Not just “those people”

When people speak negatively of gay couples, they almost exclusively paint a picture of nameless, faceless people who have nothing to describe them except their genitals. Sorry to be crude, but there it is. They don’t see a person, they see a set of genitals. They don’t realise that these are real people with real lives who have something to offer. They just see “male genitals + male genitals” or “female genitals + female genitals”. Therein lies the root of much of the bias and prejudice.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Mum in a shop. I’d just seen that Julia Gillard had been outed and Rudd was back in, and I was excited, and expressed my excitement. The shopkeeper saw fit to comment, and a discussion about politics ensued. That was all fine and well until I mentioned that I don’t like Rowan Ramsey (local politician) because he has ignored the wishes of the people he is supposed to represent, and stated that he will vote no on marriage equality, regardless of what the voters want.

The shopkeeper (who doesn’t know I’m gay; I don’t advertise the fact) saw fit to announce that he has no problem with “those people” as long as they didn’t hit on him (I hate the assumption that gay = predator!), and that they shouldn’t be allowed to have or raise children.

I asked why. He said,
“Because it’s wrong, that’s why.”

I asked how he felt about single mothers, and he said he has no problem with that, because they’re straight. I asked how he knew that they’d be a better mother than a gay woman, and he said ‘they just are’.

I can usually respect other people’s views, but this kind of view is the reason people like me can’t marry, and the reason there’s so much stigma about us raising children. I was raised by a straight couple; my biological father raped me multiple times when I was a child. But hey, he’s straight, so he’s a better parent than a gay guy *rolls eyes*

I ended up walking out of his shop.

See, the thing is that I am not “those people”; most gay people aren’t. I am a woman who is attracted to other women, but I have a name and a face and hopes and dreams and a past and a future. I am somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. I have been a mentor to several young folk who refer to me as “Aunty” or “Mum”, folk whose own parents (oddly enough, they were straight) let them down in varying degrees. I am not just a set of genitals.

Gay people are people, just like you. Who we are attracted to does not define who we are.

Rant over.

Disabilities and the PC-Patrol

People try to rename disability as “disABILITY”, handicaps as “handiCAPABLE”, and both as “differently abled”. Of the three, the latter is the only one I don’t find utterly stupid (and borderline offensive!).

I’m sorry, but a disability is a disability, and a handicap is a handicap. If you look at what those words actually mean, and not what the average Joe thinks they mean, then they’re apt.

“Disability”; some aspect of that person is disabled, whether it be a physical or mental function. Think about a machine; it may have five functions, and one or more of them may be disabled. It just means “turned off”, “paused”, “not currently functioning”, “not functioning to full capacity”. It doesn’t mean that the machine is dumb or broken or not capable of other stuff (remember, it has multiple functions), it just means that that particular function is not available. Now think of a quadriplegic; they’re disabled. Their legs have been “turned off”. Their other functions are still active, but that part has been “disabled”. Calling it a “disABILITY” would mean that they could stand if they wanted to, but they’re choosing not to.

“Handicap”; this just means something that makes someone struggle more in a particular area to keep up. Think of a golfing handicap. I’m going to need help with this one, because I’m not familiar with golf, but it refers to the person’s average score or something. It doesn’t mean they can’t play golf, it just means they may require additional coaching or compensation (as in, using a slightly different method/modification) in order to achieve the same score as someone without a handicap, or with less of a handicap. Calling it “handiCAPABLE” means they could play better golf if they’d just TRY!

Now, differently abled, that makes sense. It means that they’re weaker in a particular area, but hey, they’re strong in THIS area. Think of the disabled guy in the wheelchair; running a marathon by foot may be out, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a genius in front of a keyboard. Or if he’s athletically-inclined, maybe he can’t RUN a marathon, but perhaps he can WHEEL it.

To me, swapping one label for another is still saying “there’s something wrong with this person”. You’re still drawing attention to the fact that they have limitations. Saying they’re “differently abled”, however, is accurate, and applies to everyone, not just people with disabilities or handicaps. The focus is on what they can do, or do well, as opposed to what they can’t do.

And don’t get me started on client vs consumer, ugh!

Enough with the political-correctness. Let’s quit focussing on which label we’d prefer to tag people with, and focus on what a person can DO, eh?

And before anyone feels the need to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I identify as disabled due to multiple physical, mental, and cognitive issues. I don’t feel that calling myself disabled/handicapped is derogatory, I feel I’m just stating a fact.

It made my day!

Things that made my day:

  1. The nice woman who thanked me for stopping the car to let her walk in front… on a pedestrian crossing! 🙂
  2. Thinking I had three one-dollar coins, and finding that all three were actually two-dollar coins 😀
  3. Finding the chocolate topping in the health-food aisle at Coles; I feel so vindicated!!! \o/

Note: For those who are wondering what \o/ means, I thought I’d better explain; it’s a little guy raising his arms in a cheer 🙂

 

A political jaunt

Or jaunty politics, take your pick. Meh.

During a rather heated discussion about Australian politics today, a lovely friend of mine from “Up Norf” in England brought my attention to an English political party called the “Monster Raving Loony” party.

For the first time in my life, I have found a political party that reflects my views! I have contacted them to ask if they have an Australian branch… watch this space 🙂

http://www.loonyparty.com/ – ’nuff said. What can I say that’s not there?

I’m on the bus!

I boarded the bus at 20:08 tonight. And that’s where the fun begins…

When I booked my ticket, I requested the very last seat at the back of the bus. This is my usual procedure, since I have anxiety issues related to having people behind me. No worries, the driver wrote “13A” on my ticket, and I boarded.

The bus was occupied by about a hundred wide-eyed feral tweens. Fighting the immediate panic I felt at the sight of such a full bus, I made my way to the back. My panic increased when I saw that all three rows at the back were full.

A helpful onlooker, and possible RAICOF (Responsible Adult In Charge Of these Ferals) helpfully suggested that some seats near the front were vacant. I squeaked “13A!” and she shrugged. Another possible RAICOF to my right said,

“It’s okay. Those two at the back are meant to be in front of me. I’ll make them move.” And she did. The tweens glared at me as they were displaced, but it was MY seat!

So I settled in to my seat, pulled out the computer, and logged on to the interwebs. All good, I relaxed, I was in my spot and I was safe.

And then the singing began. It started as one off-key wannabe popstar who mistook us for a dedicated audience, and she was determine to give us our money’s worth. So I took out my headphones and tuned her out with my own music.

Ah, bliss!

Then three other wannabe popstars joined in, and even the headphones were insufficient to muffle their screeches. To make matters worse, about a million of the ferals decided to enhance the concert atmosphere by turning their overhead lights on and off rapidly in quick succession. Ugh!!!

Then another of the RAICOFs piped in with,

“You lot, leave those lights alone!!!” The ferals complied. And the voices went down. Peace resumed, and I decided to do some study. I put the headphones back on, resumed moodle, and lost myself in the cheerful world of elderly incontinence and sputum.

And gradually became aware of a rising chorus. That’s right, the popstars were back. Only this time, all billion of the ferals had chimed in.

On the verge of calling animal control, I was relieved when a RAICOF near the back of the bus suddenly shouted, in a deep growly bass,

“YOU LOT SHUT UP! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE ON THE BUS!!!”

That was 15 minutes ago. Peace has prevailed, and the dozen ferals have been subdued.

For now.

To be continued…

When love comes to town

I see that I haven’t posted for a while, so many of you are probably unaware that I have a girlfriend now. Yep, I can see the anti-gay mob scuttling off to their dark corners already, so I’ll post this under the assumption that anyone still reading at very least tolerates the idea of same-sex relationships.

I met Ned (screen name, not real name) a little while back, and it’s been long-distance because we live in different towns. I’ve driven up to see her a couple of times, and this weekend was her first visit to my place. Or my town, for that matter.

I wasn’t sure how I’d go. I’m a loner by nature, and my place is my place, my sanctuary. I can handle my brother living here, but I don’t tolerate visitors well. I figured it’d be a pretty good test of my commitment to Ned to have her stay. So I duly cleaned and tidied, and set up a spare mattress, and then waited for 3:41pm to arrive.

At 2:38pm Ned sent a message that she’d misread her ticket and her bus was due at TWO 41, not THREE 41, so I grabbed my keys and legged it. And thus the weekend began…

… and I discovered my missing half.

I dropped her back at the bus station yesterday because our time was up, and I felt a pain in my chest. “My chest hurts,” thinks I. “I wonder if it’s an arrythmia? Maybe it’s indigestion?”

And then I realised that there was nothing wrong, and everything right. The pain was my heart experiencing loss at the idea of being away from Ned.

I have NEVER felt that way over a guy. I have tried to feel that way, and I’ve faked it pretty well a few times on the outside, but I have never before felt that tearing of essence because someone was going home.

And people want to hate me for that, just because she happens to be female too?

Love letters

Every so often, God sends us a “love letter”; a “coincidental” piece of encouragement that lifts us up when we’re feeling discouraged. I received one tonight.

I was just out in the shed, cleaning (again; I had to put the new welder somewhere, and that meant rearranging things again), and was moving a pile of old newspapers (which I use for damage control when re-potting plants) when an article leaped out at me:

REJECTION: A BADGE OF HONOUR

The article was about people who had tried … and failed. Like Stephen King, whose novel “Carrie” was rejected by 30 different publishers (the article speaks of how he had given up and thrown it in the bin, but his wife encouraged him to try just one more time …), or Walt Disney, who was sacked as a journalist because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. It speaks of Oprah, who was sacked as a reporter because she was “unfit for TV”.

These people tried, and failed, time and again. Just like I’ve tried, and failed, time and again. Of all the articles in all the newspapers in that pile that could have leaped out at me, that was the one I needed to read the most, right now. So yes, I take this as a “love letter” from God, saying “don’t give up”.

Cyber-bullying

Yes, I know, another blog on that played-out theme … cyberbullying. The difference here, though, is that I have personally experienced the brutal effects of cyber-bullying, as opposed to many of these ‘experts’ who are on the outside looking in.

A few years back (2009, I think it was), I was friends with a gay couple. P was the older of the two, and had schizo-affective disorder. C, the younger, was a little hyper-protective of P. I myself had been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder at that time, the latest in a long list of ‘diagnoses’ that had been given to me to try and pinpoint what my exact problem was (the current, and most fitting so far, being BiPolar).

I was friends with these two for about two years, I think. I shared a lot of personal details with them, and they did likewise. And then one day P ended up in hospital due to an episode of his illness. I was one of a small group that C took into confidence about this event, and I respected that confidence.

Earlier that year, I had written about my experiences with mental health problems in response to a challenge in a creative writing group I was part of. At that time, I had had several requests for more information, and so I promised that at some point in the near future I would write about it. Well, not long after P ended up in hospital, and completely coincidentaly, two friends asked in the same day for me to tell them more about my experiences. Neither of these two knew about P’s current struggles, and I personally didn’t link the timing of his struggles to the timing of these requests for information. So I wrote about my experiences. I made no reference to P whatsoever.

And then hell broke loose.

C decided I was ‘grandstanding’ P’s illness, and proceeded to harrass me. He told mutual friends about “what I’d done”, and I received harrassment from them also. Attempts to explain the actual circumstances of the blog were met with hostility and accusations, and I began to receive nasty messages about how I was “stealing P’s story” and how I was a nasty person. Several mutual friends turned their back on me, and the stress of the situation landed me in hospital myself, having triggered an episode of suicidal depression and psychotic delusions.

Upon my release from hospital, I was again attacked, this time via a publicly-available blog entry from C claiming that I had never been in hospital, that I had made it up, and that there were “more holes” in my “story” than swiss cheese. A friend of mine stood up for me and was attacked for her efforts. I ended up abandoning that blog and hiding behind a new, private persona. My trust was deeply affected, both online and offline, and it was close to a year before I began to venture out again.

Cyber-bullying is every bit as real as any other kind of bullying, and has much the same effect.

I heard one ‘genius’ quip: “if you’re being bullied on the computer, duh! Just turn the computer off!” That’s over-simplistic and fails to take into account the psychological effect of bullying. ANY bullying. For many people who are bullied online, they’re online in the first place because they have trouble being accepted in the “real world”. Fat kids, awkward kids, kids with zits, kids with glasses, kids who stutter … all find refuge in the internet, because nobody can see their “imperfections” online, the only thing that shows is their personality. These kids (and adults!) can find acceptance online because that first visible barrier is taken down.

That said, telling someone to “just turn the computer off” if they’re being bullied is the same as saying “if you’re being bullied at school, duh! Don’t go to school!” or “if people bully you at work, duh! Don’t go to work!” or “if people bully you when you play sport, duh! Don’t play sport!” It’s telling people to let the bullies chase you away from whatever it is you’re doing.

That’s not the answer. The internet, for all its flaws, has opened up a world of friendship and opportunity to people who previously couldn’t access them. It’s a place where being a ‘nerd’ is something to be proud of. So why should people just walk away from it because someone gets off on being nasty?

Nope. The answer, like the answer to any other kind of bullying, is to stand up to/ignore the bullies. Just like the kid in the playground who steals lunch money, cyber-bullies get a kick out of getting a rise and having people fear them. So don’t give them that kick. Ignore them, and just enjoy the online experience elsewhere. Report the bullies to admins where possible, use the block feature where available, and just don’t give them that kick. Whatever you do, don’t let them get to you, because then they’ve won.

I took a long time to learn this. I hid for years after I was cyber-bullied. I feared venturing away from my own little page where I’d built a fort made of privacy controls. I even went to the extent of trying to justify myself by posting copies of psychologist/psychiatrist reports to prove I wasn’t lying. All I had to do, though, was simply block them and move on to better people. It’s the online equivalent of walking away from a schoolyard bully, and denying them that power. You haven’t left the schoolyard, you’ve only left the bully.

A final thought for those who know someone who is being cyber-bullied; stand up for your mates! Let them know they’re not alone, even if it labels you “uncool”. What a bullied person needs most is support, and with that support, they’ll survive. And if enough people stand up to support the victim, the bully ends up with egg on their face. What got me through, in the end, was friends.

Gay Pride?

All of what I’m about to write is purely from my own perspective; I can’t speak on anyone else’s behalf, and I wouldn’t try to. No matter what ‘group’ we’re in (and we’re all part of any number of groups, there is no one group that completely defines up), we’re all individuals within that group. The group in question for this entry is the ‘gay’ group, but that is by no means an exhaustive description.

There’s this belief in the existence of ‘gay pride’. Parades are held in the name of gay pride. People wave rainbow-coloured flags to show their pride. I always just accepted that that meant “proud to be gay”.

In light of recent events, though, I have to wonder about that. I was sitting here tonight, beading a dongle for my bag, and I picked up a rainbow-coloured bead to head the row of beads and show my ‘gay pride’. That got me to wondering … what exactly am I proud of?

Am I proud of the fact that I’m attracted to women? No, I really don’t think so. I really don’t see a need to advertise my same-gender attraction, and attraction to a particular gender is not brag-worthy, it just is. Some people are attracted to the same sex, some to the opposite sex, and some to neither sex (it’s true; there are some people that are just not interested in pursuing a relationship of any kind, they’re happy to be single and they have no sex drive to speak of. And that is fine, that’s who they are).

So what am I proud of?

Well, my ‘gay pride’ lies in the courage it took to stand up and be myself in the face of much opposition. Being gay is not a popular thing, there is a whole world full of people who will pursue, condemn, hurt, and even kill people just for being gay. It takes guts to be yourself in the face of that. I take pride in the fact that I was able to come out to my parents in the end. I take pride in the fact that they have accepted me as I am, and have placed no conditions on that acceptance.

For me, at least, gay pride means being proud of the courage to stand up and stop living a lie. Gay pride is about being honest with yourself, and honest with others. And demonstrations of gay pride, even a simple bead dongle, show other people that they can be true to themselves as well. It extends beyond being gay; showing pride for the courage to be openly gay means that others can find courage to come out about the secrets they’ve been hiding. Maybe it gives them courage to stand up to their peers who pressure them to take drugs they don’t want. Maybe it gives them courage to say no, I won’t drive like an idiot, I want to be safe. Maybe it gives them courage to say yes, I will wait until I’m married before I have sex.

Gay pride is about so much more than who we’re attracted to. Gay pride is about personal integrity. At least, that’s what it means to me.

So I’ll go back to making that dongle now, and I shall wear it with pride!

Defining Moments

There are some moments in our lives that define us. For better or worse, that moment is permanently etched on our life, and there is no going back.

I had one of these on Thursday.

First, a little background; when I was 17, I came to realise I was more interested in women than in men. It wasn’t really talked about back then, although the climate was beginning to change and the taboo was beginning to lift. My mate Chris had come out not long before, and when I told him, he said he could introduce me to some women I might be interested in.

But I got scared and backed away from my feelings.

This set the pattern for the next 14 years; every time I would begin to come to terms with who I was, something would happen to scare me off admitting it, often even to myself. When I joined the church at 19, it was made perfectly clear that ‘gay is not okay’. So when I caught myself admiring a woman, I’d force myself to “admire” a man instead. As such, I had a series of shallow and empty relationships with men, never achieving the fulfilment that should come from unity with another person.

I spent the past two years single and soul-searching, and when I was absolutely sure that it was women I was interested in, I began to send out feelers. I would ask questions of openly gay friends, asking how they came to terms with it, how they told their families, what kind of response they got, etc. A few of these friends apparently cottoned on, but I never really came out and said it.

About six months back, I decided to take a leap of faith, and told a very small circle of my closest friends that I was gay. They were cool, took it in their stride. After a week or two, when I saw that it hadn’t affected our friendship at all, I told a wider circle of friends, including some I knew were anti-gay. Those that responded were cool with it. Those that didn’t respond have remained friends anyway. That’s fine, it wasn’t rejection.

So I decided to tell my family. That was the hard part.

I had decided to tell Mum first, since I view her as the head of the family. The only trouble was, every time I got up the nerve to tell her, she would talk about TV or some person she’d met at random or something, anything else besides what I wanted to say. I doubt she was doing it on purpose, but it hurt all the same, and we’d end up fighting.

After one such fight, I got home and was sobbing and went up to my brother and blurted it out, saying “I’ve been trying to tell Mum but she keeps changing the subject and I know you won’t change the subject and I need to get it out and I’m gay!”

He simply said,
“since when?”

That was about three months back, and he’s been cool since then. My friends have been cool since then. It’s like nothing has changed. So I regained my courage to tell Mum (which had wavered, along with my resolve). I again tried to tell her, with about the same success as before.

So back to this defining moment.

Mum and I were out for a drive on Thursday. I was behind the wheel, Mum was my supervising driver (I’m on my learner license), and she got talking about Ellen DeGeneres. I used the opportunity to sniff out her feelings about gay folk, and then I said “do you remember the conversation we had in that cafe in Adelaide, about two or three years back?” This was the closest I’d come, and the conversation in question referred to the hypothetical situation of me bringing a woman home. She said she didn’t remember the conversation, and I lost my nerve. I changed the subject.

When we got to the part of the road where we swap drivers, I got out, took my L plates off, and walked around to her side of the car.

“That conversation was about the hypothetical situation of me bringing a woman home. Well,” and I blurted it out before I could lose my nerve again … “the next time I’m in a relationship, it’ll be with a woman.” I held my breath. Her face went blank for a moment, and then she spoke. I can’t remember the precise words, I was too nervous about what her reaction would be, but she accepted me.

I told Dad the next day, over coffee, with Mum’s support. I couldn’t quite get the words out, so Mum told him for me. I burst into tears, and he came over and hugged me and said it’s okay, it’s fine. And they’ve both been cool since.

But yeah, that was one of those defining moments. I’m no longer “Kitty, who is secretly gay but terrified to admit it”. I’m now “Kitty, who is openly gay, no big deal.”

So much can change in a moment.

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