Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Round and Round We Go… Because Choice Trumps Change, Every Time

Recently I was asked ‘If you had one opportunity to change one thing in the world, what would that one thing be?’  Many things, people and situations came to mind but I realised I was thinking in terms of elimination rather than change.
I find that change is very achievable on the physical level, like changing countries, changing homes, schools, jobs, partners; but changing how we think, how we feel about things is very difficult. Changing a mind-set, a belief is very hard and changing a social construct is damn near impossible.
Choice trumps change every time
For example, everyone knows or they should be aware, that it is fundamentally wrong and unacceptable to judge someone based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious and political beliefs.
Millions of pounds have been spent on educating the universal population in diversity, equality and inclusivity. We all believe that the social construct has been changed and we now supposedly live in a more tolerant, more compassionate world. Yet, very recent statistics (yesterday in fact) show that hate crimes against the Jews and LBGT is on the rise. Again!
So not much changed there, despite the awareness programmes, the education and the laws that are in place to reflect the changes society has agreed to.  And the reason the hate crimes against Jews and LBGT are on the rise? because it is what people choose to do despite the belief that we as a society and individually have changed our mind set and the social construct.
It seems that every time the world is in crisis (which is practically all the time, lately), the hate crimes against these two populations rises. It is a case where choice trumps change; because  ultimately, it is the choices we make, consciously and subconsciously, individually, as a society and as a community,  that matter.
But there is one thing we cannot change and we have no choice in
We are all facing the same identical exit, no exception…All of us – regardless of who or what we are, what we believe in, what we fight for – we will all get old, our bodies and minds will slow down and then we will die. Every single one of us.
That time, between the first breath we all must take to start life to the last time we exhale, is a reflection of the choices we make every single day. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Is your son gay...

Because you wanted a daughter after having 3 sons?

Because he grew up without a father?

Because he is looking for attention?
I get asked these unsolicited and uncalled for questions quite a lot….and many times from people who should know better. And worse, they behave like they have resolved the issue of why my son is gay, simply by pointing them out.
Perhaps the problem lies with those asking the questions; they need to sort themselves out and not keep trying to fix something that is NOT broken. My son is not broken, he never was. Neither is being gay something that needs to be fixed.

It’s frightening that people still really believe…

– that being gay is a choice…it’s not. We are mid way through 2015, surely everyone should know that by now.
– that a mother can choose to make her son gay… seriously! a f**ked up statement on so many levels. No one can make anyone gay…no one. And no amount of smothering, over protectiveness, and definitely no amount of cooking, shopping and watching TV with his mum, will make a son gay. 
– that the absence of a father plays a significant part in someone being gay… please think before you put this one out there. The implication that he is gay because he looking for a father figure is not only ridiculous but does not even make any logical sense. Enough said.
– that being gay is an attention seeking tactic…do you honestly believe that being bullied, called horrible names on a daily basis and having to learn to stay strong and true to yourself in a hostile world, is the way anyone would go about getting attention?  
Social media allows anyone to tick off that box that says to the world…”yes I am a tolerant person who believes and supports everyone’s basic human right to live, regardless of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, cultural background, gender or politics”. But there is no substance or conviction or belief behind that ticked box….in many cases, it is simply a ticked box.
The sad reality is that most of world remains a hugely intolerant, hostile and homophobic place…a place where it is ok to keep asking these kind of ignorant questions and trying to ‘fix the problem’.

But here’s the thing, it’s not ok.

It is condescending, patronising and demeaning. No one has the right to tell anyone how to live their life, who to love, who to marry, how to behave; no one has the right to question or judge anyone because they are different to what they perceive to be the norm; and no one has the right to be anyone’s moral compass. 

It’s time to change the story….


Monday, 20 July 2015

Positivity – a side effect of watching the RuPaul Drag Race series

RuPaul is the mentor, the host, the singer and the judge of Drag Race, a reality show that follows 15 (sometimes more) drag queens as they compete to become America’s Next Drag Superstar.

If, like me you have been unaware of this show and if, also like me, you thought it had something to do with car racing, then perhaps like me you ended up checking it out one night on Netflix and got completely captivated and riveted to the series. I ended up spending 2 consecutive weekends binging on seasons 1 though 6. Yes, it is that good. Why? I don’t know why it is so good but sometimes, shows like this one defy standard reasoning. One thing that I did find is that watching RuPaul’s Drag Race will definitely put you in a good mood and you also tend to get very positive about life in general.

The show is very entertaining with the dramas, challenges, meltdowns and breakdowns, triumphs and failures, tears and laughs, and seriously impressive make up skills.

I think the fact that RuPaul does not take himself or life so seriously is what makes the show so uplifting. I like that he is not hung up about pronouns, and I love that he also sings even though he is not the best at it; that he has the ability to transform himself into an amazingly beautiful woman with a personality to match. Also, he has so many products he sells, I am sure he finds it hard to keep up with them all.  If only more people were like him: happy with who and what they are, can find the humour in life, don’t take themselves seriously and are always kind and authentic.

Then he sprouts those catch phrases and quotes that are a breath of fresh air, compared to the wishy-washy, new age and politically correct quotes that are so popular on social media.
Although, they do get stuck in your head.  Forever.

So  “can I get an amen in here” to 7 of RuPaul’s best…

  • When you become the image of your own imagination, it's the most powerful thing you could ever do."
  • My goal is to always come from a place of love ...but sometimes you just have to break it down for a motherfucker
  • All sins are forgiven once you start making a lot of money.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent. 
  • Remember to love yourself, because if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?
  • Can I get an amen in here?
  • You are born naked, the rest is drag. 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Why does breast-feeding in public get on people’s tits?

People can’t seem to mind their own business. On top of the hateful and wicked comments that were (and still are) spewed all over the Internet against same sex marriage, there are people out there who are criticising and complaining about mothers who breast-feed in public.  

This is what Zoe recently had to put up with...Her son Zak is 2 years old and he is breast-fed.  He is an active, healthy, happy little boy.  Like any other toddler, he is always very busy exploring his little world. So when he is hungry, he will take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to snuggle on to his mummy’s lap and feed. Because he instinctively follows his body’s natural cycle, he has several little feeds throughout the day.

Recently, Zoe and Zak spent a week holiday at the Collingwood Hotel in Bournemouth. One evening, in the hotel’s entertainment lounge, a female guest witnessed Zoe breast-feeding Zak. The woman complained to the hotel management. She claimed that her husband had to leave the room because allegedly Zoe had allowed the child to pull down her dress resulting in the girl sitting opposite us with her breasts fully exposed for about an hour!’.

The hotel duty manager spoke to Zoe and asked her to be more discreet. Zoe was understandably upset and humiliated. She then met with the hotel owner and he told her that it was ok for her to breast feed Zak wherever and whenever she wanted.

Well done to the Collingwood Hotel owner for sticking up for Zoe and for breast-feeding mothers everywhere.

Last week that same guest wrote a review on Trip Advisor and this is what she said We reported the incident and the duty manager did ask the girl to be more discreet however next day the girl complained to the owner and he told her she was entitled to breast feed in this manner wherever she pleased and so she did in front of everyone in the room every night for the rest of our stay”. 

She concluded by saying “It was unfortunate that this marred what otherwise would have been a most enjoyable holiday. We were not the only people offended by this and will not be returning unless the owner/manager shows courtesy to their elderly guests who would have otherwise enjoyed a pleasant evening”.

Is it necessary to make breast-feeding so ugly? How and where Zoe feeds Zak is her choice and is nobody’s business. And making such unkind comments that portray Zoe as some sort of exhibitionist is unacceptable. Further, implying that Zoe’s motive for breast-feeding is to display her breasts to everyone is demeaning and degrading.
As if Zoe's intention was to seduce the elderly male population in the Collingwood Hotel entertainment lounge. Zoe was simply feeding her baby.

Some people believe that a mother publicly breast-feeding her child is a breach of social decorum; it goes against their moral compass mainly because, I think, there is nudity (as in 'an exposed breast') involved. 

What I don’t understand is why there is this need to publicly humiliate and label a woman because of the way she chooses to feed their baby.

Always be kind, but if you can’t be kind,
Stop talking…

Picture:Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Christ child by Leonardo Da Vinci

Friday, 26 June 2015

There are no labels in ICU…

Before my father passed away he spent some time in the Intensive Care Unit. 
He was assigned Bed 2 of the 5 beds that were arranged in a semi circle. The other four beds were occupied but it was impossible to know who lay under the blankets their faces covered by oxygen masks – and it really did not matter if they were male, female, black, white, beautiful, ugly, old, young, gay, straight, trans, bi, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jewish.

For the most part, all 5 lay very still, the only sign of life came from the constant beeping of the monitors. The night that death came for Bed 4, time seemed to freeze for a few seconds. The ICU went completely silent for a few seconds and life was suspended for a few seconds. Then life took over very quickly and the beeps immediately got louder, more insistent, more urgent, the monitor’s lights were flashing red and the medical team was at the bedside in seconds. It did not matter who lay in the bed. When you meet death, face to face, you are not a label... you are precious life.

The labelling starts when you are only 9 or 10 years old; sometimes your classmates see in you something which is ‘not normal’, and you are labeled and you feel ashamed for being different. Most times it gets worse in high school. Sometimes, most times, the labels are purposely offensive and belittling (gay, freak, fag, retard, douche, homo, loser). Sometimes you get beaten up. 

Sometimes you tell a teacher or an adult, and you get told its only banter, you need to man-up. You try to suppress who you are and pretend to be someone else. Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesn’t. 
Sometimes you hate yourself. Most times you don’t know who you are anymore. 

You feel marginalised, isolated, depressed, ashamed, you suffer from low self-esteem. You feel hopeless. 
Sometimes you find someone who is like you. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad. 
You miss school to escape the bullying. Sometimes you give up on school altogether. 

Sometimes you give up on life. Sometimes the suicide attempts are a consequence of the depression that is brought on by the bullying that is started by a label.

You push through, hoping it will get better when you are 18. Sometimes it gets better.
You come ‘out’, now the world knows your secret. Sometimes there is more shame, more labels; this time from parents, siblings and grandparents. Sometimes you find yourself all alone because your family does not want you to be a part of the family.
As an adult, you can be who you want, live how you want, love who you want.  Sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes the shame follows you. The labels follow you.
Sometimes, most times, you are defined by your sexual identity, not by who you are. 
In the end, you are and always have been a precious life.


On UnCommon Ground is a Social Enterprise I started because of the frustration and helplessness I felt watching my son go through so much suffering during his teenage years. 

The labelling of anyone who is perceived to be different needs to be stopped. 

OnUCG's exists to support those whose lives have been affected by labelling, who are passionate about living life on their own terms and who are looking to change the status quo.

Twitter:     @OnUCG