Greetings fellow Americans,
Three weeks ago we all received a shocking and historical blow. While the election is over, many fellow citizens are bemoaning the fact that this actually happened and "the Donald" pulled this off. It is time we stopped being shocked and instead start moving towards some action.
Here are my ten ways to survive in our new world order.
1. Stop bitching-Start a Revolution. I saw this on a bumper sticker some years ago and never forgot it. Probably because it's true. The time for belly aching is over. What we need are powerful people to build powerful coalitions and fight like hell to make sure we don't regress as humans. We also need powerful people who can actually listen to and be with people and their pain.
2. Make sure that all of your finances are in order. Moving beyond just paying bills and living paycheck to paycheck, it is important that we invest, understand what money can and can't do and plan for our future. So many of us are waiting for the government to save us/ bail us out and yet we turn a blind eye to their stellar record of handling money. No folks, we have to make sure all life insurance policies, wills, trusts and power of attorney paperwork is filed.
3. Pull your loved ones in closer and begin to work towards creating new and stronger alliances with people who are vastly different than you. For example, watch the great film , Lorenzo's Oil. In it the white female middle class mom unties with poor people of color in an effort to create and sustain change. When the world gets crazy, it is imperative that we get more sane.
4. Start obsessively reading and watching the fine print. Whether a written piece or a ridiculous talking head, task yourself to question, scrutinize and challenge. In the past 18 months, I've seen more tom foolery and hijinks than ever. Television interviews and news sources just love a good comeuppance and my god have we had our share of it this last year. Fine print in the written word is somewhat easier to spot. Incidentally, feel free to use this time to bone up on your vocabulary because mark my word, we are getting ready to see a whole lot of name changing, i.e. high falutin' code switching designed to confuse and immobilize many of our citizens.
5. Get all travel documents in order. For those of us who have done international traveling, make sure those passports are current. As a black gay man, I know that understanding and acceptance can be eliminated in a blink of an eye with awful repercussions. While it is wonderful and brave to stay and fight, let's not be the idiot refusing to cover all bases as opposed to hoping that good people will stand up when it counts and that humans eventually do the right thing.
6. Do you speak one language? Two? Three? As Americans, myself included, we are notoriously arrogant in our refusal to learn about other cultures and languages. With this new world order, it is wise to start learning Spanish, a language spoken by more than a third of the world's population. As comrades in struggle, we must join forces with a community that has largely been dismissed and overlooked. By joining with our Latino brothers and sisters we have the opportunity to harness the same power that made a Trump victory possible. We organize around people whose voices have been systematically squelched. Scared, voiceless people in serious pain can be a scary and misguided group. Scared, voiceless people who are self directed with a united voice can move mountains.
7. Figure out what the hell the Electoral College is so that we can either improve or eliminate it. I have no idea what it is, how it works or why in the entire hell it only seems to elect Republicans. It requires further examination and a firm commitment to making sure things work for everyone (all Americans).
8. Pray. Pray for courage and wisdom. The wisdom to know what to do and the courage to actually do it. It is easy to hand wring and fret. Be bold and take the right action.
9. Get a sense of humor and know that every loudmouth idiot has his day. Keep in mind that anybody over 40 has seen these type of shenanigans before. There are those of us who've lived through not one but two Bush Administrations and of course the one who promised to save us (Clinton Administration); he served us with Don't Ask Don't Tell and a failed war on crime/drugs with the lovely and highly effective "Three Strikes Rule". Humor helps with all this crazy shit. I live in the great state of California and when I arrived in 2008, the governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was our governor. Personally, I've always felt many folks liked him being in office because they could mispronounce his name Schwarzenigger and get away with it. Californians had no problem allowing a man with no previous knowledge or political experience to run our state. An out of work actor decides to throw his hat in the political ring and no one objects. I can't be held responsible. It happened before I arrived. The big question remains- what the frig are we gonna do now? Do you resist with angst riddled protests and demands for justice that quickly burn us out? Or do we say this shit is f#$@ and let's find something comedic that joins us as a nation and provides a way out of this mess?
10. Strive for personal and professional excellence. In a world of mediocrity and feeble minded individuals, it is time to buck up and smarten up. We're going to need everyone of us in this battle and no excuses.
Many gay men wrongly assume that sexual attraction means relationship (material).
What is not understood is how to create wonderful relationships.
Often times those of us who have created something wonderful go underground.
We make it difficult to provide tangible, visible proof of what two men who are in love the right way can create. Most of us not only don't know how to date but also bring these simplistic types of interaction to our attempts to design relationships.
When we are limited to less than stellar relationship resources, we can only recreate more of what doesn't work.
Spending damn near three decades and unmentionable failures trying to make love work, there are three things that repeatedly show up when successful relationships are the topic.
Incidentally, these are the same three things that can be utilized in developing incredible friendships.
For a very long time, it was a goal of mine to be in a loving relationship that would assuage all past mishaps.
While I had no idea how to do this, it never was clear until a friend pointed it out, that nothing substantial could be created without a similar /identical set of values.
Like many of my misguided brothers, my assumption was sexual attraction equals relationship (see the wonderful Bethany Marshall for a clearer understanding of the limited thinking this provides). When these colossal flops presented themselves one time too many, my focus became finding a man with similar values.
Often times you can ask a person directly what they find important and although many either don't know or feign ignorance, simply watching a potential paramour will yield some honest and clear indicators.
My brilliant acting coach Colette Duvall always taught us that the subconscious always reads.
Another way to view this philosophy : watch what a person gives their time and attention to.
If your date claims exclusivity but is spending a whole lot of time at the bathhouse, it is time to rethink the relationship if your goal is monogamy.
If you are interested in saving money and the new paramour finds ways to not only refuse to look for work but finds ways to spend the agreed upon mutual savings, he is not interested in honoring you or your finances.
After agreeing to support your decision to attend school, does the "potential" mate find ways to create chaos when you should be preparing for a major exam ?
If so, take a look at your values and determine if this is the man for you.
You can't really get anyone to change their values or necessarily adopt yours.
In the same fashion, you've both shared the desire to protect the relationship and the home you share and as a result neither of you invite psychos into your home for any reason this is also a shared value.
If the term "values" seems to airy fairy or clinical think : what does this person find important and what do I find important ? If there is a match differences can and should be examined and worked through.
Do you know the values of your latest love interest ? Do you have an agreed upon definition of monogamy ? Open relationship ? The way you spend your time ?
Here are few wonderful insights from the aforementioned Dr. Bethany Marshall which should be memorized when we are attempting to fall in love and want to desperately build a lasting successful relationship.
Healthy relationships are founded on mutuality (both of you are equally invested in the relationship), honesty(you never walk away from a conversation feeling confused) and generativity (each conversation generates a new experience, a new understanding and a new way of being with each other).
If these factors are there, then consider falling in love !
My first male to male relationship began at seventeen with a queen as confused as myself.
My second and full on living together,constantly drama-filled torturous relationship began at 20 and ended at 23.
Because I had no self esteem and had spent time being brutalized,my third shot at glory lasted a year.
Reviewing all of these abysmal interactions and the subsequent fall out (which generally meant me crying,not eating and wailing "why don't you love me ?") forces the realization that none of us knew how to date.
We all knew how to create grief and enough drama to ensure a butt load of Emmys. What we didn't know was how to offer kindness, how to get to know each other outside of the bedroom and how to build a non-exploitative relationship.
Even when pop culture attempts to create gay male relationships there is rarely love-based discussions and grappling with choices that determine the fate of all involved parties. There is plenty of sex and upset but the complexity of what men being with men looks like often goes unseen and unexamined. The one glimpse of men attempting to date (this occurred after having sex I believe) was the wonderful scene in Six Feet Under wherein the discussion (post breakup) reveals that although sex was frequent psychological visibility was not. David nor Keith had the tools to be "out" with one another and reveal what they loved and admired about one another.
This one scene sums up the reality of most gay male coupling : we understand the mechanics of sex and yet are all thumbs when it comes to psychological and emotional commitment and understanding.
As a group who still remains largely defined by what we engage in sexually, it is difficult to resist the siren call of the mainstream and our subculture that says we don't require tools for building and maintaining relationships and our relationships lack complexity and therefore should not be taken seriously.
In our community, we lack certain dating and relationship understanding because we have never seen it.
Growing up,I never saw two men date, be in love, build a relationship or a life.
The relationships that most of us saw were heterosexual and severely lacking in complexity.
If our role models and what is presented as possible is limited and tainted how can we expect to build anything of lasting value and worth ?
My mother told me in a conversation once what she dreamed and or thought about when the subject of marriage came up : Nothing
She told me that she put no thought into what type of marriage she could have or the purpose of being in a relationship.
My grandmother believed and still practices the time honored tradition of unrelenting self sacrifice and over concern for people far too old to need it.
This was my view of things growing up.
Love meant constant and unquestioned sacrifice.
One person constantly took while another (usually the female) constantly gave.
I took this attitude into my adult life and allowed it to determine my dating patterns.
Like many gay men, I decided if the person was relationship material based on sexual chemistry or whether he was "good" and I was satisfied.
Having a great roll in the hay tells you very little about the person. Ask anyone who has done the deed with any sociopath.
There have been sexual experiences I regretted not because of the mechanics but because the individual was unpardonably stupid, racist, or just plain not very nice.
These were not people I would befriend in any other circumstances nor would want friends and anybody that cared anything about me to ever meet.
There is nothing wrong with an occasional romp. But using sex or the promise of it to determine a date's "success" or whether this is someone that would make a great partner or friend isn't the best use of anyone's time.
When I challenged myself at 31 to get to know someone without a clue as to what he looked like and did not allow or encourage sexual nonsense to cloud my judgement, I produced some very different life altering results.
While we did not remain a couple for life, the opportunity to build something of substance that lasted damn near a decade is still a proud memory for me.
So have you had any great dates lately ?
Porn is so satisfying for so many of us because we know from the moment we hit send, download that clip or pop in that dvd, what will happen.
Unless two virgins get together, the man you love and have partnered with probably has a history.
Every time someone that I deeply care for says, “I love you”, I get frightened.
It makes little sense to get shook up regarding this most basic of human needs and the thing myself and we all want the most. And yet, when it is stated it becomes a thing of suspicion. My personal experience of this most elusive of human emotions is that it is not to be trusted. The thing that I have spent a lifetime seeking out causes me the most anxiety.
The reason behind this most troubling of contradictions is that I now understand the true meaning of love.
I know what is costs and what is required when someone says that they love you. As a teenager and then young adult, my concept of love and what it could do was completely screwed up. In my limited view, I thought love was the great equalizer. The thing that would save me. Ironically, all the folks who said they loved me were as confused about it (love and its application) as I was. This constant and welcome confusion occured because so few of us understand the stark differences between love and care. Someone can care for you in a very deep sense and may even pledge and live up to a lifetime of partnership with you and never love you. I like to take my definition of love and what it is and what it is not from bell hooks (the thinking person's warrior).
“Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment...'dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love -- which is to transform us.' Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling.
— bell hooks
This is and continues to be the absolute core issue in all of my immediate and familial relationships. The question is and remains: If I say I love you and you say you love me what exactly does this mean ?
If we are unable to come to a agreed upon definition of love and what it entails then we will have some serious problems down the road. When I was very young, I dealt with adults who could be cruel and manipulative one moment (bringing me to tears) then offer a heartfelt apology the next moment with the agreement that I should forgive their idiotic behavior and accept the fact that I was just “too sensitive”. Not having the vocabulary to articulate the wackiness of these situations, I simply accepted the domination and coercive version of love.
This troubling and unsupportive type of interaction was not love.
It was some care with a bit of love thrown in to justify the adult inability to deal with emotional upset as a result of little or no emotional resources. The problem with this way of thinking is that is sets up those who have been at the effect of this misguided emotional terrain to go out in the world and recreate more of what doesn’t work. My dating life was chaotic and grief - filled (read the Smart Slut Pts. 1 and 2 for more examples).
I didn’t believe that my dating life and subsequent relationships were riddled with emotional abuse.
The first time somebody pointed out that I was in an abusive relationship, I laughed. To me abuse meant physical confrontation, blood shed, police and the things I saw in movies where a young, white female had to leave town and change her name because her old man just wouldn’t stop using her as a punching bag. This wasn’t my situation so it couldn’t possibly be abuse. This type of thinking kept me passionately and righteously recreating relationships that were not love based at all. Instead they were needy, clingy interactions that had some care thrown in now and again.
To me, it made perfect sense that someone could lie to me or humiliate me one moment then have a breakdown the next all the while wailing through an avalanche of tears : “I love you so much it scares me”. Naturally, as I aged I began to ask : Why not just say “I’m scared ? “ All of the men I dated were as confused about it as I was.
At 31, I met a wonderful guy and still not understanding the marvelous journey this relationship would allow, I was constantly pissed when he didn’t quiet certain demons or magically make all the lifelong problems I had go away. My assumptions were simple, direct and wrong :You love me and I say I love you so there will never be a conflict and you will be an incredible mind reader(thank god so now I don’t have to ask for what I want and risk disappointment)
In addition,as my mate, you will also be able to right every childhood wrong and give me all the love I didn’t get as a child. We will feel good all the time and most importantly there will never be any hurt feelings or miscommunication.
Anybody who has ever fully committed to anything knows that saying you are committed and being committed are two very different things.
If love’s true power is the ability to transform us and make us better human beings and better able to really love others, we should all take a serious gander at the individual who states: I love you. I am not suggesting we vigilantly look for chinks in the armor of those we love.
Love's challenge is that we change and those around us become who they are meant to be. Love will not demand that we be less of who we are.
"To be fearless no matter what happens-that is the root of true happiness. To move forward resolutely regardless of what lies in store-that is the spirit of, the resolve that leads to human victory. But if we allow ourselves to be disturbed by petty criticism and slander, or we fear pressure and persecution, we will never advance or create anything of lasting value. " Daisaku Ikeda
Recently, someone asked me what keeps me stuck.
I was asked what keeps me from really living. After some thought , I realized it was three very powerful and simple entities. Disappointment, confusing love with care and not feeling worthy to dream and imagine my life. Six years ago I wrote a play,"Knucklebone", that dealt with how I learned to handle and negotiate my life when things failed to go my way.
During the course of creating this work, I realized that I had my share of disappointment and upset and had chosen to not let these things stop me.
In some fashion, I figured out ways to acknowledge the hurt and pain and then move beyond it. Maybe this was a gift. Something I was born with that would allow me to survive incredible bouts of disappointment. After sharing this work with others and listening to their tales of "woe", I learned something vey important. I was not that different from other people. In fact, hurt and anger over things not working out were very common occurences.
Most people at some point or another have had to deal with planning on one outcome and then adjusting to another when it takes place.
So back to the original point, what keeps me stuck ? I typically go for the things that I want in life. There have been times that I now look back on and know : I didn't go for it. These are not seen as failures or looming regrets. Instead, they are viewed as times when I didn't truly "live". I opted to allow past disappointments to determine present reality but also decided what action I would or would not take regarding my dreams and desires.
At seventeen, I wanted to move to NYC and go to Columbia.
With great grades, stellar references and a ton of extra curricular activities on my record, there was absolutely no reason to not apply and expect a quick admission. My mothers' unrelenting retort : "whose gonna pay for that ?" effectively shut me down and my capacity to have a life in NYC . Realistically, we could have determined that I could attend this institution and then plotted and schemed like banshees to make it happen.
It never happened. I was sorely disappointed and still carry that one regret some twenty five years later.
The problem is not that I didn't go to Columbia or finish at the fine prep school where I started my high school career. In fact, it was not even the many failed romantic relationships that I managed to pick up along the way . The core issue is how I dealt wtih them both in real time, as in the present ,and how I chose to handle them emotionally. Did I allow these desires for greatness (which never occured) to slow me down, make me feel : who gives a shit ? "I didn't want that all that much anyway".
How about that last statement ? Not allowing ourselves to "want" keeps us from being disappointed.
If I never really want anything then I don't have to seriously try and risk things not working out. I get to be safe. When I speak of want, I am not referring to a state of greed and a serious case of the "gimmies". We are not petulant children cajoling our parents into giving us what we want- when we want it .
Instead, a healthy set of wants is good.
Disappointment can either put us into a state of bone-crushing want or unmitigated entitlement.
Men loving men has its own challenges and no place is this more evident than the realm of financial responsibility.
Like many of our straight male counterparts, we often enter relationships with many severely limited and unproductive views regarding earning and managing money. More often than not , we equate a man’s earnings and or earning potential with his character and ability to effectively contribute within a relationship.
Moving beyond Fetish… The opportunities for growth and joy via black and white gay male relationships
I have spent half of my dating life with white men.
As far as I can see, there is a great deal of confusion and mayhem regarding how these seemingly divergent groups get along, partner up and develop loving, committed non exploitative relationships.
What is this thing we call attraction ? Is it learned ? Can it be redeveloped?
Recently, my guy told me some shocking news.
I was informed that I am stubborn. This came as a complete shock because normally I like to think that I am the embodiment of perfection.
I love to believe that I am all things good and decent and thoughtful and kind and delightful on the planet.