Monday, February 13, 2017

LIBERATION, NOT ACTIVISM.


The word "activist" in relation to gay social issues has always rankled me. It is like these endless new gender-free pronouns which the narcissistic are trying to get legislated into law. It can mean anything. And that is the whole idea for those who arrogantly use the word "activist" to describe themselves.

The older I get, the more annoyed I am by revisionists of social and personal history. Why? Because they devalue the credibility of those of us who are honest about our histories. The same jerks who sat in the shadows while some of us dodged bricks and bottles for being out in the earliest days of Gay Liberation now call themselves "gay activists" or, worse, "LGBTQ-whatever activists". Really? Getting legally married and grinning on Facebook after people suffered for that right with actual effort going back decades is not activism. It is opportunism.

I became disillusioned with political-movement groupies some time back. I marched for peace during the Vietnam war. I participated in a civil rights march after the King assassination. I marched in Gay Pride parades for decades after they began.  I attended the Gay March on Washington in 1979.  I've done AIDS walks. I've had my fill of looking up at stages and podiums at the aggressive and self-satisfied who often rise to the tops of movements. Some of their spouted ideology is so undemocratic and self-serving that I have often been tempted to boo in protest of their protest.

In the latter years of Gay Liberation (1978-1982), I worked as a state-funded psychiatric nurse in a largely volunteer-staffed gay/lesbian community mental health center, one of the few nationwide. Dr. Richard Pillard and Dr. Jalna Perry, both psychiatrists, were major forces in getting this up and running for their Boston community. They were community and professional activists in every legitimate sense of the word. They were out in their profession at a time when homosexuality was being hypothesized as a disorder among psychiatrists and psychologists. 

Eventually volunteer therapists, who also had private practices, exploited our low-fee clinic for private-practice referrals: Clients who could pay higher fees or had health insurance with therapy benefits. They cannibalized the clinic by insisting it meet the standards of a hospital outpatient clinic for private insurance certification. In other words, they eliminated it as competition by driving it out of business. There was no way it could meet the salaries of the health and business professionals needed to pass the private insurance standards for a medical-model clinic. It closed soon after.I myself was forced to leave my low-paying job as clinical director because my position had to be filled by a doctoral-level professional. The clinic lost its state-funded position as well. 

Leaving that job was actually good for me personally. I was working long days and the stress was showing in my personal life. I had not seen myself as an activist there. I was a nurse, a gay man, a community member. I had skills for which I was willing to be paid little. The activism, if I were to consider calling it that, existed within my profession of nursing. Few nurses were out at the time. Fewer in the state system, where I had been out since my first nursing job. And to keep my job at the clinic, I had to work night shifts on demand at a local state in-patient hospital in the heart of a poor neighborhood. I was the only RN on duty for two packed psychiatric wards, approximately 100 acute patients, locked in due to the nature of their diagnoses. The nursing director of that hospital, through which my position was funded, made it clear that she was doing me a favor by letting me have a job in the gay community as a gay man in exchange for being at her disposal. 

Liberation isn't following any ideology in goose-step. Liberation is the opposite of submission. I will not submit my mind or my speech or my body to any set of rules or ideas that are against my principles, rooted in mindfulness and compassion. This is what I consider being liberated. The Liberation movements of the 1960's and 1970's, Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation, Men's Liberation, were invitations to join the ranks of self-liberated individuals. Today's LGBTQ activism is not that. It is a command to respect and obey. This, I believe, is why today's LGBTQ and Antifa activists resemble ISIS more than their Gay Liberation forebears. It is no wonder to me that many of them support Islamic ideology rather than protest against it. 


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