Sunday, June 25, 2017

Again and Again (A Pride Day Post)

Image result for rainbow flag in a fist
Image description: a graphic design of a fist with the fingers being different colours of the rainbow. (I don't know who owns this art, if it's use here is unacceptable, please let me know and I will take it down.)


I met a man

At a dinner party.

Who got very quiet

When I answered his question.

What do you do for a living? he asked.

I told him, with pride, what I did

"I am a behaviour therapist," I said.

"Oh," was all he said

before he left the table.

The host got up

and followed his friend

out of the room.

He came back and asked

"What did you say to him?"

I told him about

our brief conversation.

"Oh, no!" he said,

"Oh, no!"

His friend

had been

involuntarily

admitted

to a

psychiatric

facility

for

behavioural

conversion

therapy.

It involved

using

shocks

for

punishment

at

any

sign

of

arousal

to

pictures

of

men.

They

put

a

gauge

around

his

penis

and

showed

him

male

images

and

shocked

him

and

shocked

him

and

shocked

him

if his body

responded.

Again

and again

they

burned

his

flesh.

He was left

scarred

body

and

mind

by

people who do

what I do.

That I wouldn't

didn't matter.

All that mattered

was that

someone had.

He left

the party.

The seat

beside

me

stayed

vacant.

I sat

silenced

unit it was time

to go.

That

man

one

day,

when I

ran

into him

at a

parade,

told

me

it

took

years

but

that

pride

had

begun

to

heal

his

wounds.

But,

he told me,

sometimes

when

he

makes

love

to

his

husband,

he

can

smell

the

light

scent

of

the

flesh

on

his

arm

being

burnt

by

one

shock

after

another.

I wouldn't ever

do that.

But it's been

done.

And

ultimately

that's

all that

matters.

Take

warning

those

who

wield

and

misuse

power.

Pride

will,

one day,

bring

you

down.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Late Flight Miracle

We boarded the plane, got in our seats, and watched take off time come and go. Every 10 or 15 minutes there would be an announcement that the flight would take off in 10 or 15 minutes. About an hour and 20 minutes later, they announced that the "small mechanical problem" was fixed and the paperwork just needed to be signed off. Finally, we were in the air.

Joe and I were lucky because we were flying home and Toronto was where we got off. Many, many, other people on the plane weren't so lucky, they were flying through Toronto and needed to make connections. The length of delay meant that there would be tight connections at best and missed at worst.

I never watch television or movies on the plane, I have a book and that's movie enough for me. What I watch is the map that's provided as one of the video options. All it does is show the progress of the flight and give information as to arrival time and altitude and temperature outside but the best thing is watching the little plane slowly make it's way across the screen following a flight path marked out by a green line.

As the plane got closer, the atmosphere on the plane grew tense. Around me people who had been watching movies flipped over to the map as well. We all watched the approach to Toronto and the time passing. Whispered conversations were being held by couples and by parents and children. There was a sigh of relief when the plane touched down.

About five minutes before landing, there was a passenger announcement. We were told the gate we were arriving at and the gates of soon to be departing flights to varying places, all of which were destinations for those who had connecting flights. Pens quickly wrote down the gate numbers and a diversity of Gods began to hear fervent prayers.

As we pulled to the gate, there came another announcement. this one was quite solemn in tone. Everyone picked up on the seriousness in the tone of voice. It asked for those passengers for whom Toronto was their final destination to please stay on the plane for a few minutes and leave the aisles free for those who had connections. It was explained to us that the pilot had made up some of the lost time in flight and that if we gave people the opportunity almost all of the passengers with connections would make their flights.

I could hear in the voice a tiredness. I understood this. I've been on planes before when this request was made and virtually no one complied. People got off in the same way that they always do, as soon as they could. I am used to waiting to get off a plane and I'm always surprised at how quickly it empties. It's not a long wait. It's a small thing to do.

Some passengers were so anxious to get off that they were getting up and getting luggage as we were pulling into the gate. They were told firmly to sit down until the plane stopped moving. Their anxiety was understandable. Seconds before the door opened the appeal was made again, if we were getting off in Toronto, wait just a few minutes for those travelling on.

And people did. I turned to see the aisle full of people running, actually running, down it towards the door and people standing, waiting, some calling out "Good Luck!" to their fellow passengers who  zipped past them. I'd never seen this before. I'd never seen a whole plane, filled to the brim, let those who needed fast exit have fast exit.

Just a moment of time.

Just an exercise of patience.

And a touch of restraint.

Can communicate who we are in powerful ways.

We, collectively, had the opportunity to allow people to move on in their journeys, to make it home to spouses and kids, to make up lost time. We, collectively, could demonstrate the power of valuing another's time and another's needs.And, we did.

It's a small moment but it will be a big memory.

As we always get off last, I saw the Toronto bound passengers faces as they disembarked. Everyone was surprised by everyone else, everyone seemed surprised that this had happened and that they were part of it. We are all now going to be part of everyone else's story.

And it's a good story.

Friday, June 23, 2017

2X 3 Things

Three things:

1) Ignorance is not bliss

2) Ignorance is never an excuse.

3) Ignorance is almost never the problem.

Recently there was an incident in Canada, that I will not link to, where a woman went on a racist rant at a walk in clinic wanting a white doctor who spoke English. Thankfully there were people there that stood up to her, which always gives me hope, but the video of the event and her outburst was everywhere for a while. I was appalled at the time but became even more so when I heard the discussion about her behaviour.

The general consensus was that she was "ignorant." People talked about her as if she was in desperate need of some kind of sensitivity training or diversity training or anger management training.

Because, of course, white people aren't ever racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or ableist, or disphobic, or prejudiced in any way. We are just a little misguided. We just need a glass of juice, a cookie, and a 20 minute class and we're back to being good, well behaved white folk. "Poor dear," we seem to say as we acknowledge that what she did was racist and then we explain that while her behaviour might be considered racist, she certainly isn't, "she's just ignorant and needs some in class time with a teacher and a power point presentation."

I'm tired of ignorance getting the blame for blatant prejudice and bigotry.

Call a bigot a bigot.

Call our prejudice where prejudice exists.

Explaining way someone's behaviour brings into question your own behaviour. Why do you have a need for this to be 'ignorance' and 'poor dear' behaviour?

Remember when teens were coming to the gay area of Toronto and throwing slushies into the faces of people they tagged as members of the lgbtq+ community? The result of all the television discussion was that these teens need training.

No one needs training to know that you don't throw slushies into the face of strangers.

No.

One.

It was blatant prejudice and those teens were wilfully and purposely homophobic.

That woman was wilfully and purposely racist.

Get it.

GET IT?

Accountability begins with naming the problem. It is entirely possible that a woman who yells and complains in a racist manner is simply and maybe even irredeemably racist. It is entirely possible that she believed that everyone else felt like her but was afraid to say it. It is entirely possible that she meant ever racist thing that she said. And if it's possible then that possibility needs to be discussed. We need to own racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia and all the other forms of prejudice, we need to recognize that these exist independently from ignorance or a need for training. That these things are even resistant to cookies and classes.

She was racist therefore she is racist. Isn't that an easy step.

Isn't then the question how do we deal with racism or how do we prevent racism or how do we support her victims? Yes, she had victims. Not one word has been said about the impact of her words on the doctors and nurses who were there, on the people of colour all over the country who watched that video, the kids of the people of colour who asked their parents questions about what happened.

That racist woman hurt people and that's not okay and what needs to happen next? For her, for her victims, what needs to happen next?

Three points:

1) racism is a deeply embedded attitude it is not ignorance

2) bigotry needs to be called out for what it is

3) giving excuses to prejudice reveals even deeper prejudice

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fog Rukkers

Related image
Image description: A coffee hut, made of barn board and a bit of paint sits on the beach in Campbell River with a mixed bunch of tables and chairs.

I spotted Fog Rukkers coffee shop on our first drive through Campbell River on the way to see my father in the hospital. I made a mental note of it wanting to go in for a cup of tea and hopefully to sit at the ocean side of the hut and wonder at the view. But then, we got busy. With family visits and gallons of tea consumed all over town with various branches of the Hingsburger or Jobes families (Joe and I met in high school here so both families are here) we just never got there.

On our last full day in CR I told Joe that I really wanted to make it there if we could. We got in touch with Shannon, our niece and she was more than game to go with us. Was it wheelchair accessible? Didn't know. Were we going to make it wheelchair accessible if it wasn't? If we could, we would. We pulled up and took a good look. With some manoeuvring we got me out and on the bicycle path. The as they parked, I rolled up and onto the front patio. Was there a patio at the back? Yes. There was no way I could go around the hut because it was too rocky. So it had to be through.

The door was too narrow when one was opened, we then unlocked it's partner and swung both open and I was through. The concrete was uneven, it was difficult to push and go in the direction I wanted to go, the wheels and the tilt kept suggesting a different course, but we made it through to the back patio and took a table.

I haven't sat on a beach, anywhere, since becoming a wheelchair user. I gloried in it. We chatted and we laughed and we marvelled at the beauty of the world. It was beyond nice. I felt myself relax. It had been a race out here to see Dad while he was in the hospital, and he was doing so much better and we had had a really good visit and now was time to just let go of the tension.

Driving away I thought to myself that this place and this moment was now going to be my new 'happy place' when I need to take a breath.

Sometimes that's all we need.

A breath.

Of fresh ocean air.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Picture of My House

Just before leaving on this trip, I mentioned to Ruby, who is now 10 years old, that my father was in the hospital. She stopped and looked at me, "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. I told her that she knew he had been in before and he had to go back. "You should have told me," she said again and then began rushing around looking for paper, for pens, for anything that could put colour on paper. Now this was happening in our new apartment and all there were were boxes upon boxes upon boxes. Soon both Joe and I became distracted with the move and didn't notice Ruby in the kitchen working away.

A half an hour or so later she comes out with a piece of crumpled yellow paper, all she could find, and on it she had drawn a picture of our new home with Joe and I, her mom, her sister and herself out front. She wrote a note to Jerry. This 10 year old was writing a 93 year old and addressing the note as if he's her best friend. She said in the note that Joe and I had just moved and she wanted him to see our new house so that he, Jerry, would know we are all okay. She thought he might be worried.

We carefully packed the paper away to bring to dad in the hospital here in town where we are now. Dad had heard about Ruby and Sadie of course because they are a big part of our lives and we talk about them. Dad has never questioned the fact that the girls are like family to us and has treated them in our lives with the interest that they deserve. So when I told him about Ruby scolding me about not telling her about him being in the hospital and about not having the stuff she needed to make a drawing, then I handed over her drawing.

Ruby's writing at 10, she prefers cursive to printing, is better than mine. He lay in his bed while reading the note, his face brightening at the boldness of her determination that she could call him Jerry as if they were friends. It was a nice moment, he loved the picture and he asked for it to be put up where he could see it. It's there now, a note from a child who never met the man who is my father, a note telling him that he didn't have to worry that we were all okay. A note that said, "though we haven't met, I love you because you are Dave's dad."

Before he asked for it to be put up he said, "She's quite the little girl isn't she?"

And she is.

It only take a moment of thoughtfulness to make someone feel cared for and loved.

Ruby took that moment.

I need to do that more often, I've got papers, I've got pencil crayons, I've got time, though I pretend I don't. I just need a little more of what Ruby's got ... the will to do something for someone else even if it seems there's nothing I can do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What I'm Doing Today

Guess what I'm doing today?

I'm doing a webinar.

Guess why I'm excited about it?

Glad you asked.

Today I'm part of a webinar about an article which was published in the International Journal for Direct Support Professionals, it was about pride, and about the LGBTQ+ community and about how that intersects with the community of people with intellectual disabilities. I am one of the co-authors of this article. The article itself felt good to write, it's been a long time since I published on the issue, and we live, here, in very different times. When I published the first time, I believe it was the first journal article suggesting that people who were LGBT+ and who had a disability had a right to receive service that was respectful of their sexuality. I lost a lot of work because of that article.

This time we are talking about PRIDE and sexual diversity and, again, the need for people who provide service to be aware of their actions and their attitudes. And because of a partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and Handsthefamilyhelpnetwork.ca we do monthly webinars on the topics raised in the newsletter.

I am thrilled to be speaking to people who, most probably, have a lot of influence and power in the lives of the people we serve. I hope that what we do today will further the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to be fully human and for their hearts to be fully free. How great is that?

If you want to sign up, it's easy ...

Let's Talk: Speaking OUT: Understanding Sexuality and Diversity in LGBTQ+ Individuals with Developmental Disabilities on Jun 20, 2017 2:00 PM EDT at:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2490233691429208321

Hope some of you drop by.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Silly O'clock AM

We were up early for the flight. It was complicated figuring out how to do get me to the airport, then Joe back to park the car and then on the shuttle back to meet me where I would be waiting. The complication was of course, timing. So we were up at silly o'clock and down in the lobby leaving shortly thereafter. Joe loaded the car as I was pushing over to it.

It was dark.

It was early morning.

There was no one around.

I didn't feel particularly unsafe because it's a hotel parking lot, and we were in disabled parking, near the door. Joe passed me on his way back with the cart and I was pulling up beside the car. It was a slight incline and the pavement was rough so it took a bit of strength to get up to the passenger side door.

Just before I got there, I felt a shadow fall over me, cast by the streetlight a ways away. I knew it wasn't Joe, I turned to see a man approaching me, his hands out as if to grab ...

... now in other circumstances I would have immediately thought that he was going to grab the handles on the back of the chair to "assist me" but it was early, it was dark, it was deserted.

I panicked.

I didn't scream but I startled away from him, throwing myself hard and wrenching my back in the process. He saw me do this and then realized what was going on in my head and he said, "I was just going to help you." He seemed angry now and paused. I just stared at him. He turned and stomped away.

He scared me.

Really scared me.

He reminded me of how vulnerable I am.

Yes it was early and dark and deserted but I have a right to feel safe when it's early and it's dark and it's deserted. He had no right to intrude upon me in any way. I was pushing myself. I was alone. It was clear that if I'd needed help I would have had it with me.

Joe came back and saw the fellow walking angrily away from the car.

"Oh, no," he said.

"Indeed," I said.

It took me until we landed to tell him what had happened. I'd been sorely shaken and I was left physically sore from the encounter.

Mr. "Just trying to help" acted as if I'd hurt his feelings, he'll never know the damage he did to me and I suspect he wouldn't get it.