Fight For Fifteen

At the end of 2008 I said “Good-bye” to the corporate world. So long to 60 hour weeks and driving over 1,500 miles a month. I Also said “So long” to 4 weeks a year of paid vacation and a 6 figure income- salary, bonus and expenses. Oh and great benefits*. So there I was, unemployed as of December 16, 2008 with a 401(k), my best ever bonus payment on its way and a chance to start over. If you are hoping to read how I took the world by storm and started raking in tens of thousands of dollars, or expecting a story of happiness in spite (or because) of learning to live on minimum wage, you will be disappointed.

I set about turning my existing part-time pet photography and graphic design businesses full-time. Why, you ask, would anyone do such a thing just when the recession was clearly on the horizon if not already actually on-shore?

Well, it was not my choice. I was part of a 50% staff reduction. Although I immediately engaged in an intensive search for new full-time employment I had turned 50 that summer. That biological fact combined with having been employed for 12 years in one industry meant I was not as attractive to other employers as you might think. Oh that former employer is unnamed due to the incredibly broad wording of the Release I signed in order to receive such Severance as was offered. I can report that it has since been merged/with into two different companies it formerly competed against. A sign of the further destruction of the Middle Class.

The former pet photography business is gone; closed up after five years. Graphic design and fine art photography are enjoyable but not profitable. Over the past six years I have done seasonal work for the US Census Board and a regional school picture company, completed a good number of classes in digital photography and design at Columbus State Community College and now work evenings cleaning break-rooms and bathrooms in a local warehouse. Low pay and no benefits (no vacation pay, not even holiday pay).

Sadly the number of people who receive the living wage and comprehensive benefits I once enjoyed shrinks every year. Who is to blame? Corporations certainly play a part. At the same time, we must take steps to reign in our addiction to rampant consumerism. Demanding ever-lower prices and a constant stream of New or Improved Widgets but refusing to accept responsibility for the inevitable environmental and human costs is dangerously delusional.

So while I support the Fight for Fifteen movement for a living wage, it must be only one aspect of a larger movement; we, the people must take back our country from the corporatists (secular and religious) that are working to bring a New Improved Feudalism (now with Internet access) to life.
New Feudalism

* To illustrate those “great benefits I reference above; after a serious auto accident in November 2000 and an 18 day stay in hospital I had only a $7 co-pay for my pain meds. Short- and Long-term disability covered 60% of my salary until I returned to work full-time. These days such compassionate treatment seems reserved for a very few.


Additional Related Posts:
Healing the Heart of Democracy 08/30/2014
Trickle-Down Economics 05/30/2013

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Religious Freedom and Social Contracts Old and New

At the founding of the USA the concept of Religious Freedom as used in the US Constitution was clear and focussed. In contrast to European countries with Established Churches and stipulations such as ‘No Catholic may ascend to the British throne’ the new country would have no state-favoured religion and no religious test for office holders.

Many of the European immigrants that came over here did so specifically to escape such state-sanctioned religiousity while maintaining some church affiliation. With most people living in rural areas or villages there was plenty of self-imposed segregation; ‘like finding like’ as it were. The most obvious perhaps being Amish and Mennonite communities but a number of US States were founded for one particular demographic. So long as there was plenty of ‘new land’ to confiscate each religious/ethnic group could easily live in harmony with minimal interaction with ‘the other’. The Constitution did not directly address such discrimination; only the afore-mentioned religious tests.

This is appealing to those ‘strict constructionists’ who don’t want to admit that only change is permanent. The US Constitution permitted wide-spread slavery, limited voting to free (typically white) males and did not have popular voting for Senators; they were appointed by each State. While it is has never been easy to change it (nor should it) the document does presume that changes will need to be made over time.

And the US has dramatically changed; there are more self-professed atheists, agnostics and followers of other faith traditions (traditional and modern) and attendance at houses of worship has dropped dramatically. From ‘sexual liberation’ to ‘women’s lib’ to broader recognition that prejudice and discrimination are wrong, and the disappearance of ‘one employer for life’ and real pension plans, this is not your Founding Father’s world. No doubt some ‘progress’ has been detrimental long-term, but there is no way we could ‘put the genie back in the bottle’ and recreate the 1700s even if we wanted.

So instead of passing Righteous Freak Reforestation Acts that will lead only to further division and distract we, the people from the corporate takeover of our the government it is time for those who want to live in the 1700s to go buy 50 acres and a mule, disconnect from the grid and the Internet, and self-medicate.

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As long as I can remember I have defined a slut as “someone who has more sex than the person using the term,” because that’s how the term seems to be used. The traditional definition (as in, Merriam-Webster online) applies only to females- and uses the value-loaded term “promiscuous.”

So the term ‘slut-shaming’ would seem redundant- ‘shame’ so often seen as integral to the label of ‘slut’. However the full term is useful as it suggests that the use of the first word is more than descriptive; it is harshly judgemental. And it clarifies that labeling some one else a slut is generally done as an attempt to coerce the person to stop doing that which ‘earned’ them that label. As Wikipedia puts it:
In human sexuality, slut-shaming is the act of making, or attempting to make,
a person, especially a woman or girl, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors,
circumstances, or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations,

In preparation for this blog post I took a look around the web to see what else is out there- and The 4 worst ways that gay guys shame each other, a piece posted on and dated 11/12/2014 says pretty much everything I wanted to- rather than just quote most of it here I urge you to read it and I’ll add some of my other thoughts below.

One of the vows I took late in 1983 (and maintain to this day) as a Fully Professed Sister in the Order of Perpetual Indulgence was:
I vow to uphold the Spirit of Stonewall,
the Destruction of the Closet,
and the Celebration of the Body,
which bourgeois society has banished to the Valley of Shame;

Back in the 80s we LGBTQ fought back against pressures from the surrounding hetero-normative world as we struggled to save lives and stop the spread of HIV. At first it seemed the powers that be would gladly sacrifice queers, drug users, ethnic minorities and the occasional hemophiliac to the rabid reich wing. At best Pharma would give the infected a few more good (less-bad?) years.

As the virus spread (or more likely, was recognized to have spread) throughout ‘decent’ society there was a tad less stigma, some additional resources dedicated to finding long-term treatments on the way to a cure. The realization that the virus was running rampant across Africa took the focus off we perverts’- I have no doubt some subconscious First World White Guilt drove much of the effort to fight the virus over there. yes, I have a wide streak of skepticism about how those in power interact with we, the peasant- er, we the people.

As the percentage of HIV+ folk who lived more than a few years after diagnosis increased, some percentage of gay folk turned their focus to other things; civil rights, marriage equality, fostering and adopting. A natural human yearning for relief, some sense of ‘normalcy’ and a few minutes to breathe in peace turned into a gateway. A slippery slope as it were that brought old-fashioned judgemental ‘morals’ and the phenomanon of nearly-straight middle-class gay folk who have adopted a great percentage of the attitudes that we once fought to resist. Sadly the afore-mentioned Valley of Shame has yet to be filled in with Joy, Frolic and Adornment and the Delights of Sensual and Sexual Liberation (see my Sisterly vows, link above).

see also:
Gay slut shaming – stop it, stop it right now! from FS: Gay Health & Life Mag, Issue 135, April 2013(?)
The Facebook profile of Sister Iona Dubble-Wyde – who writes extensively on gay health and political issues, as well as a wonderfully diverse range of topics.

I wanted to include a quote from Margaret Cho- but had to go through my music library to get the exact wording, which I thought included the term ‘slut’. It doesn’t, but I think Margaret would agree it is applicable:
and unless to you that’s a term of endearment (because in the right context it is) that person is being attacked because of who they are and I don’t accept that,
From Margaret Cho’s 2003 CD Revolution

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Coming Out Again, More Coming Out, Coming More Out

I came out as gay to my family and the world (well, the readership of the Chatham Daily News) late in 1977. Although I’ve always reserved the right to decide whether or not to tell people I come in contact with, not saying anything has been rare. My paternal grandmother was never told, to honour a request from my family as recounted in My Coming Out Story.

Over the years I’ve learned that it wouldn’t take much effort to pass as a ‘straight’ (i.e. heterosexual) man. Just editing stories and being careful of what I say. Of course it would’ve cost me my Soul so it was never really an option. My parents gave us kids many blessings; self-awareness being one.

Likewise, I know that with but a few tweaks I could pass as “nearly straight” – generally a middle-class, white gay male with a spouse, kids, pets, mortgage and other hetero-normative accoutrement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you want to ‘live the Murican dream’ go for it. Heck, I’ll even marry you (once SCOTUS brings full marriage equality to Ohio). But that is not my dream. Never was; probably never will be. All I want, need, demand, is to be accepted as I am. And so I now self-identify as queer – indeed I have for many years.

During the early ’80s I, along with my partner at the time, discovered our interest in the leather/fetish world. My conversations and connections to much of that world are conducted with a ‘handle’ or ‘nick’ (nickname or screen-name). This is not to shield the world-at-large from knowing that aspect of me, so much as to protect me and my household from specific less well-balanced members of society. Despite the growth in acceptance of people ‘playing’ in the leather/fetish space, (think ’50 Neutered Shades of Gray’) actually living it still seems to shock and offend some people. Far too many tv shows (dramatic or comedic), improv and stand-up artists consider it an easy and shallow plot device. You know, something to pull out when ‘cross-dressing’ has been over-used. As much as I try to live an open and authentic life and tend to give ‘TMI’ answers to questions, that aspect of my life will not be discussed in any detail here. Period.

Many queer folk reject any organi- er institutional religious tradition. Between the far-too-common rejection (if not outright hatred) queer folk experience in such places, and a sense that no gawd worthy of worship would permit such atrocities to stand, why should we even try to participate in such groups?

I was baptized in the United Church of Canada as an infant and again in The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto as a young adult. The first is a mainstream Canadian denomination that has a strong track record of acceptance. MCC was founded in 1968 “to provide a Christian sanctuary for LGBT people” and is now “an international denomination committed to radical inclusivity in all areas.” They are both great places for LGBT Christians to congregate. However I’ve studied a wide variety of spiritual traditions; nature-based ‘pagan’ as well as ‘major world religions’. I now identify as a nontheistic spiritual humanist.

The final revelation for today is one that, upon reflection, lumps me with various people of fame (and plenty of us ‘civilians’) who don’t actively and widely ‘come out’ while not exactly hiding their full identity. To the point that anyone who is connected to me at The Book of Face (as my Friend, or the Friend of a Friend) already knows.

Another aspect of the complex, complete individual that I am was also brought out in the early 80s in Toronto. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in San Francisco in 1979. As their website notes: “Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

The Order arrived in Toronto in 1981 and in 1983 I was accepted into the Order as Sister Flagellation of Forbidden Fruit to recognize the leather/fetish counterpoint to my Sisterly vocation. In 2014 I engaged in a time-honoured OPI tradition of adopting a new Sisterly name. I am now Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex. This name honours two pioneering gay musical groups that long have influenced my life and continue to bring joy:
# The Flirtations; an a cappella group active (with various members) from 1988 to 1997;
# Romanovsky & Phillips; gay folk duo active from 1982 to 1999.

Well, I think that is it for today.

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