A Sacrifice for Mississippi

 

 

Belzoni in 1939

Belzoni in 1939

 

I’ve completed 2 full days smoke-free.

 

I’m not doing so for any forced reason such as lower health fund costs or due to a health scare.

 

The reason is mostly financial and personal.

 

I’d like to visit my father’s hometown in Mississippi.

 

My father and most of his family left Belzoni, Mississippi in 1943, when he was 7.

 

When they left, his family likely saw scenes like the picture at the top of the post on a daily basis

 

My father passed away in 2002 having never returned to it in his entire life, something that I think probably saddened him immensely.

 

Belzoni is a part of myself as well that remains mysterious.

 

I don’t know what to expect, but I know that I have to do this trip.

 

Given that my great great great relative Blanche K. Bruce was also the Senator from Mississippi (and served as Sheriff for Bolivar County, which is only a few counties North from Humphreys County where Belzoni is), there’s a strong calling from that side of the family as well.

 

Sign seen upon entering Mississippi

Sign seen upon entering Mississippi

 

 

 

 

Becoming One of Those People

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These days it seems that we are always organised into tribes called “us” and “them.”

Not like that is anything new, it’s been going on since the dawn of human existence, I reckon.

Perhaps in this modern age it seems that the lines are becoming more sharper.

There was a time that I used to deride people whose lives were governed by their fitness regime.

Not so anymore.

Slowly, but surely, I’ve become one of “those” people.

Most mornings I jog, and now–despite losing a tooth in the surf–I’m quite happy to add on swimming.

The question I ask myself though is “have I lost what made me me?”

Or is this just merely evolving?

Perhaps the more important question one should ask is: Do I enjoy it?

That answer is yes.

Of Cities & Suburbs

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Warning: I may be geeking out on geography here.

The notion of what makes a city a city is something that I struggle with down here. Not in a hard way, but in the way that someone struggles with learning a new language.

Ever since I moved to this country, I have always lived within what I would call the proper city. When I lived in Sydney, I was in Sydney City Council limits, so I felt comfortable saying I was from Sydney. When I moved down here to Melbourne, I was in Melbourne City Council limits and so I felt at ease saying that I lived in Melbourne.

Now that’s all about to change. I’m moving again.

I’m not leaving Australia, I’m not leaving Victoria, I’m just changing “suburbs” and “cities.” The quotation marks aren’t me being cute, but because the definition of a suburb and a city is so radically different between Australia and the US.

When I say I grew up in the suburbs to an American, the meaning is clear: I grew up in the land of tract housing and strip malls, where you need a car to do the most basic things.

There’s a definite cultural context too. The suburbs to an American is the always-happy, always-smiling prison to youth, who are often eager to escape to the honesty of urban life.

Suburbs here by contrast are merely divisions, but they definitely still tug at the heart strings.

Say you’re from St. Kilda or Richmond or Redfern or Darlinghurst and everybody has an emotional reaction.

And then there’s the whole notion about cities.

A city according to the state of Wisconsin is an organised area of 10000 people. They may or may not be divided into neighbourhoods (which in the suburbs are often the purview of the developer), but it’s a city and it exerts an emotional pull on its residents.

A city here in Australia is a very peculiar thing. (Even more peculiar here in Victoria thanks to Jeff Kennett.) “City” is almost the same as what we in the US (well, most of the US except for a few states) call counties. An Australian city is just an arbitrary divisional body who carries out services that the state doesn’t. No more no less. No emotional ties at all.

Can you really feel that emotional about saying you’re from the City of Yarra? City of Port Phillip?

I don’t think so now, but perhaps in a year’s time I’ll be sporting a T-shirt that says “I’m from Yarra, and that’s not funny.”

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First of the Year

2012 for me will be a year of looking forward. Never before can I recall feeling so optimistic.

(And it’s not just residual good feelings from the Eurovision chats with Andrew Bell.)

Perhaps setting the tone has been…Hold on, I might be contradicting myself there. I’ll clarify:

Let this be a year where we embrace good things with very little reservation. Where we assume the best of humanity and the best of ourselves, because well, we all are rather great. All of us.

My Other Side

2008 Pride March, St. Kilda, Victoria.

Image via Wikipedia

Longtime readers of this little corner of the Internet may have noticed that I’ve been a bit cagey about some of my work recently. Well, I think it’s safe to say that I can let the proverbial cat a little bit out of the bag: I’ve been a member of the white collar crowd, quite unexpectedly, over the past year.

It has fortunately come to somewhat of a close recently, and it’s been quite a journey. A journey in more ways than one, as I will be talking about my life as an unexpected business traveller on JOY 94.9 this Christmas Eve at 12 noon. If you’re not in Melbourne, you can listen online via the website or via JOY’s smartphone app.

I’ll be talking how I’ve been treated nicely and not so nicely by airlines and customs officers (including US ones), why I gave in and finally flew a Middle Eastern airline (and regretted it), that lovely subject of profiling, why you should always keep your e-ticket on you (even at Disneyland Paris) and many other stories (including some hilarious ones from my late mother).

By the way, 12pm Saturday 24 December in Melbourne translates as:

10am Saturday 24 December Tokyo
1am Saturday 24 December GMT
8pm Friday 23 December New York (EST)
7pm Friday 23 December Milwaukee (CST)
5pm Friday 23 December Los Angeles (PST)

And remember there’s also World Wide Waves, the little late night LGBT Global news and views show that I co-present on JOY 94.9 every Wednesday night at 11pm Melbourne. I’m a little more strait-laced on The Wave, but only just a little.

Tune in!

This is World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. My country’s consulate here in Melbourne has been showing their support for the AIDS-free by 2015 campaign, and to be honest, seeing support from the US like that makes me very proud to be an American.

World AIDS Day often goes unnoticed at our household, which to some extent is partly a good thing as I’m in a serodiscordant (aka “magnetic” relationship). What that means is that I’m HIV- and my partner is positive. He was diagnosed with HIV over 25 years ago and essentially abandoned by the medical establishment at the time and essentially expected to die within weeks.

Today he is a vibrant and healthy man, who I do love very much. When you look at him, you do not see HIV, but his humour and zest for life. Yet, HIV/AIDS is without a doubt a frequent presence in our lives. Some examples:

– When either of us is cut or has an open wound, we take it calmly but seriously. HIV may die when it hits open air, but there’s nothing to say that I could also pass something on which could worsen it.
– When he is off his medicine, he can become extremely lethargic and almost depressed, because the virus saps you of your strength.
– Separate toothbrushes, razors, and deodourant.

Being in a serodiscordant relationship is not what either us expected, but it is our life.

To be frank, whenever he reads about HIV infections going up (as they are here in Australia), he gets pissed off.

“How can anyone be dumb enough to catch it with all the information that is available now?”

As much as I have theorised on that subject on this blog, the fact is there are no clear cut answers.

We can talk about a heavily sexualised Gay & Straight media culture which rarely presents safe sex in a practical light as opposed to just going straight to the tantalising.

We can talk about the fact that we live in a society where we opt not to get uncomfortable for a few minutes, without realising that a little discomfort might be the difference between a positive and negative HIV result.

We can talk about how while PWA are definitely treated better in general, the fact that they are living longer and better lives still doesn’t negate the fact that life without the virus is better than without.

We can continue to talk and talk and go to fundraisers and wear ribbons, but if you don’t take the time to listen and educate yourself and others on the reality of the virus and the lifestyle changes it can impact upon you and your loved ones. Well, then it will hit you.

I love my partner with or without HIV (and yes, his HIV status is one of the reasons we moved to Australia), but I hope I live to see an AIDS-free 2015.

Just so I can end this on a lighter note, today also marks the 18th birthday of JOY 94.9,where I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of World Wide Waves since October. If you can, please support JOY with a membership. It’s a critical part of our community and it helps give voice to many who would be drowned out in our current media landscape.

The N Word and The F Word

It seems that we are marching towards a new age of tolerance and acceptance. It’s an age where if someone uses the word “fag” as a pejorative then they lose job opportunities (like Brett Ratner losing the chance to produce the Oscars for saying “Rehearsal is for fags.”)

I think it’s a great thing that he lost the job. Now, the question is: who gets to say “fag?” My opinion: No one. There is, in my view, no reclamation by gays being able to say it, just a change in who is doing the repressing.

For the past year, I have run a management consultancy which deals exclusively with workplace discrimination. I would maintain that an uncomfortable work environment is created by the use of the word “fag[got]” no matter the orientation of the speaker. The English language is a living language and one that has history. You do not erase years of discrimination in one fell swoop because who is saying it.

I still bristle at the use of the word “Nigg[-er/-a] in popular culture. It is still used as derogatory language and the more often people cite blacks using it amongst themselves as a reason to use it, the longer it will take for us to be seen as moving forward from our past.

I wonder that by allowing ourselves to still use the language of bigots, are we saying that we aren’t smart enough to find our own ways to describe ourselves? Or are we still in many ways eager to join the majority by dividing and conquering our own brethren?

I’m not a nigger. I’m not a faggot. I’m a person that deserves respect.

My Coming Out Story

Today, 11 October is National Coming Out Day. It started in That Place via HRC, and while I have my own opinions about HRC, this is one of the things they got right.

I came out in a relatively subtle and gradual way. Like many people, I realised that I was gay early on (around age 8), but I didn’t have the words for it until I was a teenager. My parents, being somewhat bohemian, had a copy of Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex in our library. I read the chapter on homosexuality and it was like a lightbulb went off. I eagerly told my mother, and she doubted my revelation. When I pressed her on it (I was that kind of kid), she said that she didn’t want me to face a world of further discrimination beyond any racial discrimination.

Nonetheless, I had found my identity and my parents, who always were proud that they raised me to be an independent thinker, accepted it.

I do hope to be a parent someday, and I hope that I would be able to create that environment of honest discourse between myself and my child. I truly believe it saved me from any heartache about my sexuality.

The message of “It Gets Better,” is so true.

Vivre Hikaru Libre

Am now in Canada, Montreal, to be exact.

Canada has always had a special place in my head and heart. Were it not for the quirk of romance, I’d certainly be on my way towards being a Canadian.

I feel free here, way more than in my actual home country.

So, avec l’esprit de la liberte Canadienne, I’m going to admit something: I have a crush on Joe O’Brien.

Yes, that Joe O’Brien.

I have never met the man, but bloody hell, I did watch ABC Breakfast just for him.

Another admission: I am shitting sunshine over the fact that I will be here in Canada to see Being Erica’s [final] season premiere.

Vivre Hikaru [Homme] Libre.