Another important day for self-acceptance


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If I have learned nothing else about my bipolar II today, it is that I am certainly not the only one in similar circumstances who has found photography to be a healing past-time. Facebook is teeming today with some of the creative works of the bipolar support community.

Scrolling through various blogs and web sites I have also seen confirmed that we face many of the same risks to ourselves as my fellow survivors of childhood abuse, sexual and otherwise, most pointedly suicide. Which doesn’t make me suicidal. Just so you know. It’s just one of those options I have kept in my back pocket since it seemed clear, however wrong, that I would be dead of AIDS-related illness before the 90s were finished. Of course it’s also a tragic reality among those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as we have heard about too often in connection with soldiers returning from Afghanistan or other battle-weary countries.

To be frank I am feeling very optimistic about my process right now. My p-doc is closely monitoring me as I add another “head med”, as I call them, to my cocktail of HIV, diabetes and bipolar medications. Spring has, for many years, been a time of hypomania which I used to refer to simply as an absence of depression. But it got much worse than a passive absence. When the cat (or black dog) is away, well…I played alot. Absent of depression, present with feelings I thought I could control, a deception of self that alcoholics often talk about, too.

I have often described the feeling of hearing the Bipolar II diagnosis, and the ways it fits me, as a day of sweet relief.  It was difficult enough to live with a lifetime of, let’s say, ultimately poor decisions; I was glad to hear a biological explanation for them  It doesn’t absolve me of everything but I have more compassion for myself and others.

Anyway the new med seems to be helping a lot. There are fewer sleepless nights, especially deliberately sleepless nights and I’m back on an even keel that I have experienced many times before on this journey.

Here is a series of three recent photographs taken here in Toronto, Canada, which I call Walking past colours

 

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Post #1031: My latest ‘Aha!’ moment


I’m very close to finishing the book Survivor – Auschwitz, The Death March and My Fight for Freedom by Sam Pivnik and some two-thirds of the way through I was jolted by this passage:

We could have run, could have made it, could have reached the welcoming arms of the British, who surely wouldn’t fire on scarecrows wearing the stripes of a concentration camp? But we didn’t. None of us. And it’s something I’ve read about since in the memoirs of other survivors. The years of terror, of barbed wire, of electric fences, they never leave you. You turn in on yourself, hiding in the only Hell you know. Why? Because out there, in those fields and woodlands, across the ploughed farmland of North Germany was a world I didn’t know at all. I was just thirteen when the Wehrmacht invaded my homeland and in a way my life had been put on hold ever since. In a word, I was too scared to run away.

Almost an entire shelf of my book cabinet is stocked with various accounts of the Holocaust, a collection I started with Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz on the recommendation of a psychiatrist I was seeing for post-traumatic stress that followed a serious accident in 2003.

While the ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas’ of Pivnik’s experience differ greatly from my own, I recognize my own mindset in how I processed difficulties in my childhood.  (By the time I was Pivnik’s thirteen years of age, I had experienced this example of the drubbing of a head teacher/principal in elementary school and the sexual abuse and subsequent exploitation at what I would now recognize as a sexual cruising area.)

I have long since absolved myself, intellectually at least, of any guilt in these matters.  However Pivnik’s laser-like identification of lingering fear - my fear, too, of the world – has amazing resonance with me.  It’s not the first time I have named fear as a foundational part of my emotional operating system, and I could quantify it in reviewing the hypomanic behaviour which has characterized my history with bipolar II, but to read Pivnik’s account is to affirm how I can relate my experience with what has followed.

(I still aspire to writing my life story, such as it is, told only in fits and starts in this blog.)

For Romeo Saganash, MP, a turning point


I am touched by the frankness and honesty with which New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash has chosen to address his “medical problem”, alcohol dependency, and I hope that he can work his way through the first acute phase of treatment with personal integrity and with the knowledge that millions of Canadians have his back.

Both as a Member of Parliament and a member of the New Democrat caucus, it is my duty to follow a code of conduct in keeping with my role as a Member of Parliament and the confidence that my constituents placed in me when they elected me.

Last Friday, my behaviour caused an unfortunate incident that delayed an Air Canada flight between Montreal and Val-d’Or. I want to apologize to the other passengers and staff for what happened and for any inconvenience I caused them. I would also like to offer my sincere apologies to Air Canada and the Aéroports de Montréal.

Neither fatigue nor stress can justify what I did. I need help to overcome a medical problem, a dependence on alcohol, like far too many other Canadians.

I am not looking at excuses, but I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. I never shied away from that. The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me. Like him, I needed a crutch. The leadership race wore me out, on top of taking me away from my children and my loved ones even more often.

Life on Parliament Hill can be hectic and exciting, but it is also full of obstacles and pitfalls. Many of my colleagues can attest to this.

I have asked my leader to give me leave so that I can take the necessary time to treat this illness. I am deeply grateful for his support and the support of all my colleagues in this difficult period of my life.

I would like to thank the citizens of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for their constant support in this difficult period of my life and ask for their understanding. I can assure them that my office will continue to serve them and that my New Democrat colleagues will be available to help while I’m on sick leave.

My priority is to serve my constituents to the best of my abilities and it’s with deep humility that I say thank you and see you soon.

Tapestry, coping and shame


Last Sunday afternoon, Thanksgiving weekend, I was out for a walk in Perth taking some of the photographs I collected over my five days there.  I was also slipping away from the family in order to listen to a radio program which included brief comments I had made by phone as invited by the producers.

CBC Radio’s Tapestry was airing the second part of a series called Coping and at about 15:49 into the program I am heard introducing myself, then speaking of how my bipolar II diagnosis was an “A ha!” moment for me in the context of living as a survivor of childhood trauma, addiction recovery, and living with HIV/AIDS since 1989.

I also said that the bipolar II diagnosis has allowed me “to have a little more compassion for myself” and, in turn, with others with mental health issues with whom I can more easily and comfortably empathize and suppress my self-criticism.

“I live on,” I said, “and live on in curiosity”.

The reason I felt I had to head off to my favourite café, rather than invite my family to listen to the program with me, is that they are not all up-to-speed on my bipolar II diagnosis nor, in some cases, the sexual abuse.  In the case of my mother, I have withheld these because I have judged that she has had more than enough to deal with.  Whether it is worth the secrecy may be another matter entirely.

Fast forward to my weekly group therapy yesterday, which I had missed due to travel last week and being ill the week before.  It followed on the heels of my check-in with my psychiatrist in the same hospital during which I confessed that, due to financial problems over the past little while, I had been unable to pay my quarterly prescription co-pay of about $100 and had, therefore tapered myself off my medications – re-starting at the end of September after more than a month when my finances were back in limited order.

He urged me to be in touch with him should I ever run into trouble again (I had even bluffed my way through an appointment with him during the crisis) and to keep in mind that relapses could be very serious.

Off to group therapy I went where I broke down crying as I reviewed the past couple of months and spoke of the shame I felt in being short of money.  It was of my own doing, I judge, because I had sought sexual release time and time again with the click of my TV remote at $9.99 plus tax per viewing.  (More shame.)  The financing – no worries until the bill arrives – was as seductive as any of the pay-per-view characters.  There were equal amounts of shame in having dug myself into a financial hole, putting my health at serious risk, and the mental condition which I dared not speak of with my loved ones – despite all of their support for me in every other area of my life which many other families might not be able to tolerate.

I did manage to tell my family, as we packed down a splendid turkey dinner, that I had lost ten pounds in the past little while.  What went left unsaid was how much less I had been eating and why.

What could I have done differently?

Certainly I could have flagged the financial problem with not only my psychiatrist but also my doctor and pharmacist.  Heaven and earth might have been moved to make sure I had my meds.  Instead I chose, in shame, to deal with it myself – the same faulty self-reliance that got me through the rough years as a kid.

I could have told friends what was going on.  It would not have been too tough to borrow a hundred bucks for my meds.

No doubt I could spend time, honestly, openly and,  more constructively, out of isolation with friends.

Whispering “Help!” from the windmills (or silos) of my mind


Those of you who have followed me, be it through my writing, my tweets, or home from the convenience store will have picked up on the fact that I have a fair amount on my plate.

I’m a very slow eater.

I recently joined a support group for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS – in my case it’s been no less than 23 years. Even more recently I quit the group when I convinced myself that there was something to the quizzical looks I was getting from existing supportive friends, surprised that I might have anything I couldn’t discuss with them.

Particularly those who were also HIV-positive; also long-term survivors.

It felt good to formally end my relationship, short though it was, with the “support group” and to tell them why.

I don’t want to compartmentalize my life any more than I’m ever convinced I have to – if at all.

I want to safely, sanely integrate the many facets of my life – which too often feel like they’re in individual silos – into something that I can present to anyone I choose.

To recap what loyal readers already know:

I am a survivor of childhood trauma at the hands of an elementary school head teacher/principal.

I was bullied – by him and by peers both in early grades and in high school. I survived.

In my adolescence I was sexually abused by strangers, i.e. more than once, in a part of my home-town that I would only, as an adult, recognize as a “cruising area” for men seeking casual sex with other men (or, since I was there, with boys).

I buried that sexual trauma until I described the first incident in the third person at a HIV/AIDS-related workshop in 1990, some eighteen years after it started.

Then I buried it again, for the most part, but it kept reappearing particularly in the context of dealing with alcohol and other addiction.

I sought support for the addiction but only occasionally mentioned the trauma(s), believing that help was not available as one-stop shopping. (It was also too much to deal with in the context of my HIV progression to AIDS-related illness, the support and care of friends who have long since succumbed, and my inability to stay sober for more than five to seven years at a time maximum.)

When my brother Craig died tragically in 2007, and I was drinking at the time even if not in the presence – not even the same town – of my grieving family I came to a critical point of despair. Thoughts of suicide both tormented and comforted me.

Earlier that spring I had considered running for political office. Me! On long-term disability insurance! I had also wasted the bulk of an insurance settlement from a 2003 accident as if I wasn’t going to live long enough to enjoy it.

I was assessed and diagnosed with/as (I’m not sure which) bipolar II, one step on the spectrum from the more notorious bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness, as it used to be called.

Believe it or not it was a relief to get a better understanding of what had begun, to me, simply as an absence of depression – for which I had been treated since around the time I tested HIV-positive – and to make sense of what had clearly become episodes of hypomania and depression.

The cautionary experiences of my peers, plus the general stigma still associated with mental illness, have made it difficult to articulate all that I have been discovering about myself as I review the years but one thing is for sure: I can no longer just be a gay, HIV-positive and (to some a recovering addict) friend or relative to some while hiding the largely successful, but ongoing, treatment of my psychiatric illness. The silos drive me crazy – and anyone with a passing acquaintance of farming will know that silos can spontaneously combust!

I do not know to whom any, or all, of this is news. Please let me know. Maybe this is just a rant I occasionally need to let rip. My emotions are not helped by a temporary physical malady today but, then again, I know that’s what it takes to move me sometimes!

The bottom line is that I want to be able to describe the whole picture, even if I mix oil with pastels, chalk with water. The silos aren’t all filled at the same time, usually, but that’s just the point. I don’t want silos any more. Could you at least help me with a better analogy?  I would be so grateful.

On “Killing Jerry Sandusky would not be enough…”


My response to this blog post:

While violence as vengeance is not my style I can appreciate a good fantasy in cases such as this.

Even if the thought was in jest, the most compelling argument against capital punishment, to me, is that it deprives victims of at least knowing that their perpetrator is languishing in prison – be he remorseful or pathologically innocent in his own mind, as seems to be the case with Sandusky.

When it comes to Penn State the institution, killing one mere season of football, with efforts made to atone publicly (and with an educational/advocacy component) in as many creative ways as possible, doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, above and beyond whatever might be wrung out in justifiable civil lawsuits.

Pig Penn – warped perspectives in the Penn State scandal


Very puzzling, but markedly less infuriating than the sexual abuse and cover-up scandal shrouding Penn State University, is the thoughtless, pigskin-headed response last night by student mobs to the sackings of the university president and, much more of an issue, the football coach.

Now that’s an improvement!

Watching a news conference held by the university’s board of trustees vice-chair, John Surma Jr., there was an audible gasp of indignation from assembled media and students alike as the forced resignations were announced. In the questions that followed it was easy to distinguish between journalists who had a bit of perspective on the tragedy of the abuse scandal and its victims and those muscle-heads who were apparently thinking only of the fabled football program, its storied coach and the team’s next game on Saturday.

How and when was the coach advised of the board decision? Was it in person or over the phone?

Objection: relevance?

I wish I had a transcript of the whole press conference.

From the board’s perspective, while voicing concern for the victims and their families, it clearly had a larger agenda: salvaging or re-building Penn State’s reputation among prospective students, staff, alumni and funders.

And while there were a few compassionate questions at the presser concerning the board’s relationship to the victims I couldn’t help feeling that most of the concern among those assembled was for the octogenarian coach, Joe Paterno, who seems to be among those who either engaged in an exercise of plausible deniability or unconscionable cover-up which led to the victimization of even more boys.

My skin was crawling (and burning and peeling a la this week’s episode of  “Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays” ).

This scandal combines unforgettable parts of my past – the bullying by a teacher in elementary school, further bullying by high school students and sexual abuse by men unknown to me in my adolescence.

While I am able to think and feel my way through these triggers, the now fifty-two-year-old man doing so feels tearful empathy for these Pennsylvania victims.

UPDATE: It was a relief to talk about all of this with a group of peers this afternoon. Triggers like this do not surprise me. It is helpful to hear my feelings reflected back to me.

Rest in Peace, Jamie Hubley


“I’m tired of life, really. It’s so hard, I’m sorry, I can’t take it anymore.”

“I don’t want my parents to think this is their fault, either. I love my mom and dad. It’s just too hard. I don’t want to wait three more years, this hurts too much.”

As carefully as he worded his final blog entry, the pain being experienced by 15-year old Jamie Hubley of Ottawa is clear and heart-breaking. Jamie ended his life on Friday.

His father, Kanata Councillor Allan Hubley. released a statement citing bullying as one of the factors in Jamie’s death.

In a blog post from three weeks ago, Jamie wrote that he hated being the only openly gay guy attending A.Y. Jackson Secondary School in Kanata.

“I hate being the only open gay guy in my school… It f***ing sucks, I really want to end it. Like all of it, I not getting better theres 3 more years of highschool left…How do you even know It will get better?”

He also said neither the medications he was taking nor psychological therapy was working to alleviate depression.

Bullied as I was – by peers, yes, but far worse by a teacher – in elementary school and then by the back-of-the-bus crowd in high school, I don’t know sometimes how I could have survived when I can relate so strongly to the tragedy of youth suicides, and the hopelessness preceding them, today.  I certainly scoffed at all claims by my parents that these were the best years of my life!  At least the “It Gets Better” campaign makes no such present-day claims.

Jamie chose figure skating over hockey.  So that makes bullying him okay?  As someone who chose the band and drama club over any sport I can relate to following one’s passions over the pack mentality.  I would trade my worst day of rehearsing Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid or Lionel Bart’s Oliver! over my best shift on the ice trying to skate away from the puck.

As is more often the case nowadays than in my school in the 1970s Jamie not only knew he was gay but was open about it and he bravely tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance in his school.  He was a courageous kid who did not live to see the many accolades and tributes from around the world.

My chosen method of indirect suicide, I guess, was the prolonged torture of excessive drinking, where some days were better than others for a long time thus numbing me to the damage that I was doing.  What had started as experimentation in high school plunged into the real thing once I was away at college.  Struggling to accept myself – let alone seek the acceptance of others – made for easily identifiable signs of problem-drinking just as I was turning eighteen (the last year anyone in Ontario could legally drink at that age).  These were hellish years as I tried to fit in to the socially conservative milieu I found myself in while barn-storming around looking for love in all the gay places (Buffalo and Toronto).

I guess that’s it then.  As unworthy as I felt, as hopeless as life seemed, my faith that an intoxicant of one form or another would at least temporarily change the way I felt probably kept me sufficiently comforted – however delusional – that even the frequent thought of ramming into an overpass abutment usually came after I was safely home.

“It Gets Better” only when teenagers such as Jamie, and peers who are on different paths, are taught about the varieties of sexual orientation early enough – before individuals have even begun to experience strong feelings – so that everyone might find her/his place and grow into as non-judgmental a school environment as possible.

Clearly setting out his last few words, it’s such a pity that Jamie was so desperate and feeling so devoid of hope.

I hope that his parents take Jamie at his word that they bear no blame for his final decision.

It’s just so sad for his survivors to say good-bye.

A change in “Mr. G’s eye exam”


 Mr. G’s eye exam has been changed again, maybe for the last time, so that the antagonist, though dead for more than a decade, might only be identified by his last initial and the responsibilities he held. (Anyone familiar with the school at the time does not need to have him named.)

I’m doing this following some brief correspondence from a classmate who wondered, without suggesting anything directly to me, whether the man’s son, our classmate, might be unfairly wearing the sins of his father in this Google age. Also, as I have posted previously, something has shifted from a feeling of justified un-forgiveness to at least releasing my grip.

Hope as verb, noun and/or feeling


Everything I am feeling in this moment is in the context of having watched, via television and Twitter, the roller-coaster of events in Egypt these past 18 days, of having just listened to the Feb. 6 (2011) edition of Tapestry from CBC Radio with Mary Hines, and of having made the seemingly Herculean effort to order refills of my HIV, diabetes and “head” meds.

And already I have forgotten why I could only describe myself as despondent when I opened up this page.

Towards the end of the week, say about twelve hours before the start of Friday Prayers in Cairo, I was in discussion with some peers about the now-tired links I make between the distinct hells of elementary school and my adolescence, then of my instant activism after the 1981 bath house raids in Toronto (just add water, or steam, and stir!)  Oh, and then I added that leap fart of logic that permeated me for so long “…if anyone deserves AIDS I do.”  Even though I quickly pointed out that I have dismissed this asinine proposition, intellectually, I allowed that it may still hide in the nodes of my psyche as traces of seemingly “undetectable” HIV viral load might hide from the best available tests – though I did not use that analogy.  Frankly HIV could probably hide better, regardless of whether it is or not.

It stands to reason then, if reason is all I can stand on, that I might feel despair given Dr. Kenn’s self-diagnoses (AIDS-because-I-deserve-it and mental-illness-because-well-life-just-piled-up).

Listening to myself, as the conversation with my peers played over and over during the walk home, I understood – was aware of, made sense of – almost immediately how the 51-year old Kenn brutally judges (ever-present tense) the Kenneth of childhood, the Ken of adolescence and the Kenn of a promising adulthood.  Then, with a deep sigh, I recognized (again) how tiring this is – to me, sure, and I can only begin to imagine how much so to any audience (at least anyone not paid to listen!)

John’s question emerged, from among the group, asking me how I would respond to someone presenting my self-evaluation.  Not a new question, of course, I said I’d tell them it (circumstance=deserving) was absurd and to cut myself some slack.

That’s what I left with Thursday evening, not picking it all up again until listening today to the aforementioned edition of Tapestry (which, in all candour, is this loner-wannabe’s “church”-of-choice more than any other these days).   While the Thursday evening mood personified wanted to dislike what I was hearing, I could not.

The stream of consciousness of the past couple of weeks (and blog posts) went like this: forgiveness (others and myself) does NOT mean condoning anything, the letting go frees me up for other things – happier, productive, more self-fulfilling things.

Now what?  (Interestingly, this is one of the questions being asked repeatedly about Egypt this weekend).

Should I pack up for Haiti?  No, I don’t think so – not today at least.

Do I believe that wishing to do anything is a foolhardy distraction from what I’ve been carrying, and working on, for years?  Would a change of course, however big or small, negate everything?  No!

Having lived for so long like I could not imagine surviving another year, never mind quarter-life (and more than occasionally not wishing to!), what small steps can I take to change my attitude?

“Fake it ’til you make it”?

“Act as if…”?

Well, internalizing those phrases would be a pleasant change from the self-defeating mantras, so – if nothing else – let this be a beginning.

I understand, and have experienced, how ‘getting out of self’ can lighten the load a great deal.  Therefore I could do a lot worse with my time than thinking about ways to do this.

I would rather be cut down in the middle of something, only at the moment of my death, than continuously sharpening my focus on seeing it come from an undetermined distance.

“Now what?”

Better to live unto/into hope than fear (which I must always recognize is inherent in any comfortable certainty of hopelessness).

Txt, telephone or…blog…let’s talk about mental illness!


This is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Multiple Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, lead spokesperson for the campaign, was on CTV News in Toronto today. From among the calls she fielded came this articulate gem, “To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.”

However, and this was Clara’s message, help and hope are available to those who reach out.

Citing Bell’s initiative today, St. Paul’s (Toronto) MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett, in a Member’s Statement in the House of Commons, called on the federal government to move forward with an anti-stigma campaign. I won’t hold my breath.

To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.

Something else important to point out is that mental illness is on a spectrum. Major depression, bipolar or schizophrenia are examples of the most serious forms of mental illness but there are plenty of gray areas, too – usually the first signs of something more serious.

My first meeting with a mental health professional came around the time that I was diagnosed HIV-positive, nearly twenty-two years ago.  I was put on the lowest dose of a common anti-depressant and it was only when I took myself off it a few years later (unsupervised, such as I did it, is never a good idea) that I realized how much it had been helping.

Then, years later, what I identified as a distinct lack of depression led me down a path of behaviour quite out of character.  Only at the bottom of the deep hole of my own digging did I again seek help at which time I was diagnosed, over time, with bipolar-II – a variant of the more extreme bipolar or manic-depressive.

Listening to a description of the condition and its symptoms I recognized myself and felt much relief. It explained much about recent feelings and behaviour but also put historic episodes into better perspective.

A change in medication once or twice, trying to minimize effects on my lipids, has resulted in a recent period of stability.

I cannot take my moods for granted, certainly not the good ones.  Yet I feel that, so long as I take my medications (“head meds” or those for HIV/AIDS), I have hope.

Social contact cannot be over-emphasized either.

“The Shack”: allegory, empathy and the question of forgiveness


“I brought a book I think you’ll find interesting,” my cousin said as we sat down for lunch recently, handing me a paperback copy of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young.

I believe, now having read it, that she might have been nudged to give me this book because she knows, perhaps as much as any confidant, “The Great Sadness” (as the novelist puts it) which has been stored, occasionally visited, and allowed to grow unchecked in my own run-down Shack.  I’m guessing she might believe some of the messages of the novel could be applicable to me.

It is not difficult for me to imagine how wrenching it would be, certainly a step out in faith, to face those men I have written about who wronged me in my childhood and youth.  At least one is dead and the others, well, I don’t even know their names let alone their current state-of-being.

That’s not the point.  Were they to appear in my dreams I would almost certainly be forced to confront them.  Would I, in such a dream, or do I now, in compartmentalized pain, feel willing – to say nothing of empowered – to symbolically release their throats from the anger of my tight grasp and hand them over to the power whose many names include God?

The message seems to be to trust that something beyond my judgment, my imagination – beyond belief often – is a better repository for my judgment (which I ultimately can’t inflict anyway) than am I.

Somehow, in releasing my grip, I imagine forgiveness looks more like letting go – leaving judgment to forces beyond me. The haunting “monsters” of my past, after all, are dead as far as I know so my preoccupation with holding on, even if it’s not uppermost in my consciousness, is clearly only hurting me. I get that. To let go completely, though, seems more than I can do – at least on my own. Another message of the book, then perhaps, is that I don’t have to do it by myself.

To the best of my ability I release my hold on these men, that in letting go of them their power over me will be lessened. I will not, however, shy away from using the experience – all of it – as best I can whenever I believe it might be of assistance to someone else.

“It Gets Better” tops 2010 list


Dan Savage and husband Terry Miller started something in 2010 that Mark Kelley and the CBC Connect crew put at the top of Connect 10: A  Countdown of the most popular stories online in 2010.

Responding to highly-publicized cases of bullying and suicides of gays and lesbians, the “It Gets Better” project was launched with this video on September 21.

It is difficult to watch this and not remember, with horror, the pain of high school.

I have heard of at least two suicides this autumn by people closer to my own age still haunted by bullying, present-day homophobia or other trauma in their youth.

There are, of course, many others who do not attract the same attention as did those in the United States which, in rapid succession, followed a similar pattern: homophobic violence or harassment and then suicide.

LGBT community activists in Toronto chimed in with an “It Gets Better” video of their own:

On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia


To Head Teacher/Principal wannabe C.G., who rarely missed an opportunity to taunt me, terrify me, pit me against his son and my other classmates;

To the kids who teased me for the friends I chose;

To those who often made the forty minute bus ride to and from high school each day so frightening;

To the older men who exploited my youthful sexual curiosity, leaving me with the impression that this was what “gay” is;

To the “Bible-believing” evangelical church which took me under its wing in college when I was bent on crushing my sexual orientation;

To the bottles which I sought to quell pain, only to find more;

To the internalized mindset which had convinced me that I deserved AIDS;

To anyone who has ever yelled “Faggot!”, whether at me directly or in a crowd;

To you, and many more who do not come to mind immediately, I say you cannot have me, you cannot defeat me, and there is nothing wrong with who I am!

May 17th was chosen to celebrate this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision on this date to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.

This morning Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, whose son Brendan had recently come out before being killed in a tragic car accident earlier this year, helped launch (cbc.ca, CP24, Sun, Globe and Mail) an EGALE Gay-Straight Alliance web site aimed at promoting positive peer pressure among students against homophobia and transphobia.

There can’t be too much understanding and support and Brian Burke, who will be an honoured participant in this year’s Toronto Pride parade, is a parent like many would love to have.

Self-forgiveness – even when it seems so unnecessary


While I would acknowledge there are probably exceptional circumstances I am generally of the restorative justice point of view, as described by Correctional Service of Canada.

The holiday weekend news that Graham James – variously described as “hockey predator Graham James”, “convicted pedophile Graham James”, etc. – had been pardoned for his repulsive crimes took a lot of people by surprise, including his victims who, I am sure, had nightmares stirred again.

I know I did, launching into a hyper-vigilant state that rarely surprises me anymore.

One of the ways this manifested itself was living out a follow-up to my Easter post.

Of all the iTunes I have downloaded, a solid majority are from what iTunes Canada classifies as “Inspirational”. (I gather the US iTunes have more specific categories such as Gospel, Christian Contemporary, etc.)

This is music from individuals and bands that have exploded in numbers since my brief association with evangelical churches.

I wonder if my seeking out this music, also available on iTunes feeds of radio stations, is what many might think of as a self-hating exercise – a lapse back towards a time of such intense internal conflict (surviving non-familial childhood trauma, coming out, etc.)

It doesn’t feel like it. As I manage to ignore anything in the words that I deem objectionable I find comfort in most of the, to use the vocabulary, praise and worship of the music and lyrics. The sentiments still touch the loneliness I sometimes feel inside, the isolation I occasionally choose, and the memories of those days when life’s questions seemed unbearable.

It is all much easier when I translate literalist ideas into the mystical, where stories and ideas don’t have to be believed and yet still manage to hold truth.