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Us versus Them: How We Perpetuate Conflict

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As the discrimination that is still so rampant in our world is being brought to light, we must remember that we are all one, regardless of our individual beliefs. Being inquisitive and open may be the only way to bring neutrality to the “us versus them” mentality to which we’ve all contributed. Even with a pure intention, “fighting” for our rights can oftentimes inadvertently perpetuate the problem. Of course, it’s important to know our differences and also focus on the fundamental interests that will allow us to collaborate and peacefully coexist.

We are seeing many different groups take to the streets to give their perspectives a voice. I admire the unity that these groups bring within their organization and the awareness brought to people from different walks of life. And, as much as I don’t like to admit it, even the groups that I disagree with wholeheartedly have the same rights that I have. I agree that it’s important to express what you believe is right, but there is a fine line between standing up for oneself and being aggressive and intolerant. At what point does a peaceful protest turn into a riot?

Who instigates the abuse? Who is an innocent bystander? Who is full of love and who is full of hate? Who wants the best for the world and the greater good? The answer: all of us. I’ve had a very hard time swallowing this reality – the reality that sometimes I have beliefs and behave in ways that make me both the victim and the perpetrator.

This viewpoint was spurred by the speech that President Trump delivered after the horrific events in Charlottesville. The statement that infuriated millions across the country included me. How on earth could he say there was “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides”? Many sides…is he serious?! Through my lens, there was hate on one side and one side only; however, upon further contemplation, I reluctantly admitted that perhaps Trump had a point.

Sometimes, even when a group shows up in defense of their rights and to give their side a voice, behaviors can shift and people with the purest of intentions can react in the same way as the opposing group. Calling people names, screaming profanities, throwing judgements, and pushing personal beliefs on others ensues. We can fight hate with more hate – that is, if we want to fuel the fire and perpetuate the conflict. Or we can defuse hate by choosing to actually embody what we’re “fighting” for. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” I thought we didn’t want to fight anymore, so why are we out engaging in fights? We as individuals have to evolve.

You may be thinking that when we bring awareness, we aren’t looking for a fight; we’re trying to promote love and acceptance of all. I’m suggesting that we look at conflict through a different lens. Whomever opposes your/my viewpoint believes that they are simply defending their rights, as well. Even those who display blatant racism and intolerance are loving fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They actually believe that they’re doing the right thing. It’s hard for me to understand their viewpoint, but throwing more hurtful things at people who are so obviously in very deep pain will not help matters. It only justifies their belief that they were right about us; all the people with a different religion, different sexual orientation, a different color skin, etc.

It’s hard to reprogram our belief systems, but we must if we want to evolve and truly be the change we want to see. Love all the perspectives and sides, even if you don’t agree. After all, each of us embody the light and the dark, the love and the hate, the courage and the fear. When we accept all of this in ourselves, we can accept it in others and collectively begin to shift the culture.

How can we remind the world and each other that we are all one and come from the exact same place? How can we remember that we are just individual expressions of a diverse and wonderful existence? How can we finally accept that we are all humans created in love? How can we coexist without hurting each other and/or trying to change each other?

I believe the answer lies within ourselves; when we become aligned in love as individuals, we are directly affecting the collective, but it takes all of us. We’ve made great strides over the decades in regard to civil rights, thanks to the trailblazers who have come before us – the brave souls who stood up for their rights and the rights of all who have followed. The actions and perseverance of those people have allowed me to be who I am today, and I am forever grateful. It’s now our turn to bring a different approach to the table.

I would love to hear thoughts and recommendations, dear readers.  It’s important to have a safe space to express ourselves, brainstorm, and have an open discussion without attack, hate speech, name-calling, or threats. TravelPRIDE is a place where we can do just that. Be innovative. Be kind. Be loving. How can we all set an example of what being open, tolerant, and respectful of everyone’s beliefs actually looks like?

Originally posted 2017-10-01 17:12:16.


Also published on Medium.

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I Know Where I’ve Been: All Over The Place, As It Seems

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Travelogues are nothing new in the realm of literature. Ever since the dawn of the written word, there have been innumerable people who want to tell the stories of faraway places they may or may not have visited. Marco Polo was just only the most visible one; there was many who came before him, and many who sought to imitate him afterwards. In fact, one of the first modern satires, Gulliver’s Travels, was written under the thin veneer of being a parody of “traveller’s tales”. So in the age of social media, the concept of the travelogue might seem as dated as the rotary phone.

Which leads to Robert Coles’ I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year-Long Journey of Self-Discovery, a new type of spectrum-friendly travelogue. Though he notes of occasional trips to Mexico and Colombia, most of the travels documents are in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it detailed his travels throughout 2015 and the connections that he had made in the process of reaching his goal of visiting 30 cities by the end of the year. In between the stories about random adventures and quirky friends/lovers are a series of sober reflections on not only his life but also the lives of those around him.

It is in these reflections that one can find the emotional core of I Know Where I’ve Been, and certainly makes it stand out from the standard travelogue. These include stories of his family (specifically of his dad, who died of a heart attack at 53) as well as past lovers (such as “Josh”, with whom he had a fun but ill-fated relationship). It also informs the reader of Coles’ mentality about travel, as his family was not able to travel very much, save for the occasional trip to Disney World or a place like Yellowstone. In a household like that with a person like Coles turned out to be, it is no wonder that he turned out to be such a major traveler. And of course, his sexuality does play an important role at certain moments, including an experience with those with a homophobic bent. Specifically, it first comes to a head when a seemingly nice Christian family turns on him with a vengeance when one of its members catches him looking up certain explicit files downloaded from Limewire.  

Of course, the travel stories in I Know Where I’ve Been themselves do stand out in their own right, which is an important part of a work in this genre. And unlike many popular travelogues, there is a tinge of emotional honesty to most of them, which makes it akin to a mix of An Idiot Abroad and Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days in literary form. Coles does not shy away from the horror stories, such as the Airbnb fiasco in Chicago or a miserable night on the bad side of Detroit. Nor does he leave out some of the stranger things, such as the night in Detroit being followed by a slightly unnerving passport check at the Canadian border. Nor does he gloss over several of the tales of him and his company going on full-blown benders, with the results akin to a remake of The Hangover on a college film fest budget.

However, the experiences throughout his 2015 in I Know Where I’ve Been come out as a net positive, especially with all of the people he met. Standouts include the “Denver Death Tour”, the visits to the Second City improv venue, and visiting Toronto ’s famous CN Tower. Perhaps the most accurate statement by Coles is the following: “While I certainly regret some of the behaviors and wish I could erase some of the memories, I wouldn’t change who I am today because of them.” It is likely the reader will share the same sentiment by the end.

Originally posted 2017-07-30 10:04:24.

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Relationships and Monogamy: Does Sexuality Play a Role in Monogamous Practices?

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Whatever your sexual orientation or gender may be, there’s one thing we can all collectively agree on: Monogamy seems a difficult practice for many people.

That is not to say there are not monogamous partners out there. There are, in fact, plenty of happily practicing monogamous partners who are satisfied with their current relationship situation.

According to the Journal of Sexuality and Social Psychology, men, considered the “fast sex,” tend to “maximize their mating opportunities” by increasing the number of sexual partners in their life. For women, a large number of partners holds no physiological benefits, and “would risk producing offspring of low quality if mated indiscriminately,” making it much more likely for men to cheat than women.

However, as we watch the world progress, we observe a greater tolerance of gender and sexual fluidity. With simplicity comes complexity, and, to state the very obvious: Relationships can be rather messy.

It’s been proven that men show, “a greater interest in uncommitted sex.” It’s also been proven that out of all couples, gay men are by far the least committed to staying faithful in a long term relationship (numbers change based on national averages.)

And while lesbian affairs are the least likely of all, let’s not forget emotional cheating, and how damaging the effects can be on a relationship. More importantly, over the past couple of decades, the percentage of women who have admitted to cheating has risen 40%, while the percentage of men has stayed the same.

We know these numbers also depend on different factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, lack of self-satisfaction, and poor emotional validation,   

Gender norms may have you believe that men are more likely to cheat, but in a 2016 study, statics show that while 57% of men are likely to cheat, this is just a small incline from the 54% of women who have admitted to some type of affair.

In a Psychology Today study, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff finds a common theme among cheating in monogamous relationships over two-decade study, “Some people become polyamorous, starting swinging, or attempt other forms of CNM after they have tried – sometimes for many years – to maintain monogamous relationships and found themselves cheating repeatedly.”

Thus, a question remains: Does your gender and sexual orientation play any type of role in your participation of monogamous relationships?

In short: The answer is no.

Your sexuality does not play a role in whether or not you are more inclined to monogamous practices, but a New York Times article explains that the answers may be found in your genes.

The culprit seems to be “vasopressin,” a “hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals,” which strongly affects your inclination to cheat.

In a study using prairie and montane voles, sexually monogamous and sexually promiscuous creatures, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noticed a change in the animal’s behavior when vasopressin receptors were induced and when they were blocked.

When blocked, the animals were disposed to monogamous sexual behaviors. When injected, “pair bonding,” the scientific term for infidelity, was promoted.

It seems vasopressin is the key to “social bonding” between animals and can be speculated that this is the reason such a large number of people are naturally against monogamy.

Although this research is not 100% proven and is still debatable, it seems that human’s polygamous nature comes naturally from within.

Of course, we are not set to one standard or one type of relationship with our partner(s). Relationships, much like sexuality, comes in all different shapes and sizes. Everyone should have the freedom to explore whatever they should so choose, but bear in mind that respect, honesty and mutual happiness are the most important factors of any relationship between partners.

Originally posted 2017-07-29 15:01:00.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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