A trip down memory lane

“If you could be straight, would you?”

LGBT-Rights

I was asked that question many years ago. I was in my 20s, I think. I don’t remember who asked me, but I think it was a co-worker. How was I to answer that? At the time, I had been out of the closet for several years. Anyone who knew me to any degree knew I was gay. To the outside world, I was an out, proud gay man. And yet. And yet. My answer was ‘yes’. If could have chosen right then and there to be a heterosexual man, I would have switched my sexuality. Or if I could have reached back into my mother’s womb while I was developing, I’d have altered something to ensure I came out heterosexual. This was almost two decades before I knew anything about heterosexual privilege. Even with that, I was aware that straight people had it easier in life than gay people. I knew that if I were straight, I wouldn’t have grown up feeling so isolated and so alone. And I wouldn’t have had to experience one of the most upsetting events of my life.

Continue reading “A trip down memory lane”

A trip down memory lane
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Internalizing cultural messages

Over on Facebook, “Opinion Vlogger, Children’s Illustrator and Thrift Store Addict”  Kat Blaque, posed the following question:


So I need your opinion. I have mine, but I want yours:
Do you think people who actively say that they don't date members of their own race have issues with self hate?

Because I’m so well known for expressing myself succinctly, my response to Kat was a few concise sentences.

Ok, maybe it was a bit more than a few sentences. Ok, fine. It was a lot of sentences. Sue me. I’m still working on concise. Anyways, here’s the response I left:

Continue reading “Internalizing cultural messages”

Internalizing cultural messages

Thoughts on life

Growing up, I always believed there were things you were just supposed to do. When I was a teenager, I believed that the proper path in life was to finish high school, attend and graduate college, and find a career. Along the way, I thought that find a girlfriend, settle down, get married, and have kids was to occur concurrently with the pursuit of education and a career. For me though, that path in life had some significant speed bumps. For one thing, I wasn’t one of those high school kids who knew what he wanted to do with life. Even in my senior year of high school, I still had no clue what college major I wanted to declare. I had no clue what career field I wanted to enter, nor what job I wanted to have after college. Many would argue that such things aren’t necessary to know as a senior in high school, and looking back with hindsight, I agree. But as a teenager surrounded by others who had their lives planned out, and living in a society that pushes the message of the one true and proper path in life, I felt that it was important to plot the course of my life. That I couldn’t was a bit frustrating. Adding to that, and perhaps more significantly, was the inner turmoil I was going through as I tried to come to grips with my sexuality. I did not come out of the closet until roughly 20. But even when I was closeted and trying hard to be heterosexual, I didn’t have any urge to get married to a woman one day, even as I knew that the rules in our culture say that’s exactly what I was supposed to do. The thought of marrying a woman literally wasn’t anything I saw in my future. Nor was the thought of having children.

It took me time to realize there isn’t one true path in life that everyone can, will, or should follow.

As I drifted through my 20’s, I took several jobs in the service industry, dropped out of college (because I still didn’t know what I wanted to major in, let alone do for the rest of my life), and began dealing with my sexuality. While I knew I was never going to marry a woman, I began to change my outlook on kids. I began to want children. I don’t really know the reasons why. I’m sure there was a cultural component to it. After all, I grew up in a society where it was expected for men and women to get married and have kids. That cultural narrative of the family was (and still is) reinforced throughout society. No matter the reason, the desire was there. Of course there’s a lot more to having children than saying “I want kids” and for all that the desire was there, I never reached a point where having them was a serious consideration.

For one thing, I wanted to be in a stable field before I became a parent. I didn’t want to rely on the highly erratic nature of the service industry as a parent looking to provide for his family. In addition, I wanted biological children and I had no idea how I’d go about it. Just as important-I didn’t want to raise a child by myself. I didn’t think for a second that a family consisting of one parent and one or more children was “lesser” or inadequate (and I still don’t). I felt (and still feel) that single parent families are every bit as legitimate as families with differing makeups. But for me, I felt (and continue to believe) that a two-parent household (regardless of the gender of the parents) made for the ideal scenario with which to raise a child. And since I’ve never had a relationship last longer than 3 months (and as of this writing, I’ve been single for 13 years), any thoughts of having kids were academic at best. Even now, as I approach 40 (hello there December 16, you’re creeping up fast) I still want kids, though the prospect becomes dimmer and dimmer as I get older. One thing has changed in the last decade: I think adoption is a better option. There are so many children around the country (and the world) without homes. Without caring families. Without the love that children desperately need. And I think I have that love to give. I think I could be a father and I hope to be one day.

Thoughts on life

Expressing myself

I was being watched.

Not because I was in the midst of performing the mundane task of pouring soft drinks for a table of guests. No-I was being watched by staff members at work because in addition to dispensing a Coke and a sweet tea, I was moving energetically and rhythmically. I was dancing. And I had a captive audience. It was in this moment that I had an epiphany.  “I was wrong all those years ago” I thought.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is actually a story that encompasses most of my life and reaches back to my childhood years.

It all began with the creation of my first superhero, the Vacuum-Cleaner Man. Not exactly the most awe-inspiring or fear-inducing name for a superhero, but then, I was only 5 or 6 years old when I created him. Inspired by the amazing Spider-Man, the V-CM was one of my earliest attempts at exploring my artistic side. If I recall correctly (my long-term memory is spotty at times), I designed him with the help of my maternal grandmother (who passed away in the late 90’s; miss you and love you Grandma Greene).

As I got older, I began to collect comic books and became fascinated with copying my favorite characters using tracing paper. Eventually, this led me to try my hand at freehand drawing, though I was hamstrung by my ignorance of anatomy and physiology (leading to some interestingly designed characters). In time, and for reasons I no longer recall, I lost interest in drawing (though I continued to create my own comic book characters and even tried my hand at world-building–the less said about that the better). Since then, I’ve had little interest in returning to the drawing board, so I suspect that was a phase I was going through.

While I no longer had an interest in drawing and thought my days as an artist were over, I did develop an interest in another activity-dancing. Upon turning 21, I became a regular fixture at local gay bars in the small Alabama town of Huntsville, where I could frequently be found on the dance floor. For years, my idea of fun on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night was going to Upscale or the Vieux Carre (or Connections and the Chute in Nashville, TN) and dancing my ass off for hours.I could stay on the dance floor an hour, an hour and half, even two hours straight, pausing only to chug some water or use the restroom. On the dance floor, I felt alive and vibrant, while simultaneously relaxed and at peace. Dancing became an outlet for me-a way to de-stress and temporarily forget any problems or frustrations going on in my life.

When I first started dancing, I danced freestyle. That changed in the early 00s, with the release of the instructional video Darren’s Dance Grooves, by choreographer Darren Henson.

I have fond memories of relocating the living room furniture of my apartment to provide space so that I could practice the moves taught in the video. As I became more skilled, I incorporated moves into my own personal style, which I then brought to the dance floor on weekends. Expanding beyond Henson’s video, I sought out concert videos by artists like N’Sync, 98 Degrees, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and more. The expertly choreographed moves demonstrated by these performers further assisted me in honing my dancing abilities. Don’t get me wrong, though. I was no professional dancer, nor did I ever aspire to be one. For all that I derived much enjoyment from dancing (as well as knowing that I was entertaining others), it was a hobby and nothing more.

Or so I thought.

I no longer think that.

That epiphany I spoke of earlier? The one I had in the wake of my spontaneous dance-fest? For some unknown reason, I had long thought of art as something done by painters, photographers, graphic designers, or sculptors. I never thought of dancing as a form of art (and never bothered to try typing “definition of art” into that newfangled Google thingee). But it is indeed art (performance art, in fact). That moment of clarity made me realize how wrong I was all those years ago:  while I may have lost my desire to draw, I never stopped being an artist.

Expressing myself

Minor annoyances

Have you ever like, used the last roll of toilet paper and like, did not replace it?

Are you, like, one of those people who doesn’t like, use a turn signal while driving?

Like, has the word ‘irregardless‘ ever, like, escaped your lips?

Do you like, use the word ‘like‘ far too often in a sentence like it’s going out of style and like, you feel the need to use it, like, as much as possible?

If so, congratulations! You’re* actions have probably annoyed someone around you and made them declare (to themselves or others) “That’s my biggest pet peeve!”

Ah, pet peeves. Those minor annoyances that irritate some people more than others. Declaring something to be your pet peeve can often cause others to stare at you with a puzzled look. So prepare your best puzzled face dear reader, for I am about to unleash four, count ’em-four-of my pet peeves (in no particular order of importance):

  • If you’ve ever been to a supermarket, you’ve probably seen (or even demonstrated) this pet peeve of mine-shopping carts left in parking spots. I’m fairly certain that every supermarket I’ve been to has a cart rack. Those racks exist for one reason-to provide a proper place to leave your cart because shopping carts don’t belong in parking spaces. Vehicles do. Double extra bonus points if you leave your cart in ‘the perfect parking spot‘. The ‘perfect spot’ is that parking space you really want when it’s too cold to be outside long. Or when it’s raining. And no, I don’t leave my carts in parking spaces.
  • Speaking of shopping carts…can I just say I hate Wal-Mart shopping carts? I don’t like Wal-Mart for several reasons. I would prefer not to shop there. Ever. Unfortunately, there are times when I have to, and some of those times I have to use a cart for my purchases. With all the money Wal-Mart has, why can’t they get shopping carts that aren’t fucked up? Wheels spinning incessantly and noisily. Constant loud clanking of the wheels as you wander through the store. That one wheel that doesn’t spin. So. Damn. Annoying. This is a long-time pet peeve.
  • My next pet peeve (another one that has annoyed me for a long time) will be familiar to front-of-the-house restaurant employees-the person at a table of two or more who wasn’t paying attention when you listed the side items, the salad dressings, or the available soups. Triple extra bonus points for the person (or persons; sometimes multiple people are being inattentive) who not only wasn’t paying attention to you the first time…they also were not attentive when you repeated yourself. I experience a variation of this pet peeve every day (no exaggeration) at my current job. I’m a bartender at a Mexican restaurant, and two of the five side items we offer are refried beans and black beans. After listing the side items and making it a point to mention that we have two kinds of beans, I frequently receive the following response:  “I’ll have rice and beans.”  Sometimes I just want to facepalm right then and there.
  • Another restaurant related pet-peeve of mine is when employees don’t replace the paper towels when they used the last of the roll. I’m very big on keeping my hands clean-as should anyone in a restaurant who handles food or drinks-so I make use of hand-washing sinks frequently. I have to admit that sometimes I get tired of washing my hands, but that doesn’t stop me from doing so. Any annoyance I have with washing my hands pales in comparison to the very real need for me to do so. The health of the patrons is of utmost importance, so even when I wish I didn’t have to, I still wash my hands.  When I do, I want paper towels to dry my hands off with!

These are just a handful of the minor irritations that rise to the level of pet peeves for me. What are some of yours?

*That was deliberate.

Minor annoyances

Someone tell Jesus to stop kissing people

One bright summer day in the late 80s, teenage-me was faced with a dilemma: how best to get home. I stood there, at the top of the hill leading to the swimming pool, weighing my options. There were a fair amount of trees along the hill, but not so many that I couldn’t safely navigate. Besides, if things got hairy, I could simply apply the brakes on my bicycle and slow myself down. There was another route (one that didn’t involve hills or trees) I could have taken to leave the pool, but this one was shorter. Which made it the better choice, of course (at least to my then-teenage mind). As I hopped on my bicycle and began the downhill journey, I began to question if I was being wise or foolish (definitely foolish). Shortly after beginning my descent, I realized I was going faster than I wanted. No problem I thought. Bike brakes, remember? Of course to function properly, bike brakes need brake pads that are not worn. Mine were very, very worn. Panic set in. My speed was increasing, and I couldn’t think of a way to stop that didn’t involve some pain and suffering. My panic diminished when I saw a ditch at the base of the hill. A ditch with a bridge spanning it. If I could make it to the bridge safely, I’d be in the clear. So I aimed for the bridge. Unfortunately, I missed and my bike (with me still on it) careened into the ditch. When my bike fell, I fell with it. As my bike skidded across the concrete ditch, so did my body. I still have the scars on the left side of my body from that accident. I remember that the experience was painful.

Despite what I had just experienced, I was able to pick myself up and drag myself home. I don’t recall the look on the faces of my parents, but I imagine it was that panicked look most parents get when they learn that their child has been injured. Let me be clear though: those injuries…the pain I was in…the suffering I experienced? It was all minor. No limbs were lost. There was no significant blood loss. I had no life-threatening injuries. Nonetheless, it still qualifies as an experience involving pain and suffering. According to the late, not-so-great Catholic icon Mother Theresa, experiences such as mine-while awful-are ultimately a good thing:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

The message is clear: pain and suffering are the path to Jesus. Uh-huh. At the time of my accident, I was still a believer (it took nearly a decade before I came to recognize the error of my ways and rejected religious nonsense). Nevertheless, I think my teenage-self would have preferred to avoid that kiss, thank you very much.

The idea that human suffering should be passively accepted or held up as a glorious part of the human experience (and thus, nothing we should try to alleviate) is a repulsive idea to me. I don’t like pain. I’d venture to say that the majority of people living on this planet don’t like pain. If it can be avoided, we humans often do. Because pain hurts. As for suffering, who the hell wants to be deprived of food, air, water, or shelter? Who wants to lead a solitary life with no interaction with other human beings? Who wants to be subjected to malnutrition, starvation, or disease? While the odd human here or there might say they like to suffer, I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of human beings don’t like to suffer. Sadly, the Catholic Church-that self-proclaimed bastion of morality that claims to have the best interests of humanity at heart-continues to disagree:

Jesus Sahagun, from Valladolid, has been charged with several offences including gender violence and causing injury and mistreatment.

The events began in 2012 when the girl’s parents asked for Sahaguns help because they believed Satan had possessed their daughter.

She was then subject to 13 exorcisms, in which she was repeatedly tied up and had crucifixes held over her head.

The girl’s aunts and uncles complained to police after the teenager tried to commit suicide.

In a statement in court, the girl’s parents said the Priest was aware their daughter was suffering from anorexia but that he told them the exorcisms would not interfere with her treatment.

In an interview with El Mundo newspaper in 2014, Sahagun said the exorcisms were necessary because the girl was “possessed by the devil.”

“The young woman’s suicide attempt was not a result of the exorcisms practiced on her,” he said.

Sahagun also defended exorcisms as “a religious practice maintained as part of the Church’s tradition, as a right available to all the faithful.”

While the causes of anorexia nervosa are not known, I think it’s reasonable to reject any supernatural hypothesis, bc hey, there’s no evidence for the existence of any supernatural beings (whether godlike or demonic). Before one more exorcism is performed, the Catholic Church should be made to prove the existence of their particular flavor of deity, as well as the existence of demons. They should also have to prove that demons can and do possess humans, and how they know this to be true. Finally, they ought to be required to demonstrate the efficacy of exorcisms. Until they do so, they should be forbidden from engaging in exorcisms, on penalty of prosecution. They should not get a free pass to engage in practices that contribute to human suffering simply because they are a religious organization.

That’s how things ought to be. Pity that’s not the way things are. They get to continue engaging in exorcisms and other actions that, rather than ameliorating human suffering, exacerbate it. Actions like installing a watering system to keep homeless people from sleeping in cathedral doorways:

The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings.

“We’re going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick,” Robert said.

The water doesn’t really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching told KCBS, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Yes, that is an inhumane way to treat other humans (and hey, what about those alleged teachings of Jesus that Catholics claim to follow) but if you put on your Think Like Mother Theresa Hat, it makes sense. Homeless people being drenched in water? Facing hypothermia? Kicked out of one of the few areas that provides some shelter? Yeah, that’s suffering, but what are you complaining about? You just got kissed by god!

Someone tell Jesus to stop kissing people

Oh brother

Thanks to one of the readers of this blog, I’ve discovered that the images on the post ‘My furry four legged companions‘ are borked (sigh…I’m sure that’s not the only post I’ve made with that problem). For those interested in seeing pics of my cats, here’s one of Cassie, one of Kayta before she lost weight, and one of Kayta after she lost weight. As for the dogs, here’s an awesome pic of Krystal, and here’s one of Sham (who is really my roommates’ dog, but I care for him like he’s mine).

Oh brother

Men are part of the problem. Let's change that.

A new article and video over at Mic highlights some of the core issues at the heart of Rape Culture. The video, a joint effort between Vine star Chaz Smith and the One Student project, discusses the disrespect for and the entitlement to women’s bodies felt by many men. By way of a sports analogy, the video makes the point that a patriarchal culture (such as ours) filled with toxic ideas about masculinity teaches men to be the aggressors and women to be on the defensive. On the defense from what you might ask? Think about the following:

When women are catcalled on the streets, who is doing the catcalling?

When women are sexually assaulted what group commits the vast majority of assaults?

The answer to both questions is M E N (I dearly hope there are no fools reading this who think I’ve just said “all men harass and sexually assault women”, bc that’s not what I’ve done. If you are one of those fools, learn to read for comprehension). As men are part of the problem, that also means that men are part of the solution. An essential part. How is catcalling going to end unless men stop engaging in such harassment? How are incidents of sexual assault against women going to diminish without men making the choice to stop sexually assaulting women? The video raises questions of this nature (and more). Listen for yourself:

While watching the video, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago. But first:

Disclaimer:

I am about to share a story with readers.

A story with an ending I played a role in.

Before I share this story though, I want to make one thing clear:

I am not asking for a cookie. My participation in the resolution of this situation was wholly an attempt on my part to do what I felt was the right thing.

Back in 2012, a friend and co-worker of mine-Rachel (not her real name)-confided in me that she was sexually assaulted by the General Manager of the restaurant we both worked at. Our restaurant occasionally made deliveries of food and on this occasion, Rachel and GM went together. On their return trip, Rachel said GM attempted to kiss her. While he failed at that attempt, he did succeed in groping her breast. When they returned to work, Rachel told me what happened.

I did not ask her if she led him on.

I did not question her attire.

I did not blame her.

I did tell her that I believed her and asked what she wanted to do about it. She said she was unsure and I suggested contacting the Regional Supervisor of the restaurant. Rachel was hesitant at first, so I told her if she wanted I could ask the RS how allegations of sexual assault are handled by the company. She agreed to that, and shortly thereafter, I spoke with RS (but did not reveal anything about Rachel’s situation). He said the company takes such allegations seriously and encourages employees to speak up if they’ve been assaulted. I told Rachel this, and she agreed to talk to RS. After she told him about being assaulted, RS asked her to meet with him and discuss what she wanted to do. Rachel agreed to this on the condition that I be there in the meeting (she later said she wanted me there for support). RS agreed to that, as did I. During the meeting, I sat silently in a chair close to the two of them and simply listened. I only spoke when either of them directed a question at me.

The meeting happened on a Friday. Over the weekend, Rachel expressed concerns about her job. If GM was not fired or sent to another restaurant, what would she do? She didn’t want to remain at a job where she would have to work with someone who sexually assaulted her and might do so again. Would she tough it out and remain working there and deal with/try to avoid asshole GM? Find another job? Thankfully she didn’t have to give thought to those questions for long. The following Monday, when I came to work, I learned that GM was fired for sexually harassing Rachel. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised given that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are routinely dismissed. Nonetheless, I was pleased at the outcome. More importantly, Rachel was very glad to know that GM had been terminated.

As with many men, GM displayed a lack of respect for a woman’s body and a sense that he is entitled to a woman’s body. If he had respect for Rachel’s body, he would not have sexually assaulted her. Without his sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, I doubt he’d have tried to touch Rachel in a sexual manner without her consent. His beliefs are a product of a culture that devalues women-their bodies, their lives, their accomplishments. These toxic ideas of masculinity harm women and men. They need to be countered, especially by men. We’ve been part of the problem for too long now. It’s time to be part of the solution and here are a few things that can help:

  • supporting and believing victims of sexual assault and rape
  • refusing to engage in victim blaming and criticizing those who do
  • educating yourself and others on bodily autonomy and the importance of consent
  • not harassing women on the streets and criticizing those who do
  • re-examining your beliefs about entitlement to the bodies of others
  • ensuring that all sexual activities you take part in involve consenting adults
Men are part of the problem. Let's change that.

Men are part of the problem. Let’s change that.

A new article and video over at Mic highlights some of the core issues at the heart of Rape Culture. The video, a joint effort between Vine star Chaz Smith and the One Student project, discusses the disrespect for and the entitlement to women’s bodies felt by many men. By way of a sports analogy, the video makes the point that a patriarchal culture (such as ours) filled with toxic ideas about masculinity teaches men to be the aggressors and women to be on the defensive. On the defense from what you might ask? Think about the following:

When women are catcalled on the streets, who is doing the catcalling?

When women are sexually assaulted what group commits the vast majority of assaults?

The answer to both questions is M E N (I dearly hope there are no fools reading this who think I’ve just said “all men harass and sexually assault women”, bc that’s not what I’ve done. If you are one of those fools, learn to read for comprehension). As men are part of the problem, that also means that men are part of the solution. An essential part. How is catcalling going to end unless men stop engaging in such harassment? How are incidents of sexual assault against women going to diminish without men making the choice to stop sexually assaulting women? The video raises questions of this nature (and more). Listen for yourself:

While watching the video, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago. But first:

Disclaimer:

I am about to share a story with readers.

A story with an ending I played a role in.

Before I share this story though, I want to make one thing clear:

I am not asking for a cookie. My participation in the resolution of this situation was wholly an attempt on my part to do what I felt was the right thing.

Back in 2012, a friend and co-worker of mine-Rachel (not her real name)-confided in me that she was sexually assaulted by the General Manager of the restaurant we both worked at. Our restaurant occasionally made deliveries of food and on this occasion, Rachel and GM went together. On their return trip, Rachel said GM attempted to kiss her. While he failed at that attempt, he did succeed in groping her breast. When they returned to work, Rachel told me what happened.

I did not ask her if she led him on.

I did not question her attire.

I did not blame her.

I did tell her that I believed her and asked what she wanted to do about it. She said she was unsure and I suggested contacting the Regional Supervisor of the restaurant. Rachel was hesitant at first, so I told her if she wanted I could ask the RS how allegations of sexual assault are handled by the company. She agreed to that, and shortly thereafter, I spoke with RS (but did not reveal anything about Rachel’s situation). He said the company takes such allegations seriously and encourages employees to speak up if they’ve been assaulted. I told Rachel this, and she agreed to talk to RS. After she told him about being assaulted, RS asked her to meet with him and discuss what she wanted to do. Rachel agreed to this on the condition that I be there in the meeting (she later said she wanted me there for support). RS agreed to that, as did I. During the meeting, I sat silently in a chair close to the two of them and simply listened. I only spoke when either of them directed a question at me.

The meeting happened on a Friday. Over the weekend, Rachel expressed concerns about her job. If GM was not fired or sent to another restaurant, what would she do? She didn’t want to remain at a job where she would have to work with someone who sexually assaulted her and might do so again. Would she tough it out and remain working there and deal with/try to avoid asshole GM? Find another job? Thankfully she didn’t have to give thought to those questions for long. The following Monday, when I came to work, I learned that GM was fired for sexually harassing Rachel. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised given that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are routinely dismissed. Nonetheless, I was pleased at the outcome. More importantly, Rachel was very glad to know that GM had been terminated.

As with many men, GM displayed a lack of respect for a woman’s body and a sense that he is entitled to a woman’s body. If he had respect for Rachel’s body, he would not have sexually assaulted her. Without his sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, I doubt he’d have tried to touch Rachel in a sexual manner without her consent. His beliefs are a product of a culture that devalues women-their bodies, their lives, their accomplishments. These toxic ideas of masculinity harm women and men. They need to be countered, especially by men. We’ve been part of the problem for too long now. It’s time to be part of the solution and here are a few things that can help:

  • supporting and believing victims of sexual assault and rape
  • refusing to engage in victim blaming and criticizing those who do
  • educating yourself and others on bodily autonomy and the importance of consent
  • not harassing women on the streets and criticizing those who do
  • re-examining your beliefs about entitlement to the bodies of others
  • ensuring that all sexual activities you take part in involve consenting adults
Men are part of the problem. Let’s change that.

How exactly does this work?

Shortly after my sixteenth birthday (in December 1991), I began working at a pizza buffet restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama. Beginning as a dishwasher, I made it up to the position of assistant manager (like He-Man, I had the power! Bwahahahaha!). I enjoyed working with most of my fellow employees while I worked there and developed friendly relationships with many of them. As a result, when I began struggling with my sexuality, and most especially when I came out of the closet, I shared my thoughts with several people I worked with. How could I not? I was friends with several of them and this was an important subject.  Wow. That sounds so run-of-the mill. It wasn’t just an important subject. It was something that shaped my life in ways that I didn’t understand back then. Hell, I didn’t even have the language to describe my thoughts and feelings–not in the way I do now, 23 years later. In any case, because of how I was struggling with my sexuality, and because of how you can’t just turn these thoughts off, I brought these emotional concerns to work.

Fast-forward to January of 2010 and one of the most horrible experiences of my life. I’d just lost my best friend, Micah Williamson. On January 7, 2010, I came home and discovered his lifeless body in his bedroom. It was literally the worst day of my life. Typing this out right now is making me well up in tears. We weren’t just best friends. If I were inclined to believe in silly woo or religious bullshit, I’d say that we were soul mates. But I’m not, so I’ll just say that we were as close as two people could be without being in an intimate relationship. His death devastated me and continues to affect me to this day. I took a week off from work (I was working at the Fish House in Pensacola, FL), bc really, I was a near-incoherent mess in the days following his death. I didn’t eat. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sleep. All I could do was cry. How do you turn that off? I knew popular wisdom said that I was supposed to turn off all that emotional turmoil when I went to work again. And yet, when I returned to work a week later, everything was still raw. I remember needing to find a private spot to cry a few times during my first shift back at work. I couldn’t turn off the emotions. I couldn’t leave them at the door, as I’d heard so many times that you’re supposed to do in the workplace.

I still don’t know how to do that.

How do you just turn off your emotions or block out the pain you’re going through? What if it’s the hospitalization of a loved one or an impending surgery that you’re dreading? What if it’s the thought that your car is going to be repossessed for failure to make your monthly payments or you’re coping with your house having burnt down?

All of this is fresh in my mind because of a recent conversation between a co-worker, D, and myself. D, along with her 3 children, was living with her sister and they found out that they had to move out by the end of February because her sister’s lease was up and she was planning on moving. Unfortunately, for reasons that I don’t completely recall, D said her sister got the date wrong. Instead of the end of February, the lease was up the second week of February, and D currently has no options. She has no place to move to. No place to live at. With three kids that she loves dearly.

Shortly before the conversation I had with D, I noticed that she and our General Manager were having a discussion. They were not in a private area talking; nonetheless, I didn’t attempt to listen in on what they were talking about. It didn’t seem like a casual conversation. In fact, it seemed like D was being chastised for something. That’s speculation on my part of course, as I don’t know what they were talking about. But when I thought about their talk in the context of what D told me about losing her home, I began to wonder: was our GM telling her she needed to leave her personal problems at home?

That’s the genesis of this post.

I’ve heard so many times that when you’re at work you are supposed to leave your personal problems at home. But no one ever tells you HOW that is supposed to work. No one says “these are the steps you take to ensure that when you are at work, your personal problems do not affect you”. I’m not entirely certain that following these “words of wisdom” is even doable.

How do you leave your problems at home when you’re about to be evicted and have no place to stay?

How do you leave your concerns at the door when you’ve lost your best friend?

“Leave your problems at the door”–how is this accomplished when you’re struggling to deal with your sexuality?

23 years after I entered the workforce, and I still don’t have an answer to this question. I’m beginning to suspect there isn’t one. If anyone out there can explain to me how this is supposed to work, I’m all ears.

How exactly does this work?