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October, 2017:

Thoughts About #MeToo

I’ve been following the #metoo movement, started by Tarana Burke, and became widespread when Alyssa Milano posted about it following the dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against filmmaker Harvey Weinstein.

Alone by Marc Falardeau from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I wish things like the #metoo movement weren’t necessary. I feel sad and disgusted when I think about the sheer number of people who have been sexually harassed, abused, and assaulted. How can anyone feel entitled to take advantage of another person like this?

These predators thrive in silence. They rely on the fear and shame they invoke in their victims so they can continue to prey on others. #Metoo helps break the silence, and give survivors a voice. It breaks the pattern of downplaying these incidents and staying silent out of fear of the repercussions that could result from speaking out against these perpetrators.

As a survivor, I’m grateful for #metoo.

Don’t Rape by Richard Potts from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It’s validating and empowering to see people speaking out about their abuse. It reminds me that I’m not alone. It exposes the vastness of this problem. Sexual assault doesn’t just happen to “other people,” it happens to your friends, your family, your co-workers, people you look up to – people you know.

Although reading about other people’s #metoo experiences is validating, it’s also painful. I read these posts to honor and validate the survivor, but I also read them to see that I’m not alone in my experience as a survivor. My fellow survivors know what it’s like to be taken advantage of, to be frozen in fear, and what it’s like to be physically violated.

When I read a #metoo story like McKayla Maroney’s, who was repeated sexually assaulted by the USA Gymnastics team doctor, Dr. Larry Nassar, for years starting at age 13, I read her words, and I identify with her experience. It reminds me of what it feels like to be trapped, helpless, and covered with the sensation of icky-ness. Even as I type, I pause to shake my hands, trying to rid myself of that wave of shame.

I love this photo of Joe and me by Brandon Larkin (Creative Commons License)

Reading these accounts is triggering. As I was getting ready for work one morning last week, I wanted to climb back into bed and avoid the world instead of going to the office. Enveloped in shame, I could barely look anyone in the eye. When I went to my therapy appointment, I spent most of the session curled up on my therapist’s couch while we processed what I was feeling. (I couldn’t look him in the eye either.) He reminded me to take extra care of myself.

Why do I share all this? Because calling out the people who commit these disgusting acts is only part of the story. The impact on the survivors from being sexually harassed or assaulted can be devastating. It was for me.

It’s not something I went through, it’s something I live with. I’m getting better, thanks to therapy, medication, treatment, 12-step programs, and having a loving supportive people around me, though I still have days where I struggle with depression and I’m burdened with shame. Going to 12-step meetings taught me that “our secrets keep us sick,” so I have to share my story to help myself heal.

I support the #metoo movement and survivors sharing their experiences even though it can be triggering for me. This problem will only continue if we ignore it.

Thank you to everyone who validates me by sharing their story.

Thoughts about the Fire . . .

Recently, area around my hometown was hit hard by wildfires – the worst reported in California history. Over 5,700 structures burned and at least 40 people lost their lives. People on site said it was like a bomb went off.

For about 5 days, I watched the updates from inside the fire zone – both the official reports and the personal stories of the people who lost everything and those did what they could to help their neighbors. (Special hat tip to the Wilking Way crew who stayed behind after the evacuation order to protect their neighborhood with your own water truck. You are an inspiration.)

I love this photo of Jeff and me. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

I wondered what I would grab if I were ordered to evacuate, knowing that anything I left behind could be destroyed. As I looked around my little condo, I knew I would grab my laptop, my passport, my dog, our medications, and not much more.

I don’t feel emotionally attached to my possessions. They’re just things. Many of them make life more comfortable, but it’s nothing that can’t be replaced.

I am not my stuff.

Memories don’t live in sentimental items.

People and actions matter more than things.

 

Coming Out Day: Queer and Non-Binary

I am queer and non-binary. I used to identify as bisexual, but now I use the umbrella term “queer” since I can be attracted to any gender. Since I’m “non-binary,” meaning I don’t identify as a man or a woman, it would be contradictory to identify as “bisexual” since I don’t believe that gender is a binary concept. Sometimes I use the term “non-gendered,” since I often feel like I don’t have a gender. (Gender is a social construct, completely separate from a person’s biological sex.) I also use “gay,” as a catch-all term for non-heterosexual people, even though others use it to exclusively describe men who have sex with men.

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr

Gender and sexual orientation each have their own spectrum, and I’m somewhere in the middle on both.

I don’t have a box, a stereotype to which I’m expected to conform or even suggested guidelines like those that come with identifying as a “man,” “woman,” “heterosexual,” or “homosexual.” It’s both freeing and frightening to live without such limits.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I decided to respond to the common statements and questions my friends have heard in response to coming out:

What made you gay?
Nothing made me queer. It’s just what I am. What made you straight?

How did you know you were queer?
When I realized my female peers didn’t think about women the same way I do.

When did you decide to be non-binary?
Again, this wasn’t a decision. I’ve never felt like being a man or a woman was right for me.

Photo by Roger Griggs

How does that work?
Could you be a bit more specific?

It’s just a phase.
Thirty-eight years is a long time for a phase.

You’re just confused.
I’m often confused about a lot of things, including how to best present myself, but I have no doubts about who or what I am.

Have you always been like this?
Yup.

Are you sure?
Yes. Trust me, I wouldn’t have come out if I wasn’t sure.
The only person who could get away with asking this question was my grandmother, because, well, she was old. Bless her heart.

How do you know?
How do you know what gender you are? How do you know what people you find attractive? Some things you just know.

Photo by Jason Hahn

I don’t want you to get AIDS.
Me neither.

What are your pronouns?
In general, if you’re using pronouns to refer to me, there’s a good chance I’m not there to hear you. I don’t care what pronouns you use as long as you’re respectful. When speaking to me, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” and a gender-neutral title instead of “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Can’t you just pick one gender to be attracted to?
Some people are only attracted to people with light or dark-colored hair. Others are potentially attracted to a person with any color of hair. Likewise, some people are only attracted to people with a penis or a vagina. For me, a person’s genitals is not a deal-maker or breaker in deciding whether I find them attractive.

Bisexuals are greedy and promiscuous.
Sounds like you’re jealous.

So, you want to have sex with everyone.
No. There’s a big difference between being potentially attracted to a person of any gender and wanting to bang everyone.

Oh, so you had a crush on me in high school, right? (From a female friend)
Absolutely not.
BTW – If an LGBTQ person hits on you, take it as a compliment, even if you don’t reciprocate their feelings. It’s not a big deal if everyone’s respectful.

How do you have sex when there is no penis involved?
There are lots of ways to be intimate when a penis is not a key player. Do we need to take you back to Sex 101?

Photo by Leslie Easton Photography

So, does that mean you [sex act]?
Woah there, Pooh Bear. Unless I’m sleeping with you, the details of my sex life are none of your business.

Are you the man or the woman in relationships?
That’s like asking which chopstick is the fork.

Does your family know?
Yup. And if they didn’t, they haven’t been paying attention.

Is it because your dad didn’t show you affection?
What?? No.

This is probably because your mom was too overbearing.
<sigh> No.

Do you know my friend, Chris? They’re gay.
The LGBTQ community may be less than 10% of the population, but that’s still a lot of people. We don’t all know each other.
But how cool would that be?

That makes sense.
A lot of things clicked when I realized what I am.

Life is going to be a lot more difficult now.
Probably. But I’d rather be authentic than pretend to be someone I’m not.

Have you ever been fired for being gay?
Thankfully no, but in Arizona, I could be.

I love you anyway.
That’s one word too long.

Do you really have to tell everyone? Shouldn’t you keep that private?
Why would I? That would be like telling a man to tone down his masculinity, or telling a straight couple to stop holding hands. My sexual orientation and gender have little impact on most people’s lives.

So, there you go. If you’re still curious about my sexual orientation or gender, including my coming out stories, check out my episode of The Out House podcast.

What Am I

I’m training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in 2018. When I do my long run for the week, I prefer to listen to podcasts instead of music. It’s easier to be distracted from the pain I’m inflicting on myself and find a rhythm with 30-minute episodes rather than 3-minute songs.

Recently I’ve used my training to catch up on the podcast Unthinkable, hosted by Jay Acunzo. I met Jay in 2016 when we were both speakers at Content Marketing World where he spoke about how being different leads to success in business. I always get something good out of every episode.

Be an Authority
This run started with his interview with marketing consultant, author, and speaker Robert Rose. Robert says he prefers to be called an “authority” rather than an “expert,” in part because the words “authority” has the root “author.” An expert knows a subject, but an author created it. I love this! I am absolutely stealing this for two reasons:

  1. I love the idea of being an authority on social media law (I did write the book on this stuff), and
  2. The State Bar doesn’t allow lawyers to call themselves “specialists” unless you’ve been certified through their process. This gets around that issue.

Be an Exception
Jay says, “To be exceptional, you have to be an exception.” Statements like this remind me that it’s ok to be me, and when I embrace and run with my unconventional ideas, things tend to work out. And I don’t do what I do just to be weird, but because it’s what works for me. I’m just being me. When I try to fit into someone else’s box is when things go sideways.

Jay is all about intuition. He highlights people who are successful because they trusted their gut. They ask the right questions and find the answers from within. I believe in this too. My gut feeling is never wrong – sometimes inaccurate, but never wrong. I know when I’m going with my gut, I’m doing what’s in alignment with who I am.

What Am I?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over this question. It started back in September when I saw my friend, Ari Kaplan, speak at ASU Law School about making opportunities for yourself. I don’t know what Ari said, but it inspired me to write, “I’m an artist” in my notebook.

When it comes down to the basics, I think that’s what I am. I’m a writer, a musician, a creator. I’m happiest when I’m creating, learning, sharing, and when what I do makes a difference.

Looking to the future, I can picture myself taking music lessons and going to ballet classes (in male attire with Rocky’s leg warmers). I also see myself zipping around on my orange skateboard and learning how to be a survivalist (not that I like camping, but I bet it’s handy stuff to know). Being a lawyer pays the bills, but more and more, I accept that this is what I do. It’s not who I am.

For now, I’m putting more energy into being creative. On the wall where I put my to-do items on sticky notes, I added one that says, “Just Write.” When I saw Ann Handley speak at Content Marketing World, she inspired me to devote time to writing every day, even if no one ever sees it. And I’m listening to more music, pulling from my entire iTunes library, and not just my race day playlist.