Thursday, June 15, 2017

What I'm Proud Of ...

"I respect your work regarding disability as many do, but I find when you post about your sexuality that I am quite uncomfortable. I'm not homophobic but it seems out of place on your Facebook page or on your Blog both of which deal mostly with issues affecting people with disabilities or, like myself, parents of someone with a disability. What I don't understand is why there is a need for the public display of pride in one's sexuality. You often write about boundaries, aren't you contradicting yourself when it comes to pride? By the way have you noticed that your posts regarding you being homosexual get fewer comments and shares than your posts regarding disabilities, I think that might tell you that many feel the way I do."

Nice way to kick start the morning.

Yes, I have noticed a distinct difference in response to posts about my life as a gay man and posts regarding my life as a disabled man or as a disability professional. So what? I'm not sure it means what is being stated here. Both my blog Of Battered Aspect and my Facebook page have specifically courted readers from the disability community and of course posts about other issues would get less of a response. So, no biggie and, more importantly, no message.

Why Pride?

I get this question a lot about gay pride and disability pride. Why? What does it achieve? Well, I'm going to write about Gay Pride here and I think you'll easily be able to extrapolate to disability pride as well.

Pride isn't about my sex life. Don't you get that?? My desire to love and have sex with another of my gender is the source of my oppression, surviving that oppression is the source of my pride.

Let me tell you, surviving is exactly the right word because many don't. Many kids are thrown out of their homes by parents whose promise of unconditional love vanishes upon learning their child loves in ways not approved by faith or by tradition or by deeply held prejudice. Many teens commit suicide because they can't endure another day of bullying, another day of hiding, another day of lying. There are no words to describe what happens, inside when, as a teen I heard the words you used, about me, in my presence. The fact that you didn't know I was gay mattered not, what mattered was it showed me who you were and how you felt. I internalized those words, 'fag,' 'pansy,' 'sissy,' 'gearbox' 'queer' 'fairy' and when you weren't there to call me names, I was. I learned from you how to throw these rocks at myself. Whenever I saw a man that I was attracted to I hurt myself. Inside I was bloodied by the words you taught me to call myself. The postmaster of my town was gay. They tortured him. His house was routinely vandalized. He was spoken to with contempt while he simply was carrying out the functions of his job. The fact that he went on, quietly living his life, was one of the few things that gave me hope. His pride never wavered, but mine did. I attempted suicide when I was 15 and fell in love a year later with the man I still love now.

I survived.

I survived the messages of disapproval of my nature.

I survived the messages of condemnation for how my heart worked. (Rather than celebration for the fact it worked at all.)

I survived you, and those like the woman who wrote me the letter.

I survived and I want to dance in the street to flaunt the fact that, though you tried, your hate didn't kill me.

I am not proud of the fact that I love a man named Joe. Why would I be proud of that? He's probably the easiest person I know to love. He's just naturally a good guy. I also am not proud that Joe loves me. This would mean that I believed that Joe's love of me is extraordinary because I'm disabled and I'm not traditionally considered attractive. But you know what, that doesn't matter, what matters is that I think there are things about me that are lovable. So, my pride isn't about that. My pride is that our love and our relationship survived.

Let me tell you surviving is exactly the right word because many relationships and many loves didn't. Yep, your oppression killed love. your oppression took away from a world that desperately needs more hearts to be filled to the brim with adoration for another. When a heart is full of love, there is no room left for hate. Joe and I got together in Grade 12 and back then no one could know. The secret was so deep that we couldn't even effectively talk about who were were and how we felt to each other let alone anyone else. We pretended friendship. We pretended not to care. We pretended that our hearts beat to straight time. And it nearly tore us apart. Over and over and over again we endured losses. Friends, discovering and friends leaving. Family discovering and family leaving. Landlords guessing and apartments denied. So much betrayal. So many lies. But, we endured. We're celebrating our 48th anniversary on the 29th of this month.

We survived.

We survived a life lived in the shadows of your discomfort and your disapproval.

We survived the constant insistence that gay men couldn't form relationships, that we were too promiscuous to form a home with another.

We survived, those of you who still see our relationship as worth less than your own.

We survived.

And if we want to hold hands as we parade down the street, and if we want to have a little kiss in full view of you and those like you, who could blame us?

But I am proud of my sexuality. I am proud of the community that formed around sexuality and gender and the multiple and intersection ways that these interact with each other and with the other identities we carry in our lives. I understand that my disability sometimes feels unwelcome in parts of the LGBT+ community. I understand that though we are all different and that we have the experience of difference we haven't conquered the baggage that comes with that. Understanding our own difference does not mean that we are more likely to understand the difference of another.

Racism, and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia exist in my community. But even with deep divisions and even with distrust and even with hurt, we move forward to change the world. We move forward towards a day when kids who are different don't die early deaths, stabbed in the heart with the ice pick of prejudice. We move forward towards a day when people can walk safely down the street and that we can predict with some surety that when we leave our homes, we will come back to them. We move forward to a time when being able to go for a pee doesn't require meetings and policies and, for heaven's sake, training. We move forward.

I am proud of what my sexuality has brought me. I am proud of the gifts that lay hidden under layers of hatred, and I'm proud of those who struggled in the years before I was born and the years before I came to the realization of difference for hiding amongst the rubble the message that I am part of the history of a people who have a tradition of surviving and a history of loving anyway.

We are community and we have survived repression.

We are a community always under attack.

We are a community where young gay men are thrown off rooftops and young transexual people of colour are murdered in the street.

We are a community that survives and continues on and loves anyway.

This is cause to dance down the street. This is cause to flaunt our bodies, our loves, our selves in any way we want. When you could no longer put is in actual cages, you attempted to put us in emotional cages and we broke out.

We are free.

We survived.

And we love anyway.

So we dance, prance and roll down the street and make our visibility our statement.

And for the record, I don't care how many people 'like' this post. I don't care how often it's shared. Why? Because that's what you think matters. What I think matters is that this post exists because I survived and I am loved and I am freaking proud of who I am.

22 comments:

Janonwheels said...

I loved your post....keep dancing and rolling Dave xx

Steve Smith said...

Thank you for these words. They resonate with us.

I am pansexual and disabled, my wife is genderqueer and disabled. So we have experienced some of this, from both the sexuality and disability angle.

Thank you seems inadequate, but it is meant from the heart.

Jenni said...

I am commenting because I wouldn't want anyone to be able to suggest my lack of a comment meant anything more than what it means ;)

If I don't comment on any post on your blog this simply means I don't feel I can add anything useful. That's it.

Hope you and Joe have a lovely anniversary and good luck in your new home.

Unknown said...

Love your post Dave. The simple truth of how it is!

Susan said...

I love who you are. ❤️ Joe too! ❤️

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I am honored that you have shared so many parts of yourself with me via this blog.

I am honored to know gay people better because of your intelligence and pride and love and Joe.

I am honored to know disabled people better (I am disabled, and have been for 27 years, and I still don't think I have it right) because you are so open about your disability and that of the people you teach and serve and love and write about.

I am honored to know fat people better, too, because of your writing and your attitude - I'm a fat person too, and still working on that one as well.

You're miles ahead of me in so many areas.

I am honored and privileged to be one of your readers.

Unknown said...

As the old disco tune says "I will survive!". You and Joe have survived...and your sexuality is an issue only because so many others in the world and over generations have made it into an issue!

I am upset when I see young women wearing sexually revealing and provocative clothing in public places, but that is my own fear - that they are attracting the wrong sorts of attention that might lead them into situations of great pain and suffering. (Note that I am NOT saying a woman deserves 'what she gets'.)
I am alarmed at the sexualization of little girls and the pressure on boys to be 'manly men' that seems to begin in preschool - because I know that this is where so many of us get damaged about our own bodies and value to others.

Public displays of affection between consenting adults (as long as no disrobing is evident) are just fine - we all need to give and receive love and caring from each other.
I wonder if those who are so critical of 'public displays of affection" are envious, at heart.

clairesmum

bevd said...

I think this is a really great post, clear and personal about the abuse and alienation of many in the gay community. I feel that the person who wrote the original comment SHOULD feel uncomfortable, and I'm really glad that he/she does! They need to examine that discomfort and your words give them the opportunity to challenge their thinking and find out what they need to discover about themselves that the loving relationship between two people causes them discomfort. Just as I am going to examine my conscience and see why their words make me feel like going and burning down their house...

Andrea McDowell said...

I don't like this post; I love it. It's beautiful and every word is true.

Sandra Fleming said...

Thank you. Thank you. I could go on for hours.

You can't deny a part of you and lessons learned in one part of life are used in every part.
Not on your facebook or I would give you a "heart"

Thank you again. Wishing you many more years of writing these posts and loving Joe. So glad you found each other and worked hard for the loving relationship you have.

SammE said...

I agree with Jenni. I read here always, and learn things about myself when I read your words. Many times I don't post, as I have nothing yet to say about the topic. I admire you so much Dave, your ability to communicate here, and to teach me, and others through your words. I would love to meet you. I think you are a most interesting and intelligent thoughtful compassionate person. I like this post today. Much to learn. It will take a few rereads to digest it all, I think. Thank you!

Patricia said...

What a beautiful testament to love and pride and survival! Thank you so much for sharing and HAPPY PRIDE!!

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I, too, was wishing this had a heart (or thumbs up) button like in Facebook! Thank you for sharing from the heart today.

A.A. said...

I know so many people who are disabled and gay, lesbians, bi, trans and others groups, it's even more complicated to be disabled with a different sexuality or gender,
I'm disabled, I'm bi, people like us matter, posts like this matter. You can't support disabled people if you don't support lgbta people because too often we are the same, we deserve the same.

Just some guy™ : An Aspergers Chronicle said...

Just stood up and clapped at my laptop...
Reads like MLK! Couldn't help it.
Office mates are confused.

Kit Luce said...

Beautifully said

Hollis Painting said...

Wonderful post. Thank you.

northlighthero said...

Maybe the fact that this particular post generated so many favorable comments will tell your commenter something about the community of your readers. From my personal perspective as a temporarily-mostly-able-bodied senior woman who is usually seen as hetero, I find that much of what you say about disableism applies to my experience of sexism as a woman, much of what you say about homophobia applies to my experience of being hard of hearing in a world that imagines no microphone is necessary, much of what you say about the intersection of two oppressions has a lot to teach me about intersectionality.

I'm sorry this commenter kick-started your day in such a way and I'm very very glad you won't let such comments dissuade you from writing.

Because you brighten my day as well as expanding my universe, I am personally very grateful for your writing.

nylgnik said...

I agree with Jenni-I am commenting because I don't want my lack of comment to support your negative commenters point of view. I am constantly flabbergasted by the regular disableism you face or share stories of. I am most often left speechless-something my friends and family would find surprising- and feel your message is most powerful without my input.
I am humbled by your journey as a gay man, and as a lesbian I appreciate what you and Joe have sacrificed to allow me and my partner of 28 years to live the life we do.
Although I have committed the past 40 years of my life to advocating for and with, supporting and living with many folks who live with labels, I learn something new each day from your blog. About supports that don't intend to fix others but strive to put positive control of people's lives in their own hands; about rights and rights and rights.
And again my lack of comment there does not indicate anything more than that I am listening and I am trying to do better. And I will keep listening and learning. As I am sure many others are. ��

shalyndra said...

Thank you for this.

Elliefint said...

I am an autistic lesbian, and I am glad you talk about the things you do.

Kimberley Sproul said...

Dave, thank you for this blog. Your experience, so negative as the day's start, you transform into a celebration for yourself, and a learning for us.

Thank you for your clarification on what pride actually means - not pride in the simple fact of being gay, but pride in SURVIVING this in our culture/communities. This is so helpful - in working, journeying and parenting in the disability world, I have met so many wonderful people. Some of whom cannot fathom that I promote and hope to leave space for disability pride. I have been asked (and at times scolded), "How does one feel pride in something so devastating to their [parent speaking] life? [He/she] will always be seen as less than. Will always need help for every aspect of his life. Will constantly be misunderstood for his lack of verbal communication. Will never lead the life of their peer."

I haven't been able to formulate a response or question back. Part of me knew that it was exactly because this was their imagining of their son's/daughter's life, there wasn't space for pride. However, clarifying that what I am advocating space be held for, is not because those experiences are something to celebrate. No, obviously not. As you said, perhaps one can feel great pride that they SURVIVED these debilitating social experiences.

I am not sure that I have articulated my deep gratitude and learning. But it is big. It reaches me and teaches me in a powerful way.

Thank you.