homophobia

Un-rant Pulse lowered

I’m still angry – it is my body protesting

My Pulse still races with a frustration and despair I cannot name or that words fail to capture

It’s interesting how the world suddenly sees diversity and attempts to explain it away, so many lenses refracting light, colours strong and bright, rainbows lost in the white, no longer in-sight

Not one family member or straight friend checking in – asking – wondering about my well-being, invisible in front of them

Who I am, outwardly concealing a truth that dare not speak its own name, let me remind those who do not get it:

It is a crime to be me in parts of the world, I can be legally put to death, I can be arrested, tortured or sent to a conversion camp. In the past I could have been institutionalised, had shock therapy, deemed mentally unwell

I can be me at a price – always a price – always – but I like me and I refuse to be afraid, but I am wary, cautious, alert, my heightened sensitivity a gift one I would never give up

This event was not bullying, harassment or some bad taste joke to get a few laughs or mock – it is not a misunderstanding. It was an act of genocide

It is what it is – it should not be denied and yet the media continue to side step into the shadows that ignorance casts

But light is always moving, and so is my grief and the patterns of my thinking shift to supporting my community – everywhere.

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Pulse Racing

DISCLAIMER: A momentary unfiltered rant – for the sake of my sanity:

More shocking headlines from the USA – which I think by default is now the capital of the world, at least in the eyes of the media.

Another mass shooting, 50 dead, 53 injured in Orlando at Pulse night club. But let’s be clear from the start, this was not a random night club. It was a LGBTQI+ social venue. Guns – course they bloody kill people, if you can buy an assault rifle next to your corn flakes no questions asked, that’s sick – why is there any need for debate around this anymore, constitution or not.

This guy could have been Christian but he is Muslim – so we are in for the rainbow flag being torn to shreds over gun laws, religious fanaticism and mental instability. People will stand in solidarity for a moment then go back to separation. This guy invaded a place of sanctuary, a place where regardless of the music and price of the drinks you can pee where you like and flirt with someone of the same, opposite or unknown sex.

The shooting is a reminder that being on the rainbow spectrum means you can be killed for existing – to be deemed fit for annihilation for simply being in the world. The gun man seen as delivering Gods justice by some. Stop already with trying to make sense of this Jeannie – it is utterly sense-less. For once I just want religion to face facts – your fear toting version of God sucks. And people wonder why young LGBTQI+ people suffer from anxiety…coz some people want to hurt them or kill them! Surrounded by rejection or the possibility of losing your life…hmmmm…hows that working out for your mental health?

Then there will be the other violence – the one that says ‘be grateful you live in NZ’, there is no hate here. Yes NZ you are so inclusive your schools can’t figure out what to do with transgender students – just pretend they don’t exist, or prove their existence through the violence of medical diagnosis. Yes the violence of sanctioned invisibility by inclusion, be gay just don’t don’t be too gay. Being angry will be seen as reactionary, we must ‘love’ in response to the hate – well F-that for the moment, I’m sick of white light washing the rainbow. Getting out my own guns to let my middle finger do the talking.

I’m done – and going to pray to a higher power to beam me off this gorgeous planet with psychopathic care takers. And please don’t think changing your FB filter to rainbow helps – deal with your own shit – that helps.

Flagging change

If I was an entrepreneur I would be thinking seriously about getting into the flag industry. From the passionate to the privileged, patriotic to political there is a growing movement toward marking territory along lines of separation in the present that flow into the past and future of which all happen now with real effects that can be felt in persecution, disavowal, and fear. There is a new flag on the block and it’s got nothing to do with NZ trying to decide how to resignify our place such that the rest of the world finally knows we are not the east island of Australia.

The Russians are all in a flap about family values and have decided they need to help people pick a side. This flag is meant to be a counter to the increasing profile of the rainbow one used as a visible representation of the invisibility of those falling outside heteronormativity. The idea of ‘straight pride’ being captured by a flag with a family on it reveals other invisibility. Clearly unless you have three ‘able bodied’ children of clear gender expression (based on clothing and marginal hair length differences) and two parents you are not a good model of heterosexuality. They might have gone with a simpler version that both mirrors and contrasts the rainbow. A simple black and white with no shades of grey, although they might want to refrain from using any symbols – been a bit of confusion with regard to black and white flags recently. Alternatively Russians themselves could fly all sorts of family flags without deviating from a man and woman being the parents. Mixed race couples, people with varying body shapes and functional uniqueness, and the obligatory alternative numbers of children that could make for a family unit – including 0.

South Carolina could consider adopting its state flag for public display, how many people know what it looks like? It’s one that might help cast off the shackles of mixed meaning because regardless of now the past lives and replays certain acts and scenes if given the chance under particular signs that have been etched in the fabric of time itself. We need to remember that rallying under a banner has been an effective propaganda technique for centuries and symbols can be turned from one meaning to another just ask any Hindu about the Svastika.

So to Russia with love – being heterosexual is not a crime in any country, you cannot be sent to jail, killed or denied basic human rights simply for being straight. Pride is only possible against a background of shame, the blood of those lost to hate crimes might make a good backdrop for your new flag – red…somehow I think that has other connotations.

Back to the drawing board.

Shouting-silence ‘just’ be-cause

I wrote recently about the diversity inquiry group and how humour works to disarm fear and create rupture points in cyclical self-perpetuating dualisms. Yesterday DIVINQ took on the Day Of Silence (DOS) with some curious effects emerging, most unexpectedly media interest. We took an alternative stance of being loud and overt about taking a stance about diversity and fear of difference in connection with bullying of LGBTIQ* young people (*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning).

The questions we were raising were only made possible because the DOS exists and I respect the initiative and what it stands for. I understand the intention of bringing awareness to issues through public action. But I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in schools hoping to develop social justice consciousness amongst students and I’m not convinced they necessarily create the change or move beyond the immediacy of the action on that day. Typically the gusto and energy swirls around a small number of passionate individuals. There is planning, ribbon cutting, poster making, assemblies, concerts, banner waving, and all other explosions of coming together. It feels good to take part in something powerful and joining the ‘in crowd’ of the moment is easy to do. In fact not it’s a little like Derek Sivers analogy of the first follower – once there is enough momentum you stand out for not joining in.

But what about the day after? And the day after that? What silence and shouting both do is make a statement – it draws attention. The uncomfortable difficult and ongoing work however needs a lot more than spontaneous combustion of injustice and emotive flashpoints such as ‘bullying’ ‘suicide’ ‘depression’. Worse than that, we can end up representing groups only in those terms of ‘victim’ ‘survivor’ ‘marginalised’ and inadvertently trap identity in these ‘cages of causes’.

DIVINQ is an ongoing conversation, not just a day of action so I hope if the media wish to lend a genuine voice to conversations about bullying that they put their own sensational agenda aside and engage in dialogue with schools or communities in a way that fully respects the context and commitment to the work people are doing.

Swimming lessons for life

Swimming has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. I grew up beside a river and could bomb above my weight receiving much mana from the locals. I’d like to see a push for it’s inclusion in the Olympic or Commonwealth games – fit right in with the diving schedule but maybe speedos could be optional. I’ve been hanging out at the pools for the last two weeks watching children learning to swim and observing tenacious, creative and patient instructors guide each one toward another level of skill acquisition. It is a beautiful thing to see goggled faces smiling and truly enjoying the process – and that was the instructors!

We are a small nation surrounded by a heck of a lot of water just ask Scott Donaldson. Not everyone likes swimming but what I’ve been particularly impressed with is the emphasis on survival and safety that has come through. Creating the next Olympic medallist isn’t the aim and nor should it be – these are 6-9 year olds. Even the great Michael Phelps who probably owns half the worlds gold by now, didn’t start swimming until he was 7.  I have a teaching background (there I said it – I’ve outed myself – stolen Ian Thorpe’s thunder) and with a passion in this area. Watching others explain concepts of biomechanics and physics is sometimes like watching reality TV, it’s cringe worthy but things work out in the end (usually). Which got me thinking about what good teaching really is at the end of the day. Because while I was muttering internally, correcting this brilliant young instructor (ego alert) with her explanation of gravity and body position – I observed absolute understanding and complete and utter ‘ahaaa’ moments wash over small faces. More important it translated into action – it was embodied – it worked! So did it matter that the explanation was inaccurate according to Newtons Laws of motion? Seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment radiate from the pool I’d say no. It might matter if those ideas are carried through to another context, sometimes simplifying can come at a cost. But one worth paying because knowledge is only valuable if it can be applied. And children get used to adults telling ‘half-truths’ they find ways to inform us of our gaps as they grow. I’d be interested to listen in on another lesson with older children to see what concepts might be adjusted, reworded or if any young minds find a way to question the instructors about there being ‘no gravity’ in the pool.

Perhaps that is why I feel strongly about the Maori concept of Ako and how it reflects what I believe to be a more authentic and balanced approach to teaching and learning;

“where the educator is also learning from the student and where educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and also recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated.

Ka Hikitia, 2008, p.20

Learning from each other requires a significant shift but one I see technology will necessitate – to borrow from Darwin (just this once) adaptation is the key to survival. But there is another possibility in here and I would like to go back to Ian Thorpe. How might Ako relate here? Well I would suggest it might come in with supporting concepts such as Whanaungatanga , Awhi and Aroha. Some will know the literal translations of these into English but many wont – however it is not the literal meaning that is important it is the quality of connection that is invoked in these terms – an energetic and deeply spiritual honouring of being. Tamariki is frequently translated as ‘children’ – that is accurate, but in Maori Tamariki is the combination of two concepts – the central sun (Divine Spark) and a being of senior or sophisticated status in a small form – let that sit over your mind for a second or two to allow the significance to filter through. Growing up wrestling with his sexuality I suppose I wonder about the emphasis on his swimming performance at the cost of nurturing, supporting, encouraging and acknowledging his emerging identity as a gay man, no doubt coaches, mentors and others will have been aware. His Divine Spark was suffocated but thankfully not stuffed out.

So I’ll finish by throwing out a challenge. Let’s ensure that learning to swim isn’t simply about addressing our appalling drowning statistics because there are many other ways to sink below the surface of life.

 

‘Lifestyle’ what does this mean?

There is a growing awareness that whenever people say ‘I’m not racist but’ that we have exactly that, perhaps best captured in this cartoon by Natalie Nourigat. That probably goes for sexism, and other ‘ism’s or ‘ists’ or ‘phobias’ basically any fear of otherness. I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed but there is kind of a double layer of marginalisation in talking about homophobia.

I was reading through a piece on racism by Jeff Yang (where I initially saw the cartoon) and was intrigued by a statement he’d made:

“The common thread here is that we have reached a point in our culture where it is generally (but not universally) acknowledged that making disparaging remarks about people of other races, cultures, heritages or lifestyles is unacceptable.”

I get race, culture, heritage (just), but ‘lifestyle?’ At a guess I would say this refers to sexual orientation or possibly functionality because quite frankly we have yet to genuinely integrate our physical structures with those who’s bodies function in unique ways. So I’m a bit confused why we cant just say sexuality or sexual orientation or functionality. For now I’d like to stick to the assumption that what is referred to is sexual identity in some way. Saying ‘lifestyle’ whilst not directly disparaging is indirectly homophobic. When sexual orientation/sexuality/gender identity are lumped under ‘lifestyle’ it avoids the realities of discrimination and hate people experience for being who they are – not where they shop, what tea they drink or how they get to work – that is lifestyle.

Lets ditch the laziness with language that softens and avoids the uncomfortable truth that we have a people who do not identify themselves as heterosexual or male and female.

Bi for now.

Racing ahead without looking behind

Down here in NZ where the oval ball rules, we have not escaped the global phenomenon of more spherical ball games including basketball. Why we have our very own Stephen Adams playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder – and all of a sudden I love basketball. That’s just how we roll sometimes, we connect personally with our fellow nest flyers…walkers (silly me forgot we are the land of flightless birds), and adopt them. It’s like living in a very large extended family. We can of course double our chances with the Adams family – sister Valerie is quite a good athlete herself. Olympic Gold, World Champ, Commonwealth Champ – yeah she puts that heavy round thing out there!

You don’t need to follow sport anymore – it follows you! Sport is a business and whilst we want children and young people to be active and enjoy the positive aspects of sport, in the end it is about generating profit. The relationships between marketing and promoting brands and sport is about as in your face as a ball in the face. What happened over the last week with the ‘racism scandal’ and the Los Angeles Clippers will be picked up as an issue around human rights, racism, justice and rightly so. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has ‘cut out the tumour’ excising as much removal powers as possible by cutting ties with Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But what will be the follow up treatment and overall recovery regime for the NBA?

While this decision has been lauded by most and is probably the right one, it is hardly a brave decision. It doesn’t require any party involved to deal with the fall out or be genuinely accountable. Legal teams are probably rubbing their hands together gleefully. Silver will be the ‘good guy’ cleaning things up and taking a hard line, Sterling the ‘bad guy’ and merchandise, new branding will probably be created to ride the wave of unity while the ground swell of public awareness is firmly fixed on the NBA. Sponsors will be running to advertisers to ensure they don’t drop in too late. Rest assured it will be ‘business as usual.’

What to learn and take from this? Money talks. Everything is for sale. That is the sad truth. This was never really about exposing racism – someone cashed in with that tape. If it does generate conversations about any form of discrimination in sport or generally, then great, but these will be fleeting and more about political point scoring.

I will be keeping an eye on proceedings but so long as my boy Stephen is playing well and representing the silver fern I will ride my own wave of national pride vicariously and cross my fingers he gets the respect he deserves as a player because of how he plays. I’m also hoping coaches with a homophobic streak get a bit of a wake up call. A note to Mr Silver then – you might want to look into that to.