Coming Out

It is Pride week in the City where I live. This means so many different things to so many different people. I only came out as Bisexual in the past few years and thus do not have the history with Pride weeks many do. I’ll be 44 this week so have lived most of my life ignoring my own feelings about certain things. While I could search for excuses for why it took this long to come-out it really serves no purpose to do so. I know I always noticed people in certain ways yet followed hetronormativty. What’s done is done.
In June of 2013 I decided to join the Pride Parade here after moving back to the city after living away for several years. I’d been back only a week. Never done that before, never been to a Pride Parade even. Something was different in my life at that point and I had the courage to be me. The real me, true to myself. I knew no one there, I was not on a float or part of a group marching. I just joined in and walked along. It was raining and I did not care.
In the months that followed I sought out the local LGBT Centre. I knew I was not Gay but I was not Straight either. At the time I was very ignorant of most lingo and issues. I knew the term Bi but was still not sure of myself. I found someone there on the staff who I could talk too. I got help finding the words for the feelings I had. I also learned a lot about so much more. I began to volunteer at the centre and just hang out there at times. However, I made a promise to myself to not date for a time while I adjusted to my own internal acceptance of things that I used too repress. I already deal everyday with bipolar and anxiety so I knew that giving myself a bit of time to sort thoughts out would be fairer to me and any potential partner.
I took a journey of discovery of my inner self once I freed myself of the old imposed oppression. There was a time in my past I was very involved in a homophobic church. At first I embraced the term Polysexual and later BiRomantic. Still later other terms but in the end I have just settled on Bisexual. I like who I like regardless of gender, and most people understand Bi. I also seem to have become content being single, at the time of this writing. Not sure where that falls.
In all this though I feel like an outsider being so new to this. So many I know within the community seem to have been out most their lives and know all the LGBT history and issues. I feel judged at times but do realize that is likely my anxiety making me feel that. I’ve never experienced homophobia directed at me. I have experienced Biphobia though. Seems important to a lot of people that I’ve had sex with both men and women. They also want to know if I have a preference of gender. I am attracted to some (not all) people regardless of gender, my past or current sex life is not relevant. Bisexual in my opinion.
Society is really good at teaching people what should be the norm. Dictates what our default settings ought to be, even if that goes against our inner wishes and desires. If we were free to be ourselves we would not have coming out stories from people. We would not need Pride Parades reminding and asking the World to be accepting of people not on society’s default setting. We need to adjust those defaults.

The Stigma of Suicide.

When people talk of mental health issues there is often a glossing over of the topic of suicidal thoughts within depression. A lot of euphemisms are used if any mention at all. When I hear or read about someone going through a period of dark thoughts or despairing, do they really mean thoughts of suicide? Are they just too scared to use the word. I know I’ve been taught to not say it in the past. Yet I cannot help but think that by not talking about it we only make it more difficult for those suffering those thoughts to seek help in times of need. If you cannot say suicide when you are well and discuss what that struggle is, how can anyone be expected to feel brave enough to admit it when in crisis?

I’ll be forty-four in less than a month, at the time of writing this, my first suicide attempt was when I was sixteen. I’ve only had one other attempt since and that was in my early twenties. Since those attempts I have been able to get myself into the hospital or get other help before getting to the point of trying to end things. However, I have many times needed that help over the years. What I deal with living with bipolar and anxiety disorders is a chronic and incurable condition. I am able to manage it most of the time with therapy and medication. At this point in life, mostly therapy. This was not always the case for me though.

I see how mental health is stigmatized overall within society and that things are slowly changing for the better. Yet, I also see that the talk about suicide is still not occurring enough. That people still seem too afraid to speak of it. It has been my experience that suicidal thoughts are not a black and white thing. There are a lot of shades of grey. One does not go from simply depressed to jumping off of a bridge most of the time. There are many stages in between. The healthcare system itself needs to find a way for those with the in between stage thoughts to be able to express the need for help without worry of an overreaction. I’ve lost count of the number times I stopped talking to a healthcare provider because they overreacted to my using the words ‘suicidal thoughts’ when I was not at a point of crisis. I’ve had to lie to therapists and doctors both over the years when not in crisis to avoid them being uncomfortable with the word suicide.

The therapist I have now is awesome though. I can talk to them about the stages of suicidal thoughts that I go through and get the help I need before I hit a crisis point. So many others just assume crisis or worse will not help you unless you are in crisis. I actually spent nine hours in an emergency room once only to be turned away in the end because they felt I was not in enough of a crisis to warrant attention. That’s a long and bitter story not for here though.

A person with diabetes gets to know their own ups and downs with that chronic illness over time. Many chronic illnesses are like that. What most also share is a medical knowledge that can be shared with friends, loved ones, or care givers to help aid the sufferer. This came with openly talking about that illness and not making it taboo or stigmatized. The suicidal thoughts that can come with deep depression should be the same. The brain is an organ of the body like any other and we need to realize that it malfunctioning is a medical condition that can be discussed like all other medical conditions.

I know my own ups and downs, have learned many coping skills, when to get extra help, what the warning signs are for me. But, I only learned all this through trial and error and almost died along the way learning it. If there had been open conversation about this, if I had been able to talk about this sooner, I could have gotten to where I am today with a lot less hurt and pain. Most of all though, and please really think on this one, most of all I wonder about all those that did not make it like I did. How many people took their own life due to this lack of conversation, lack of information, this stigma?

Sex Work and Human Rights

What I speak of in this piece deals with the topic of Sex Work and Human Rights, and my own views on that. When I say sex work I am referring to consenting adults. There is a difference when there is force, coercion, exploitation, or children involved, that is trafficking and I would never condone that. If you are willing to see the difference between the two feel free to read on, otherwise I suggest you stop reading here.

The Moralists (a vocal minority and extremists in my opinion) in our world have stepped up their fight against what they perceive as the improper sexual behavior of other people. It does not matter to them that it is consenting adults making a choice for themselves without anyone being hurt. The Moralists don’t like it and want to control other peoples actions so that it conforms to their own standard. The most recent trend is the wave of policies being implemented that criminalize the purchasers of sex. It targets the clients in an attempt to end the demand for it. Without clients the worker would have no work is the assumption. Take away their livelihood. Ignore that Human Right to work and free choice of work.

The war on sex work as a whole is not new. The stigma against it has been there for generations. I think it comes from that archaic idea of a woman feeling pleasure during sex is bad, which is still stigmatized in much of the world today. Repression of all things sexual is common in many societies. Early on girls are taught to dress proper in school or be sent home to change, as it is disruptive to the boys. Show a female form naked in a movie and it will get a higher restriction rating than if it is filled with violence. There is a whole culture of whore-phobia going on around us too. The shaming of “sluts” for being openly sexual or comfortable with themselves. The idea that jokes about dead hookers are okay. That sex work is demeaning to women, but for some reason not to the men that choose it. Women must conform to moral standards, not the men.

I am not a sex worker, however I listen to them. It is the voices of those who do the work and have the life experience who can tell us facts about sex work. The Moralists have scare tactics to incite a public reaction. Their words usually conflate sex work with trafficking though. They want people to give to their cause, to join them in their way of thinking. They want converts and money. They “rescue” people without first checking to see if they need help. React to what they see as wrong and try to stamp it out regardless of other peoples Human Rights. Any choice they would not make for themselves must be a wrong one.

I have tried to speak up by being supportive of others voices. To help amplify the words of those who know what I do not and cannot know. I speak of Human Rights or point out research that is done that many consider reputable. Show that the United Nations and the World Health Organization support the decriminalization of sex work and why they do. I try to avoid speaking as though I am a voice for Sex Workers. I try not call myself an ally even, for that is not my call to make in my opinion. I made the mistake in the past of talking more than listening, and of thinking I had something important to add to the conversation, but I am an outsider. I can be supportive so long as it is on the terms of those whom I wish to support. Still learning that.

I have been told you have to have been a Sex Worker to know sex work. I agree with that. Can anyone except an astronaut that’s spent six months on the International Space Station really understand being an astronaut? How about a Doctor that was in the hot zone helping fight the latest major Ebola outbreak being told by a first year business student their experience was not relevant to medicine? Or when nuns and priests tell people in sex work that they know better about sex? So when I have Sex Workers tell me that I have to experience sex work to understand it, I get that. I cannot know and neither can you. I get that I don’t get it.

What consenting adults choose to do or not to do in private is no one’s business except their own. Whether they be a sex worker, gay, straight, trans, married, or all of those things. That intrusiveness into the sex lives of other adults is the exact same thing that Moralists push who want everyone to be in a heterosexual-church-sanctioned-marriage. Follow their Moral path or go to jail, and if it is not illegal they want it made illegal. I see it as a fight of Human Rights vs Morals. And if you don’t have the Human Rights to protect the Moral ones first, someone’s Rights will always suffer. We all have a Right to choose for ourselves.

Oddly what I don’t see is these Haters of sex work standing up and fighting for trafficking victims around the world. What about the child slaves in the Ivory Coast that produce 40% of the world’s chocolate. Or the agricultural and fishery laborers globally that number in the millions that put food on Haters plates at a reasonable price due to exploitation. And the domestic laborers in many industrialized nations that are brought across borders illegally and placed under debt bondage, and have that used against them as a threat for deportation if they report poor work conditions. Where is that Crusade?

Our Dystopia Now

The popularity of books and movies that depict main characters fighting the system in a Dystopian future has been on the rise. People dealing with police stopping them and taking their cash without cause. Governments passing laws that strip away Human Rights. Corporations having the ability to sway political policy in their pursuit of natural resources. Even a society that tries marginalize an entire gender into second-class citizens through stigma and religion. With all this happening in the world it is no wonder people want to fantasize about someone successfully fighting Dystopias.

In 2013 there were several news stories that started to circulate about several police jurisdictions in the United States wherein officers would pull over out of state cars and search them. Any large amounts of cash found therein was confiscated on the suspicion of drug running. As more investigation was done into this alleged practice some police forces admitted that they did it and used the funds to function. While people could apply to get their money back, the process is often long and requires them to come back in person. Officers are targeting out of state license plates remember. This is legal for the police to do. This is not some book or movie. You do not have to commit a crime to have your cash taken away.

In Canada in 2013 the Supreme Court there overturned the Country’s prostitution/sex work laws citing them as violations of Human Rights and unconstitutional. The response from the Government was to within a year draft and implement new laws that made prostitution/sex work illegal for the first time in Canada’s history. I know the this topic itself is a heated one for some, but the idea that any Government can decide whether or not two adults can legally consent to have sex for themselves is the bottom line. It goes to the core of personal consent, freewill, and gay/lesbian rights. Keep in mind that Canada had and still has laws to fight human trafficking, which is a very different issue. Should police resources be used to check up on what consenting adults are doing in their bedrooms?

Throughout the World Corporations use their vast wealth to influence local Governments to help themselves attain access to natural resources. This is not new. It is however surprising in its openness at times. Lobbyists from energy groups getting laws or regulations passed so that drilling can occur with little or no oversight. Fracking earthquakes and tap water that can be set on fire have become a way of life for some people because of this. The deforestation of huge tracks of land to get at oil tar sands is another glaring sign of cooperation between Government and Corporation at the expense of people. I find it odd too that the Energy Sector always sets record profits yet the Government hands it subsidies claiming public interest.

Regardless of where you are in the World there is a gender divide. Some places it is worse than others. What is silly is the places that try to claim there isn’t one when clearly there is one. Those are often the ones there may even be laws in place to level the playing field. Yet, society has not adopted those laws. Religion in particular helps keep the playing field uneven. Whether it be slut-shaming, victim-blaming, whore-phobia, or outright men making decisions about women’s bodies for them in healthcare concerns. It’s even okay in Western society to cover up a university campus rape or for a cop to assault a prostitute. Second class citizens with the right to vote, just not the right to speak up for themselves about themselves. Feminism is a bad word now even. Who is waging the war against women?

If any of this made you go what the fuck? It was supposed too. My point is that we are in our own Dystopia right now because we can see better. We know better for ourselves and our kids but see the crap around us if we stop to look. If we pull our noses away from our social media, video games, and reality TV long enough that is. That’s a theme too, often in those Dystopian stories. The Masses need to be distracted from the plight they are in for the elite to stay in control.

That all said. Vote when you get the chance too. In the U.S., U.K., and Canada there was less than 65% voter turnout in their last federal elections. A lot of people of letting their lives be decided by other peoples votes. Is that how the Corporations, Religious Extremists, and corruption wins in the end?