#MondayBlogs: Thoughts about our individual responsibility: of ducks and #Brexit #amwriting

#MondayBlogs: Thoughts about our individual responsibility: of ducks and #Brexit #amwriting

Individual responsibility: we may not even be aware how we influence others

It is of individual responsibility I wish to speak today. I know, as a liberal (in the classic sense of the word, not the crude American version thereof), I highly value individualism, and I’ve always fought for our right, as humans, as individuals, to assert ourselves, to live our lives any way we want (within the bounds of Kennedy’s famous boundary “the right to swing your fist ends where your neighbor’s nose begins”).

However, within the context of society, individualism doesn’t always work, or – at worst – has serious repercussions on others. Allow me two examples of this, from a broad societal point of view, the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, and from a very personal point of view, my son.

Responsibility on the state or government level

A Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East. One of the reasons we're in the mess we are. No, it's not all England's fault, but as the major global power of the era, England carries a big responsibility, and unlike Germany, refuse to axle it. Image: Mideast Cartoon History

A Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East. One of the reasons we’re in the mess we are. No, it’s not all England’s fault, but as the major global power of the era, England carries a big responsibility, and unlike Germany, refuse to axle it. Image: Mideast Cartoon History

I’ll begin with the UK. The decision, made by a rural majority in England has left the Scots reeling, it threatens to upend the very fragile peace in Northern Ireland (just imagine the Catholics in the North being cut off by a closed border from the Republic…), and – even more so, the havoc the decision’s been wreaking on Europe and the rest of the world. My son’s and our savings have lost in value due to the losses on the stock exchanges, my upcoming trip to the UK will be cheaper, but to offset that, my trips to Switzerland and the U.S. will be more expensive, as the Swedish Krona, fell almost as sharply as the Sterling. That’s just the beginning. Nobody knows what the long-term consequences of the so called Brexit will be, if it will happen at all (seems more than one politician is back-pedaling already).

So how could this happened? We could go back a long time, but allow me to just take a quick look at the imperial past of the English, and the meddling in the Middle East. Their very empire building, their very drawing up of maps that for one thing left the Kurds without a nation to call their own, and paid no attention to ancient tribal borders, created the very fertile ground on which dictators and crushed dreams grew for a century. That the same English now wish to leave the EU because they don’t wish to make space for the refugees they helped create a century ago is a prime example of how our actions, as individuals and states, sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a long time after.

But the English (and I specifically don’t use the word “British”, as I don’t believe that term is applicable here, since the Irish and the Scots clearly feel differently about all this, not to mention the fact they were once conquered and forced into submission by the very English that drape themselves as British…) haven’t stopped to be different. How often – when we lived in England – did we hear them speak of “Europe” as if it were some foreign land, and have you forgotten Margaret Thatcher’s handbag thumping to get a one billion Euro discount in the eighties? Again and again have English politicians emphasized their “differentness”, sometimes more subtly, sometimes not so much. David Cameron’s recent “re-negotiation” is just another example of the English feeling they deserve to be treated differently. Imagine Germany trying to get a discount on their EU contributions… Yeah. See?

Irresponsible politicians

Why didn't Nigel Farage speak up when "others" spread the £350M lie? Was it because it suited him, secretly?

Why didn’t Nigel Farage speak up when “others” spread the £350M lie? Was it because it suited him, secretly? Or why didn’t he step down as UKIP chair as promised? Lying comes so easily to politicians, despite the huge consequences their words carry.

There are also individual contributions here, from the reactions of say Boris Johnson, who’s been hiding since the results were made public and who suddenly has no hurry whatsoever to implement §50. How come? Or Nigel Farage who know for weeks that the £350 M a week for the NHS was a lie, but never spoke up. Not until the day after! How convenient. Yes, politicians are all liars, and sadly they do not have our (i.e. the citizens) best interests at heart, no matter what they say. Mr. Johnson dreams of the keys to No 10 Downing Street, and Mr Farage, who once threatened to leave the helm of this fascistoid UKIP, well… We know since the last elections what his word is worth: nil. Yet people continue to fall for their sweet talk, their lies. I think the most stunning example of pulling wool over people’s eyes was the claim by some that the absence of European workers could be solved by bringing in Asians. Say again? How would that mitigate the migration problem if you replace one foreigner with another, particularly if the replacement has a drastically different cultural background?

In this instance, we see individual responsibilities abandoned, by politicians, business leaders, but also citizens. I’ve read about so many people who regret their decision. Yes, I agree, this is a difficult question to make up your mind on, but so far, less than a week after the vote, if you’re already having second guesses, while everything still is pretty much unchanged, how can you regret your vote? Did you really think a leave vote would change nothing? I’m not even going to start to discuss the fact that one of the most searched queries on Google from the UK (after the vote) was “what is the EU?” Huh? Now you’re wondering? It is ironic that the rural England, where few migrants live and where the EU has little influence in their daily lives, the majority was against. Reminds me of the recent Swiss vote on immigration. There, too, those who weren’t affected by migration voted against it. Individual responsibility on a larger scale, abandoned.

How we influence on an individual level

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa's old bedroom

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa’s old bedroom. Even in toys, societal norms are passed on. One female Lego figure for every seven or eight male.

Yet our actions, as individuals, and our individual responsibility, doesn’t just apply to matters of state, or politics. It is much more subtle than that. Allow me to exemplify: my son takes a weekly bath, to wash his hair (like millions of children around the world) As I was watching him play with his rubber ducks today, I noticed that he was calling them “mommy”, “daddy” and “baby duck” in his game. Apparently, my three year old, who has no mother, already knows the natural state of things. Whether it’s from the dreadful thing “Peppa Pig” he watches on YouTube, or the other parents at his day care, I don’t know, but somehow, he’s already internalized the most common form of family. I decided to test him, and asked him “who’s pappa?” and he immediately pointed to one of the two bigger ducks. He calls my husband “pappa”, Swedish for dad. I followed up with “who’s daddy?” and I saw that for a split-second he was confused, before he smiled and pointed to the other big duck and said “this is daddy”, then pointing to the smaller duck and said “that’s Sascha.” He really cracked me up when he also pointed at the little toy sea-plane and said “this is non.” Non is my dad, Sascha’s granddad.

With our actions, we influence the world, ever so subtly, and depending on our role. We may not even know how or even if. But somehow my son’s already picked up on society’s heteronormativity. His preferred pronoun is “he” (and he struggles with she, despite an all female staff at his preschool), he knows that kids have a mom and a dad, and he knows that pilots are men and that the women in planes “make the coffee”. I’m waiting for the day when he realizes that what comes natural to him, to see my husband and I as his parents, will be questioned, in light of what he sees around him. Sometimes it’s the most subtle influences, the most subtle of hints, or the words we choose, will have a profound influence on others. For better or worse. We all, each and every one of us, have an individual responsibility for how we act around us, from our roles as politicians, citizens, or – in my case – as a father and author. I try very hard not to forget that individual responsibility…

What about you?

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans M Hirschi
Former – disillusioned – politician, father and author

Will the #Brexit affect me as #author? I’m afraid so. #asmsg

Will the #Brexit affect me as #author? I’m afraid so. #asmsg

Brexit: Nightmare meets hangover!

Who knows how sunny the future of the Union Jack will be... Will the blue be but a fading memory?

Who knows how sunny the future of the Union Jack will be… Will the blue be but a fading memory? Photo: Vaughan Leiberum / Wikimedia Commons

The Brexit is here: it’s like waking up to a nightmare or with a huge hangover, and the cold that is making itself known across my airways doesn’t make me feel any better. Last night’s decision by Great Britain to leave Europe is a sad decision, and it’s left the country deeply divided. Politically, this is a huge nightmare, and another show of just how egotistical we’ve become in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. The argument, widely used by the leave side to close borders, to let “continental” Europe fence with the refugee crisis alone, is only one such tell tale sign. Only time will tell how this well affect the hundreds of thousands of Britons living in other EU/EES countries and how the Europeans on the Isles will be affected. I’m not even going to venture a guess as to what Scotland will do, being more than 60% for remaining in the UK, the only of the four “pretend-countries” to want to stay. What this will do to the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland is anyone’s best guess. Peace won’t be on the top three list if you ask me.

So it’s a very sad day for Europe, for the UK and the rest of the world. I’ve never been one to believe that we’re stronger alone. But what does this mean to me? As an author with strong ties to the British Isles? My publisher, my editor, several of my proof readers live and work in the UK. The first effect, sadly, is positive: with the Sterling falling like a stone, purchasing services from the UK will be cheaper for us, and I regret paying that last invoice as quickly as I did. Would’ve saved me a good 10%. Continuing to use the services from the UK will undoubtedly be cheaper for a while, as stock and foreign exchange markets try to figure out what to make of this.

No, the EU flag will not lose a star. It's always had twelve, but we'll lose a bit of luster, and the sky is a lot cloudier than it appears... Photo: MPD01605 / Wikimedia Commons

No, the EU flag will not lose a star. It’s always had twelve, but we’ll lose a bit of luster, and the sky is a lot cloudier than it appears… Photo: MPD01605 / Wikimedia Commons

The free and common market the UK now will be leaving will be replaced by something else, and while I personally don’t think (hope?) that the UK will be leaving much, there is still a risk of increased taxes (and higher prices) and even customs to be levied. No longer part of the common market (which includes financial assets), sending money to, and receiving money from the UK might become more complex. Will the UK impose taxes on my royalties in the future? We don’t know what the Brexit entails.

But what I fear is that purchasing books from the UK, my author copies, could become very expensive in the future. When I imported my books from the U.S. (using CreateSpace), the Swedish government added not only VAT of 6%, but also customs, and I remember some very gruesome invoices from my government. If this is the future with my current publisher (who’s been treated like a domestic one until today) that remains to be seen. There is of course a risk that whatever UK printing company was used in the past, that will be printed elsewhere in the EU in the future, to avoid for EU customers having to pay for expensive VAT and customs charges. That might be good for remaining EU countries, but bad for the UK industry. But for all intents and purposes, the post-Brexit UK will be no different than importing from India or Argentina from now on (well, at least after the divorce is finalized, and the dust has settled).

I dread future travel to the UK. For us it’s been ‘relatively’ easy in the past twenty something years. While never having joined Schengen, EU member state citizens have always had a “quick pass” into the UK. No paper work (I still remember that), no silly forms to be filled in, and being able to bypass the endless queues from third country citizens. I’ve seen those queues at terminal three at Heathrow. People waiting for hours on end (heck, even we had to sometimes wait 45 minutes in the morning, as all flights arrived at the same time…) America immigration will await us at Heathrow soon enough, and going to my author conventions in England could become a nightmare. I can’t even imagine how British seniors living in Spain must feel, not knowing what will become of them, or how long immigration queues to Ibiza or Mallorca will be for Brits in the future…

The UK leaving the EU is much bigger, and so much worse than we can possibly imagine, which is why it’s such a “bad” idea to hold referenda on these things. While people can’t fathom losing what they don’t even know they’re having, we can’t really foresee what the big changes will be like. Naturally, if you never leave your village in Cornwall or Yorkshire, not much might change. The devil, as always, lies in the details, the little things, that which we don’t necessarily think of. Over time, the people of the UK will realize just what they’re missing out on: goods will be more expensive due to different requirements in the UK and the EU (or they’ll just adopt EU rules without a say…), travel, studies abroad for their kids, and what not. But more importantly, we’re no longer one European voice, and that only helps those who wish us ill.

The really big thing for me is the fact that this is just another little step of divisiveness, egoism, the erroneous belief that you’re stronger on your own. That is a real recipe for disaster, because it’s just been proven wrong by history, again and again.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans M Hirschi
Proud European and Earth citizen

Master Suppression Techniques at work to silence us #MondayBlogs #LGBT #homophobia

Master Suppression Techniques at work to silence us #MondayBlogs #LGBT #homophobia

Master Suppression Techniques: learn to recognize them and be a stronger person for it

I’m off to Stockholm this week, to teach a class. I really look forward to that. Part of what I teach is about human communication, particularly when you’re face to face. My ‘students’ are adults, trainers, and they look to me to tell them more about the intricacies of human interaction in the class room. I’ve taught this class for twenty years, in various forms, all around the globe, and I’ve picked up a lot of interesting knowledge along the way, knowledge that naturally found its way back into the class.

When I wrote my blog post last Friday, I tried to balance my own emotions around the events in Orlando with giving those of us who don’t have one (or who aren’t able to express it for whatever reason). The reactions were mostly positive. One voice was dissenting, and I found that voice interesting, because the lady in question used several classical Master Suppression Techniques, as presented by Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen.

Above, an example of the “worst of the worst” (as I mentioned last week. This isn’t unusual, and even former GOP presidential hopefuls cling to these ideas) No wonder people act… Just to put one person’s “words” below into perspective. She may be a homophobe, without even realizing it. Others are much, much worse.

Normally, in our every day lives, these techniques are used by managers to belittle employees, or by men (in power) to belittle women. When you see them at work in politics it’s pretty astounding. Addressing women as “little girls” etc. When Nissen first identified the master suppression techniques, he separated them into five categories:

  • Making invisible
  • Ridicule
  • Withhold information
  • Double bind
  • Heap blame / Put to shame

Later on, he added two more: Objectifying and Force (threat thereof).

In several comments to a friend’s wall, who had shared my post, these things stood out: the lady first questioned my “right” to mourn the deaths in Orlando, as I wasn’t directly affected (no immediate friends or family were killed/wounded), which is both a form of “making invisible” as well as objectifying. She then went on to ramble about the gay community no longer being needed, and that there was no need for us to stand apart (making invisible) as we’re all humans), finally moving on to ridicule, calling me both “narcissistic” and something about “wallow in pity” I don’t even remember. When I asked her not to insult me, she denied ever to have said anything negative, yet the words stood, only rows above: “wallow in pity”, “narcissistic”…

I didn’t fall for it, although I failed to realize what she was doing. I calmly tried to explain to her about my emotions before I blocked her. After last Friday, I have no room for homophobes in my life, particularly not those who disguise themselves in sheep’s clothes. This is really a troubling time for the LGBT community, and while there are a great number of people on our side, supporting us unconditionally, there are also those who will make the following statements:

  • “Isn’t it great that we can criticize Hans (or anyone else) these days…” Uh, tell me a time when hets weren’t able to criticize us? As far as I know, hets have always freely criticized us and then some (from oppression to murder/slaughter).
  • “There’s no need for minorities to separate themselves. We are all one big happy family.” Yeah right! While I wish that were true, separatism is still very much a necessity for a lot of marginalized groups, and it is up to each group to decide when they feel that separateness is no longer needed. It’s not up to the majority to decide.
  • “Why do the gays always have to parade naked?” Well, if you truly ever witnessed a Pride parade, you’ll see that a very select few of us will be wearing little to nothing, while the mast majority of us is fully dressed. Have you ever been to a e.g. rave or love parade? Or a beach? There’s probably more nudity/indecency there, you just don’t see it as such, because there’s no “LGBT” label attached to it.
  • “Gays don’t really love, they’re delusional about that. The only ‘real’ love is between man and woman”. Another classic, which includes elements of making invisible and double bind. The latter because the same people will also accuse us of only being sexual beings of not being able to make a serious commitment…
  • “Too bad he didn’t finish the job…” (the ultimate threat, from the video above…)
Amen!

Amen!

You know what really bugs me though? It’s that it still hurts. Every time I hear that kind of talk. I try my best not to let them get to me, yet still, somewhere deep down, they hurt, some more than others. Oddly, I can watch a complete idiot like the two pastors ramble on without really taking notice, while the words of that woman hurt a lot more. For two reasons: a) because she actually believes to be on our side and b) because my friend (her friend) doesn’t see it. His own homophobia is so deeply internalized that he’s become completely incapable of seeing the dots, the invisible tether linking the deaths in Orlando to violence and ridicule against the LGBT community in his own country or to his own life as a gay man. He just doesn’t see it, and that is painful, because it reminds me of my own past self. It takes a long time, and a lot of work to “see”, or as a meme I saw the other day (see to the right) so clearly put it. Luckily I’ve became fairly free of caring about what others think about me, even though the words may still hurt.

Unlike many of my female friends, I’m rarely on the receiving end of ridicule and Master Suppression Techniques, at least these days. But this time I was. It was, on a certain level, a learning experience for me. I might even have to admit of having used such techniques myself, on occasion. I don’t remember, but it’s certainly easy enough to “go there”…

In my writing, those techniques aren’t of much use, but I’ll take this example with me to Stockholm and my course, because in the work force, this is widely used. Recognizing that is an important first step in avoiding using them. We’re all better off that way.

A somewhat brighter version of “love”…

Have a good week, and remember: love first, all else is secondary.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

 

Choice words for the homophobes out there #OrlandoShooting #LGBT #Pride

Choice words for the homophobes out there #OrlandoShooting #LGBT #Pride

I’m done restricting my life to ease other people’s discomfort. Why care if you’re going to kill me anyway?

No, I’m not joking. No, I don’t care if you think that Orlando was all about ‘ISIL’ or ‘Islam’ or whatever it is some people would like us to believe. Why? Kevin Swanson (wants to kill all LGBT in the world) or Yishai Shlissel (killed and wounded several Pride marchers in Jerusalem minutes after having been release from prison for a similar crime), to just name one Christian and one Jew, and complete is the Abrahamic triad. Doesn’t make all christians homophobes, or all jews, does it? And I’m sure I could find similar examples from Buddhism, Hinduism etc. Orlando wasn’t about Islam, or any religion for that matter, because homophobia isn’t about religion. Never was. It’s about heteronormativity. It’s about marginalizing people who don’t fit in. Does organized religion make use of that? Of course, and homophobia is one of those rare instances where extremists from all (and none) religions walk hand in hand in harmony.

I have always been different. Ridiculed and bullied from the day I set foot in kindergarten.

I have always been different. Ridiculed and bullied from the day I set foot in kindergarten.

In the first days after the attack, some media outlets tried to suppress the fact that this was an attack on the gays (or – alternatively – that we got what we deserved), but an attack on all of America. But this was an attack on LGBT America, not straight America. It was after all at a gay club that all those innocent people were slaughtered. Had the attacker been after all of America, there would’ve been much (!) bigger and more ‘suitable’ targets in Orlando, e.g. the many amusement parks. If people think they make the LGBT community feel better by making this about ‘all of us’, if they want to partake in our pain, then please go ahead, but don’t fool yourself: this isn’t about everybody. Columbine, Denver or 9/11 were ‘all inclusive’ slaughter, indiscriminate shootings against all people, LGBT or otherwise. San Bernardino is another sad example, where muslims, Christians, gays and straight Californians were victims of a vicious attack.

Orlando was about us, my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Queer siblings, the families, loved ones and friends of those we lost or who were wounded. This was a homophobic attack, for once not by WASPs killing a single gay man like Matthew Shepard (et al.), but at the hands of a man, for once a muslim, born and raised in the U.S. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Imagine how all the innocent muslims feel at the misplaced rage aimed at them? We can’t let that happen. As minorities, we can’t afford to hate each other. Love must prevail.

And no, we don’t make this about us in some vain masochistic pursuit, because we ‘enjoy’ being victimized. We do so because we need people to understand, even our allies, friends and families, just how vulnerable we are, still, twelve months after Obergefell vs Hodges (aka marriage equality in the U.S.). Because although my American siblings can get married, they still face this, every day, across much of the country:

  • getting fired for being LGBT
  • being refused service (hotel, restaurants, shops etc.) for being LGBT
  • being refused medical care (!) for being LGBT
  • all those “bathroom laws” that deny our trans siblings to use the right bathroom
  • children can be forced to undergo bogus ‘conversion’ therapy
  • parents can toss their children on the street for being LGBT without repercussions
  • you can be discriminated against in many other shapes or forms (apartments, jobs etc) for being LGBT
  • and you risk your very life, as it seems, simply for being LGBT, every day, anywhere in the United States (and, sadly around the world)

Imagine all of this happening to you? How would you feel?

MIGN7363When I spoke to a crowd at an LGBT writers convention in Berlin just last Saturday about the fact that LGBT lives are at risk, every day, everywhere, I earned some rather incredulous stares. Eighteen hours later I felt a lot like Cassandra. By trying to denounce the LGBT connection, homophobes belittle us, they try to make us invisible, just as the thousands and thousands of gay men (and others, e.g. Jehovas Witnesses) killed by the Nazis were made invisible for decades after the war, simply because the victors didn’t care about them any more than the Germans had. We don’t relish being in this situation. We hurt, our hearts are broken, and denying that this was a hate crime only makes the pain worse. However, we are all very grateful for all the sympathy and show of love we’ve received from our friends and allies, including President Obama. We greatly appreciate all of the sympathy from the straight community.

Why attack the gays?

We may never know the complete picture of what drove the attacker to do what he did. Pieces of the puzzle are emerging every day, and while they might seem to fit for a while, other pieces might be conflicting. In all honesty, we really don’t know. Was he secretly gay? Like Putin, all those Catholic priests or GOP politicians who can’t seem to stop lashing out at our community, afraid of being outed if they didn’t behave totally ‘straight’, until the day they’re caught with their pants down and their lips around a yummy cock, or better, one up their asses. Who knows, that might fit the picture. Most likely, we’ll never know for sure. Maybe he was bisexual. It’s all connected though. If the people above didn’t have to ‘hide’ who they were, they’d be able to live their lives to their full potential, without all the vile bile coming from their every word and without having to lash out at the people they’re so much alike it scares them so badly. People are discriminated against because of homophobes, and homophobes are, after all, the children of heteronormativity. It’s a vicious, self-replicating, circle.

I’ve had a miserable week. And the only comfort I’ve drawn is from the fact that all of a sudden, out of the blue, the GOP, the Christian right and other homophobes have found themselves on the same side as ISIL and other Islamists they so terribly hate. And maybe that is another piece to the puzzle? Maybe that is why the attacker chose an LGBT club instead of Disney World? The old adage “your enemy is my enemy” suddenly seems so warped. Which is maybe why some so desperately try to deny the ‘gay connection’… They’re obviously afraid that people start to connect the dots:

ISIL is bad. ISIL hates & kills gays. I hate gays. I am ….

Of course there was more than one politically incorrect tweet out of that corner thanking the ‘terrorist’ for finally having chosen a ‘proper’ target, i.e. people who deserved it, or in plain English the ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’ and ‘trannies’ (and their friends) who were shot or killed. What worries me more is the opposite, that the attack was purposely carried out against a minority, to sow dissent in our society, because you could also argue: I am good, I hate gays, ISIL kills gays, therefore ISIL can’t be that bad. That, in my view, is a much more dangerous development, and I’ve seen more than one tweet or comment to that effect. If this continues, it would certainly be problematic, and there are plenty of minorities to focus on: refugees, illegal immigrants, etc.

A comment on my post on Monday showed outrage at the shooter’s father explaining his son’s action with having witnessed ‘two men openly kissing in Miami in front of his 3-year old son’.

One gay kiss = 49 dead, dozens wounded. The price of homophobic discomfort. Ka-Ching!

At the age of twenty, doing my military service, I was out, at least to my parents. But I had to promise them not to tell my grandparents. Grandma knew anyway. And she was one of the first ones to accept me for who I 'really' was...

At the age of twenty, doing my military service, I was out, at least to my parents. But I had to promise them not to tell my grandparents. Grandma knew anyway. And she was one of the first ones to accept me for who I ‘really’ was…

Yes, to call that conclusion outrageous is right. But calling that father’s explanation ‘despicable and absurd’? It’s quite possibly pretty close to the truth, and no, if you think that just because you’re born in the U.S. you’re immune to homophobia, I have a few names for you to consider: aforementioned Kevin Swanson, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee to name but a select few. Born in America, (all?) five would gladly see gays be put to death or at least rounded up in concentration camps. No, not a joke, unfortunately. We can’t deny that homophobia, very much like racism, still is an integral part of American (and foreign) society. Only by facing that uncomfortable truth will we be able to do something about it.

Internalizing other people’s homophobia

I’ll be fifty years old next year, and for all those years, I’ve been doing my utmost to make heteros around me feel comfortable, or at least to minimize the discomfort my sexuality causes them. When I came out, my parents implored me to ‘take it slow’, to ‘not provoke them’, to ‘give them time’ and e.g. not kiss my boyfriend in their house, all the while my brother and his girlfriend sucked on each others faces whenever, wherever, until the day they broke up. Did I mention that my parents paid for my brother’s wedding (and divorce) but barely even attended mine? I have completely and utterly internalized my fear to ostracize anyone. For as open as I may appear, there are so many aspects of me that are adjusted to make sure the homophobes out there don’t feel discomfort. Lucky for me, my parents have slowly adjusted to who I really am. It’s only taken them thirty years, and there are still things that make my dad uncomfortable (mom’s dead), and I’m not just talking about my writing… E.g. some of my friends, just for starters…

When I was young and finally came out, I wanted to kiss my boyfriend of course, just like my het friends kissed their loved ones. Holding his hand seemed such a sweet and – oh so – innocent gesture. I was SO very happy, every time. But (afraid of) being attacked, harassed and ridiculed, I boxed those emotions, hid them neatly, in the very back of my mind, and I convinced myself that I really, really, didn’t like public displays of affection, that holding hands made my own hands warm and clammy, not feeling safe and loved, and that a peck or kiss in public was disgusting, not a simple show of how much you love your better half or how happy you are.

This couple, my bonus parents, opened their home and their hearts for me, when the mormons evicted me for being gay, and they simply shrugged. Unconditional love. I'll never forget that.

This couple, my bonus parents, opened their home and their hearts for me, when the Mormons evicted me for being gay, and they simply shrugged: unconditional love. I’ll never forget that.

I internalized all of this to the degree that I began to buy my own BS, hook, line and sinker. To this day, I have to push myself to give Alex (my husband!) the most innocent of pecks when one of us comes back from a trip and we pick each other up at the airport. He’s even more afraid than I am. I seriously doubt any straight person ever even ‘thinks’ about that when they kiss their partners.

I may be out and proud, but I’m also afraid, very much so. Every day, every time. Always a watchful eye, body on full alert, mindful of that one homophobe who feels threatened, who decides to lash out at you, with a sneer, verbally, or physically. Always a protective set of eyes on my son, afraid he may have to witness a comment about the absent mother or the two fathers. I’ve had bottles thrown at me, I’ve been beaten, I’ve been threatened to death on more than one occasion, just because of who I love. Picture yourself in that situation. Would that make you uncomfortable?

Every time I meet a straight person, and the need to ‘come out’ arises, I think twice: is it really worth telling this person that I’m gay? That I have a husband? A son? Or that I write ‘gay’ fiction? Or had I better avoid the subject to avoid that person discomfort? These situations come up almost every day, for over thirty years now. I’ve missed promotions, jobs and opportunities because of who I am, and I’m stared and frowned at more often than you care to imagine.

So here are a few choice words for you homophobes out there:

I’m done. For almost fifty years I’ve tried to please you, and you still come after me and shoot me and my kind. I’ve tried to hide in clubs where I thought I was safe, and you came after me and shot me, and now you tell me this isn’t about me? But about you? You know what? I’m done with this bull shit. And I won’t let you get away with it this time. Go ahead, elect the Trumps of this world to be your leaders, try to throw every last muslim out of the country, and the Latinos along with them (who btw. where the majority of the victims in Orlando, just FYI), but you don’t care, do you, because not only were they ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’, they were taking away your job and were probably illegal anyway. Go ahead, vote for Christian extremists to represent you in your councils, houses of representatives or senates, state or Federal, continue to deny us our civil rights and continue to kill us. There is little I can do about that. But there is one thing I CAN do, and that is to live my life to the fullest, to love whoever I choose to love, to love them to the full capacity of my heart and beyond. I will instill the values and virtues of unconditional love in my son. I will teach him to know right from wrong, to distinguish good from evil in people, not faiths, not cultures. I will love and love and love without apology. Until your guns and bullets silence me. I do not care any more. I’m done.

If my love is so terrifying that you must hate me, kill me, then so be it.

My family and I. I would've never expected this, but I feel proud of how far we've come.

The Hirschi family. I would’ve never expected this, but I feel proud of how far we’ve come. But our happiness isn’t guaranteed. Anywhere, not even here, in Sweden.

I read an article the other day from a Swedish pastor on the very Christian right (not all idiots are Americans, plenty of them elsewhere, too) who thinks that the LGBT community shouldn’t be so ‘visible’, so provocative, making hets feel uncomfortable. He said that we should be more demure, using the same shame tactics used on rape victims: ‘you brought this upon yourself’. Why not, victim-shaming has worked so well to oppress women for eons, why not use it on the LGBT community? But they won’t succeed with me. Not any more. I’m done limiting my life to keep others from feeling uncomfortable. Once and for all. No more apologies.

Hans M Hirschi
proud faggot

#Review: Uncommon Origins, a twilight anthology #amreading #asmsg

#Review: Uncommon Origins, a twilight anthology #amreading #asmsg

UnCommon Origins is a reminder of a TV show from my youth: the Twilight Zone

Last fall, I had the distinct pleasure of reading an anthology called Uncommon Bodies. It was an odd collection of stories that defied genres, mixing horror with freakish elements, humor and a great deal of warmth and love for the characters. A few weeks ago, I was approached to read UnCommon Origins, the second anthology in a series (?) of books from Fighting Monkey Press.

The blurb, which I read only just now, is a very good summary of what you can expect from the book, so let’s start with it:

UnCommon Origins presents twenty-two depictions of moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic. Fantastical stories of Creation, Feral Children, Gods and Goddesses (both holy and horrific), and possibilities you never dared imagine come to life.
Including stories from some of the most talented Speculative Fiction and Magical Realism authors around, UnCommon Origins will revisit the oldest questions in the universe:
Where did we come from?
and
What comes next?

The cover of the anthology: Uncommon Origins

The cover of the anthology: Uncommon Origins

I did accept to review the anthology and soon sat looking at my screen, reading the first of the twenty-two short stories: The Hanging Gardens of Brooklyn, and immediately, I had this feeling of being pulled back to a TV screen of my youth and the infamous Twilight Zone: a bit of magic, a bit of paranormal, monsters, freaks, and that innocent, helping person. And that story stayed with me, for a long time. Now I won’t be able to go through and review each and every one of the individual stories.

Instead, allow me to say a few general words on this anthology: the crafting is excellent, and the handiwork as well. The few typos I caught are reminders that this is humans at work, not machines. A gentle but kind reminder given some of the topics of the book, e.g. The Last Star or The Least Child. Having recently, and at about the time I began reading this book, started a day job, I’ve been juggling to find the time and peace of mind to read. So, as a disclaimer and an apology to the authors, I have been reading your work on ferry and bus rides and two flights to and from Berlin. Having said that, it did at times have an effect on my appreciation for those stories. I think this is the kind of book you best enjoy before closing your eyes at night, just as I’d said about Uncommon Bodies, a story a night, like one of those pillow mints at a hotel. I did not, and with all the noise and hustle and bustle of city life, I found some stories difficult to get into. As is the tricky part with short stories (having one due in less than a month), every word counts, and superficial reading isn’t ideal.

Aptly named, this cover is an eerily accurate representation of its content. You'll see!

Aptly named, this cover is an eerily accurate representation of its content. You’ll see!

Yet as gruesome as some of the tales were, as unbelievable as others presented themselves, what I have taken from this book is wonder, wonder at what amazingly talented authors can create, on a few pages, in terms of “world building”: entire planets, universes, even the end of it. If I had to pick a couple of stories that really stood out for me, and that are still lingering vividly and quite visually in my mind, I’d have to say The Last Star, a story of a couple of creatures watching the end of the Universe. Yes, indeed, the very end of existence. Aren’t you curious? It is not to be missed! Another one would be Swim with the Beavers, by Robert Allen Lupton, the one story that broke the dam of my tears last night. I won’t say a word but this is a must read! My third and final pick would be Poseidon’s Tears by E.L. Johnson. The way the author pictures that scene with the baby was some of the most magical writing I’ve ever come across. I won’t say more as to not spoil anything, but wow, just wow. I’m in awe of such talent.

In no way does this belittle the other stories, and as I read back over the summaries at the beginning, I remember this or the other story, too, while others have faded from my poor commuter memory. So what is my judgement?

Well, if you enjoy expanding your universe, to be exposed to something new, something you’ve most likely never read before, Uncommon Origins is most certainly for you. If you’ve enjoyed the first book, duh, one-click and go ahead and read it.

However, if you remember the Twilight Zone and didn’t enjoy that show, if freaks, monsters, aliens and ghosts leave you cold, head elsewhere, because this is not for you. Then there’s those of us who did occasionally see an episode of the show and enjoy it, but we don’t read about zombies and werewolves or paranormal events. I’d say, if you’re like me, give this a shot, for two reasons: amazing writing and – more importantly – because it will most certainly broaden your horizon in a very educative manner. That alone is worth the price. Edutainment rarely comes so inexpensively. Trust me.

Thank you Fighting Monkey Press for allowing me to read this before the rest of the crowd gets their hands on it today. It was quite the treat.

Starting today, you can purchase your copy right here.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans M Hirschi
author

No, not Berlin, not #Pride, not Joy. But Orlando. #LGBT #OrlandoShooting

No, not Berlin, not #Pride, not Joy. But Orlando. #LGBT #OrlandoShooting

A planned post about Berlin turned into something else. Entirely. Orlando.

I never thought I'd have to fly the Rainbow flag at half mast at the end of Pride week. Orlando.

I never thought I’d have to fly the Rainbow flag at half mast at the end of Pride week. It will stay up for the next 24 hours. Let people feel uncomfortable! Orlando.

I was going to write about Berlin and the convention from where I’ve just returned. I was going to write about the wonderful people I met in Berlin. Some new, some old friends. It was going to be an upbeat post about LGBT literature and a bright future for Christopher’s Kind. Orlando.

We woke to the news of the shooting and reports of wounded. Our spirits today were dampened by the reports. Just yesterday, I had spoken to the crowd in Berlin, in my keynote address (I’ve made the PDF available here) of a city that serves as the very beacon of the potential of the LGBT community and the threats as well as our dark history through recent decades. I called upon us to be vigilant, and I told the audience that we, Christopher’s Kind, are at risk to die, every single day, in every single corner of the world. Orlando.

Sorry Cassandra I misunderstood
Now the last day is dawning
Some of us wanted but none of us could
Listen to words of warning
But on the darkest of nights
Nobody knew how to fight
And we were caught in our sleep
Sorry Cassandra I didn’t believe
You really had the power
I only saw it as dreams you would weave
Until the final hour

The choir from ABBA:s song “Cassandra”, written in 1982 by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.

No, I am no Cassandra, or at least I certainly didn’t envision to be one. Yet today, I wish I could un-speak my words, take back my warning of vigilance, not speak of Pastor Kevin Swanson and his “kill the gays” program, actively supported by not less that THREE former GOP Presidential candidates: Senator Ted Cruz, Governors Jindal and Huckabee, who all spoke at the same conference, where Mr. Swanson proposed to finish that which Hitler had begun. No one protested. No one spoke up. Silence is often seen as agreement. Encouragement. Orlando.

The struggle for love never ends, and it is in these the darkest of times, that our resolve to love is tested the most.

The struggle for love never ends, and it is in these the darkest of times, that our resolve to love is tested the most.

Twenty four hours later we understand just how bad the massacre was, I read about deleted tweets from the lieutenant governor of Texas, that NO major American news outlet speaks about the fact that the victims were LGBT or that the club was an LGBT venue (not even in the fucking tweets!), #youreapwhatyousow. I read the perpetrator’s father’s explanation that his son had been angered, months ago, about two men exchanging a kiss in Miami. Orlando.

Is that the society we live in? A society where the very gentlest of expressions of love, a kiss, results in hatred and deadly violence in a way never before seen in the ENTIRE history of the United States? Huh? Really? Orlando.

At least fifty families have lost their daughters, their sons; husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends have had their hearts torn to shreds; friends have lost friends, and I have lost at least fifty brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters I’ve never met, brothers and sisters who were my kin, my family, through our common bond of differententness. Orlando.

Add to that the victims who survived. Traumatized, hurt, wounded. Families, loved ones, friends scared around the world for the well-being of their loved ones. Including me. Orlando.

I could add warnings about further violence, I could add explanations about gun violence and lax gun rules, I could try and explain the deed through culture, religion or mental illness. Such words, such warnings would sound even more hollow than in the many shootings before, from Columbine to Denver and all the countless other ones I’ve missed, including the acts of terror around the world. I cannot. I feel the rage burning inside of me, and as I look upon the rainbow flag still flying outside our house I am willing myself to remember what the rainbow flag stands for. Not just a symbol of unity for the LGBT community. No. But a symbol of love, of friendship, camaraderie, belonging, togetherness, as the two ends of the rainbow connect that which is not connected, not normally. Just like us, Christopher’s Kind, not normal. But human, with hearts, that beat and love, deeply. Orlando.

I bow my head to the survivors, the families and friends of victims and hope with all my heart and all my soul that their hearts will heal, with love, not hate. May evil not be allowed to prevail. Only love. Orlando.

But tonight I weep. I weep for Orlando.

Hans M Hirschi
Husband & Father

%d bloggers like this: