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Prayers

On his 1984 album Tonight, David Bowie sang, Prayers, they hide the saddest view. Believing the strangest things, Loving the Alien. And your prayers will break the sky in two, believing the strangest things, Loving the Alien.

Loving the Alien was a song about religiosity and the folly of believing false doctrine, especially religious doctrine that denigrates the beliefs of others, or using prayer against other people themselves. Something that all mainstream religions have sought to do at one time or another through the ages. 

Prayers are funny things. Too many times they have been used as cannon fodder against those whom we disagree with politically, socially, or spiritually. Too many times we fallible mortals weaponized prayers to strengthen our fears, rather than seek peace within. The movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail satirized this human frailty in a scene where a group of monks are called upon to offer a blessing to The Holy Hand Grenade. To paraphrase: And Saint Attila did hold forth the Holy Hand Grenade saying, bless this Thy Holy Hand Grenade that we may blow Thine enemies to tiny bits….

I begin and end each day with a prayer of Thanks. My morning prayer: Thank you, Dear God for this perfect day. Today is a day of completion. Miracle will follow miracle and wonders will never cease.This is taken from the book The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovell-Schinn, and I have found that it really works for me.

My evening prayer is a little more in-depth: Thank you, Dear God for this wonderful day. Thank you for blessing those I love and Me. Thank you for blessing our home while we sleep. Thank you for blessing our families, our friends, and all those we love and care for. Thank you for my health, my writing, my opportunities, my art and my photography. Thank you for blessing us all, and thank you for all your blessings.

Whenever I feel a little scared or nervous I’ll also give a prayer of thanks, thank you Dear God for blessing our way to our destination and our way home. I will also envision me or us arriving at our destination with smiles on our faces, and sometimes that’s difficult for me to do, especially when I am feeling very nervous or scared. 

I learned, a long time ago the power of giving over your worries to your Higher Power, (however you conceive that to be), and letting that Power work things out for you. I have come to know that this action, in of itself, is the ultimate expression of Faith. But the actual ritual of incorporating daily prayer into my life was through my experiences with the Traditions of the local Indigenous Cultures. This, in turn has brought me to a new level of understanding of my own Indigenous family background, (my Grandfather was Mohawk). 

In Traditional Indigenous cultures the world over, thankfulness is the key to everything in their lives. I spent eight years immersed in Canadian Indigenous Cultures, working with incarcerated Indigenous people, their families, their Elders, and their communities. I became immersed in their traditional ways: their healing circles, their sweat lodges, their talking circles, their feasts, and their pipe ceremonies. Prayers of gratitude always play a key role in everything that happens from community meetings, to parole hearings I was involved with, to healing ceremonies and feast gatherings. We were always taught by the Elders to offer prayers of thanks every day, from the moment we wake until it’s time to slumber once more. Thank You is the most powerful prayer we will offer.

In the past I have kept Gratitude Journals which I would write in every morning, along with profound quotes which would resonate with me. I’ve not done that for a couple of years and perhaps the time is right for me to start that process again. I will continue to pray every day as I have found the most amazing thing about offering prayers of gratitude, is that you always find more to be grateful for.  

                                                               

Who Was Bob Green?

Originally Published: March 13, 2013

I was perusing the Internet a couple of days ago when I came across a small article that was already over a year old…Bob Green of Miami Florida had died of kidney failure, he was 80 years old. Who was Bob Green?  He was the former husband of Anita Bryant and the powerhouse behind her anti-gay crusades of the late 1970’s. A major turning point in LGBT history in North America because it was the first major North America-wide public battle for LGBT equality. 

For those of you who don’t know about Anita or this time in North American gay history, she was a former beauty queen who had a few hit songs in the early 1960’s, (Paper Roses being her biggest); she became a spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission doing orange juice commercials on television, she was also a strong Christian fundamentalist and formed the organization Save Our Children in an effort to subvert any plans for legal rights for gays and lesbians in Dade County Florida. 

The news of Bob Green’s passing has brought back many memories for me during those heady and turbulent days. I was a twenty-year old out, gay man living in the Toronto area and I remember the confluence of several cataclysmic events, which, dare I say, have shaped the Canadian LGBT community into the vibrant and creative community we have become. 

In 1977, while Ms. Bryant was crisscrossing the U.S. urging the general public to Save Our Children from the “perverse and dangerous homosexual lifestyle,” The Body Politic, the forerunner of X-TRA, published an article by Gerald Hannon called Men Loving Boys Loving Men, a look at the lives of three men who have sex with boys. This article sparked years of legal wrangling, court appearances and public outrage on a national and international scale.  Until June 15, 1982 when Pink Triangle Press, the publisher of Body politic, was acquitted on all charges. 

But as the issue of this particular article was heating up in the summer of 1977, four men shocked the city of Toronto when they sexually assaulted and murdered 12-year-old shoeshine boy Emanuel Jacques in August of that year. The ensuing backlash spearheaded by Christian fundamentalists and the mainstream media against the gay community confirmed in the minds of many in the public there was no difference between gays and pedophiles. Toronto became a pressure cooker in danger of boiling over with journalists, religious zealots, and pseudo-experts all lining up for their daily pontifications on the subject. 

Then to add to the mix, in January 1978, Anita Bryant was invited to Toronto in what was to be the first stop of her Anti-gay cross-Canada tour, which was sponsored by Renaissance International, a Christian Fundamentalist organization headed by Pastor Ken Campbell. Again, she drove home the point that homosexuals prey upon children thereby further stirring anti-gay sentiment. 

Her initial concerts/revival meetings were well attended. But I remember as the tour went on, she had to cancel the few remaining stops. The official reason was she had voice trouble, but I remember hearing on the news at that time the venues where her appearances were scheduled, were not even a quarter full as of show time. It was not too long afterward, 1980 to be precise, that she filed for divorce from her husband Bob Green. According to Bryant their marriage “was never much good to begin with.”

This is confirmed by their oldest son Robert Green Jr. in an article by Kate Sosin of The Windy City Times, “… I think from pretty early on as her manager, he saw all of the praise she was getting from everybody, and so he made a deliberate effort to play devil’s advocate, play her toughest critic. She would finish a show, and everyone would tell her how great she had been. Then, when the two of them would be alone, he would point out every single mistake she had made. I have to doubt that was purely something he did to make her a better performer. I think he maybe subconsciously resented her success.”

Bob Green never recovered from his divorce from Anita. According to blogger Will Kohler in an article he wrote for the site, The Bilerico Project, “In 2007, Mr. Green told the Miami Herald that he blamed gay people for the turmoil in his life because ‘their stated goal was to put [Bryant] out of business and destroy her career. And that’s what they did. It’s unfair.’

Once again, Robert Green Jr., “He blamed gay and lesbian people for the disappointments that followed the aftermath of that for wrecking my mom’s career, which of course my dad at the time had been very much a part of as her manager as well as her husband. I think he blamed gay and lesbian people in some parts for my parent’s divorce and the difficulty that my dad had in finding other work.”

Meanwhile in the gay community things were getting darker, by 1983 AIDS reared its ugly head in Canada and took a huge portion of an entire generation of gay men. But fast-forward a couple of decades, and AIDS is no longer considered a death sentence. As of July 2005, same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, one of the first nations in the world to do so. And as for gay life in Toronto…well, the Church Street Village is alive and well and for many years now the Toronto Gay Pride Celebration have been one of the most colourful and well attended in the world.

So, Bob Green’s death marks an important time in gay history in North America, because at the end of the day, rather than keeping the gay and lesbian community down, he and Anita Bryant galvanized us in a way not seen since Stonewall. And since then, in spite of everything, we’ve built ourselves from being a gay ghetto to what we now know as the LGBT community. We may have been down, but we haven’t gone away. 

Addendum: November 21, 2020

I recently came across some interview footage with Bob Greene just before he died. In it, Greene, says that back in 1977 it was Anita who insisted on going through with her anti-gay crusade. And, it was he who did everything he could to discourage her from doing so.

The Over-Certification of the Modern Job Hunt.

Originally Posted: January 21, 2012

“Now I’ve seen everything.” comes to mind as I write this. Anybody who has followed my blog knows that I have been looking for work for the last little while. This is not the first time in my life that I’ve been in this spot. It’s one of the hazards of being in the non-profit world; layoffs are almost a sure thing. While I’m looking for work again, it seems there’s been another major change in the world of hiring.

Firstly, I understand first hand that we live in a city where English as a second language is common. Too many times lately I have thought myself qualified for jobs only to discover I am missing one very important qualification, and it’s found in the final line of many ads these days, Must Speak Cantonese, or Mandarin, or Punjabi, or Korean, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I accept that’s reality and there’s nothing I can do about it short of taking lessons in the aforementioned languages. But there is something else happening in the job-hunting world that has me shaking my head and thinking I don’t believe this.

This morning I was looking at a job posting and thought I was qualified for it until I read the last line in the ad: Certified Resume Strategist preferred.

Really?

What in the blue-eyed world is a Certified Résumé Strategist? Furthermore, what post -secondary institution teaches it? I have encountered this type of thing many times in the last little while, and that concerns me in my quest for employment. It seems more and more potential employers require certification for just about everything. And I don’t believe I’m overstating this.

For example, I had no idea there was an organization out of the U.S. where one can go to be a certified fund-raiser. One of my duties in my last job was raising funds to keep the project going, and I did so successfully for many years, until the economic downturn. So even though I am experienced at this I have been noticing, increasingly, positions that include fund raising in the job description require this particular certification.

My job-hunting journey this time around I find myself in the unique position of having many years of experience on the front lines of the non-profit world. But guess what? I’m not qualified for many similar positions because I lack the proper certification to do the job. So, even though I may have the experience doing the job, I am not qualified for it because I don’t have a piece of paper from the world of Academia certifying me as such.

I’ve talked about this with several of the workers at the local Employment Resource Center I go to, who agree with me because they’ve noticed the same thing happening in the last little while. Experience is no longer enough to get the work you want, you must now have some kind of certification for things that were considered part-and-parcel of the job in the past.

There is good news in this, next month I start a part time instruction job at the Vancouver Native Education Center, and they hired me based on, wait for it, my experience. What a concept! I didn’t need to be a Certified Hand Wringer in order to qualify. Don’t smirk; I’m sure this is coming…especially if you want to enter the world of politics. But that’s for another blog.

Live in the Moment

Originally Posted: September 23, 2014

Once again life has shown me just how precious the moment of Now is. I arrived home from work last night only to receive a phone call from a good friend that a local gay icon had passed away. He had fallen from a ladder at his home and died. Once again it was a case of, “one moment here, and the next, gone.”

All we have are the moments that the days bring us. We’ve all heard those old sayings: don’t waste your time, live each moment as it comes, live now because that’s all we get, and they are all true and times like this demonstrate that truism.

Jim Deva was a pioneer and a true leader in the Vancouver LGBT Community. he was instrumental in starting Vancouver’s Little Sister’s Bookstore; and through his efforts he, along with his store manager Janine Fuller and his partner Bruce Smyth led the fight against censorship from the federal government. The battle ended up in the Canadian Supreme Court and Little Sister’s won, the federal government had to back down. Because of this the three of them became national trailblazers for LGBT rights. Newspaper articles were written, TV and radio interviews were given and a documentary about their fight was made called Little Sister’s Vs. Big Brother in 2002.

Today, all of us in the LGBT community are left feeling there’s a huge hole in our hearts. We will live through this and we will never forget Jim Deva, his smile, warmth and passion when it came to community affairs. Somewhere, somehow, I know that Jim knows how we’re feeling and he would simply say, “Carry on, folks, carry on.” And while we carry on, let’s not forget the others in our diverse community who need our help, let’s not forget to tell those we love that we do love them, and most of all, let’s not forget to have fun along the way! Because, like this news with Jim, we never know if the next moment of Now will be our last.

HIV All These Years Later

Originally Posted: June 22, 2012

I was looking through some old papers and came across some rough notes I made a couple of months ago regarding an interview I had heard on the radio. I thought about that interview and made some notes about it in order to write another blog. However, I never did get things together enough to write and post it at that time, so here it is, a couple of months late but still relevant:

When I heard it on the radio this morning I didn’t quite know what to think or feel. A doctor was being interviewed about how the present state of being HIV Positive is considered nothing more than a chronic illness. This is especially true if a person is diagnosed early enough they can live healthy lives late into their seventies and eighties.

The interviewer asked this doctor if there were any particular groups who should be tested every year and her answer was, “everybody.” The interviewer sounded incredulous when he asked her again and she repeated, “everybody.” It is no longer considered a disease that ravages homosexuals or intervenes drug users only.

I couldn’t help thinking back to when I was 25 years old in the summer of 1982, there was all kinds of talk about a “gay cancer” infecting men in places like New York and San Francisco, and not long afterward, it started trickling into Canada. I remember at the time there was speculation it was caused by inhaling poppers, (Amyl Nitrite). It was also around that time this new infliction was briefly given the acronym GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). It was only when it this disease was discovered in other populations that the term was shifted to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

In those early days being diagnosed as HIV Positive was considered the first step on the way to living with, and dying of, fully blown AIDS; and I remember it was a common belief that the person being diagnosed was generally given about two years to live. Fear became rampant in the gay communities all over North America. It was such that the onset of a cold would be cause for alarm…
“Oh my God, could this be it?”
“What if this is HIV?”
“Should I get tested right away?”
“Do I really want to know the results?”
“Will the consequences be worse if I didn’t know?”
At that time, those knowledgeable were saying the fear of HIV was killing more people than the actual condition itself, which was correct; but in those early days we just didn’t know what was going on or how people were getting it.

It didn’t help that religious zealots and bandwagon politicians were all over this issue. Cries of “God’s vengeance for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah” and admonitions of living perverse and dangerous lifestyles were rampant on Sunday morning televisions across the Globe.

Politicians were equally as bad. I remember seven Legionnaires attending a national convention in Philadelphia died of a mysterious illness and every available action was taken by the American government immediately to find out why. But, it took over 100,000 gay men to die of a mysterious illness before the Reagan administration reluctantly acknowledged there might be a problem and action was finally taken to find out why. Some people are indeed more equal than others. Over the next fifteen to twenty years losing so many friends and acquaintances to HIV/AIDS was the thing that stands out for me the most. In fact, I stopped counting when I lost friend number fourteen…and the numbers continued to climb.

Now here it is 2012, I will soon be 55 years old, and I realize I seem to be a bit of a rarity. I’m one of the few gay men I know who came out of the closet back in the mid-1970’s, was very sexually active, and to this day remains HIV Negative and healthy. So many who came out at the same time as me are no longer around, and it’s because of them I feel the need to write this down. So much has changed, and in many ways little has changed.

Here we are, thirty years later and HIV/AIDS are still among us. They took a huge bite out of a whole generation of gay men, and those of us who are left remember all of those who are no longer here with fondness. But a new generation of LGBTQ2S folks are out fighting the good fight. They are the generation that have grown up with messages of safe sex, HIV transmission and I find with young people these days, being LGBTQ2S is not even an issue. It just doesn’t matter to them who you love, they all go out on the town together, go to each-others bars and get involved in making the world a better place for all.

But some things don’t change at all. Religious zealots and social conservatives still want to drag society back to medieval times, and still shriek hysterically that God Hates Fags. But the news that HIV is now considered a chronic illness and not a death sentence is welcomed as many who live with the diagnosis are living fulfilled and happy lives. Our LGBTQ2S communities have proven to the world and ourselves that we are resilient, creative and loving. And to the religious zealots and social conservatives who still believe that HIV/AIDS are somehow God’s vengeance upon the LGBTQ2S communities I say they are not, nor were they ever. The fact we’re still here and stronger than ever proves that. No, we are not going away!