Monday, June 22, 2015

Blog Update

First I need to apologize for not posting for the last week without notification to the many faithful readers of this blog. I am being pulled in many directions, right now, for my time and energy, I'm afraid in that tussle, time for updating Rolling Around in My Head has simply not been there. I don't anticipate being able to get back to writing regularly for a few weeks yet. So, see you in early August.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Head and My Heart Thank the Man Who Was Not Frank

We had parked just outside the hotel and I descended the ramp and made my way to the door. It's an older hotel and it doesn't have automatic doors. There was no one around to ask for help so I simply waited until Joe was ready to join me. Once in, I mentioned to the fellow behind the desk that there were no door openers. He nodded and said that the hotel was due for some renovations and that the door opener was on the list. OK, my mandatory 'by the way' conversation was out of the way.

After check in, I gave Joe the keys and asked if he wanted to join me shopping at a large store nearby. He was done with shopping, as we did some half way through the trip just as an excuse to get out of the van. I said I'd zip off and then meet him back at the room. He said he'd be at least ten minutes unloading the car. I laughed. I don't shop for 10 minutes.

So I went, along the side of the road, then across the road then down the large parking lot towards the store. I had a couple of particular things in mind, found approximations of them, bought them, and headed back. On my way back I worried that there wouldn't be anyone around to help me in. The wait for someone could be long. But when I rounded the corner I saw several people gathered around the door talking, having a few beer and smoking.

I rolled up, all jolly hockey sticks, and said, "Glad you are all here, could someone get the door for me?"

"For fuck's sake," said a bearded and bellied guy, "Don't they have a door button thing?"

:"No," I said, that's why I was glad to see you all."

He grabbed the door and opened it for me, quicker than his size or steadiness would have predicted. Another fellow said, "I'll go get the inside door." Perfect.

As I was going by the second guy, he reached out to give my head a pat, the first guy stopped him short by saying, "Geesssuss Frank keep your hands off him. He's a grown man in a wheelchair not a pet,"

I shouted out 'Thanks,' to the guy behind, but I don't think he heard me over Frank protesting that he was only being friendly. I didn't hear the conversation which continued on as I turned to head to the room.

But, my head, literally and my heart figuratively owe a debt to the man who spoke up.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Tunnel

Photo Description: building underconstruction onf the south east corner of Yonge and Bloor, pedestrian walkways (tunnels) run round the building.
The top part of the route between where we live and where we bank is under construction, on both sides of the street. For the longest while it was just the east side of the street, so we always made sure to travel the west side of the street. Now, construction is impossible to avoid.

To keep all us pedestrians safe, they've crafted wooden tunnels that we need to go through. They look rickety and like they'd never actually stop something heavy that falls from a great height, but they're there and we're supposed to feel secure. I don't think, honestly, about security when I go through them. I just think, 'shit they are narrow.'

All sorts of weird things happen when I go through the tunnels. There is more than adequate room for me to pass on one side and someone else pass on the other. But somehow many people lose their ability to measure space when I come towards them in the wheelchair. They fling themselves against the opposite walk, or put on scaredy-cat faces as they go by as if they are in huge danger. There's room, more than adequate room, but they are freaked out.

Needless to say, I don't like going through the tunnels but, also needless to say, I have to, that is if I'm going to be able to do my banking.

We are travelling again today and so yesterday, after work, Joe and I headed up to the bank. I was in the wooden tunnel and there were two young men coming towards me. They were walking side by side, chatting. They saw me and as they got close one tucked in just a little behind the other. There's nearly enough for two people to pass on that side. (See, I said there was adequate room.) And because he'd moved for me, I said, "Thanks." He said, "It's OK mate, no thanks necessary, you've got as much right to be here as we do." I almost steered into the side of the tunnel.

That's a response I'd not anticipated because I'd never had it.

His voice was casual, as if making this observation was so obvious that it was like a small joke.

On the way back from the bank, as I headed into the tunnel, I heard is voice in my mind, "It's OK, you've got a right to be here." It's amazing the power of positive words. They stay, they stick, they shore up courage, and determination, and belonging.

Because after all, though it's not a joke, I do have a right to be there.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Welcome Unexpected

Photo Description: Central United Church in Barrie, surrounded with snow and announcing a pancake breakfast on sign in front of the church.
Yesterday I gave a lecture at the Central United Church in Barrie. I've spoken in many churches before, not at the services but at lectures booked in the sanctuaries. As a small boy I really wanted to be a United Church minister, so it was cool to be asked to do the lecture there. For those from outside Canada, the United Church is a very progressive church, I believe it's still the largest denomination in Canada, and it's welcoming of lgbt people both in the congregation and behind the pulpit. Anyways, I'd been told that the church was accessible, and it was, unexpectedly.

As I said, I've spoken in a lot of churches and attended a lot of churches over the years. For the longest while Joe and I, when in another city on a Sunday, would attend church in that city. We've been in beautiful spaces, taking the time to be quiet and to listen. It's a nice way to spend time when away in another city. As we've got older, though, that's trailed off. Sleeping in became much more attractive and option.


As I said, we've been to a lot of churches.

Accessibility became an issue immediately upon becoming a wheelchair user. Finding a church that one could get it was a challenge. And, there were some interesting conversations about it. Once, at lunch with some folks attending a conference I was presenting at, I spoke to a woman who professed to be a Christian, about the difficulty of finding a church in our area that we could get into, the all had stairs. She looked at me and said, "You know why they have stairs, don't you?" I was startled by the question but said, "I'm guessing it's because they were built in a time when accessibility wasn't even considered as a need or an option." She said, "No, it's because if you were really a Christian you would get out of your wheelchair and walk up those stairs."



But it was very different yesterday. I was able to easily get in the church and then I rolled into the sanctuary. I saw it but it took a second or two to sink in. The pulpit was ramped. A long, beautiful, wooden ramp, with hand rails on either side, spaced perfectly for me to pull myself up. The floor of the church was carpeted, not with thick pile, but with pile that was easy to roll on, but there was no carpet on the ramp. May I say, Hallelujah!! Can I have an Amen! I was easily able to get up onto the platform and give my lecture from where a sermon would be given.

Most churches that are accessible, in my meagre experience, don't consider the possibility that someone with a disability would ever need access to the pulpit or the choir loft. Ever.

It was amazing.

Heavenly even.

Buildings can community welcome or exclusion.

Yesterday, I was full and warmly welcomed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Watcher and the Watched

The evening after we got married, Joe and I, along with Mike, Marissa and the girls, went back to Signs for dinner. We went the first time for the experience of being in a restaurant being served by deaf wait staff and learning sign language as we ordered. We came back because of the sense of welcome, true, but really we came back because of the food. It's really good food. They have a great menu. So all of us decided it would be a wonderful place to go, relax, have fun, and have dinner.

Joe and I arrived early. The ramp is a bit intimidating and I'd never managed it on my own. Joe had never even helped me, it had been Mike helping me both times. But one of the things that you learn as a wheelchair user is that you can't always rely on help being there, you have to push yourself and you have to try to do things on your own before ruling out that possibility.

So I squared myself and made it up the first half of the ramp. But I couldn't make the turn at the top. I rolled back down. I looked at it again and thought that I needed more room on my right to make the turn. Rolling back down I realized that, no, I need room on the left to accommodate the back wheels. Zip. I made the turn. OK, nearly there.

The next section of the ramp is steep. I'm heavy, my power chair doesn't like really steep inclines. But I backed up as much as I could, maybe an inch, and I barely managed to clear the top, but I managed. I was delighted. I did it on my own and I'd made enough errors to learn what works.

It was upon arrival at the top I noticed that a small crowd had gathered on the other side of the street, they, along with patrons who were sitting at the tables inside the restaurant and beside the ramp, had been watching all of this with great interest. I had the immediate sense of being a circus freak. I had the immediate need to simply flee the situation.

But I didn't.

I had to realize that however they saw me, kindly or unkindly, was not relevant to me at that point. What was relevant is that I got up the ramp without assistance. That was the only thing that mattered. Next time there wouldn't be as much of a show. Because I know how to do it.

In the end, the dinner was delicious, the service wonderful, the company fabulous and we had a good time. By the time we left the crowd, now gathered at the back of my mind had receded in proportion and importance.

But I'd be lying if I said, they weren't still there.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Social Violence

For those of you who followed it, we had quite a discussion on this blog regarding yesterday's post. There was a lot of differing opinion and several suggestions, some I liked as ideas, some I could never do. But there was a statement made about me and about what I like and don't like that leads me to want to clear up a misconception that I may have left with you as readers about me and what I need from the social environments in which I find myself.

The comment was about my 'helping' the woman in question and how I don't like unwanted, unasked for help - like with doors. It is very true that I don't like it when people insist on helping me physically when I don't need, or want their help. That is different however, from when I am in a social situation being stared at, laughed at, pointed at, or mocked because of either my disability or my weight. I see this as social violence and I am used to (as some didn't seem to realize yesterday) street harassment on a several times daily basis. It's about my body, it is aimed to hurt and I feel very, very vulnerable in those situations.

But when someone steps in like the guard at the ROM I am completely and totally grateful. The link here is to an article about Ruby, not the guard, but I wanted to mention that guard in the post because what she did is remarkable.

Do you know why it is remarkable?

Because it never happens.




I was in the same museum when a group of young teens were going through and I had to wait until they passed. A goodly percentage of them openly and loudly spoke of me, saying hurtful things. Their teachers heard them, the guards heard them, other people heard them. And no one spoke. Including me. I felt that the silence of others signalled their agreement with the ugly assessment of those teens. I got what I deserved.

I was on a street corner, crowded, waiting for the light to change. I was surrounded. There was a police officer there, waiting for the light with us. One person started talking about the 'ugly laws' and how people like the 'lazy, fat dude in the wheelchair' shouldn't be allowed out. His tone was mocking and it was clear he expected no one to speak up in my favour, to challenge what he was saying. He was right.

I feel alone a lot.

I like it when I don't.

This isn't the same as helping with a door when I don't want it.

Not at all.

Others may feel different, of course, but me - I am in awe whenever someone does something.

Like the guard.

Who did her job.

Because she thought I mattered.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Dangerous Interactions: What Would You Have Done?

We were walking south, towards the hotel friends were staying at, looking forward to having our morning after wedding breakfast with them. We saw it happening from a long way off. A young woman was standing, right at the corner, it looked like she had just crossed the crosswalk and stopped. She was looking down at her phone, texting madly away. She had earbuds in her ears. She was in the world, but not the world she was in.

Across from her, at the corner of a building, slightly in the shade, were a group of four young men, around the same age as the woman standing texting. They were staring at her and making sexual gestures towards her. When there was no response they started making rude comments about what they'd do to her. The taunts were vulgar and violent. She didn't hear them. She didn't see them. She just stood there, texting.

They saw us approaching and standing on the other side of the sidewalk. How they categorized us, I don't know, as old, as irrelevant, as fellow 'men' I couldn't guess. What I do know is they didn't stop. It was light out, it was morning, it was a public street corner. I thought she was probably safe from them.

But I know that rape and sexual violence (to which she was already being subjected) don't confine themselves to the dark.


Of course.

Probably safe isn't safe enough.

As we crossed the crosswalk I said to the young men 'Just stop it for God's sake.' They looked at me, laughed and continued. Even with a small admonishment from a stranger, they didn't stop. I felt the danger meter rise. They don't care if people see them, they don't care if other's disapprove.

I made the decision.

I approached her, to the catcalls of the young men. Calling out to her didn't work because she had the buds in her ear. The music was playing loudly, I could hear it as it leaked out and filled the space around her. So I tapped her on the shoulder.

She reacted with a start and pulled away from me, yelling at me, "Don't fucking touch me."

I started to try to explain that I thought she needed to get out of the range of the boys, who were hooting and hollering at me now. Calling me a 'perv'. She didn't hear me or them. The music was too loud.

She glared at me as if I was an offender and stomped off, jaywalking to the other side of the street and continuing to head south.

It felt awful being treated as if I wanted to harm her when all I wanted to do was warn her.

But I'm beginning to think I should have left well enough alone. That what I did might be more traumatizing than what they did outside her notice.

I comfort myself by thinking that I'd done what I believe people should do, the opposite of ignoring it, taking action.

For better or worse, I did what I did.

My story of what happened and why I touched her shoulder will be much different than hers. I will be a fat, ugly, cripple who dared touch her shoulder. I will be the creep in her story.

It feels awful.

But, in the end, I suppose I don't care.

My heart tells me that she was in danger. My mind agrees. Action was my only option.

But I'm wondering what you think. What would you have done? Please feel free to give me advice or criticize my action.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Hitching of Dave and Joe

For those who were not able to watch on line. Apparently there was some kind of problem with the webcasting. But here's the video anyways. (Transcript published yesterday.)

At one point in the service the minister asks us to answer the question: What advice would you give to couples? He asks this because, as he says, after us being together for 46 years there's no real point to a sermon full of advice. Here's what happened.

Joe said that he isn't good at off the cuff kind of remarked but he (point to me is) so I'll let him do this. I joke, 'That's what you do to last.'

Then I said something like: If you want to have a relationship that lasts you need to understand that no matter how much you love the person now, that person will change over time. I feel like I've had serial monogamy with the same person. Joe isn't, now who is was at 16, nor am I, we're both grateful for that. Because if Joe was still that 16 year old, I'd be bored out of my mind. I loved the 16 year old but I REALLY love the 62 year old. So if you want it to last you need to enjoy watching your partner grow and your partner needs to enjoy watching you grow.

Or something such.

We are off for a couple of days!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Wedding: The Annotated Guide

Welcome to the Wedding Ceremony for Joe Jobes and Dave Hingsburger
What follows is an annotated guide to the service. The bits written in italics explain why we chose what we chose and what we hoped to achieve.

Pre service music: Hikari Oe – Hikari is a Japanese composer with an intellectual disability. His music is proof that talent has no favourites and that someone who others might dismiss, actually has deep insight and understanding. We chose this music because we love it and because we wanted to share, through this music, our belief in the value and worth of all.

Flowers: for those of you interested in flowers, we attempted in our own little way to make a slightly short rainbow so use your imagination and you’ll see a floral rainbow, if you REALLY use your imagination you’ll see unicorns too … but if you do, it’s probably best not to drive after the ceremony.

Accessibility: In many wedding services people are asked to stand at various points in the ceremony. People in wheelchairs and children become lost in a sea of legs and cannot see what’s going on. For this service, we invite you to sit back and relax, you won’t be asked to stand at any point of the ceremony.

Clergy performing the service: The Reverend Doctor Brent Hawkes has known us for decades and we were fortunate to have him agree to perform the ceremony. Brent is one of the most recognized leaders of the LGBT community. His uncompromising vision and his strong voice has provided leadership on a myriad of topics. His leadership of the issue of same sex marriage was invaluable. In many ways, what is happening today, is as a result of Brent’s work.

Announcements: Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes

PROCESSIONAL: Pride and Joy – Draw The Circle Wide – perhaps the finest hymn to inclusion ever written. We chose this hymn after hearing it sung in church a couple of weeks ago. Its simple melody is perfect accompaniment for words that express that we all, as a society, need to ‘draw the circle wide’ – wide enough to bring welcome to those who have lived without privilege and power.

Welcome!  On behalf of Joe Jobes and Dave Hingsburger, we welcome you to this ceremony.  We are here today to celebrate the love they share with each other. Let us rejoice in that love, for love is of God.  By our presence here we accept responsibility for helping this couple and encouraging them in the new relationship into which they are about to enter.  We are called to rejoice in their happiness, to help them when they are challenged and to remember them in our prayers.

             O God, you are the creator of all things; you made us and you sustain us. We
             depend on you. For the gift of life, we praise you. For being able to think about
             its meaning and purpose we thank you. In a world without, and our lives   within,
             there is much that is confusing and contradictory. Many voices counsel us; many
             forces pressure us; many things tempt us. We need your light to lead us, your  
             hand to hold us and your love to complete us. We ask for your blessing now on
             this couple and on this ceremony in your many names. Amen

Rev. Dr. Hawkes: We will now have the 1st  Reading.

Ruby and Sadie: From the children’s book ‘Four Feet Tall’ … this reading follows an incident wherein Peter’s dog was badly hurt when protecting someone from bullying and teasing:

Peter lay on his belly and began to talk. He talked to Eric about the winding trails behind the house. He talked about swimming at the creek. He reminded Eric about the day they met. Eric’s look gradually changed. It was as if Peter’s words were taming him all over again. The tone of Peter’s voice was weaving sounds and memories together and Eric listened intently falling slowly under their spell. Just as Peter was telling Eric about a special treat he would make for him, peanut butter on a chewy bone, Eric rose to a crouch and slowly crawled towards him.

There, underneath Peter’s mother’s desk, the two made peace with each other. Eric touched his nose to Peter’s nose and then lay down, noses still touching. Peter reached out and slowly stroked Eric’s ear touching the dog more gently than he had ever touched anything in his life.

For those few moments Peter understood how special love was between two very different animals. The bond was strong, but was never to be taken for granted. Eric’s love towards him was unconditional. He had always known that. But that day he learned that while Eric would always love him, his trust had to be earned every day.

SPECIAL MUSIC: Pride and Joy: Seasons of Love – This song from Rent speaks to how we live our days and what makes for a life. After living together for 24,177,600 minutes, which translates into 46 years, we realize that moments build into a lifetime and this song expresses that for us.
Rev. Dr. Hawkes: We will now have a 2nd reading.

Desmond Bailey Reading: A Reading from the Book of Dave Loves Joe: Verse 1 to the end.

Many of you here will know that Joe and I have long supported marriage rights for LGBTQA people, but had made the decision not to marry. We’d been together 36 years then and it felt a little late. We had wanted the support of church and family – then. We didn’t need it now. We felt that committing ourselves after 36 years was suggesting that our relationship before blessing was somehow less holy, less honourable, less worthy. We began our relationship in a time of hatred, and bias and bigotry. We began living together when our relationship was met with hostility and we lived in fear of lost jobs, lost friends, lost opportunities. We didn’t want that part of our journey dishonoured.

But, here we are today. Getting married. So what changed?

It’s because of a moment in Timothy’s coffee shop in the Manulife Centre.  I had picked up my tea and turned my chair to face Joe. And I saw him. Really saw him. And there was not a word for him. And because there was no word, he, in time, will not exist in relationship to me. And I will not exist in relationship to him. This was wrong.
When I was a little boy, I realized I was gay at a very young age. I wonder if anyone can truly understand the sense of aloneness a child feels when they know, and know deeply, that they are different from their family, they are different from their friends, they are different from their teachers. And no matter how hard little eyes search, there is no relief from the sense of being utterly alone.

One of the first relationship words I learned was “husband.” I loved that word as a little boy but I knew my thoughts were dangerous.  A ‘husband’ was a man who fell in love and got married to the person he loved. I knew that word did not belong in my hopes and wishes but it was never banished from my dreams. Other boys wanted to be firemen and police officers – me, I wanted to be less alone. I wanted a husband. I wanted a man who loved me. “Husband” - I would curl up inside the word, and I would feel safe there. “Husband” – I would wrap the word around me like a blanket and feel the warmth of hope.

But those were a little boy’s dreams.

And the world was very, very good at stamping out the dreams of lonely boys who wanted to find and love other lonely boys.

Even when Joe and I met and fell in love, in 1969, we were assaulted with words like ‘gear boxes,’ and ‘poofs’ and ‘queers’ the word ‘husband’ was shoved aside by hate filled words.

But in that moment in Timothy’s with a cup of tea in my hand, as I looked at Joe, I saw my husband.

It felt like that little boy woke up from a long nap to find he wasn’t alone.


And he wants to claim the word.

He wants to shout the word back at all those who bullied him, battered him and called him names. “I am who I am, and I have a husband that loves me.”

Joe is part of my journey as I am part of his. He will be my husband and I will be his. 
We will exist in language.

Today we will make the word real.

And because of that we will always exist in relationship to each other.

Special Music: Pride and Joy -Though I Speak – we chose this hymn because we both love the passage in the Bible that it is taken from. It is important to note that though gender is mentioned in the passage, it is never mentioned in relationship to the definition of love. This remarkable passage suggests that love is independent of gender, of status, of race, of level of ability, and therefore a completely inclusive emotion.

Rev. Dr. Hawkes:    COMMENTS          


Joseph Victor Jobes and David James Hingsburger you have made it known that you want to be joined in marriage, and no one has shown any valid reason why you may not.  If either of you know any lawful impediment why you should not be married you are now to declare it.
            Joe, Do you take Dave to be your lawful wedded husband?
            Answer:  I do.
            Dave, Do you take Joe to be your lawful wedded husband?
            Answer: I do.

 (Joe and I have opted not to exchange vows. Everything we wrote sounded as if it was for ‘show’ and we wanted no artifice in the ceremony. Notice we are both wearing clothes that we have worn every wonderfully ordinary day of our lives. This ceremony is preceded by the vow made by living and loving each other for 46 years. Really, is there a vow that covers the moment when you help your spouse, desperately sick with the flu, on to the toilet and as you give them a supportive hug, you feel vomit running down your back? That’s marriage stripped of pretty words.)

            Let us pray:
            Loving God, we offer you these rings, these creations of metal, which we have taken from the earth.  We ask that you will bless these rings, that they may signify the bond of love and unity that is expressed here today… AMEN
Dave, I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise to continue our life of love and care, honour and trust throughout the rest of our lives together.
Joe, I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise to continue our life of love and care, honour and trust throughout the rest of our lives together.

SIGNING OF THE DOCUMENTS – Pride and Joy – reprise: Draw the Circle Wide

For as much as Joe Jobes and Dave Hingsburger have made this solemn covenant of marriage before God and all of us here, by virtue of the power vested in me by the Ontario Marriage Act, I hereby declare them to be joined together as husbands, partners in life, in your many Names, Amen

O God, Creator of us all, we thank you for the gift of life- and in life, for the gift of marriage. We praise you and thank you for all the joys that can come to us through marriage, and the blessings of home and family. Today we especially think of Dave and Joe as they begin their life together as husbands.

We thank you for the joy they find in each other. Give them strength to keep the vows they have made and cherish the love they share, that they may be faithful and devoted to each other. Help them to support each other with patience, understanding and honesty. Look with favour, God, on all our homes.  Let your Spirit so direct all of us that we may each look to the good of others in word and deed, and grow in grace as we advance in years; in your many Names, AMEN.

God’s blessing will go before you and God will keep you. God’s face will shine upon you and be gracious unto you. God will grant you peace. In your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and your rising up, in your labour and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears. Until that day when there is no dawning and no sunset, no death and no disease. Go now rejoicing that God loves you.


            I now present to you Dave and Joe, partners in life; duly married in the eyes of God and in accordance with the laws of our Land.


RECESSIONAL – Pride and Joe – Celebration

Please feel free to join us in the social hall for cupcakes and tea and coffee. The reception has been catered by the members served by Vita Community Living Services. They take extreme pride in the work they do and that shows in the quality of their work. Enjoy!!

Blog Post Announcement

Today is my wedding day.

Never thought I'd say that.

At 12:30 this morning the whole wedding script, including the two readings. One of which explains why I suggested to Joe that we marry. As many know both of us were conflicted about whether or not to go through the ceremony - this will explain why we finally decided to become husbands.

For those watching, the annotated guide the the wedding will explain what they are seeing and why we made our choices.

Til 12:30 then!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Beer, Breasts, but no Beatings

Photo Description: two fists with the words GOOD BEER tattooed on letter at a time on the four fingers of each hand.
Yesterday, after work, we were sitting having a beer, with our friend Mike, when the florist called. We've ordered some unusual arrangements and she wanted to make sure that the wedding was still on. "I always call a couple days before," she said, "because lots can happen between the order and the delivery of the flowers." I imagine that's very true.

Joe, who took the call, assured her that it was still on and we were still looking forward to see what she'd created, given our unusual request. After the call, Joe sat back and relaxed. It is all organized, it's all done. But for the waiting. We started to talk about the wedding, moved from that to the upcoming pride day and the organization behind making sure that we've got water for the water guns. We chatted in a normal chatting sort of voice.

The thing is, we weren't in a gay bar.

We were in a guys sports bar where the servers, all women, have breasts that look like they could beat you in an arm wrestle. We've been in there when some game or other has been on and it was full of guys cheering these various teams. Joe and I have a different approach to sports that usually ends in one of us making the comment about a player like, "He's kinda cute,"

At some point we all realized that the guys around us had heard our conversation and didn't care. One. Little. Bit.

I didn't feel unsafe.

Things are changing. When we were in Campbell River, I was in the room, I'd been sick with the runs and we were waiting for the Imodium to kick in. Joe called me, almost frantically, from the laundromat in downtown Campbell River. He wanted to tell me that there was an advertisement, on the wall, for a gay pride event in Campbell River. Campbell River!

This was the town where we had met.

And would have had to shit beat out of us.

Now there is an ad for a pride event in a laundromat. It hadn't been ripped up or torn down.

Maybe the world is changing.


Our life changes tomorrow, in one major way, when we get married.

But I don't want to talk about that until it's done.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Wedding Update: Webcast Information

Photo description: Man holding film camera towards viewer.
Wedding Update:

As we have a number of friends and family in different parts of the world, and there are blog readers who'd like to join in on the fun, we have arranged for the wedding to be webcast. So the details are:

Saturday, June 6th at 1:00 pm EST

Please go to and then click on "Live Webcast" from the left hand side of the menu bar at the very top of the MCCT home page.

You'll see a window appear in the middle of your screen and then you can click on the start button to access the Wedding service.

Hope some of you drop in on line and join us.


Photo Description: A crying mask.
Sometimes I don't understand an interaction until days after it happens. Sometimes I think of the right thing to say weeks after I need to have said it. Sometimes I wish I understood my life, and had the words to say, while it's happening and when I need it. Such was the situation that arose a while back.

Someone I know, and at request I'm keeping this vague, wants to come to Joe's and my wedding on Saturday. This person sent a support worker to talk to me. It turns out, as I was told, that this person was too anxious about my response to do this personally. The support worker conveyed to me a concern about a possible trigger for extreme anxiety and a resultant possible outburst during the ceremony. I was asked if we could make a small adaption that would ensure that this trigger was no longer a concern.

Let me step away from the story for a second. The 'small adaption' really wasn't all that small. Joe and I had tussled, not with each other but with the ceremony, and had already had the whole thing planned and organized. The request would require an entire revision of the flow of the service. Considering all this, I said, "Of course, we'll make the adaption. Of course we want them to be there." I tell you this part because we can't act as if all requests for adaptations are easy, or are without some adjustments in the heart and minds of others.

We heard back, only hours later, that this person was 'over the moon' about being able to come and 'cried in gratitude' when they heard that we would make the adjustment. That's not a phrase, this person actually cried when it was realized that welcome had been extended. "They will never be able to thank you enough," said the support worker.

I, of course, was moved.

Joe, of course, was moved.

But then I was having a conversation with Ruti Regan, a Rabbinical student with a developmental disability, and she said something that just jumped out at me, "treating someone as a human being, in itself, gives us way more power than we should ever have."

I'm afraid I stumbled in the conversation as the force of that statement hit me. People with intellectual disabilities are so often subject to subhuman treatment that simply being treated as a valued person, a wanted person, a welcome person, is such a shock that their gratitude is out of proportion to the simplest of actions. Hell, forget intellectual disabilities, I find that when I'm simply treated as a real, live, human being with thoughts and feelings and sensibilities I automatically imagine them to be people of great and wondrous character, almost magical beings. And they may be great and wondrous, but that isn't because they were, in this one instance, kind. I react out of proportion to the gift that's given.

What we did, the decision that we made, to make the adaption to our ceremony took some work and required us to go over ground we'd gone over a thousand times. But, this act of inclusion, was simply an act of inclusion, it shouldn't be surprising, it shouldn't be unexpected ... the asking of it shouldn't be done with anticipation of rejection and so fearful that an emissary needed to be sent to make the request. This person, who I thought would know that we would want them there, expected nothing from us because nothing is what is typically given.

I want their tears uncried.

I want their gratitude turned into a simple 'thanks.'

I want them to expect of me, and of the world, welcome.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

An Afternoon at the Movies: Expected Consequences

Part 4

I realize that I left you hanging, wondering what happened, by skipping a day from the sequence of the story of our trip to the movies in Richmond. I did this because I wanted to think a little more about what I wanted to write. I also wanted to be a bit calmer so I could be more thoughtful. I give thanks to the fact that I finally realized that what I thought when angry isn't necessary what I would think when calm.

Some of you may be waiting for an ultimate confrontation or resolution.

That didn't happen.

What I wanted to write about was an overheard conversation from two people who had been in the same movie theatre, watching the same movie, where the same events occurred. Where a woman with a disability had to repeatedly use sounds, like a low and then rising moan, to call her staff to her side. I was not concerned about the moans, they didn't bother me, I was bothered by the behaviour of the staff.

But the people whose conversation I overheard didn't notice the staff, didn't notice that the moans had meaning, they only noticed the noise.

One: "Those people shouldn't be allowed in movie theatres, it costs a lot of money to go to a movie and to have it ruined by that G*d damned noise is f*cking ridiculous."

Other: "I agree! They were better off when they were put away."

The conversation sickened me.

Clearly these are people who don't have a great degree of tolerance for people with disabilities. I'm betting if a child was in the movies they may complain that the child was noisy but they wouldn't suggest locking children away. The fact that the idea of institutionalization is still a quick option for those frustrated by the behaviour of someone with a disability tells me that community living and inclusion are still fragile social ideas.

What makes this horrific to me is that those staff, and their behaviour, their lack of support for a woman who didn't want to sit at the end of a row, alone, fuelled the latent bigotry and bias of members of the audience. These were two, were there more? Probably.

Our job isn't to just support people with disabilities as they live their lives in the community, our job is also to support the concept, the radical idea, that people with disabilities belong in the community. How we do our jobs publicly will either enhance the concept of civil liberties and freedoms for people with disabilities or it will detract from the idea that people with disabilities are a people deserving of civil liberties.

It's not fair.

But it's the way it is.

A poorly supported woman was blamed for her poor support.

And the suggestion that she be locked away, forever, is terrifying.

Damage was done.

Serious damage.

All because someone made a decision that a woman with a disability wasn't worth sitting with, sitting beside. All because someone valued her so little that her voice, yes she had a voice, wasn't worth listening to.

A message to all staff and support people, you are supporting people with disabilities in the community and therefore you are supporting the concept of community living - never forget that your job is bigger than you thought, you are serving and individual and the cause of freedom at the same time.