Why coming out matters (South Bend mayor)

Yep, he knows what he’s talking about – I could say many of the same things about my life and experiences:
(And he is [or has] a great writer, too!)

“I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.

… I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business.

But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.

Whenever I’ve come out to friends and family, they’ve made clear that they view this as just a part of who I am. Their response makes it possible to feel judged not by sexual orientation but by the things that we ought to care about most, like the content of our character and the value of our contributions.

Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting, or a hiring decision. …

We’re moving closer to a world in which acceptance is the norm. This kind of social change, considered old news in some parts of the country, is still often divisive around here. But it doesn’t have to be. We’re all finding our way forward, and things will go better if we can manage to do it together. … we have an opportunity to demonstrate how a traditional, religious state like ours can move forward. If different sides steer clear of name-calling and fear-mongering, we can navigate these issues based on what is best about Indiana: values like respect, decency, and support for families — all families.

Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.”

South Bend mayor: Why coming out matters – South Bend Tribune

Edit: Changing all posts to “Standard” format, as the other formats look weird in the archive view.

A Quote that Reminds Me of My 4WD, from Author J.R. Vogt

This quote reminds me of how I treat the exterior of my 4WD – it might help people understand how any marks on my vehicle will quickly disappear under a layer of dirt:

‘They ambled between rows of identical white vans until they came across one which might’ve been white in a previous lifetime. Mud splatters, rust, and flaking paint covered the paneling, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place on someone’s front lawn alongside plastic flamingos and beer cans.
Dani stared at it in faint horror. “I thought we were supposed to maintain a clean image.”
He patted the side. “Mebbe all the rest like to waste time sprayin’ their vans down every time it gets a speck of dust on the bumper. Me? So long as it gets me where I gotta go, it’s all the fancy-shmancy wheels I need.”’
“Enter the Janitor” by Josh Vogt, available on iBooks.*

I crashed iBooks on OS X Yosemite trying to copy and paste this quote. So it’s not just the iOS 8 version that has quality issues. To reproduce: start the app, open a book, select some text, and click “Copy” in the menu that appears near the text. It’s that simple. (Using the Command-C keyboard shortcut, or the Edit menu Copy command, doesn’t trigger this crash.)



Edit: Changing all posts to “Standard” format, as the other formats look weird in the archive view.

* This link is to the Australian iBookstore – I apologise to my international readers for any store switching this causes.# Surely Apple could just give it to you in your native store? Software quality again!

# And I apologise to my U.S. readers for any confusion they experience being referred to as “international”.

On Homophobia, My Life, and Blogging

Someone scrawled the word “fag” on the side of my car.* In permanent marker.

It happened some time over the last few days, but I didn’t notice it until last night.

In one sense, it’s a very a minor thing. It (mostly) came off in 5 minutes with some methylated spirits. And I’ll take my car four-wheel driving some time, and the dirt will cover up what’s left.

But in another sense, it’s a big deal: I thought it would never happen to me. And I had been hoping (pretending?) that I didn’t live in a world like that. And I wondered: if someone would damage my property when I wasn’t there, what would they do to me if I was?§

I felt immediately frightened and shocked – am I safe? Then, I felt sad for the person who’d done it. And finally, I resolved to live my life, determined to be more honest and more compassionate. (What else could I do?) It took me about an hour to regain my emotional equilibrium.

I could imagine a few different ways this could have happened:

  • I was parked at night near a location known for gay and bisexual men, and someone disliked something I said to them.#
  • I was parked in the open carpark where I live, and someone knew it was my car, and that I am bisexual.~
  • I was parked somewhere, and it was a random act of homophobic graffiti. This is somehow the the most comforting option, because it has nothing to do with me personally.

When I started blogging, I made a deliberate choice to give up many of my conversational filters. They were a (failed) attempt to fit in. I’d prefer to be more honest, even if I’m misunderstood. I had intended to come out publicly at some point, but I really didn’t think it would be over such a negative experience.

As far as I can remember, I was always bisexual, attracted to people of my gender, and people of other genders. I just thought this was the way everyone experienced attraction. I’m still reminded, every so often, that there are genuinely straight and gay people in the world, that is, people who feel attraction to only one gender.

As I wrote in a previous post, I suffer from chronic physical and mental illness: chronic pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of this is probably an adjustment disorder.**

For much of my life, I was able to pass as a straight, white, able-bodied, mentally typical, cisgender male. I was injured in a motor vehicle collision six years ago. (Again, I thought it would never happen to me.) Up until a few years ago, I almost entirely hid my sexuality. I’d occasionally suffered from depression and chronic fatigue, but they seem much worse now on top of everything else. It’s been quite a shock to realise how people treated me differently when I was no longer straight, able-bodied and mentally typical.

So now, I try to stand up for the marginalised. I did it before, but I was pretty clueless. I probably still am in many ways. I’m much more intentional and intersectional now. That’s one of the reasons I blog.

And, as a Christian§§, I pray “Forgive them father, because they don’t know what they’re doing” (Jesus in Luke 23:34).

Edit: Replace “neurotypical” with “mentally typical” in the post excerpt, as neurotypical is often used to refer to people with autism, and I didn’t want to cause any confusion. Also updated some tags and categories.
Edit: copyedit for phrasing & missing words, and add the Jesus quote’s biblical reference, and a link to the passage. It turns out I’m not as good a copyeditor as I expected, when it comes to my own work.



* “Fag” is short for “faggot”, a homophobic insult.

§ It’s such a minor thing, but it reminded me of the dangers that many people experience, just because they don’t fit people’s preconceptions.

# It’s quite possible that it was a combination of personal rejection, and internalised homophobia. Yes, internalised homophobia is a thing you get from growing up in a biased world. And some of us have it bad.

~ I try to talk about sexuality in a sex-positive manner that focuses on the diversity of human attraction. Although, for some reason, when I say “bisexual”, people think of a steamy porn scene. Try not to do that, ok?

Like many bisexual advocates, I define bisexuality as an attraction to multiple genders (“bi+ meaning “my gender” and “other genders”). This is similar to the definition of pansexuality/omnisexuality. However, some resources, including wikipedia and many dictionaries, define it in a binary-gendered fashion as “being attracted to both men and women”. This excludes people who are non-binary-gendered, such as agender, third gender, and genderqueer people.

I know this will sound strange to most people, but I had no genuine basis for comparison. And like people tend to do, I believed what I experienced was typical of everyone else’s experience.

I assumed that everyone was towards the middle of the Kinsey scale, a measure of sexual attraction towards men or women. Hearing that people had a choice about their sexuality from the churches I attended further confused my mistaken impressions of others’ experiences of attraction. As did the focus on sexual actions, not sexual orientation. As a bisexual, I obviously did have some choice who I dated, but still, regardless of who I dated, that didn’t actually change my sexuality at all.

** Actually, I am adjusting, it’s just happening more slowly that I would like. And I still remain frustrated at many of my limitations.

§§ Yes, it is possible to be both bisexual and Christian, and, for that matter, LGBTI and Christian. No, that doesn’t (necessarily) make me a heretic. Nor does it necessarily imply anything about my theology, or my sex life (or lack thereof). I’ll write more about being a bisexual Christian in future posts. But I certainly can’t speak for all LGBTI Christians – we are a very diverse bunch.

Stereotyping Families

“When your kid has a new friend, don’t ask ‘What do your friend’s mommy and daddy do?’ Ask what their parents do”
from How not to raise a homophobe: A straight parents guide..

It’s good advice: avoid assuming that every child has a male and female carer. But it falls into exactly the trap it’s trying to avoid: assuming too much about someone else’s family.§

What about children whose parents were never married, separated, divorced, or bereaved?#
What about blended or polyamorous families?
What about children who live with their extended families, or are in foster care?
We just can’t assume that every child (or, for that matter, every person*):

  • has more than one carer,
  • has at most two carers,
  • has exactly one family~,
  • lives in only one household,
  • or lives with a (biological) parent!

And, more broadly, we just can’t assume that every person:

  • is employed,
  • has or wants a relationship, significant other(s), or child(ren).

What about single people?

I’d like to suggest an alternative:
Say, “Tell me about their family…”
This can be backed-up with a variety of age-appropriate questions (if the child needs prompting):

  • Where do they live?**
  • What do they do for recreation, hobbies, or holidays?**
  • What are their values, cultural, and/or faith background?##

In addition to asking about a child’s carer’s work. However, if asking about work is common in the culture around a child, they’ll most likely pick it up anyway.

You could also mix it up by asking about the other child, as well as their family. But my guess is that you’ll have heard a lot about the other child already!



§ The article, and particularly the quote, implicitly assumes that every family has exactly two parents.

# Many arguments against marriage equality rely on the assumption that children benefit from or need carers (well, “parents”) of two different genders. These apply just as much to families which have experienced separation, divorce, or bereavement. But, for some reason, they’re never mentioned. This has always irritated me.

* Adults regularly ask these same questions of each other. We just don’t often notice, because they’re lifelong habits.

~ I grew up with a single mother as my primary carer. I have three parents, in two separate families and households. My families have multiple surnames, and mine is unique – which allowed me to easily filter telemarketers when I was younger, because they’d ask for Mr. W. (who doesn’t exist).

With divorce rates above 50% in some jurisdictions, multi-household and blended families are no longer the the exception to the nuclear family – they’re often the rule.

In some (sub-)cultures, “Ask what their parents do” means “what do their parents do for a job”. This is often used as a proxy for (unconscious) class categorisation. Other (sub-)cultures typically ask about relatives, ancestry, interests, or religious background†† as an introductory exchange.

†† Many Christian sub-cultures inevitably ask “Where do you go to church?” as an opening line. This allows instant categorisation of someone’s likely theological variations, and also subtly excludes those who are not attending (typical) churches.

** These questions are potentially classist. (Also, not everyone plays or watches sport as a hobby.)

## These questions are potentially discriminatory on a racial, cultural, or religious basis. I’m not always confident I can ask these questions without the risk of being racist. But there are some contexts where they can be appropriate.

Updated: Changerooms, Children, and Etiquette

[Topics: Child Abuse Risk Factors, Child Supervision]

I’ve recently seen more men directly supervising children in changing rooms. Each time I go swimming, I see at least one man supervising children as they get changed.

I think it’s great that men are spending time with children under their care.* There’s obviously a growing awareness of child safety and the need to supervise children.

But I can’t help noticing these guys who stand there, fully clothed, looking terribly awkward. Not looking at their kids too much, not looking at the other guys getting changed too much – where can they look? What are they meant to do with themselves while supervising the kids?

I’ve seen some male teachers supervising school groups who look completely out of their depth. They’re meant to supervise the kids, without looking at them! And they’re not meant to look at anyone else, either…

I can feel a little awkward, too, particularly when someone ends up staring at me. And it’s not only carers who do this! I sometimes end up staring at guys (adult men), too. Sometimes I’ve zoned out and ended up starting into space (but space with someone in it!) Other times, I’ve ended up staring, thinking: “I can’t believe that guy is so incredibly fit!”~

I have no idea what the etiquette is for men, child supervision, and changerooms.

Part of my cluelessness is historical: my parents separated when I was young. I only have fuzzy memories of my dad taking me swimming, and those memories tend to focus on diving for coins. I was the eldest child, and my mum was my sole carer until I was a teenager, and didn’t need close supervision.§ So I didn’t grow up with men supervising me on a regular basis, at least until I reached high school.#

Part of my cluelessness is cultural: when I was growing up, child protection was taught, but there was less awareness of the need to supervise children around strangers.

And part of my cluelessness is situational: I’ve never had kids, and I’m rarely in a carer’s role. Even when I’m around children, I’m not their primary carer, so I can take the lead from someone else.

But I can put up with a little awkwardness. I’m willing to learn. My awkwardness is such a minor cost, compared to a vital outcome: improving the safety of younger children.**



* Men don’t deserve to be congratulated for equitably sharing caring responsibilities. It’s simply their responsibility. Neither do children necessarily need a male carer. However, I do want to acknowledge that male-identifying children often imitate male role models. (It’s important that children have some interaction with role models of all genders.)

Nor do children need carers of any particular gender, nor specific combinations thereof.

~ The pools I usually attend all have gyms attached, and it’s common practice for people to go to the gym, then use the pool, spa, steam room, and/or sauna. (I’ve only ever been to one pool that has every single one of these facilities!)

§ Even if I wasn’t strictly a teenager, I certainly felt old enough that I didn’t want my mother supervising me closely any more. My dad was an occasional carer from when I was around 10 years old onwards, but my mum remained my primary carer.

# I went to a single-gender high school with a high proportion of male teachers. Even before high school, I was involved in the Scouting movement, and I had male teachers from late primary school onwards.

The child protection training I received as a child at primary school included adult strangers, but also adults known to the child. Statistically, [Detailed Discussion of Child Abuse Risk Factors] children are more at risk from adults known to them or their families.

I was a Christian youth worker for around 6 years, but only with high-school aged youth.

** There’s an ongoing, complex, and nuanced debate around child supervision, from free-range children, [Update: to children left in a car for a few minutes,] to helicopter parents. I can’t possibly do the debate justice, but I do want to acknowledge that: supervision isn’t a panacea; each family makes decisions on child supervision based on their particular context; and some children simply don’t have a same-gender primary carer.## There are many families won simply can’t conform to the supervision regimes that some people expect. There can be many reasons for this, including single-parenthood, shared custody,†† parental work commitments, and cultural contexts (including extended families).

## Almost all children will be cared for by an adult of another gender at some point while they’re growing up, even if it’s only on an occasional basis.

†† Shared custody typically results in children having only a single carer at any one point in time (even if they swap between multiple single-carer households). This can change if the separated parents have partners who act as carers.