CHOOSING COMPASSION IN A CALLOUT CULTURE

A former social media “comment crusader,” diversity and inclusion specialist Aaron Rose is committed to moving beyond the “us vs. them” callout culture. PLUS Aaron shares 7 ways to upgrade your spiritual activism by choosing connection and compassion over fear …

Photo: Alberto Vasari

With 15 years working as a facilitator, educator, and consultant in the field of “Diversity & Inclusion,” my overarching mission is to heal our world’s generational patterns of separation so that we can all thrive as our authentic selves. Though always important, this work has of course taken on even more urgency in the escalating polarization following the 2016 election.

But in the last few years I have had to rethink some of how I was originally trained to approach this work. Namely, that relying on a callout culture of shame and dehumanization—however subtle or justified—as motivating tools of change, will never resolve the isolation and exclusion we ultimately seek to address.

Historically, my work focused on explaining the history of institutionalized oppression and practicing “dos and don’ts” for interacting with different groups. The premise—albeit often unspoken—was that we were there to help the privileged people understand how to treat the marginalized people better. Many people did indeed leave feeling more informed and better prepared to work with people different from themselves. However, when others would express feeling upset, confused, or silenced, I knew something was missing.

Many of my colleagues wrote this off as collateral damage—some people would just never get it, they said. And if a white man left feeling upset, maybe that was a good thing, because lots of people have been upset for a long time. I understood the logic, but this theory of social change felt incomplete to me. It’s a dynamic that has become all too familiar in social media interactions in which people are called out for offensive or exclusionary behavior and summarily “canceled” or rejected without any space for recourse or repair.

Back then, my life mirrored my work. I genuinely saw light and potential in everyone—and wanted to help us all understand each other better. But, truthfully, I usually meant, you (a person with historically more access and power than most) needed to understand me (a trans and queer person with experiences of violence and marginalization).

My approach was that of a pretty typical East Coast liberal. I would passionately launch into Facebook comment monologues, determined to get people to understand how they were hurting others, while distancing myself from people based on their presumably more privileged identities. My tone was condescending at best, and vitriolic at worst. I wanted people to understand the harm they were doing, and I wanted it to stop. Now.

Deep down, I, like so many others, felt scared and misunderstood. In most of the jobs I’d had as a young adult, I’d experienced harassment and discrimination—from prying questions about my transgender identity, to constant misgendering, to sexual harassment and violence—and the pain of my own marginalization kept me in a defensive stance.

I was quick to judge people’s politics, and even quicker to let them know about it—when separated by a screen and a keyboard. In most cases, there was little hope for redemption once someone had acted in a way I deemed oppressive, racist, heterosexist, transphobic, or more. But for all my accusations of division and dehumanization, I too was compartmentalizing people, saying things like “I could never be real friends with a straight guy … he just wouldn’t get me.” It hadn’t occurred to me yet that maybe I didn’t really get him either. I had never thought to ask.

While doing the work of humanizing historically excluded minorities, I had been unwittingly dehumanizing others. It seemed natural to view my work as an us vs. them quest to change some people’s minds on behalf of others. But I’ve come to understand that this approach will only continue to amplify the feeling of uneasy disconnection that characterizes so much of modern life, particularly online: the fear of being judged, the fear of being harmed, the fear that saying the wrong thing will result in excommunication.

The work that many pioneering LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and other historically marginalized people have done to legitimize the acknowledgement of our individual pain and institutionalized discrimination is important and invaluable. That kind of self-expression and community accountability is indispensable. But if simply being able to recite our personal and collective histories of oppression back and forth to one another with flawless terminology was going to create true progress, we would not be in our current accelerating state of political polarization and identity-based isolation. If we truly want a more just and connected world, we all have to go a step further.

Today, I no longer take to social media with fear and contempt to catalogue the ways in which others are letting me down. I’ve shifted my focus from what we’re tearing down to an approach that does not calcify divisions but instead catalyzes connection. This does not mean releasing people from accountability or never speaking up against injustice. It simply means setting the intention to treat no human being as if they are disposable, even if they are failing to honor our humanity. It means creating the conditions in which we can, as adrienne maree brown writes, “default to trust on a community level.”

Below, I share 7 ways we can be stewards of this paradigm shift:

Photo: Gwendolyn Rodriguez

1// Heal yourself to heal the world. Your work starts with you – owning your story, and releasing the blocks that stand between you and truly recognizing yourself in another. Regardless of your identities, our conditioned social autopilot reinforces the idea that connecting with people from different backgrounds puts us at risk in some way. For those of us (read: all of us!) who have felt minimized or unsafe because of who we are, leaning into even more discomfort can feel scary. But the more we connect with our own sense of humanity, the more we can extend that to others.

**Action Step: Take some time to meditate on welcoming feelings of safety. The more you cultivate a feeling of security within yourself, the more you will be able to welcome others into your world. You are safe, you are resilient, you are here to thrive and make space for others do the same. This meditation is one of my favorites. You can also check out my meditation series here.

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2// Redefine how you love. We are all called to love each other now as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke often about agape love as the driving force behind all his work. He said, “And this is what Jesus means … when he says, ‘Love your enemy.’ And it’s significant that he does not say, ‘Like your enemy’ … There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people … But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them.”

**Action Step: Practice silently blessing every person you encounter and wishing them peace and happiness. Your world will begin to transform before your eyes, from the inside out.

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3// Meditate for real. Meditation creates space between external stimuli and our responses, allowing us to act as we choose, versus on autopilot. In the same way that  we cannot change our world unless we face the truth of it, we cannot embody a new energy of love unless we retrain our nervous systems. Meditation is the path to this change.

**Action Step: Practice the Buddhist metta, or loving kindness, meditation. A common mantra is: May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe, May you live a life of peace. Extend this blessing first to yourself, then to those you love, then to the world around you, and finally to the people who you find it hardest to love. This practice is a gift you can give yourself anywhere, anytime.

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4// Know our history, know yourself. We make it a lot easier for others to trust us and give us room to grow when we show up fully. In the context of identity and social change, this means understanding our world’s historical patterns of exclusion and violence. Acknowledge your part and make amends, for yourself as well as your ancestors. Understand both your access and power, as well as your history of pain and struggle. Recognize that we all have inherent biases, and be prepared to acknowledge them as they surface. Learn bystander intervention protocol and be ready for action.

**Action Step: What are your identities? Where do you fall toward the margins and where do you have more access? Explore Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality to develop a deeper understanding of how our combination of identities shape our experience of the world.

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5// Release perfection, embrace integrity. We will all make mistakes along the way. Doing this work is about integrity: staying in alignment with your values and maintaining your sense of wholeness in the process. No one comes from the same perspective, and many of us do not have an academic foundation in theories of oppression and liberation. Despite our commitment to love, none of us will have the perfect word every time.

**Action Step: How will you respond when you or someone else messes up? What are your go-to phrases for communicating when a boundary has been crossed? How will you apologize and repair? Practicing ahead of time allows our brains to find the right words when our bodies are in fight or flight.

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6// Reframe callouts as opportunities for connection. When someone tells you your words were offensive, it’s easy to get defensive and push back. And to build a culture where everyone can thrive, we need to reframe how we perceive negative feedback. Humans don’t often take the time to let somebody know they feel hurt unless some part of us cares about being understood by the person who hurt us. Framed this way, each callout is a gift in service of our collective healing and evolution. Show the same investment in the connection by showing up to learn and repair together.

**Action Step: Practice responding to call-outs with grace and integrity. Pick your go-to phrases. Some options: “Thank you for letting me know how my words impacted you. I’m committed to building a community where everyone feels welcome.” “I hear what you’re saying and I will shift my words in the future. I’m sorry I used that hurtful language.” P.S. You really have to mean it, so align your energy with your words before pressing “share.”

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7// Redefine the personal vs. political binary. Who actually benefits from the idea that there is a difference between the personal and political? Certainly not you and me. Taking responsibility for caring for all life on Earth is the most profound investment we can make in our own self-care.

Action Step: How can you realign what is best for you as being what is best for all sentient beings? For example, is your meditation or intention-setting practice exclusively about your individual life? Set intentions not only for personal wealth and happiness, but for white people’s capacity to release our dependency on white supremacy, for example. For the renewing of our healthy relationship with planet Earth. For men’s commitment to repairing the wounds of the patriarchy. And for ongoing guidance about your role within the larger process. The support is there. You need only to tap in and ask.

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Aaron Rose is a writer, speaker, and diversity & inclusion coach. In his spare time you can find him waxing poetic about quantum physics, boy bands, and healing intergenerational trauma. Follow Aaron online at @aaronxrose and learn more about his work, including his upcoming healthy masculinity intensive for conscious men, at www.theaaronrose.com

ANDRE J ON SELF-EXPRESSION AS A SELF-LOVE PRACTICE

A-gender trendsetter and spiritual mentor Andre J shares how a lifetime of fearless self-expression has been the ultimate self-love practice …

I was raised by a single parent in the Projects of Newark, New Jersey. Our building was a shambles and the hallways had a foul odor, but the interior of my apartment was always spotless. I was a late baby, my mother was in her forties when she had me, so I was truly conceived out of love. However, I’m also an incest survivor, molested repeatedly by my older male cousin for years.

Raised by my mother I had feminine tendencies, and growing up I was called a fag and a sissy. When you live in the Projects, it’s easy to become engulfed by this air of unhappiness. People are always nipping and pulling things apart, because unhappiness only breeds more unhappiness, or hopelessness. But that was not my story.

I didn’t see people the way that they saw me. I only saw them through the eyes of love, because that’s what I received at home, despite the abuse I suffered from my cousin.

It was aged around 10 that I remember catching sight of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and the words just fell from my mouth, effortlessly: ‘Andre, I love you.’ In that moment that I understood the importance of loving myself.

It was almost like the Universe was saying to me, ‘Baby, you have a choice. Either you will be an evil man, probably a pedophile yourself, a repeat offender. Or you are going to find an inner peace within yourself, and you are going to take this journey, and you are going to live your best life.”

I always had great style, even as a kid. My first job was in corporate America, and I would wear a twill blazer that fit really well, with high-waisted pants and snakeskin shoes. An ascot around my neck. But it was working at Patricia Field, in sales and then as the PR director, that Andre J came about, with the facial hair and the women’s garments.

It’s what the Native Americans call “two spirits,” to identify beings that embody a balance of masculine and feminine. It’s only Western culture that tells us that these things are taboo, that gives us these labels and names.

There was one point in my life where there was no one, in New York City or in the world, who actually looked like me. I had created a whole new idea of beauty. The British stylist Joe McKenna saw me and put me in V magazine. Then I was cast by Bruce Weber for the cover of French Vogue.

But I wasn’t trying to get on the cover of a magazine. Dressing the way I do is truly just about me expressing myself. And what I have found, is that to stick out like a sore thumb no matter where you are, walking down the street, or taking the subway to the airport, takes courage. It takes strength, it takes tenacity, and it really takes self-love.

You don’t really notice how many people are on the street, until all eyes are on you, yelling at you from a taxi cab, coming at you from every angle. ‘The fuck?’ ‘Oh my God.’ ‘Faggot.’ ‘Sissy.’ ‘Your father must hate you.’ ‘You must have disappointed your mother.’

To still walk with dignity, peace, and courage, and kindness—instead of building thick skin, it actually really softened me, because it taught me how to love others. It was because I was so happy and so free, that BS coming from some strangers didn’t matter.

And I began to realize, not only are you not free, you’re a hater, and I feel like I really just need to give you a hug! I saw that the fear was not of me, it was of whatever was going on within themselves. As I learned in the projects, if someone is unhappy, they want you to be unhappy too.

My journey has led to me working with LGBTQ youth, who are not getting acceptance from their families. A lot of them cannot look at themselves in the mirror. When they do, often they will sob, to the point where they have no control. And if there are eight kids in the room, and that one child is crying, we rise and we console this individual, and build a community around them. Because schools are not teaching how to build community.

To see everyone console this young lady or this gentleman who is going through this emotional imbalance, not only is it teaching them how to share their pain in community, but it is also teaching them how to feel empathy for someone else. An understanding of what compassion is.

My work is to have them look in the mirror, and actually acknowledge themselves for the first time as an individual, as an adult, as a person taking responsibility for their own life. To say to them, ‘Too many times we seek love outside of ourselves, and well guess what. If your parent hasn’t told you or if you haven’t heard it from anybody else, today you are going to give love to yourself.”

Most of them are closed, and frigid. The only emotion they have is anger. Anger, anger, anger. And I want these kids to understand that the anger is not going to get you anywhere. The anger is only going to kill you. That you cannot receive anything if you are closed. I want for them to understand that they can feel love.

For me, this work is helping to transmute all the name calling, and the incest from my past. It is dissolving. I have been able to show these kids that I am as loving as I am, BECAUSE I know what it feels like to be hurt. To be ridiculed, and to be truly counted out. To be disregarded, as if you are nothing. And that when you learn how to shift it, it is possible to realize that this has never been about me. This has been about what everybody else is going through.

The message I am passing on to them, is that my job is to focus on my journey. That my job is to focus on my path, and to focus on what my purpose is. And that not only do I need to focus on it, I need to live it. And not only do I need to live it, I need exude it from every crack and crevice of who Andre J is. I choose to give this service back to those that do not know. And I sleep very well at night.

Andre J will be speaking as part of a Numinous panel discussion on “Inner vs. Outer Beauty” at Soho House NY on December 4 2017 (members only, 7pm). Discover more about Andre and his work @andrejworldwide

5 GENDERS: THE STORY OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN TWO-SPIRITS

Prior to Christian intervention, fluid gender identities of the Native American Two Spirits were seen as a gift from the gods, says Pearson McKinney

Celebrated Lakota Two Spirit Osh-Tisch (left) with his wife.

It wasn’t until Europeans took over North America that natives adopted the ideas of gender roles. For Native Americans, there was no set of rules that men and women had to abide by in order to be considered a “normal” member of their tribe.

In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything. According to Duane Brayboy, writing in Indian Country Today, all native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: “Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and Transgendered.”

He goes on to describe how: “Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to two spirits as nádleehí (one who is transformed); among the Lakota is winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), niizh manidoowag (two spirit); in Ojibwe, hemaneh (half man, half woman), to name a few.”

As the purpose of ‘Two Spirit’ is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.”

The Two Spirit culture of Native Americans was one of the first things Europeans worked to destroy and cover up. According to people like American artist George Catlin, the Two Spirit tradition had to be eradicated before it could go into history books. Catlin said the tradition: “must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.”

And as Brayboy also notes: “Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.” As a result, Native Americans were forced to dress and act according to newly designated gender roles.

One of the most celebrated Two Spirits in recorded history was a Lakota warrior fiercely named Finds Them And Kills Them. Osh-Tisch (see main image) was born a male and married a female, but adorned himself in women’s clothing and lived daily life as a female. On June 17 1876, Finds Them And Kills Them earned his stripes when he rescued a fellow tribesman during the Battle of Rosebud Creek, an act of fearless bravery.

It’s an example of how in Native American cultures, people were valued for their contributions to the tribe, regardless of the gender attributes they exhibited. Parents did not assign gender roles to children either, and children’s clothing tended to be gender neutral. There were no ideas or ideals about how a person should love; it was simply a natural act that occurred without judgment.

Without a negative stigma attached to being a Two Spirit, there were also no inner-tribal incidents of retaliation or violence toward the chosen people simply due to the fact they identified as the opposite or both genders. If anything; “Traditional Native Americans closely associate Two Spirited people with having a high functioning intellect (possibly from a life of self-questioning), keen artistic skills and an exceptional capacity for compassion,” writes Brayboy.

We’wha (1849-1896), of the Zuni nation. We’wha was biologically male and engendered with a female spirit.

Once outside religious influences brought serious prejudice against “gender diversity,” openly alternative or androgynous people were forced into to one of two choices. They could either live in hiding, and in fear of being found out, or they could end their lives. Many of whom did just that.

Imagine a world where people allowed others to live freely as the people nature intended them to be, without harm, without persecution, without shame. Imagine a world where we are truly free.

This article originally appeared on Bipartisan Report. For further reading visit Indian Country Today.

TANTRIC TINDER? HAVE A HIGH VIBE HOLIDAY HOOK-UP

Love is love, and even a tantric Tinder hook-up can be your route to sexual healing says Hanna Bier. Artwork: Oscar Delmar via Behance.net

There’s lots of righteousness around sex and spirituality. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that sacred sexual union can only be enlightening if it happens between the manifest yin and yang, man and woman, in a solid relationship agreement. But we all know that this isn’t always how it works in our day and age. With so many beautiful humans to fall in love with, so many genders, sexual orientations, and ways of coming together, boundaries have blurred.

And as we break free free from the man/woman gender discussion, allowing ourselves to love whoever we want to love, a new level of sexual awakening is occurring – in which each and every fuck can be an opportunity to elevate the world to a higher level of consciousness.

But generations of religious dogma, Hollywood storyline and societal conditioning still have a way of fucking with our thinking, making it easy to jump to the conclusion that something as non-committal as a one-night holiday fling can’t possibly awaken our Kundalini.

So here’s the truth: Love is love.

The love you feel for yourself, for your parents, for the world in general, and for your favorite fuck buddies is all of the same quality. Love doesn’t get more valuable when we put rings on each other, call each other fluffy nick names, and impose rigid rules on our relationships.

There is a dire need to feel safe and connected in the world right now, and this comes with the misconception that by attaching ourselves to another person by means of official papers and jewelry, we will finally find the security we crave.

But deep within, we all know that our path to safety is 100 per cent related to our root chakra – and has nothing to do with elaborate wedding vows. Connect to this truth, and it’s possible to shack up for one night and feel more commitment and presence with this person than with the husband who only stays in his marriage because the moral code that has been imprinted on him that says divorce is wrong.

Have this in mind when you’re partying it up this holiday season. The only spiritual task you have is to learn to love truly and deeply. If you meet someone whose heart and soul you’d like to fuck open – for one night only – consider it your divine mission!

So what does this look like?

 

Step #1 Set an intention
Before getting started, turn inside and connect to why you are doing this. Here are some questions to ask yourself –

What is my intention for this union?
What I you want for myself?
What do I want for the person I am having sex with?
What I you want for the world?

Remember to open your heart and make LOVE your bottom line. May every fuck be holy and be of highest service to the world.

Step #2 Cozy up
A holiday fling doesn’t have to be about mindless banging. In fact, the female body needs quite a lot of relaxation and trust in order to be able to fully open. If this is a new concept to you, read my article “How to be Intimate” here: https://the-numinous.com/how-to-be-intimate/

Sometimes what helps with the opening is copious amounts of eggnog, but since you probably wouldn’t go to yoga drunk, try not to enter the temple of sexual enlightening completely hammered.

Instead, work up the boiling point by exploring each other and really being present with the other person. Make it slow and deep, because if done right, your holidays can be a banger, not just a shallow exchange of body fluids.

Step #3 Get polar
Create sexual chemistry by playing with your sexual archetypes, your feminine and masculine side.

Every human soul consists of two sexual archetypes, and every person has both a feminine archetype as well as a masculine archetype. This isn’t necessarily related to you living in a male or female body, it is merely a description of the two polarities that are at play in you.

The feminine archetype is the part of you that is soft, that likes to go deep, that feels into everything and likes to fill up with beauty and tenderness. This archetype thrives when she is being adored and worshipped.

The masculine archetype is the part of you that secures the perimeter, so that the feminine archetype can let go more fully. He is the one who waits for the opening, so that he can go deep and penetrate fully. This archetype is more linear, it is about breaking free and thriving with challenge.

Most humans have a strong connection to one of these archetypes as their sexual essence. If you know your sexual essence, feel free to amplify it to create more polarity with your counterpart. You might also have a feeling for the primary archetype of the other person and choose to play the polar opposite.

Again, it doesn’t matter what your body looks like, what gender role you identify with or who you are having sex with.\

The key to strong chemistry is in amplifying your differences – if your partner is playing princess, pin them down, and show them who’s boss. If you want to soften and open, let the other person dominate. Boring sex comes from lack of polarity.

With that said, Happy Holidays. May your fierce love elevate and uplift the world!