Dear Canadian Roman Catholic Friends,

Many of you know that I am not the greatest fan of organized religion, particularly your variety of organized Christianity.

And I understand a good number of you are frustrated in your church’s handling of the Residential School backlash and are considering boycotting Mass.

As someone who has been quite active in protests, boycotts only work if there is some financial trauma attached to them, so if you have your tithing on pre-authorized remittance (PAR or direct debit), make sure you cancel that and send a letter to the church explaining why your donations are stopping and what you demand will need to happen before you start them back up again.

If you stop showing up to church, but still keep supporting the institution financially, your protest is in vain.

However I feel in this case a boycott is not effective enough. Your absence and silence in the church will continue to allow those who are comfortable and complacent to remain comfortable and complacent. They will wonder where you went, shrug and mutter about “moderates destroying the church” and move along. Nothing will change in your absence.

As a non-Christian who has had a fair amount of religious trauma in my history, I am actually urging you to go to church.

I am urging you to wear orange shirts that read “Every Child Matters” I am urging you to sit at the front of the church so your priests and clergy cannot ignore your protest. I am urging you to stand and turn your backs on the priests during the sermons and homilies as a silent protest of the church’s involvement in the Residential Schools and its ongoing complicity and avoidance of its responsibilities and lack of action. I am urging you to place notes in the collection plates, explaining why you are not donating to the church until accountability has been undertaken – at the highest levels – and the church begins to take concrete steps towards reconciliation.

If the minister speaks on the Residential Schools and the impact on the First Nations people, I urge you to call them out publicly in the sermon. Ask them if they’ve actually talked to Residential School survivors or have witnessed what the schools have done to people firsthand? Demand that the priest request a Residential School survivor to come and speak next week or barring that, demand the opportunity to read from the many survivors’ accounts.

Go to your fellow Catholics and demand that they examine their faith and ask them if their actions reflect the actions, deeds and commandments of Jesus Christ. Hold their silence and complacency accountable. Make them uncomfortable in their own space.

Demand that they act like Christians for G*d’s sake.

dear santa

Dear Santa,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but there’s been so much that has happened over the past few months. When Larry decided to portray you all those years ago, I was introduced to a world of amazing people who set their lives and a part of their identities aside in order to portray you. This has eventually lead to their being shaped by who you are and what you represent.

This change has taken plant in my life and I am increasingly grateful for the love, spirit and kindness that you provide to those who portray and believe in you. Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past eight years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.

Thank you for continuing to put the amazing people who support your work in my life. As I continue to meet the people who do your work throughout the year, I realize that the spirit you represent is needed more and more as the world continues to become a darker, angrier and more cynical place.

I realize the spirit you represent is needed more in my life as the past few years had threatened to make my life an angry, dark and cynical place. You have given me several good friends who both portray you but also have taken me under their wings to work with me.

The two Davids have been my most stalwart cheerleaders, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They still do. They also continue to work with me, despite my neuroses and complications – they bless me with their patience and gentle humour, knowing when to prod me forward and when to ease off.

Kevin has rekindled my joy in clowning, it is fun watching him explore who his inner clown is and will become – it reminds me of when Rocky first showed up in my life and then when Phineus revealed himself out of the ashes of Rocky. Lee believing in me enough to bring me on staff at American Clown Academy helped me realize that clowning never leaves you, even though you may sometimes have to walk away to preserve your love of the art and your character.

Through ACA, I got to connect with many who portray you and get in touch with your magick – particularly Stephen, Glen, Roy and Glenn.

I used to think that when Larry died, that you’d be in my rear view mirror, however you continue to put people in my life who show what your spirit and magick can bring to the lives of people. Every time I pull away, another amazing human being is sent my way to remind me of the good that can be done through a moment of kindness or just an instant of connection through recognition.

Message clearly received!

Now just to figure out how the next steps of my service and support should progress. Thank you. So. For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me. Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and kept me alive.

Thank you! I love you.

myke.

triggered.

A good friend created a thoughtful and interesting post questioning what the triggers will be for people who are living through the COVID pandemic.

That led me to thinking about my triggers.

In the early 1980’s, watching the space shuttles take off was a big thing – particularly for kids studying in the gifted program. The January 1985 launch of the space shuttle Challenger was huge as it included a civilian teacher as a crew member.

Schools around the world watched as the space shuttle took off that January day and then watched in horror as the shuttle exploded with the booster rockets flying off in opposite directions.

I never watched a shuttle launch – or manned space launch, for that matter – again. I still have difficulties – particularly now as private capitalists like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are racing each other to launch their own space programs…

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s there was a strange illness that was reportedly attacking gay men specifically. Many gay men were contracting rare forms of cancer and pneumonia and it was killing them.

As I became aware of my sexuality, it scared me knowing that those men who were wasting away and dying alone, in agony could be me. Then came the realization that it was spread mainly through sexual contact and then the constant propaganda of gay plague and punishment for being homosexual.

Loving the way I wanted to love and be loved became dangerous, if not deadly, and also increasingly shameful. It took me years to accept that loving another being with my heart and soul AND body was not something to be ashamed of. Yet still, it can come with some risk to one’s health and welfare.

At the same time, I watched friends and mentors get sick, and either die due to HIV/AIDS or watch them navigate the side effects of long-term medical care, including forms of chemotherapy and medications they would have to take for the rest of their lives so their own bodies won’t kill them.

COVID is not the first pandemic I lived through. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen people ignore science, deny reality and flaunt the simple measures it takes for people to keep themselves, and others, safe.

I buried friends and mentors who died far earlier than they should. Often their families would not even be at the funerals or memorials. I called and wrote to more than my fair share of families to tell them that their child, brother or nephew had died and got responses ranging from “thank you for letting me know” to “good.”

In September 2001, I was working in the head office of the organization I work for, when one morning a murmur went through the office and a huge crowd had gathered outside the CBC building, just standing agape. The computer network ground to a snail’s pace as the news of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center made its way around the world. One of my co-worker’s began calling her fiance as he was working in New York City at the time, and for hours, she was unable to get any phone circuit and connect.

Then came the news that we might have to be evacuated as we were close to the CN Tower, both a tourist site and communications tower. The world stood still as another airplane crashed into the second tower, a third crashed into the Pentagon and another plummeted into a field after passengers stopped another attempt. Thankfully, my co-worker was able to reach her fiance and find out he was safe.

Air traffic across North America was grounded and planes heading for the US were diverted and landed in Canada. I came home and realizing that there would be an influx of people to Hamilton Airport, Larry and I contacted the local Red Cross to let them know we could provide emergency shelter if necessary.

To this day, travelers still have to go through “enhanced” body scans, take of their shoes and belts and carry on items are limited (although that is “security theater” in my honest opinion). That being said, hearing an airplane accelerate overhead or seeing one fly low past a building can still bring some people to pause.

In 2013, an outbreak of a respiratory disease effectively halted activities in Toronto and in other major cities around the world. SARS was causing severe respiratory failure at an alarming rate and people were having to be hospitalized, and many died. It took the city of Toronto months to recover and begin to feel “normal.”

And now…as we well know 2020 and 2021.

Do you get anxious when you see people not being masked? Do you jump when someone coughs around you? Does food not tasting “quite right” make you nervous?

COVID isn’t the first pandemic or the first societal trauma many have lived through. It won’t be the last. What is known is that recovery will take a fair amount of time while vaccines continue to roll out and that a “return to normal” is likely never to happen. But then again, we never really “returned to normal” after 9/11 and the LGBTQ community never really “returned to normal” after the early stages of the AIDS crisis.

It’s all about how you adapt to the changes in yourself and society that is key. What will your “new normal” be?

And when you are triggered, how will you cope?

an open letter

Dear you,

You seem to be wondering how we got to this place. You don’t understand why I walked away after years of friendship.

When you asked me to give you some space and time, I did. I respected your wishes with the words “I understand, if you ever want or need to talk, you know how and where to reach me.”

That’s how it’s always been. You ask for space, I give it, but left “the door cracked open” for you if and when you needed it.

And when you needed it, you were welcomed back – with an open heart and the offer of a safe space, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. There were meals and long conversations in the living room or on the front porch. There is were cups of coffee and tea poured and hours spent talking.

You and your partner were provided with room and shelter on more than one occasion both together and individually.

In our last conversation, it was clear to me that you needed to be left alone and didn’t want conversation. So I did as I usually do and wished you peace and reinforced that I will be around – as friends do.

And then your partner verbally accosted me, accusing me publicly over something meaningless and trivial. I took their grievance privately and the attacks continued, so I walked away. I made the mistake of expressing my frustration over how I was treated to a mutual friend, and when they asked you if something was up, you decided it was your turn to air your grievances.

I responded as I best could, apologizing for expressing my frustration to someone else, but you continued to lash out at me. So I walked away as it was clear that nothing I could say or do would matter.

I apologize still, for misspeaking – however you always have had the benefit of talking to someone who would keep things in confidence, I don’t seem to have that luxury.

However I won’t accept being abused. I won’t accept being treated as a someone or somewhere to go to when convenient or only when things blow up and you need someone to help you pick up the pieces. I won’t accept being a friend only when it’s convenient to you.

That isn’t friendship, and the door is no longer open.

I wish you well. I wish your partner well. I hope you find the stability and happiness that is clearly lacking in your lives. I hope you have a chance to look at what you have and realize that you are loved and truly lucky to have people that care about. Perhaps one day you will eventually find some solace and grace in that.

Not all of us are so lucky.

generation clown

Since last Tuesday, I’ve been involved in an online conference with a community of incredibly creative and fun performers.    Including presenting a lecture on working as a comedic performer during the Christmas season as well as leading a discussion on comedic performance and clowning in social media.  

I also took part in several “coffee talks” about the state of the union for clowning and family entertainment, including discussing the aging demographic that is found within the major organizations and trying to understand the reason why younger members are not seeing the need to join them.

We also had a discussion of social issues, including race, religion and identity in clowning and how the generational divide could be presenting a barrier to entry.  What I witnessed over the past few days hinted at why the younger entertainers might not find the organizations necessary.

I will first indicate the caveat that I have not been a member of any of the major international clown organizations for almost two decades. In the early 2000’s my business model changed and I was focused on different areas, while I kept my “feet wet” in clowning by lecturing, performing and attending different conferences over the past two decades, my needs moved beyond what either of the two organizations were providing at the time.

I will also note that many of the people associated with the Boards of Directors in both organizations back in the early 2000s  ARE STILL THERE.

I will also note that of the 20 people on the Board of Directors, I only regularly witnessed 8 members in attendance throughout the week…most members of the BoD WERE in attendance during the Annual General Meeting, final banquet and the few sessions DIRECTLY related to the organization and it’s operations itself…but many were MIA throughout the rest of the conference…

One has to ask if these are only symptoms?

Just prior to the conference, a young clown published a post on a clown discussion page, asking clowns what they are doing to reflect society’s ever changing values and what they are doing to grow and evolve. This clown has over 30,000 followers on social media and her honest and delicately framed question was met with derision, anger and her being blocked and banned for the sheer temerity of asking clowns to reflect on how they are changing with the times.

Further leaders in the field who have a keen eye on the future of clowning and comedic family entertainment opened up noting an ongoing history of gatekeeping younger clowns who have questioned the long held traditions didactically clung to by the organizations.

Even during the conference itself, there was a brief flurry of postings about appropriate dress for the final banquet. The organizers and the president, noting that only a precious few presenters appeared in clown for the conference, commented that attending in clown would be a fun way to celebrate being clowns. This was echoed by a few other members of the Board of Directors who also commented that it would be the first time they have been in clown for months, if not over a year. However some of the older generation “harrumphed” and stated that the banquet was formal because of tradition. No matter how many times people reminded them that this particular conference was FAR from a traditional conference…

The clowns won out in the long run. People had fun, the organization lives on and the world didn’t end.

However this only highlighted to me that there is a serious problem within the world of organizational clowning that is gatekeeping the younger generations. This is an issue that I have battled since I attended my first convention in 1995. Not everyone is like this, goodness knows I wouldn’t have remained in organizational clowning as long as I did and would not continue to attend conferences. But if they only knew the nastiness, the ego, the self-serving ideologies, and much more that the clowns of my generation and younger have experienced, their heads would spin.

It’s hard enough taking flack from non-clowns given recent movies and pop culture references to Pennywise, John Wayne Gacy and “killer clowns.” It’s even harder getting flack from PEOPLE WITHIN OUR OWN SHARED interest. Telling us that we’re not “real clowns” because our costumes and appearances don’t conform to competition rules and they may deal with more “adult” humor.

Would the same people say that to Avner Eisenberg? To Bill Irwin? To Patch Adams? To Iman Lizarazu?

The younger clowns may not look like what the organizational clowns from the 1980s through to the early 2000s looked like. Their humor may not reflect that either – is “Ring Ring” STILL relevant in an age where everyone carries a communications device in their pocket? But keep in mind that the younger generation HAS studied the history of clowning, including the Minstrel Show roots of modern characters AND acts, combined with commedia dell’arte AND clowning in other, non-European cultures…

Many of these younger clowns were born in an era where most homes had a computer and many homes had internet access. Their life experiences ARE different from those of us in the older generations and the organizations need to understand that.

The information which we originally relied on the organizations and deep dives into libraries is now readily available AND updated online. Not to mention resources from around the world not easily available to North American clowns until recently.

The younger generation IS well versed in the history of clowning, they are incredibly knowledgeable in the traditional skills of clowning, they ARE well versed in what the old traditions were AND trying to bring those traditions that remain relevant today forward and leaving the ones that should remain in the past, firmly in the past.

They also know that the old circus-style “full coverage” makeup designs used to emote to the balconies of hockey arenas and tents large enough to hold three rings are no longer necessary and, yes, perhaps may be off putting to modern sensibilities…even Ringling Brothers clowns were moving to a “softer,” “more human” look before the circus folded.

Part of what I taught in the conference was explaining how the younger generation is taking clowning as an artform to social media and ran a quick class on Zoom, TikTok, Instagram, Twitch and Facebook Live as potential venues for clowning. Many entertainers during the time of COVID restrictions realized that they could still practice and perform by pivoting online and looking at “virtual tip jars” like PayPal Me and Venmo as ways to support their performing activities…I won’t even dive into Patreon here…

One thing that was mentioned throughout the conference was that the online presentation and communications leveled the playing field. People were not able to hang out in their cliques and everyone who wanted to contribute to the open conversations and questions could. During one of the open chats, a member noted that at a past convention, they felt excluded from many groups and conversations because they were new and until someone who was well known and somewhat respected in the organization introduced them, was never made to feel welcome.

What was agreed in this discussion was that this cliquish behavior needs to stop, and people need to be more welcoming at the conventions, particularly to those who are new and – yes – look and act different.

Heck if a queer, middle-aged, tattooed and pierced pagan musician can be accepted at a clown conference…It just shouldn’t take “knowing the right people” and “fitting the mold” to be welcomed.

clowning to afflict the comfortable

So “a group for local and circus clowns and family-style entertainers who want to learn more about the art of clowning, improve their act and be willing to accept suggestions for improvement.” Had a series of conversations started about modern, non-traditional clowning – particularly a younger generation who use the art of clowning to express themselves in regular every day life – trying to start a serious discussion about gate-keeping and rigid definitions of who or what the art is or “should be.”

These conversations have been deleted. Expunged from the group. The person who wrote the first post was expelled from the group because <GASP> her profile has curse words in it.

The posts that followed were also expunged from the group too as several other people posted their support for the original poster, noting that any art form is evolutionary and while certain streams may not be to everyone’s liking, they are ALL VALID. By the way – clowning is NOT limited to children’s entertainment and NOT ALL clowns are “Angels with Red Noses.” I’ll post excerpts of Racine Celeste’s conversation starter here:

Clowncore is an aesthetic movement that is taking the online world by storm, and it takes the traditional look of clowns and ….. well …. clowning THAT too. It is an anti-fashion movement, like punk or goth, and these youngsters are using clowning as an avant-garde way of exploring their identity and self expression, often with little to no theater or clown education.
They represent clowns as gender-non conforming, as mystical magical creature, as trickster gods and gentle, fey-like beings. It feels reminiscent of vaudeville, as comedic slice of life content, balancing humor with grief, comedy and tragedy, where you don’t know what’s coming next, but with amusing and poignant messages tucked in here and there.It’s gorgeous and glorious, and very VERY different from the saccharine look that is represented by this and other clown communities.
They also openly and earnestly discuss the racial history of clowns, and pick apart the comedy used to punch down, BIPOC using these lessons and the image of clowning as a way to reclaim some of the dignity that was lost at their ancestors expense in the pursuit of comedy.
There are so so many young people participating in this culture shift and they LOVE clowns, wholesome or scary, aggressive and gentle.Is there room for young people coming at clowning with an experimental, exploratory, deconstructive eye? Or is clowning a tradition that will reject these new friends because they don’t follow the rules?

The original poster was respectful, challenging and thoughtful, genuinely wishing to generate a discussion. The only word that I could see as being “insulting” was saccharine…

By the way – the image that people were so horrified by, I posted as my Facebook Cover Photo here on February 12. I’ve posted it here because the words in question are actually kind of apropos. I could only imagine what some of the people who were troubled by the word “FUCKERY” would do if they read some of my 2SLGBTQIA+ or pagan/faith based posts…

FYI Racine, aka Sizzle the Clown has an active following of over 30,000 people on TikTok and has received funding to support her career as part of their creators’ fund. Her content is honest, thoughtful and thought-provoking – I highly recommend you follow her so you can have your notions of what clowning can be challenged.

The group’s description further describes. “If you are challenged by anything related to clowning, we hope to have the answers or guide you to an answer to your questions.”

I guess there are certain challenges they are unwilling to accept – challenges to their own perceptions, challenges to their comfort zones, challenges to the status quo. I have left the group because it is clear to me that they are truly not interested in actual discussion as to the future of clowning as an art form.

As I recall the group was originally formed as a reaction to the level of “gatekeeping” that the traditional clown organizations in North America represented. These groups are constantly commenting on their struggles to maintain registrations as their membership ages out and retires and they are struggling to attract younger members, particularly in a world where information about the art form is regularly available online. This group was formed as an effort to break the mold and shake the foundations of organizational clowning.

Lee Andrews, director of American Clown Academy wrote “Organizational clowning is dying from the inside out and it’s not going to be saved by the old generation. It’s going to be saved by the younger blood, new ideas, and fresh outlooks that so many are afraid of. Tradition is key, but it doesn’t mean tradition has to look the same or be done the same. Tradition isn’t a look or performance, tradition is the heart!” It seems that yet another group has fallen prey to dogmatic thinking and ignoring if not outright vilifying a different outlook and alienating the younger generation.

The clown organizations, old and new, all seem to cling to a dogmatic view of what clowning is and should be. They have appointed themselves as arbiters and gatekeepers of what clowning should represent and who is and can be a clown. This dogmatic approach is precisely why these groups are fading, much like another area of organized thought based in dogma, that’s struggling to attract new adherents and members. People who approach things from outside that group’s particular dogmatic approach are attacked, silenced, ignored and eventually cast out or ostracized.

Finley Peter Dunne famously stated: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

I believe the role of any artist – including the clown – is to do the same…

fear and loathing in the gay community

Recently the last dating site that I belonged to began noticing a problem of white supremacist behaviours amongst some of its members and decided to provide a “ribbon” for people who support Black Lives Matter to display on their profiles.

My profile has been static for a while, I kept getting paired with the same six local guys and I’m not going to post thirst trap photos to attract guys from other countries to hit me up for money or a Canadian Visa.

So any contact beyond friends who I regularly chat with has been… shall we say… limited…

Well I post the BLM logo on my profile and my messages blew up – most notably from guys who I figured I’d never have a chance with. Or the kind of guys I’d admire from afar – as I would admire a fine work of art – I’m kind of an old fashioned guy who would like a committed relationship based out of mutual connection, shared interests and friendship…

Turns out, they’d never have a chance with me. Telling me to “think about what I’m posting” or “to do your research, you’re clearly not educated enough to think for yourself” and “how I could support “people like that”?”

After posting that I supported Black Lives Matter, I was able to block over 35 guys whose only contact with me ranged from condescension because I was too stupid and naïve to think for myself to outright virulent racism.

Looks like the trash took itself out.

As someone who struggled when I first came out – because of my weight and poor self-image – I understood the gay community had issues with accepting people who didn’t fit the perceived “standards.” I didn’t fit in to much of the community in Toronto and only felt comfortable and welcomed in one bar.

I also know that the gay community has deep issues rooted in misogyny – particularly in the acceptance of trans and non-binary individuals who identify as male.

Despite knowing all of this, the level of racism and white supremacy the act of acknowledging and trying to uplift and support Black voices in the community raised was honestly horrifying to me.

kitchen comeuppance

I wish to applaud the women and men who came forward in the investigation of a toxically abusive chef and restaurateur here in Hamilton! It seems far too many of the chef bros in Hamilton took Kitchen Confidential as an instruction and lifestyle guide, instead of a warning.

What many of these tattooed, bandanna wearing frat boys have missed out on, was that the events described and embellished upon by a known fiction author occurred 40 years ago, and the author even later apologized for glamorizing what happened.

What these chefs have missed is the fact that many of the people described in Kitchen Confidential already had criminal records and were unable to get work elsewhere. And likely if they didn’t have criminal records when they started in the kitchens they definitely did when their bodies gave out.

They also missed out on the overdoses, the suicides, the arrests, the heart attacks caused by cocaine and hard living, not to mention the psychic scars left on themselves, the people around them and their co-workers. Sadly they tend to find out because they made the dumbass mistake of pulling this same kind of “outlaw rock star pirate chef” bullshit 40 years later.

They ignore the fact that serial predators like Mario Batali got caught and are now paying the ultimate price for their actions. They ignore the fact that people like Matty Matheson had a heart attack and nearly died during service – even his coke dealers would not supply him anymore because he was too out of control, toxic and was literally a ticking time bomb.

They ignore the fact that in his later book, Medium Raw, the author of Kitchen Confidential focused on how out of control and miserable his life had become, leaving a destroyed marriage, empty bank accounts and a shattered body and psyche in its wake.

Those are the parts of the story they all conveniently missed out on. Perhaps conveniently skipping over parts while they read Kitchen Confidential, masturbated, got tattoos, shot heroin and snorted coke.

That eventually there would be a reckoning. Maybe they’d get arrested, maybe they’d die from the excesses, maybe they’d get their wings clipped and no longer be the cause celebre/enfant terrible they once were.

Toronto has Greg Couillard and Marc Thuet, both of whom are mere shadows of their former selves. Vancouver had Anthony Sedlak, who died of an overdose soon after filming a segment for You Gotta Eat Here, which highlighted how scarily out of control his behaviour had gotten.

Either way they’ll be remembered as a sad relic of the past. Or as an example or object lesson. Whatever happens, they will eventually pay for the damage they caused and the people who they fucked over in their wake will hopefully still be there to collect.

A big thank you to Susan Clairmont for investigating and collaborating the victims’ stories with witness accounts. Equally damning that a number of the victims didn’t report outright physical and sexual assault to Hamilton Police because of the view that HPS can’t be trusted to treat victims fairly and undergo a fair and unbiased investigation.

The HPS issue is troubling and sadly the victims of sexual assault are not the only community members who feel uncomfortable reporting crimes to the police due to being treated unfairly, revictimized or worse.

Both of these issues, the toxic and abusive culture in the food industry and the toxic, abusive and adversarial relationship the police have with the public and victims of crime HAS TO CHANGE in Hamilton.

combat not collaboration

Dear you,

I’ve watched you over the years, especially in your recent posts on social media.
You act like you are playing both sides, however it is quite clear to all who see you whose side you’re actually on.

Especially those of us who did the heavy lifting through the years we fought for the right to exist as human beings and not a medical diagnosis or psychological disorder. Those of us who fought for equality and to have our right to exist recognized legally.

I suspect you’re the type who feels that now because you can exist as a “nice gay,” that the battle is over for you. Aided by your lack of melanation, your male gender and your traditional Christian family values. You got the right to marry your partner and you have a comfortable existence with your job, your house and 2 cars, you can even adopt a child if you wanted to. There is nothing for you to fight for, right?

I suspect you’re the kind of person who would vote Conservative or Republican because you’re more interested in protecting the status quo and your financial security over ensuring that other people have the same access to equality as you.
Those other folks just need to be quiet and polite and things will work out okay for them! Right? WRONG!

Your constant admonitions to community activists to be quiet and respectful indicate that you haven’t understood why you have the rights that were won for you. I suspect between your conservative political stances, your conservative religious values and your fiscal and financial conservatism, you actually were not present for much of the fight. I suspect you were comfortably ensconced deep in the depths of your Brooks Brothers suit filled closet, but popped out when all the dirty work and heavy lifting was done.

We didn’t get where we are by asking nicely. We didn’t get where we are by being polite. We lost a huge swath of at least two generations due to a disease which killed millions. We had to battle to even get this disease recognized as the public health crisis it was. We fought battles in courts, in legislatures, in laboratories and yes, in the streets. Just so you and I did not face being imprisoned, having electroconvulsive therapy or worse because of who we love.

By the way – “those other folks” – the lesbians, the trans communities, the drag queens, the BIPOC queers and the leathermen and womyn were the people who led the fucking fight. You know the ones that you just wish would be a little less outrageous, a lot more polite and acted respectfully…

We didn’t get where we are by collaborating. We got where we are by engaging in a decades long combat with a system stacked against us. Being loud was what made our fight public. Being loud was what made our fight political. Being loud was how we got the comfort you are currently enjoying.

I will continue to raise my voice. I will continue to fight so that others can have it too.

managing expectations

As decorating the Christmas tree is often a trip down memory lane for me, I’ve learned to take it easy on myself and allow myself time to process the emotions that arise as I revisit my past through the things with which I adorn my tree.

This year struck me as slightly different, as I pulled out the one ornament that usually triggers a strong emotional reaction.  The Christmas ornament depicting a large polar bear holding a smaller, seemingly younger, polar bear as if protecting them. This is the ornament that Larry gave me for the last Christmas we had together. He was working as Santa at the Toronto Eaton center, and one of the stores had this tournament, which he had personalized. Ironically it’s the only personalized ornament we had – I sometimes wonder if he knew it would be our last.

Over the past eight years I struggled with the decision to put this tournament on my tree.  This year there really was no struggle and it graces a spot of honor on the front of my tree, where I can see it if I look carefully enough for it.

At the same time, I’m struggling with the fact that this will be holiday season number seven, observed as a widower. Even more so I will be alone, for the most part, due to COVID-19. Especially telling as I would normally be very busy singing at various churches, performing holiday gigs. I won’t even have an Advent Carol and Lessons or Christmas Eve services to sing at this year.

Heck this past weekend would’ve been my annual “No Coal in Your Stocking” concert – Another decision I struggled with this year as to whether I could make it work online, as bringing in 20 to 30 musicians, hoping an audience would stay and donate to the musicians would be a near impossible task.

Meanwhile, many of my friends are celebrating newfound love, newfound family, new homes and new beginnings.  I rejoice for this!

But at the same point, here I am, living alone with a senior dog, worried about my mother who is recovering from cancer.  Working in a job that when it goes well, I feel like I’ve helped someone and achieved something, however most of the time due to COVID-19 I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels.  It’s hard not to feel stuck in a rut.  It’s hard not to feel lonely.

It’s hard not to get depressed.

I could note that certain things are affecting me harder this year, particularly my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Those gray rainy days we had a few weeks ago were very tough on me and I had to kick and scream in order to get my good full spectrum lamp out of my office at work. I could note that certain things that I didn’t expect to hit me as hard, such as purging my house and decorating my Christmas tree, hit me far harder than anticipated.  I could note that I am so touch starved for the last time I was hugged, it actually hurt and confused me more than it gave me comfort and peace.

This is where managing expectations has become a key factor in my life. This is where managing expectations has become a survival technique for me. I count myself lucky to have survived December 2013 and December 2014, as in both years, I was quite depressed and barely functioning as a human being. I’m quite sure I can stare down the barrel of Christmas 2020 as I’m definitely nowhere near the rock bottom I hit after my husband and father died. But at the same time I’m being cautious and carefully watching where my heart and brain are taking me.

I’ve accepted that I will be working from home for the foreseeable future and I’m okay with that. I am enjoying not having to commute into Toronto every day and also am enjoying the ability to spend time with Chloe and the improved work life balance I have seen. I’ve accepted that I won’t be able to see my American friends and family in person for the foreseeable future. Until BOTH our countries get COVID-19 under control, I don’t expect the border to reopen and honestly, I won’t feel comfortable travelling until things start “turning the corner.”

I’ve accepted that while I live in a house that is, ostensibly, too big for one person, the nature of my existence is not currently compatible with that of apartment or condominium living. As I am working from home and actively isolating myself to be able to be in contact with loved ones, I need a variety of spaces to live and work from and the house is providing me with this. As I continue to “right size” my existence and rid myself of objects that are cluttering up my home, I am more comfortable in keeping the house and am beginning to see its potential. Perhaps when I retire from the day job, I can revisit plans to move and downsize – but right now…it’s just not in the cards.

I’ve accepted that my outlet for artistic expression has necessarily had to pivot and that shifting the focus off my music and back to my clowning needed to happen in order to maintain my ability to express myself. To be honest, sometimes I feel best when I have painted on that smile <insert hackneyed crying on the inside stereotype here> but it does help to bring joy and laughter to the world. I’d like to think extending some positivity and love out to a world that is struggling with division and serious anger management issues can help.

I’ve accepted that Chloe is a 15 year old dog who is showing the signs of her age. I’ve accepted that her time in my life is drawing down but I will enjoy her company and loving companionship as long as I can.

I’ve accepted that I will likely be going it alone for the foreseeable future, I often joke that since COVID-19 hit, I’ve accepted my role as a hermetic monk living in East Hamilton. Dating as a widower in my 40’s has been enlightening and horrifying at the same time. Under COVID-19, it just ain’t going to happen and that has honestly removed a lot of anxiety from my life. I’ve accepted that the feelings of loneliness will occur but they will pass. I’ve accepted that if I’m destined to share my life once more with someone, it will happen in due course.

I’ve accepted that 2020 has turned out to be a year unlike any other and that no one anticipated the shit show it has become. I’ve accepted that the only thing I have full control over in any situation is how I react and respond to it and the choices I make in responding to any circumstance will have an impact as to how the year continues to progress for me.

I’ve accepted that despite all I have accepted, that I will still continue to be tested and that, yes, I am struggling with things and that yes, I just might have to ask for help along the way – as I have – a lot – recently. This is all part and parcel of managing expectations to survive a brutal year.

Blessed Be. Dona nobis pacem.