It’s January 4th now, a few days into the new year, and we’ve all been inundated with posts about our friends’ New Year’s resolutions and the standard posts that show which friends are boycotting the resolution train… And I have definitely been guilty of the former. I like the possibility that the new year brings! Regardless of whether it’s something I have been working towards for a while or whether it’s something I’m starting on that day, I get a renewed sense of energy and capability to tackle and stick with my resolution on January 1st.
This year, I posted my resolution on Instagram and it wasn’t easy being vulnerable on that forum, but I felt it was necessary for me to share the story that led to my resolution. Over the last few years, I’ve grown a lot. I’ve met new and interesting people who opened my eyes to different points of view and different realities. I’ve personally seen and experienced some really great but also some really tough things. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of love and the importance of loving inclusively. Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter in Country Strong said, “Fall in love with as many things as possible.” And I fully believe that. I believe in filling yourself with love, happiness, and gratitude for everything in your life. With all the hate surrounding us in today’s society, how can we not fight back with love? I’ve felt particularly strong about this lately. A dear friend of mine is working through understanding both his gender and sexuality confusion. As he struggles down this lonely and confusing path, I’ve witnessed the hate that he has to battle daily and it has broken my heart. He takes the hate as a part of life and meets it with a smile. He lives far away from any liberally-minded metropolis, and has no desire to move closer to one, but I’ve continually urged him to move closer to one by painting idyllic images of my own liberally-minded metropolis – Toronto. I’ve promised him that it would make a difference, I've promised him that there was a place for him – whoever he found himself to be – in these places. I’ve told him about all the times I’ve seen young boys and older men walking down the street, hand in hand, transgender women strutting the street in heels higher than mine, and the couples of women kissing goodbye on the street corner before heading into work. And I’ve never batted an eye, nor has anyone else that I could see. But, I think I was being naïve. Nowhere is perfect. Toronto is better than many, many places, but we still have so much work to do. We’re not as open and good as we think we are. And that became evident to me over the holidays.
I attended a holiday party where I was surrounded by interesting people who all present themselves as warm, caring, and intelligent individuals. And, amongst this group, there was someone who decided to share with me that they "just don't understand trans people." And then they added that they "weren't sure about gays, either." That person was drunk and making what they thought to be a cheeky and cute, yet very honest, revelation. But it's anything but. It's narrow-minded, it's alienating, and it's dividing. And it's stuck with me ever since.
I was surprised, and a little drunk myself, and I didn't give the response I wish I had. I’m naturally a fairly shy person – I don’t like conflict, I don’t like making scenes, and I hate the idea of embarrassing my companions. So, rather than doing what I wish I had done and chided him for thinking that his homophobic views were in any way “cute” and letting him know that they were most definitely not acceptable, I simply suggested - with a grin - that he read my book.
I should have stood up to him. I should have stood up for my friend and everyone like him who gets belittled and mocked, and sometimes taking much, much worse abuse, for being who they are. I pride myself on being confident and a voice for those with realities different than my own because I will stand behind my pen and make a statement. But if I can’t stand up in the privacy of a happy holiday party, how will I stand up to the strangers who take on my friends or the critics who tear down my writing because they don’t feel comfortable with what I’m saying? As an author with something to say, I need to be strong with a pen in my hand and without. So, in 2017, I'm promising myself that I won't shy away and I won't back down from situations like these. I’m going to be the person I am behind a pen in my everyday life. It may not make me friends all the time, but I’ll be a better friend to those who have stood by me.
Along this note, I’ve been struggling with finding a “brand” for myself on social media – if you can’t tell ha – so this is Part II of my resolution. Be me online. It’s so easy to post the “cute” or “fun” pictures because they show my happiest, most confident moments. I’m not sharing anything that could be controversial or might alienate readers. But I’m also not sparking conversation. I’m quirky. I have moods – I can be happy, sad, angry, excited, and nervous. I do silly things and I do cool things. I have talents and weaknesses. Just like everybody, I’m made up of paradoxes. But I don’t post like that because I’m so incredibly scared of stirring the pot. I don’t know who I want to be online because I don’t know who people will like online. But then I started thinking about who I follow most on Instagram and I realized that I most enjoy honest accounts where real people share insights into their mind – their thoughts, their fears, their talents and their weaknesses. They say what they’re feeling and they talk about their experiences in everyday life. It makes them feel real to me and builds a connection that I want to have with my readers. After all, I write because I’m so utterly fascinated with people’s emotional responses to their unique situations because I believe that we can all connect on an emotional level when we’re being truly honest. And this is the person I am when I interview subjects for my stories. So why am I hiding behind only the good stuff?
In short, 2017 is the year for the real me to come out and play in every area of life!