#NationalComingOutDay2017

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Courtesy of uuse.org

Over the past few years, I’ve shared different components of my coming out story and experiences on this day each year.

But this year, I want to share some of the lessons from coming out that I have learned over the years to perhaps helps any one else working through this process.

  1. National Coming Out Day shouldn’t be the day you come out. For me, NCOD is about celebrating those who have come out and on the journey of coming out.
  2. Its your own journey. We each come out in different ways at different times. For some it’s an internal and simple process. For others it is an external and complex process. For some it’s personal conversations with friends and family and others it’s posting it on Facebook. for some you come out at a young age, while others of us decide to come out later in life. Regardless how or when you do it, it does not diminish the significance of your decision and identity.
  3. Its a process for all. Just like those of us who come out, there is a process of being on the receiving end of coming out as well. Not only is the context and identity of the individual new but theres new terminology, perhaps new pronouns, new phrases, and new community to learn and understand. For those of us in an educational field we know the breadth of information we teach on. It takes us years to learn what we know. So give time to those you come out to, to become educated and learn the community.
  4. Its ok to take a time out. Sometimes you have to take a time out from people. Its ok to step back and give people, or even yourself, time and space to process and handle your new identity and people’s reactions. But the next step in the relationship should be to reach out periodically when you are ready and when the other people seem ready to talk about it. Don’t ignore it.
  5. Family is not only connected by blood. When you come out, you learn that while blood family is important, it is not the only family in your life. You can create family. True family will struggle and go through the process with you. That can include blood family members but it also can be friends who take care of you, support you and love you for who you are.
  6. “Ignorant is bliss” game does continue. Even after coming out people will play the “ignorant is bliss” game. Try to be conscious of this. Acknowledge that even though things may seem fine, key life events will happen such as engagements, weddings, children, etc that will jarred these individuals back to the reality and remind them that you are LGBTQ. You will be in an eternal circle of “coming out” to them. For most in this vicious circle, it’s revisiting hurtful conversations such as “what did I do wrong in raising you to turn you gay” or the eternal damnation of your soul.
  7. Its a challenge for parents and guardians. Regardless if you have supportive parents or guardians, its still a challenge. For many parents and guardians, creating dreams and hopes for their children is natural. For most, however, it is founded in heterosexual normative structures i.e. the perfect wedding day for the bride and groom, having children of their own, living life without the fear of harassment and discrimination. When we come out to our parents and/or guardians, it can shatter those hopes and dreams. It changes how they have to view you and the context of their hopes and dreams for you and for some it is not an easy to make such significant changes to long standing hopes and dreams.
  8. You have self-authorship. You have the ability to dictate your life journey. You can find a support system. You can choose who is in your life or not. You can choose your family. You can define the boundaries and context of your life. I acknowledge that at times these are more challenging such as when you come out as a teenager or if you live at home vs coming out in college or as an adult or if you’re living on your own. But there is a community out there to help you.

Just some thoughts and lesson from my coming out journey so far.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

 

NationalComingOutDay

Courtesy of Planed Parenthood of Michigan

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Disclaimer

There’s a new app out there called Sarahah. It basically allows individuals to send anonymous messages and comments to an individual.

Michael started using it and encouraged me to try it, so I downloaded it and created my profile.

Now this post isn’t about the app. It’s about my first message I received in the first 20 minutes.

My first message was the following:

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This made me pause and think. I’ve been racking my mind around how to approach processing this, and this morning I share a response:

To all the people I interact with and engage with. I acknowledge that this is the feeling some get when there is discussion and dialogue or when I post on my platforms.

It is never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable and I am not hostile or aggressive on purpose. I am passionate about life, pandas and the growth and development of people, including myself. Societal and political issues, identity development and social justice and equity work is very personal, messy, and emotional work and it shows in my conversations and work.

But I encourage everyone I engage with to push back and get into the mess of this whole world with me and to be ready to be passionate, emotional and logical about all of it together.

I’ll be honest, and do not see the hostility and aggressiveness in my posts and comments, but am reflecting on how it may come across to the external world so I can improve my engagement.

However, over the past few months, I’m learning that it is not my responsibility to ensure everyone’s feelings are not hurt or to ensure that everyone is comfortable or ensure that the conversation is easy.

This work and this life is not unharmful, comfortable or easy.

But it is my responsibility to learn and understand another person’s perspective.

I will never tell anyone what to think or believe, and I ask the same.

I will never just dismiss your perspective, but I will push back if there is another perspective for you to consider or to clarify my perspective.

I will get emotional.

I will not always agree but I will agree that we have different points of view.

I will always find both the common and uncommon ground.

I will be personal and vulnerable in all of it.

I also challenge those uncomfortable, hurt or offended by my posts to step back and ask:

Why am I uncomfortable?

Why is this conversation hard?

Why is this hurtful?

Am I offended by the words or the issue?

And finally:

You all know me. You know I do my best to understand and be open. You know that I am, though emotional, mostly even tempered when having dialogue. If I’m coming off as hostile and aggressive, ask yourself why. Check in with me. Step back and connect the dots. Work to center it around the conversation and not how you’re receiving it or how I’m sharing it. If I’m coming off as hostile and aggressive then there’s a reason. It’s hit something personal and/or emotional. It’s those moments I need good two way dialogue with people who are willing to get into the mess of it all.

So thank you to the individual who sent me this message. It has helped me clarify my approach and work in life, and that I really am a passionate, dedicated, and aware individual. It has also confirmed that being emotional, personal, vulnerable and honest is how I approach this life. It’s also confirmed that I must be doing something good because if these conversations were easy or comfortable for everyone then they really weren’t good conversations to begin with.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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“Live Your Best Life”

“Live Your Best Life”

It’s a phrase that I heard for the first time this summer after spending almost two weeks at Kansas State University being a part of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) I-LEAD Program.

Ben Williams, one of the I-LEAD Co-Chairs and one of the most awesome individuals I’ve met in the field, is a bluntly honest and genuine individual who many times closed advice, commentary, etc with this phrase. It absolutely caught on and I don’t think any of us from that program can not think of him and I-LEAD without this phrase.

It’s so versatile, you can use it genuinely, sarcastically, ironically, dismissively; you can use it as a foundation or as an ending thought; you can even use it on a train or a placne or eating green eggs and ham! (I just had to throw in some Dr. Suess today LOL).

I’ve come to adopt this phrase into my long list of jargon but just recently have I really ground my teeth into it.

We’ve all heard of the Struggle Bus. Well, I’m a bit beyond this right now. According to Sam, one of the best and most hilarious past Graduate Assistants I’ve worked with, had a series of “struggle vehicles” he would gauge life with. “Struggle Bus, Train and Plane”. Recently I’m at Plane level. Though, not just ON the “Struggle Plane”…I’m building the freaking thing.

There is a lot going on right now from personal to professional and everything in between, but this phrase, “Live Your Best Life” is a constant reminder that is helping me through everything.

It’s helping to remind me that all I can do is my best. Sometimes my best is not enough. Sometimes it’ll be more than enough. And other times it’ll even be too much (Yes, I acknowledge I am extra at times LOL).

It’s helping to remind me that I should continue to live my truth even if I don’t quite know what it is or where it’s taking me at times, so long as I’m journeying down my life path bravely and honestly.

It’s helping me to remember to prioritize what’s important and who’s important to me. And to help me step away from some things and take on other things.

It’s helping me to remember that despite struggles, mistakes, hurts, problems and stresses, to just put one step forward and keep at keeping on and do my best with a genuine and  honest heart.

It’s helping me to remember to start conversations and advising with a foundation that individuals are living their best life rather tahn assuming the worse.

It’s helping me to remember my WHY.

Sometimes we need philosophies, reminders and mantras. And for now, this is my current mantra and philosophy.

Live Your Best Life

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Working in the Dark

I’m obsessed with the show Madam Secretary for so many reasons (but those reasons are another convo for another day). Now, to re-cooperate from the back to back events of the Kappa Sigma Grand Conclave and I-LEAD 2017 I’ve been couch surfing and bingeing on this show.

The other night, however, I was settled comfortably on the couch watching the final episode of Season 2 and the commencement speech that one of the characters gave reminded me of a realization I learned about myself while at I-LEAD.

Here’s the snippet from the show:

Matt Mahoney: Good morning. I’d like to, uh… (stammers) uh, begin by stating the obvious. I am not Elizabeth McCord. I’m her speechwriter. Believe me, uh, no one is more disappointed that the secretary won’t be giving the address that I wrote for her. You know, now that I know that it’ll never see the light of day, I think it’s safe to say that it was the greatest speech ever written. I mean, honestly, uh, this is probably the first moment in my adult life that I’ve stood in the spotlight. Truth be told, it’s probably gonna be the last. Why? Because I’m one of those people who works in the dark. I know what you’re thinking. As soon as my Etsy page is discovered, uh, I’ll invent my own job title on Buzzfeed and livestream my Christopher Walken impression as I hoverboard to the Soylent dispenser in the playroom…and I don’t blame you. In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking. But that isn’t the case. And if I can impart one thing today, a small, simple truth to carry with you as you walk through those gates, it’s this:

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

I’ve always thought that to really make a difference in the world and in the lives of others I had to be flashy and self-promote myself. I thought that I needed to be those “rockstars” of student affairs and of life to make an impact.

But over the past few weeks I’ve begun to realize that, that philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth and while at I-LEAD this philosophy was confirmed false. I-LEADAt Kansas State, I met a small army of dedicated, passionate and amazing professionals. I’d never heard of any of them and none were fancy board members, committee members, etc. But  watching and working with them over the week and a half of I-LEAD proved to me that they were tireless heroes from their campuses who give their whole selves to supporting friends, colleagues and students. They give their time, energy and heart to make a difference in the lives of ANY student and colleague. Whether at their home institutions or at I-LEAD that week, they were there for them in whatever way they could.

None of these individuals were seeking to get acknowledgement for their work or to get special credit. No one was looking to just add something to their resume. No one was clambering for the limelight. It was a group of individuals who just did good work with students and colleagues with the one common goal of helping them on their journey through leadership and life.

I can bet that few of these amazing people will be acknowledged for the work they did for I-LEAD and even fewer for the work they do every day at their respective institutions. But the impact they have will reverberate for decades in the hearts and minds of the people they touch in their work.

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

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The individuals I met at I-LEAD embody this line. No one but those impacted directly from these people may ever hear of them or know who they are, but the quiet yet significant impact they make on the lives of others is one of the greatest achievements a human could accomplish. These are the real change agents, the people who make long lasting impacts on the world and who may work in the dark, behind the scenes, but bring the brightest light.

THOUGHT:

Are you able to achieve anonymously? Why would you or would you not want to achieve anonymously?

 

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

 

Reference:

http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/viewtopic.php?f=456&t=27076

 

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I’m Someone’s “Little Girl”

Today is the first day back from a life changing experience. For the past week and a half I’ve been participating as a small group facilitator at ACUI’s (Association of College Unions International) I-LEAD program hosted this year in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University.

I’ll be writing blog posts for days about this experience but I thought I’d start with a warm fuzzy that made me both laugh and cry.

To start, I share a story that we read as part of one of the final activities we did:

A wise man was taking a sunrise walk on the beach. in the distance he caught sight f a little girl who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer, he saw the little girl was picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.

“What are you doing?” the wise man asked.

“The sun is coming up and the tide is going out; if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die,” said the girl.

“But little girl, there are miles and miles of beach with starfish all along it; you can’t possibly make a difference.”

Starfish 1The little girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves.

“It made a difference for that one.” she replied.

Over the past week, I was challenged in supporting students through the I-LEAD process with life journeys I would never have imagined and that have touched my heart. But one student in particular was a challenge. This individual really tried to resist the I-LEAD process.

However, during our good-bye activities the night before leaving, we read the above story and the individual who tried to resist the process shared why they did so and that they had planned to leave the second day, when they realized that I wouldn’t give up on them and that maybe they would stay. And them staying all came about because of the daily short notes of encouragement I left them and for being open and vulnerable with them about my own journey. (And while there were already tears being shed, there were more after this was shared).

Graduation

Later that night we had commencement, and our group of students presented Kristen (my AMAZING co-facilitator) and I graduation cords with messages for each of us at the ends. As they presented their cords to us, they each spoke such touching words of affirmation. Among the words of affirmation, the student had had challenged the process of the I-LEAD process gave me the best compliment that many probably were confused by:

“Brian, bless your face, had it not been for you, I don’t know what this process would have been for me. You will always be my little girl.”

While the entire room busted out laughing, we in the FOL Family knew the powerful message behind it.

In the Student Affairs profession we always wonder what impact we have on our students and the communities we serve. And I’ve been doubting my ability to really make a difference in my students lives and in my work/ the field for a plethora of reasons. But this student’s hilarious but poignant message helped reaffirm so much in my life.

And while I may have been this student’s “little girl”; this student, Kristen my co-facilitator, along with each member of the Finding Y(our) Leadership small group family, and my facili-family from across the country are all my “little girls”. They reinvigorated, affirmed and reminded me that my work and drive (in its own quirky way) for this field is able to make a difference.

StarfishAnd to remind me of this, I kept one of the starfish decorations from our Finding Dory themed room to remind me that I can/ do make a difference.

Hope you enjoyed my first story from I-LEAD! Many more to come!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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To Chick-fil-A or Not?

Chick-fil-A-secret-menu-logo_tcm213-74308So Chick-fil-A has been in the news lately about their continuation of support for anti-LGBTQ groups. They have continued to make large donations to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Paul Anderson Youth Home. The anti-LGBTQ position of the infamous chicken restaurant originally came to public knowledge when almost five years ago an article was posted about Dan Cathy, the CEO and Chairman and being up front about the company’s position on being against same-sex marriage.

I do admit I have tried the delicious chicken. However, I have made it a stance that I do not eat there as my own personal activism in taking a stance against the anti-LGBTQ company. I do not give my money or support to Hobby Lobby and The Salvation Army for the same reason.

This is how I take a stance for my identity.

I don’t expect everyone to stop eating at Chick-fil-A (I mean they do serve some dang good chicken) or shopping at Hobby Lobby or even donating to The Salvation Army.

I don’t think less of anyone who patron these businesses.

I don’t think the individuals who patron these establishment are anti-LGBTQ.

You don’t have to apologize or explain why you patron them. Your journey, experiences and reasons are your own.

Just because you find Chick-fil-A delicious and irresistible doesn’t make you a bad ally. At least not to me.

Now, with all this talk about companies that are anti-LGBTQ, what really gets me is when others who take similar stances as myself, make individuals feel guilty for patronizing these businesses or for supporting them.

We each have our journey in life. I have no right to tell you how to live your life just lke you don’t have a right to tell me. I can tell you what I expect of an ally, I can’t shame you or tell you what to do (it’s like Student Affairs 101).

I feel that we try to make allyship an either-or, black or white issue, when I think it is just as complex and layered as an individual’s intersectionality.

For me it’s all about sharing experiences. I share my reasons and my story with others for things such as not patronizing certain businesses and let them decide if that is how they wish and are able to example allyship or if they need to support me and the community in other ways.

To me this is part of social justice work. It’s dirty, hard, messy, impossible and needed. But I think to a point we all ultimately struggle with listening and hearing and ultimately accepting one another’s perspectives, life experiences and the way we each express ourselves, support, allyship, etc.

Now, I’ve fallen into this habit of dismissing or not truly hearing others experiences many times. Especially lately. One gets so wrapped up in trying to educate and inform or even defend your identity that one can forget to listen to understand. And it goes both way, the other person forget to listen and hear as well.

Nothing is perfect nor 100% right when it comes to social justice work. Every individual has privilege and oppression. But we have to listen and hear each other’s stories and experiences in order to grow and progress.

This is just what has been on my mind as I’ve been reading some news articles and current threads as the famous chicken and popular craft store hits the news cycle again.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Trump, Twitter, Trouble…Oh My!

I’ve been quite zealous and critical of President Trump since he entered office, and even before. It’s clear that I am not a fan of his actions, positions, priorities etc. And over the past few months it’s clear my frustration is growing especially on my social media platforms.

Now unlike many, I enjoy conversations with people on my social media platforms over what I post and share. I’m fortunate enough to have a large number of friends with a wide range of views. Each time we chat, I learn a lot and I hope they learn from me too. Those who are different than me in opinion, definitely challenge men, but while we don’t agree all the time with each other, for me, it helps me understand where they are coming from.

 

That being said, I was chatting with the BFFs this past weekend and all that was going on with the President and I found myself coming to this conclusion:

 

Even if I vehemently disagree with his agenda; if only he took the Presidential role with a resemblance of dignity and responsibility I’d be able to respect him and my posts wouldn’t be filled with such frustration and disrespect for the man.

Let’s be honest…Kid President has been more presidential than President Trump for the most part.

 

Now, the job of President of the United States is a beast, I admit, and I’d never be able to take it on. He is an American citizen and has stepped up to lead and should have respect for that. (Which is why I always do my best to refer to him as President Trump and not just Trump). He’s an American citizen who holds all the same rights and privileges for freedom of speech as I do. (Which is why I’m all about his ability to respond). Push back against the media or your opponents if you feel you need to. Defend yourself when it is needed in order to not detract from the legislative agenda. Absolutely defend your family if threats are made against them.

But he’s also the President of the United States of America and that requires some editing before posting.

My message to President Trump: GROW UP. Do NOT respond with childish posts, calling names and gifs.

Push back with facts. Push back with a mature educated response. Push back with a response that takes the high road that moves the debate and conversation forward and not in a circle. Don’t make it all about you.

Now, some say this is a political tactic for President Trump to get policy and actions through under the radar. That while the media is fixated on the #fakenews act, the Trump Administration is moving forward with holding to their campaign promises.

I’m all about pivoting and throwing up surface issues to give heavy issues some cover when needed. I understand it. But it’s the rampant childishness that the Trump Administration is using which just infuriates me.

5737423571_0a7accb35a_bNow I’ve learned to not call out a problem without offering a solution. So let me provide some alternative responses for President Trump’s Twitter over the past few weeks:

In response to biased media:

Every side has a perspective but the Trump Administration is working hard to accomplish the promises we made to the American people

In response to call for information on voters:

It is our hope that all states work with us in our efforts to prevent voter fraud in any way they can.

In response to Kathy Griffin’s graphic beheading of the President:

‪1st Amendment takes many forms & is fundamental right. But I ask for son Barron & grandkids, that @kathygriffin edit content of disagreement‬

In response to Morning Joe

Morning Joe is a tough critic but it is my hope they hear us out for our side regardless if it agrees with our legislative agenda.

The President is more than within his right to respond and to proffer his opinions. But I do expect him to do it in a mature and responsible way that reflects the Office of the President of the United States of America.

My perspective: With great tools such as social media and great positions such as the President of the United State, comes great responsibility

I will continue to vehemently disagree and rally against his agenda and policies but if he is mature and responsible with his communication platforms then I will feel that at least the leader of the United States is taking his role seriously and truly wishes to move the United States forward in the way he thinks is best.

Just some thoughts as I watch CNN this morning with my first coffee of the day.

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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