Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Holidays, Reflections, and Life Lessons

The holidays are usually a time for people to see family, reconnect, and show each other how well you know the others based on your gift-giving skills. At least, that's pretty much what it was always about for me. Also church. A lot of time in church.

To be honest, I'm pretty excited to just spend the holidays alone with Sarah. Usually on Christmas day we would go to three or four houses, and it was absolutely exhausting. This will be a nice year to just hang out and recharge.

For me, the holidays are usually about reflection.

So, as I was reflecting on... I don't remember exactly.... but I also happened to be cutting carrots. I was moving just a bit too fast, and next thing I knew there was blood on the cutting board and a bit of the tip of my finger was gone. It really could have been much, much worse if the knife were actually sharp (but it's currently as dull as ditchwater).

Nevertheless - I cleaned up, wrapped my finger, and went back to cutting without pause as one single thought crossed my mind, as if in the distance of my brain... a thought that I have been living by for years and was not even fully conscious of until that very moment. One single phrase that I have since realized has been probably one of the most important lessons I have ever learned...

"Get back on the horse."

When I was young, my parents sent me to summer camp. A day camp out east on Long Island where the taxes are less and the properties are large. A horse camp - the definition of my summer. I would count the days until it would start, and knew that pretty much as soon as it was over I had to get my ass in gear and finish my summer reading before school started again.

I attended this camp for over a decade: first as a camper, then as a Counselor in Training, and eventually as a Lifeguard. Despite all of my other available activities, the hour that I could ride a horse was the best hour of the day. Not swimming, not arts and crafts, not archery, not even playing cards under Shady Lane as a CIT and skipping other daily responsibilities. None of that mattered when I was riding - it was just me and the horse.

A shared understanding between me and this majestic beast.

An unspeakable bond.

That would sometimes end up with me slamming into the mud from upwards of 5 feet off the ground.

There were many rules at camp, none of which rang more true than 'You're not a real rider until you've fallen off at least three times'. This rule was immediately followed by, 'every time you fall off, you must bring brownies for your entire riding group'.

Needless to say, I made quite a few batches of brownies over the years.

Of all the things that summer camp taught me (too many to count), the most valuable lesson of all was 'get back on the horse'. You fell off, you got back on. That was it. If you let the horse win in that moment, the chances of you getting back on, ever, dropped dramatically. We had kids fall off in their first week and quit camp - never to be seen again. There were those that had bad falls and waited a few days but ultimately recovered and reclaimed their saddle, but many were lost within the first few weeks, their tears falling all the way to their parents' cars and probably continued as we watched them drive away in a cloud of dirt.

"Get back on the horse" was my mantra from a very young age, and I didn't realize as it crept into my subconscious and became one of the strongest reactions in my arsenal. Looking back now (don't worry I'm not currently chopping vegetables), I realize how many times I've used this lesson. I can remember times in the past where I have told myself to 'get back on the horse' and it's like a second wind rising up against something that I refuse to let beat me, or hold me down.

So if you're struggling with something, or it feels like the universe if fighting against you - don't just sit back and take it.

Get back on the fucking horse.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Was a Special Guest on the 'Super Normal' Podcast!

Hey everyone!

Two posts today - aren't you lucky?!

I completely forgot to post this when it dropped, so I'm doing it now. OOPS!

I was contacted to be on a podcast called Super Normal, and it was a fantastic experience that I hope at some point to repeat for other topics.

Have a listen and share around so this great podcast can get some love!

Super Normal
Click here to listen!

Here's a bit of a description for the episode:
"Queer, Gay, LGBT, LGBTQIA+, LGBTQQIAAP. The name for the community has evolved over time and so have we. And the perception of the queer community has evolved as well. But who is moving things along? Today we talk to Aidan, a queer educator who is doing just that."

Thanks everyone! 💙

When September Ends

Things that happened this past month:
- 10 year relationship / 1 year marriage anniversary
- Destiny Forsaken dropped (nerd alert)
- Sarah went to her first music festival ('Life is Beautfiul' here in Vegas)
- Took a long weekend trip to NY for a friend's wedding which included a life changing dinner experience one night at Morimoto NYC

Since I already posted about our anniversary and I'm pretty sure no one reading this wants to hear about Destiny (please correct me if I'm wrong on this) - I'll start with the music festival. 

I have been to Bonnaroo in the past, twice, and it was glorious both times. Although one year was significantly more windy and dusty than the first year we went, they were both amazing. There's something about parking you car and camping out for a few days with complete strangers who all just want to have a good time that is attractive to me. Most people wonder how someone who doesn't do drugs (I barely even drank alcohol there, actually) could have fun at one of these events, and I wouldn't blame them. From the outside it can just seem like an excuse to trip out for a few days, but really the culture and atmosphere of a music festival can be like no other experience on earth. 

Sarah had never been to a music festival but once I saw that Florence and the Machine were playing, I knew we had to go. I have been a fan of Florence for a long time (her cover of Stand By Me was my vote for our wedding song because it is phenomenal) but I knew that Sarah had followed her for much longer than I have. I also know what it's like to be less than 30 feet from the stage and feel the crowd energy at an outdoor festival. So, I got us tickets. 

We only went for the one day, and the festival is relatively small compared to somewhere like Bonnaroo (I'm sure not a fair comparison) but Florence was the last show and holy moly was it worth it. She was incredible. We were in the presence of a Fae goddess and no one can convince me otherwise. Needless to say, Sarah walked away with a bit more of an understanding about festival culture...

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We just got back yesterday from our trip to NYC for a friend's wedding and although it was nice to be home, in no way was it a vacation. Filled with doctor appointments and visiting with other friends while we were home, it was a lot of traveling and scheduling but thankfully it all worked out. We got some doctor appointments out of the way, saw family, got to visit closing day of the NY Renaissance Faire with friends, and Monday night got to have dinner at Morimoto in NYC.

Friends, it was life-changing. We went with a friend who is a chef there, and once the staff saw who we were eating with, food just kept showing up at the table. We ordered 2 appetizers and got 6 or 7, our sushi platter was amazing, we ordered 3 desserts and got 4 - one of which was a chocolate sphere with coffee cream inside that was melted with flaming rum, and a few rounds of drinks. Combined with the company of friends, it was definitely a night I will remember for many days to come.

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September has ended, and now it's time for spooks!

I wonder if we'll get trick or treaters in our complex...

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Decade + One Down, and many more to go

September 6th, 2008. Ten years (and four days) ago. Somewhere between the hours of 11pm and 2am, I kissed a girl I had been in love with already for four years prior. It was one of the most terrifying things that I have ever done, and believe me there are many other things in my life that I have done that I should have been scared of. I have done things that most people would find way more terrifying than that. Nonetheless, I was scared. We had been flirting that whole summer, and although I think my heart knew that it would be fine, my brain (as usual) was in the way. I don't remember anything after that awfully delivered kiss, but I'm sure we snuggled and (eventually-I was panicking) fell asleep like we had been doing that whole summer while she was out east at her summer stock and I could visit her a few times before starting my first year of college.

The next two weeks were absolute agony. We spent every night on the phone, (as I went back up to Albany over three hours away) mostly me talking and her adding in a word or two here in there, debating on what we were doing and if we really had feelings for each other and where this was going. We finally decided that we would date, in secret. I had been keeping secrets my whole life, so this was nothing new to me, and over the next few months I spent over a thousand dollars on weekend trips to go see her either on trains or buses, and to this day I wouldn't change a damn thing. They were the best weekends of my life up to then, and I finally felt like I was sneaking around for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones which I had been doing for years. Something in me let me know that this was the right thing to do be doing, and I trusted my gut for the first time ever in those months - deciding to finally listen to it. We kept our relationship (mostly) a secret for four years.

One of the emotionally hardest nights I remember was when same-sex marriage was legalized in New York.

Sarah has been with me through so much over the past ten years (and more since we were friends first) - and I honestly have no idea how I could possibly truly thank her but I am hoping that continual love and support in all that she does and wants to do will come close.

A year (and 4 days) ago, we got married. It was small, quick, and perfect - and then we got to spend a long weekend with our close family and friends which was even more perfect than I think we both imagined it could be, and declare our gross, mushy, nerdy love for each other. It was the most 'us' thing I think we have ever done. The whole weekend was relaxed, casual, and fun - and I cannot wait to repeat it one of these years.

Sarah, I have loved you for over 14 years now, and as much as I desperately loved you back then - it was a love that I had felt would never come to be. A love that was denied not only by my religious upbringing and society, but also because I had felt that you would never feel the way that I did. No thought makes me happier than knowing now that I was wrong. I knew that I loved you fiercely back then, but now the love has changed and grown in a way that I never thought possible for me. I was sure that I would never attain a love like this, simply because I felt so undeserving. You not only changed my life, but the way that I perceive it - as well as myself - and I am everlastingly grateful.

I love you more each year, month, day, hour, down to the infinitesimal second. I have no idea what the love will become over our next ten years - but I am looking forward to finding out.

Thank you for loving me, sticking with me, and supporting me through the last decade. You are my everything, and I cannot imagine this life without you.

"I'm not half as good at anything as I am when I'm doing it next to you."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Vegas Craps and Birthday Snaps!

My best friend since birth came to visit this weekend for his birthday. Besides the usual "catch up on each other's lives" bit, we also had amazing Korean BBQ food and learned how to play craps together. First craps game, Sarah was making the whole table money (except us, since it was our last $15 she was rolling on) for about 10 minutes, and we had such a great time. Craps is actually not as intimidating as it seems, and can be a lot of fun. Next time, we'll have to take a taxi/car service because craps seems to be much more fun when drunk, as displayed by our fellow table mates. 

It's always strange when we stay out late (late for us is past 10pm to be honest), but we had a lot of fun especially when we stopped caring about spending a bit of money. We never go out, our bills are taken care of this month, and we both get paid again (twice for me) before we have to restart the bill/rent cycle. Once we just accepted the idea that it was going to cost some money, we actually had more fun. Judging from the amount of money we saw tossed around just last night, there are lots of people who are much better at accepting this than we are - so it was a nice small life lesson to just let loose and have fun once in awhile. 

Overall, we had a great weekend and even though we lost a bit of money, it was worth it. 

Shit, is this what having disposable income feels like?

No definitions today, but I wanted to update. 😃

Until next time!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sexual Times at Vegas High


Sorry this post is not as soon as expected, but I hope the length will make up for it a bit.

As you guessed from the title, we're getting sexual (and asexual) today - are you intrigued?
I thought so.

First, however, I think it's so important to break down the difference between romantic and sexual attraction (as well as platonic) and to inform those reading that neither of these things are attached to how someone identifies or expresses/presents themselves. I mentioned this in a post back in May of last year, but was still toying with this 'definitions in my posts' idea and now that I've finally got around to it, I really want to break this subject down (as briefly as possible since this can become a very long conversation).

Romantic attraction can most easily be defined as the desire for a romantic relationship with someone, and can be experienced by anyone towards any gender or identity.

Sexual attraction, therefore, can be defined as the desire for a sexual relationship with someone. I think it goes without saying that this type of attraction can also be experienced by anyone towards any gender or identity.

Upon first reading these two may seem similar, yet they are in fact quite different. If you start to mentally make separate lists of romantic activities and sexual activities - you'll start to see what I mean. Some people, especially those on the Asexual spectrum (yes, it has it's own spectrum and it is vast), have mixed combinations of romantic and sexual orientations - myself included, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Some examples of romantic activities are sharing a meal, seeing a movie together, holding hands, cuddling, and even kissing. Some examples of sexual activities include... well, I really don't think I have to go into these, but I will say that different people have alternate ideas of what activities are considered sexual than others.

With those two aspects now defined separately, let's dig a bit into the spectrum of asexuality. Here is a fantastic overview of what asexuality is, as posted by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, and here is some general FAQ asked about asexuality.

The breakdown is that someone who is asexual does not experience sexual attraction. That being said, there is a spectrum of definitions that break this idea down a bit further - including those who are repulsed by sex, or those who experience stipulations on their sexual attraction.

Personally, I identify as a Demisexual, which means that in order to feel sexual attraction towards someone, I need to form an emotional bond with them. I personally would never have a one night stand, since I'm not sexually attracted to someone on first sight, and porn doesn't do much (if anything) for me either since I'm not emotionally invested.

I truly believe that more people fall into this category than they realize, and while I'm becoming more and more indifferent about labels as I move on in life, when I first learned about the asexual spectrum and that I wasn't alone in my demisexuality, it meant a lot to me. So before anyone judges about how there is a "label for everything nowadays" and calling people snowflakes, just remember that how they anyone labels themselves is not your problem and could be the only thing keeping them mentally stable in that time of their lives.

          *          *          *

Next, I want to talk about Pansexuality, which is traditionally defined as the sexual attraction to a person regardless of their sex or gender. A fun way to put it is "hearts not parts". To backtrack a bit, bisexual is traditionally defined as the sexual attraction to both male and female gender identified people. However, this definition is shifting seemingly more than any other currently, as people who identify as bisexual will say that they simply are attracted to (or will be sexually active with) more than one gender. Perhaps they are attracted to women and non-binary folks. Alternatively, people will identify as bisexual even when they may feel that they are pansexual simply because they want to fight the attempted erasure of bisexuals from the community. Which I love, by the way. I spoke to someone recently (more info on this as the month goes by 😉) who stated this to me and I thought it was brilliant. The attempt to erase bisexual identified people from the community is strong, and real, and disappointing. People may not realize how much conflict there is within the LGBTQ+ community, but it is absolutely an issue that we face, even within each letter of the acronym. For example, some people will argue that in order to be "transgender enough" the individual must have surgery and undergo hormone therapy to conform to the gender that they identify as. Similarly, people who identify as bisexual but are in a heterosexual relationship are scrutinized and sometimes not believed to be "truly" bisexual. Whatever that means. There is a lot of negativity in the community and it's so hard during Pride month to hear all of this conflict when we all need to stick together and help each other.

Now that I'm starting to rant about how to change the world, it is time to end the post.

Fun Fact: The spell check on this tried to change every 'demisexual' to 'bisexual' 💓💛💚💙💜

Friday, May 25, 2018

"We're changing lodgings!"

Hi everyone!

What a few months it has been. We've had A LOT going on so I haven't been able to post.

Let me explain... No there is too much, let me sum up.

Sarah accepted a job offer in Las Vegas and we moved our whole lives basically across the country. Not only did we move, we drove here. Not only did we drive here, we did it with the dog. Bella was a real trooper and actually did amazingly in the car, not barking once and just kindof hanging out the whole way. She also loved napping on the hotel beds.

From the time that Sarah accepted, to when she started her new job was only a few weeks. We packed, filled the POD in two days, and then drove here. Like I said, there's been a lot going on. I'm also still running PFLAG Long Island from here, and my job let me go remote which is a blessing that I was not sure was going to happen. So things have been good, generally.

This apartment is huge, and our living room and bedroom furniture came today. We go real adult furniture! We're growing up so fast, I know!

We had two fantastic helpers (my Dad and our friend, The Hulk) come and help us unload the POD here in Vegas and it was so nice to have more hands on deck. We were (and still are, honestly) exhausted.

So I wanted to give a quick life update, and let you all know that I have not disappeared and I will be posting again soon!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Labels and Dichotomies

Our society, mostly in the Western world, is split when it comes to gender. Many things are split into male and female; clothing, beauty products, bathrooms, health classes about puberty, etc. We have been surrounded and raised in a place and society that implies that the only choices are 'woman' and 'man' - and we are also assumed to act in a certain way based on how we are assigned at birth (again, as 'female' or 'male'). To name a few assumptions: men shouldn't wear makeup and women should, women should look a certain way regarding choice of clothing and body shape, men should be the main breadwinner in the home (yes, this is still a thing), women don't spit, men can catcall women on the street, women should cross their legs when they sit, and too many more to name. While I will not go into all of these examples, I will specifically address the idea that 'man' and 'woman' are not the only choices, and humans can do whatever the hell we want in regards to our expression and presentation.

First let's do a quick review on gender identity and presentation. In the most simple terms that I can think of, gender identity is how someone feels inside. They can gravitate toward male, female, somewhere in-between, or neither. Gender expression is the way in which someone presents themselves either using clothing, hairstyle, gait, and body language. Again, this is a spectrum with the farthest ends being masculine and feminine, and different folks would place themselves in all different places along this spectral line. That being said, this spectrum is based on gender norms that have been constructed by society. Such as the idea that women wear skirts and men do not. Slowly, we are redefining (or ideally deconstructing) these ideas of what men and women should wear or not wear, do or not do, etc.

Okay, before I start ranting too much, let's move onto the definitions that I wanted to go over in the first place!

Now one question that people usually have at this point (among many) is usually something along the lines of "What do you mean 'neither'? How can you be neither gender?" It's simple, I promise. Let's discuss a bit and hopefully you'll start to makes sense of it all.

With the assumption that gender in our society is binary (male or female), there are those who feel that they don't fit into either male or female. There are multiple ways to identify as outside of the binary, but we will only be discussing a few.

Agender: people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral. Many agender people are trans. As a new and quickly-evolving term, it is best you ask how someone defines agender for themselves. (source) Can also be defined as a lack of gender.

Gender neutral: can be described as not feeling a pull towards any particular gender. Can either be used as a term to describe something like language (terms like firefighter and flight attendant), or in gender expression/presentation such as wearing clothing that does not societally fit into items that men or women specifically wear.

Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Usually used to describe characters or persons who have no specific gender, gender ambiguity may also be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle. In the case of gender identity, terms such as genderqueer, or gender neutral are more commonly used. (source - I don't usually like to use wiki but it works for keeping it general)

Nonbinary (Also Non-Binary): Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person. (source)

Genderqueer: An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Many genderqueer people are cisgender and identify with it as an aesthetic. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary. (source)

Gender Non-Conforming (GNC): Describes anyone whose appearance and behaviour does not reflect the gender roles expected of them. Many transgender people, especially those who identify as non-binary and/or genderqueer, are seen as gender non-conforming. However, this term can also be applied to those with a cisgender gender identity who do not fit societal stereotypes of that gender. (source)

Fun Fact! According to a new study out of UCLA, 27 Percent of California Teens Are Gender Nonconforming. Here is a great article discussing the study.

I hope you're not too overwhelmed at this point! Feel free to read over these a few times, and pay close attention to the different uses of the words 'identity' and 'expression'. These words are used specifically and intentionally.

I want to end on the note that we should be fighting the idea of gender stereotypes at any chance we can. At the end of the day, trying to define what someone should be like based on what they were assigned at birth, is harmful and limiting. People are people, and we all just want to be loved and accepted.

Thanks for checking in, everyone - until next time!