How to be a great leader not just an adequate one.

This last Friday I was asked to be the Keynote Speaker for West Coast LINK, a leadership conference for my kinky/BDSM/sex positive community.  Here’s my speech.

I never planned on being a leader in the kinky, poly, leather, etc etc communities and yet this is where I ended up.  If you would have told me that I’d have done things I’ve done in the last 20 years, 25 years ago, I would have laughed at you.

I’ve made numerous mistakes, made some enemies (yes, there are people out there that don’t like me.  Who would have thought it?).  Over the years I’ve come up with a few things that I think make for a good or at least adequate leader.  Well really a great leader.

What do we need to do to be a great leader?

We need to learn to listen.  I mean really listen.  Many times we think that our way is the only right way and when others come to us with ideas and suggestions, we don’t pay attention.  We miss opportunities by not listening.

Along with listening, we should always put ourselves in other shoes.  We should be able to see their issues and concerns from their point of view.  Empathy is very powerful.

Oh, and we are not all powerful, all seeing and all capable.  Not matter what image we try to project.  That means, it’s okay to ask for and seek out help.  And there is a lot of help out there.

We have our other community members and leaders.  I’ve learned so much from talking to those who have come before me and also those who are coming into leadership.  Everyone brings something new to the table.

You can also look outside the box of our community for education, advice and ideas.  If you are the leader of a local non-profit look to non-profits that specialize in education on fundraising, board development, program development, etc.  I’ve gone to numerous classes put on by United Way and other non-profit education organizations.

But what I really want to talk about when it comes to great leadership is Perseverance, Personality and Principles.

A few years ago I got to be the keynote speaker for NW Leather and I talked about communities and our various organizations and what made them successful and why they survived.   The three things that stood out were Perseverance, Personality and Principles.  And I feel these three things are equally important when looking at individual leaders in our communities.

Persevering in the times of adversity can be difficult.  You don’t know how many times I wanted to just walk away and do something other than be a community leader.  And I persevered.

How does one persevere?  Here are some tips.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your mission.  Enlist the support of your community.  Remind yourself often about what you wished for when you began your journey.  Focus on the positive not the negative.  If necessary re-evaluate your goals.

Walt Disney said: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

And then there is Personality.  What do I mean when I say personality has a large part in making us leaders?  You have to be willing to set your ego aside.  It takes more than a big ego to be a great leader, it takes a certain type of personality.   You don’t have to be a Master or a Top or a Dom, you have to be a leader.  You have to realize that a lot of leadership is about service and you have to be willing to set aside your Domliness and come from service to give back to the community as a leader.  And you have to be strong enough to be able to not let the naysayers and the drama queens get you down.

Oh, and you sometimes have to be a force of nature, as a good friend of mine puts it.  And that is the term he uses for me and well, I will take some credit for that, in that I can be a force of nature.   That said, I do my best to keep that “force” in check by remembering humility is also a key component.

Saint Augustine said:  Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.
Which brings me to Principles.  What do I mean by Principles?  There are several definitions; I like this one the best. “The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments: a decision based on principle rather than expediency.”

I’d like to think that our leaders are principled and adhere to a certain moral or ethical standard.  And for the most part I think it’s true.  (oh, I know, there are some glaring exceptions.  That is for another speech on another day…why we don’t always hold our leaders accountable.)   But for the most part, our biggest successes are because of principled personalities who persevere (say that 10 times fast)

How do leaders stay principled?

We live in integrity.  When we say we’re going to do something we do it.  When we screw up we clean up the mess and get back in integrity.

We take responsibility for our actions.

We respect ourselves and others and their opinions and do so without compromising ourselves

We are open to change, but don’t let go of our values.

You can also even look to businesses  and others for guidance when it comes to Principles.  A friend of mine who works at Amazon turned me on to the Amazon Leadership Principles and while some of them are business centric, others are applicable to individuals in leadership positions.

Here’s some that resonated with me

Ownership Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”.

Learn and Be Curious Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop The Best (I would change that to recruit and develop the best volunteers). Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.

Think Big Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve.

Earn Trust Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing

We can also learn from relationship principles.  I’m going to be a bit self-promoting here and talk a little bit about some of the 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By that my husband and I created back in the 90’s.  (I’m currently writing a relationship book featuring the Principles)Some of these relationship Principles can be used by leaders as well as in forming relationships.

No surprises are allowed –That means that as a leader, you need to keep in constant communication with those who are part of your community or organization.

Make clear agreements on what each person is supposed to do. When in doubt write it down.  Making sure that all of those who are assisting you are clear on their duties makes your leadership a lot easier.

Each person should be clear about their intentions. AND Each person should be clear about their expectations of the other. Again, that’s just another way of saying COMMUNICATE!

Keep a sense of humor when working out differences of opinion. A great leader knows how to laugh and keeps their sense of humor even when those around you are not.

These are just a few of the Principles that I feel also are principles of leadership.

Principled actions are the hardest because they aren’t always the most expedient. And they definitely aren’t the easiest.  However no matter how we stick to our guns and persevere and no matter how amazing the personalities of our leaders are, without principles we will never be the great leaders that we can be.

Principled leaders also know when to step down and let someone new take over.  This can be the hardest of all.  Two years ago when I stepped down as Executive Director of both the Center and Foundation, it was painful and I knew that it was what was best, in the long run, for both organizations.  My end goal was that I want both organizations to succeed whether I’m there or not. Which was why when I got laid off last month, I still urged people to support the Center.

Leadership is not about total control no matter how much we’d like it to be.  Sometimes you have to step aside.

In closing I want to encourage all of you to take a close look at how you lead.   Do you listen?  Are you empathetic?  Are you open to learning from others and trying new things?  Are you willing to take the steps to persevere, even when times are tough?   Do you lead from service and not from ego?  Do you uphold your principles?   If you can say yes to these questions then you are ahead of the game and those you lead are lucky.  If you find yourself lacking in some area, don’t beat yourself up, rather look at what you can do to change the situation.  Being aware of the issues is a big part of moving forward.  By being conscious in how you lead, by being willing to listen, learn, preserver, be of service and uphold your principles,  you can be more than an adequate leader and truly make a difference in your community and even the world.

You can be a great leader.

Doors

There is a saying that when a door closes another will open.  Well a major door in my life recently closed and thankfully more than one door has opened.

What am I talking about?  In late January I was laid off by the organization that I help found, The Center for Sex Positive Culture.  This was due to financial reasons since they recently had to move and the new building build-out has turned out to be extremely expensive.  And, since I no longer was the Executive Director and just working part-time, they felt it was financially in the best interest of the Center to let me go.

While I was initially angry and I’m still sad at their decision, I do understand why they chose to do this and I don’t hate them and still wish the best for the Center. It is my legacy and I want it to be there for years to come.

And wow, have the doors opened.  I seem to be busier now than ever before.  Speaking opportunities around the country are opening up.  I have two books that are being written (and maybe a third on Seattle Sex Culture). I’m back on track with my senior sexuality education, teaming with a great therapist in creating the content.  And it just keeps coming.  I have to say that while I miss the Center I’m not super devastated that this happened.

That said, money isn’t flowing in.  I want to get my coaching business more active and I really want to make sure I finish both books which should help me make enough money to live on along with my Social Security.  Yup, your read right.  I am old enough for Social Security and I just applied for it.  Whew, I feel old.  Ha ha.

One thing I’m doing to create the possibility of more money in my life is that I’m now on Patreon  which will insure that my book, 20 Relationship Tips to Try to Live and Relate By gets written.  Go here to check it out!  https://www.patreon.com/AllenaGabosch

Thanks for reading and now that I have more time I will be blogging more often, although if you become a patron on Patreon  you will see even more of me.

Allena

A Guest Blogger –I’m Solo Poly and Life Is Good!

I have a new friend, named Jodi, who is discovering the wonderful world of solo polyamory.  I invited her to share her journey with all of you.  I’ve been doing this so long that sometimes I get a bit jaded. I love a fresh voice to the conversation.  I feel that we can learn so much from those who are just discovering the joys of polyamory.

Thanks Jodi!

I’m Solo Poly and Life Is Good!

“To live single is unusual in most cultures.  Most people look on their periods of singlehood as temporary, often accidental, and to be ended as quickly as possible…What would it be like to be intentionally single?…Your relationship with yourself is a lifelong commitment.  When you are single, you have unique opportunities to live out that relationship…to live single and in love with many is…an opportunity to get to know yourself intimately…” –The Ethical Slut

A few months ago I was visiting Brooklyn, NY for a friend’s wedding.  One rainy morning while I was there I walked through the drizzle to a little café.  As I was drinking my latte I alternated between people-watching and reading from The Ethical Slut.

Just before my trip to NYC, I had had an amazing first date, with an amazing poly guy, and he suggested that I read The Ethical Slut.  Maybe I should back up just a bit, from this cozy café in Brooklyn.

When I first came across E’s profile on OK Cupid, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the concept of polyamory, but I knew it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t have any religious objections to it, having been raised in a secular household.  Despite their lack of religious faith and their general social liberalism, my family of origin is prudish.  Casual sex?-that’s just wrong!  Somehow, despite that, I have always been sex-positive and didn’t share their moral disapproval of sluttiness.  But what I did have, which made poly seem like it was ok for other people but not for me, was a lot of subconscious ideas about what “real love” means.  It was so clearly wrapped up with possessiveness and ideals of “The One” that I didn’t see how I could stand it if someone I loved was in love with someone else. The very thought of “sharing” someone I loved seemed almost physically painful to me.

I have had a fairly typical (I would guess) history of serial monogamy for the majority of my adult life.  I have been married and divorced twice, lived with a boyfriend for about a year after the second divorce, and then had such a terrible break-up from that relationship that I was forced to take some time and really do  self-reflection.  I intentionally took a year completely off dating (which is scary to do when you are in your late thirties and wondering if you will be doomed to be alone for the rest of your life) and committed to doing some emotional work.   I was able to see my history of co-dependence, of being a “fixer” of broken people, and I learned about boundaries, and communication, and self-care.  I focused on my close friendships and my relationship with my daughter, and I found myself living a really strong, successful, beautiful life as a single woman.

But damn, after a year, I missed having a boyfriend.  It wasn’t just sex I missed, but also physical intimacy.  I missed snuggling up with someone, I missed holding hands, I missed the little moments of closeness.  So I tried online dating for the first time, and I decided that I was going to “just date around.”  I thought that by keeping things casual I could get my physical needs for intimacy met without giving up the freedom and self-actualization I had come into while being single.  At that time I was still operating under the unconscious belief that “True Love” would mean monogamy and jumping onto the relationship escalator.  I was in emotional combat with myself.  I said I was “just having fun” and “keeping it casual” but I would find myself falling in love and getting hurt, or hurting others.  I think my assumption was that when I found “The One” I would be able to give all this nonsense up and move along to a blissful monogamous relationship, the way I was supposed to.  However, I also was realizing that I didn’t want to get on that relationship escalator again.  I would tell my friends “I don’t know that I ever want to get married or even live with someone again” they would say “well, when you find the right guy you will” and I thought that I should believe them.  I was constantly at war with myself, trying to decide between a healthy but lonely single life, or the intimacy and connection of love. I didn’t know of any way that I could have both.

The first time E messaged me on OK Cupid and asked me out, I turned him down.  I told him I wasn’t interested in polyamory, that I wanted a “real relationship.”  The second time, when he suggested that I just have some fun with him until I found my “real relationship,” I said yes.  Our first date was amazing, with the kind of instant chemistry, intense connection and conversation that amazing first dates are made of.  At some point that night we talked about poly, and I told him that there was no way it was for me.  It hurt to think of being in love with someone who was in love with someone else.  I was ok with dating multiple partners as long as it didn’t involve emotional commitment, and since what I was really craving was emotional connection, then poly was not going to work for me.  He didn’t try to convince me, just shared his own experiences.  He thought that maybe I should do a little more research about the subject, hence the suggestion of The Ethical Slut.

Being the avid reader that I am, as well as the sex-positive, “just dating around” kind of slut I was at the time, I thought that sounded like a good idea.  So here I was, sipping a latte in Brooklyn, when I came upon the chapter on “Single Sluthood” from which the quote at the beginning of this post is from.  Holy shit!  This was me!  This was the life I wanted; where I could have my freedom and independence as well as real emotional connection, intimacy and love, without the relationship escalator.  It was a while after that when I first learned the term solo poly and started to think of myself as a solo poly person.

Right now I’m a few months into my relationship with E, both of us still glowing with New Relationship Energy, very much in love.  I have had some moments of experience shock, like the first time I met E’s girlfriend M and got the gift of learning that jealousy isn’t fatal.  I realized that I have felt jealousy before, in my friendships, in my relationships with family, even with co-workers.  But in the context of those relationships, I never thought to myself “I’m feeling jealous, therefore this relationship is broken or wrong!”  Instead, I worked through my feelings, communicated if appropriate, and moved on.  It’s amazing how well that works in romantic relationships too, if you are open to owning your own shit and doing the work of open communication.

Another epiphany: the first time I felt compersion.  I was basking in glowing feelings for my other partner, C, and it hit me that my feelings for C didn’t diminish my glowing feelings for E at all.  From there, I made the connection that E’s love for M felt just as good to him, and in fact, was good for him, and didn’t take anything away from me.  I was overcome with a visceral feeling of gratitude that E had something so beautiful with M, because I could see how that relationship brings him joy.

Another weird and wonderful moment: when C texted me that he had run into E at Whole Foods, and that they had chatted a bit by the salad bar.  (They had only very briefly met once before, with me present.)  “That guy’s pretty cool to talk to” he tells me.  My reply: “I know! That’s why I’m dating him!”

Being poly has helped me to be so much braver in my communication with my loves.  In the case of C, he is someone that I had an instant and strong connection to when I was “dating around” a couple years ago.  But my confusion about what I really wanted in a relationship, coupled with his self-described “perpetual bachelor” nature, caused us to avoid getting too emotionally intimate.  Since discovering solo poly, I have reconnected with C, and this time around we are talking about what it is that we both want from our relationship.  I am able to relax into the space that we have, without feeling any impulse to grasp for more than he is able to give.

That bravery in communication has spread to my non-romantic relationships as well.  I find myself being more authentic, more open and vulnerable, with my friends, and my family, and engaging more with the world in general.  I really feel, as cliché as it may sound, that I’ve gone through a lot of personal growth in the last few months.

I’m still very new to all of this, and I continue to see new insights into myself.  I expect there may be some more moments of jealousy (that won’t kill me) and more opportunities for personal growth.  I just finished reading More Than Two and I’ve joined the Solo Polyamory Facebook page.  I am heartened to learn from and interact with other people who are also living their lives authentically, creating the relationships that really nurture and fulfill them.  I love my life.

Gratitude

With the craziness of the election, the fighting around the world and numerous people  passing; there doesn’t seem to be a lot to be grateful for in the last year — except maybe that 2016 is over.  However, when I look closely, I find many things to be grateful for.  Here’s my partial gratitude list for 2016 (a full one would take days to write).

I’m grateful that my mother is kicking bladder cancer’s ass and surviving all the other numerous health issues she’s dealt with this past year.

I’m grateful that my stepdad has kicked stomach cancer in the stomach.  I’m grateful that he is there for my mother and loves her so much.

I’m grateful that I passed my five year cancer free anniversary.   In fact, I’m grateful my health, while at time precarious continues to allow me to do almost everything I want to do.

I’m grateful that my family had a reunion this summer and I got to spend time with cousins and aunts and an uncle who some I haven’t seen in over 30 years.

I’m grateful for my partners, who really are able to thrive on benign neglect.  I’m not always the most available and I do love them all.  Polyamory makes it possible for me to be who I am and not try to fit someone’s ideal of what a partner should be.

I’m grateful for my silly, weird, amazing roommate, Trick, who constantly reminds me to stay mindful and not sweat the little things.  And who makes me laugh at the weirdest stuff.

I’m grateful that Trick and I found a wonderful little apartment to call home this summer.

I’m grateful that I have so many incredible friends that I have a hard time finding time to spend with them.  I’m grateful I live in such abundance.  I’m especially grateful for Robyn, Julie and Phyllis; three women who change my world by just being in it.

I’m grateful for Old Man Brunch.  Spending time with Leathermen who I adore and respect so much has given me a new appreciation of my Leather Family.  And I’m especially grateful that Sheldon, the 88 year old man we take to brunch is still with us.

I’m grateful that I got to travel all over the country this year spreading sex positive messages.  I started in January as a judge at the SW Leather Conference Master/slave contest in Phoenix.  In early March I got to teach classes in Anchorage for their amazing community and I got to see a small part of the Iditarod.  July was especially busy with a trip to New Orleans for Desiree, the Sex Worker’s Conference and then a few weeks later to Dallas for  PolyDallas Millennium polyamory conference.   Then in November I went to Victoria for their Conception Conference.  Then, finally in December I traveled to Mt. Vernon, Iowa’s Cornell College to present “A Kink in the Cure” with my good friend Tim Murry who created this amazing performance piece.  I’m so grateful that I was able to do all of this last year.

I’m grateful that I got to speak locally at numerous colleges and conferences and that by doing so I make a difference in the world.

I’m grateful that I’ve worked almost 18 years for The Center for Sex Positive Culture and that I’m partially responsible for it existing, as well as the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, The Seattle Erotic Art Festival and our other various programs.  I’m also grateful that I no longer work full-time as the Executive Directors of the two organizations and that two incredible leaders have stepped up and taken charge of the two organizations.

I’m grateful that the Center has found a new space (and I’m really grateful it wasn’t  my job to find the building nor  do the build-out and other work involved in getting us back up and running.  Been there, done that)

I’m grateful that I’m the Development Director for the Center and I get to put on fundraisers, do outreach and help keep our doors open.

I’m grateful that a sweet guy from Australia contacted me to see if I would help him write a book on Sex Postivity.  What an honor to be asked.

I’m grateful I am finally getting off my ass and writing a book on Relationship Principles.

I’m grateful for all of you who are reading this and who support me in all that I do.

So, my question to all of you.  What are you grateful for?

Some musings on writing

It’s been a hard month for many of us.  I’m not just talking about the election, I’m talking about life in general.  Many people I know and love have been sicker this winter than normal.  Yours truly included.  People have lost loved ones; lost their homes; lost their jobs.  It is really easy to fall into a wallowing in my self-pity mode (where I seldom go) or my distract myself by never stopping to think mode (where I go a lot).  When I’m in either of these modes I find I don’t do a lot of writing or constructive work that isn’t absolutely required of me.

Thankfully the universe does provide.  One thing that got me out of my funk was an awesome guy from Australia contacted me about co-authoring a book with him tentatively entitled Sex Positive Now.  And while it’s been slow, we are making headway and working on the book.  I want to share our mission and  vision with you all as I love it.

Sex Positive Now Mission and Vision:

Our mission is to create a book and other resources to assist us in accomplishing our vision. Which is to create a new sex positive world: to support the change of cultural norms around sexuality and relationships.  In the world of Sex Positive Now people have the freedom and permission to be the sexual beings they already are.  Pleasure and joy are vital to our wellbeing. Sexual shame is a thing of the past. People are celebrated for their sexuality, gender, who or how they love. Consensual sexuality in all of its forms is healthy and life affirming.  

In the world of Sex Positive Now people can make conscious choices about their sexuality and relationships. This includes celibacy, asexuality, kink, polyamory, fetish and other forms of sexual and relationship expression. We are frolicking playfully with ourselves and each other.

Well working on this book has gotten of my ass (so to speak, since I can’t write standing up, no matter if it’s healthier for me.  LOL ) and I actually worked yesterday on my Principles book.  If you don’t remember I’m writing a book based on the 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By  that I wrote with my former husband Steve.

The title will probably be Conscious Relationships — 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By and other Tips for Healthy Relationships.

I’ve written about a lot of the book already, especially the Principles.  There will also be chapters on Conscious Polyamory & Monogamy, Happy Endings (ending a relationship and staying friends) and Difficult Conversations.   Today I am going to share a small piece about Difficult Conversations that I worked on yesterday.  Hopefully you’ll get some ideas to assist you in getting ready to have “that” conversation with a loved one.

Difficult Conversations

Sometimes we have to have difficult conversations with those we love.  If you take the time to prepare and go into the difficult conversation consciously you’ll find that solutions to whatever the problem may be will come easier than you think.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

  1. Purpose for the conversation

Ask yourself these questions.  Why are you having this conversation?  What is the problem?   What is its impact on you?  What do you think is the impact on the other person?  What would be your IDEAL outcome?  What is non-negotiable? What support are you committed to providing?  What do both of you agree to?    Is this about support or do you want to punish the other person for some reason?

Be aware of any hidden purposes for the conversation.  Look deeply at yourself so that you enter the conversation with support and good intent.

  1. Assumptions being made

Think about any preconceived notions you may feel.  You may feel intimidate, ignored, disrespected or marginalized by the other person.  It’s important not to assume that this is their intention.  This may simply be your reaction to the difficult conversation.  If you are going to make an assumption, assume that they are just as nervous and uncomfortable as you are and they also have good intentions.   Remember, impact does not necessarily equal intent.

  1. Buttons being pushed

Emotions are normal and they arise sometime without warning.  While we can’t control the emotions we can control our actions.  Are you emotions getting the best of you?  There may be a “backstory” that has nothing to do with the person and/or the conversation you are preparing for.   What personal history is being triggered?  We can avoid being overly triggered by being mindful of preserving the person’s dignity—and treating them with respect—even if we totally disagree with them.

  1. Attitude toward the conversation

If you tell yourself that it’s going to be a horrible difficult conversation, it probably will be.  And on the other hand, if you believe that whatever happens, that the end results will be good, then that will most likely be true.

  1. Who is the person?

Do they even know that there is an issue or concern?  What might they be thinking about what is going on?  How do you feel that they perceive the problem?  What might be their needs?  Their fears?  Do you have an idea what solution they might suggest?  Do not forget they are your partner, not your opponent,

  1. Your needs and fears and their needs and fears

Think carefully about what your needs are (write them down in fact) and what your fears are.  Consider what their needs and fears may be.  Remember this is not a battle or a contest with winner and losers. Look closely at any common concerns you may share.

  1. Your contribution to the problem

This one is the hardest for many of us.  Self-reflection.  What have we contributed to the problem?  We can probably make a long list of how they contributed to the problem.  That’s the easy part.  It’s what our contributions are to the problem that is harder and very important as we prepare for the conversation.

Have a great day and a Happy Ho Ho or whatever you celebrate (I try to celebrate everything, to cover all my bases.)  I’ll talk to you next year.

Our Future

I’ve been pondering what I wanted to write about following the election and what I want to talk about is our future.

First I want to acknowledge the initial anger and fear I felt at the results of the election.  Anger and fear that was quickly replaced by sadness.  Sadness has been my prevailing emotion this past week.  I’m sad that our world quickly spiraled out of control.  I’m sad that many found that electing Trump was a mandate to be able to vent their fear and hatred of people of color, the LGBT community, women, immigrants and others in violent and destructive ways.  I’m sad that many of those I love now live in fear.  I’m sad that some are even talking about leaving our country.  I am filled with sadness.

We are not born racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic or with whatever other hatreds fills our souls.  Most of us though are born into racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny.  We are products of this messy thing we call life and because of that none of us are perfect or without flaws.  What causes us to go from being a babe in arms to arming ourselves against our neighbors? Where does this hatred come from?  A friend of mine once said that anger and fear ferment into hatred.   She is so right.  And when our politicians and leaders (not just Trump) speak that anger and fear and it is allowed it to ferment we get what we currently have.  A sad state of affairs and a country that I wish I could say I didn’t recognize, but it really hasn’t changed much from when I was young.  In fact, it feels that we’ve gone back to a time when speaking our hate was okay and again, I’m sad.

So, our future?  What do we do?  I can’t speak for any of you and I will never tell you what to do.  I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I’m going to continue being the best person I can be.  I am going to speak out when I hear someone voice hatred; in whatever form it may take (liberal and conservative).  I’m going to be there for my friends who are marginalized and mistreated.  I’m going to keep the conversation going, even amongst those who do not agree with me and even with those who wish I didn’t exist.  I’m going to keep being a sexual subversive and keep teaching and advocating for healthy sexuality.  I will not allow my anger and fear (which I do have) to ferment into hatred.   Most importantly I am going to Love.  That is my future.  What is yours?

More On Gifts

I am a believer that life is constantly giving me gifts.  Even when I least expect it “poof” there they are.  My favorite gifts are meeting new people that reach my heart and make my life better by just existing. I want to share some of those gifts that I recently received.

I had cellulitis in my leg for over 2 weeks in early October. It was truly one of the more unpleasant experiences of my life.  And yet, I got gifts.

One gift was that I got closer to an old friend who kindly became my chauffeur for most of my doctor visits.  I could not have gotten through all of this without her.  And she was only one of many friends who stepped up to help.

Another gift was I got to meet a man who changed the lives of many.  My Infectious Disease Doctor turned out to be the doctor who took care of the first HIV patient in Seattle in the early 80’s.  He and his cohorts were responsible for making sure that all patients were cared for and none were turned away (which sadly was the norm during the early days of HIV).  I was honored to meet him and to actually have a conversation with him about his incredible journey.

This past weekend I was a presenter in Victoria BC at a kinky conference.  I always get gifts at conferences.  Meeting new people, exploring new places and having conversations that change lives.  I want to make a difference in this world and one of the gifts I got this past weekend was watching the faces of attendees to my workshops really get what I was talking about when it came to polyamory and jealousy.  Twice I had people tear up and tell me later that what I said changed their lives.  That is why I teach.  I also connected with an amazing couple who I hope to deepen the connection even more.

However, the biggest gift was on the ride home on the Clipper ferry.  I sat at table with 5 other people.  Three of them were a family from California.  In the almost three hour trip we talked about a lot of things.   When we got to politics was when the conversation got deep. We talked about our fears of a Trump presidency and what it could mean to us.  That was when they shared their stories of how they came to America.

He had come to the US in 1975 from Vietnam at the age of 9.  His family was fleeing the country and they ended up in Fresno of all places.  His father was a business man and his mother was a school teacher and yet in 1975 the assumption was that they were uneducated refugees.  His father became a janitor and his mother worked at a factory in assembly.  And their hard work made it possible for their children to go to college and have a good life in the US.

The wife came to the US from Vietnam at 17 in the early 80’s  She was one of the boat people.  Her family put her on a boat filled with other refugees and she sailed away, not knowing if she’d ever see any of them again.  Many of the boat people never reached US soil.  Many of the women were kidnapped and raped and killed by Thai pirates and others.  She was a lucky one.

This couple and their daughter were so full of life and love and happiness.  It was amazing and I was privileged to be able to spend time talking to them.

They touched my heart and made a difference by just being who they were.

I love the gifts that come out of nowhere.