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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Cruising Boundaries

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I posted on Facebook tonight about a guy I caught jerking off in the public library.  The post was more about a rather hilarious, unintended pun from a security guard than it was about the actual act of exhibitionistic wanking.  The reactions, however, have been interesting, and have inspired me to write this blog.

Since that post, I have been called a hypocrite, a snitch, and judgemental… all from gay men.

First things first… let’s get the whole story out since the meagre Facebook post was Cole’s Notes.  The library was about to close in an hour, and many of the study desks were beginning to clear out.   Up on the 6th floor there was me, an empty desk behind me, and then a young woman.  Nobody else was near us, that I recall.  A man came and sat down at the desk between the woman and me, an action that I thought peculiar considering the wealth of empty desks scattered along that hall. I didn’t think much of it and got back to my research.  Then I heard a sound…

There was a repetitive sound that caught my attention, and in looking back over my shoulder I saw that this man had a large book on his lap, and his hand was under it near his junk in his loose gym shorts.  That is where the sound was coming from.  There was this moment where we caught eyes; we kind of froze there for a second.  I then quickly turned back, processing what I believe I saw.  He then quickly put his giant books down and left.

This, to me, felt very violating.  So much so that I felt I should probably alert security.  As I was leaving, this man was standing just outside.  Near the door was a conveniently placed security guard, a fella I was about to pass anyhow.  I said to him, “See that guy there, I’m pretty sure he was just jerking off on the 6th floor.”  To which he replied, “Can’t really do much unless we catch him red-handed” – making me chuckle at his choice of words.  It was interesting to hear the security guard talk a bit more about this.  He said that this is a long standing issue in libraries because it is a space where people are able to access the internet and, therefore, porn. Prior to that, it was other forms of erotica that was otherwise unattainable or was too shaming to have at home.  They even pushed to block certain sites, but apparently it would go against certain freedoms so it has yet to happen

So, what is it that has created this reaction from some of my Facebook friends?  Some sexual entitlement of sorts?  An overconfident cruising culture?  Misconceptions about my values and about who I am as a sexual being?

Hypocrisy?  This implies that I do this stuff…. I do not do this. Do I cruise?  Yes.  To me, there is a certain excitement that comes from stealth, consenting sexual activity out in the world… why not?  I understand the attraction and allure of public sex, and getting one’s jollies off with others in sneaky ways.  But the key concept here is “consent.”  If this man selected that desk solely because it was beside me or beside that young woman, and that was his thrill, then it is incredibly violating.  I did not consent, nor did she (I believe).  I know the boundaries of sexual exploration and exploitation within a social sphere, and feel like this person’s actions crossed those boundaries.

Gay cruising is a reality; let’s face it.  But, by definition cruising implies consent.  It is a conscious exploration of and venture into an area that is known for gay sex.  These are most commonly washrooms, particular trails in the forest, areas near nude beaches, parking lots, and locker rooms… spaces that are inherently distant from the greater public, secluded, containing adequate privacy, and ill-frequented by families, women and kids.   The Central Vancouver Public Library, out in the open in the silent study area, is an entirely different space with entirely different implications.

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Being called these things, and receiving these comments, greatly invalidated my sense of violation.  I even began to think I did something wrong by bringing this to the attention of the security guard.  Why should I feel wrong?  Tell me, when did it become ok to masturbate next to strangers in a public library?  If I knew he was doing it, and everyone around knew, and we were all consenting, then go for it Mister, have at’r, wank away!  But this was not the case. This felt like a violation.  This felt exploitative, like I was or she was or we were the unknowing bystanders to his sexual gratification.  That is sexual abuse, plain and simple and his quick departure was quite telling. The assumption that I should ok with this, because I am a gay man, is highly problematic.

Am I a snitch?  Yes.  I suppose by definition I am.  I respect the laws and boundaries placed amongst us in society… they protect us and maintain order and public health.  If I see someone steal, I will alert someone.  If I see someone harassing a barely conscious drunk girl on the street, I will alert someone.  I stand up.  I use my voice.  I use my judgement and make decisions that I feel help strengthen social order. I feel like we have a civil duty to look out for one another, and that includes, in my opinion, what happened tonight.  Silence is the most dangerous thing.  How many people have seen precursors to criminality, but remained tight-lipped?  How many people turn a blind eye to minor abuses that lead to eventual loss off life?  The silence of our friends is worse than the abuses of our strangers.

A friend asked me tonight, “How would you feel if someone reported you to security, even if you had consent from the other guy?”  – Well I would feel pretty fucking embarrassed! Which would subside and then become a great story, surely.  Again, it all comes down to consent and intent.  Would I be jerking off with this guy in the middle of a library with astute students around?  Hells no.

Am I judgmental?  Yes. I use my judgment to determine black from white and right from wrong.  I use my judgement to decide what boundaries should and should not be crossed.  I use my judgment to decide when to leave dangerous situations.  I use my judgement to determine which friends to remove from my Facebook.  Judgement is what helps us navigate the world effectively and within boundaries and limits that feel appropriate to us.  Did I call this man perverse?  Did I call him names?  No.  I recognized that a boundary was crossed, that it had the potential to put people at risk, and I used my voice.

Don’t like it.  Don’t listen.

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Want to get some cruising etiquette: A Beginner’s Guide to Cruising.

 

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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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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Rainbow Blood Donor Clinic

UPDATE: June, 2015

Because of the work I put into the Rainbow Clinic, NetCAD has nominated for an award.  I was selected, and am to represent BC and Yukon at the Honouring Our Lifeblood even in Ottawa!  I feel very honoured :)

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UPDATE: April 27th, 2015

I went back to NetCAD today to do my usual donation, my 13th donation to be exact.  While I was there, I was informed that donors have continued to come in because of seeing the Rainbow Donor Clinic in the media, and that “everyone has been very lovely.”  Several people have since returned for their 2nd donations, which is great to hear.  The community has been engaged.

My Grindr profile continues to say “I donate blood at Canadian Blood Services’ research lab, NetCAD. Ask me more.”  This continues to be polarizing.  As I was sitting in the clinic today, someone was messaging me about the discrimination based on orientation, that CBS must “do some grovelling” and that the community must defend itself.  He goes on to say that my “passivity is the death knell for gay culture.” – As you can see, some people still choose to sit in anger and frustration… others have shifted perspectives, made acknowledgements and started to do what they can while waiting.  You cannot win them all.  Viewing this campaign as “passive” is blatant ignorance.  This, my friends, is “action.”

Coincidentally, as I was waiting to donate at the clinic, a Thank You letter arrived for me.  No need to mail it to me, I was right there! Perfect timing.  This letter comes from the CEO of Canadian Blood Services, Graham Sher, and the Chief Medical & Scientific Officer, Dana Divine.  This is what it says:

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To me, this Donor Clinic was, and continues to be, a success.  I am super grateful for the support and the response.  If you have not yet done so, book an appointment to donate at NetCAD.  It all starts with research and development.

Thanks.

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Original Post:

Why a Rainbow Blood Donor Clinic?  The common question that people keep asking me.  I hope that here I will be able to clarify my reasons and articulate my intent.  Each journalist I have spoken with has reduced my story to a meagre selection of quotes, scattering them amongst his or her article or broadcast.  I do not think anyone has heard, thoroughly, what it is that has driven me to initiate yesterday’s event.  Here we go:

  1. I got tired of hearing “I cannot donate blood because I am gay.” –  Ok, so this is a blatant misunderstanding.  Not once does Canadian Blood Services (CBS) say, “We will not take blood from anyone who identifies as gay.”  One’s identity is very different from his or her activities or behaviours.  You are not deferred from giving blood because you are gay, you are deferred because you are, probably, a man who has had sex with another man (MSM) in the last 5 years.  This, to me, is an important distinction. Conflating identity and deferral is misleading.  A man who identifies as “straight,” and who has sex with another man at least once in the last 5 years, would also be deferred.  In fact, currently there are men who identify as “gay” and are currently contributing to the blood pool that is used for transfusion.  Bottom line, gay men ARE able to donate blood, however, they may be deferred for a number of reasons based on the level of risk within their life.
  2. I wanted to create a space for dialogue, fact-finding and the clarification of misunderstandings. – It is time to change the dialogue.  There are many upset people in the gay community and whenever this conversation rises it is clear to me that resentment and anger are major players.  I have held onto that anger myself, for many years – I get it.  I also hear A LOT of questions, often weighted in passion and emotion, about the MSM policy, why it isn’t changing, why heterosexual anal sex isn’t grounds for deferral, why it isn’t based on science, why monogamous gay couples are ineligible, and on and on. This event provided a unique opportunity to be in the company of blood scientists, members of the blood recipient groups, CBS staff from Ottawa and Vancouver and other LGBTQ community members.  It allowed a space to directly ask these important questions to the men and women with the answers.  If you had a problem or a complaint… you had the chance to bring it forward.  Stewing in it, and perpetuating anger and misunderstandings, it not at all helpful.
  3. I thought that men who are deferred should learn about other ways that they can save lives, in the meantime. – It is my belief that the conversation around the MSM policy controversy has reached saturation.  This is a global conversation, and an international concern.  Health Canada and CBS are more than aware of the need to reevaluate the policy, and CBS is in the process of compiling data since the 2013 Policy Change, when we moved from a lifetime deferral to a 5 year abstinence restriction. So, until we go back to the drawing board, what can we do today? How can we be helpful today, while waiting for tomorrow’s possibilities? This is a driving force that brings me to NetCAD to donate.  Donations that are given at NetCAD are used for research and development and this has the potential to save millions of lives through some advancement in blood science.  You never know.  Also, MSM men are still able to participate in CBS’s OneMatch program, in fact, yesterday I provided my DNA to CBS and am now a potential stem cell donor for someone who may need it.  DNA matches are not as easy to come by as one’s type of blood, and it is important to continue growing the DNA donor bank.
  4. I wanted to show Health Canada and CBS that we, the gay, MSM community, are healthy and interested in giving back to our communities by making blood donations. –  I wanted to make it clear that we are here, ready and willing.  I feel that it is important to emphasize our utility.
  5. I wanted to tackle an old issue in a new way, and, in the long run, affecting changes in the Policy. – I am not fond of the current MSM policy, and trust me when I say I have my complaints; I feel that the whole approach to screening and deferrals should be adjusted.  I, along with many of the deferred men, want this policy out the window.  While I understand the policy, its history, its necessity and its gravity for recipients, it is very clear to me that it is insufficient.  Learning about science and research projects, talking with others, and doing whatever else I have said thus far is not targeting the MSM Policy directly, but it is making people talk, it is showing our interest and it is beginning to rebuild the tattered relationship that exists between CBS and many gay men, and this, readers, may alter or impact policy at a national level.    

Why Me?  My story is like many.  I went to donate, I didn’t pass the questionnaire, and I was asked to leave.  I was not given any supportive information or provided other options; it was a feeling of shame and rejection. That was 12 years ago.  Since then I have written articles, participated in focus groups in Ottawa prior to the policy change and have deeply researched this policy within Canada but also in an international context.  This Rainbow Clinic is another stop on my journey towards donating blood for transfusion.

My involvement will not end here.  In discussions with many CBS staff yesterday, it became clear to me that I am now part of the history of the MSM Policy and will probably be part of the future of the MSM Policy. Changes do not happen over night, especially on a national level, when lives are at stake.

Responsibility must be taken by the MSM community. Something that I have begun to acknowledge is that over 50% of new HIV cases are within the gay community.  This is a very disproportionate number… Check out this article by Tristin Hopper for more details.  Someone once said to me, “You can’t bitch about that which you allow to happen,” and I believe that it holds true in this case.  Of course, I do not blame the community for the health disaster of the 80s; the history is beside the point.  I am talking about today and moving forward. The gay community must take steps to mitigate the high incidence of HIV.  What is being done on OUR side of the fence to ensure that HIV doesn’t spread further?  I believe that we, as a community in a high risk group, have a duty to ensure, as best we can, that our blood remains free from viruses.  We cannot complain about the policy but disregard the reason why.

How did the Rainbow Clinic turn out?  The day was a huge success!!  NetCAD hit record numbers of donations.  We had some people come with the sole intent to voice opinions and to ask questions, which is awesome! Others came in to learn and to show support or learn their blood types… donating isn’t for everyone, of course.  The whole day was busy and we had many engagements with CBS staff and NetCAD researchers.  People were walking in off the street to donate as well, and we had quite a line up at one point.  The food provided was delicious and, overall, it was a pleasure to spend the day at the clinic.  Surely many of us have a tender arm, but it is worth it!

It has been an incredible journey.  It is amazing to me that out of my fleeting idea, all of this has unfolded.  What if I never sent that original email to NetCAD proposing this collaboration? Let me tell you, I am so glad that I did. Being an active participant in something so unique and momentous will forever remain part of me.  I encourage you to take a stab at your fleeting thoughts, go for them, propose them… you never know how they will be received or where they may go.

I have to say, that Canadian Blood Services has been tremendously supportive of this venture.  Engaging the LGBTQ community was as important to them as it was to me; our interests aligned and we ended up organizing this incredible event.  Perspectives were changed, opinions were changed, information has been gained, and more netCAD donors have been gained.  This is great stuff!

Am I part of the problem?? Really!? I am surprised by some of the comments and opinions that have been thrust my way since this started rolling out.  Members of the gay community have been messaging me with some rather bold comments, suggesting that I am part of the problem and perpetuating homophobia and discrimination.  I imagine that this looks like I am “in bed with the enemy” because many folks are not fans of CBS.  The fact of the matter is, at least I am engaging and trying to do something.  Some people simply want to be angry or stir the pot; they get a sick kick from hoarding resentments.  To those people: “Carry on, for it will have no impact on me.  I know where my intent is, where my heart is, and where my courage is.”

donors

outlook

Here is a list of Media links, in the order in which they hit the public… This Rainbow Blood Clinic has blown the lid off of Canadian media.

January 19th – Vancouver Xtra. “Deferred from giving blood, gay men urged to donate to research” 

January 23rd – Yahoo News. “Vancouver clinic offers sexually active gay men a way to join the blood donor system”

January 27th – 24Hrs Vancouver. “Vancouver clinic encourages gay men to donate blood”

February 2nd – The Globe and Mail. “Vancouver clinic looks to recruit sexually active gay men for blood donations”

February 2nd – Global News. “Rainbow clinic encourages gay men to give blood”

February 3rd – ICI Radio-Canada. “Vancouver: la Societe canadienne du sang accepte les dons d’hommes gais aux fins de recherche”

February 3rd – Straight.com. “Gay men can donate blood for research at Rainbow Clinic”

February 3rd – CBC News BC. “Canadian Blood Services sets up ‘rainbow clinic’ to take donations from gay men”

February 3rd – CBC Radio. “Canadian Blood Services appeals to gay men”

February 3rd – Drex Live. “Soundcloud Clip: Drex Live Tuesday Feb 3 Hour 1 – 26 mins in”

February 4th – CBC Radio. “A 180 on blood donation policy”

February 4th – Huffington Post. “Canadian Blood Services sets up ‘rainbow clinic’ to take donations from gay men”

February 4th – CBC News. “CBC News Vancouver at 6 – 27minutes in”

February 8th – CBC Radio’s “The 180” – “A 180 on blood donation policy” 

April 7th – Outlook TV – “Outlook Channel on Youtube – 12 minutes in”

radio

#LoveYourselfie

I have a confession to make.  I take selfies… a lot of them.  #selfieaddict

It is wild how much flack I get for doing it… be it a fun and casual flacking or heavily weighted in judgment and opinion.  There is this presumption that, just because I selfie like there is no tomorrow, I am narcissistic, insecure, and on the hunt for “like”-based increases in self esteem.  Are these presumptions really the only possibility around why people take selfies??  #really?

Feeling attractive is new to me.  I grew up feeling ugly, awkward, and unlikable; I certainly wasn’t beautiful or cool, whatever “cool” was at that time.   Today, after a lot of self-care, fitness, and weightlifting I have come to find some confidence, and I fucking love it.  I like that I can now look at myself in the mirror, or in the front-facing camera of my iphone, and like what I see.  I do not poison myself, hate myself or call myself ugly anymore, nor do I wish that I were something or someone I am not.  Today, I am who I am, I look how I look. I own it.  I have come to love myself, and not in an overbearing I-cant-love-anyone-else kind of way… No.  I love myself in a way that helps me move through my day with a jovial grace; a way that elicits comfort in conversation; a way that encourages me to continue caring for my body and treating it with kindness.  #selfcare

Am I insecure because I take selfies?  Or are you insecure because you can’t, don’t or won’t? #perspective

Do “likes” and Followers excite me?  Yes, they do.  I love that little orange notification bubble. It proves contact, an interaction with a fellow human being who is going about her or his day within the social media interspace. It tells me that this someone, somewhere else, has connected to me, if even just momentarily through a string of kilobytes, and finds something about me likeable.  Is my self-esteem contingent on these “likes” and Followers??  No, but they certainly help.  #like

Self expression has been part of human culture for millennia.  Whether we tattoo our flesh, insert shards of bone into our ears, or weave a feather into our hair, we are taking advantage of the gift of expression.  I feel privileged that I have the freedom to do so. Today’s selfie is simply another platform of expression and an unexpecting tool of self-discovery.  #individuality

For me, as someone who used to hate himself, being able to post a picture of me, taken by me, and just how I like it, is an incredible feat.  It is telling of my growth as an individual and it is telling of my growing confidence.  It certainly isn’t symbolic of some insecure feature of my personality that needs your judgment and pity. #thatsforsure

In a recent Body Image Study, it was revealed that 65 percent of selfie takers said seeing their selfies on social media actually boosts their confidence  (Dahl, Today Health, 2014).  In my opinion, this is great! We need more confidence in this world, today more than ever. I like the thought that people’s confidence is being boosted by the creativity of her or his own hand.  Power to you.  #selfieconfidence

Instead of judging people who take selfies perhaps it is time to take a look at the reasons why you aren’t taking them.  With all do respect, I think that it is time to #loveyourselfie

It is almost #selfietime, so… unapologetically, I leave you with my thoughts.

See you seeing me seeing you soon…

Chad Walters… #selfieaddict

 Image

PRIDE… a perspective

PRIDE

I am feeling impulsed to write.  I have been triggered a few times over some weeks, so now its time to take the shot. Thank god for blogs…  I can spit out my thoughts and have the eyes of curious other’s read them.  My inner voice can be experienced in and through the reader.

Pride week has ended… and I am incredibly happy to have experienced it.  I am happy because this past Sunday 650,000 people can into the downtown core of Vancouver. They came to a Gay Pride Parade and Celebrations that has been happening annually for 65 years…  They came to Celebrate.  They came to Celebrate Diversity, Liberty, Happiness, Life, etc.  Pride has become so much more than a brave Expression of Gay Rights. It is a way for us to recognize the differences among us and to Celebrate them.  What a Gift.  I do not know of another day where there is so much Joy, Christmas included.

650,000 people!  I am curious to know the stats here.  What were the arrests? At what rate did people fight? Were there many tears, beyond the tears of Joy?  This past Sunday, I rode a float through the thousands of people, and my heart was filled to the brim with Joy and Happiness.  People were there to support, express, and just have Fun!  The sun was out.  The smiles were on.

I am a gay man, and I am Proud of it.  I have come through my own inner turmoil and have grasped the very essence of who I am and I hold that essence, chin up, with Pride.  I am gay, and I fucking love it.  I am incredibly moved by the contrasting experiences of my compatriots living in Russia, Ecuador, Nigeria, etc.  Any gay person who tells me that they “don’t do Pride” or who scoff at the occasion need a swift kick in the rump. Show some Respect.  Take a look through the lens of a different perspective… there is another way to view this colourful day.

A friend voiced his distaste for Pride to me tonight and it clearly highlighted this intense feeling of frustration and sadness inside me. I learned that it is the negative attributes of Pride that cause this friend to feel this negative way.  It is in the chaos, the drugs, and the sex-driven shenanigans that this particular person finds distaste.  Fair.  That shit makes anything distasteful.  Same can be said for Halloween, New Years, and any other major party night. The darkness always shows its ugly face.

Darkness aside… this colourful day should bloody well be Respected.  And yes, I said, “should.” I grew up in a country where I was allowed to be gay, even though my upbringing and socialization told me otherwise. I can only imagine the incessant difficulty involved with living as a homosexual in any of the countries that incriminate and even kill for it. We have Rights, and most of them come from our forefathers taking marches down the streets asking for them.  Today, we carry the Tradition, with incredible Strength, with 650,000 Supporters.  Look how far we have come.

I Celebrated this Pride for the souls around the world who couldn’t even Dream of the Gift that we as Canadians have been given.  I Love who I Love, and they cannot love who they love.  I kiss who I want to kiss… and I do not have to fear a deadly retribution.

My eyes wandered the crowds this weekend, and I saw so much Life. So much Light. I cannot simply sit here and leave this feeling unexpressed.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions…naturally, and here is mine: any homosexual who scoffs and undermines this powerful day of LGBTQ Pride needs a perspective adjustment.  If history played out differently,  it could have been you hanged, stoned, humiliated, or imprisoned.  Sure we face hardships as gay men, lesbian women, transgendered people, transexuals, queers, two-spirited individuals, bisexuals, etc… and I feel it is our Duty to stand up together and show the world that we are simply humans wishing to express Love.  It’s not about how we have sex. It’s about being True to ourselves. It’s about Love.

Why a Rainbow?  Well… some say each colour represents a different sexual identity… and although this may be true, I see it differently.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you feel when you look into the sky and see a Rainbow?  The rain is clearing, and the light of the sun is pouring through the clouds.  Rainbows are a prime example of everything that is tiful on this planet… and these Celebrations are the same.  Few, if any, people look into the sky and say “Ewww, that rainbow is ugly… it makes me sick…”  No, it is awesome.  It inspires awe.  So can we.

No shut up and show a little respect for our brother and sisters who are suffering

rainbow

http://www.thegailygrind.com/2013/08/06/gay-teenager-kidnapped-and-tortured-by-russian-neo-nazi-group-is-believed-to-have-died-from-his-injuries-video/

I was Bullied, But now i’m Stronger…

VIDEO: I was Bullied, But now i’m Stronger…

I have been bullied, and I know what it is like to suffer simply because of being gay. It is not easy. Being born gay makes you carry a heavier load of oppression and difficulty. I want to put my hand out into the world and allow others to grasp it. I felt as if there was no one to talk to, and I can only assume that you may feel the same, dear reader. I wish I had someone to speak with, to email, to confide in, someone who didnt know who I was, someone that could just hear me without me having to disclose my identity. I wish I had someone who understood. It’s not an easy burden to bear, but perhaps I can make it easier.

On a side note…

What does “Bullying” mean to you?

The topic of bullying is hot and heavy in the media right now… it seems there is always somebody talking about it.  Are we talking about it too much? I know that I am not in a position to judge other’s experiences as they relate to being Bullied, but i’m going to do it anyway.  Oh how often I here this, “Oh ya? I’ve been bullied too.” Has everybody been bullied?  Perhaps to some degree.  But therein lies the issue.  If this word “BULLYING” gets used in every instance of aggression, frustration, or irritation directed at another person,  what effect is that having on the people who are out there being harassed every day, being physically abused, having property graffitied, getting a constant input of demeaning and astoundingly powerful words, and whatever other form exists of the “phenomena,” so to speak. Maybe someone, some day, is being a jerk or a bitch. Does that make them a Bully? Sometimes people can be mean, if only for a one-off.  People become mean in some moments… but a mean remark is different than the intended and constant harassment from the same individuals, for days, months, years.  If someone called you a name once, in my opinion you were not Bullied.  Teased? Picked on? Mocked? I find these words are certainly in the same family, cousins perhaps.  But the B word, in the way that I know it in my heart and memory, is heavier.

As I reflect on my experience, in the moments of hearing a cheery tween mention her Bullying experience, I, for some reason, doubt that she understands the full weight of that word. Do I have a case of “nobody had it as bad as I”? Maybe, slightly, but I am aware of the falsity there. But whatever the case may be, this word, this infamous word, is becoming lighter and lighter. And there is danger there.

As with everything, there are extremes, and, naturally, everyone has different tolerance levels and coping abilities.  A single name-calling experience to him may hurt more than the daily name-calling to her. We are all different people.  We have different sensitivities.

What I mean to say, is that there is a fine line between taking a stand against something, and allowing that stand to become a fad.  In a day and age when “likes” and “follows” mean more than love and respect, being “Bullied” becomes an attractive lure. I see the irony here, in that I am posting a video about my Bullying experience, a video that has a “like” option.  But, to be clear, I am not here to collect “likes,” or to get a sliver of your pity, or sympathy, I am here to shed light, reach out, raise questions, and probe for e-opinions. If you “like” the video on the way, well that will naturally fluff my online ego, which is certainly a whole Blog entry of its own.  The psychology of “likes” and “follows”… surely there is a thesis paper there.

These are my current thoughts.

Yes, I capitalize Bullying. It’s that powerful. And I fear it is being diluted.