Sunday, July 26, 2015

Interview Someone You Love About Life

In my life I have had 3 family members die from Cancer.  My Grandmother, my Great Aunt, and my Mother.  I was able to spend time with all 3 of them before they died, and yes looking back there are things I wish I had asked them before they passed.   When you are going through this time you don't think to ask important questions, and you don't want to burden them with having to answer family "mysteries".  I was a typical kid, always asking questions, being nosy, etc. But I wish I had asked the important things.  My mom had a lot of secrets, some of them I have shared, some of them I am just now learning about and will share in the future.

I came across this list recently and I thought how wonderful it would have been to document these things, or at least just ask these questions to someone you love.

Someday it will be too late, and you will wish you knew more of these things.

1. What comes to mind when you think about growing up in [hometown]?

2. What did you love to do as a kid, before high school?

3. What did you love to do in high school?

4. What do remember most about your teenage years?

5. What do you remember most about your mom (grandma)?

6. What was most important to her?

7. What do you remember most about your dad (grandpa)?

8. What was most important to him?

9. If grandma and grandpa had a message to you and their grandchildren, what do you think it is?

10. How did you meet [spouse] and know (s)he was the one?

11. How did you choose your career and what was your favorite part about it?

12. What made you successful at work?

13. What did you believe about yourself that helped you become successful and deal with hard times?

14. What times in your life truly “tested your mettle,” and what did you learn about yourself by dealing (or not dealing) with them?

15. What three events most shaped your life?

16. What do you remember about when each of us was born?

17. Were you ever scared to be a parent?

18. What three words would you say represented your approach to parenting and why?

19. When you think about [sibling] how would you describe him?

20. What message do you have for [sibling] that you want him to always keep in mind?

[Do the last two questions above for each sibling in your family]

21. When you think about [spouse], how would you describe her/him?

22. What message do you have for [spouse] that you want her/him to always keep in mind?

23. What three words would you say best describe who you tried to be in life and how you want to be remembered?

24. When they think about their careers, what do you want your children to focus on?

25. What have you learned about other people in life? (Trustworthy, kind or not and mean)?

26. What do you think the world needs more of right now?

27. What do you believe people want the most in life?

28. What were the three best decisions you’ve ever made?

29. What are you most proud of in life?

30. What were five of the most positive moments of your life?

31. What message would you like to share with your family?

32. What are you most thankful for?

Questions from Brendon Burchard

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life Update

I've posted a couple of blogs but nothing serious since January of 2015.

That blog I was moaning about being sick, and how I had nothing to do, it was almost my birthday, and I had nothing to look forward to when I got over that damn flu.  I hadn't heard from that job that I wanted, and I decided I was just going to have to be one of the millions of Americans that go to work every day hating what they do.   Then 3 hours later the phone rang.  The organization I had been talking to for six months, the one I wanted to work for called to offer me the position.  They asked when I could come in to finalize things, and I chose January 12th, my birthday; 3 days later I began work.  Things have been AMAZING, I have met some wonderful people, I have people seeking me out to share my knowledge, and input.  I'm also learning a lot from others that I work with, both with my company and from all of the boards and committees I sit on.  At times, it's hectic and not perfect but it is beyond what I had even hoped for with this job.

So, many of you may know that I now work in the mental health field.  I am the LGBTQ outreach coordinator for Mental Health America of San Diego County.  It's a national organization with affiliates all over the United States.  It's the job I dreamed of for some years; I get to work in my community and work in a field that is very personal to me.   In June, my boss asked me to attend our national conference in Washington DC, which was a great honor considering I had only been with MHASD for less than six months.  It was a great experience, and I look forward to attending many more conferences in the future.  I LOVE to travel.

My job is to serve the un-served and underserved people within the LGBTQ community in all of San Diego County.  I do suicide prevention training, Introduction to Mental Health presentations.  I've worked with homeless youth, LGBT seniors, parents of Transgender children and so much more.  I also give an LGBTQ 101 presentation to groups and organizations that need a little bit of help learning about the specific needs of the LGBTQ community when it comes to mental health issues.  I go to resource fairs to have conversations with people and pass out information about our programs, as well as providing resources and referrals. I sit on a number of committees focusing on LGBTQ youth,  I attend monthly Suicide Prevention Council Meetings, and I was recently appointed to the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Board because of my work in the mental health field.  One of the things I enjoy doing most is advocating for my community, so often the LGBTQ community is not even mentioned, treatment facilities are not Trans* friendly or sensitive.  I speak up whenever I can, I'm trying not to be that annoying guy that's always raising his hand asking a question, but I care about people in my community, and I want to make sure we aren't forgotten.

Something I wasn't expecting was having so many friends looking to me for help and advice.  It truly blows me away that I went from a place of attempting to end my own life to now helping so many other people. I have Facebook friends I have never met reaching out, friends from junior high school asking me for advice for their adult children.  It's a great feeling, although it gets overwhelming at times, it is rare that I have a day that I am not discussing mental health issues with someone.
One thing that has been somewhat challenging is working in an office with so many different people and personalities.  Back when I was working in skin care, I worked alone in a quiet environment.  Office life isn't completely foreign to me; I've worked in corporate environments before; it's just been awhile.  OH and having a cubicle!!!  I NEVER thought I would be that guy nor did I want to be, but of course I decorated the heck out of it, filled it with gayness and, of course, some peacocks.  I'm not often in my cubicle.  I'm supposed to doing outreach and of course presentations, so that gets me out of the office.  I need to step my game up there; I do a lot of outreach via telephone and email though.  It is not so easy just walking into a business or organization and doing a "cold call" about mental health.

The past six months have flown by, I'm probably the happiest I have been in years, I find my work very fulfilling and I know that I am making a difference in people's lives.

That's not to say that I don't have my low moments.  I still LIVE WITH depression, but, for the most part, its manageable.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I have too many things on my plate, or if there are many issues of conflict going on around me.  But self-care is something that the people around me really understand, and if I need to leave the office early to go to the Chiropractor or even go home and curl up in bed and nap, I'm able to do so.  I work a lot of hours outside of my regular 9-5 schedule, so I have plenty of time "in the bank" to use when I need.

My close friends often tell me how proud they are of me and how far I have come.
I am always appreciative when I hear encouraging words from friends.  It's especially nice when people that are more than acquaintances but not quite "close" friends tell me how happy they are for me and acknowledge my journey.   Yeah, I know I share EVERYTHING on Facebook, but I don't always know who is paying attention.

Well, I don't know what else to say here except thank you to everyone that had faith and believed in me.  For those that never thought I could be in the position I am in now, I say SUCK IT!  Those people had nothing to do with me wanting to try harder to prove them wrong.  Someday they will be asking for my help, and I'm happy I am in now in a position where I can help them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ive Been on More Diets than Dates

Ok well, the title might not be ENTIRELY true, but it sure seems like it.

When I was very young I was always called a "skinny kid" we had a pool in our backyard, I was always out riding bikes and roller-skating with the neighborhood kids I was always an active little boy. Then we moved from South Gate to another city, Huntington Beach.

I didn't know anyone; I was teased and bullied for what seems like anything and everything...  I was the new kid, I was called "gay," I was the teacher's pet.  I wasn't very active, so I started gaining weight then I was teased because I was fat.  Kids can be awful creatures!

I was never obese, but I always had about an extra 20 pounds I needed to lose.  The summer after 4th grade I went to an all boys "fitness camp" or as I refer to it FAT CAMP.  It wasn't cheap; it was in La Jolla it was for seven weeks, basically the entire summer.  We lived in the dorms at UCSD; we ate our meals out of a cafeteria that was just ours with meals made specifically for us. Most of our activities were on campus, with occasional field trips to baseball games, or Sea World, etc.  Those days were especially difficult since we had to see everyone else eating all the stuff we couldn't.
I hated that place; I HATE exercise, but I also wanted to lose weight.  As I said, the camp was seven weeks, but I only made it four weeks before mom caved in and let me come home early.  Almost daily phone calls full of tears and begging and pleading to come home finally got to her.

I made it through the summer without gaining any weight back so when I went to school that year,  I was thinner, but the weight slowly came back.

Somehow the next summer I ended up back at fat camp…same story, same ending. This time mom and dad only paid for four weeks because we knew I wasn't going to make it the entire summer.  Plus I was already signed up for Golf Camp about a week after fat camp. UGH, I hated that even more.  Talk about feeling inadequate I was TERRIBLE at golf, and it was full of a bunch of "super rich kids" that were so snobby.  If I recall correctly, I left early from that camp as well.

Over the span of my youth mom was always "dieting" with me.  We would try different fad diets, we went to diet doctors for vitamin B shots and weekly weigh-ins.  We did the Richard Simmons Deal a Meal program, The Beverly Hills Diet (I don't even remember what it was) Slim Fast, Lean Cuisine meals; I had a food scale to weigh my portions.  I tried so many diets and different ways to lose weight I don't even remember them all.
The one thing that was never really part of my life was exercise.

I tried Little League, Judo, I took tennis and golf lessons, I went to other "regular" summer camps as a kid where there was physical activity but I either didn't participate or I just did it half-assed, I was always picked last for any PE activity at school.  Physical activity was like kryptonite to me.  In middle school, I stopped participating in PE so I would always get an F. Who cares?
In high school, I started off thinking hell yes, I'm going to do this.  We had to wear white shirts and black shorts.  Well, I wore a Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt and Calvin Klein shorts, so the teasing started up again, so I just started ditching PE, again I thought WHO CARES!

OK, this is probably the most extreme measure I have taken to lose weight.
I had my mouth wired shut!  I could drink liquids through a straw, so I tried just to drink healthy shakes, but many times those "healthy" shakes were just as fattening as regular shakes.  I would cut the wires off and then eat for a few days, and then wire them back up myself.

When I was about 20 years old I became the biggest I had ever been, I weighed 215 pounds.  My girlfriend Mynde discovered this diet called the Atkins diet, so we both started together.  When I was 16 years old I got a gym membership for Christmas, and I kept up on the yearly fee, so I started going to the gym regularly.  This diet and going to the gym was working!  I lost at least 20 pounds; it was also at that time I discovered I was gay.  That also meant I witnessed the pressure that gay men faced having to look a certain way physically.  As shallow as it sounds that did help me stay in decent shape for a while.  I managed for quite a while to stay at a decent weight.  It didn't seem to get in the way of, shall we say "intimate encounters" BUT there was this one guy that I liked; his name was Brad.  Eventually one night in bed he told me he "just didn't think he could date someone that wasn't interested in going to the gym" WOW. Hey, he's entitled to have his preference or whatever you want to call it, but all I heard was, You're good enough for sex, but not to date!  So yeah, that happened.  Years later I still see Brad on occasion, of course, he got what he wanted, a young, buff guy. They have been together a long time now.  Kudos to you Brad for knowing what you want and not settling for something less.

Fast forward just a few years and, unfortunately, I discovered drugs.  I certainly reached my goal weight then.  There was a period when my drug use was very manageable, and I looked great!  No muscle of course, but I sure looked good in that Hugo Boss suit, or that custom made gown, yes I said a gown.  I wasn't afraid to wear a bathing suit by the pool.  I would even go to the clothing optional resorts in Palm Springs and felt totally comfortable.   Well, my drug use got so bad that I became very sick, I was down to about 152 pounds.  I looked like walking death!

The great news is I kicked my drug habit and I started to gain weight, and more weight and more weight.  Soon I was a chubby guy again.  This time it didn't seem to bother me, because at least I was "healthy" I started dating, well two different guys for a very short time in a 6-year span barely counts as dating.

I started having some issues with depression, and then major depression, a couple of suicide attempts, a few hospital stays.  Depression made me eat all the time, whether it was comfort food or medication or a combination of both; my weight increased even more.  After my suicide attempt at the end of 2012, I was hospitalized for a while, and I came out of the hospital a few pounds lighter.  In the following couple of months, I gained the weight back, but then in 2013 I went through another major depression.  I stayed in bed a majority of the time; I stopped taking care of myself, and I stopped eating regularly.  I won't say I looked good because the sadness in my eyes overshadowed the fact that I had lost weight.

Why is it that the only time's I have been at my ideal weight were because I was ill?   It should be the opposite!   It's a mind fuck.

Well in 2014 I gained more and more weight.  I decided to try the Atkins diet again; I started walking around the neighborhood, and I started to lose some weight.  As usual about a month into it I lost interest.  So I gained all that weight back and then some.  I just gave up for awhile.  I didn't care.

2015 things turned around for me.  I got a new job that I love, I got a car again, and I was chosen for a weight loss challenge sponsored by LGBT Weekly Magazine.  

The challenge is with a program called Metabolic Direct, I have a "coach", I am provided with all the supplies I need from the program; pills, (LOTS of pills) high protein drinks that are actually like Kool-Aid and are super easy to drink, meal replacement shakes, high nutrition meal replacement bars that taste more like candy bars; I like those a lot!  But they don't want you to rely on those meal replacement products, they try and teach you healthier choices with foods, they give you sample menus, there are many items on the grocery list that are foods that are the same as you probably eat already.  I wish I were more creative when it came to cooking.  It seems like I've been eating the same meal every day for lunch for two months…. For the most part I have.  Baked chicken breast cut up into a bunch of lettuce, with some kidney beans and low fat, low carb dressing.

The first month of the program I KICKED ASS!!  I was going to the gym regularly; I stayed on my program, and I lost 19 pounds, then I went out of town for a work conference, which was difficult.  On June 2nd when I left home for the conference I was 218 pounds. I did OK the first couple of days, but social events and conference food I gained some weight.  It seems like I didn't recover from that trip for a few weeks, I played with the same 4-5 pounds for a while.   I got back on the program and lost a few pounds
As of June 30th, I was down to 213 pounds.  That's a 24-pound weight loss, as of yesterday July 3rd I weighed in at 218 pounds.  So basically for the last month I have essentially lost no weight.

It appears that if I don't stick to the diet 100% I gain weight.  That makes me nervous for the time that this challenge is over.  Will I just gain it all back again?  I don't want to give anyone the impression that this program doesn't work because it does.  By now you probably realize that it's ME that doesn't work.

I'm not "that guy" I'm not the guy that enjoys exercise; I don't enjoy hiking or bike riding or working out in a stuffy, smelly gym.  What I do love is food, and I have an enormous sweet tooth.  One thing that this program has taught me was that if I am going to cheat I'm not going to bother with some cheap ass piece of cake or a doughnut; the food I eat must be worth gaining a pound or two for.  It must be SCRUMPTIOUS!  I also have learned that the food I put in my body and the amount of physical activity I do greatly affects my mood.

My emotions the past months have been all over the place, sad, mad, impatient, angry and fearful that when I go off of this program I will probably gain the weight back again.

For the past few weeks, I have been on the verge of quitting this program a few times, it's typical for me..  I do well for awhile then I lose interest.  I wanted to write this blog because I thought it might help me decide what to do.  Should I just throw in the towel?  Do I keep trying?  The challenge only lasts a couple of more weeks, my coach Vincent has been extremely helpful, and an asshole at the same time. (He warned me I might not like him some days) Last night I wanted to tell him to F off!!  But the truth is, I'm scared to death to stop this program.  The past month I haven't made any big changes, but at least I'm not heavier than I was a month ago, I don't lose my breath walking up a flight of stairs.

It won't kill me to stick with this program another couple of weeks.  I will either fit into those new shorts I bought for pride (I'd need a miracle at this point) or at the worst, iI will stay at my current weight.  That certainly is better than where I was at the beginning of May when I started this program.

But, what about the future?  What will I look like this time next year?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The War Hasn't Ended!!

The very first March on Washington in 1979 was known as "National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights" the 1987 March used the same name.

The 1993 march was "March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation."

Our community was growing at a rapid rate, and our national vision was doing the best it could to keep up.

In 1992, I was elected to the National Steering Committee as a regional delegate for the 1993 March on Washington.   I travelled the country to national meetings to help shape what the 1993 March on Washington would become.  It was at one of these meetings in 1992 that I first heard the word "Transgender" we were in the middle of the planning process.  Everything was in place, with logo design, march demands, and logistics, and including the word "Bi" instead of Bisexual, so we didn't "sexualize" the event.  We had the endorsement of the NAACP, which was the first time we had a direct connection with the LGB(T) movement and the civil rights movement.

We were approached at a meeting by members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to include the T in the LGB portion of the march's name. With committee members from all over the country including small towns, the word Transgender was new to many of us.  I had just started doing drag, and I was being told that I was "Transgender"  I stood at that meeting and said "hell no I'm not!!  I'm not Trans anything; I am a guy that wears makeup and a dress!!   How dare you push a label on me!"  Everyone has a different journey, a different sense of who they are.  How do these nuns tell me who I am or how I identify!!

It was decided not to change the name of the march but what we did do was change our list of demands to include Transgender people, so that we could meet the needs and desires of our community.  The community spoke, and we listened.  This was a great accomplishment considering some of these meetings would have 45-minute discussions on what food to serve at the next meeting.

So PLEASE know, we haven't forgotten you, we haven't left your side or dropped out of line behind you in your lead.  So for those of you that feel like "the bus has left without you" or that no one cares about the greater picture than "gay marriage".  All I can say is that I am sorry you feel that way. I don't recall anyone saying "OK let us pack up the "activism box" we're all done now" Some of us know that there is still discrimination in many states in the country. You can still be fired from your job or evicted from your home because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Schools may expel your child, parental rights are still being challenged.

Transgender women are being murdered for no reason other than being who they are.

Yes, we achieved marriage equality, which is just one battle in the war that we are still fighting.

I began fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in 1991, so please forgive me if I take a little time to celebrate a win.  I promise I will be back to work fighting for our entire LGBTQ community right away.

I've also included the list of demands from the 1993 March on Washington for those that weren't around yet or don't remember what we were fighting for back in 1993.

Platform of the 1993 March on Washington for
Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation
Action Statement Preamble to the Platform

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement recognizes that our quest for social justice fundamentally links us to the struggles against racism and sexism, class bias, economic injustice and religious intolerance. We must realize if one of us is oppressed we all are oppressed. The diversity of our movement requires and compels us to stand in opposition to all forms of oppression that diminish the quality of life for all people. We will be vigilant in our determination to rid our movement and our society of all forms
of oppression and exploitation, so that all of us can develop to our full human potential without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, identification, identity, gender and gender expression, ability, age or class.


1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.

2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research,and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative therapies; and an end to sexism in medical research and health care.

3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians,
Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the areas of family diversity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family includes the full diversity of all family structures.

4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.

5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control
our own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.

6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.

7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppression based on
actual or perceived sexual orientation, identification, race, religion, identity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.

Platform Demands and Related Items

  1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and others laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.

Passage of "The Civil Rights Amendment Act of 1991" (HR 1430 & S574).

Repeal of Department of Defense directive 1332.14.

Repeal of laws prohibiting sodomy, cross-gender expression (dress codes) or non-coercive sexual behavior between consenting adults.

Amendment of the Code of Federal Regulations to recognize same-sex

Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment

Implementation of, funding for and enforcement of the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1991.

Passage and implementation of graduated age-of-consent laws.

  2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research, and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative therapies; and an end to sexism in medical research and health care.

The provision of responsive, appropriate health care for people with
disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing people.

Revision of the Centers for Disease Control definition of AIDS to include infections particular to women.

Implementation of the recommendation-of the National AIDS Commission

A massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research and care--money for AIDS, not for war.
This money should come from the defense budget, not existing social services.
An increase in funding and research to provide an independent study of HIV infection in women, People of Color, Bisexuals, Heterosexuals, children, and women to women transmission.

Access to anonymous testing for HIV.

No mandatory HIV testing.
A cure for AIDS.

The development and legalization of a national needle exchange program.

Free substance abuse treatment on demand.

The redefinition of sexual reassignment surgeries as medical, not cosmetic, treatment.

The provision of appropriate medical treatment for all transgendered people in prisons and hospitals.

An increase in funding and research for chronic illness, including breast ovarian, and other cancers particular to women.

The right of all people with chronic illness, including HIV/AIDS, to choices in medical treatment as well as the right to end such treatment.

  3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered people in the areas of family diversity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family includes the full diversity of all family structures.

The recognition and legal protection of whole range of family structures.

An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against youth.

An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against older/old people.

Full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide.

Recognition of domestic partnerships.

Legalization of same sex marriages.

4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.

Culturally inclusive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program; and information on abortion, AIDS/HIV, childcare and sexuality at all levels of education.

Establishment of campus offices and programs to address Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students special needs.
The ban of all discriminatory ROTC programs and recruiters from learning institutions.

An end to discrimination at all levels of education.

   5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control our own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.

The right to control our bodies.

Unrestricted, safe and affordable alternative insemination.

An end to sterilization abuse.

That access to safe and affordable abortion and contraception be available to all people on demand, without restriction and regardless of age.

That access to unbiased and complete information about the full range of reproductive options be available to all people, regardless of age.

  6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.

Support for non-racist policies and affirmative action.

An end to institutionalized racism.

Equal economic opportunity and an end to poverty.

Full reproductive rights, improvement of prenatal services, availability of alternative insemination for Lesbians and Bisexual women of color.

Repeal all 'English Only' laws and restore and enforce bilingual education.

Repeal all discriminatory immigration laws based on race and HIV status .

A commitment to ending racism, including internalized racism, sexism and all forms of religious and ethnic oppression in our communities and in this country.

An end to the genocide of all the indigenous peoples and their cultures

Restoration of the self-determination of all indigenous people of the world.

  7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppression based on actual or perceived sexual orientation/identification, race, religion,identity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.

An end to anti-Semitism.

An end to sexist oppression.

An end to discrimination against people with disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing people.

An end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in all programs of the Boy Scouts of America.

An end to economic injustice in this country and internationally.

An end to discrimination against prisoners with HIV/AIDS.

An end to discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, and those perceived as having HIV/AIDS.

An end to consideration of gender dysphoria as a psychiatric disorder.

An end to hate crimes including police brutality, rape and bashing.
An end to censorship.