Friday, February 13, 2015

The Evolution of Coming Out

Because society assumes that everyone is straight, those of us who are not end up having to “come out” and let people know that we are gay. I first started doing this when I was 19 and how I have come out has evolved fairly drastically over the years.

The first time I came out  was a horrible experience. It was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic  and around the time that the Ryan White story was first airing. Being out and gay was not considered a good thing and we were feared by many. The first person I told, in a letter because I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud, was my best friend. That was the last time I would speak to her for more than 20 years.*

Back then, coming out could also mean losing your job, which happened to me. You learned very quickly to read people, to sit back and wait before sharing personal details of your life.

Coming out got easier as society became more accepting. Luckily I live in one of the most accepting countries, as many LGBTQ people are not yet at a point where their coming out is easier. Many are still persecuted, or worse, if they do come out.

Coming out also got easier as I got older. I learned to fight for my rights, leading one company I worked for to include same-sex families in their new benefits packages that they were rolling out to employees. Before I spoke up it had never crossed their mind that they should.

Yet there were still difficult times. Canada may have passed anti-discrimination laws, made gay marriage legal  and as a whole seems like a very inclusive country. That doesn’t make every individual suddenly open minded and ready to embrace us.

I’ve had problems booking a motel room for our family of 3, with the owner insisting that since there was only one bed (Liam was going to sleep on the couch) that Hilary and I would need 2 rooms. I’ve had people physically step away from me, not wanting to shake my hand and I’ve had people who were previously friendly, chatting around the water cooler, suddenly avoid casual chit-chat before work.

Having worked at my last job for more than 10 years, and with Liam now in his 9th year at the same school, my opportunities for meeting new people and having to come out to them were fairly limited. When they would come up, a new kid joined Liam’s class or a new hire at work, I was surrounded by friends to whom I was already out and who were supportive. It made for a very safe and comfortable environment and I rarely gave much thought to “coming out” and would more likely simply refer to Hilary as if the new person already knew that our family was made up of two women.

Then 5 weeks ago I started a new job. Suddenly the prospect of having to “come out” to a whole group of people, people that I didn’t know anything about, was before me. That was when I realized not only how much I have changed in the past 25 years, but how much society has changed too. Not a single person batted an eye when I mentioned Hilary. No one stepped back or even made it seem like it was worth mentioning. I was telling them about my family the same way they were telling me about theirs. Every single one of them, regardless of their age, background, strong religious belief or nationality simply took it in stride that I was gay. They were more interested in the fact that my hair was blue.

I’m glad that as a society we have come so far. There are still many problems in our world to overcome, but for me at least, it seems that the evolution has taken me to a place that I no longer need to "come out" and I can just be me.



*We reconnected briefly on Facebook a few years ago. She, now the mother of 4, apologized for how she handled things and realized that being around someone who was gay was not what she had once feared. She hoped that she had grown enough as a person to not pass that negativity on to her children and that should any of them come out to her, that she could be there for them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blue Stripe



After 8 months and who knows how many classes, I finally bit the bullet and signed up to do my Blue stripe TKD test. I spent the month of January focusing more on TKD and less on running to help ensure that I was ready. I had notes on my patterns pinned up in my cubicle at work, I watched YouTube videos whenever I could. I tried to get to classes early so that I could practice or ask one of the Black Belts for help with a particularly difficult area.

All that and I still didn’t feel ready.

The whole testing took just over 2 hours for all 14 of us. The little kids always go first. They are so cute, but watching them do their patterns – often messing up their lefts and rights – was making confused about my own upcoming testing moment. After the 5 year old crowd and the 2 adult White belts all passed their tests it was my group’s turn. There were 4 of us ranging from a Yellow Belt to my Green belt. I made it through the 6 patterns that I needed to know with a few minor issues, including stepping on the kid next to me! Every time I would try to move over before we started a pattern to give myself more room, he would move towards me again! Eventually the tester pointed out that I was moving to give us more space and that it might work better if he stopped following me.

Following patterns we had to demonstrate our techniques in both 3-step non-traditional sparring and fundamental movements. From there we moved on to 1-step and 2-step traditional sparring – usually the hardest area for me as we don’t often cover this in class and you are expected to learn it on your own from the book, or before/after class from a more senior belt.

I then had a breather while the last group went through their paces before I had to do a 2 minute round of contact sparring. Ooof. That was a long and hard 2 minutes! The woman I was sparring against is …. how should I put it…. Intense? Rough? Mean? Powerful? One of the parents even mentioned afterward that I had my hands full with that sparring match. I’ve been paired up with her in class before and I often end up covered in bruises from blocking her kicks or not blocking one of her punches. She is not malicious about it, but doesn’t always recognize her own strength, and never holds back, even when it’s a teaching/learning moment. I may invest in shin guards just because of her.

The last part of my test came as a surprise, as I didn’t realize that it was required for my Blue stripe. I had to break a 3/8” thick board with a front snap kick. Luckily I have done this break before, and it is one of the easiest breaks to do. You get 2 tries on your test – I broke it on my first kick.

After all of that – I passed!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Next Chapter


The chapters of my working life can be measured in decades.

The first 10 years, starting when I was only 14, were spent in a variety of jobs from kitchen staff to nurse’s aide and bartender to shooter girl. Then, quite by accident, I landed what was supposed to be a throwaway job that turned into a 10 year career with that company. It is thanks to that job that Hilary and I ended up moving to Halifax. After 10 years though I was ready for a change. As luck would have it a new opportunity came along and I was able to move on – still on the same career path, doing the same type of work, just for a new company.

And now with my 10 year anniversary with this company just 2 months away, I am moving on again. 

I start a new job Monday morning.

Once more I am on the same career path, doing that work that I do. Will I stay with this company for a full decade, keeping my working streak? Who knows. That timing would make things interesting, leaving me with just one more decade after that before I would be of age to retire. I think only having 4 major job changes over a lifetime of working would be a pretty good way to end things. But then again, maybe I’ll spend the next 20 years at this new job.

Who knows, my future isn’t written yet.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Determined

My one word for 2015 is DETERMINED



  • I am DETERMINED to laugh more
  • I am DETERMINED to love more
  • I am DETERMINED to eat healthier
  • I am DETERMINED to run more
  • I am DETERMINED to do well at TKD
  • I am DETERMINED to enjoy life to its fullest
  • I am DETERMINED to have a great year

If you had to pick one word that will help to define you and guide your for next year, what word would you choose?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I did BELIEVE

I chose the word BELIEVE for 2014 and set myself some goals around it.

  • I believe that I will be successful in 2014 
  • I believe that I will be there as a friend and partner to Hilary 
  • I believe that I will be the best parent I can be to Liam 
  • I believe that I will continue to become a better runner
  • I believe that I will grow my Tae Kwon Do skills 
  • I believe that I will achieve my health goals

The year started out strong and I really did BELIEVE that I could do all these things. I ran my first 10k race  . I became a green belt in TaeKwon- Do  and competed in an Eastern Canadian Championship tournament . My love and friendship with Hilary continued to grow  and while parenting is one of the hardest roller coaster rides I’ve ever been on, I really do try my best. 2014 has also been a successful year in my professional life.

The area that I feel that I did not achieve in 2014 is my health goals. Somewhere around the end of summer I stopped BELIEVING in myself, and stopped trying. I stopped running, I missed more TKD classes then I attended and I stopped focusing on healthy eating. So it’s no surprise that I’m ending 2014 feeling a lot less healthy then I did when the year started.

That is part of the ups and downs of life though, so I’m not going to dwell on it and give up completely. I have started BELIEVING in myself again and I am moving on, ready to face a new year.

I’ll be picking my word for 2015 in the next few days as 2014 comes to a close. If you had to pick one word to help guide you through the new year, what would it be?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The last art card

This is Liam's last year in elementary school, so this is the last year that he will make an art card.



It was hard to fit all 9 into a single shot so I ended up having to stitch them together.  His art card this year is titled 'The Lively Triangles" and was inspired by his study of microbes under a microscope.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Memories

Last week I made a list of all the places I have lived in my 44+ years. I knew it was a lot, but I was surprised when they were all written out, that I have lived at 22 different places. The longest I've ever lived anywhere was the house my Mom still lives in. I spent 13 years there. I've owned 2 of my own houses and have lived in each of them for 9 years. With no plans to move ever again, our current home is likely to be the one that will top out at the longest in just a few more years.


I have memories from most of the places I have lived, except the earliest ones, and a couple from the early ‘90s when my memories of most things are sketchy at best. The memories run the gamut of emotions from happy to sad, grief to anger, joy to hopelessness.

But the one house that holds the most memories for me is the one at which I never lived. My Grandparents house.


It wasn't very big and was kind of dark.  There was no backyard to speak of, so I mostly played in the driveway or under a huge blue spruce that had to be cut down years ago.  The only shower was a stand alone in the unfinished basement. It was a pretty creepy basement with open stairs, a painted cement floor, a dangling light bulb and cubby holes that lead into an abyss of darkness. When I was little I loved to hang out down there with my Grandfather. He had been a boxer in his youth and still had a lot of equipment in the basement. I would have a go at the heavy bag and try desperately to lift the big heavy weights with him.

When I was growing up my Grandparents lived there with their 2 youngest sons, their 2 oldest children having left the nest 20 years earlier. There were 3 bedrooms upstairs, all off a small hallway that wasn't wide enough to allow 2 people to pass each other. When my parents and I visited for the weekend, everyone would get displaced, making room for us – I would bunk in bed with Grandma, Grandpa got the couch and one uncle gave up his room to my parents and  slept on the floor in the living room.


We spent almost all holidays and most weekends at my Grandparent’s house. Often my Mom and I would make the hour drive on our own while my Dad stayed home and worked on the weekends. I remember being curled up on the couch Christmas eve when Santa came to the door; waking up early Christmas morning and my Grandma sneaking down to get me a bun to eat in bed in the hopes of giving everyone an extra few minutes of sleep. Sunday dinners were always big affairs, served at one o’clock. Every single meal included mashed potatoes, mashed by my Grandfather with his big strong hands.

By the middle of next month the house will be emptied of all of my Grandparent's things.  The house has been sold.  My Grandpa passed away more then 20 years ago and my Grandma has lived there by herself since then.  Until she couldn't anymore.  My oldest uncle found a wonderful nursing home that can look after her daily needs and she moved there this past summer.  It took a while to get the house ready to show and the market isn't the greatest, so it took a while to sell.  But now it has.

I'm glad that I was able to have one last visit to the house this past summer.  My Grandmother had already moved and the packing up had started.  The house was eerily quiet.  Quiet enough for the memories to wash over me as I stood in a doorway or gazed down the hall.  There were still pictures on the shelves, the same pictures that had been there since I was little.  New ones had been added as the Great-Grandchildren came along.  Every sight, smell and sound brought forth another memory.   The weird noise the bathroom lock made, the squeak of the third step that meant I could never sneak in late without someone hearing me.

I live to far away to be able to help my family with packing up the remaining memories.  I will cling to the photographs that I have showing carpet that never changed, outdated but comfortable furniture and kitchen cabinets that housed a dishwasher that was never used.  I am glad for all the memories that I have and I hope that whoever lives there next can make their own awesome memories too.