.  I can continue to scroll through my Facebook feed, continually revisiting the faces of those who have passed.  I can continue to scroll past the tangental bigots, fundamentalists and extremists, praising this attack as a cleanse of pedophiles.  I can sift through the infinite assumptions and beliefs about the whos, whys, wheres, and hows.  And, to be entirely honest, I will continue to do these things.  However, I will also be cognizant of the fact that I need Facebook silence at times, turning my phone off, and being still, alone or in the presence of my friends. It can simply be too much… it all gets overwhelming.  Gun control. Internalized homophobia. Terrorism. Homophobia. Extremism and fundamentalism. Inclusion and exclusion.  Politicization of LGBT+ lives. Transphobia.  Racism.  Mental health.  Gay rights and equal marriage.  Bigotry.  Muslims. Christians. Faggots.  …There is just too much happening.

I want to move forward by writing, and I want to write about the gratitude I feel, honouring the positive that so easily darkens amidst such tragedy.  And so that is what I will do…

…I am grateful for:

…the people who have made an intentioned point to check in with me, who have written to me, who have texted me.  These people, without explicitly saying it, know whole-heartedly that this massacre has very real impacts on our collective LGBT+ community worldwide.  These people recognize that this was an attack on LGBT+ people… on our progress, on our liberty, on our pride, and on me.  These lives that were lost were not my friends… But, they were friends of friends. A friend of mine was in Orlando, partying at Pulse just the weekend before.  Orlando may be far away, but it is right here within me. It is close,  I am so thankful to those people in my life who recognize the impacts.  You, my friends, are true allies.  Thank you for your allyship. 

…the people who are not muddying the discussion with hatred of the middle-east, Muslims, Islam, etc.  In my opinion, the word “Terrorist” is moot.  It is far too heavily-weighted in racism and opinion, so much so that it is derailing the reality of the situation and deflecting the world from the very real issue:  Homophobia.  Thank you to these people, like Owen Jones, for seeing things as they are and speaking out about it, even if upon deaf ears.

…the religious folks who are supporting the LGBT community, like the gathering of a Muslim community in NYC, and speaking out against the extremist bigots, reprimanding them for bringing shame upon their religious communities.  There is no line between Muslim and Gay, just as there is no line between Christian and Lesbian.  Gay muslims are in our community, lesbian christians are in our community.  Thank you for standing up for us and in solidarity with us and the lives lost.  

…the people on Facebook who are joy-dropping heartwarming and hilarious memes and videos.  These people are striving to ignite laughter and slather us in smiles.  We mustn’t forget that we are creatures of joy.  Thank to for making me smile.

…the woman on the bus today who saw that I was teary-eyed.  “I know how you feel.  Just remember to always choose love.  Fear will get you nowhere.”  She was a stranger.  I was a stranger.  But she understood.  Thank you for understanding. 

…the man at the bike shop today.  I had just received a lovely message that moved me to tears, just as I was trying to pay for my bike-repairs.  When he brought my bike to me, a bike that is plastered in colour and rainbows, he looked at me with such incredible kindness.  He looked at me in such a way that I felt accepted, welcomed, and supported.  Sometimes it doesn’t even take a word.  Thank you for your kind eyes.

…the community of Vancouver that came out to the Vigil on Sunday.  And to everyone who brought their hearts, their flames, their flags, and their tears.  As I sat up on the paw of the giant, cement lion, I was immensely moved by what I was witnessing.  We had a moment of silence together, and then a moment of noise… and that noise, that solid surge of togetherness, shook me to the core.  It healed me.  It united us.  It honoured Orlando.  Thank you for making noise.

…the activists who are planning their next letter to their nearest politicians, their next stand in solidarity, their next fundraiser, their next attempt to push back against oppressive cultures, their next mission to reform gun policy.  Your efforts are exactly what is needed.  We have been ignited by this act of hate, and if history tells us anything about the LGBT+ community, is that we get shit done.  I keep reflecting upon ActUp! and how much effort and energy it took to get people living with AIDS and HIV the respect and treatment they deserved.  There are things we can change, and we must continue working together to make those changes.  To those activists… thank you for activating.

…the heroes of Orlando who consoled their loved ones in a time of terror, who plugged the gushing wounds of their friends and family, and who carried their maimed lovers to safety. You were there in a time of crisis, and your efforts to help our own will never be forgotten.  Your futures are going to have scars of that night, trauma and stress will be in your body for decades if not your lifetime.  Know that you did good things that scary night… you helped save lives.  Thank you for being a hero.

…the Vancouverite who was attacked on the way to the Vigil for having a rainbow flag.  You came forward and told your story.  Thank you for carrying that flag with you.  Thank you for not feeling too shy or too afraid to do so… thank you for your courage, your bravery and your confidence.  Thank you for being someone others can look up to.

…the people who invite others into their groups, abolishing acts of exclusion within our community.  This gunman was reportedly in the club over some years, sitting alone in the corner.  I wonder, was this man suffering from social exclusion?  Was he struggling to understand his own sexuality?  How many people disregarded his presence?  How many didn’t?  Exclusion is unbearable for humans, a species whose whole survival is based on group relations, physical contact and support.  To the folks who go chat with the lone-clubgoers, no matter their appearance… thank you for being inclusive.  Cliques can be deadly, so thank you for relaxing yours.

I am sure there are more opportunities to express gratitude.  And, I intend to add to this list as the days move on and I continue to reflect.  What I know is I have to keep finding the positive, honouring the good, and recognizing our wins as a community.

We will get through this, stronger than ever.  What is clear, is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done.  So many people are living in fear, fear of themselves for being LGBT+, fear of others who hate LGBT+ and fear of such tragedy striking again.  What I intend to do this summer, as these months of Pride pass us by, is wearing my colours proudly, remembering the 49 lives who were senselessly taken away from us, the 49 lives who are inspiring change and collective gathering across the world, 49 lives who will forever and always be in our hearts as we move forward in our LGBT+ movement.  For the rest of my life I will remember these 49.  I will be walking with my rainbows everywhere I go… this year, my Pride starts now.

Thank you to the 49 for making our world a better place.  

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Click above for the #OrlandoVigilVancouver memorial video made by Marc Roumi.  

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Pride, Sobriety and the Power of Friends

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I am suffering from some form of post-Pride emotion. I am not sad – far from it.  It is more like solemn feeling stemming from the cessation of days and days of immense joy.  Actually, I keep contemplating this word “Joy,” probably because I am feeling so much of it lately.  I feel happy much of the week, but joy is a whole other level, nearly off the charts.
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This week I am quite reflective of all that I just experienced and feeling a lot of gratitude for it all.  This Pride that just quickly past us by has been my favourite of all of the Prides I have experienced. Why?
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Pride, Sobriety and the Power of Friends.

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Pride
I have it. Feeling ashamed of who I am was so tiresome and I no longer want to feel that. Hiding who I am is toxic to my soul. As the years go on, I settle more deeply into my authentic self.  I continue to mature emotionally, intellectually and physically – hell, I own these grey whiskers and wear them proudly.
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I wore stilettos this weekend to the Davie Street block party; my toenails were painted to complete the look.  I remember a day when the thought of doing it was frightening for some reason, like I would be judged. Unpacking why we believe that clothing is gendered is a whole other blog post, but, simply put, a person should be able to wear whatever they want and feel confident in (so long as we aren’t breaking any laws ((unless those laws are oppressive and need to be addressed)) ). Let me tell you, I felt incredibly confident – not to mention sexy – in those heels.  I am proud that I was able to realize my wish to dance my face off in heels and to feel comfortable (emotionally!) while doing it.  And let me tell you, I can seriously bust a move in those puppies.
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It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today – to feel confident being me.  It’s fun to continue to get to know myself and to explore things that make me happy. I like Chad today, and I certainly used to not like Chad very much at all.  I used to look at myself in the mirror and say, “I hate you, why do you have to be gay?” Today I love myself and that is something of which to be proud. Yes, I have more growing and learning to do and I look forward to it. If the future is a better version of how I feel now, I am eager to get there.
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I’m gay, and I’m proud as fuck about that.  So many people still live lives of closetted shame.  Our country is becoming less oppressive when it comes to people within the LGBTQ community, but we still face certain ridicule and violence.  Part of my pride and joy I felt this weekend stemmed from holding an awareness that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world may never experience such a weekend, lest they be persecuted or beheaded.  I am grateful and do not disregard the injustices faced by thousands of others internationally.   I feel proud that I can experience Pride not merely as an onslaught of parties, but as a reminder of my privilege.  This reignites the fire inside me to continue to work towards international LGBT rights.   A lot of work still needs to be done.
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Pride
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Sobriety
In January, I will be 5 years clean and sober.  Something else I feel highly proud about.  Furthermore, I feel proud that I can enjoy such a weekend without illicit substances.
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One of the things that I found particularly enjoyable this Pride was being able to tell people, “actually I am sober.”  I was asked, “what are you on?” and “do you want some K?” or “would you like some of my beer?”  When I reply that I am sober and that I do not drink or do drugs, people are often surprised – their faces and reactions are memorable.  I got down and dirty this weekend, dancing holes in the floor everywhere I went.  Surely I must have looked doped up on some speedy E, but I wasn’t.  The closest I came to being “high” was the energy kick from a Redbull.  I thrashed, stayed up until sunrise, and danced like a mad man… as most do; however, there was one obvious difference:  I had a smile bolted on my face where as a majority of others looked rather miserable.  Of course, this isn’t to say that all those who “party” look like goblins, no, it is just that, as a sober person who used to consume huge amounts of drugs and alcohol, it is very evident to me when people’s faces are drug-driven.  As the night progresses, it is common that the partygoers look haggard and frowny, with mouths that move as if by some force beyond their control.
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On Sunday night at Rapture, one of the many final Pride parties, I came to a place of sheer joy.  Every so often I get caught up in a DJ set to such a degree that my body seems to move on its own accord – to me it is a spiritual experience.  I smile, and sometimes I even laugh because I feel such joy – it’s just so bloody awesome.  I used to only experience this if I were at a party somewhere all hopped up on “molly.” However, today I can feel this ecstasy in sobriety and to me that is one of the greatest gifts ever.
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“You are fun” and “You have such a good energy about you” are a couple examples of the comments I received this past weekend.  I love to hear them… having fun in sobriety is exactly what needs to happen for me.  There is this belief that as soon as drugs and alcohol are no longer a part of the story, the story becomes boring.  That is so far from the truth.  My life has become evermore enjoyable since making the decision to commit to sobriety.   You never know, maybe the people who I crossed paths with and chatted with about sobriety, for however brief, heard or saw exactly what they needed to hear or see.  If I can live by example and show others that sober living is actually WAY FREAKIN’ BETTER then my life purpose has expanded.
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I was in the hottub tonight and was hearing a couple of guys talk about Pride, and that the jacuzzi was exactly what was needed to help replenish their serotonin that was disintegrated by ecstasy consumption.  I have heard comments from others about their hangovers and their “recovery week.”  I am SO happy that I never have to have a hangover again, god willing, and that my serotonin levels are stabilized naturally through self-care, fitness, and seeking the things in life that bring me and others pleasure.   My only sense of “recovery” from this weekend was normalizing my sleeping routine.  5:30 am bedtimes certainly throw me off!
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The cherry on top: I remember everything I did, and not a single aspect of what I did is embarrassing or displeasing.  No blasted blackouts or mornings of shame and regret.  Fuck yaaaasss!
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Power of Friends
This is the first Pride where I really truly felt as if I were part of a friend circle.  We spent a lot of time together, and it was amazing.  Of course, years past I had people to hang out with and to celebrate with, people I cherish and care about deeply, but this year was different.  I am blessed with a group of friends who support me, love me, and enjoy whole-heartedly my presence – I can feel it.  I feel comfortable, welcomed, and “part of” more than “apart from.”  It is not uncommon for me to go out and celebrate Pride on my own.  In fact, I have attended several parties solo, something else of which I am proud.  I went solo not because I had no friends, but because my friends and I were not tuned into the same wavelength.  These friends that I am so grateful to have are friends who either do not drink or drink very little; they are friends who can party hard and party clean!  They know about my sobriety and support it, which is clearly the most important part of any of my current relationships in this world.
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As my confidence level grows, and my life in sobriety expands, I am meeting more and more people who ride wavelengths similar to my own, people beyond the friend circle just mentioned.  Periodically this weekend I crossed paths with many of these people, and we enriched each other’s lives if only for that moment.  It is really quite powerful to have these kinds of friendly connections.  It is becoming clearer to me that if my friends fail to enrich my life or bring me joy, and vice versa, and bring me struggle and strife instead, than these people are not supposed to be in my life – joy is too easy to lose and life is too short.
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What I love about this friend circle is that it is incredibly diverse and thrives on welcoming new and interesting people. Vancouver social circles are very challenging to penetrate, they seem to have a clique shellac that leaves no room for new additions.  Many of the people visiting Vancouver often say to me that it is “difficult to make friends here” and that the people are not friendly.  And, I get it.  I do not disagree.  Why is that?  What is it about Vancouver gays that makes intergroup socializing such a ghastly idea?  Anyways, that is, again, a topic with enough juice for an entirely separate blog.  What I mean to express is that I am happy to have spent this Pride with such a kind-hearted and welcoming group of people who have allowed me to feel nothing but love and acceptance.
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Holy crap did we ever have some fun together!  Like, serious joy.   I look forward to future adventures.
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Friends
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Coming home from the gym tonight I just felt struck by the urge to share these thoughts.  Sometimes this happens…
Thanks for taking the time to ready them.
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Too Close

Lip Dub vid to Alex Clare’s “Too Close”. Made with a Fujifilm Finepix camera and a chest tripod.

Inspired by a difficult decision to leave a relationship and all the inner turmoil and indecision that it brings. Trying to empower courage to walk forward from this challenge. It is made in high contrast as a representation of the challenge regarding fighting with the “should I or shouldnt I” emotions. Tough stuff, let me tell you.

Gym Contemplations

The gym is such an odd place to go. Don’t you think? As I am there, pumping iron, so to speak, I often find myself contemplating the whole process of going to the gym. It is a petri dish of examples of the human experience. For a number of reasons… and surely I intend to outline some of them for you :)

1: Adaptability. Think about it. We are animals. We have muscles. Centuries ago we used to run around, climb, hunt, dig, fight. etc… you name it, we used to do it. Man, can you imagine how many sexy humans would have been walking around!? Our bodies would have been toned to the nines. But now, in this automated, processed, delivered, and convenient lives we live, we do not have the need to do all of these things that would keep us so shredded. So… as we move away from necessary physical exertion, and towards a stagnant and inactive life, we hear the call of our muscles. We have adapted to a shrinking, if not non-existent, world of physical demand. Evolution of building muscle.

2. Ego. Classic. I just love seeing people stare at themselves in the mirror and give a quick flex and a wink… “hey baby, how you doin?” Here we move away from the base-level call from our muscles to be formed and tightened and towards an inflation of the ego. “Dayam I look good! I am definitely going to get some action tonight!” Our culture says that the more shredded you are, the more abs you have, the more successful you will be, be it in the office or bedroom. I am sure this goes back to caveman times when the bravest and toughest rented the most wombs.

3. Ignorance. Really?! Did you have to throw those weights? Do you realize that there is a yoga class going on downstairs. Do you care? That sign right there says. “Please do not drop your weights!” Perhaps when you bend down to pick up your weights you will see it… oh wait, you don’t actually pick up your weights, which brings me to 4.

4. Discipline. Didn’t your mother (or father) tell you to clean up? Perhaps to put things away after you use them? What ever happened to the collective willingness to keep things tidy… did it ever exist? I can only imagine what these people’s homes look like… I hated being nagged to clean up my room, the kitchen, the yard, etc. I see the value now. We are all owners of this planet, and many lack the discipline to keep it orderly.

5. Rage. “Aaaarrgrrrrrrrraaaaaaahhhhhhh!!” Says the dude pumping more weight than he should (right before he drops it all, naturally). The Grunts. The Growls. The Moans. Sure, blood is coursing through your veins… but what’s with the Werewolf sounds? Are you mad at the world? What did the dumbbell ever do to you? I often wonder if these growlers can even hear themselves. Maybe it helps to lift. Perhaps I should try it, maybe I will build more muscle. Perhaps there is even a Muscle-to-Growl ratio… perhaps there is a Thesis here.

6. Attraction. Let’s face it… with all that ego-boosting muscle building, our hormones are at peak vibration. After a quick glance at the reflection… it’s off to the races. We see those toned bodies, those tight pants, and those muscle shirts. We leave sweat traces all over the place and heat clouds surround us, surely this sends those pheromones out further to the gym universe. It can sometimes be a cesspool or sexual tension.

7…8…9… Surely there are more. :) Food for thought.

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Lingering…

Here I am, lingering about on a Saturday night… I want so badly to do something yet, paradoxically, I want to do nothing.

I am pulled towards watching more back-to-back episodes of “The Killing”. Oh, the drama. But, to be honest, if I see that grim-faced redhead lipsmack another piece of gum, I may crack. And no one likes crack.

Reflecting on this past week really makes me feel like something greater is behind everything. Be it the Universe, Fate, the big G.O.D. or the Easter Bunny… something. Do you ever notice that people get put in your path, or simply cross your path by happenstance, just when you need them?! As I work towards self publishing this travelogue, and getting it out there, I find myself struggling to know what to do, where to go, how far to go, and what my intentions are. Then BAM! two women come into my life, in one afternoon, who are in the same place, pushing forward on the same mission: getting a book deep into the market.

Here I am, flooded with tips, suggestions, ideas, contacts, etc. How perfect, slightly overwhelming, but perfect. I officially have groupies rooting for me, and they appear to have more confidence in me than I do. Uh-oh.

So, I’ve swallowed a burger, and now it’s time to plug in a… Wait, to stream a movie. Which one? Maybe something spooky like Sleepless in Seattle. Maybe not.

Signing off.

Chad.

#Processing….

Wow… so this is the world of blogging, eh?  I wrote my guts out and spit them out into the Blogosphere.  I’m intrigued.

What are my intentions?  What a question… well, other than spitting my intellectual, contemplative, and philosophical guts all over the interwebs, I am building a network.  Im aimin’ for a network of travellers, students, artists, authors, friends, family, and perhaps even a bit of everything else in between.  I want to make my place on this e-planet, to stake my claim on a blip of 0s and 1s… its time to raise a flag and call this blog “Home.”

I feel like someone is following me.