Sunday, July 10, 2016

Living Proud and In the Now

The Orlando shootings hit me really hard.  I had already been in such a dark place before they happened.  My bestie lost one of her trans students to suicide the day before and we were reeling from the loss of a girl who we had predicted was going to be the most fabulous queen to hit Edmonton in years.  Hope was fading in my mind.  For weeks I walked around like a zombie.

Living a life outside the mainstream never seemed harder or more grim.  I had never felt so separated from the straight world who really didn't understand anything that was going on or why it was hitting the queer community so hard.  I got tired of fighting off tears at work.  Just so tired of everything.

As the names and faces of the victims streamed through, one of the first was of Edward Manuel Sotomayor Jr. He was my age, had a good career and a man he loved even his funeral was the kind I would prefer.  He was an alternate universe me and he had been gunned down doing something I would likely be doing on a Saturday night.  Then the other victims stories started to come out.  Boyfriends being buried together.   A man's last act to save his partner, a mother saving her gay son.

These people were all robbed of so much and we were robbed of them.

I have a list of names running around in my head.  People I have lost because of suicide, societal inaction and violence.  I think most people in minority groups have lists like this and now a new generation has to start making lists (something I always hoped they would not have to do).

All of this put things into sharp perspective for me.  Like a telescope finally coming into focus I could see myself clearer than ever before.  The fire was re-lit.   I knew what I wanted to do.  There is a scene in Sense 8 where Nomi a trans woman talks about herself not being just a "me" she is also a "we" connected to so much more than herself as her reason for marching in Pride.  This is what the queer community is all about to me.

Greg and I will have been together for 9 years this September.  We had always joked that we would wait until all of our straight friends to get married before we would even consider it.  If the events of the last few months have shown me anything it is that life is so very very short and that love is a very precious commodity.

I knew I had to propose.  We had waited too long and I know I want to spend every moment I have left with him in my life.  So a plan was hatched.   With the gay rodeo being cancelled we agreed to go on a road trip vacation to the mountains.  I managed to find a seat sale to Vancouver however and so we switched it up and planned a quick getaway to lotus land.

After sneakily getting his ring size I ventured out and got a ring the day of the flight.  No one knew about it but the girls at work and me.

Canada Day, July 1 we went on a hike in Stanley Park.  I wanted to find the perfect spot with just the two of us to pop the question.  For most of our lives we are surrounded by friends and family.  For this moment I wanted it to be just the two of us.

I told Greg to keep a lookout for the biggest tree we could find because I wanted to take a picture hugging it.  We walked for hours until we came to the perfect spot.  It so happens this spot was in a cruisey area of the park and we bumped into a bear and his adorable dog.  After chatting with him for a bit he went on his way and we had the forest to ourselves again.

He said yes!

Go live and make the most out of every moment.

Thank you for reading this and for following my adventures. We love you.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The end of an era

I still remember my first time.  I was 24 and after months of renovating my first condo I decided to get out of town for the Canada day long weekend and go to the gay rodeo at Simon's Valley Ranch.  I was still not out at home or at work and knew no one else who was going.  I had a knot in my stomach the whole way down.  What was it going to be like? Would I make friends?  Would I  get laid?

My first gay rodeo changed my life.  It showed me there was no one way to be gay and that there are others like me.  I never thought I would find a home or family through it but I did.  I have never met a group of people so open and welcoming to everyone who came through the gates.  In the many years that have passed we have loved, fucked, cheered, cried, consoled, bled and competed.

Between dodging tornadoes, surviving the eagle's free booze tents, jello shooters, winning, losing and riding a steer in a (fabulous) dress in front of my bio family (including my Grandparents) my life has been enormously enriched by the hard work of the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association and it's members.  

With the confirmation that ARGRA is no more I want to send out a sincere thanks to everyone who worked so much to give me a place I could find a family in.

I love you thank you.

When a gay organization ends there is always speculation and what ifs and a million armchair volunteers with opinions about how they could have done it better.

I know our family is hurting right now for many reasons.  But family exists to support. each other  So please when you look out at your community, your adopted queer families ask your self.  Am I doing enough?  Am I involved enough?  Am I helping to create a world where queer kids growing up will have it better than me?  Am I building the family or tearing it down?

Our community groups need more than $ to survive.  They need most importantly your time, your commitment and your ideas.  Events of the last week have made it so very clear to me that we need strong queer: community groups, safe places, bars, coffee shops and charities to support those still trying to find themselves.

So please go out this weekend and the weekend after that and the weekend after that.

Get involved.  Volunteer.  Mentor. And above all else LOVE with every ounce of energy you can muster.   #liveproud

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Be it destiny or gravity I want no part of it.

The flashing pain of being thrown to the floor.
The feeling of his vice like grip around your neck.
Your brain screaming, begging for oxygen as you pass out.
The panic when you see the rage in his eyes as he comes towards you.
The cold wet metal of the RV panel grinding up against your shoulder blades as he sputters rage in your face.
The gaping wound in your heart that knowing that she sided with him.  

These sensory ghosts, they haunt me everywhere I go.  
Distance, time, perspective, acceptance and forgiveness have been my shield.  
Denial, self deception, weed, booze have been my sWord. 
Like gossamer wings in a hurricane they never last for long.
All these years fighting the darkness within me.  
It was a symptom not the source.

My source, my rage.
An endless fountain, white hot and blinding.  
Filled with all the things I swore I would never be and could never do.
An ultra dense star of pain surrounded by black.
I feel it like a pit in my stomach and an ache in my temples.  
How do you contain a star?

When that star shines my head fills with shadows.
This is where the ghosts dwell.  
Fueled by every failure, every lapse in control.
Fires stoked until the star consumes me again.
The cycle unbroken from the dawn of my time.

Lapse, relapse, repeat until you die.

The evidence begins to pile up.
The case not quite closed.

Am I destined to become my father?

So in other news I know I am depressed because that is the only time I write shitty self reflective poetry.  I have no right to be as angry and frustrated as I am.  My life is pretty awesome and I have done so much and have so so many amazing people around me.  My temper is so short right now it is like I am white-nuckling through life.  I have no idea when the next thing is going to set me off.

I know this relates to my general anxiety levels and I know that comes from some shitty parenting combined with a family wide genetic pre-dispositions to anxiety issues.  But I just fucking hate it when I see him looking back at me eyes squinted and teeth clenched.

I have also found out some things.  More family secrets that confirmed things I already suspected.  Everyone is a fucking victim and mental illness is a bitch.  How utterly mundane, sad and obvious it all is.

I am trying to set my own path but keep running over ground well walked by my predecessors. I know I am smart enough to get out of this cycle but it is so so hard some days to even get out of bed.

I know I can do it I just don't know how.

Monday, January 11, 2016


Hey Blogger
I missed you.

2015 was a year of challenges and discovery.  It was a year of cleaning up messes from the clusterfuck that was 2014.

Things I am proud of:

  • Tackling the constant negative thoughts about myself that caused so much harm.   I always assumed this is how other people's brains work as well.  Opening myself up to the fella about the issues and the root causes of them really allowed me some perspective.  Self love ;) is the most important kind of love and in 2015 I started to confront and destroy all of my self loathing.
  • The condo's major issues appear to be resolved.  We haven't had a leak or serious issue since the work was completed in March.  We won't know for sure until the spring thaw has passed but I think we are in pretty good shape on the home front.
  • Work has completely turned around for me.  I have been able to realize the first phase of my dream project and have learned a lot about being a better manager.  For a long time I was lead to believe that I was the problem with the company.  With the new management team in place and all the changes we have made I see now that I wasn't the problem and I am very good at my job. 
  • The Fellowship of Alberta Bears not-for-profit really took off this year.  The board organized more events than ever and we managed to figure out a formula that really works for our members and minimizes our risks.  It was a lot of hard work this year but it really paid off both for the organization and our selected charities. 
Things I need to work on for 2016:
  • I need to find a better work/life balance.  Even with all the changes we have made in the last year I spent too many hours working or volunteering and not enough time with my friends and family.  Sometimes this makes me feel like a ghost.  Observing the lives of loved ones from afar and not able to properly participate.   I see this really improving on the work side of things at least for this coming year. 
  • Be more spontaneous.  I have been in survival mode for so long that getting my brain wrapped around new ways of living and thinking can be a tough job.  I plan to say "Yes" more to myself and to the world.
  • Take time for myself and reflect.  As an introverted extrovert it can be tough being in the middle of so many things with no breaks.  Just like I have to say "Yes" more often I also have to say "No" sometimes and take some time for myself.  Part of this will be to post more to this blog.  I have a tendency to forget about the past and I need this journal to provide a record of what I am doing in my life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 3 It is always darkest before dawn

I had originally planned a number of separate posts detailing talking to my doctor and getting the prescription filled.  Having gone through the whole process however I think I need to provide a more current update as I would have done things differently had I known then what I do now.

Here are some things point form that I discovered while trying to get my prescription filled:

  • No one will know what to do with you.  The systems in Alberta are not designed to deal with this usage yet so every step will be a process of education and clearing out miss-information. 
  • Getting the prescription filled is not as easy as going to your local pharmacy only two pharmacies provide truvada in the Edmonton area (the Rexall at the Royal Alex and University of Alberta Hospitals) and they are not super easy to get to.  Accessibility is something I took for granted and those who are dealing with the healthcare system in Alberta with HIV have a number of barriers accessing services and medication.  
  • Only an infectious disease doctor can prescribe truvada and get it covered by Alberta Health.  This is a huge deal and something I will go into more detail on later in the post.
  • People will treat you differently.  My local pharmacist looked like I had handed her a bomb when I tried to get my prescription filled.  That look was echoed by every health care person I have had to deal with in getting the pills.
  • Be sensitive to your privileged status as a negative person trying to access medications used as a critical life saving tool for many people. 
  • Also note that groups and organizations that you may have relied on for help in the past may not support the use of PrEP.  This kind of political bullshit really pissed me off as I was reaching out for informational resources from local queer groups that should have been able to provide at least some help and all I received was silence.  
  • PrEP is very expensive and establishing how you are getting it covered should be the first thing you do.  It was the last step we took and so far has been the most difficult and very expensive.  
  • There are great resources out there if you know where to look.  This facebook group has been by far the most helpful.  I learned more on that page than I did from any other official resources.
Step 1:  Talk to your Doctor and provide them with education materials.  Be open and honest with them about your sex life.  If you can't do this you should try and find a doc you can trust.  We found ours through our local pride centre.

Step 2: Establish that you can get coverage.  As of today I can confirm that Manulife Group Benefits will never cover the medication in Alberta until the CMA recognizes it as a legitimate use and treatment.  Talk to your benefits provider.   This is a lengthy process for most benefit companies because they don't have answers ready and often there is paperwork that you and your physician may have to fill out for pre-approval.   There are no programs currently in Alberta that help people find coverage for PrEP.

Only after doing both of these should you even consider getting PrEP.

I was asked this past pride weekend if all the work and expense was worth it?  My answer is not a simple yes or no.

For a short while I was able to experience sex the way it should be without fear or concern of the big bad wolf that I was raised to be terrified of.  It is a freeing experience and I am glad I had it. Traveling this path has been difficult and it has opened my eyes to a great many things that I had been ignorant to. There is little doubt in my mind that this treatment should be in the hands of every single person who needs it.

Accessibility is the problem and until that issue is solved PrEP in Alberta will never be ready for the average person who needs it most.  Until then the small handful of people fighting, educating and pushing the medical corporate establishment and the queer community will continue to do so but it takes a chorus of voices to enact change.

So please go out and educate yourself educate others and ask those power brokers why this isn't being provided to a community seeing a rapid increase in infections.  Together and only together can we solve the problem of accessibility.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 2 Educate Yourself

After making the decision we started researching.  PrEP is a relatively new way to use a well established product.  I powered up the google machine and started doing research on not only it's uses but on how it is being implemented in Canada.   I also touched base with a number of friends who were using it to see if there was anything I had to be concerned about.  

Before you can talk to your physician you need to prepare yourself so that you can educate them about PrEP.   Some of these are newer links and I wish I had access to them before I started this process.

Here are some great links to get you started.

CATIE PrEP Introduction and Canadian Information (this site is amazing and I would say it is required reading for anyone interested)

New studies are being published every day.  It is a really exciting time for research related to PrEP but it is also one of flux with each study shedding light on appropriate uses and issues related to real world implementation.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 1 Making the Decision

Over new years we were very lucky to get get to spend the holiday in Mexico with the fella's company.   I had never been to Puerto Vallarta before but I was amazed at how gay and gay friendly it was.   We even ran into a friend down there.

While on the trip it became clear to us based off of discussions with not only friends but just by reading people's profiles that so many gay men are taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylactic) treatment to help protect themselves from HIV.  I had heard that this was becoming more popular but to hear first hand what a positive experience taking PrEP had been it convinced me to try and find a way to start protecting myself with it.

The only problem is the Alberta government and Canada as a whole has been dragging it's heels on approving PrEP for use. Gilead the maker of Truvada has not even applied to have it approved for use in Canada for PrEP.

As there is significant lack of information about PrEP and how to get on it in Canada I thought it would be valuable to document my experience in trying to protect myself.

Now there are a ton of articles about using PrEP out there and a bunch of research studies.  I would advise using the wonders of google to find out if PrEP is something that is appropriate for you and your lifestyle.  It is not for everyone.

Personally for me as a gay man in a loving but non-monogamous relationship PrEP represents an added layer of protection for both myself and the fella.  We generally do not bareback with others but no method of protection is perfect.  We have had condoms break at bad times before and it always causes a huge amount of anxiety around something that should be a celebration of life.

For me the value is knowing I can worry less about the condom snapping and more about enjoying the act.  That freedom has never been something I have had.  

Since we both have good drug coverage and the ability to pay the remainder it made the decision to go on PrEP much easier for us.

Next Up: Part 2 Education