Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Logging into Facebook tonight, and here's the headlines that greeted me:

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That's right bi folks NBC is prepping to call you a whore. And they're whitewashing stuff. Happy to see Racebending and perhaps even Marissa Minna Lee are tweeting the issue. Seems like a good story for Kanika Ameerah K Tempest Bradford too! Props to Paige Listerud for the info!

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More Biphobic Blather: Say It Ain't So Joe - The usually evenhanded, intelligent and amusing blogger Joe Jervis of the popular JoeMyGod has really struck out with this throw-away post. Please stop by and (politely) remind him and his regular readers/posters that just like Polish Jokes or anti-Semitic Jokes are not actually funny, Biphobic ones aren't either.

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And neither do any of the trans guys I know. In fact, for someone who tries soooo hard to be hip, you are making yourself less cool every day.
[Like I really need another reason to dislike Ke$ha. - Fer]
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You know what?  I'm sick of this shit. I joined these various bi groups for support and encouragement, not for constant doomsaying about how we're being erased by the gay community and stereotyped by the straight community.  We're hated by both sides.  I get it. 

The thing is, if they hadn't told me, I never would have noticed.

The majority of my friends are straight.  They've never treated me with anything other than acceptance and respect.  I've had a few gay friends over the years, one of which I still keep in touch with.  And they've always been accepting and cool with me too.  I've organized a bi section in our local Pride March, and the people running the march were downright thrilled to have a bi group in it and have the "B" in LGBT not be just lip service.  More thrilled than everyone else in my local bi group, in fact-- the only one who marched with me was a straight ally friend from outside the group.  And that's really been my only problem being on my own-- the feeling that although I am accepted, no one around me really "gets it."

The point I'm making here is that I joined these bi groups to help lift me up and feel less alone.  Instead all I'm getting are depressing situations dragging me down from the national groups, and down-right apathy and being completely ignored from the local group. I've come to the conclusion I was happier when I was alone.

I'm not saying that these things shouldn't be brought to light, that we should just let bi-erasure and biphobia slide without doing anything about it.  I'm saying that I, personally, am sick of the fight.  I'm sick of feeling like I can't make a difference, because haters are gonna hate, and because no one answers my messages to my local group anymore anyway.  I can't improve things locally.  I can't improve things nationally.  All I'm accomplishing by trying to remain a part of the "bi community" is making myself upset.

While I don't know enough to not write and post a blog when I'm mad, I do know enough not to completely burn my bridges.  I'm not going to completely quit these groups just yet.  But I think I'm going to try hiding their messages and not reading their e-mails for a month or two and see how I feel then.

But for now, I've had enough.  I'm out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Plan B

Spoiler Level: High

They say we want to see ourselves reflected in the world around us.  It must be true, because why else would I sit through two whole seasons of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila?  Probably for the same reason I rented Plan B.  I want to see people and characters that I can identify with, and being bi, there aren't too many.  For what it's worth, Plan B is far and away the better of the two.

Plan B is the story of Bruno, Pablo and Laura.  Bruno is obsessed with his ex, Laura.  But Laura has moved on and has a new boyfriend, Pablo.  Well, kind of moved on.  She still sleeps with Bruno.  But she emphatically tells Bruno that's as far as it will ever go between them again.  So, after hearing that Laura's new boyfriend Pablo was with a guy once, he hatches Plan B:  get Pablo interested in him so Pablo will dump Laura, paving the way for Bruno to get her back.  But of course, things don't go as planned, and Bruno starts getting confused when he finds himself genuinely falling in love with Pablo.

It's a decent enough movie.  It's from Argentina, and it reminds me of the days before Joy & I started our own business, when we'd go out to the movies with Dave and watch just about everything.  I haven't seen a good art house movie in a long time.  And it's definitely good, albeit very slowly paced.  Very slowly paced, which allows things to unfold in a very delicate manner.  And there is something very charming about Bruno and Pablo that sticks with you after the movie has ended.

As to the whole personal reflection thing, I was quite surprised the first time I found myself feeling emotional over another guy, so there were definite scenes I could relate to.  It doesn't really relate to where I am now, but that's okay.  Oh, and I could be wrong about this, but I don't recall the B word ever being used; I read in a bi forum that the maker of The Kids Are All Right said that if she used the word bisexual, she wouldn't have been able to get the film released.  You wouldn't think that would matter in Argentina, though, but hey, I've never been to Argentina so for all I know they're even more uptight there.

So all in all it was nice to see, but I'll still be looking for something I identify with a little closer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

This is one fantastic book.

Michael Shermer takes a skeptical look at topics such as ESP, UFO abductions, near-death experiences, creationism, Objectivism, Holocaust denial and more.  But the main purpose of this book isn't to debunk them (which he skillfully does) or ridicule them (which he carefully doesn't); what makes the book great is that he's out to understand why people believe them, despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Since he says it himself at the beginning of the book, it's not really giving anything away for me to include the short answer here:  we believe these things because we are pattern-recognizing creatures with intuitive thinking.  And while this worked great for our survival as a species, it means we're also great at finding patterns for things that aren't there, assigning meaning to them, and then skillfully defending them.

The rest of the book gives the long answer as he looks at each item individually, showing the different ways we bring such beliefs into existence in the first place, presenting the evidence against it, and exploring why people are able to discount that evidence in a way that seems logical to them.  It's a wonderful blend of science, psychology and sociology, all while keeping a skeptical approach.  It kept me fascinated from beginning to end and has introduced me to the benefits of healthy skepticism.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

See, now this is why the HRC sometimes pisses me off.

I like the HRC, I really do.  They're the public face of LGBT rights, the ones out there getting the word out, shining a light on anti-equality issues, and putting the pressure on politicians and corporations.  In a world where there are so many anti-equality organizations out there, I view the HRC as the Great Equalizer.

Not only that, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I see an HRC sticker on someone else's car.  Just saw one today, in fact.  (Although in an amusing side note, since I have both an HRC sticker and an Information Society sticker on my car, my daughter used to get the two of them mixed up and think that people with HRC stickers were promoting InSoc.  But I digress.)

But there's a few things they do that I just don't feel are on the up-and-up.  Let's start with the name: The Human Rights Campaign.  When I first heard about it and saw their symbol I thought they were like Amnesty International, and were taking up the gay rights banner because it fell in step with their philosophy.  Because they're not called Gay Rights Campaign, they're called HUMAN Rights Campaign.  And yes, I 100% agree that gay rights are human rights.  But the HRC is only interested in gay rights.  I don't recall hearing a peep out of them about the Jena 6 trials, and Guantanamo got a brief write-up condemning it that didn't even take up a full column in their newsletter magazine, Equality.  But since they call themselves the Human Rights Campaign, they send across this image that they're something bigger than they really are.  It's easy to disregard a group called the Gay Rights Campaign, because they're obviously a biased, specialized group whose morals you may not agree with.  But Human Rights?  You can't just disregard that, that would be immoral.  If you ignore something from someone calling themselves "Human Rights Campaign," then you're just like Saddam Hussein, right?

For the record, I have the same problem with the Mr. Universe competition.  Never once has there been a contestant from anywhere other than Earth.  It's a deceptive, and therefore inaccurate name.

Now, I don't mind that the HRC focuses exclusively on gay rights; I just wish they'd come right out and say it.  But using a BS name like "Human Rights Campaign," they're being misleading and just as manipulative as "Focus on the Family" (because gay families are still families) or "National Organization for Marriage"  (because they're only for straight marriage and against gay marriages).

Here's the most recent thing they did that pissed me off.

Tell Target and Best Buy: You need to make this right. 
Add your name!

One candidate for Governor of Minnesota has promised to veto marriage equality legislation and has ties to a Christian rock band that advocates death to gays.

Target and Best Buy, both based in Minneapolis, have donated $250,000 to a political committee supporting his campaign.

But they still have a chance to make it right. We've drafted an open letter calling on the companies to donate an equal amount to support fair-minded candidates. We'll publish it in a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Will you help us ratchet up the pressure by adding your name?

Tell Target and Best Buy to make it right. Add your name now.

By signing on, you'll help make it clear that Target and Best Buy are risking the business of millions of pro-equality customers – and show the rest of corporate America, which is watching this situation very closely, that support for hateful and intolerant candidates won't go unnoticed.

But don't stop there. Print out our letter, take it to the manager of your local Target and Best Buy, and let them know how disappointed you are.

Here's the backstory: Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Target had donated $150,000 to the political committee MN Forward. Best Buy pitched in another $100,000.

MN Forward's mission? Elect as governor an anti-LGBT state representative with a long history of attacks on LGBT Americans. This representative's campaign even donated to a controversial "punk-rock Christian ministry" whose leader has advocated executing gays and lesbians!

After all these two companies have done to build a fair and equitable workplace, it's a slap in the face. In years past, Target and Best Buy consistently received 100 percent ratings on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index.

They need to make this right – by donating an equal amount to support candidates who will fight for equality. But they won't do it just because we ask. They need to see that hundreds of thousands of customers across the country are upset and disappointed.

Add your name now.

I hope Target and Best Buy will do the right thing. But it's up to us to show that fair-minded consumers are paying close attention to what they do next.

Let's make this happen,

Joe Solmonese

Okay, now here's what pisses me off about this.

(1) They never mention the name of the candidate, the "punk rock Christian ministry," or its leader.  Why?  Fear of libel?  If they're positive enough to get us riled up over this, shouldn't the facts be on their side and support their argument?  And by not giving me any of these names, I can't look into this on my own.

They did give the name of the organization, MN Forward.  So I Googled that, which led me to articles in The Chicago Tribune and The Minnesota Independent, which were not afraid to name names.  The candidate is Tom Emmer, the punk rock Christian ministry is called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Inc, and the guy making the hateful comments that is being linked to Emmer is Bradlee Dean.  (And boy, are they some doozies.  Click on the Minnesota Independant link to read them if you're so inclined.)

Now the information as HRC reports it is accurate. But holding back on so much of the specifics really irks me.  If you're going to take a stand, then put it all on the table, and treat me with enough decency that I can fact-check you.

(2) HRC says "They need to make this right – by donating an equal amount to support candidates who will fight for equality."  Now, bear in mind Target and Best Buy did not make donations to Tom Emmer directly, they donated to MN Forward.  The Chicago Tribune reports "the Human Rights Campaign ... is demanding that the giant retailer make an equivalent or greater donation to groups supporting equal rights candidates."  Now I would hope it would be a Minnesotan group that supports a pro-equality candidate, but it could just as easily be the HRC themselves.  Now bear in mind, I am not saying that this is a ploy by the HRC to get money from Target and Best Buy.  I'm saying they're so afraid of appearing like it could be a ploy to get money that they don't have the cajones to come straight out and say that they asked Target and Best Buy to donate to organizations and not specific candidates.  The organizations would of course be supporting the candidates, so saying "donating an equal amount to support candidates who will fight for equality" is not a flat-out lie, but it is a half-truth, and once again it's one I feel was completely unnecessary.

I think the bottom line is that politics is an ugly game, and the HRC has learned how to play it well.  Unfortunately those who play the game also treat the voters like we're children, and play games with us to get what they want.  And more often than not this leads to worse things.

So to the HRC, I say this:

I support your cause, it's very near and dear to me, and I acknowledge that you are the biggest organization out there with the leverage to get the job done.  But trust me to be able to think for myself.  Don't stoop to the manipulative tactics and half-truths of politics when talking to us, your supporters.  Because if we, the LGBT community, can't trust the biggest name that's fighting for us, then where are we supposed to turn?

Now for the record, I do support what HRC is doing in this situation, I am going to sign the petition, and I do donate $10 to the HRC every month.  I do think that what they are doing is important.  It's just that sometimes, they really piss me off in the way they do it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Farewell to Jioio's.

Jioio's has been my favorite local pizza place since before I moved back to Greensburg in 1995.

They're truly one of a kind. They use a pastry crust and a sweet sauce for a pizza like nowhere else. It's gotten expensive, so it's become a rare treat that I look forward to.

I honestly don't remember what happened the last time I got Jioio's, but I remember being very disappointed with the way I was treated.

Tonight we got Jioio's to go. I ordered three pizzas and an Italian Sampler. We get there on time, and the pizzas are ready, but it'll be a few minutes for the sampler. No problem. Then they bring us the sampler and it's a Fried Sampler, not an Italian Sampler, but they treat it as they simply almost gave me someone else's sampler so my Italian Sampler is still coming. Lots of other people come and go. My pizza is getting cold. After about 20 minutes, I ask if they had to remake the Italian Sampler. No, the kitchen is just backed up, they answer. More and more people come and go, others having ordered pizzas with pasta as well. After 35 minutes, my Italian Sampler is finally ready.

I. Am. Furious. I'm envisioning throwing every jar of sauce, smashing every cooler window. I struggle to maintain my calm, and ask that, since my pizza is now cold, if I can get some kind of a partial refund. The manager shakes her head and says "Sorry," with a half-smile that says "not a chance."

What upset me wasn't so much that they made the mistake, it was the attitude of "Well, we're Jioio's. Do you want it or don't you?" They seem to have reached a point where they know they're hot stuff, and so people will put up with being treated poorly to get their fix.

So I came home, gathered up all my Jioio's t-shirts, and burned them.

It was very cathartic. I was even able to relax and enjoy the pizza while I watched the t-shirts burn. I was letting go of my hopes and expectations for Jioio's. They were no longer my #1, my something special to look forward to. I was denying them the power to let me down again.

I'm not going to be a baby and stamp my feet and scream "no!" any time anyone else wants to have their food -- my family included, because Joy really does love their Italian Sampler -- but someone else will have to handle dealing with them. If they had acknowledged the mistake, offered to keep my pizza warm, offered a partial refund, offered a discount for a future order... heck, any basic PR appease-the-customer tactic, it would have helped. And they won't notice I'm gone. But for me, it's time to let one more hero go.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Handle Bad Flashbacks

Everybody has bad flashbacks from time to time. For years I've had multiple bad flashbacks every hour, every day. During my therapy I questioned whether this was normal or excessive, and I got very different answers depending on which counselor I talked to, so for now I feel that nobody really knows.

But over the last year or so I've combined many of my DBT skills and found a way to deal with them that actually works for me. I can honestly say the number of bad flashbacks I've had has decreased since I've started doing this, and the impact each one makes on my present moment is seriously reduced.

For me it's important to understand why something is the way it is, so here's some important background information first.

1. What's the difference between a bad flashback and a bad memory?
Bad memories are filed away nicely in the memory banks. Usually the pain is already dealt with unless you deliberately choose to start looking at it again, even though you might still be working through the after-effects of the event that caused the bad memory.

Bad flashbacks, on the other hand, are little landmines laid all around your brain. They strike when hit by a trigger, which can be any little thing on the outside world or any stray thought in your mind. You don't know when they're going to show up, and when they do they blast you with the full emotional impact of a punch in the gut. The pain can be just as bad as the moment it first happened, or even worse because it's been piled on over time.

2. Why do bad flashbacks happen more than good ones?
You'd think the good ones would be what the brain wants to keep, right? Not necessarily. The bad flashbacks start out as a trauma. The trauma doesn't need to be big-- it can be a small moment of embarrassment, regret, guilt, social mistakes, regretting what you said or didn't say, etc. The good moments move through the brain easily, because they're harmless, hopefully leaving good memories. But the bad moments inflict a small trauma as they pass through the brain. And like any other trauma to the body, it leaves a scar. Bad flashbacks are scars in your brain.

3. If it's in your mind, it's real to the mind.
Whatever emotion you're feeling, it's totally real at that moment, and it doesn't matter if that emotion was based on a current event or on a memory. So when flashbacks hit, you are reliving that exact moment.

Constantly reliving those small moments of guilt, embarrassment and regret over and over can make them pile up and lead to self-loathing. So I think it's very important to find a way to understand them.

Now, understanding that, here's what I do when one rears its ugly head.

1. Validate that it has upset me.
Trying to repress them often makes them worse. However, this is the natural first reaction to a bad flashback, because we don't want to face the pain they bring. So without dwelling on it, I simply acknowledge to myself, "Okay, that hurt."

2. Look at it in a non-judging manner.
I try to remove any emotional value from the memory. It's not bad or good; it simply happened. Remember that if it's in your mind, it's real to the mind, so by removing the emotional value of "good and bad" or "right and wrong," I'm left with just the facts of the event and can look at it in a more detached manner.

3. Reverse the roles
I find it much easier to forgive other people than to forgive myself. So I look at the event replacing myself with someone else. If the transgression was with a friend, I put the friend in my place and think "What if my friend had done that to me instead?"

Please note that this is different than putting me in my friend's place. Guilt usually comes because we've upset someone. I believe that flashback guilt comes from a certain degree of mindreading: yes, we've upset them, but did we really upset them so badly that we should still be this upset about it years later? Did I truly devastate my friend because I bought the last donut? Probably not. But I felt so bad about it that it's grown out of control. So I chose to look at it from my current perspective of "what if my friend bought the last donut today?" Usually I find I wouldn't care, or I could forgive him easily.

4. Transfer that forgiveness back to yourself.
This sounds hard, but it gets easier with practice. Holding that forgiveness in awareness, focusing all my attention on it, I allow the roles to slip back to how it really happened. And I allow the forgiveness to settle back into the memory. I choose to forgive my younger self in the exact same way that I chose to forgive the mistakes my friends have made.

5. What would I do today?
If I could Quantum Leap back into my younger body at that exact moment, how would I handle it differently? In the case of the donut, I'd say "Wow, I'm sorry man. Let's stop over at the other store, I know they sell donuts there too. I'll treat." Showing myself how I would handle the incident completely different now drives home to my mind that I've grown and I've learned from my mistakes. It lays down a new pathway for my mind to follow if that particular flashback hits me again.

I realize that these steps can sound difficult, and it's not something that immediately works over night-- like everything else I've learned in DBT, it's a skill, and the more I've worked on it and practiced it the better it's gotten for me. It's made a huge difference in my life.

I can't swear that this will work for everyone, but everyone I've talked to has told me that get bad flashbacks too, and no one's ever told me of a way to deal with them. So I couldn't keep this to myself. I hope it helps some!

Friday, February 19, 2010

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

I saw this book on display at my local Barnes & Noble. I began flipping through it and had to sit down and read whole sections. From there I knew I couldn't stop until I'd read the whole book, so I bought it.

Jaron Lanier talks about the lost potentials for the computers and the internet, and the even bigger consequence of how society at large and individual people are reshaping themselves to fit the internet. What makes his concerns carry so much weight and not come across as the ravings of an anti-technologist is that he's always been a forerunner in the world of computers, including the creator of Virtual Reality.

What made it resonate with me is that he points out things that I've noticed, but hadn't known what the cause was. For example, Frank pointed out to me in the early 90's that every decade has had a creative boom resulting in a huge influx of new music in a brand new style-- the 80's had New Wave, 70's had Disco, 60's revolutionized Rock (nowadays referred to as "Classic Rock"), the 50's invented Rock & Roll (nowadays referred to as "Doo-Wop"), etc... and soon after he and I had that conversation, the music scene exploded with Alternative / Grunge. So I kept waiting for the musical revolution of the 2000s to hit. It never did, and I've always wondered why not.

Here, Jaron Lanier observes the same thing, and he points out a connection I hadn't made-- that the decline of a revolution in new music coincides directly with the growth of the world wide web. He observes that the web has had the effect of flattening out the music world. Everything is now a mash-up of something that has come before. Everyone knows what an effect file-sharing sites have had on music sales, but I never made the connection of the effect that it's had on musical creativity.

(If I can extrapolate on my own about this for a moment, based on what I feel I learned from this book: the web has given us a great diversity in musical choices, so we don't need to stick to what the record companies feel we should be listening to. As a result of this and declining sales, the record companies are now afraid to take changes on what would would have been the 2000's equivelant of Nirvana or the Beatles. So they play it safe, giving us more of what they know sells. So there was no revolutionary sound of the '00s. And it will probably continue that way for the '10s if things don't change.)

But it's not all doom-and-gloom; he also presents ideas on how to turn things around, and possibilities for the future. It's not that he hates the technology, but quite the reverse-- he feels the technology is capable of so much more. And that the most important part is that it remain a tool to elevate the human user.

I won't pretend to say that I grasp everything he talks about. The concepts made sense to me, but I could tell I wasn't getting the full depth of everything he was saying. Still, it introduced me to such concepts as the noosphere (the "hive mind" of the internet that we put ourselves into) and the Singularity (the concept that we may be able to download our complete minds into the internet, achieving immortality). But I do feel it's opened my eyes up to what's happened as the real-world society and cyber-society have become more blended over the last 15 years, what's happening now, and where it could all go.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dreaming in Emotion

I wanted to post about my weird dreams last night, and realized that would be two weird dream posts in a row. Since reading about and/or listening to other people's dreams can be incredibly boring, I've decided to move them to their own blog, Dreaming in Emotion. That way you can follow them if you actually find that kind of stuff interesting, or not notice them if you don't.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beware What the Were-Woman Wears

Last night I dreamt that I became a were-woman. When the moon was full, my body turned female and stayed that way day and night until the full moon ended. It took us completely by surprise and Joy was trying to come up with some clothes for me to wear, but the only thing she could find were some dresses that didn't really fit right and that I wasn't really comfortable wearing.

So the next month we were more prepared, and had bought some nice women's shirts and slacks like they sell at The Pyramid Collection that I was much happier with. I also wondered if this would help my mother to cope with it, as she had been very disapproving of me being in a dress.

I wonder if this was all because I shaved off my beard and people are calling me "ma'am" again?