Looking For Light In The Darkness

The World can be a dark place, that’s for sure. Each time you turn on the TV, open Twitter or Facebook, check your Instagram posts, or even listen to your podcasts, there is always some note of darkness. This Administration is trying the damndest to roll back everything they can about protection status for our LGBTQ community. We need to break up that monotony with any ray of positivity we can. It is something I have been struggling with, as well.

CorinneKai
photo courtesy of sexualfreedom.org

Body positive and sex positive messages are so very necessary. Learning to love who you are unconditionally is key in being able to extend that love to others. Some have been fortunate enough to have our families bring them up in that kind of environment, but the majority of us have had to try to learn that where we can or if we can. I love looking for those kinds of people who promote that kind of message. Enter Corinne Kai, a sex educator and writer. Kai looks as the world through the lens of a pleasure activist and femme of center queer human. You can visit Kai’s Insta here where you will be treated with an array of beautifully shot images that are somewhere on the scale of feminine and LGBTQ. You can also find Kai on the “Femme, Collectively” podcast, here you can check out all their topics on gender intersection, sexuality, and healing. Be sure to check them out, their images are beautifully shot and guaranteed to get you to want to start changing your perception of your own inner beauty.

We all know that underwear can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves. A cute pair that is accentuates our curves in all the right places can make us feel like we are the sexiest person the planet. If this is you then Pyramid Seven Underwear is for you. Click their name to be taken to their Insta account. Pyramid Seven Underwear showcase that they “have underwear for everybody and EVERY body.” On their page you will be treated to fashion magazine quality images of all body and gender identity types. Their high quality fabric and array of color can definitely help give you a different perspective on body positivity.And I love supporting companies who support our community.

 

Being body and sex positive is important for our general and psychological health and unfortunately many parents aren’t equipped to teach their children about issues they, themselves, haven’t been taught to deal with. Are you a parent, know a new parent, or just want to help educate yourself in the possibility that you may be a parent then you need to check out Sex Positive Families . Sex Positive Families’ main goes is to “raise sexually healthy children one talk at a time.” This means discussing topics like consent and teach them in basic everyday ways of engaging with people. They also discuss some of the harder topics in new ways to make it easier for parents and children. Their belief is that shaping your child early will help them not have the issues we are today.

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Early and ongoing talks about sexual health can be powerful normalizers of a child’s experiences with their changing body, feelings, interactions with others and messages from the world around them. Parents and caregivers can wonder how much info is too much or when is the “right” time. Consider being proactive as a way to ensure a child receives the knowledge and safe space that helps them make informed choices from a place of awareness and not fear. . ⬆️Now available for download is our age-by-age guide with strategies for raising sexually healthy children from birth to beyond. Follow the bio link to snag your copy and start the talks that support the sexual health of a child in your world.

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Looking for culturally inclusive, sex positive, and an empowering LGBTQ group, the @altapride is for you. This is also one of the few blog out there that showcase gay and bi black men. They also cover a wide range of topics like HIV prevention and treatment, transgender issues, and anti-bullying. Scroll through and check out the insanely hot pics and gain some knowledge while your there. You won’t be let down.

Lastly, and certainly not least is Ruby Allegra. Ruby is a voice for an overlooked and marginalized community, LGBTQ people with disabilities. The media caters to a specific body type for all gender identities and Ruby becomes the advocate for those that don’t fit these molds. Ruby uses social media as a means of advocacy for those with both identities. Check out Ruby Allegra’s Insta here (https://www.instagram.com/rvbyallegra/?utm_source=ig_embed)

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I’m so excited and nervous to share that I will be performing as feature poet for @drawyourswordspoetry on December 6! There will be music from @effie.mp3 and some amazing talented folk in the open mic part of the evening! If you wanna come check it out, share some poetry or just hang with good people, it’ll be at @chateauapollo, doors at 7pm, $10 entry. This venue is accessible! 💗💙 Photo by @pamo.boutros . . . [Image descriptions: first image features Ruby sitting in their wheelchair in front of rows of desks and shelves in a library. Ruby is laughing with their hand partially covering their face, and they are wearing a pink tshirt under blue and white striped overalls. The second image is a promotional poster for Draw Your Swords, featuring a continuous line drawing of Ruby with a mint coloured background. On the left hand side is text reading “Draw your (S)Words: a night of spoken word. Chateau Apollo, 6 December, doors at 7, $10 entry. Featuring: Ruby Allegra (poetry), Effie (music).”]

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Changing perceptions isn’t easy but the first steps have to happen with us. Surrounding ourselves with more positive images helps us create a mindset that is conducive for loving ourselves for who we are at our core. When we do, we show that to the world and will accept nothing less from others. Start small and just learn to be at peace with who you are. If you find or have blogs or people you follow that offer you that needed body and sexy positive ideal, please share below in my comment section.

 

 

It Puts The Lotion On It’s Skin…

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Bear with me, as this will be a long road…

I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite, albeit chilling, movies, Silence of the Lambs. In it, the villain, James Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill, battles with the issue of seeing himself differently than the rest of the world does. He spends the majority of the movie stalking and killing overweight women in the attempts to make his one “woman suit.” He did this to change his outward appearance to align with how he saw himself internally. The point I am making is that most of us feel uncomfortable in our own skins, at some point. We spend our lives trying to change it in varying ways, good and bad. Society perpetuates the myth of what a person should look, feel, or be and then turns around and tells us that we should comfortable with who and what we are.

This is a hard post to write, how can I sit here and tell you to be positive about yourself when I, myself, and not very positive about my body. I do feel that every soul is beautiful in it’s own way and that each body is beautiful. That is great and all, but that doesn’t speak to those that feel as if they were born in the wrong body. It wouldn’t be fair of me to speak about the transgender issues of it, not being transgender. So, primarily I will be focusing about body issues We have seen an increase in body positivity promotion for women, more plus sized models are entering the industry. Clothing lines are realizing that women of all sizes buy their merchandise. These are all good step, even if they are small steps. Body positivity with men has also started being pushed forward. I can say that I feel this is sometimes underserved, but often times media focusing on men first.

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Being a larger gay male, I am reminded daily how body image is thrust into our faces. The ideal gay male is perceived as lean to muscular, young, fair-haired, perfect teeth, abs for the gods, and cake for days. Realistically, that is probably closer to 1% of the gay male population. Most days I wake up with an ok feeling about my body even able to lapse into a few moments of not feeling repulsive. I also am somewhat of an opportunistic nudist, what that means is few people know that side of me and I only take advantage of it when I know that no one is around or possibly would drop in on me. Recently, on a hot, humid summer day, I sent the better art of the day sans clothing. I have to admit; it is always a bit freeing when you can remove the restricted confines of clothing. I went about my cleaning chores, listening to music, and even lounging watching TV and just enjoying not wearing clothes.

That was all fine and great until I happen to be in the bathroom sweeping and catch a side glance in the mirror of myself. Then my mind starts working and all I see is the negatives. I want to hide and swaddle myself in some draping fabric that hides everything that I do not like, I romanticize about my younger days and that I was smaller than I am now, which isn’t entirely truth. I also look at myself and think how much weight I have gained in the last two years, until I look back on pictures from then and realize that it hasn’t been that much. This only makes me feel worse. Why isn’t it that I can’t look at myself with love and acceptance?

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We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards that change every decade. From the late 1890s to the modern era, body image of men and women have went up and down. From curvy being desirable, thin and trim, taking its place, back to curvy, and only to be replaced with waif like images for women and absurd body proportions for men. This leads to fad dieting and surgery to try to correct these changing patterns, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the mental health issues this can cause. I could sit here saying that we all should get over it and just accept ourselves as we are and love our bodies, but that wouldn’t be truthful.  Logically, I agree with it, though.

Each of bodies is beautiful and unique in their own way. They are amazing creations that should be celebrated and worshipped. But we don’t get that luxury because daily we are beat down with what others perceive we should look like. It isn’t us that need to change; it is the minds of others that need to change. They need to understand that we are beautiful. They should be working with us in that acceptance and celebration. It is they that should learn the love of who we are and instead of telling us we aren’t good enough.

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Since it is others that have forced this ill-conceived mindset of beauty, it is also up to them to change how they view the world. Granted, that is as much a hard sell as it is to say that we should ignore what other people think of us and love ourselves. We also have to realize that this ideal of perfection isn’t something that is completely attainable. I say we, when in fact I am also trying to make myself realize that very thing. I am 45, my body doesn’t bounce back that way it did when I was 15 or even 25. I can go through the regiments that many Hollywood stars do to make themselves appear more youthful and slim, but those also can be just as dangerous for the body. I know there are more important changes I need to make than whether I wear a size 30 in jeans or a medium shirt.

Things that have helped me in my acceptance are being nude more often. Sitting or standing in front of a mirror and just trying to look at myself without the lens of judgment, without saying or thinking anything It’s hard, some of the hardest thing you may ever do. The first few minutes are always us given ourselves scathing looks of judgment and scrutinizing what we see for the flaws we think we have. Focusing on something that stands out to us because we notice it every day. It is hard to shut your mind off and just take in what you see without judgment. I know that trying to quiet my mind and just be is VERY difficult. There are many things, physically, that I am self conscious over.

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American isn’t exactly the land of body acceptance either. The majority still passes judgment on those who frequent naturist resorts. They are perceived as perverts and as a den of sexual deviance. We are taught not to see the pulchritude of the naked body and to judge anyone who prefers to not be clothed. I’m not suggesting that you run out and join a nudist colony to help, because they can be just as bad. You can see ads of them promoting body positivity, but the people in the ads don’t reflect everyone, while often times their memberships are closer to the reality of life. They show beautiful late 20s to early 40s nude people with lean physiques, but you often hear members complain that the average nudist is 50+ and not the perfect body. We as the, general public, wouldn’t ever get to see that as we would probably not sign up because we don’t match the advertisements of the resorts.

How do we learn to be less harmful to ourselves? It is hard with how society reflects on beauty and attraction. There are not shortcuts to get there and I can’t tell you how to be more accepting of yourself, hell I cannot be more accepting of myself. But each day I try to love myself a little more I try to look beyond the things I cannot change and hold myself to my standards and not those imposed upon me. I fail, A LOT, but I pick myself up and try to carry on another day, another battle won no matter how small. My only hope is that you do the same.

 

“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

–Excerpt for “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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Are You Thankful?

The holiday season is upon us and for me one of my more favorites of them is Thanksgiving. That being said, in a moment we will also discuss why I very much dislike this holiday. This is the one holiday where friends and family come together to share a meal. A time to take stock of what has transpired and what is to come. It is an invented holiday, but one that has some pretty awesome food to eat. So, bear with me while I share a bit with you.

As I mentioned, this is my favorite holiday and it is primarily due to the sharing of good food. Sitting down with those that are important in your life and partaking of food is an amazing experience. It gives you time to share your lives, appreciate the finer nuances of life, and slow down to appreciate the small details of a thing. One can argue about Christmas and the veritable boundless days of feasting, but it is also caught up too much in commercialism. Children are even taught to appreciate receiving gifts more than enjoying the closeness of the season. But that is not the point of this article.

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Thanksgiving was always a “family” holiday in my family. We would go to the various grandparents’ houses where each person usually brought some side dish or dessert with them.  It was a time to go to my Meemaw’s house and it was looked forward too because we knew the food was going to be amazing. And we would get to watch the parades on TV. Meemaw or her sister Recie would cook the turkey till it was just dripping with juices and surrounding it was their version of dressing. Never did they stuff the bird. The dressing was savory with bits of raisins and apples to give it just a touch of sweetness. She was also famous for her corn pudding. I still have her recipe, but never have I been able to make the consistency or taste she could whip up.

Recie was famous for her biscuits. She did small batches at a time and always cooked them in pie tins. Their kitchen had a woodstove that she always seemed to precisely know the temperature of. They would come out of the over, perfectly golden brown and seven at a time. Piping hot with a pat of butter and a slice of tomato and it was utter perfection. For anyone from European countries reading this and wondering why we made biscuits in pie tins, an American biscuit is more akin to a scone. However, we make them savory as opposed to sweet. Recie was also known, at least for me, for her green beans. Whether it be Blue Lakes, Half Runners, or snap beans they were also delicious. They would cook for hours with fatback, which gave them the perfect flavor. Sunday dinners and holidays, I always knew I could count on green beans and biscuits.

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My mother always made amazing sweet potato casserole, if you ask me, no one can cook sweet potatoes like southern cooks. My mother was the baker for holidays. Friends and family alike sought the confections she could put together out. There were a few she made during the holidays that I always waited for and I think my all time favorite was her Applesauce cake. When I went to college, it wasn’t often that I could afford to come home for Thanksgiving and my mother made it a little better with that holiday care package that had an Applesauce cake in it. This thing can literally last weeks. Every bite would transport me to my youth sitting around Meemaw’s kitchen table, eating dinner with the family.

Each of those women is responsible for me being able to cook today and I try to honor their memory by cooking dishes they did. Sometimes I am close and a great many others, I am simply left remembering amazing memories from my youth. Now that I live in the Cleveland area, I try to at least make one of the many dishes for my friends. More often than not it is the dressing and corn pudding. I have to admit, they are probably the hardest to pass up this time of year and sharing my family with them is pretty awesome, as well.

Thanksgiving is a created holiday, like I said. The actual idea and name came much later than the story that we were told in elementary school. We all remember it, how the cultured Pilgrims who came here to escape religious persecution invited the native savages to break bread in an act of friendship and solidarity and beginning of peaceful coexistence. Well just about all of it is a sham. First off, there was no last peace, as you can remember from history class. But specifically to that “famed” day, what he is taught is pretty different in every way from the truth. Pilgrims, themselves, were already outcasts. They wanted to overthrow the English government so they could practice their own beliefs. They left and came to this land as they outcasts they because and still thinking they were the “chosen ones.” This land was to be there “Holy Kingdom.” They waged war against anyone who didn’t agree with their purification interpretation of scripture. Even not opposed to using tactics like torture, war, and lies to achieve that end. They saw the native people as their divine right to make in their image.

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The Wampanoag were not the friendly tree hugging people that our history books make them out to be. They spent most of their time fighting for their lands and lives against the League of the Delaware or what would later be called the Iroquois Confederacy. They also had many meetings with white fisherman and slavers. Our “Indian hero” of the story, Squanto, had a very real love with a British explorer John Weymouth and he considered him a father. This all happened several years before the Pilgrims landed. Squanto was also the only educated and baptized Christians and as such, the Pilgrims saw him as a divine instrument they could use in converting the rest of his people.

At this point the native people held a much stronger advantage in the situation. They were familiar with the territory, knew how to plant crops that would grow in the soils there, where to hunt, and were much more stronger force than the few Pilgrims. In hopes of holding out for the greater force arriving in the next year, the Pilgrims tried to forge a peace with the Wampanoag. They called for a meeting with the motive of securing lands for the Pilgrim Plantation, under the guise of peace. The Wampanoag were people believed to never turn away people who asked for help with an outstretched hand probably brought most of the actual feast for this meeting.

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It was probably almost a generation later when the balance of power shifted and the King Philip’s War started and the very children of that feast were sat upon killing one another. This war decimated most of the New England natives and left them dead, refugees to Canada, or sold into slavery in the Carolinas. At this time the Puritans/Pilgrims had become fairly successful in the slave trade of native people. Not the peace loving, seeking our place to worship without fear of persecution types we were lead to believe in our school education.

There my kiddies, is a brief explanation of why I both love and dislike this holiday. What I hold onto is the sharing with family, a time to remember all past events that have gotten us to where we are now and be thankful for them. A time to look ahead and share in the very earthly delights of food and spirits. It’s the focus of small things that truly make living an ultimate experience. So slow down this holiday and eat, drink, and be merry. Enjoy the company and how it pairs with the amazing food you are eating.

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Through The Looking Glass

A wise Jedi once said, “Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to Suffering.” Fear causes all kinds of dilemmas and as LGBTQ people; it is an emotion that we learn at a very early age. Being found out for who we are causes an intense amount of fear and we typically push that down deep inside to hide it so we aren’t seen as any more weak than people already perceive us.  This suppression leads to internalizing our fear and hatred of being judge and oftentimes ends up manifesting in our relationships as adults. How can we change that from happening?

This fear leads to hiding ourselves from fear of reprisal. Afraid of being judged, loss of the love from our loved ones, and loss of family. We create a protective bubble around us to shield us from being judged or seen for who we are. This can lead to trauma to ourselves both spiritually and mentally. This disconnect carries on into our lives and who we interact with. We tell ourselves that this learned response is a means to get past the “this is just a phase” of who we are inside. This is especially true in the older generation and the lives they lived.

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In gay men, this often led to getting married and having a family, simply to hide the fact that we may have had feeling for other men. Any furtive encounters we may have had, we would never mention the words of love or talk of feelings. It was a quick convenience of physical pleasure to hold us until we could get back to our “real lives.” If we actually were in a position to start a relationship with a man, often times we would still not discuss love or our futures together. It is hard coming out to those in your life, which is why so many do not come out. Only being open about who they are when they are around other LGBTQ people.

Saying things like “I don’t need to wear rainbows and dance on Pride Parade floats to be gay.” “Just because I am gay doesn’t mean I am some raving, screaming Queen.” These kind of statements come from the internalized fear we all adopt for not being able to be our authentic selves. We adopt the negative stigmas and stereotypes that others judge us by as a means to judge our own selves by. Thereby perpetuating self-hatred and misery.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Now before you take this the wrong way, let me clarify. No you should not judged by just by your sexuality, it is a very essential part of who you are, but it is not the only part. But you must accept who you are at the very core. This goes for gender identity as well as sexuality. Accepting yourself is always the first step; you cannot expect others to do so if you do not. You have to stop lying to yourself and others if you ever hope to be your true authentic self.

Scott Tsui, author of the article Authenticity: How To Be Real has a starting list of 5 Ways of Being Authentic With Yourself:

  1. Accept your true self and treat others with respect.
  2. Remain consistent with your core values. Match words with your behavior
  3. Embrace your true identity: accept who you are and be proud. Internalized homophobia and saying, “I’m gay,” can be difficult. Acknowledge it, find a way to heal and enable yourself to move forward.
  4. Because of the stress and internal battles, addictions and compulsiveness may result. Take courage and admit you need help.
  5. Be honest about your HIV status.

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Give up on the negative connotations that surround your sexuality. Focus on who you want to be and what you want out of life. I get it, there are a lot of stressors in the real world, familial obligations, living up to standards set on you by the media, your own feelings of self-doubt, and imperfections. But you deserve to feel pride and fulfillment in yourself, Work to give up those things, as they do not pertain to you. We aren’t perfect and we need to understand there is no other option than to live as who we are meant to be. I am not trying to sound preachy here, but life is worth more than constantly not being happy and lying to ourselves.

Scott Tsui also mentions some traps of not being authentic with others:

  1. Recognize story telling. Whether it’s an outright lie or exaggeration, pretending or falsifying creates living a lie and distortion of reality.
  2. There may be an incapacity to express inner emotions due to traumatic past experiences. This could be based around a lack of trust and/or an inability to verbalize true feelings, which can evolve into frustration or retreating within one’s self.
  3. Another trap is the inability to build intimacy, such as having fear of being seen as imperfect or getting emotionally hurt.
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There are plenty of thoughtless people out there who simply lie to get what they want out of you and life. Those are the ones we need to be aware of and if in a relationship with, get out of. It is sad that lack of courage, support, and confidence can lead us to using lies as a shield of protection. We see it as a strength to deflect the blows from a cruel world without realizing it becomes a crutch for us to get by on. Unfortunately, this usually ends up with being caught in a web of lies and ones that we often cannot see the truth through. From here it leads to more loneliness and anger.

Our own personal suffering always starts from fear. Fear of being who we are leads us to hiding our true selves away. This fear leads to anger for being different which leads to hating that we are different and wanting to change. That hatred leads to our own suffering and the suffering we cause others by the lies we have told. There are not quick roads to acceptance, it’s a long process of tearing down the webs we have spun and can be a struggle to change all that has transpired from the fear we first felt. But all journeys start with one small step. Isn’t it time that you take it?