D.C. Pride

22 06 2017

Back in November, my wife and I were shocked by the results of the U.S. election. We felt numbed and despaired over what would happen in this alternate reality that we must now call our future. When the plans for the Womens March on Washington emerged, we had a brief discussion and decided that, one way or another, we had to be there. ww3

 

Flash forward to January. Shortly after our new POTUS was officially sworn in, there were 7 busloads of invigorated women (and a handful of wonderfully feminist men) departing from a parking lot in Indianapolis Friday evening, . We road through the night, marched with a million other women, then got back on those buses Saturday night to ride home, too energized to sleep. 16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_n

 

The ensuing response from the 45th administration was comical. Clearly, we had made an impression. Our numbers, as well as our voices, were heard around the world. It felt empowering, in a time of great despair, to know that I WAS THERE. I felt like I was part of history, and no matter how much hot air he blew trying to claim we weren’t, the new president clearly saw us as a powerful force.

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Upon our return to home, I worked hard to maintain a balance of vigilant activism, and healing self-care. It wasn’t easy. This president proceeded to launch a relentless twitterstorm of daily lies, distractions, smoke and mirrors to overwhelm and obfuscate the barrage of controversial bills he pursued. It quickly became clear to me, that we needed to do more to make our voices heard.

 

In this new era of so-called ‘fake news,’ ‘alternate facts’, and a shocking roll back of transparency in our federal administration, we are scared about what secret dealings may be underway. If #45 is good at anything, it’s being secretive, lacking loyalty, and flip-flopping to appease whomever he wants something from. So, despite some supporters’ claims that he was ‘pro-LGBT,’ our community is appalled by the horribly anti-LGBT people he has put into powerful positions.

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Our very own governor of Indiana (aka VP Pence), made headlines in 2015 with his rushed decision to try to institutionalize a religious freedom to discriminate (RFRA), before the business communities outcry forced him to repeal the anti-LGBT law. Our state lost over $60Million in business due to Pence’s irresponsible insistence on pushing his own personal anti-LGBT religious agenda onto our state. No matter what this POTUS thinks personally, he is clearly willing to throw us under the bus if it helps him get something else that he wants. He has no moral scruples.

 

So, I checked my balance of airline miles, and booked us a flight back to D.C., to march with our LGBTA brothers and sisters.

If ever there was a year to celebrate LGBT Pride in our nation’s capitol, this is it.

While Indianapolis has a (surprisingly) amazing pride celebration every year, I expected D.C. Pride would be bigger, especially this year. Not surprisingly, everywhere we went, we met other people who had the same idea we did. Seattle, Mexico City, Detroit, Toronto- we flew in from everywhere to show our strength!! We all showed up in force, flooding and overwhelming the city over several days of festivities, so that #45 could not deny our numbers. Everywhere you walk in D.C., rainbow flags outnumber even American flags, as an otherwise very proud community made itself even more visible. Allies, like our friends who put us up in their guest room for free, also proudly displayed their freshly purchased rainbow gear.

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Thank you.

Thank you to all our allies, who proudly celebrate with us every Pride, every day, every year; who shed tears and shared hugs when our community suffered the most deadly mass shooting in history; who walk us home when we don’t feel safe; who refuse to ignore overheard homophobic comments; and who stand up to strangers to tell them that it’s not okay to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory adverb.

Thank you to Washington D.C. Your community warms my heart. It makes me feel good knowing that #45 is literally surrounded by LGBT pride, and that our former homophobic governor has to dodge rainbows on every street corner!

Thank you to my LGBTQA brothers and sisters, who were brave enough to out yourselves, to normalize our existence by simply being unapologetically you, to defy the estimations of how many of us there truly are, and who, above all else, demonstrate on a daily basis that we are simply human, just like anyone else. We are still a minority facing intensive legal and personal discrimination, though it’s getting easier, especially in large cities like Indianapolis or Washington D.C. Our visibility is key to our acceptance.

Especially, a huge thank you to my beloved trans folks, for whom the fight is ten times harder; who need our support more than anyone; who teach me constantly how I can improve, to be more aware, to be more considerate, to keep adjusting my language, to be a better ally, and a better human.

Thank you to the rest of you, especially in smaller towns and communities, who don’t personally know any LGBTQA people (that you are aware of), who might be uncomfortable and have questions, but who are willing to learn how to be, what to say (or not), and how to embrace & support people who are different than you in some ways, but just like you in even more ways.

 

Together, we are winning.

If you build LGBT inclusion, we will come out.

 

 

 

 

 





The Year of the Woman-2017

8 03 2017

17191117_1512593198823299_2500333079812462773_nToday is International Women’s Day, and I am wearing my red in solidarity, to raise awareness for all the fights that we are continually fighting. Last year, I remember reading about the massive walk-outs in other countries, how services were disrupted and some places had to shut down because the women of that country refused to be silent, and were determined to demonstrate the importance and power of women in our global economy. I, however, did nothing. 

 

This year, I am doing something about it. And there is one person to thank…

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Our battle has only just begun, but the backlash against our new President (aka #45) is already yielding incredible growth in anti-apathy activism. The momentum of the Women’s March on Washington started with a roar, and is still growing.

 

Lots of people were confused about the goals of the Women’s March on Washington. I know that when you gather 3 million people together, each individual goal will vary. Let’s clarify, at least one perspective.

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I traveled 12 hours on an overnight bus to Washington D.C., not because I wanted to have a rough night of sleep and protest the next president. I came to D.C. to make it clear to the new administration that women are NOT going to sit back and let them ignore us. The president can NOT call us ‘nasty’ or ‘pussy’ or ‘bitch.’ There is no undo button. There is no ‘Back.’

 

I march because I am not willing to let our children live in a society where women are STILL less than. I don’t have kids. But I live in a village, so I (kind of) have dozens of kids. The march in DC only affirmed my faith in humanity. When I boarded the bus (1 of 6) from Indy, I was surprised to see several men. After just a few minutes of conversation, I could see that these people were allies, and self-proclaimed feminists.

 

At 4am, our bus stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, and we filed off of the bus, bleary-eyed and sore. I stood in line waiting for the women’s room for 15 minutes, then realized there was no line for the men’s. Along with a half dozen other ladies, and a couple of men, we relieved ourselves and discussed how silly it is that people worry about who’s in which bathroom. I just had to pee. And no one was arrested.

 

My wife disappeared, and came back telling me about how she randomly ran into 4 women we know who were traveling from northern Indiana, and just happened to be stopping at the same rest stop, for the same 20 minutes in the middle of the night. What a coincidence! On my way back to the bus, I ended up somehow leading an impromptu yoga session for strangers waiting in the queue. They were stretching, and I stopped- as a joke- to share an exaggerated stretch with them… and then a group of 6 of us moved through my regular yoga poses together, before I left to get back on my own bus. It was an unexpectedly beautiful experience!

 

16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_nWhen we arrived in DC, we were sorely missing our Metro cards, which we ordered weeks in advance, but never received in time. We got to RFK stadium at 7am, but our group decided to enjoy the unseasonably warm (thank you climate change) walk to the national mall. We were lucky for warm, dry weather, and we were grateful. At the mall, things got crazy real fast. I’m not a fan of crowds, but was prepared for the worst. We ended up with a group of 13, all linking hands to try to not be separated. It took at least 30 minutes of pushing through a crushing crowd of hundreds of thousands, but we did end up getting separated.

Once we got into the thick of things, there was really no turning back. We could not move. We could barely turn around. We could not hear or see the presenters. After not too long, the three of us who remained together had to escape to the fringes of the national mall to get a breather, and find some nourishment.

 

The day was intense, amazing, AWESOME! I was inspired by all the people I met along the way. The 80 year old woman who showed up with her 3 adult sons willing to march for women’s rights! The young, early 20s women who marched for their future. I’m proud for this diversity! There were over a million marchers. And no one was arrested.

 

16194931_1438807779535175_1141294287900534876_nFunny coincidences? There were several. The night before the march, our friend, Christine, told us that she decided last minute to also go to DC, from Michigan. She wanted to make plans to meet up, which we weren’t sure about, logistically. We made semi-vague plans for a time but no place, knowing that cell service in the massive crowds would be challenging. As we were marching down Independence, listening to women’s voices chanting, distant drums booming, I heard a squealing sound rapidly growing in intensity. All of the sudden, I saw my friend’s face come crashing into me! Literally- she smashed her forehead into mine as she tripped to hug me, and we almost fell over together, perched on the curb. She had recognized my sign from an earlier Facebook post, and didn’t want to lose sight of us, so she launched into action. I could not believe that she found us. It was LITERALLY a 1 in a million chance. 

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My heart lacks for nothing. In one tiny weekend, I was filled with so many rich experiences. A woman searching for direction? Done. A woman wanting to document our pride flags? Done. A woman who lacked anything to carry, liked my planet poster, and wanted to carry it? Done. Lifelong memories of being a part of something far bigger than myself? You betcha. The fire has been stoked, and I am raring to go! Each and every person I encountered at that march has reaffirmed my passion and commitment.

I hereby declare 2017 the Year of the Woman!

 





Why I March

20 01 2017

dcrainAs I type this, many are weeping at the end of an era. Many others are cheering at a new chapter in American history. The clouds are crying into dark & heavy atmosphere, which feels fitting.

 

But, I’m done crying. I’m done being shocked. I’m done being distracted by another stupid tweet or another mindless meme. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. I’m ready to fight.

 

582b7d491800002c0030e402Let me be clear- I hate politics. I hate filling space in my brain with lists of people I’ve never met and the reasons why I should or should not like them. I hate wondering what a company’s values are every time I lay my plastic card down at the cash register. I’ve never marched in a protest. I’ve never spent hours making poignant and powerful signs. I hate everything to do with politics.

 

This is how I know that we are entering an era that is unprecedented.  People who never before felt compelled to get involved, suddenly feel like they have no choice. And I am one of them. 

 

10436160_891482897601002_2027435962132802493_nTo clarify, I have taken some actions before. I’ve signed countless online petitions to protect rights for my fellow citizens. I’ve worked to educate others on issues of the environment. And I did attend a few rallies to fight for marriage equality, just as we reached the crescendo, from 2013-2015. But I don’t like crowds. I don’t like to be noticed. I don’t like to be the center of attention. So I mostly just looked on quietly, while I proudly watched other people be my voice, carry that sign, shout our chants.

 

tsunami-2I feel like I am a relaxed tourist, sitting on a beach, ignoring reality, and enjoying the sunshine, when all of the sudden I look up to see an enormous tsunami of change preparing to crash down upon me. I can either give up, sit in my chair, and dig my feet into the sand fruitlessly. Or, I can fight. I can stand up, grab that inflatable tube, put my swim goggles on, and take a deep breath in. I’m not going down without a fight. I refuse to drown, no matter how massive the wave may be before me. I’m choosing to go in, and it’s gonna be a wild ride.

 

Tonight, I am getting on that bus. I’m heading to Washington D.C., to our nation’s capitol, and I am going to carry that sign, I’m gonna march in that march, I’m gonna sing every song I know the words to, and I am going to make my voice heard.

 


We ARE what makes this nation great.
And we want to make the next administration damn sure, that we are watching, we are listening, and we are keeping track. We will NOT let this nation get sunk beneath the tsunami. We will fight to survive! No matter how many waves crash down upon us, we will not drown! Instead, we will find more ways to float, we will bring our sisters and brothers up onto our rafts, and we will keep going!

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Parapet PhotographyThis morning, I went to Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee, to see some of my favorite people before we go to D.C. They gave me hugs, and love, and support, and gratitude. As I was sitting there, a man sitting alone at a nearby table was listening to our conversation, and said to me, “Hey, I’d like to show you something,” motioning to his laptop. I walked over and looked over his shoulder as he said, “THIS is why I march,” with tears in his eyes. On the screen was a picture of a 4 year old girl in a Rosie the Riveter shirt.


I am marching because
I cannot let one president set us back 40 years. I march because, although I have no children of my own, I worry for the future of my village’s children. I march for Dean’s daughter. I march because I believe in community, and love, and acceptance. I believe that we ALL must be invested in our shared future, which means caring about not only your neighbors, but those around you that you do not know, may not understand, may not recognize, or may not even like. No matter what, a rising tide raises ALL ships, and I refuse to sit by and watch someone else drown.

 

I am marching because:

Climate change IS REAL.

Love is LOVE.

Women’s rights ARE HUMAN rights.

Black Lives MATTER. 

No lives are ILLEGAL.

And Kindness is FREE. 

 

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Grieving: How the Pulse Massacre Affects All of Us

14 06 2016


Grief is a fickle thing. It’s hard to define. It’s hard to defend. Some people get it. Some people don’t. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about my own grieving lately, as I was struggling to understand just why the loss of 49 beautiful souls I never knew, in a state I don’t live in, has hit me so fucking hard.

 

ss-160612-pulse-vigil-jsw-09_4c70cbb1faf2b866f969c050aa30e728.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Yes, of course, I think that ALL Americans should be grieving this loss right now. It’s a national tragedy. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in history. Our trend line is moving in the wrong direction. But I think that most Americans haven’t been waking up crying.

 

Some people are just more empathetic and feel emotions harder. Some people shed tears when celebrities die, whom they’ve never met before, just because the person’s art inspired them. But that’s not me.

 

Some of us are heartbroken because you are parents, and so many of the lives taken were just babes in the woods. Akyra Monet Murray was only 18 years old, and never even had a 2016-06-14_9-22-27chance to vote for president before being murdered. Many were barely in their twenties, and couldn’t even buy a drink- they just came out to dance and be with friends. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool was a mother to 12 children, and was there dancing with her gay son, who survived, and will have to deal with her loss and all the ‘what ifs’. Christopher Andrew Leinonen and Juan Ramon Guerrero were planning their wedding, and now will have a joint funeral instead. The individual stories are heart breaking.

 

A lot of us are crying because we are gay, and this was a hate crime by a homophobic man targeted at a gay night club. This is me. But it goes alot deeper than this.

 

13407150_1160339034048719_5298806267185347464_nIt feels selfish to say, “It could have been me,” but it’s what’s going through all of our minds right now. Earlier that same day, I was walking in the Indy Pride parade. I was dancing to Bigfoot Yancey play music at our pride celebration. I could have been out at Metro that night, celebrating our love and our freedom, as we approach the historic 1-year anniversary of being granted the right to equal marriage. It really could have been me.

 

I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts from my friends, struggling to understand, walking in a cloud of numb achiness, unable to cope with this tragedy. Yet we knew nobody personally affected. Many of my LGBT friends are my age or younger, and seem to be struggling the most with the Pulse massacre. I am starting to figure out why we are hurting so badly.

 

This Saturday, June 18th, I will turn 36 years old. I didn’t come out until I was 29, when I met my soulmate, who happened to be a woman. I have experienced several personal tragedies in my life, and I am no stranger to grief. Which is why it feels so odd to be so distraught by this attack. I’m scared that next time I want to go dancing at a gay club, or marching in a pride parade, or even just living my life as an out and proud gay person, I too could be the target of such an awful attack. I tried to explain this fear to my mom, and, trying to console me, she said, “It’s not going to happen to you, but it’s a reminder to be careful out there, showing affection in public.”

 

For my wife, who has been out of the closet for nearly 30 years, this is nothing new. She HAS been shot at. She HAS been spat on by strangers. She HAS had to fight back against people who simply didn’t like the way she cuts her hair, and felt the need to verbalize their internal hatred towards a person who, while different from them, is a beautiful, loving, kind person.

 

29115c4e67ff92e95626b75fffaa1e95When we were considering moving to Indianapolis in 2013, we came here for a weekend to check out the city. While walking downtown, we stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the light. I reached for my wife’s hand by her side, and she jerked it away. I looked at her, upset that she didn’t want to clasp hands after we were just having such a nice conversation. She said, “I don’t know if it’s safe here.” My response was, “Well if it’s not safe, I want to know now, before we decide to move here.” She nervously agreed, and we walked hand in hand, met by nothing but smiles and loving looks from strangers who can see how in love we are.

 

I’ve never faced the same level of discrimination and hatred that my wife, and many older LGBT folks, have had to face in their lives. I know that things were different 20, 30 years ago, and I have always been proud and relieved to be alive in a time where we have come so far. Until now.

 

candlesFor the first time in my life, I truly understand what it feels like to be a second class citizen. I know what fear tastes like. It’s different than being forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to get married. It’s far worse. I now know that I may never feel safe or secure again. Even after years have passed without incident, this moment in history will remain like a shard of glass lodged into my brain. THAT is why I am grieving. For not only the lives of the people who have died, and the lives of those who survived, and who will have to learn to go on with a giant gaping hole in their hearts where a loved one once lived, but also for a generation of young LGBT people who should never have to know this level of deeply entrenched fear. I thought we were past this. I had hopes that young people would find all the love and acceptance that the generations before them fought so hard to earn. And instead, I feel like we have just been set back to 1969.
So, please, don’t tell me it’s not a big deal. Don’t tell me it’s not technically a hate crime yet. Don’t tell me to feel better. Don’t talk to me about guns. Don’t tell me that it was one crazy guy and I’m perfectly safe. I’m not. My heart is not safe. My mind is not safe. My soul is deeply battered and bruised. I am lucky to be alive, but I feel like a survivor as well. I’ll grieve as damn long as I need to, because some wounds never heal.

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The Pulse of America

13 06 2016

 


news june 12 2016I am shocked and my heart is aching, along with millions of Americans, and LGBT people worldwide. On Saturday, I was marching in the 2 hour long Indy Pride parade, celebrating my equal marriage rights, dancing to live music with many friends and allies, and enjoying a feeling of love, support, and security. The next morning, I woke up to something unimaginable.

In 2016, we are reeling from the most deadly mass shooting in history, specifically targeting our community. The disgusting murders and attacks that took place between 2-5am Sunday morning at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse, are unfathomable. If you are not part of this community, you may not understand the ripple effects of this bloody attack. This murderer targeted us in the one place where we can feel safe. This was our church, our sanctuary, a place where no one needs to live in fear. For those allies who may not understand completely, you need to know more about why this type of attack is so gut wrenching.  

 


This horrific event is making international news, making history, and reigniting conversations.

But it’s not the first time June has made the news for our community.

Do you know why June is LGBT Pride month?

 

1969- Stonewall Inn


In 1969, the gay pride movement sprang out of another horrific event. Stonewall. In a different era, physical safety was at the forefront of every gay person in America, a daily fear based in real danger on every street. The gay community only felt safe in places not dissimilar to the Pulse night club in Orlando. They feared constant persecution, and sought solace in the privacy of  these clubs. It was a place where you could be yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. You could finally feel free to express your true self, to not be judged, to not worry about being attacked or leered at.

 

stonewalliiOn June 28, 1969, Stonewall Inn was filled with people who were mourning the loss of icon & actress Judy Garland just 6 days earlier. Around 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, 8 police officers, busted into the Stonewall Inn to conduct a raid. Gay men and drag queens were handcuffed and arrested, until one person, who repeatedly fought back, shouted to the crows “Why don’t you do something?” The LGBT community hit a tipping point, and the crowd collectively decided to fight back for their rights for the first time in history. The riots that ensued marked the beginning of the gay rights movement. It was not the first time the LGBT community suffered bloody bruises, nor have we seen the last.

 

2015 -Marriage Equality

10644926_890978134318145_1803539000570143421_nCountless struggles and brave fighters in between 1969 and 2015 have built up to something that many older LGBT folks thought they would never see in their lifetimes. I myself watched closely for 4 years as my marriage became repeatedly legal, then illegal, over and over again, as state by state overturned marriage bans, then put a stay on rulings denouncing the bans on gay marriage.

In 2015, June 26th became known for the historical pronouncement by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that our LGBT citizens are constitutionally guaranteed equal access to the 1,000 benefits of legally recognized marriage. Marriage equality. Love wins! I had hoped that this would be the pinnacle of the gay rights movement (now LGBT movement)- a turning point, signaling the end of our uphill struggle. But our fight is not over.

 

2016- The Deadliest Mass Shooting in American History

Let’s not let one homophobic man redefine our history. We must pull together, to love one another, to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, and to push for greater recognition of our rights as humans.

 

ec892e313cf65bc8c82b13da5148dd0eOur fight is not over.

  1. We must call on our allies to speak up. We must demand that our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our family stop being bystanders to subtle erosions of our rights. Words are weapons too.
  2. 11709658_891482884267670_569629766078156716_nWe must call on our lawmakers. We must question why it’s okay to legally gain access to a machine that can murder so many people so quickly and so easily. No person needs a weapon of mass destruction to hunt for food or protect their family.
  3. 11667276_891482920934333_5618867141807357087_nWe must ALL demand equal rights. Marriage equality is a huge step forward, but we have not completed the path. It’s 2016, and I can be fired for being gay. I can be denied housing for being gay. This is institutionalized bigotry that requires a change in our laws in order to force it to end. We must demand that our state provides protections against discrimination, and we must question our federal government to work to correct where our states are refusing to protect us. We are still not treated as equals. Until sexual orientation and gender identity are considered protected classes, just as are race, religion, and many other groups, we are subject to discrimination and hate crimes.

 


2016- Our LGBT Future
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First, let us grieve & support everyone affected by this horrific tragedy. Then, let’s use this tragic loss to fuel our collective fire. We need to push for change! Until we are equals, we are not free! Until our society accepts us as equal, this kind of bigotry will continue to fester quietly in corners of America. We must stomp it out! Don’t be a silent bystander. That is not America.

Let’s show the world that America is built on LOVE & EQUALITY!!!

 





Dear AirBnB… (a letter of concern)

21 04 2016

Dear AirBnB,

Wow, can you believe how far you have come in just 7 short years? Back then, when we first became hosts in early 2011, nobody had a clue what this was. Most of my friends looked at me with utter consternation and asked, “Wait, so… your’re letting a complete stranger sleep in your home??” with genuine concern for our safety.

After 5 years of hosting, in first a cozy town and then in a big city, I have to say that we have seen some amazing transformations over the life of AirBnB. Some are great! Some not so great. We have mixed feelings about others.

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We host because we LOVE our neighborhood. We also love to travel. So, we love to share all our favorite things about our town with visitors, to help them have the best possible locavore experience during their stay in Indy. And we get to learn about where our guests are from, their own culture, and their own adventures in traveling this magnificent globe!

Airbnb sf add
As AirBnB has grown, there has been some controversy.
I’ve read all about the stuff transpiring in big cities like NYC & Paris, and the more recent public battle in San Fran. I certainly did not like what was happening there, and was grateful that problem didn’t affect us in our much smaller city.

 

cropped_initiatives-fountain-square_web_1413983859-e1460575659170In the past 6-12 months, however, I have seen a dramatic change in our neighborhood, now that AirBnB is becoming so much more popular. Not in a good way. Outside investors are now flying into Indy, gobbling up cheap rental houses (where our friends who work as busboys and poets used to live). These investors are then flipping these cost-effective rentals- installing granite counters, white subway tile, and stainless steel appliances- and kicking out the local folks to make more money on AirBnB. They are providing ZERO personal, local flavor, and are turning AirBnB into a vapid money-making scheme.

 

What we LOVED about AirBnB, was the personal touch!! And now we are getting crowded out of our own neighborhood so someone who lives in California, or New York, can “get rich quick.” This seems SO opposite of the core values and mission of AirBnB. Or at least that’s what we thought. Were we wrong?

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What do YOU  think, AirBnB?

Is having absentee hosts the kind of transformation you envisioned when you went public?

If not, change is in order.

 

Here are my thoughts. It’s time to clamp down and make hosts have limitations, in order to preserve that personal, local flavor that differentiated you in the marketplace in the first place. I would propose these three simple steps to preserving the character of the peer-to-peer platform:

 

  1. Hosts must live in the zip code they host in. Period. NO LONG DISTANCE HOSTING.
  2. 12801628_10209410092079465_5208121896916928251_nHosts must give the option to GREET guests in person, when desired by the guest. No more of this absentee host bullshit. Sure, sometimes we are traveling too, and cannot meet in person- but we always let the guests know that when they book! And if we are in town, we ALWAYS offer to give them a quick tour and walk them to the square, and usually grab a drink with them if they like. That’s why most of our former AirBnB guests become actual friends. It’s so awesome!
  3. Put a cap on how many listings one host can have! I just heard about one person who has TWENTY HOUSES that he lists on AirBnB in our vicinity. Twenty!!! How personal could that possibly be??? Honestly, we have 4 active listings (2 entire houses and 2 rooms in our home), and sometimes it can take a lot to keep everybody straight when you have a lot of folks checking in and out every day or two. I don’t know what the right number is, but I think you could limit hosts to something like 6 or 8, and that would still be pretty generous, and stop greedy outsiders from kicking all the long term renters out of our neighborhood.

 

 

gentrification-620x350Gentrification sucks. I know that it’s a complex issue that I won’t resolve in the next two paragraphs, but as much as we can, we should be trying to transition neighborhoods in a way that builds & strengthens community while maintaining diversity.

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We use our income from AirBnB to subsidize rent for local folks in our other rental. Our own personal business model is a 1-for-1 ratio of AirBnB to local folks. It pays our mortgages, while also preserving the rich cultural socioeconomic diversity that makes our neighborhood so desirable. It’s in AirBnB’s best interest to be invested in preserving this diversity as well. I know that when I travel, I don’t want to get stuck in some stuffy neighborhood where all the houses look perfectly quaffed, everyone looks the same & is afraid to hang out on their front porch for fear of the “others.” But that is exactly what will eventually happen if AirBnB does not do something to stop this money-hungry transformation that our neighborhood is starting to succumb to.

2016-04-20_16-26-18I sincerely hope you are still reading this, and that you take our suggestions to heart. We loved AirBnB, but at this point we are less and less interested in sharing our host experience with others because the market is so over-saturated, and starting to lose some of its core values. I hope you are as committed to preserving the local, personal aspect that made AirBnB so successful in the first place. I know we are.

 

10492426_677134702369157_7868290351175616890_nSincerely,

Your 5-year SuperHost,

Kelly Weger





Naked and Proud

15 01 2016

Dear Planet Fitness,

 

I’m onto you. I’ve now tried at least 4 or 5 of your gym locations (yes, it IS a gym), and been struck by one common thread in the various layouts. Your locker room is specifically designed to make people NOT want to use the shower.

 

I consider myself a connoisseur of gyms. For several years post-college, I refused to buy a year-round gym membership, because I never make use of it during the spring, summer, or fall, when I’d rather be running around outside on a field with a dozen friends. So, to get myself through the cold winter months without access to the university fitness center, I learned to take advantage of a plethora of “FREE one week trial!” or “VIP Pass!” gym membership offers.

 

golds gym trialThe first one was a former Gold’s Gym, now independently owned. It was well equipped, with a spacious locker room, replete with a sauna, which I fell madly in love with at first sweat. At the end of my 7 days, it was hard to break up. I went a week without a gym, until I found my next victim, which had a pool! That was a great 10 days!! The following gym was open 24/7- which I didn’t actually require, and it was pretty basic. The one after that included free group classes, and I really got into the idea of somebody else telling me how to work out in new and different ways. It got me through the winter, and I learned a lot about what I like- and what I don’t like- in a gym. For me, it all comes down to cost and value for an entire year.

 

At all of these gyms, I was able to easily and comfortably shower after my workout, which made it far more conducive to working out in the morning before work. I could set my bag down and hang my clean clothing up in an enclosed changing area that served at the Narthex to this Roman temple of cleanliness. After rinsing off, I could step out in privacy to dry off and get dressed. Sounds pretty logical, right?

 

Well, Planet Fitness, you may have got me with your super cheap monthly price- which I can rationalize paying even in the summer months- but you clearly are an exhibitionist. Not ONE of your gyms affords this level of modesty. No, you require your members to get naked 10 feet away, then streak across the open locker room to slip behind a flimsy shower curtain, with lo a single hook to hang a towel on, if we are lucky enough to find one that isn’t dangling by a single screw.

 

My theory is that this is a corporate ploy to save on cost. If you make it so uncomfortable- even embarrassing- for people to shower in public, then they won’t- which means you save money every month on soap, water, and time cleaning the facilities. BRILLIANT! I bet someone got a nice bonus the year you implemented this practice. (And I somehow doubt that this is an environmentally motivated design, since you are merely diverting this usage to the members’ homes.)

 

Alas, your plan is foiled by ME! You see, I was once like your average 20-year-old gym-goer. Self-conscious & embarrassed about my body, changing in the locker room left me in an anxious sweat as I feebly crafted a new, innovative method to disrobe without ever actually being naked. Ladies- you know what I’m talking about. The whole- pull sports bra on over regular bra- undo snaps- pull from armpit- and VOILA! The old bra has magically been removed without any boobie display at all! This, of course, does not work when you are getting ready to shower, unless you carry a towel the size of Texas.

 

um ncrcWhen I was a student at the University of Michigan, my dear friend, ‘Other Kelly,’ convinced me to commit for a M-W-F open swim session at the north campus rec center. At 6am. That’s in the morning. Really, REALLY early in the morning for a student. Thanks a lot, Other Kelly!

 

I foolishly agreed, and together we held ourselves accountable to get up and actually exercise at this ungodly hour. Do you know who else is in the locker room at this time of day? That’s right… NOBODY. Except for the senior citizen alumni who have free access in exchange for their sanity.

 

I will never forget the first day. I awkwardly tried to conceal my body as I changed into my racer-back Speedo. I practically strained my shoulder contorting into it like a first-time gymnast. Nevertheless, I did survive, and I even managed to swim the entire hour, with breaks only once every 2 minutes. When the open swim session was over, a giant buzzer sounded, shooing all of us free-loaders out of there, and Other Kelly and I returned to the locker room to clean up and change before class.

 


The locker room for the pool area is about as anonymous as an AA meeting held in a mall atrium. I walked into a large, tiled shower room with a dozen shower heads, and nary a hook to be found. No matter how I calculated my next move, I was forced to travel at least 6 feet to get from my towel to the source of water. I leaped across the floor like it was hot lava, then I had to wait patiently for the water to warm up, while I stood helplessly outside the spray, pretending not to be cold or naked.

 

As I stood there in my self-imposed shame, I stared at the floor, so as not to make eye contact with any of the other women in the area. I noticed a pair of wrinkly, bony ankles on the cold tile floor next to me, and I slowly lifted my gaze to see the woman they were carrying. She clearly had some 70 years behind her, with deep creases at all her pivot points, and a crushed velvet texture to her skin. Her former curves of glory sagged with exhaustion, yet her creased face held a bright smile as she massaged her scalp, happily chatting with the woman to her right. She faced the room, unabashed, without a care in the world. As I began to scan the rest of the room, I realized that all of my elderly cohorts shared this same disposition. Not a single one of them gave a damn about exposing their bodies, and they had no problem talking to other women in the buff. They seemed to natural, at ease. I was in awe. I was impressed. 

bradley-group-showers

My water warmed up, and I returned to my own cleansing, all the while thinking about this larger ritual I was now a part of. Here we are, all women, all made of the same parts and pieces, in various stages and forms. We are the same, so what is there to be embarrassed about? The truth is, none of these women was in their prime anymore. They have already watched their once supple bodies decay and degrade over many years. And they were okay with this. They had accepted this as a natural part of life. The didn’t hide their wrinkles, or cover up their sunken curves, but instead, they simply could care less what others thought of them. And here I was, in my physical prime, ashamed because I wasn’t ‘perfect.

 

Over the course of the semester, these older women taught me, without ever saying a word, to embrace my body for the way it is. To love myself, fully and unconditionally. They led by example, and evolved my perspective on what is means to be a woman. I am now proud of my body, as much at 35 as I was at 25. I know that one day I will find myself old and sagging and wrinklier than I already am, and I will love that version of myself too.

 

budapest-gellert-pool_chop1nIn the years between, I have learned to be comfortable in a two-piece swimsuit. I have bathed nude at a Hungarian bathhouse. I have learned that no one can judge me, except myself. I will no longer be my own worst critic, and I will listen graciously when others give me compliments, instead of discounting them inside my own head.

 

So- Planet Fitness- screw you and your crappy shower layout. I will walk- not run– boldly through your locker room, for all to see. I will not cover up my body out of shame. I will not avoid eye contact with other women simply because I am in my most natural state. I will lead by example, that our bodies are all beautiful!

 

pf showerPerhaps that was the point you were trying to make with this arrangement, but somehow, I doubt it. Either way, I will happily use your water, and your soap, and you can count on that in your annual budget.

 

Sincerely yours,

The Proud Owner of a Female Body