Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hungry Like the Wolf?

I just got back from a really lovely brunch with the Ex. Some people (namely my current flame) don’t get why we stay in touch or how we even manage to get along. On my end, he helps me remember things about a life (in Korea) that is slowly but surely fading. Also, every time we eat together, it’s harder for me to have those negative feelings and easier to forgive. Forgiveness is a process for me. It’s less about where I say “You were wrong and I pardon you,” but more where my ego stops caring anymore about the past. It ceases to matter anymore. I see the person across from me as someone who is just as lost as I am, trying to find his place in this world, dealing with his own shortcomings and imperfections the best way he knows how. Suddenly we aren’t that different anymore.

But I digress. I was telling him about the crazy time that the boy and I had trying to get to see New Moon Friday. If you’ve been under a rock (and I grew up in a small-town in Kansas so no judgment), New Moon is the sequel to the mega-hit Twilight, a Romeo-Juliet story (the plot of which figures heavily into this latest installment). Our heroine falls for the brooding Heathcliff-esque vampire and despite being distracted by a crazy hot werewolf (boy-wolf I should say- he was born the year I graduated from High School. How wrong is that??) remains true to her blood-sucking BF.

The hysteria around this movie was at its peak Friday night at the Scotia Theatre (one of two theatres showing this movie in downtown Toronto). Not only where the lines crazy long but when all the computers broke down and they were unable to sell tickets, pandemonium ensued! Finally someone pulled out a roll of red raffle-tickets, manually wrote the name and time of the movie on each of them and took cash only and we were good to go. Only then we had to wait in line to get into the movie theatre with our little red tickets which the attendants upstairs were confused about. Someone undid the rope barriers and people just flooded in. Chaos. Lines broke down, civility and social norms were abandoned, and for what? For emo-vampires.

“Why do you white gay guys like vampires so much?” my ex asked me.

“Cuz they’re hot, duh!” I flippantly responded, concentrating on aesthetically drizzling just the right amount of syrup over my pancakes.

“No really, I mean, WHY?”

Pausing to consider it, I realized it is a valid question. In Korean culture, the only similarity would be the “fox-woman” who usually targets the livers of upper-class men. (Fun fact: There is no such thing as a “fox-man” just as we don’t have feminine werewolves!) In our culture, the legend of the vampire is ancient, pre-dating the Transylvanian Count Dracula. My ideas were the seductive power of a vampire, the idea of an outsider whose difference isn’t readily apparent and drinking of a blood as a metaphor for sex. From a queer perspective, the whole idea of diseased blood that in turn can infect others by intimate contact has connotations for a community that has so far been hit the hardest by the AIDS epidemic.

“And that’s attractive to you?” he said.

“Well, when you can identify something with yourself, it’s always attractive.” I countered.

When I asked him to answer his own question, he immediately replied that vampires are forever young and clearly this is attractive to the appearance-obsessed culture of gay men. It blew me away that he could see something so obvious that I didn’t even consider. Immortality was even addressed in the very opening scene of New Moon. Bella has a nightmare that she is introducing her vampire boyfriend to her grandmother only to discover that she is looking at herself in a mirror (the vampire has no reflection, natch).

So this leads me to wonder why I was compelled to rush out to the gym the very next day ASAP. The flip-side of seeing more homo-erotic images in mass media is the effect on one’s body perception, something women have been dealing with for a couple of decades now. If my waist size and weight are equal to what I had in high school, why do I still feel inadequate? Will I ever be able to take a picture without sucking in my stomach? Will I ever be comfortable sitting down with my shirt off? Will I ever get over comparing myself to others in age and weight? Probably not.

The irony here is that after going through the whole “accept yourself as God’s creation” schtick when one comes out, somehow I inadvertently picked up another archetype as soon as I put down the first (the one that said little boys grow up to be exactly or as close to their fathers as possible). This new one isn’t any better. It’s okay to be gay but you need to be out all hours of the night and dress impeccably. And live and love with wild abandon, like there’s no tomorrow. And have rippling abs and bulging biceps and a glutemus to the maximus. In other words, be forever young. Like…dare I say…a vampire?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cuts Both Ways

There are times when I feel like I’ve said all that can possibly be said. I’ve written this blog for so many years now on so many topics near and dear to my heart that there is absolutely nothing more for me to say. And then I read something or talk to someone and realize there are whole worlds I haven’t even thought of writing about!

Today I read this article in the New York Times regarding male circumcision and how, due to studies that show men who are cut have a lower risk for HIV, public health officials are considering recommending this procedure to be routinely performed on male infants in the United States. While I’m all in favour of cutting down HIV transmissions, this is a flawed solution to a more complicated problem.

First of all, this study, done in African countries hit hard by AIDS, only focused on male to female relationships. And as we all know, not all men are the same! While admittedly the majority are lady lovers, there has always been a group of men that are exclusively into other guys. And let's not forget that another group are “equal opportunists”!

So while "het" circumcised populations are 60% less likely to become infected with HIV, "there is little to no evidence that circumcision protects men who have sex with men from infection," where the risk is actually at its highest.

Secondly, being circumcised only REDUCES the risk, it doesn't prevent it. I am concerned that some men would get the idea that they are “safe” because they are cut and only choose to have sex with other men who are also cut. They might even disregard all the years of progress and work done by prevention agencies to promote the use of condoms and the kinds of sex that is low-to-no risk. Furthermore there is no evidence that being circumcised reduces the risk of infecting the woman in a heterosexual realtionship. So instead of helping, I fear the use of circumcision as an HIV preventative tool would exacerbate the epidemic in North America even further.

Thirdly, I personally think male circumcision in the majority of cases is a frivolous cosmetic surgery. Think about it. All men are created with foreskin, it’s a natural part of the penis. Unless you are Jewish, there is nothing in the Bible saying this foreskin is bad. Perhaps in the day and age when people didn’t shower as frequently as we do now, it was more hygienic. And (I have no way of knowing this, but..) I would argue that, since the foreskin contains nerve endings and also covers the penis, that men who are uncut would experience far more sensation during sex. In Canada and many places in the States, government insurance plans do not cover this unnecessary medical procedure.

I’m often surprised at the arguments for circumcision. My mother said that they wanted us to look like our father, as if we would have had opportunities to compare! I’ve blocked out any and all sightings from my memory! The argument for tradition doesn’t fly with me either. My brother and I still have our tonsils because by the time we were born, removing them wasn’t deemed medically beneficial like it was for our folks. I suppose perhaps a case could be made that one would look different from the others in the school locker-room but I honestly don’t recall noticing (or, believe or not, looking)! I just wanted to do my thing and get out of there as soon as possible!

With the risk of botched circumcisions and numerous complications on top of it being unnecessary in the first place, I think most parents would be better off letting the child decide when he grows up to have that procedure done. Why subject infants, only a few days old, to needless pain, when there are tonnes of young men who willingly consent to painful cosmetic operations like nose alterations, tattoos or piercings? Why try and “fix” what wasn’t broken in the first place?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lie, Lie, Lies Everywhere

In the past month I've been shocked and appalled by the amount of propaganda that the Republicans have been feeding the American public. Not only have there been misrepresentations about the Canadian health care system, but the British as well. Since Danifesto has had to address this with friends back home on several occasions, the subject might as well be posted on here for future reference! (Go here for the myths about Canadian health care)

And while I'm at it, let's just call a spade a spade. The fact of the matter is that the people making the most noise about this are the very same ones who didn't vote for Obama in the first place.They wouldn't be happy with anything he tried to do because they were unhappy he got voted in. Maybe some of their fear is based on actual health care but I suspect at the root of the issue, they just don't like him. It's personal and that leads to irrational crazy talk.

This leads me to the common myths about Obama's vision for the health of the US. The following list is the best summary I've yet to come across.(Please feel free to follow the links at the bottom of the page for further reference!) The truth shall set you free dear readers!

Lie #1: President Obama wants to euthanize your grandma!!!

The truth: These accusations—of "death panels" and forced euthanasia—are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: "No 'death panel' in health care bill."4 What's the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.5

Lie #2: Democrats are going to outlaw private insurance and force you into a government plan!!!

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. Obama's reform plans will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options.6 Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option—a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers—that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.7
If you're happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them.8 But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can't afford health care now.

Lie #3: President Obama wants to implement Soviet-style rationing!!!

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that.

Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage.9 And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation.

Lie #4: Obama is secretly plotting to cut senior citizens' Medicare benefits!!!

The truth: Health care reform plans will not reduce Medicare benefits.10 Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care—in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.11

Lie #5: Obama's health care plan will bankrupt America!!!

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy—to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.
Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care.12 The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade13—and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses.14 Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama's reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit.15

P.S. Want more? Check out this great new White House "Reality Check" website or this excellent piece from Health Care for America Now on some of the most outrageous lies.

1. "More 'Town Halls Gone Wild': Angry Far Right Protesters Disrupt Events With 'Incomprehensible' Yelling," Think Progress, August 4, 2009.
2. "Fight the smears," Health Care for America NOW, accessed August 10, 2009.
3. "Palin Paints Picture of 'Obama Death Panel' Giving Thumbs Down to Trig," ABC News, August 7, 2009.
4. "No 'death panel' in health care bill," The Associated Press, August 10, 2009.
5. "Stop Distorting the Truth about End of Life Care," The Huffington Post, July 24, 2009.
6. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 11, 2009.
7. "Why We Need a Public Health-Care Plan," The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2009.
8. "Obama: 'If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor,'" The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2009.
9. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
10. "Obama: No reduced Medicare benefits in health care reform," CNN, July 28, 2009.
11. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
12. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
13. "Premiums Run Amok," Center for American Progress, July 24, 2009. 14. "Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies," CNN, June 5, 2009.
15. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.

Sources for the Five Lies:
#1: "A euthanasia mandate," The Washington Times, July 29, 2009.
#2: "It's Not An Option," Investor's Business Daily, July 15, 2009.
#3: "Rationing Health Care," The Washington Times, April 21, 2009.
#4: "60 Plus Ad Is Chock Full Of Misinformation," Media Matters for America, August 8, 2009.
#5: "Obama's 'Public' Health Plan Will Bankrupt the Nation," The National Review, May 13, 2009.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enough Guilt to Start My Own Religion

Due to the religious environment that was an integral part of my upbringing, I’ve always felt like a bit of a prude. I curse infrequently, avoid spending large amounts of time without clothes and dislike “oversharing” about one’s sex life. However, given all the indications to the contrary, I’ve recently come to realize that I harbor little to no sex-related feelings of guilt! Why didn’t this happen to me when so many suffer from this?

When I began to experience things I never felt bad about doing it and felt it was a good way to relieve stress. I was actually grateful to God that I had a body that could feel such emotions. I wouldn’t talk openly about it (obviously uncomfortable even defining IT even now!) but as it didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t feel that it was bad in the very least. My family didn’t mention this subject at all and if there was in increase in trash or laundry, it was never noted, at least not to me!

Now as far as sex with another person was concerned, this topic was actually mentioned from time to time. Generally referring to those that did not follow the rule (that sex was only permitted within the context of marriage), these morality lessons inevitably came to a “bad end.” And yet, when I first shared an experience with another person, I didn’t feel guilty or that I had sinned against God. Perhaps I justified it by saying it simply wasn’t possible to marry another man and so the rule didn’t apply to my situation. I will admit to feeling guilty later but it was because I felt like I should be in a relationship with someone I was in love with and who loved me back.

Since then, I have had the gifts of experience and perspective. Even though some were not in the context of a relationship, most contained aspects of love in the sense that they were caring and respectful, filled with joy and kindness. I've realized that there are a lot of lonely people out there who try to connect or communicate through this medium and I believe God understands and, being compassionate, forgives all things. I’ve found the key is to accept this forgiveness and extend it to ourselves and others around us.

Everyday I wake up and try to do my best to be the authentic creation God has intended me to be. Sometimes I mess up. But I was created perfectly imperfect so that’s okay too. Having said that, I see no more reason to feel guilty for enjoying sex than for feeling the sun warming me through my leather jacket or for the chocolate melting in my mouth. In my eyes, these senses are gifts God has given us to enjoy. Granted, when we misuse these gifts, they can become harmful to others and/or ourselves and that’s when our conscience kicks in. It’s merely telling us that we are better than this. And we are!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cuz Ya Gotta Have Faith

Recently, while job-hunting I was amused to discover that one school, in lieu of a philosophy of education, wanted me to submit a statement of faith. Intrigued and always up for a writing challenge, here's what I came up with. Keep in mind, this is the cummulation of years on this (somewhat) green Earth so it may evolve in the future. I'm okay with that.

Danifesto's Statement of Faith

I believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I believe we are compelled to extend the grace, tolerance, and love Christ showed us to others around us. This attitude is our most important and effective witness to the hurting world. I see myself as a bridge between the world and the kingdom of heaven.

I believe in the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of God. Each of us has been miraculously and uniquely created. This has helped me personally in my journey in life and walk with Christ.

I believe in not only literally in the stories of the Bible but also the lessons we can learn from them. In the tradition of American Baptists, I have a thorough approach to the teachings of the Bible, taking into account the context of the time, the author’s intent and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I honour and respect other traditions and interpretations that reflect the love of God.

I believe hurting people is counter to God’s love. I am a registered conscientious objector with the US Government and a past member of Amnesty International.

I believe I would not have the faith I have were it not for my father, an American Baptist minister and now hospice chaplain as well as the tradition of my grandfather and namesake, a missionary to the Navajo, Hopi and Comanche people.

I believe God has given us talents and gifts that are meant to be used to help others and change the world for better.

I have been previously a member of American Baptist churches in Beloit, Ottawa and Sedwick, Kansas. Currently I am a member of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and am active in the Children’s Ministry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome Back

So Danifesto has been away from blogging for awhile. But inside his head, he's been writing and ruminating on all sorts of things. Hopefully now is the time to get back to this!

I want to first thank all those who wrote in and asked "WHAT'S GOING ON? WHERE DID YOU GO?"

Good questions! There are a number of reasons I stopped posting. One is that I didn't have anything to say. Another is that Facebook and emails used up all my sparetime.

More significantly in March my "dating around" phase came to a close and I started another relationship. This took up a lot of time and I was barely home, much less able to sit and type things out. There were also numerous parties and get-togethers, a stressful move (his, not mine thank goodness!), a fund-raiser for the 519 Community Centre, book clubs meetings, dance classes (salsa and swing) and a movie festival (which I will blog about!).

I also enjoyed traveling to Oregon to see my family and a really great wedding! That was so great!

Most recently, the language school I was teaching at abruptly closed its doors so I have been given the gift of freetime to enjoy the glorious summer for the first time in a couple of years! I've also been of course looking for work and trying to stay postive and productive.

In a nutshell that kind of tells you where I'm at. Personally I've been lately relishing and revelling in the joy of my own space. I love my apartment which is pretty quiet and has stayed very cool so far! I love getting sufficient sleep (which I hadn't for several months there). Watch some of those movies that have been sitting there in the cabinet. I am able to fall into all these great books without interruption. And hopefully now, that I've begun, write again! Welcome Back!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Glorious and Free

I just realized that the last three movies I’ve gone to have all had one thing in common: they are all Canadian films! In my quest to support independent film, I just happened to seek out three very different movies, all set and produced in Canada! I thought it would be interesting, as an outsider, to review them for you!

The first, “The Necessities of Life,” began on breath-taking Baffin Island with an Inuit man who was hunting for his family’s food. The landscape was majestic and his way of life so traditional it was a surprise to suddenly see a ship loom on the horizon. The man takes his family aboard, identifies himself and discovers he has tuberculosis. He is stunned he has to leave his family that very minute and be quarantined for treatment. After three months on a boat, he is driven in a car to a sanitarium set in 1950’s Quebec City (not to be confused with the province of the same name!). Keep in mind he has never been in a car or building before nor seen a tree. Everything is new to him: the food, the bathroom, his haircut, his face shaved, the bed and most of all the language and customs. Everything is bewildering and we observe him going through profound culture shock and then isolation. He is saved by a thoughtful nurse who locates an Inuk orphan (also with TB) to be his friend. This was such a beautiful movie and very well acted.

"It’s Not Me, I Swear!” was also set in Quebec but hailed from 1970's suburbia. A little boy acts out to get attention or to assert some sense of control over his chaotic life. At times both charming and disturbing, this wasn’t an easy movie to watch and I felt it needed more focused sense of direction. I was never sure when the climax or resolution happened.

Probably having the greatest appeal to the masses, “One Week” featured a teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and takes a motorcycle trip from Toronto to the west coast of Canada. Watch this for scenery and quirky quintessential Canadian moments. The product placements (from Tim Horton’s “Roll Up the Rim” promotion to the Roots leather jacket Joshua Jackson sported the entire movie) did leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and some parts of the story seemed forced (random forest sex?) but overall I totally enjoyed the ride (as well as the awesome soundtrack).

With so many other countries in the world, I feel it’s vital that we seek out other voices that are trying to be heard besides just the Hollywood blockbusters. By the same token, I think Canadians who create need to define themselves by what they are instead of merely as a contrast to the mainstream (by that I mean the States). Watching these movies set in Canada, I got to know a little more about the culture and life of my adopted country. I definitely would like to see “Pontypool” next and hope to see some Canadian documentaries as part of the Hot Docs Festival next month. Any other Canadian film suggestions?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To the Left

How did the word “right” come to mean “good” or “correct?” Is the word “left”, by implication and extension, “wrong?” When one works with ESL students, interesting questions like this always arise! Here’s my perspective on the matter!

Culturally we are biased to favour the right-handed person. We drive and walk on that side. When entering a museum or store, the impulse is usually to head to the right. When men are escorting or dancing with women, they are to offer them their right arm. Most instruments, weapons, computer mouses, cars, scissors and clothes are all designed for people who are right-handed. Politically, conservatives are referred to as the Right. Even the way our we read and write our language is more convenient for the right-handed. In spoken language we say someone is “in the right” when they are justified in a given situation or “way out in left field” when we think don’t agree with their position.

This bias extends to other countries to some extent as well. When I was in Korea, we always offered an empty glass or money with our right hand (or sometimes with both hands together). I’ve already mentioned the use of the left hand in Asia before. Numerous languages equate the world "left" with evil.

So what happens when you are, through no fault of your own, different? That what may seem unnatural to the majority, is naturally expressed in you? My aunt was born this way. At school they forced her to use her right hand instead and to this day her writing is illegible. On the “other hand”, my left-handed uncle, born several years later, was allowed to use his left hand and does quite well.

While we certainly don’t judge a left-handed person as someone is morally deficient, it might surprise you to learn that people used to do this very thing. Something was “wrong” with a person who wasn’t in the “right.”

I find people tend to make the similar judgments and have the same biases towards people who are, also through no fault of their own, different in terms of sexual orientation. What may be natural to the majority, seems unnatural to sexual minorities. In fact the term “queer,” meaning not normal, was also used as a term of derision. Just as with left-handed people, being different than the majority doesn’t necessarily mean one is abnormal, wrong or unnatural.

However despite this logical conclusion, an enormous, staggering amount of money, effort and tears have been spent by well-meaning people to change this condition which most studies have shown to occur naturally in humans, as well as other species. And while this trait may influence brain patterns to a degree ("southpaws" use their right brain more, queers have different brain patterns than hetero-peers), being gay, like being a “lefty” doesn’t necessarily make one a more interesting person. It’s really up to the individual to determine that for their lives. Society is “right” to evaluate a person by the way they chose to live their life but not by the circumstances that merely place them in the minority. That, my dear readers, would be just plain wrong.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Dress You Up in My Love

I have to say that I really have been blessed to be surrounded by so many interesting friends! One I meet with to discuss film, literature and life in general. He’s a writer and a good one and it’s my hope that someday his genius will be recognized if only by himself!

The other day we started a debate that still continues. He made the statement that any story could be interesting so long as it was well-written. I demurely disagreed, saying I’m eternally in love with a compelling story, whether or not it’s well-told. To me, it’s really the content that matters. He can’t abide by bad writing and I’m bored with people who have nothing substantive to say. And therein lies our dilemma: Which is more important, style or substance?

This question could be applied to so many other areas as well. For example I like art that says something or is recognizable. However, if it’s just colours and shapes (too modern), I really don’t get the point, no matter how well artfully it’s created.

In the movies I’ve seen, the most memorable were low-budget films that had compelling plots. Well done CGI or special effects don’t really leave much of an impression on me. I appreciate beautiful cinematography, the “art” of filmmaking, but I am impacted more by the story, the content.

I was going over this issue with other friends of mine and one brilliantly used the example of Chinese calligraphy. It can be beautifully executed but without knowledge of the content, it is meaningless.

This brings me to the importance of content in our lives. “Although I speak…and have not love I’m like a gong or a cymbal.” Love is what gives our lives substance, meaning. Our lives ARE the story. In the end, it really is what’s on the inside that counts. And the rest…well that’s just style and that’s fabulous too!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Give Me One Moment in Time

I have to admit that, in spite of myself, I do wonder from time to time what I’m doing in this country, away from my family and things that are familiar to me. I’ve resisted fantasies of relocating because a) voluntarily making numerous life changes all at once is never a good idea and b) I’m unsure what shape my life would take if I did move closer to my family. So with all this uncertainty running amok through my head, I feel like Jennifer Coolidge’s character in “Best in Show.” She’s backstage, eating popcorn by the handful and isn’t sure what to do, so she just continues to stand there stuffing her mouth until her instincts tell her otherwise.

Sometimes, however, I get a small sign that I’m exactly where I'm supposed to be. And when I get one of those signs, I am so grateful. One such sign happened yesterday when a frightened, nervous student met me for coffee only to reveal that she had fallen in love with a woman she had been friends with for years. Even better, this love has been returned. She didn’t know who to talk to about this and I was someone she knew she could trust. She asked me if it was wrong to love someone that way and if God was angry with her. Not only was I able to reassure her that God loved her very much but I was also able to share how much my faith has helped me in loving myself and showing love to my family and friends. It was a very memorable conversation and I was touched she felt she could talk to me about her fears about an unimaginable future as well as her joys over emails, phone calls and a future visit.

My life has these moments and I treasure them. A phone call in the middle of the night telling me of a positive test result. A heart-to-heart over things our fathers did to us. An email venting frustration about the discovery of an ex’s true orientation. A friend telling me he doesn’t want to go on living. Holding the hand of a dying person and not saying anything at all. I’m thankful that God has put in the position to be there to share these moments and I just hope (and pray) that I can listen without judgment and respond with discernment, wisdom and most of all, love.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bless The Beasts and the Children

I recently finished the novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” I might be the only person in the world that found this book neither enjoyable nor profound. However, there was one part though that I thought was interesting:

"True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals.”

I agree completely. It seems to me the best part of humanity is revealed in our charity to others weaker than we are. It’s when we have nothing to gain from helping the other person, except of course for the affirmative feeling of having done something good. (This reminds me of this Friends episode where Phoebe tries to do selfless acts of charity without receiving anything in return. In the end she fails because she feels good about being the cause of another person’s happiness.)

Ego aside, most of the acts of kindnesses we do are because we expect something nice in return. I send Christmas cards to people I either would like to receive cards from or have already received one from them. I write emails for the same reason.

The beauty of loving child or pet is that they really can’t do much in return for all that we give them. The vast disparity in ability, power and social standing truly places them on the lowest rung of society.

You may recall Jesus’ thoughts on the subject; “Blessed are the beasts and the children for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” I believe, with his many statements concerning the poor and helpless, the disenfranchised, he would be less interested in the “trickle-down economics” and tax breaks and he’d be all over directly helping those are in need. This is yet another reason I agree with Obama's hopeful, optimistic call to try to turn the world around.

So if you feel that in your life you aren’t being “spiritually fed,” I suggest you do what my pastor said recently. “Take off the bib and put on the apron!” There’s a world out there in need of what only you can do! Let’s each do our part to make the world a better place.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Walk Like a Man

The other day I came across this clip from the comic Michael Buckley from the What the Buck Show? In it he answers a variety of questions about his sexual orientation based on his mannerisms, way of dress and style of delivery. All of these factors supposedly equal the big G-A-Y.

This got me thinking: What does it mean to act gay? Does this mean to cross your legs and wildly fan your wrists in the air? I have numerous queer friends who don’t fit this stereotype. Clearly an attraction to the same gender on some level would be a shared common behaviour but beyond this they are what I guess would be termed “straight-acting.” This means that instead of tipping off anyone’s “gaydar,” they could easy pass as heterosexual.

I have no problems with these “manly” men. As long as this is who they truly are, then I love and accept them for it. I become conflicted though when these same “straight-acting” gay men make it clear they are only interested in the same. Furthermore, they use the exact same lingo that has ironically been used against us in the past. “No Nellys, pansies, fems or queens.” Do they have issues with women when they go on and on about the draw of the “real man.”

I was in a clothing store with some friends and we were trying on clothes (I know, pretty gay huh?). “Does this make me look gay?” one asked me. I really didn’t know how to respond to that question. Snug tee-shirt or no, he’s still gay as the day is long. But he doesn’t want to been perceived as gay? He’s hardly a closet case as he’s openly married to a man (someone I incidentally used to date). Is this what people demonstrated for in the past? The fear of “looking gay?” Is there perhaps some kind of internalized homophobia that makes him reluctant to be seen “that way?”

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that gay people self-identify every second breath nor wear rainbow/triangle laden clothes. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Rather, I’d like to see some people get over themselves and their ego. You don’t have to act “like a man” if you already are a man. You just have to be yourself. By the same token, allow and affirm others to be themselves as well. If they flame, let their flames burn brightly bless ‘em! If they can’t dance to save their souls, be kind. We haven’t come all this way to trade in old closets for new (albeit much more fabulous) ones!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spread Your Wings and Prepare to Fly

In a movie I just watched called “Happy Go Lucky,” there was a scene (seen here in the trailer) where the sister of the main character charged her with not taking life “seriously enough.” The main character protested, saying she had an amazing life and really felt lucky that she had it. She was enjoying and treasuring every minute of it. The sister responded by referencing the future and how one had to prepare for it. A classic Mary/Martha scenario.

What occurred to me here is that the first sister was exhibiting fear and timidity. And the whole point of Jesus spending time on Earth was not just to give us life, but a life more abundant. (John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.") So many of us are not living an abundant life but live in fear of the future. I really don’t believe that is what God intended for us when we were created.

About this time last year I asked myself, what patterns need to change in me to have this abundant life? This question caused a powerful but painful transformation. What gave me inspiration was the butterfly.

Inside the caterpillar there already exists the DNA to transform into a butterfly. God put it there- it was part of the design. Much like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, the caterpillar has the power all along. The same could be said for us. God has instilled in us the power to live life more abundantly. Jesus came to show us how to do that.

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge from its cocoon? It takes a really long time. And it isn’t easy. And if you try to help the butterfly along by removing the cocoon yourself, it actually cripples it. The painful struggle actually exercises muscles allowing the butterfly to spread its wings and fly. No one can do this for him.

What we can learn here is that it takes time to transform. We need to grieve our loss. We will struggle and probably have difficulties, make mistakes, get messy. No one can do this for us though, it’s our responsibility.

The silver lining is that transformation does occur and we will be able to soar to new heights, seeing and experiencing things we never imagined or thought possible before.

I’ve had people often tell me how strong or lucky I am. Truth be told I’m not. God gave me this potential from the very moment I was created. And He put this same potential in you as well. I’ve seen this ability to transform in so many of my friends and it is truly inspiring to me. You will be shocked and amazed at what you are able to do when you choose to live your life abundantly!

*Thanks to Reverend Brent Hawkes for inspiring me with a recent sermon on the topic of butterflies!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Me, Myself and I

Recently there’s been a spate of lists in which the participant notes interesting trivial things about themselves. They were fun to read and I thought I would try it myself. The number appears to range from 25 to 10 so I’ve compromised at 20. Enjoy!

1.I was named for my paternal grandfather who died a little over 9 months before I was born. If I had been a girl, I would have been named Julie Marie. Bizarely, my cousin who was born after me ended up with a similar name.
2.I love cats. I pretended the neighbour’s black cat was actually mine. I renamed it Licorice (much better than Ernie) and pretended it was my familiar and could talk to me telepathically like in “The Cat From Outer Space.”
3.My parents tried for 5 years to conceive me. I’m glad they didn’t give up. My mother suspected that my queer nature was due to hormones she took to be more fertile. It really doesn’t matter or change anything. My brother was born three years later with no trouble at all.
4.It seems odd to me that in the first half of my life, I was in smaller versions of larger cities whereas now the reverse is true. I was born in the “Little Apple” of Manhattan, Kansas. My hometown was Beloit, named for Beloit, Wisconsin. I graduated from Ottawa University, a small town in Kansas, not the capital of the country I now live in. I see myself living in cities for the time being which is something I never would have imagined saying in high school.
5.I am distantly related to Abraham Lincoln. But can’t prove it. Supposedly he is my great-great grandfather’s great-great grandfather’s uncle. I do know that Lincoln’s mother was a Hanks as was my great grandmother.
6.The last 4 digits of my phone number spell DANO.
7.I’ve been blogging at for almost four years (in April). In that time I’ve posted 155 times, the vast majority of which has been the product of my own work.
8.Speaking of writing, I’ve been pen-pals with my cousin (see above) since I was nine. I communicate probably more with her than any other person. Which is saying a lot since I’m a pretty strong in that area.
9.I’ve been “out” for ten years now. I’ve only had two long-term (over a year) relationships. I’ve had my heart-broken twice and my world rocked once. Still a ways to go yet!
10.I have a more-than-average resemblance to my family. In university, people often mistook my parents for siblings and mistook my sibling and me for twins. Most everyone in my family has this distinctive blue eye colour. Strangers have commented to me many a time. I was even voted “Best Eyes” in HS. They just had black and white photos of only your eyes posted and I’ve always wondered if the results would have been the same if the rest of my face had been shown.
11.I have a collection of neckties that I wear for school. People commonly ask me how many I have. I think it’s around 80 or so but it’s been awhile since I last counted. A lot.
12.I may (or may not) be allergic to penicillin. One of us had a reaction and my mom can’t remember which.
13.I’m a Virgo but on the cusp between Libra. I don’t necessarily believe in horoscopes but a lot of the traits attributed to these signs apply to me. Coincidence? You decide!
14.I am right-handed which isn’t all that unusual. The curious part is that since the beginning, I have insisted on using the left hand for functions on the toilet. My parents thought this was really odd. I found out later that in Asian cultures this is a common custom. I don’t seriously entertain the idea of past-lives but it would explain why I’m drawn to that culture.
15.The best and worst books I’ve ever read were both recommended to me by my aforementioned cousin. In her defense, there have been overwhelmingly more good than bad.
16.The greatest influences in my life have ironically been mostly women.
17.I have always wanted to see a ghost. I am open to the possibility that they exist. I don’t have a fear of death or death-related things. I’ve been to more funerals than I can count. The ones I regret missing were: my piano teacher’s, my godfather’s and my friend’s (GB Dave).
18.I graduated from a private university a semester early even with an extra semester of student teaching. I did this by taking all my prerequisite classes early in HS or during my summer breaks. Because of this, generous scholarship packages, two part-time jobs and a small government loan (that was forgiven by teaching in a low-income district), I am debt-free.
19.I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and knew I would be since I was a child. I feel so blessed I can do what I love. I am praying to get back to the primary level some day, Lord willing. That being said, I have been drawn to writing for quite some time as well and imagine myself being Carrie Bradshaw. Just gay. And Christian. It could happen!
20.I love the piano and singers who play the piano. Sadly I really haven’t played in ages. It’s something I would like to get back to doing. Perhaps in the Year of the Ox!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hooked On A Feelin'

Walking home a few nights ago, I found myself feeling very happy. This was probably due to a variety of factors, not the least being the Yellowtail Shiraz my good friend and I shared over a lovely dinner at his home, followed by a book chat with cheese! I had been thinking about my life a year ago and how utterly trapped I felt. Like when Ani DiFranco sings "There's got to be more than this boat I'm in." I had prayed to somehow find my way out of the dissatisfaction, the feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. And then it suddenly occurred to me in that one cold, crisp moment that my prayers HAD been answered last year. I rediscovered church and my spirituality. I learned about inner joy and peace. I dealt with the reality of my relationship instead of obsessing on the past or longing for the future. My life is now full of potential and possibilty and now I realize that it always was.

And that's just the funny thing I've come to discover about emotions. They are 1) fleeting and temporary and therefore 2) not part of the essence that is me. Being aware of my emotions is not only to acknowledge them but also to separate/depersonalize them from who I am. So instead of being a happy/sad/bitter person, I am merely someone who experiences these feelings. As with all external experiences, these can influence me (if I so choose) but don't determine who I am or my actions(also my choice).

I caught myself personalizing feelings the other day when I was talking to a friend on the phone about my least favourite part of church. I don't particularly care for the "stand and greet those brothers and sisters in Christ" part. I stopped talking and thought about what I was feeling and came to realize that I wasn't upset about that at all. I was actually embarrassed that I was in church alone- feeling uncomfortable, outside my "comfort zone" if you will. I switched gears from a negative place to one that was more peaceful and in tune with my essence.

I've also noticed that my feelings often "overwhelm me" when I'm in periods of stress due to physical pain, lack of sleep or other outside factors. Knowing that these triggers exist, I can make allowances, being aware that I may experience stronger, more ego-driven emotions on that day. It's a bit like a weather forecast I suppose.

Merely being aware of this actually diminishes the intensity of the emotion. It's okay to feel things of course and I value emotions because that's what makes me alive, human. In addition, I treasure the positive joyful feelings I have so much more, knowing that they are precious and fleeting but are not the essence of me.

At this point you may be asking- what IS our essence then? If it isn't our ego, experiences, feelings or ideas? I think Jesus already revealed this when he said "Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor.13:13)." When we are born, these are what we come into the world with, everything else is baggage that we choose to carry (or not). And when we die, we leave all that baggage behind. The only things we can take with us are peace, hope and love.

As you go about your day today try to be aware of the difference between your feelings and your center, your essence, your core, your chi, your spirit or your soul. Just like the sun, it's always there, even though (much like the winter lately) you can't always see it!