Category Archives: This is important.

My heart hurts but I have hope…remembering Pulse one year later.

I remember waking up a year ago and turning on the news and it wasn’t long until I started to cry. I just couldn’t fathom how so much pain and anguish could be visited on so many people because of who they love. Think about that for a minute. Because of who they LOVE…

How ridiculous does that sound when you say it out loud? I can’t bring myself to understand how love could ever be a reason for hate.

49 people lost their lives in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida because some mentally deranged man decided walk in and start shooting. Why? No one will ever truly be able to explain it but it’s probably a combination of things. I’ve heard he wanted to make his father proud of him. I’ve heard that he may have been gay and it went against everything he and his family believed in. Self-hatred is a powerful thing, especially when everyone you surround yourself with openly hates everything you secretly know you are.

In the end though, the why of it all doesn’t change anything. Those people are still gone and their friends and family and the LGTBQ community and their allies are still mourning for them. Parents lost sons and daughters, children lost mother’s and father’s and so many lives were irreparably damaged and sometimes the scope of it overwhelms me.

The day after it happened, a gay couple I am acquainted with in town came into the store I work at and the sadness in their faces almost had me breaking into tears at the till and I wanted to walk up and hug them both so tightly. They are a couple in their 40’s who are always smiling, joking and they take the time to speak to me with kindness every time I see them so for me their pain was glaringly obvious as they caught my eye and nodded. It was heartbreaking.

I look at my daughter. She is the shining light of my life and I can’t imagine the darkness that would overtake me if she was no longer there. I’m trying to raise her to be the best person she can be and I love every single thing about her, the good and the bad. There is nothing she could ever be or do that would make me love her any less and every single parent should feel the same way.

The urge to hide her away to protect her is so strong but I know I can’t. So, I let her go, she’s 16 and starting to make strides toward her independent life and all I can do is hope that she finds her happiness.

On Saturday, Meg went to Pride without me for the first time with the GSA she attends and it was so hard. Letting her go to the city alone is difficult at the best of times and something like Pride could be an attraction to people who could be looking to hurt the LGTBQ community. But she is determined to show her support and she loves going to Pride so much. Like me, she finds that the joy of all the people celebrating Pride is contagious and as she has a lot of friends who are a part of the community, it is her honor (and mine) to go out and show her support for them.

Her and I have a deal. She gets to do things as long as she has her phone on her and always answers it when I call. Most of the time she does. Once in a while, she misses the call and it always makes my heart stutter in my chest until I hear back from her.

One of the stories that had me sobbing was of rescue workers and police, who in the aftermath of the murders, had to try to sort through the scene while listening to the never-ending ringing cellphones of people who were never going to answer them again. Loved ones, having heard about the shootings, desperately trying to get a hold of someone they knew could be there, hoping and praying for an answer that would never come.

So yes, today my heart hurts so very much. I will spend the day thinking about the Pulse victims and the friends and family who are still mourning for them.

But I will also be thinking about my daughter and her friends in the GSA. Kids who are being raised to help make the world a better place for everyone. I will think about all the people I’m seeing on the news who are remembering and paying tribute to those who were lost and know that are trying so very hard to help the community heal.

I know this post rambles on a little. My head and my heart are all over today but I felt the need to remember out loud. I don’t claim to be a part of the LGTBQ community and I can never truly understand everything they have been through, but I’m an ally, and I stand with them whenever I can. And I’m hoping for a better tomorrow for us all.

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Filed under Pride, This is important.

Ignorance has me sitting here shaking my head….

You know, I’ve heard some ridiculous things in my life and there’s no doubt I’ll hear more, but once in a while, I hear something that leaves me speechless…and not in a good way.

I was just talking to a friend and he was telling me a story that I’ve heard before. He’s a writer who spins amazing tales that leave me heartbroken before he picks up the pieces and puts it all back together again. I believe his books are so wonderful because he’s writing m/m stories from the point of view of a gay man who has lived what he’s writing about. There’s so much of him in his stories that I recognise from what I know about his life. The details might not be the same but he and his husband of many years are still in love and that’s something to be admired.

And that’s not to say that the ladies in this genre don’t write some breathtaking stories, because there’s some out there who make me crave every story they write because they are just that talented and fantastic. I feel lucky as a reader to have more and more stories to choose from in this field and I’m grateful to all the writers who grace us with their musings.

The thing my friend and I were talking about? The issue that’s put a burr under my saddle so to speak? He’s been told by women writers, to his face, that gay men should not be participating in m/m romance because it was “invented by women, for women”.

I have to admit, the top of my head just about blew off. And just to be clear here, I am a straight, female who is proud to be a part of this amazing family of writers but I cannot believe the gall of someone telling a GAY man that he shouldn’t be writing GAY romance stories because it’s not about him…

Excuse me? As far as I’m concerned, I am grateful beyond belief to all the gay men who have supported my writing over the years. This is them and their lives that I’m writing about and I do my damnedest to make sure I get it as right as I can. In fact some of my friends roll their eyes when I ask them questions because they’ve been asked “is this right?” so many time and they think I’m being a little ridiculous.

But as the writing community has found out in the last week, words hurt. Maybe most people don’t mean them with that intent, but if it is pointed out to you by people you are supposed to be supporting that what you’ve said has offended and hurt them then there is one proper course of action.

Apologize sincerely and learn from your mistake. Then move on. Don’t bluster and try to make light of it. Don’t accuse them of being too sensitive and don’t belittle their feelings. Be a grownup.

I don’t believe the gender of the writer is important in most cases. What’s important is the story and the feelings it invokes in the reader. But telling someone they shouldn’t be writing about their own lives is preposterous and if it wasn’t so ignorant it would almost be funny.

So I want to say thank you to all the men out there who have read my stories and sent me messages thanking me for them. I love hearing about how something I wrote has touched someone in some way. It’s what I dreamed of as a writer.

And I want to thank all the men who have supported me as I’ve dragged a story kicking a screaming out of my brain. The ones who told me when I got something right and the ones who told me when I got it all wrong. Both have helped me grow as a writer and I appreciate it more than I can ever express.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. My friend’s hurt was something I couldn’t ignore because it wasn’t something he deserved and I hope that the men in the genre realize that most of the women around here don’t feel that way and that we are happy to stand alongside you as we all try to live out our dreams.

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Filed under Things that bug me., This is important., Writing and thinking.

World AID’s Day and in case you didn’t realize, it’s still an issue.

So, here I am again, another year later, trying to figure out what to write that’s different…that will make people pay attention to something that I’m still not sure why it’s so important to me.

I mean, it should be important to everyone. Finding a cure, helping those already infected and figuring out how to educate people so that new infections slow and finally stop…that should be a priority for everyone who considers themselves to be a decent human being. This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. If you aren’t safe, if you don’t take every precaution, you are at risk. It doesn’t care who you are, if you are straight or a member of the LGTBQ community. It’s doesn’t care about gender or race or monetary status. If you share needles, if you don’t use a condom, if you don’t take the available medications, if you don’t get tested so that you know your status then you are taking your life into your hands. And the lives of anyone you are making a part of these at-risk activities.

For a long time, my interest and concern was more global than personal. I didn’t know anyone who was HIV positive but I do now. Friends I talk to almost every day and so now my heart is invested and maybe that’s more than enough reason to speak my bit whenever I get a chance. So here’s a link to a place that will help you find help in your Canadian community, but of course a quick Google search will find you help in just about any country in the world.

You want a few statistics? 37 million people are HIV positive world-wide. Almost 2 million of those are children under 15 who were most likely infected in the womb, during childbirth or from breastfeeding. Most people who are HIV positive come from low to middle-income countries, particularly in the third world. Only about 60% of people who are HIV positive know their status. That means there are a whopping 14 million people out there who don’t have a clue and that’s more than a little scary.

Another happier statistic? There are about 18 million people who are accessing antiretroviral therapy drugs that will hopefully give them a chance at a better life.

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, especially on HIV and it’s treatment or prevention. But I know that studies are showing that PrEP and Pep are saving people’s lives and I know that it’s a step in the right direction.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who will help you if you are looking to stay negative and there’s a lot who will help you if you are HIV positive. But you have to look for that help so please, do what’s best for you and get whatever help it is that you need.

I could post a lot of links but each country has its own resources and I think if you are reading this post, you know how to use a computer enough to go looking.

The last thing I know is that if you are HIV positive, I am your friend, your advocate and your shoulder to cry on. I would hug the stuffing out of you if I met you and would love to sit down and hear your story.

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Filed under This is important., World Aids Day

So, you have a few questions about AIDS Walk 2016…

I know what you’re thinking. She just blogged, like a couple of days ago? What could she possibly have to say already? It’s usually month between blogs posts, unlike real life, where I never shut the hell up!

But, I just announced the other day that for the first time I’m participating in the 25th Annual AIDS Walk and Superhero run in Edmonton and I’d like to talk a little bit about that.

Every year I do a post on December 1st for World AIDS Day and I always try to explain why it’s so important to me to bring awareness to those around me. I probably do a terrible job at putting into words why I feel so strongly about it, but my feelings about the whole situation grow stronger every year and I’m finding myself looking for other ways to show my support for people who are HIV positive. I had no idea that Edmonton did such an amazing event every year, let alone for the last 25 years!

I get a lot of questions these days. Why do I write books where the two main characters are both men? Why do I attend Pride (and take my kid with me)? Why do you worry about things that have nothing to do with you? Why are you being so weird? Are you gay? Are you HIV positive?

You wouldn’t believe the things people feel free to ask you when they are hiding behind a computer keyboard and have no fear of any consequences (or any manners either) and while I’m under absolutely no obligation to answer any of them (as far as I’m concerned anyway) I’m willing to answer some.

Why do I write m/m romance books? Because it makes me happy. It lets me show my support for the LGBTQ community in a unique way that also lets me express myself creatively. I’m insanely proud of being published and I will never regret finally giving in and submitting my first manuscript to my publisher.

Why do I attend Pride? Once again, it lets me show my support for a community that has shown me nothing but kindness and understanding and I truly believe equality is everyone’s right and going to Pride lets me see how it could be in a world where discrimination and bigotry wasn’t tolerated. Why take my kid? Because I want her to grow up in a better world. Someone once said “be the change you want to see in the world.”and so taking my daughter and educating her is one of the ways that I’m doing that.

Plus, Pride is a whole lot of fun. Being surrounded by people celebrating who they are is one sure way to find a bunch of joy for yourself.

Am I gay? Nope, definitely not. However, I don’t have to be gay to know that there are terrible things happening to people for no logical reason what-so-ever and be outraged by it.

Am I HIV positive? Also no, but I’ve never had cancer or diabetes or MS either and still managed to find a way to support the people who are living with those diseases and the people who love them.

Why am I being so weird? Honestly, I guess weird depends on your point of view. I think I’m perfectly normal and you wanna know a secret? A big one?

I’m kind of selfish because in finally letting myself express my feelings about so many things I’ve always believed in but been too scared to say makes me feel better about myself.

Being good and kind and doing the right thing makes me feel good about myself, even if every once in a while, someone manages to push a button or two resulting in a long rant on my blog about why I do what I do.

And for the last question…why do I worry about things that have nothing to do with me? Because I believe we are all stuck living on this great big world of ours and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to be the best human beings they possibly can. And I think too many people don’t realise they aren’t as unaffected by what goes on around them as they think they are.

So, there you go. It’s just me trying to be a better person and make the world a better place for my kid in the ways that I can.

So, that being said, if you wanna support me then click here on the clicky thing and take a look: “clicky thing”

BTW, a little side note to my handsome and wonderful nephew. I know the walk is on your birthday and I promise to make it up to you with the dinner and dessert of your choice whenever you want it. I hope knowing that your Aunty is doing something to help people will help you forgive me for missing your big day.

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Filed under AIDS Walk Edmonton, I'm so excited!, Pride, This is important., World Aids Day

It’s World AIDS Day Once Again.

So, I looked back on my post from last year on this day. Not much has changed, I’m even working on the same story, although its almost done now.

I tried to explain to someone today why I feel the need to write about this issue and I had a hard time finding the words. I think back to the 80’s when the epidemic seemed to sweep through the western world like a brush fire. It was everywhere, on the news, in the papers but the first time I heard of it, it was being called “gay cancer”. I was horrified by the term and something told me that it wasn’t right, but I was too young and foolish to go looking for the proper answers.

I was stupid back then. I wasn’t always safe. I was convinced in my early 20’s that no one I knew or could possibly meet would ever be infected. I didn’t hang out with IV drug users and to my knowledge, I’d never actually met anyone who was gay. I was living with a false sense of security that makes me cringe with embarrassment when I think about it. I was on the pill so I didn’t need to worry about being pregnant, right? Sigh, like I said, stupid.

If my daughter were to behave like that, I would beat her over the head with medical books until she realized the error of her ways. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hoping that she will learn from my mistakes. I showed her pictures of the AIDS Quilt Memorial today for the first time. She was shocked at how big it was and once she realized what it was, she got a little teary-eyed. She also love the idea of the quilt and thought it was an amazing way to remember someone you loved and lost to this terrible disease. If you’ve never seen it, check it out here!

I remember seeing the Ryan White story back in 1989 and thinking that if only the governments of the world had moved sooner and taken the precautions that were necessary, then maybe that little boy wouldn’t have gotten sick. So many people died because of the fear and arrogance of government officials who decided that a disease seemed to target gay men wasn’t something they needed to worry about. You can read more about Ryan’s story here.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until “And the Band Played On” came out in 1993. It was based on a book by Randy Shilts and as I watched it, I grew horrified at how the gay community had been treated and how all the trusted institutions allowed it to run rampant. People were scared…too scared to talk, so many gay men still in hiding from the discrimination they faced on a daily basis. So the disease kept spreading because it’s hard to help people who haven’t yet figure out how to help themselves. I recommend this movie to anyone who wasn’t around to see the way this whole thing unfolded. You can find the book here and the movie is available on Amazon as well.

The good thing about HIV now, is that it’s not the death sentence it used to be. First of all, it’s preventable. PReP is a medication that seems to be stopping the transmission of the disease and while it’s not a cure, it’s a great start. You can find more information about it here.

And there is Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people who are already infected. By taking their meds and living a healthy lifestyle, people who are HIV positive are living almost normal life-spans. There are many who think that a cure is not only possible, but probable and coming a lot sooner than most people think. I hope they are right.

Unfortunately, the stigma that is attached to being HIV+ is still going strong and I’m amazed at the misinformation that people still have in this day and age. You can’t get infected by hugging or kissing or touching and I can promise you, that you’ve probably met someone who is HIV positive and you don’t even know it.

So, go and check out the World Aids Day site and get informed here. Because I’m Canadian, I’m spreading the word in my own country and so you crazy Canuks can check out this site.

And for everyone’s sake, get tested….knowing your status is the most important first move you can make. Something like 60 percent of the people in the world who are HIV positive have no idea. That means they aren’t getting the treatment they need and they are spreading the disease unknowingly. Scary thought isn’t it?

I guess I still didn’t find the words to explain WHY this is so important to me. I wish I knew. I just know that for a very long time, it’s something that caught my attention and I want to do anything I can to spread the word about HIV awareness and to help end the stigma attached to it. I’ve always been known for sticking my nose into things, so maybe this is a good way for me to use that “unique” skill set that I have.

And I guess I care because people are still dying and it’s something we all should care about.

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Filed under This is important., World Aids Day

It’s Spirit Day…I’ve got my purple on.

First of all, what is Spirit Day? This is what it says on the website.

Spirit Day began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBT youth and take a stand against bullying. Following a string of high-profile suicide deaths of gay teens in 2010, GLAAD worked to involve millions of teachers, workplaces, celebrities, media outlets and students in going purple on social media or wearing purple, a color that symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag.

Spirit Day now occurs every year on the third Thursday in October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, and has become the most visible day of support for LGBT youth.

An amazing teenager, Brittany McMillan, wanted to remember those young people who lost their lives to suicide and to take a stand against bullying.

Now, for the hard part. Why do I care? I’m not gay, neither is my child. I don’t know anyone who has committed suicide over being bullied (that I know of anyway), so why does it strike such a chord in my heart? Why does it bother me so much?

Because it should bother all of us.

No child should ever be made to feel like dying is the only way to escape a terrifying, miserable situation. It doesn’t matter if you are being bullied by strangers, other kids at school or someone in your family, you should never be made to feel like you are facing it all alone.

I was bullied as a kid. I can still vividly remember what it felt like standing in the middle of that school playground, surrounded by kids, even some that I considered to be friends. I was taunted and called names and at some point, one of the kids knelt behind me and another pushed me backwards, causing me to fall. (Now I’m older, I realize they were kind of stupid. I fell hard on the kid behind me and elbowed him in the head.)

At that point, I’d never felt more alone in my life, although my other memory of that day was my little sister booking it for home as fast as she could run, screaming at my tormentors over her shoulder to leave me the hell alone. (Thanks sis). I’m sure it wasn’t more than about 15 minutes that I was stuck there, unable to get away, sobbing my heart out because I couldn’t figure out what I’d don’t to deserve that kind of treatment. I was a fat kid and that was about where my sins ended. I was a good person and a good friend. I liked everyone and would do anything to help someone out. I took care of my brother and sister, did okay in school and loved my folks. But, none of that mattered more to those kids in that circle than the fact that I was fat. Even now when I say it out loud, it sounds stupid to me.

My mom came to my rescue that day. When that car screeched up to the curb and she came flying across the field (in her slippers) threatening to beat the living crap out of every one of those kids, I’d never been so glad to see her.

I was lucky that day. Unfortunately, not every child is and for members of LGBTQ community, the chance that they will end up being bullied is even greater.

It drives me a little insane to think that someone could be literally bullied to death because of who they love. Shouldn’t we all be more worried about who people hate than who they love?

In my house, there is only three words that are completely banned. Everyone knows that saying them in my presence will most likely get you smacked up the back of the head and the power of my disappointment is even worse.

In my house, the f-word isn’t what you think it is. I say fuck on a daily basis (I’m working on it, okay?) but say the word “fag” or “faggot” and I will most likely escort you out of my house and probably my life (unless you actually are talking about a cigarette in Britain or a burning bundle of sticks, but you’d better clarify quickly).

In case you’re curious, the other two words I can’t stand? Cunt and nigger. The first one will get you smacked across the fact, no matter who you are, and the second will get you a huge lecture and then the whole escort out of my house thing. Those three words are probably the most disrespectful words than can be said and are only ever said to hurt.

And in my house, no one says “that’s so gay” because they know I will give them shit. Gay is not a synonym for stupid or dumb and I make sure everyone knows it.

So, what does this all have to do with my participation in Spirit Day? Because I can relate. What I went through as a kid was really nothing compared to what some kids face every damn day and there were times that I felt like I didn’t actually want to survive.

I wear purple every Spirit Day along with my rainbow bracelet and my HRC pin (ok, I wear the last two most days) and when anyone asks, I tell them about Spirit Day and kids like Tyler Clementi, Blake Brockington, Jaime Hubley, Alexander McQueen, and Leelah Alcorn. I tell them about being lost and alone at a time when so much is happening in life and how I’m saddened that any life so bright can be snuffed out my bigotry, ignorance, cruelty and stupidity.

I tell people LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and that these same youth are 8 times more likely to try killing themselves if they have been rejected by their families.

I also tell them that both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at a higher risk of suicide than their peers and children who are both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at the highest risk.

And I tell them if they know a youth who is a part of the LGBTQ community, whether a friend or family member or the kid down the street, they should always let them know they support them as they struggle their way toward adulthood. And you should remind them that eventually, things get better and they need to be around to see it.

I’m closing this out with this amazing video from Todrick Hall called “It Gets Better

I’m also adding one of the most beautiful renditions of “True Colors” I’ve ever heard. From the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

 

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Filed under bullying, Spirit Day, This is important.

Your words are weapons…be careful how you use them.

I heard this quote on a TV show today. It was an episode about bullying and it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. There’s this big push these days (and rightly so) to stop bullying in schools and on social media but I’m starting to wonder if the message is getting lost in the chaos.

What is bullying? When I was a kid getting bullied, it was being called names, being surrounded by kids in the playground and pushed to the ground, kicked and hit. It was a constant harassment that left me feeling worthless and alone and it’s something that’s stayed with me my whole life. I never could figure out what it was that made me such a target. Every time I would come up with a reason…I was too fat, too ugly, always the new girl…I would see someone just like me living happy and bully free and it was just one more thing that added to the pain.

What does bullying mean now? I think I’m a little confused. I’m sure it still includes the things that used to happen, but there seems to be so much more to it. With the advent and rampant use of social media, there’s so many more ways that people can make your life miserable and it scares me because keeping track of all the stuff my daughter is into is sometimes a daunting task.

But I wonder if somehow the bullying rally cry has caused some people to be confused about what it really is, especially with teenagers. There seems to be this thing where “I’m telling people you’re bullying me” becomes a threat in itself. If your friend doesn’t always agree with you, that’s not bullying. If they have a bad day and get snappy or sarcastic with you, that’s not bullying. If they hang out with someone else when you wanted to be hanging with them, that’s not bullying.

If they are hitting you, tormenting you, calling you names, making your life miserable, that’s bullying. It can be a one time occurrence or an ongoing campaign of pain and violence. It has consequences that bullies sometimes can’t even imagine…horrific consequences that send out never-ending ripples of pain and heartache.

Calling someone a bully is a big thing. It can rip apart their life and haunt them for a long time. If they truly are being a bully, then they deserve the scrutiny. But if you’re mad at them for not doing or being what you want and then accuse them of being a bully? Then the bully in that situation is you. And by accusing people of bullying when they really aren’t, you’re cheapening the word and lessening it’s impact. And that hurts the people who really are being tormented because it makes people pay less attention when they should be paying more.

Words can be weapons…I’ve never heard a truer statement. They can tear lives apart and destroy someone’s happiness and peace of mind.

But they can be healing too. Forgiveness and understanding can go a long way in fixing a relationship with a friend. Knowing that sometimes people say hurtful things without meaning to on a bad day. Stop and think about the person who hurt your feelings and the relationship you’ve had with them. If their hurtful actions are out of character for them, if they’re usually good and kind and someone you count on to be there for you, then maybe talk to them, see what’s going on with them and maybe you can make both of you feel better.

Maybe it’s time we all stop and think about the words that we use. Because a weapon’s only use is violence and violence, in any connotation just destroys things.

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Filed under bullying, This is important.